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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical


- Hebrews

by Johann Peter Lange

Doctor Of Theology, General Superintendent Of The Province Of Prussia, Director Of The Royal Consistory And Chief Court Preacher In The Cathedral Church Of Königsberg, Knight, &c.


Prof. In The University Of Rochester And In The Rochester Theological Seminary



The Editor needs say but little by way of introduction to the present Commentary. Having made the profoundly interesting and difficult Epistle of which it treats a subject of considerable and special study, he feels no slight pleasure in introducing the Commentary of Dr. Moll to the English-speaking public, believing that it will be found inferior to none that have preceded it in soundness of interpretation, clear conception of the scope and purpose, and hearty sympathy with the spirit and doctrines of the Epistle. Its Exegetical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical parts will be found alike rich and valuable. The Exegetical portions, indeed, sometimes very full, might in other instances be advantageously expanded, especially where turning on points of view which are more familiar to the German than the American student. On many of these, as of other points, the Translator has ventured to add annotations, sometimes selected, but chiefly original, sometimes by way of illustrating the view of Moll, sometimes giving his own dissenting opinion. To the Doctrinal and Homiletical portions he has made no additions whatever, except to enrich the Homiletical parts with a few of the rich treasures of spiritual thought accumulated on the pages of Owen.

In the textual notes the Editor has pursued a slightly different plan from that adopted in the other volumes of this work. He has given first in a body the critical notes of the author, with such occasional additions as he deemed necessary, and then followed these with his own brief, chiefly philological notes, intended mainly, though not exclusively, to point out the variations from the common English version which would be demanded, or suggested by the original. Of course, the suggestions thus made are not to be judged from the point of view of their fitness for a popular translation, but simply as aids to the study of the original text. These notes in many cases the Editor would have been glad to amplify: the necessity of the case has made them brief. It is scarcely necessary to add that all the Editor’s notes are in brackets, and where they extend beyond two or three words, are marked with his initial K., except those which, are given as quoted, and accredited to their author. The majority of the Exegetical notes are incorporated into the body of the text, the translator deeming that thus they would be more likely to be read in their place, than if transferred, in a smaller type, to the foot of the page.

The translator unhesitatingly concurs with Dr. Moll in the view now acquiesced in by nearly all scholars, which looks elsewhere than to the Apostle Paul for the authorship, at least as to its form, of this Epistle. Without derogating in the slightest degree from the canonical authority and the intrinsic excellency of the Epistle, he regards the evidence, partly external and partly internal, of its non-Pauline origin, as overwhelmi[illegible]cisive. He believes, too, that the suffrage of the Christian world will concentrate itself more and more upon Apollos.
The Editor, finally, commits the work to the Christian public with the assurance that (whatever may be the value of his own additions) the Commentary of Dr. Moll will he found, in its Exegetical, Doctrinal, and practical features, eminently worthy of the valuable work of which it forms a part, and an important addition to the resources of the English student of the Scriptures. May the Spirit of Truth bless it to the spiritual interests of the Church.
Rochester, March 1, 1868.


to the


Marvellous and enigmatical phenomenon—this production at once so obscure in its origin, and so clear and full in its knowledge and recognition of Jesus Christ; already, on the very threshold of the history of the Church, engaged in a conflict with tendencies to apostasy from the Christian faith! Uttering its teachings from an Apostolical fulness of spirit, yet directly traceable to no Apostle; with prophetic lips threatening, alarming, prophesying, yet this neither in apocalyptic vision, nor in ecstatic trance! In its loftiest rhetorical flight still, mindful of the goal; though receiving at second hand, yet independent in its conception of the Gospel of Jesus, the Christ: peculiar in expression, intermediate in its mode of apprehending the Gospel between Paul and John: known to the earliest fathers, and yet of unsettled canonical position and authority: with the force of deepest conviction declaring the merging and swallowing up of the Old Covenant in the New, and that under forms of argumentation drawn entirely from the institutions and utterances of the Old Testament itself: directed to Hebrew Christians in the purest Greek of the New Testament: prompting the inquiry whether treatise or epistle; giving no certain clue to its immediate origin or destination:—thus stands, Melchisedec-like, before our eyes, with the seal of a spiritual anointing on its brow, this wondrous portraiture of the all-illuminating glory of the New Covenant, and of its Theanthropic Founder!
From what cause now should such a production be involved in doubt regarding its canonical validity? In most MSS. it stands at the close of the Pauline Epistles. In the Peshito-Syriac version, indeed, which originated probably (Ewald, Hist. of the Israel. Nation, vii., 449) soon after the middle of the Second Century, it stands without the name of any author; then with the name of Paul, in the Greek MSS., and in the translations made under the influence of the Greek Church. In the Cod. Sinaiticus discovered by Tischendorf, and published 1863, and in some other MSS., it has its place even immediately before the Pastoral Epistles, in accordance with the Canon 60 of the Council of Laodicea between 343 and 381; as early as in the Sahidic or Upper Egyptian version it stands exceptionally after the Second Epistle to the Corinthians; in the Codex B. after that to the Galatians.

Luther, on the contrary, places it after the Epistles of Peter and John, and distinguishes it, along with the Epistles of James and Jude and the Revelation, from “the certain, clearly authenticated leading books of the New Testament,” (Works by Walch, xiv. 146 f.). This proceeding of Luther springs from his false interpretation of the passages—ch. Hebrews 6:4 f.; Hebrews 10:26 f.; Hebrews 12:17, in which he found a “hard knot that seems, in its obvious import, to run counter to all the Gospels and Epistles of St. Paul.” Apart from this he regards it as “an Epistle of exquisite beauty; discussing from Scripture, with masterly skill and thoroughness, the priesthood of Christ, and interpreting on this point with great richness and acuteness the Old Testament.” Moreover, he employs the Epistle variously in argumentation in the same way as the acknowledged writings of the Apostles. For “he who wrote it is unknown, and wished, doubtless, for a while, to remain unknown; but this is a matter of no importance. We should rest satisfied with the doctrine which he so constantly bases upon the Scripture, showing, at the same time, a subtle tact and moderation in reading and dealing with Scripture.” In the same way Melancthon employs our Epistle, although he rejects its Pauline authorship; in like manner, also, the Symbolical books of the Lutheran Church, which, in using it, adduce the name of no author, but, instead of this, simply the “writing” or “Epistle to the Hebrews,” and only in the Formula Concordiæ, and not even here in the German original, employ the term Apostle. This proceeding stands connected with a change of views, in other respects also noticeable, regarding the conditions of canonicity in any alleged Scriptural production. In ecclesiastical antiquity, the question turned on the authority of the author; and precisely in regard to the author was there a diversity of judgment in the case of our Epistle (see § 2). For this reason not only did the later Arians, on account of its non-Pauline origin, deny its authority in matters of doctrine, but the teachers in the Latin Church also, even Novatian and Cyprian, refrained from its use until the middle of the fourth century, because up to this time the Western Church did not regard Paul as its author. Augustine adduces it, indeed, (de doctr. Christ. II. 8) among the canonical writings, and occasionally makes use of it; but he apologizes for it on account of the then existing opposition of some in the Western Church to the already widely-spreading conviction of its Pauline origin. Even Irenæus, of whom Eusebius relates as something remarkable (Hist. Eccles. v. 26), that in his βιβλίον διαλέξεων διαφόρων he has a citation from the Epistle to the Hebrews, and one from the book of Wisdom, and who (adv. hær. II. 30, 9), by alluding to the “word of his power,” clearly indicates his knowledge of our Epistle, makes no use of it, whatever, in his refutation of the heretics. In the second Monkish Fragment (Iren. ed. Stieren 1, 854) Hebrews 13:15 is, indeed, cited as an exhortation of Paul; but the genuineness of this fragment is very doubtful. And Origen, in cases where its Pauline composition is controverted, does not insist upon a recognition of its canonical authority, but either resorts for his proof passages to acknowledged canonical productions, or deems it necessary to make a special argument in favor of its composition by Paul (on Matth. Hebrews 23; Ep. ad African, Hebrews 9:0). Tertullian, too, employs it in but a single instance (de pudic. Hebrews 20), and that merely in confirmation of a point already established. Volo tamen ex redundantia alicujus etiam comitis Apostolorum testimonium superducere. In entire accordance with this, also more recent Scholars, e. g., Michaelis (Einleit. ins neue Test. 4 Exodus 2:0 Part, § 234) and Ziegler (Complete Introd. to the Epistle to the Hebrews, Göttingen, 1791, § 17), reject alike the hypothesis of its composition by Paul, and its canonical authority.

As early, however, as Jerome, who says, ep. 125 ad Evagrium: Epistola ad Hebraos quam omnes Græci recipiunt et nonnulli Latinorum, we find presenting itself (Ep. 129 ad Dardanum) the view, nihil interesse cujus sit, quum ecclesiastici viri sit, et quotidie ecclesiarum lectione celebretur. According to this now, the decision turns no longer on the name and person of the author but on a reception into the canon, ecclesiastically determined by a Synodical decision; since, according to Can. 59 of the Conc. Laodic. in the 4 century, no βιβλία were to be read in the church. Erasmus goes yet a step further with the declaration: Imo non opinor periclitari fidem si tota ecclesia fallatur in titulo hujus epistolæ, modo constet Spiritum Sanctum fuisse principalem auctorem, id quod interim convenit (Opp. ix. 595). Calvin, who does not regard Paul as its author, still ascribes even to the cunning of Satan the denial, on the part of some, of its canonical validity, and Beza holds decidedly to the inspiration of the author, and declares, therefore, the precise person and name to be a matter of comparative indifference. The attempt of Carlstadt (de canonic. Scripturis libellus, Viteb. 1520) to distribute the books of the Old and the New Testament, according to their rank, into three classes, assigning to the first class of the New Testament books the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, to the second the thirteen Epistles of Paul, and John and Peter, and to the third the remainder, including the Epistle to the Hebrews, has failed to make converts. But since Martin Chemnitz (Examen Conc. Trident.) it has been customary to speak of Apocrypha of the New Testament in the sense in which Rufinus had spoken of libris ecclesiasticis, and Jerome of uncanonical writings, which, like the Apocrypha of the Old Testament, might serve for popular edification, though not for establishing the doctrines of the Church. Among writings of this class, the Wittenberg theologians in particular, toward the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries, reckoned the Epistle to the Hebrews, the 2d Epistle of Peter, and the 2d and 3d of John, and James, Jude and the Revelation. A revolution, however, was produced by John Gerhard, who (Loci Theolog. ed. Cotta Vol. II.) found fault with the term ‘Apocrypha,’ specially on the ground that in the early church doubts regarding these portions of the New Testament were in part confined to individual teachers or churches, and in part had reference only to the auctor secundarius. Gerhard introduced the distinction between canonical books primi ordinis and secundi ordinis, the distinction, meantime, having a purely historical, not a doctrinal significance, and referring not to the canonical consideration, or to the inspired character of the work, but simply to the greater or less degree of confidence to be reposed in opinions regarding its author.


We encounter at first view the remarkable phenomenon that the Eastern Church, from the time of Pantænus, by testimonies almost unanimous, and apparently resting on tradition, ascribes the Epistle to Paul; while it was only after the Arian controversies that the Western Church came gradually to adopt the oriental view. And this is all the more remarkable as the Epistle sent by the Roman Church to the Corinthian, and ascribed by tradition to Clement, as the first to the Corinthians, an Epistle belonging at latest to the time of the Emperor Domitian, 87–96 (Hilgenfeld, the Apostol. Fathers, p. 84), but by others held to have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem, makes a decided and peculiar use of our Epistle (Euseb. H. E. III. 28), viz., without expressly citing it, or naming an author, and by interweaving its clauses, phrases and turns of expression. Since, however, this Roman Epistle does not bear a pure Pauline impress, but is merely stamped with a character kindred to the Pauline, its use of the Epistle to the Hebrews does not argue an assumption of the Pauline authorship of this Epistle, but would point only to some man who stood allied to Paul in Apostolic dignity. On the other hand also Justin Martyr (I. 166) twice cites our Epistle (Kirchhofer, Quellensammlung, p. 239) without designating the author; and the treatment of this question in the Alexandrian Church by Pantænus, Clement of Alexandria and Origen (see Bleek I. 95 ff.), shows clearly 1. that it was in that church strictly speaking only the ideas which were attributed to Paul; 2. that there existed, at least at the time of Origen, already various, and, in like manner, traditionary opinions, regarding the disciple of Paul to whom should be ascribed the actual composition; and 3. that critical doubts existed to which regard had to be paid, such as appear in Irenæus and his pupil Hippolitus (Photii Biblioth. Cod. 121 ed. Becker, p. 94, and the testimony of Stephen Gobarus of the 6th century, L. C. Cod. 232, p. 291). Critical doubts like these did not prevail in the Latin Church, and scarcely even dogmatical ones. There are, indeed, distinguished scholars who, with Spanheim (de auctore ep. ad. Hebr., Heidelberg, 1659) and Wetstein, suppose that the Western Church was actuated by hostility toward the Montanists, who appealed to Hebrews 6:4, against the re-admission of the lapsi into the church; but even Tertullian mentions, indeed, this Epistle during his Montanistic period, but knows nothing apparently of its authorship by Paul. Cyprian makes no mention whatever of the Epistle. We might be inclined to find an explanation of this silence in his assumption of the number seven of the Pauline Churches, which should correspond to the seven churches mentioned by John, an opinion also held by Victorinus Petabionensis (Fragm. de fabrica mundi bei Klee, p. 9; septem quoque cæli sunt—septem spiritus—septem cornua agni—septem ecclesiæ apud Paulum.) But these writers would have ventured neither to distort nor to leave unregarded an existing tradition. J. Chris. von Hofmann thinks (deutero canonical? in Zeitschrift für Prot. und Kirche, Ell. 1857) that the Gentile Church of the West regarded the three Epistles to the Jewish Christians (Peter, James and Hebrews), which, in the fragm. de canone, published by Muratori, do not appear among those, which the church has stamped with her approval, as in no way concerning them. But, on the one hand, the Epistle of James was even in the East an antilegomenon; and, on the other, 1 Peter is cited by Irenæus, Tertullian, and Cyprian as an Apostolical composition. The Western Church has evidently no tradition ascribing the authorship of our Epistle to Paul; for even the Roman presbyter Caius, in his controversy with the Montanists, at the time of the Roman Bishop Zephyrinus in the beginning of the 3d century (Jerome de viris ill. Hebrews 59), knows of but thirteen Epistles of Paul (Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. iv. 20), and in the above-mentioned fragm. de canone, probably belonging to the close of the second century, there are, indeed, mentioned two spurious Epistles under the name of Paul ad hæresem Marcionis, viz., to the Laodiceans and to the Alexandrians; and some interpreters regard the latter, others the former, as identical with the Epistle to the Hebrews, but both equally without reason; for while the Pauline composition of the Hebrews has been assailed, its doctrinal soundness has never been called in question. The change of views is shown clearly in the circumstance that the Synod of Hippo 393, Can. 36, and the third Synod of Carthage, (397) Can. 47 ordain; Pauli Apostoli epistolæ tredecim; ejusdem ad Hebræos una (“one, by the same, to the Hebrews”), while Can. 29 of the Fifth Synod of Carthage (419), simply reckons fourteen Epistles of Paul. In this case we see clearly the influence of the East in the declaration of Augustine de peccat. mer. et remiss, I. Hebrews 27: majis me movet auctoritas ecclesiarum orientalium, quæ hanc quoque in canonicis habent, and through all subsequent time, we still hear the tones of occasional individual dissent from this decision. Hence, is explained also the inconsistent proceeding of Eusebius (in the first half of the fourth century). In his Commentary on the Psalms, he frequently cites our Epistle as Pauline, and reckons it (H. E., II. 17) among the Epistles of Paul, as also (H. E. III. 3) he gives the number of the acknowledged and unquestioned Epistles of Paul as fourteen, and places the Epistle to the Hebrews (H. E., III. 25) among the homologoumena. On the contrary, (at H. E., vii. 3) he places it among the antilegomena, and mentions it between the Wisdom of Solomon and Jesus Sirach on the one hand, and Barnabas, Clement of Rome, and Jude on the other, and says (H. E., VI. 20), in confirmation of the view of Caius, that the Epistle to the Hebrews is not to be reckoned as Pauline; “since we know that up to this time it is by some of the Romans regarded as not the work of the Apostle.” According to Wieseler, (Inquiry regarding the Epistle to the Hebrews, particularly its author and its readers, 1861) the testimony of Tertullian in favor of Barnabas as its author (de pudicitia, c. 20; Extat enim et Barnabæ titulus ad Hebræos, a Deo satis auctorati viri) stands not so entirely solitary in the Latin Church, as is commonly supposed. And, however questionable may be the interpretation of the passages (Philastrius, hær. 89, Jerome, Ep. 129 ad Dardanum, Isidorus, Etymol. 6, 2) in respect to the local extent and the continuance in time of the view which ascribes the Epistle to Barnabas, still it is undeniable that the statement of Tertullian must rest upon a fact existing within a certain circle. The hypothesis which Schmidt, Twesten, Ullmann, Wieseler (Chronologie des Apost. Zeitalter), Thiersch, have built on this fact, and to which recently Credner (Hist. of the N. Test. Canon, p. 180 ff.) has given his adhesion, is thus destitute neither of historical, nor in part of traditional support. This would be considerably strengthened if in the stichometrical list of the sacred writings of the N. Test. in the Cod. Claromontanus, the Epistle to the Hebrews were actually and simply designated as Epistola Barnabæ. But in the list this “Epistle of Barnabas” is separated from the Epistles of Paul by the Catholic Epistles, while in the codex itself the Epistle to the Hebrews is separated only by this list from those of Paul, and a separate ‘Epistle of Barnabas’ is found also in the Cod. Sinaiticus. In favor of Barnabas, the υἱὸς παρακλήσεως, may be urged (without referring to the λόγος τῆς παρακλήσεως, Hebrews 13:22), first, that his position as a disciple of the Apostles (defended by Tertullian de pudic. 20, against the assumption that he belonged to the 70 disciples, in Clem., Alex. Strom., II. 20, comp. Euseb. H. E., I. 12) accords well with Hebrews 2:3; and that he might be brought into relation with Timothy both by his accompanying Paul on his missionary journey mentioned Acts 13:14, and by his later interviews with the Apostle, Galatians 2:9 ff.; secondly, that Barnabas along with Paul is called, Acts 14:14, ἀπόστολος, and that the Syrian Church was founded by them both (Hebrews 11:22 ff.); and finally that the peculiar character of our Epistle, especially its doctrinal independence while yet resting on a Pauline basis, and the position assumed by the author alike toward the members and the officers of the church to which he writes, harmonize entirely with what we know of Barnabas. As a Levite, too, and frequently in Jerusalem, the priestly element in our Lord’s character would come naturally under discussion (Acts 4:36); and alike the purer Greek and the Alexandrian tinge of the Epistle would be in his case both explicable from the fact that he sprang from Cyprus, which stood in intimate relations of commerce and intercourse with Alexandria. Nor need we attach importance to the fact that, according to Acts 14:12, Barnabas appears inferior to Paul in eloquence, since we have here not an oral address, but a carefully composed written composition; nor can we reason legitimately from the Epistle ascribed to Barnabas among the works of the Apostolic Fathers, as its genuineness is more than doubtful. Yet, on the other hand, a person brought up a Levite would scarcely express himself in the manner of our Epistle regarding the arrangements of the Levitical service and the utensils and objects belonging to the temple at Jerusalem, even granting that no positive errors in those points have crept into Hebrews 9:0; and again Galatians 2:9, the sphere of missionary labor assigned to Barnabas seems to have lain among the Gentiles; for which reason also Wieseler, though in connection also with other grounds, is inclined to look at least beyond the limits of Palestine for the recipients of the Epistle. [It seems to me a sufficient reply to the first of these objections of the author, to say that the writer of the Epistle is not in Hebrews 9:0 speaking at all of the regulations of the ritual service of the Temple at Jerusalem, much less of the utensils, vessels, etc., found in it; but simply of the arrangements and contents of the Mosaic tabernacle. There does not seem to be the slightest evidence that he had especially in mind the furniture of the temple of his time, as, on the contrary, in regard to most of the articles, it is certain that he could not.—K.].

The Syrian Church, on the contrary, although the Epistle stands in the Peshito without the name of an author, from the middle of the third century regarded the Epistle as from Paul. For the Council at Antioch (264) in its letter directed to Paul of Samosata, refers to Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 4:14-15; Hebrews 11:26, and connects the last named passage with citations from the Epistle to the Cor. as utterances of the same Apostle. In like manner, at a later period, Ephraem Syrus (* 378) connects Hebrews 10:31 with Romans 2:16, and Ephesians 5:15, by the introductory words, “In respect to this day, exclaims also the Apostle Paul,” while he elsewhere, like his teacher Jacob, Bishop of Nisibis, adduces passages of our Epistle merely in general terms, as words of an Apostle. On this point the Egyptian Church seems to have had a controlling influence.

Unquestionably remarkable is not merely the testimony of the Oriental Church for the Pauline composition of the Epistle, and the marked use of it by Clement of Rome, but especially the circumstance that the testimony of the Alexandrians may not (with Eichhorn, Schmidt, Dav. Schultz) be referred back to purely hypothetical assumptions; comp. Stenglein Historical Testimonies of the first four centuries regarding the Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Bamberg, 1835. True, indeed, as we have already intimated, the tradition in favor of Paul upon which Pantænus, about the middle of the second century, seems to rely, is not so sure and decisive as Storr, Hug, etc., imagine. And entirely justifiable is the cautious language of Bleek, who regards it as probable, on scientific grounds, that Pantænus already found different views existing in his church regarding the Author of our Epistle, and that he had reference to an objection urged against his own view in the words preserved by Euseb. H. E., VI., 14, that “Paul from modesty and a spirit of reverence toward the Lord, did not designate himself as Apostle of the Hebrews, because to the Hebrews the Lord had been sent as the Apostle of the Almighty, but he, Paul, as Apostle and Preacher to the Gentiles, had written to them gratuitously and outside of his appointed sphere of labor.”

This sagacious position is needlessly surrendered in the otherwise valuable “History of the N. Test. Canon, by C. A. Credner, Edited by G. Volkmar, Berlin., 1860, p. 182,” according to which Pantænus might merely have spoken the sentiments of those who, like him, wished to connect the Epistle, that had originated, perhaps, but without clearly settled authorship in the Alexandrian Church, with the name of Paul as opposed to the Catholic Church, which was disposed to contest with him its claim to canonical authority. How decided, on the contrary, was with others the consciousness and influence of a tradition in favor of its Pauline composition is conspicuously evinced by the fact that the Alexandrians themselves, while observing its diversity of style from that of Paul, for this reason framed the hypothesis that the Epistle had sprung from an Aramæan original, of which Paul was the author (Clem. Alex.), or that Paul did not dictate its language, but only gave the ideas (Orig.); while, meantime, Origen concedes (Eus. H. E., VI. 25) that “if any church deems this Epistle a production of Paul, it is liable to no blame, οὐ γὰρ εἰκῆ οἱ , (“for not without cause—not at mere hap-hazard—have ancient or the primitive men handed it down as Paul’s”). This language points to a real tradition, going back to men well-known, and already to be reckoned as ancestors, even granting it to have been held only here and there by an individual church. And the circumstance that Origen regards this procedure as not groundless and irrational, is all the more weighty as he gives in immediate connection his own dissenting view, resting on critical grounds; viz., “that should he declare his own opinion, it is this, that the thoughts belong to the Apostle, the style and composition to another, who has written down the ideas of the Apostle, and carried out in his own explanatory language the statements of his teacher.” Then follow the words cited above, after which: “But who actually committed it to writing, is known to God.” He adds that tradition ascribes it partly to Clement of Rome, partly to Luke.

The weight of these facts has led to successively renewed endeavors to defend the Pauline authorship of the Epistle. To this effect—after the assaults of an independent criticism commencing with Semler—Meyer, in the Journal of Ammon and Bartholdt II., 3; Cramer, in his Commentary; and particularly Storr: while Kleuker (Extended Inquiries, etc., Riga, 1793 II.) sought to show that the assumption of a Pauline authorship was at least not unreasonable. Against the assaults of Dav. Schultz appeared specially Steudel in Bengel’s Archiv., IV., 1; Hofstede de Groot (disput. qua ep. ad Heb. cum Paulinis epp. comparatur, Traj. ad Rhen., 1826); Stuart of Andover, U. S., 1827, and Hug in the Second Ed. of his Introd. to the N. Test., 1821. Even after the investigations of Bleek, the Pauline authorship was still defended by Gelpke (vindiciæ originis Paulinæ Ep. ad Heb., Lugd. Bat., 1833); by Paulus in Heidelberg, 1833; by the Catholic Klee, 1833; and by Stein in the Appendix to his Commentary on Luke, 1830. More recently again L. Gaussen (Le canon des saintes écritures, translated into German by Pastor Grob, 1864) who, after Wordsworth (on the Canon, London, 1847, p. 234), finds a direct and authentic testimony in favor of Paul as its author, in the closing salutation (v. 25), in connection with a false explanation of 2 Thessalonians 3:17.

Yet even the passage Hebrews 2:3, taken in its connection, makes strongly against the Pauline authorship, as, since Cajetan and Erasmus, is commonly conceded. It is, indeed, true that the writer here in terms distinguishes himself properly only as a non-eye-witness from the actual eye-witnesses of the life of Jesus (Hofm. Schriftbeweis, II., 2, p. 352). The contrast of Apostle and non-Apostle is here not in question; and thus we might find in this passage, perhaps, no formal contradiction to Paul’s uniform and studious assertion of his Apostolical authority, Galatians 1:0, and 2 Corinthians 11:12. But no less certainly does the author class himself with his readers as belonging to a generation to which the salvation—originally uttered by the Lord—has been confirmed by the testimony of intermediate ear-witnesses. And in such a manner Paul could not have expressed himself, however much, for purposes of instruction, he might have chosen for once to hold his Apostolical claims in abeyance; for thus he would not merely have concealed—he would have denied them.

Again the personal references of Hebrews 13:0 contain nothing which decidedly points to Paul. True, we may not specially determine to what considerable Christian man Timothy could, during the life of Paul, have stood in any such relation of fraternal coöperation as Hebrews 13:23 indicates; and just as little can we establish the fact that he, after the death of Paul, although bishop of the Church at Ephesus, again made journeys as a missionary. But undeniably men like Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, might thus express themselves in regard to Timothy, well-known doubtless in his fortunes to the readers; and as Paul, 2 Timothy 4:9, summons Timothy to himself from Ephesus we are not required to regard him as fixed irremovably at Ephesus. Further, against the Pauline hypothesis are the facts that the expression οἱ they from Italy (Hebrews 13:24) philologically, to be sure, can be understood of Italians, but hardly of them including Romans; that the request to the readers (Hebrews 13:19) to pray to God for his restoration to them, points to such a connection with the Church addressed as Paul could not have had with the Churches of Palestine; that Paul could not expect so peaceful a return after his experiences in Jerusalem; that Hebrews 13:18-19 hardly point to an imprisonment of the author (since also at Hebrews 10:34, we are to read not τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου, but τοῖς δεσμίοις); and finally that we can scarcely conceive how Paul should have written to Hebrew Christians, if we remember the agreement made at Jerusalem among the Apostles, in regard to their spheres of labor, and the declarations of Paul himself in regard to his position and the immediate duty assigned him, Romans 15:20; 1 Corinthians 10:13. And besides, how could Paul, who elsewhere always prefixes to his letters his name and opening salutation, have written without affixing his name, and in such terms as at Hebrews 2:3, precisely to those churches that had sought to spread their doubts of his Apostolical authority even by their deputations to the Gentile Churches?

To these grounds of doubt we may add the important fact that, alike in its train of thought and the closely related character of its style, this Epistle stands clearly distinguished from the undoubted compositions of Paul. We may not, indeed, emphasize the doctrinal diversity so strongly as does Dav. Schultz, and in part Ed. Reuss, who even maintains that the Christology of our Epistle has a “decidedly spiritualistic tendency whereby (ἀμήτωρ) obscurity is thrown upon Christ’s connection with humanity.” Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 2:17, stands in decided hostility to this view. In general the undeniable diversities in the doctrinal statements can be converted into discrepancies only by misconception, and they are easily explicable from the character of the readers, and the special object of the Epistle. Paul, starting from the condition and needs of humanity, points usually to the subjective influences of the work of salvation, deducing thence the contrasted nature of law and Gospel, and thus leading on his readers from these phenomena, to the profounder truths of Christology. Our author proceeds by a reverse process. He deduces the infinite superiority of the New Covenant to the Old, from the infinite elevation of Jesus Christ above all the mediators of salvation, and all the servants and organs of Divine revelation. Paul again links the death of Christ with that of the sacrificial victim; here it is linked with the fact of priestly intercession. Paul lays the stress on that which was accomplished on the cross; here it is laid on that which is accomplished in the heavenly sanctuary by the perfected Royal Priest, who is exhibited before us in his entire personality as a sacrifice which, “through an eternal Spirit,” has in a perfect manner been offered to God. Yet the words of Paul regarding the exaltation of Christ above the heavens (Ephesians 4:10), and regarding his intercession for the saints at the right hand of the Father (Romans 8:34), contain the germ of the doctrine here unfolded of Christ’s high priesthood in the heavenly holy of holies. And in Paul’s designation of the Old Test. ceremonial law as the “rudiments of the world” (στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου, Galatians 4:3) lies enfolded all that is here taught regarding the inability of the law to bring anything to perfection, as, on the other hand, our Epistle is but an expansion and carrying through, in its own peculiar way, of the Pauline doctrine that Christ is the τέλος τοῦ νόμου, Romans 10:4, and that the Law has partly a disciplinary and “pedagogical” (Galatians 3:24), partly a typical (1 Corinthians 10:11; Colossians 2:17) significance. So also at once independent, and yet standing in close relationship with Philippians 2:7 f., is the treatment of the doctrine of the humiliation and exaltation of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:4; Hebrews 2:9), who here, as with Paul, is not merely the mediator of the New Covenant on the ground of the redemption wrought through His blood (Hebrews 7:22; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24; Galatians 3:19; 1 Timothy 2:5), but, as the Image of God, is also the Mediator in the creation, preservation and government of the world (Hebrews 1:1-3; 1Co 8:6; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15-17; Ephesians 1:10). And in the same reciprocal relation stand the. declarations (Hebrews 6:1; Hebrews 9:14; comp. Hebrews 9:9) regarding dead works and their distinction from good works, to which Christians are mutually to incite each other (Hebrews 10:24), as the Pauline distinction of works of law and good works; and faith is brought into direct relation not barely with the righteousness of man (Hebrews 11:7; comp. Hebrews 10:38), but also with the expiatory death of Jesus (Hebrews 10:22). Any essential difference, therefore, must not be assumed. But here the prevailing contrast is not that between faith and law, or works of law. The conception of faith is here preponderantly the more general one of abiding “and obedient trust in the promises of God, so that on the one hand it forms a contrast to the vision of the period of fulfilment (as 1 Corinthians 5:7), and on the other, particularly in Hebrews 11:0, is regarded as that which from the outset has been through all ages the condition of salvation, thus simply carrying out Paul’s representation (Romans 4:0.) of the faith of Abraham. Precisely so the ethical element of faith, particularly in the life of Jesus himself, is still more expressly exhibited (Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 12:2). It does not lie within the scope of the Epistle to dwell on the universality of the plan of grace, and on the calling of the Gentiles. So also the resurrection of Jesus is but once mentioned, Hebrews 13:20; and Paul’s doctrine of sin and grace is but lightly touched by the mention of the “deceitfulness of sin,” Hebrews 3:13, comp. Hebrews 11:25; Hebrews 12:4; in like manner his doctrine of χάρις, Hebrews 4:16; and of deliverance” (ἀπαλλαγή), in contrast with bondage (δουλεία).

But it is not merely individual terms, expressions, and references, which exhibit a deviation from those familiar to Paul, and regarding which it might be possible to say that under like conditions, or for a like purpose, Paul would very probably have thus expressed himself. The state of the case is rather this, that along with an essential accordance with the fundamental ideas of Paul; along with the occasional recurrence of modes of thought specifically Pauline, and with a frequent use of substantially equivalent doctrinal expressions, there yet, on the one hand, runs through our Epistle a thorough independence in the modes of conception, in the style of argumentation and the diction, which precisely in minute and familiar matters, gives spontaneous expression to a writer’s individuality; and, on the other, it displays here and there a decidedly non-Pauline terminology, as, e.g., in the use of ἁγιάζειν and τελειοῦσθαι. A resort to the opinion of Origen, (as by Guericke, Thiersch, Bisping, Stier, Ebrard, and partly Delitzsch), which refers the substance of the Epistle to Paul, its form to one of his companions, does not explain the phenomenon, and in fact involves a superficial view that will bear no close inspection. Even Olshausen has felt (Opusc. Theol. Königsberg, 1834, p. 118 f.) that in assuming such an indirect authorship on the part of Paul, nothing is gained, and that the immediate composer, standing forth in undeniable individuality, must be regarded as the proper author of the Epistle. In the endeavor, however, to maintain its outward connection with Paul, he advances the hypothesis, destitute of the slightest historical support, that the Epistle is properly a hortatory discourse, composed by Presbyters of a church in Asia Minor, to which Paul has lent his approval, regarding which then the writer apprises us in appending some personal notices.

We shall find it, then, advisable, in inquiring after the author of our Epistle, to leave Paul, directly, entirely out of the question. For the view of Baumgarten-Crusius (On the Origin and Internal Character of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Jena, 1828), that it belongs to the class of interpolated writings, and that the Alexandrian author has designed to produce a re-moulding of the contents of the Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, for the Jewish Christians, finds no shadow of support in the character of the Epistle. Equally untenable is the view of Schwegler (Post-Ap. Age, II. p. 312) and Zeller (Theol. Jahr. 1842, 1), that this is a treatise of the Pseudo-Johannean school of the second century, to which the form of an epistle is incidentally given, together with such personal references as should allow of its being referred to Paul. It is necessary, on the other hand, that our conjectures should remain within the sphere of the action and influence of Paul. The view of Köstlin (Theol. Jahrb., 1854, Heft 4) and of Alb. Ritschl, (Origin of the Early Catholic Church, 2 ed., Bonn, 1857), that the Epistle to the Hebrews presents an advanced stage of the primitive Apostolical Judaism, and displays but here and there traces of the Pauline spirit, can scarcely be carried through, although in the turn given to it by Weiss (Stud. und Crit., 1859, I. 142 ff., and Riehm, Lehrbegriff, II. 861 ff.), it assumes a more plausible form. The author appears as an independent missionary laborer among those connected with Paul, and pre-eminent in talent and influence. Hence, it does not meet the case to refer it, as a mere matter of conjecture, to Mark or Aquila; or, with Böhme in his Commentary, or with Mynster (Kleine theol. Schriften, Copenhag., 1825), in part also Riehm II., 893, to Silas; or with Erasmus, and hesitatingly Calvin, and more recently Bisping, following some ancient authorities (Eusebius, H. E. III. 38), to Clemens Romanus. To trace the authorship of the Epistle with Eichhorn, Schott, Baumgarten-Crusius, Seyffarth (de epistolæ quæ dicitur ad Hebr. indole maximæ peculiari Leipz., 1821) to an Alexandrian in general, is going too far, and is mixing with the question some irrelevant considerations (see sec. 5). We might, however, if we do not decide in favor of Barnabas, be easily tempted, with Hugo Grotius, Hug, since the third edition of his Introduction, Köhler (Essay on the Date of the Composition of the Epistles, 1830), Ebrard and Delitzsch, to fix upon Luke. Luke alone was with Paul (2 Timothy 4:11) when he summoned Timothy to come to him with all speed (Hebrews 4:9), and he was also with him in his last visit to Jerusalem, Acts 21:17. Besides this, he was, according to Eusebius, H. E., III. 4, 3, from Antioch, and was, hence, a sort of fellow-countryman to the Christians of Palestine. Delitzsch lays much stress on the similarity of the style to that of Luke (a similarity previously perceived by Grotius), particularly from Acts 16:10, which also Weitzsacker (Jahrb. für deutsche Theol. 1862, II. 399) deems deserving a close investigation, and of which he adduces a multitude of new examples. Nay, he even finds modes of expression such as belong specially to a, physician, (to which calling, according to Colossians 4:14, Luke belonged), particularly Hebrews 4:12 f.; Hebrews 5:11 ff.; Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 12:12 f. But Lönemann (Comm. 2 ed.) shows-that these points of relationship, are comparatively slight, while one cannot fail to discover a prevailing diversity in style and manner. He also maintains as decisive the evidence from Colossians 4:16, that Luke was a Gentile Christian, against Tiele (Stud. und Krit., 1858, IV. 753) and Hofmann (Schriftbeweis 2 Aufl. II. 2, 99), who regard him as a Jewish Christian. All this makes against Luke as author of the Epistle. True, the partial errors of the author of our Epistle regarding the arrangements of the Levitical worship, assumed by most interpreters, would be easily explained under this hypothesis. But they are equally so on the theory which, since the time of Luther, has been maintained by most expositors, of its authorship by Apollos (Doric abbreviation of Ἀπολλώνιος). On behalf of this may be urged, first of all, that union of independence in his ministry with harmony with the Apostle, to which the Epistles to the Corinthians bear testimony; then the description of him given in the Acts (Acts 18:24) as a born Jew and earlier disciple of John, learned and profoundly versed in Scripture, who overpowered the Jews by reasonings drawn from Scripture; the fact that, for these reasons, although by birth an Alexandrian, he, nevertheless, still appears standing in relation with Palestine, and holding himself free from the idealism of Philo, and the influences of Greek philosophy, (as indeed it was also by Aquila, one of Paul’s converts, that he was introduced at Ephesus into a deeper understanding of the Gospel (Acts 18:2 f.); the fact that he had either been in Crete, or must have intended to come thither (Titus 3:13), and that he devoted his labors especially to the Jews (Acts 18:28); and finally, that that exclusive use of the Septuagint, which attracted notice as early as Jerome (ad Isaiah 6:9), would, in his case, be entirely explicable. There remain, however, two grounds of hesitation. The first is, that in Christian antiquity his name is unmentioned in connection with this question. The second, that in the historical accounts regarding him, we find no proper points of support for the personal relations touched upon at the close of the Epistle. The question regarding its authorship must, therefore, still be considered as standing open.

[The question regarding the authorship of this noble Epistle, must indeed be regarded as undecided, and may very possibly ever remain unsusceptible of positive solution. The only point which may be regarded as established beyond all controversy, is, that at least in its present form, it did not proceed from the pen of the Apostle Paul. The diversities—discrepancies, it seems to me, are out of the question—between this Epistle and the acknowledged writings of Paul, are too numerous and too great, both in the subject-matter and the style, to render it conceivable that they should have come from the same pen. And I deem scarcely less improbable the hypothesis, that the Epistle was dictated in substance by Paul, and committed to writing in his own independent diction by another. The Epistle bears the stamp of unity; thought and diction appear in it closely and inseparably allied; and the difficulties are equally great, either of assuming that the supposed amanuensis speaks in the name of his principal, or that he speaks in his own name. Still, English and American commentators have by no means uniformly abandoned the Pauline hypothesis. In this country Prof. Stuart defended it with great zeal, if not with very great acumen, and Sampson, Turner, Dr. Barnes, and Dr. Lindsay, all maintain this view. In England Alford follows the lead of the Continental scholars, and makes an elaborate and able appeal in behalf of the claims of Apollos; Conybeare and Howson also yield entirely the Pauline authorship. Wordsworth, however, representing the conservative tendencies of the English Church, still, adheres to the view that Paul was its author; but defends the position on no new or decisive grounds.—In relation to the question who was the author, there doubtless will continue to be, among those who conceive that it could not have been written by Paul, various opinions. The claims of Barnabas, Luke, Silas, Clemens Romanus, have been canvassed, and those of each, especially the two former, admit of many plausible and not entirely unweighty considerations in their favor. Still, they also admit of much being said against them. In regard to Barnabas, it certainly seems a mysterious dispensation of Providence—granting that the Epistle to the Hebrews is really his production—that he should be known to posterity as an author, by productions so nearly intrinsically worthless as the spurious Epistles that bear his name, while with that genuine production which is one of the noblest and most precious legacies to us of the age of inspiration, his name should have but the most uncertain and shadowy connection. But in regard to all these persons, except Luke, the case is too purely hypothetical to warrant any thing more than the merest conjecture; while, in regard to Luke, noble as are the two undoubted productions of his pen, they furnish no indications of that depth of thought, and that profound knowledge of the Old Testament, which would have enabled him to write the. Epistle to the Hebrews. The only name on which we can, as it seems to me, faster and make a vigorous and solid argument, is that of Apollos, The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews was certainly a Jew. He was no less certainly a person of elegant culture, and trained in the arts of rhetoric; for this Epistle is full of delicate rhetorical points. He was a person of fine Greek culture, as shown by the elegance of his Greek style. He was, it seems almost certain, acquainted with the writings of the Alexandrian Philo (for the verbal coincidences are too numerous and striking to be the offspring of mere accident), though untinctured by his philosophizing and mystical tendencies; he therefore, in all probability, must have been from Alexandria. He stood as a teacher on high and independent ground, and yet did not belong to those who had received the Gospel from the Lord at first hand. He differed widely from Paul in his mode of presenting the Gospel, and was yet, in every fundamental point, in perfect harmony with him. He was profoundly versed in the Old Testament, and had precisely that power of fathoming and drawing out the deeper sense of the Old Testament, which would enable him “with great power, to convince the Jews from the Old Testament Scriptures, that Jesus was the Christ.” All these requisites of the author of this Epistle are fulfilled in Apollos. If a writer should attempt to put into one or two brief sentences, all the qualifications which would be demanded for the authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews, he would need only to write the sentences contained in Acts 18:2, etc. Nor do I conceive that there is much force in the two counter-suggestions of Moll. It seems indeed surprising that Christian antiquity should not have suggested the name of Apollos in this connection; and at first view, the consideration looks like a weighty one. But when we look at the actual treatment of the question by the Christian Fathers, and the exceeding superficiality of their discussion of the subject, the objection loses most of its force. Where the positive testimony is of so little value, the negative testimony of silence cannot be allowed any great weight. As to the other point, viz., that the history of Apollos furnishes no points of support for the personal references at the close of the Epistle, this is perhaps true; but it is equally true, that it furnishes none against them; and these references are so very few and vague, that they are of very slight value in an adjustment of the question. On the whole, while conceding, of course, that “the question of authorship still stands open,” I cannot forbear the opinion that the weight of argument is now very strongly in favor of the learned and eloquent Jew of Alexandria.—K.].


Alike the contents and tone of the Epistle show that its recipients are to be regarded as Jewish Christians. This is expressed in the superscription (πρὸς Ἑβραίους), which, though we may not, with Credner, regard it as coeval with the Epistle, is yet, at all events, ancient and significant. It is found not merely in the oldest oriental MSS., but, according to Clem. Alex. and Origen, was known even in the West, as early as Tertullian. Taken strictly, the term Ἑβραῖος indicates only descent (2 Corinthians 11:22; Philippians 3:5), and implies nothing as to residence or language. Sometimes, however, it includes a reference also to language (Acts 6:9; Acts 9:29), and sometimes the connection would lead us to infer that by the Israelites speaking Hebrew, i.e, Aramaic, are meant those of Palestine. In the Clementine Homilies, XI., 35, the Church of Jerusalem is called “The Church of the Hebrews,” consisting, as, according to Eus. IV., 5, it did, entirely of “Hebrew believers.” The term, however, never implies Jewish customs and religion, for which Ἰουδαϊσμός is the customary term, 2Ma 2:21; 2Ma 14:38; 4Ma 4:16. According to Euseb. Præp. Ev. VII., 8, the name Hebrews (Ἑβραῖοι) belonged to the Israelites only previously to their receiving the law, and VIII., 12, 14, the Jews (Ἰουδαῖοι) are called descendants of the Hebrews (Ἑβραῖοι), for which reason at IX. 1, the two names are united as mutually supplementary.

The contents and tone of our Epistle do not allow us to regard it as addressed to Jewish Christians in general (Euthal.; Oecum.); nor to such Christians of Hebrew extraction as, united in one Church with Christians of different origin, were living among Gentiles (Braun, Baumg., Stenglein, Heinrichs, Schwegler, Stier, in part Wieseler). Not a syllable points to relations with Gentile Christians as such. Every thing indicates a purely Jewish community, and that, too, in which many members adhere to the Levitical temple service and sacrificial rites, as to a Divine institution (Hebrews 13:9), and, although they have become believers in Jesus as the Messiah (Hebrews 5:12), have fallen into a disturbed state of conscience, and danger of apostacy (Hebrews 6:6-10; Hebrews 10:25-32; Hebrews 12:15), in that, along with threatened exclusion from participation in the Temple, and from the Commonwealth of Israel, they fear, also, to lose their claim to the salvation and kingdom of the Messiah. Nowhere is there implied in the persons addressed, any theoretical preference of the law, against which, as an error fraught with heretical and disturbing tendencies, was frequently directed the sharp argumentation of Paul. But neither does the Epistle presuppose any shaking of their faith,—occasioned by the destruction of Jerusalem,—in the fulfilment of the Divine promises given to the Covenant people of the Old Testament, and in the restoration of the nation to a glory corresponding with the character of the New Testament and of its Founder (Kluge). Just as far is it from presupposing an undeveloped Christian life, resting on a feeble faith, which needs to have the groundlessness of its fears set before it in a calm and clear presentation of the real facts of the case (Ebr.). It rather addresses Christians who have formerly had a deeper knowledge than now (Hebrews 5:11; Hebrews 6:4); to whom, however, the capital points in the relation of the New to the Old Covenant have become alarmingly obscured, so that a warning against apostasy from Christianity has to be laid upon their consciences with terrible earnestness and severity. In this it is not the feasts and their celebration that are brought into the foreground; but the Temple with its worship, especially its expiatory sacrifices. The prevailing contrast is not that of synagogue and church, but of Temple and the ἐπισυναγωγή of Christians (Del.); Conf. van den Ham Diss. expon. doctrinam de Vet. Novoque Test. in epist. ad Hebr. exhibitam, Traj. ad Rhen., 1847.

For this reason the Epistle can hardly be addressed to Jewish Churches “in the dispersion,” whose members, in their journeys to the feasts, might have been thrown, by their exclusion from the temple, into doubts and anxieties, which led them well nigh to the point of a return to Judaism. Among these Christians “in the dispersion,” the slightest possibility, the bare shadow of an allusion, has sufficed to find a home for the readers of the Epistle in Spain, (Nicol. de Lyra); in Rome, (Wetstein, Baur, Holtzmann, Alford); among one or more Italian Churches, yet entirely exclusive of Rome, (Ewald); in Corinth, (Mich. Weber, Mack, Tobler); in Thessalonica (Semler, Nösselt); in Cyprus, (Ullmann; who, however, deems it possible to find them in Alexandria); in Laodicea, (Stein, who finds in it the lost Epistle of Paul mentioned Colossians 4:16); in Asia Minor, (Bengel, Schmid, Cramer); in Antioch, (Böhme); in Lycaonia, (Credner, in his Introd. to the New Test., but who subsequently judges differently); in Galatia, (Storr, Mynster); in Ephesus and its adjacent territory, (Baumgarten-Crusius, Röth, the latter standing entirely alone in supposing that the Epistle was addressed to Gentile Christians., If we feel ourselves obliged to leave Palestine wholly out of account (Schneckenburger and Holtzmann in Stud. u. Krit., 1859), our thoughts turn most naturally to Egypt and the Christians of Alexandria. Thus now also Credner (Hist. of the N. Test. Canon, pp. 161, 182), Volkmar (the same, p. 394 f.), Hilgenfeld (Zeitschr. für wissensch. Theol., 1858, I. 103 f.), Ed. Reuss (Gesch. der heil. Schriften des N. Test. 4 Ausg., 1864), most thoroughly Wieseler (Untersuchung, etc., 2 Hälfte, 1861); still earlier, Schmidt (Einl. I., p. 284), Wieseler (Chronologie des apostol. Zeital., p. 479 f.), Bunsen (Hippolytus I., p. 365), Köstlin (Theolog. Jahrb., 1854, Heft 3, p. 388). But passages like Hebrews 8:3 ff; Hebrews 9:6 ff; Hebrews 13:13 ff., point clearly to an actual temple of Jehovah with a worship really present to the readers, 1 not to a merely spiritual sanctuary, existing only in the author’s symbolical interpretation; and the temple of Onias at Leontopolis in Egypt, built under Ptolemy Philometor, and established exclusively (Joseph., Ant., 13, 3. 1), for Jews dwelling in Egypt, with reference to Isaiah 19:18-19, and in part obscurely described by Josephus (B. Judges , 7, 10, 3), was not merely held in light esteem in Palestine, but even Philo knows but one πατρῷον ἱερόν, that of Jerusalem, to which also Alexandrian Jews directed their sacred gifts and their festal journeys (comp. Herzfeld, Gesch. des Volkes Israel von der Zerstörung des ersten Tempels bis, etc., III. p. 557 f. Jost, Geschichte des Judenthums, I. 116 f.). We need not, however, for this reason, with Ebrard (Am. Ed. of Ols. Commen., Vol. VI., p. 280), confine the readers to a narrow circle of Neophytes in Jerusalem, for whose instruction and confirmation the Epistle was to serve as a sort of manual. Better to adhere still to the view which embraces the Jewish Christians of Palestine. To these best apply the few characteristic marks contained in the Epistle. They form evidently the “Second Christian Generation” (Thol.). They have received the gospel not from the Lord Himself, but from His witnesses, subsequently to His ascension, Hebrews 2:3. Some of their leaders (ἡγούμενοι) have already suffered martyrdom (Hebrews 5:12; Hebrews 13:7), and they themselves have already suffered persecutions, although as yet not bloody ones (Hebrews 10:32; Hebrews 12:4), so that there is no discrepancy with Acts 8:3; Acts 12:1. Further, they have been, in former times, faithful, courageous, and beneficent, as were their fathers (Hebrews 6:10; Hebrews 10:23 f.; Hebrews 13:16); but notwithstanding their earlier attainments (Hebrews 5:11; Hebrews 6:4), and although from the length of time they themselves should have become teachers (Hebrews 5:12), they have come to need themselves renewed instruction in the very elements of Christianity (Hebrews 6:1 f.), and have need to be warned against sensuality and avarice (Hebrews 13:4 f.; Hebrews 12:16). The author is obliged, however, at present, to urge mainly the capital point; for in a failure to recognize this, lies the danger of an irrecoverable lapse from Christianity to Judaism. For unless the specific dignity of Jesus is acknowledged, and in His person and history are found the fulfilment of the priestly and sacrificial economy of the Old Testament, then may His blood in the new covenant be again regarded as the impure blood of a malefactor, and His gracious Spirit as a heretical spirit of error and illusion (Hebrews 6:6; Hebrews 10:29). All this is the more to be urged, as in fact, some have already begun to forsake the special Christian assemblies (Hebrews 10:25), and various previously unknown doctrines have appeared (Hebrews 13:9), on account of which obedience to their leaders (Hebrews 13:17) is sharply enforced.

These passages bear strongly against the theories of the Tübingen School. They furnish the historical proof that Christianity, as it stands vouched for in the canonical writings of the New Testament, was not gradually formed from a conflict of opposing tendencies, partly freer, partly more restricted; but that defections from the primitive Apostolic faith took place at a very early period, and that partly by the relaxing, partly by the obscuring, of an already existing, but divinely instituted life of spiritual faith, doctrinal and moral corruptions found their way into it. These of course stood in connection with other existing forms and tendencies of spiritual life. In this way might arise a division among the Jewish Christians, parallel to that among the Jews themselves; one tendency developing itself into heretical Ebionitism; the other into a Nazaritic sect, whose incipient elements are assailed in this Epistle. Hase (in Win. and Engel. Journal der theol. Liter., II. 3, p. 265 ff.) goes too far in characterizing the Jewish Christians of our Epistle as of the class later known as Ebionites.


In the passages we have adduced, are found, at the same time, indications of the date of the Epistle. The withdrawal of the Christian Church from the Jewish temple and people, it is well known, took place but gradually. For the Jewish Christians still maintain the observance of the Mosaic law, although not relying on it for justification (Acts 2:5-15; Galatians 2:0); in respect to which observance Wieseler justly distinguishes between those who drew their ideas of the gospel directly from the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament, and those who held them in their Pharisaic and Rabbinical modifications. Particularly did the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, as Israelites who had become believers in Jesus, the Messiah, still along with their separate Christian assemblages, after the example of the Apostles daily visit the temple. But, on the other hand, the Jews still looked upon the first Christians as a party and school within their own sphere of faith and life, in the sense in which the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes are, by Josephus, in philosophic language, named αἱρέσεις (sects); by the Rabbins כַּת or חֵלֶק, Acts 23:9, μέρος. With the growing intensity of feeling, however, of which the Acts of the Apostles gives proof, a period must arrive in which the Jews would not merely (as in May, 58) assail Paul for introducing into the temple a Gentile Christian (Acts 21:23 f.), but in which even Jewish Christians themselves would no longer be tolerated in the temple, and that exclusion would take place from the sanctuary of Israel, which, to some, along with doubts regarding this position held by Christianity, might, at the same time, prove a temptation to its abandonment. In this stage of development the Epistle to the Hebrews exhibits the church, and aids essentially our understanding of the character of that period. We may add that Köstlin, who formerly shared the view propounded by Baur and Schwegler, that our Epistle was composed in the course of the second century, has himself, in an extended discussion (Theol. Jahrb., 1853, p. 411 ff., 1854, p. 418 ff.) shown the untenableness of the hypothesis.

Approximatively, then, we may fix the date of its composition between the death of James (who was stoned in the year 62 or 63, upon the inauguration of the high-priest Annas, the younger, after the departure of the Procurator Portius Festus, and before the coming of his successor, Albinus, Jos. Ant. Jud. XX. 9, 1) and the commencement of the Jewish war in the year 67. For on the one hand, we cannot suppose that the author would have written to the church in such a tone, had a man of the Apostolic dignity and energy of James still stood at its head: and, on the other, we cannot overlook the fact that the calamities of the Jewish war are not mentioned, and that the whole argument produces the impression that the temple at Jerusalem was still standing. Even though we disregard the present tense of the verbs in Hebrews 8:4; Hebrews 8:6-9; Hebrews 13:10, we still cannot otherwise understand Hebrews 9:9 than that still, at the present time, sacrifices were offered which could not satisfy the conscience; and Hebrews 8:13 speaks not of an economy that has already past away, but only of one on the eve of dissolution. With no sufficient reason Schmid (Bibl. Theol., II. 61) has revived the theory of the composition of our Epistle after the destruction of Jerusalem, with the design of showing that the law has now been actually merged and done away in Christianity; and Kluge (Ep. to the Heb. p. 204) even maintains that this Epistle is the “Apocalyptik (deriving its theme from Romans 11:32) transplanted to the Christian soil, and finding its outward occasion in the destruction of the Jewish nation,” but in its carrying out blending, it should seem, historical foreshadowings in the spirit of Essenism, with a skilful use of the Sybilline prophecies, of the Book of Enoch and the Apocalypse of Ezra. The mention of Timothy (Hebrews 13:23) determines the time still more exactly, It is, to be sure, uncertain whether the deliverance here recounted is identical with that anticipated in Philippians 2:19. It is possible that Timothy was either involved in the trial of Paul, or, in the persecutions under Nero in Italy, was thrown into prison, and subsequently again liberated. For Timothy had been very urgently summoned (2 Timothy 4:21) to come again to his spiritual father, whose trial had assumed a most serious aspect. But the choice can even then only waver between the end of the year 62, immediately after the death of James, and 64. For we can have no possible ground for assuming, with Bertholdt, an otherwise unknown man, be the name of Timothy. Those who regard the Epistle as written in the name of Paul, perhaps by Luke, must assume that the closing words of this semi-amanuensis are subjoined in his own name, as otherwise we should have contradictory statements standing in close juxtaposition.

The place of the composition is unknown. The conjectures regarding it turn on the various interpretations of the expression οἱ (see the exposition at Hebrews 13:24).

[It may be added, I think, that the most natural inference from this phrase, is that the writer of the Epistle is not in Italy, and that he is writing to persons or Churches that are, so that the phrase would indicate both in what country the Epistle was not written, and to what country it was written. The obvious import of the language, therefore, favors Alford’s view, that it was written outside of Italy (possibly at Ephesus), and sent to Jewish Christians in Rome. To this view there are certainly some, though, perhaps, not insuperable objections. If we suppose with Moll and the majority, that the Epistle was directed to the Churches of Palestine, then though the οἱ might, on account of the preposition ἀπό, apart from the connection, indicate a composition outside of Italy, yet they might also be used of one who was writing from Italy itself, although, in this case, the preposition ἐξ would seem more natural. On the whole this supposition seems more probable, inasmuch as we can hardly see, if the writer was writing from any other country than Italy, to the Christians of Palestine, why he should send the greetings of Italians rather than those of the country from which he wrote. I think then we may infer almost with certainty from these words, that the Epistle was either sent from, or sent to Italy.—K.].


The conjecture which, since Clem. Alex. (Eus. H. E., VI., 14), has occasionally reappeared and been specially defended by Michaelis, that our Epistle is a translation from an Aramaic original, has not the slightest support in the fact that its original readers lived in Palestine. The proofs collected by Thol. (Comm. p. 109 f.) of the wide diffusion of the Greek language in Palestine, as well as of the high estimate placed upon it as the language of intercourse and letters, so that Greek literature was not only studied, but even expressly taught by the Rabbins, are in the highest degree instructive and decisive. The conjecture referred to, however, finds ample refutation in the character of the Epistle itself. The citations from the Old Testament are made so closely from the Septuagint as even to include its errors. On this point, too, Bleek has discovered the important fact that these citations follow the special recension of the Cod. Alex., while Paul, where he quotes from the LXX., follows chiefly the Cod. Vat. Only once (Hebrews 10:30) do we find a citation which accords neither with the Hebrew nor with the Alexandrian Text, but agrees precisely with Romans 12:19. Again we find no inconsiderable number of paronomasiæ such as belong exclusively to the Greek; and finally, the comparative purity of the language, the flowing character of the diction, the rhetorical beauty and smoothness of the style, the delicate arrangement of the words and the skillful construction of the entire period, forbid our regarding it as a translation. We have, at the same time, in this a marked contrast to Paul’s habitual mode of expression. In him the Semitic forms of conception prevail, while here the whole form of thought is Greek, and the few so-called Hebraisms which we meet, are explained from a close adherence to the expressions of the Old Testament, and even in part probably already naturalized in the religious phraseology of the Christians. Again we miss entirely the Rabbinical forms of disputation so frequent with Paul; his familiar, “I would not have you ignorant” (οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ), as well as his customary formulæ of citation, in which the only instance of correspondence is the τὸ πνεῦμα λέγει (“the Spirit saith”), Galatians 3:16, and 1 Timothy 1:4. Again, Paul employs the word “Jesus” (Ἰησοῦς) by itself only at Romans 3:26; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 12:3, and is fond of the combination “the Lord Jesus,” as also of “the Lord” (ὁ κύριος) alone. Here the case is precisely the reverse. So also the unclassical πάντοτε, frequent with Paul, occurs here only at Hebrews 7:25, while the εἰς τὸ διηνεκές, εἰς τὸ παντελές of this Epistle occur nowhere else in the New Testament, and διαπαντός only at Romans 11:10. So καθίζειυ, here employed intransitively, Paul always makes transitive, except at 2 Thessalonians 2:4, and for the ὑπομονή of Paul, we here have habitually μακροθυμία. In Hebrews 12:18 we have the Attic masc. σκότος, while elsewhere in the New Testament the word is constantly neuter. So the classical use of ὅθεν, wherefore, prevails here, which occurs with Luke but once, and never with Paul, who also never employs παρά with the Acc. in comparison, a usage familiar to our author. Finally, κοινωνεῖν is here correctly united with the Gen. of the thing, while the later and, in this construction, unclassical Dative, prevails elsewhere in the New Testament.

The absence of the usual Epistolary greeting and salutations with their explanatory designations of the author, does not justify the assumption, specially advanced by Im. Berger (Moral. Einleit. in’s N. T. III., p. 442 f.) and defended by Valckenaer, Steudel, and de Groot, that the work is not a proper Epistle, but a somewhat modified homily. Nor, carefully distributed as is the subject-matter, and didactic as is its treatment in a form of composition planned with artistic skill, and wrought out with rhetorical elegance, does this still force us to the theory of Ed. Reuss (Hist. de la theologie Chrétienne, Paris, 1852, II., 536) that we have before us the first systematic treatise on Christian theology; nor to the before-mentioned modification of this view by Ebrard, which makes it a sort of manual of instruction specially for a company of recent converts in a definite church. The character of our Epistle appears decidedly not merely in the closing words (Hebrews 13:22-25) which some have attempted to separate from the rest, but within the body of the production itself, especially Hebrews 5:11 f; Hebrews 6:9 f.; Hebrews 10:32 f; Hebrews 12:4; Hebrews 13:7; Hebrews 13:18 f. These passages indicate the actual concrete needs of a definite class of readers, and the practical reasons for an Epistle to them; and show, at the same time, that the form of exhortation preponderates greatly over that of consolation, and that it even takes the character of warning. The view of Thiersch (Comment. hist. de ep. ad Hebr., Marb., 1848), which was refuted specially by Delitzsch (Zeitschrift für die luth. Kirche und Theologie, 1849) that it is a consolatory Epistle designed to strengthen the faith of Jewish Christians, overborne by the enmity of their countrymen, and excluded from participation in the temple-worship, written about the year 64, and a sort of counterpart to the First Epistle of Peter, which was, in like manner, addressed to persecuted Christians of the dispersion, stands in palpable contradiction to the character of the Epistle itself; and to its tone now of warning, now of threatening, now of earnest summons to a complete shaking off of the ritual of Judaism. Nor is it satisfactory to regard our Epistle as intended to blend exhortation with consolation, as Thiersch has subsequently done (“The Church in the Age of the Apostles,” 1852, in which he regards the year 63 as the latest assignable date of its composition). The warning character impressed upon the exhortations, exhibits itself not merely in the continuous hortatory strain that follows Hebrews 10:9, but, like the emotional utterances of Paul, ever and anon breaks the continuity of the previous didactic portions; while it is precisely this didactic element which stamps its impress upon the Epistle as a whole. And in this the author displays an admirable power of uniting with the decided rhetorical tendencies of his diction, and with the artistic and skilful rounding of its swelling periods, that complete mastery of his material which enables him, in the unfolding of his subject, to advance with conscious and steady step, and with a clear supremacy of the thought, toward his destined goal.

The conduct of the argument is not, however, mainly dialectical; but turns upon the declarations and institutions of the Old Testament, which are regarded by the author as prophecies and types of the facts and relations of the New. Both the declarations and institutions, however, alike of the Old Covenant and the New, are but copies of heavenly originals, and hence cannot dispense with symbolical expression. We may, therefore, with de Wette (Theol. Zeitschr. von Schleierm., de W. and Lücke, Berl., 1818, III.; comp. Seyffarth de ep. quæ dicitur ad Heb. indole max. peculiari, Lips, 1821) designate the doctrinal character of our Epistle as the symbolico-typical, but must distinguish it entirely from the allegorical (see my diss. Christ. in ep. ad Heb., p. I., Halle, 1854). For the Old Covenant economy and the Old Testament declarations have, in the profoundest conviction of our author, the full weight respectively of a Divine institution and of a genuine Divine revelation; and yet they have been purposely so constructed and arranged, and so incorporated into human history, that they appear as but an evanescent and shadowy outline of God’s perfect economy, which, by the positive fulfilment of the Old Testament types, the perfect Mediator, Jesus Christ, has established in the world. The author can thus, while unfolding this state of the case to his readers, and giving special proofs and illustrations of it, with entire propriety draw his proofs from the Old Testament itself. The facts and statements of the Old Testament thus preserve their full historical value. Planting himself on the ground of historical fulfilment, the author but draws forth to the consciousness of his readers from these facts and declarations, the germs actually contained within them, and as it were bursting into fulfilment, of that which they are constituted typically and symbolically to express; and thus inspires the conviction that an abandonment of Christianity, and a retrogression to the Old Testament level, is an unpardoned denial of the true revelation of the living God Himself. This stands in marked and fundamental contrast with that allegorical treatment of the language and economy of the Old Testament, which was specially employed at that time by the Alexandrian Jew Philo. Allegory is there resorted to as a means of effecting an outward connection between rational truths and the letter of the Holy Scriptures, and of introducing entirely foreign ideas into the Old Testament by means of accidental resemblances, and, by an arbitrary and forced explanation of its institutions, relations, statements and historical accounts, divesting them of their true historical character and value, and transforming them essentially into the mere vails and husks of ideas, and mere allusions to some fancied truths. Granting, now, certain resemblances between our Epistle and the writings of Philo (comp. Carpz., Sacræ exercitt. in ep. ad Hebr. ex Philone Alex., Helms., 1750) not merely in many individual expressions, turns and modes of speech, but also in the mode of employing Scripture, e. g., the account of Melchisedek, yet this assuredly involves no dependence of our author upon Philo (Kuinoel in his Commentary, and Köstlin in Theol. Jahrb. of Baur und Zeller, 1854, p. 409) but at most implies only the influence of similar elements of culture (Tholuck, Einl., p. 84 ff.; Riehm, Lehrbegriff, I., p. 259) which were by no means confined to Alexandria (Lightfoot, Hor. Heb., II., 706; Dähne, Gesch. der jüdisch-Alexandr. Religions-Philosophie, II. p. 177 and 185; Herzfeld, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, II., p. 271 ff., 501 ff), and which are commonly rated altogether too highly. The special difficulties, now, which this mode of teaching creates to the interpreter, arise from the fact that the typical and symbolical modes of its conception and explanation, are applied to the setting forth of those heavenly and spiritual relations into which Christ has entered, and into which He introduces His believing followers. For we are in danger of either confounding the idea with the image, or, in the explanation and resolution of the type, of losing the reality and concrete nature of the idea itself. On the former side lies the false realism of the explanations of Bengel, Oetinger, Menken, Stier; on the latter the false spiritualism of Semler and his followers, who sought in vain to justify, and in part to aid] themselves, by their theory of accommodation; while more recent rationalistic expositors, particularly Böhme, again adhere strictly to the letter as such, and would hence ascribe to the author thoroughly material conceptions of the heavenly realities.


In the Greek Church the catenæ of Œcumenius (10th Cent.) and Theophylact (11th Cent.) are specially important as preserving many otherwise lost fragments and individual remarks of Origen, Theod. Mops. and others, and gather up all that had been hitherto furnished. The thirty-four homilies of Chrysostom, published after his death by the Antioch Presbyter, Constantine, from the reports of stenographers (from which source come all the homilies of this eminent father), extend themselves over the entire Epistle, and abound in acute remarks and independent ideas, yet labor under the disadvantages of a corrupt text, of obscurities and even of contradictions. The fragments of explanations, of Cyril. Alex. (published by Angelo Mai, at Rome, in the Nova Patrum Bibliotheca T., III., and in the Collectio Nova T., VIII) are purely doctrinal and directed against the Arian heresy. Theodoret, while exegetically simple and clear, is brief and dry. In the Latin Church, Primasius, Bishop of Adrumet, in the 6th century, while nearly similar in matter, has the advantage of deeper penetration into the doctrinal substance of the Epistle, and of a richer and more pregnant style of expression. From the scholastic age the enarrationes ascribed to Anselm of Canterbury, and the Expositio of Thomas Aquinas are eminently worthy of regard. Whatever else is transmitted from that epoch is scanty and antiquated. Philologically more important is the Commentary of J. Faber Stapulensis (1512). But the Adnotationes of Erasmus (1516) surpass them in critical acumen, while, at the same time, in their introduction of a method marked by greater exactness of grammatical and historical interpretation, they surpass the Scholia of Zeger (1553), which are also more marked by doctrinal prejudices. His paraphrases (1522) also surpass all similar labors in elegance of diction and clearness of style, while, on the other hand, they abound in misconceptions of the fundamental ideas of the Epistle. In the use of the Christian Fathers the Genoese Jesuit, Bened. Justiniani (1612) surpasses, in his Explanationes, all commentators, while the celebrated Commentary of Cornel. a Lapide (1614) is of very slight importance; and the Benedictine Calmet, held as authority in the Catholic Church (1707), while he accumulates much learned material, yet falls quite below Wilh. Este (1614) in exegetical accuracy, doctrinal clearness, and logical acumen. More recent interpreters in the Roman Catholic Church are Klee, 1833; Lomb, 1843; Stengel, 1849; Bisping, 1854.

Luther and Melancthon have given us no expositions of this Epistle. From Zwingle we have brief Remarks, which Caspar Megalander copied and Leo Judä appended to his edition of Zwingle, Annotationes in plerosque N. T. libros, 1561, Calvin’s exegesis is distinguished by a profounder penetration into the subject-matter; that of Beza is more thorough in the sphere of criticism and philology. Much that is original and valuable has been contributed by the older members of the Reformed Church, Pellicanus, 1539, and Piscator, 1613; somewhat also by Bullinger, Œcolampadius, Aretius, Andr. Hyperius, Grynæus, and Dav. Pareus (1628). Among the older Lutherans the same may be said of Bugenhagen (1525), Joh. Brentz (1571), Major (1571), Vict. Strigel (1565), Lukas Osiander (1585), Ægidius Hunnius (1589), Balduin (1608). Seb. Schmidt of Strassburg (1680), is to be specially distinguished, and Dorscheus (1717) is worthy of attention. Less important are the Commentaries of Joh. Gerhard (published after his death without having received his final revision, by Joh. Ernst Gerhard, 1641), and of the Danish Bishop Erasmus Brochman (1706), distinguished as a doctrinal theologian. The philological remarks of J. Camerarius (1556) have lost their value, while the notæ et animadversiones of Erasmus Schmidt, appended to the translation of the New Testament (1658), are still quite deserving of regard. A comprehensive gathering up of the results of previous researches is made by Abr. Calov in the Biblia Illustrata (1672–1676), German (1681–1682), in special antagonism to Hugo Grotius. Among the labors of the French and Dutch Theologians of the 17th century, collected in the Critica Sacra, and enlarged by further selections in the Synopsis Criticorum of Matth. Polus, the most valuable for our Epistle are the Annott. of Joh. Camero and of the brothers Cappellus. The labors of the Armenians, Hugo Grotius, Clericus and Wetstein, are well known in their decided philological, historical and archæological character. Eminently entitled to regard is the Commentary of Jonas Schlichting and Joh. Crell (1634) for its learning, acuteness, subtlety of conception, sound method and—where not interfered with by Socinian prejudices—close adherence to the text, while the exposition of the Arminian Limborch (1711) is Without special value, as also is the essentially Socinian paraphrase of Arthur Ashley Sykes (1755). More important are the Remarks of J. J. Semler (1779), appended to his translation. Since Cocceius, who kept tolerably free from the typological extravagances of his school, our Epistle has been frequently treated in Holland, and interpreted with special reference to its typology, under the form of sermons. Thus Grönwegen, 1693; Caspar Streso, 1661; Clem. Streso, 1714; Hulsius, 1725. The most important, although very discursive, are Akersloot (1697), translated into German 1714, and d’Outrein (1711, German, 1713–1718). In England, John Owen (1668 ff.), in4folio volumes; Exercitations on the Epistle of the Hebrews, specially combats the Socinians. [A convenient edition of Owen’s Comm. on the Hebrews , 6 vols. 8vo. (Ed. with critical notes by W. H. Goold) was published by Rob. Carter, New York.—K.] In antagonism to the Socinians and Remonstrants, the interpretation of Joh. Braun (Amst., 1705), treats thoroughly the archæology of the Epistle, while Joh. And. Kiesling (True Connection of the Mosaic Antiquities with the Exposition of the Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Hebrews, Erlangen, 1765) is thoroughly superficial. Of some value is the Investigatio of the Leyden Prof. Wittich, published after his death by David Hassel, 1692, and the Comment. Analyt. of Pet. van Höke, 1693; of still higher merit the Exposition of Sam. Szattmar Nemeth, published at Franecker, 1695, but originating in Lectures delivered at Clausenburg, in Siebenbürgen.

Another form of interpretation then arose in translations and paraphrases accompanied with remarks, in which class appeared in England, Hammond, 1653; Peirce, 1737; Doddridge, 1738; Pyle (1725), translated by Küster, 1778; Whitby, 1779; in Germany Michaelis, 1762; Zachariä, 1771; Morus, 1776; Carpzov, 1795. Of little importance are Horneius, Expositio literalis, 1655; Schomer, Exegesis, 1701; Olearius, Analysis logica cum Observ. Philol., 1706. More important are the learned and pithy Notæ Selectæ of H. B. Stark, 1710; the Curæ Philolog. et crit. of the learned Chr. Wolf, Ed. 2, 1738; the Remarques hist. et critiq. sur le N. T., of the historically learned Beausobre, 1742; the Gnomon of the equally sagacious and profound Bengel, 1742; the Exercitatt. ex Philone of the accurate Joh. Bened. Carpzov, 1756; the Observationes of the grammatically exact Christ. Schmid, 1760; the 4 Specimina paraphr. et annott. of the philologically thorough Abresch, 1786–1816; and the Selecta e Scholiis Valckenarii, published 1817, by Wassenbergh. Of little importance on the other hand are the Lectiones Academ. of Ernesti, published by Dindorf, 1795, and accompanied by extensive Excursuses. So also the Scholia of Rosenmüller (1779, 6 Ed., 1815–1831), and the systematic Comm. of Blasche, 1782–1786. The transition from the orthodox and dogmatic to the neological school of interpretation, and partly in conflict with this latter, is made by J. J. Rambach, 1742; Cramer, 1757; Struensee, 1763; Sigm. Jac. Baumgarten, 1763; Storr, 1789, 1809. Thoroughly rationalistic are Heinrichs in Koppe’s Nov. Test., 1792, 2 Ed. 1823 (exceedingly superficial); Dav. Schultz, 1818, who, while completely misconceiving the fundamental idea of the Epistle, yet gives a carefully-wrought translation, and some useful remarks; Böhme, marked by philological painstaking, logical exactness, and a stimulating perspicacity; Kuinoel, 1831, a learned collector of different views; and H. E. G. Paulus, 1833, a translation, with interspersed explanations from the standpoint, and in the spirit of the so-called Aufklärung.

Opening, as pioneer, a new path by its thorough, comprehensive, and almost wholly unprejudiced treatment of all the matters falling naturally under discussion, appeared, 1828–1840, the great work of Bleek, embracing Introduction, Translation and Commentary. On the basis of this arose the Commentary of Tholuck, penetrating deeper into the Theological elements of the Epistle, and rich in independent investigations (1836, 3 Ed., 1850, with two Append., one on the Applications of the Old Testament in the New, and another on the idea of Sacrifice and of priest-hood in the Old and New Test.); the exact, yet all too brief Exposition of de Wette (1844), 1847; that of Ebrard, 1850 (in continuation of the Comm. of Olshausen on the N. Test.); original, stimulating, and often strikingly happy; but frequently failing of the mark, and pronouncing in a tone of dogmatic self-confidence on matters that are not yet ripe for decision; the Critical and Exegetical Commentary of Lönemann (1855), forming a part of Meyer’s Commentary, distinguished by philological exactness and painstaking; finally the Commentary of Delitzsch, 1857 (with archæological and doctrinal excursuses on sacrifice and atonement), particularly important by its exegetical refutation of many explanations of individual passages in our Epistle in Hofmann’s Schriftbeweis (1852–1855), 2 Ed., 1859 ff., and by the extracts given from Biesenthal Ep. P. ad Hebr. Cum rabbinico Comm., 1857.

Extended almost to a Commentary is the “Lehrbegriff des Hebrærbriefes,” by Riehm, 1858 and 1859, in which a comparison with the related doctrinal ideas is carried out, and an accurate list of special treatises is appended to the several sections, while Köstlin in his “Darstellung des Lehrbegriffs des Evangeliums und der Briefe Johannis” (1843, p. 387–472), develops in an independent manner the doctrinal contents of our Epistle. Kluge (Auslegung und Lehrbegriff des Hebrærbriefes, 1862) merely touches the leading points in brief, and sometimes striking remarks, aphoristical in their nature, but assuming several rather bold positions, of which he fails to give the proof.

In the practical treatment of the Epistle we may particularly mention Mich. Walther, ‘The golden key of the Old, and the sweet kernel of the New Testament,” i.e, a thorough, methodical and extended exposition of the immeasurably profound Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews, Nuremburg, 1646 (a hundred weekly sermons delivered at Aurich, in Eastfriesland); G. M. Laurentius, Brief Explanation of the Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews, drawn up in tables, wherein its contents, order and connection are exhibited, its words are explained, and some doctrines naturally derived from them are set forth, 1741; Carl Heinr. von Bogatzky, Devout Considerations and Prayers on the New Testament, 7 vols., 1758; Friedr. Christ. Steinhofer, Daily nourishment of faith from the knowledge of Jesus, after the weighty testimonies drawn from the Epistle to the Hebrews, delivered previously in brief discourses, 2 Parts, 1761 (newly edited by Lic. Riehm, 1859); Carl Heinr. Rieger, Reflections on the New Testament, 4 vols., 3 Ed., 1847; Gottfr. Menken, Homilies on the 9th and 10th Chapters of the Epistle to the Hebrews, with appended homilies on some passages of the 12th chapter, 1831; by the same, Explanation of Ch. xi. 1821; K. W. Stein, The Epistle to the Hebrews theoretically and practically explained, and presented in its general connection, 1838; Rud. Stier, The Epistle to the Hebrews interpreted in 36 Meditations, 2 Parts, 1862; Heinr. Leonh. Heubner, Practical Explanation of the New Testament, 4 vols., 1859; Phil. Matth. Hahn, Exposition, etc., in a brief comprehensive selection from Flattich, jun., newly edited by Ehmann, 1859; J. R. Hedinger, Expositions of the most difficult passages of the New Testament (with Luther’s marginal comments) and leading practical applications, newly revised by C. F. Ledderhose, Bd. 2, 1863; Fricke, The Epistle to the Hebrews briefly and simply interpreted, 1864.

Among the more recent expositions in the English language we may specially notice the Commentary of Moses Stuart, published in 1827, and repeatedly reprinted, [a new abridged and revised Edition, with Notes in one Vol., by R. D. C. Robbins, Andover, 4 Ed., 1860]; the Recensio Synoptica Annotationis Sacræ of Bloomfield, 1827; the Horæ Hebraicæ of Viscount George Mandeville, 1835; the Meditationes Hebraicæ of Wm. Tait, Bishop of London, 1855; The Commentary of Henry Alford, in his edition of the New Testament, Vol. IV., Part 1, 1859.

[We may here further mention in the English language, the Commentary on Hebrews in Dr. S. T. Bloomfield’s Greek Testament with English Notes, 9 Ed., London, 1855, 2 vols., candid, cautious and sensible, not profound, and following pretty closely in the steps of Prof. Stuart. The Commentary on Hebrews in Chr. Wordsworth’s Edition of the Greek Testament, with Introductions and Notes, New Edition, London, 1864; reverent, considerably learned, conservative, and valuable for its numerous citations from the Fathers; much more valuable as a Commentary than the work of Dr. Bloomfield. Wordsworth advocates the Pauline authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews. (See Lange on Matth., Schaff’s Introd., p. 18). Conybeare and Howson’s Life and Epistles of St. Paul, 2 vols., contains, at the close of the second volume, a translation of the Epistle to the Hebrews, with brief annotations. They ascribe the Epistle to Barnabas. Among other English works may be mentioned Macknight on the Epistles, with revised version and notes, and the Commentaries in Gill, Scott, Henry, Adam Clarke, Burkitt, etc.

Of works on Hebrews published in America, we may mention, besides the elaborate work of Prof. Stuart, The Epistle to the Hebrews in Greek and English, with an analysis and Exegetical Commentary, by Samuel H. Turner, D.D., 1855. Dr. Turner favors the view that Paul was the author of the substance of the Epistle, but not strictly of the language.—“A Critical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, by Francis S. Sampson, Prof. of Oriental Literature, etc., in the Union Theol. Sem., Va., 1856; a posthumous publication, but nearly finished by the author. Both these two latter works are candid and sensible, but scarcely grapple with the difficult points of the Epistle. Dr. Sampson regards Paul as the author of the Epistle.—Dr. Albert Barnes’ volume of notes on the Hebrews, forming a part of his notes for Sabbath Schools, does not, of course, profess to be critical. Lectures on the Epistle to the Hebrews, by Wm. Lindsay, D. D., Prof. of Exeg. Theol. in the United Pres. Church, 2 vols., 1867.—K.].

In the French language C. Ch. Meyer, Essai sur la doctrine de I’épitre aux Hébr., 1845; and the Essai of a Translation, accompanied with a Commentary by Ed. Reuss, which appeared first in the Nouvelle Revue de Théologie, Vol. V., 1860, and was afterwards separately published in 1862. An independent value belongs to the remarks in the “Berlenburger Bibel,” 1739, and to those in O. v. Gerlach’s New Testament, 3 vols. We can use, however, only with caution, the “New system of all the types of Jesus Christ, through the entire Old Testament, by Phil. Friedr. Hiller, 1758;” a work not free from arbitrary and capricious interpretations (New Ed. by Alb. Knapp, 1858), as well as Hiller’s “Types of the New Test. in the Old Test., 1776,”—a New Ed. by Alb. Knapp, 1859.


The entire Epistle turns upon the idea that true constancy in the Christian faith is absolutely indispensable to an entrance into that rest of God which He has promised to His people. For Jesus Christ has not only gone personally into this rest, but He is the only actual Mediator of this entrance for all who believe in Him; because He, as Son, is the perfect Mediator, infinitely exalted above all the Mediators of the Divine revelation, and in Him the divinely instituted types and symbols of the Old Testament economy have their actual and complete fulfilment. The economy of salvation unfolded in the Old Testament, then, having its historical central point in that priestly and sacrificial ritual which was inseparable from the foundation of the Mosaic law, stands in no relation of antagonism to the institution of the New Covenant, whose historical, and, at the same time, whose everlasting central point is Jesus, the Messiah. Rather must we say that the revelation of God in the Old Testament itself, predicts this merging of the Old Covenant in the New by such a fulfilment of it. For this reason a repudiation of the New Covenant is an irrecoverable falling away from salvation, and an inexcusable opposition to the manifest will of God Himself.
The ordinary division into a doctrinal and a hortatory part obscures the character of the Epistle as determined throughout by the actual necessities of its readers, and is incompatible with its constantly reappearing tone of admonition and warning; while it gives, at the same time, to the first part, a false independence of the rest. The doctrinal teachings not merely pave the way for and introduce the exhortations; they generate them, as a living product and proof of the moral and religious character of the truth which is unfolded to their view, as will appear in the following tabular resumé. 2


The Elevation Of The New Testament Mediator, As Son, Above All Other Mediators Of Revelation And Redemption

1st Section.—Elevation of Jesus Christ above the prophets, and above the angels, the mediators of the Old covenant.

1. The final revelation of God has been made in the Son, the perfected Mediator, elevated above all, and exalted over all, whose pre-eminence above the angels is indicated even in their respective names. Hebrews 1:1-4.

2. Proof from Scripture of the elevation of Jesus Christ as Son of God and King above the angels. Hebrews 1:5-14.

3. A warning exhortation to give heed to a revelation mediated in so extraordinary a manner. Hebrews 2:1-4.

4. The elevation of Jesus above the angels is not disparaged by His earthly life, which, rather, opens the way for the exaltation of humanity. Hebrews 2:5-13.

5. The incarnation renders the Son of God susceptible of suffering and death, and thus fits Him to be a high-priest with God, for the redemption of mankind. Hebrews 2:14-18.

2d Section.—Preëminence of Jesus Christ above the divinely-commissioned servants and leaders of Israel, Moses and Joshua.

1. The exhortation to fidelity toward God’s faithful messenger, Christ, rests on Christ’s superiority as the Son ruling over the house, to Moses the faithful servant in the house. Hebrews 3:1-6.

2. The Old Test. threat that unbelievers shall not enter into the rest of God, is to be all the more earnestly laid to heart by the people of God of the New Covenant. Hebrews 3:7-19.

3. The promise of an entrance into the rest of God, has not merely perpetual validity, but comes to us Christians with special force. Hebrews 4:1-10.

4. Let us, therefore, by so much the more, refrain from disobeying God, as His word is of extraordinary power and efficacy. Hebrews 4:11-13.

3d Section.—Elevation of Jesus Christ above Aaron and his high-priestly successors.

1. The elevation of Jesus Christ as a high-priest who has past through the heavens, furnishes a ground for the exhortation to hold fast our Christian profession. Hebrews 4:14-16.

2. Christ is qualified to be a high-priest, primarily, by His ability to sympathize with human weakness. Hebrews 5:1-3.

3. He is so qualified by His call to this office from God, and that as antitype of Melchisedek. Hebrews 5:4-10.


Elevation Of Christ As Eternal Priestly King, The Counterpart Of Melchisedek

1st Section.—Transition to this discussion by a passage of censure, warning, consolation and exhortation.

1. The readers are still deficient in a right understanding of this typical relation. Hebrews 5:11-14.

2. Hence an urgent summons to them to strive after Christian maturity and perfection. Hebrews 6:1-3.

3. For it is impossible that they who have once experienced the gracious influences of Christianity, and fallen away from them, should be again restored to their former gracious state. Hebrews 6:4-8.

4. The readers, however, are still in that condition which renders possible, by the grace of God, their attainment of the goal, after which they are earnestly to strive. Hebrews 6:9-12.

5. The example of Abraham shows that endurance in faith leads to the attainment of the promise—a promise ratified by the oath of God. Hebrews 6:13-15.

6. Encouragement to Christians to hold fast to the promise thus assured to them. Hebrews 6:16-20.

2d Section.—The eternal and perfect high-priesthood of Jesus Christ.

1. The person of Melchisedek has, as type, a threefold superiority to the Levitical priests. Hebrews 7:1-10.

2. The O. T. predicts the abrogation of the Levitical priesthood, resting, as it does, on the Mosaic law, by the priesthood of the Messiah, as that which is eternal. Hebrews 7:11-19.

3. Preëminence of the New Covenant in that Jesus personally stands as its guaranty and pledge. Hebrews 7:20-22.

4. Christ lives forever, and can hence, in His unchangeable priesthood, forever intercede with God on behalf of the redeemed. Hebrews 7:23-25.

5. As the Sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ has once for all offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Hebrews 7:26-28.

3d Section.—This priesthood Christ fulfils as heavenly king and mediator of the New Covenant, predicted in the Old Testament.

1. As high-priest of the true sanctuary which God reared and not a man, Christ has taken His seat at the right hand of Majesty in the heavens. Hebrews 8:1-5.

2. Christ’s priestly service is by so much the more excellent, as the covenant of which He is Mediator rests on better promises than that old covenant, which, according to the testimony of the Old Testament itself, is destined to destruction. Hebrews 8:6-13.


Pre-Eminence Of The New Covenant Mediated Through Jesus Christ

1st Section.—The New Covenant accomplishes that approach and nearness to God which the old but symbolically represents and promises.

1. The typico-symbolical character of the Mosaic sanctuary, points, in itself, to an imperfect fellowship with God. Hebrews 9:1-10.

2. Perfect communion with God is rendered possible by the perfect Mediatorship of Jesus Christ, on the ground of a true expiation. Hebrews 9:11-15.

3. For concluding this New Covenant the blood of Jesus Christ was indispensable. Hebrews 9:16-22.

4. The necessary, yet unrepeated sacrificial death of Christ has wrought an all-sufficient expiation. Hebrews 9:23-28.

5. The perpetually repeated expiatory offerings of the Old Covenant attest their impotence for a real taking away of sin. Hebrews 10:1-4.

6. Scripture proof of the complete validity and finality of the sanctification obtained on the foundation of the obedience of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:5-18.

2d Section.—Exhortations, warnings, and promises suggested by the preceding.

1. Decided and unwavering adherence to the Christian faith, livingly attesting itself in Christian communion, is pressingly enforced by reference to the Parousia. Hebrews 10:19-25.

2. The severest and inevitable judgment of God is visited upon apostasy from once known and acknowledged Christian truth. Hebrews 10:26-31.

3. A speedy entrance into bliss awaits those who are steadfast to the end, for which the readers have ground of hope in their former fidelity. Hebrews 10:32-39.

3d Section.—A survey by way of encouragement, of the history of their believing forefathers.

1. Edifying patterns of faith down to Abraham. Hebrews 11:1-7.

2. The example of Abraham and Sarah. Hebrews 11:8-12.

3. Glance at the patriarchs, with a special prominence given to the faith manifested by Abraham in offering up his son. Hebrews 11:13-19.

4. Examples of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Hebrews 11:20-22.

5. Example of Moses. Hebrews 11:23-29.

6. Examples from the conquest of Canaan to the time of the Maccabees. Hebrews 11:30-40.

4th Section.—An appeal summing up the results of the preceding historical survey.

1. In possession of such patterns and examples, and looking to Jesus Himself, the readers should maintain with steadfastness the struggle that lies before them. Hebrews 12:1-3.

2. Their sufferings are salutary chastisements of God’s paternal love. Hebrews 12:4-13.

3. They are to resist incipient apostasy, by striving after union and sanctification. Hebrews 12:14-17.

4. To this they are held under obligation by the character of the New Covenant. Hebrews 12:18-24.

5. The guilt and punishment of apostasy stands in proportion to the blessings and obligations of the New Covenant. Hebrews 12:25-29.

Conclusion Of The Epistle.

1. Practical exhortations of a more general character. Hebrews 13:1-6.

2. Special exhortations in reference to their tendencies to apostasy. Hebrews 13:7-17.

3. Personal communications. Hebrews 13:18-25


[1][It is difficult to see what in the Epistle requires us to suppose a temple in the neighborhood of its readers. The fact that no single mention of, or direct allusion to, the temple is made in the Epistle, from the beginning to the end, would seem to indicate the contrary; and it is, in fact, this utter silence of the Epistle regarding the temple worship, and the complete carrying back of the discussion to the arrangements and rites of the Mosaic tabernacle, which forms the chief obstacle to believing that it was addressed to those Jews, whose Judaistic associations all stood connected with the stately ritual of the temple. It seems difficult to explain how this complete ignoring of the temple could have taken place in connection with readers whose entire religious habits and associations clustered round it. Certainly, we must assume that either the readers or the writer had been more familiar with the Jewish ritual of the Pentateuch, than with that of Jerusalem and the temple. The latter supposition solves the problem, and leaves us at liberty to suppose the Epistle addressed by a Jew of alien birth, and more familiar with Judaism in its historical records, than in its temple worship, to the Christian residents of Jerusalem and Palestine.—K.].

[2][That Moll’s view regarding the division of the Epistle is in part substantially correct, I readily admit. It is very easy to draw in the Epistle a stronger and broader line of distinction than ever lay in the mind of the writer. The Epistle is organically one, and practical considerations determine its entire character and contents. Yet, after all, there is an actual and clearly marked line of distinction, which I think it is important to recognize. Up to Hebrews 10:18 the Epistle is prevailingly didactic, and the hortatory parts are but incidental and subordinate; from Hebrews 10:19 to the end, it is almost exclusively hortatory. This distinction, of course, has not reference to the purpose of the writer,—that is throughout equally practical—but only to the manner in which he accomplishes his purpose. To that accomplishment both the didactic and the hortatory portions are equally tributary. But as the Epistle opens didactically, and continues prevailingly so (with, indeed, considerable interruptions) until Hebrews 10:18, and then becomes exclusively hortatory, I think no confusion arises in recognizing the fact. On the other hand, I think Moll has vitiated and darkened his analysis by uniting under his “Third general division” the latter part of the didactic portion from Hebrews 9:1 to Hebrews 10:18, with the entire remaining hortatory part. He has, I think, arbitrarily and violently separated a discussion which from Hebrews 8:1 to Hebrews 10:18, preserves a close and unbroken unity.—K.].