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Is "To the Hebrews" written to Jews in contradistinction to Hellenized Jews? Or in distinction to gentiles? Samaritans? Christians?

Based on the title and the content it seems to me that the letter is written specifically to the Hebrew Jews as distinct from the Hellenized Jews.

This then raises the question of whether the author is himself a Hebrew or Hellenized Jew.

This in turn raises the question of whether the author and the community to whom he writes are "on the same page" or not.

By the way, the answer to this question might help identify who wrote the scroll also.

  • I would say that it addresses those who believe in God and who have received the words of the Hebrew prophets. The book dwells heavily on the fact of the fulfilment of what was prophesied by the Hebrew prophets.If any Jew excludes themselves from the epistle then their exclusion is down to themselves. Any Gentile (such as myself) if they believe Moses and the prophets, and receive the word of Christ, may be also included for he is not a Jew which is one outwardly. – Nigel J May 25 '18 at 22:42
  • My own sense is that Πρὸς Έβραίους is probably the true and original title of the book. (Unlike the Gospels which I believe were titled merely κατα ματθαιον and so on, rather than tradition gives us.) I don't see that anything other can be inferred from the title than the content of the epistle suggests. – Nigel J May 26 '18 at 1:30
  • the letter is written specifically to the Hebrew Jews as distinct from the Hellenized Jews - Then why was it written in Greek ? – Lucian May 28 '18 at 11:50
  • @Ruminator: "Hellenist" and "Hebrew" are antithetical - No, they aren't - not in general, anyway. (I assume you had something like Acts 6:1 in mind when you wrote that sentence). – Lucian May 28 '18 at 14:22
  • @Lucian I think you have the beginnings of a good question. Why don't you post it? If not, I think I will. – Ruminator May 28 '18 at 14:23
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Ἑλληνιστής/Hellenized Jews appears directly in Acts 6:1, 9:29, and 11:20 and indirectly in John 7:35.

Ἑβραῖος/Hebrews appears in Acts 6:1, 2 Cor. 11:22, and Phil. 3:5. It probably has the meaning of non-Hellenized Jews in Phil. 3:5 as in Acts 6:1. But it seems that in 2 Cor. 11:22 the meaning includes both kinds of Jews. If it is so, then there is one precedent that the Hebrew recipients of the book of Hebrews include both kinds of Jewish believers.

The book of Hebrews speaks of Christ being superior to Judaism and everything related to it and the New Covenant being better than the Old Covenant. Did unbelieving Hellenized Jews not practice Judaism and the things of the Old Covenant? If they did, then the book of Hebrews is for Hellenized Jewish believers also.

A Hebrew is a river crosser. We are also Hebrews because we are river crossers. We have crossed the river of baptism and come out of Chaldea (the world) into the good land of Canaan (Christ).

There is a much better answer to your question in the first chapter of the Life Study of Hebrews.

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  • Can you please reread the question and see if you can't be more specific about who you think the Hebrews are. Were they all Jews? For they all believers? Or they Hellenistic Jews? Were they Jews and Hellenistic Jews? Can you see what I'm trying to discern? I'm trying to get a very specific referent. – Ruminator May 26 '18 at 2:54
  • Why might this book be written to non-believing Jews? – RobV May 26 '18 at 4:18
  • I think that in 2 Cor 11:22 he is referring to non-Hellenized Jews. He would not be boasting about being Hellenized as the non-Hellenized Jews (the Hebrews) felt superior to the Hellenized because they were closer to the nation and the traditions. – Ruminator May 26 '18 at 10:34
  • It seems to me that the article "Life Studies" is based entirely on etymology and ignores the realities of first century Judaism. Such an "ivory tower" approach leads to much theory but little historical information. – Ruminator May 26 '18 at 12:31
  • Please see my answer to this related question: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/7827/… – Ruminator May 26 '18 at 12:54
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To whom was “To the Hebrews” written?

Evidence that Hebrews was written to the Jews in Judea is in the opening verses, 1:1-3, Paul states that God spoke to their forefathers in the pre-christian era, by means of the prophets, and now God spoke to his generation by means of His Son Jesus:

Hebrews 1:1-3 (NRSV)

God Has Spoken by means of His Son

1 "Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains[b] all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high."

Further evidence within the Letter to the Hebrews ,indicates that it was written to the Judean congregation in Jerusalem, the congregation was almost entirely of Jews and proselytes to the Jewish religion.

From the Acts of the Apostles the congregations in Jerusalem and Judea faced severe persecution, Acts 8:1, 4,14, 12:1-5 and many obviously came to know the truth in times of bitter opposition, that is why Paul wrote to them: "You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin." (Hebrews 12:4 NASB)

Some in the congregation may not have been strong in the faith and needed to built it up , and were encouraged to look to Jesus and to the cloud of witnesses as examples, such as Moses, Abraham , Noah and others mentioned in chapter eleven.

Jesus, the Example

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NRSV)

12 "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Hebrews 3:1-6 (NRSV)

Moses a Servant, Christ a Son

3 "Therefore, brothers and sisters,[a] holy partners in a heavenly calling, consider that Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses also “was faithful in all[b] God’s[c] house.” 3 Yet Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s[e] house as a servant, to testify to the things that would be spoken later. 6 Christ, however, was faithful over God’s house as a son, and we are his house if we hold firm[g] the confidence and the pride that belong to hope."

Paul was an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin,born in Tarsus of Cilicia a prominent city and by law, a Pharisee, He wrote his epistle in Rome 61 C.E. in Greek, possible reason is that among the Christians Jews , were Hellenized Jews.

Philippians 3:5 (NRSV)

5 "Circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee."

Paul received instructions from a Pharisee named Gamaliel,a member of the Sanhedrin and a Law teacher ,(Acts 5:34) this suggests that he came from a prominent family.

Acts 22:3 (NRSV)

3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today."

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This is a really good question. However, in order to properly answer it, I believe I need to extend more to the history field rather the religious one. So, Judae, was the name of the area from beyond Jordan river and up to the Bethleem and Sinae mountain. There were residing many tribes, mainly of hellinistic origin connected through the monotheistic religion. So, the epistole to Judeans, would be the epistole for all the people living in that area. Aramaics, Canannites, Samaritans, Iskarians and etc. This is confirmed many times in the new testament. For example when it speaks about the meeting of Jesus with the samaritan woman by the Abraam's well, it specifies she was "ελλησι τω γενει", meaning that she was Greek in origin. Judas was from Iskara and bethleem was full of people from other origins, that's why we have so many pig shepards in Judae although pig was forbidden as food to the people of old testament. Hebrew was also the name of an area, addressed to many tribes. What we call today Hebrews or Jews, were the generations responsible for "guarding" - keeping the traditions in the Salomon's temple lytourgie and are defined in the new testament, as Pharissaes. Back to my answer, when the epistole is addressed to Judaens, it means the same with the epistole addressed to Corintianhs. All the christians living to that area at that time.

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  • I didn't extend enough that Hebrew is the name for most of Judae area before conquered by Judas (not the Iskariot) after the escape from Egypt. The beggining of this book, has an extensive explanation and proof about names like Abram, Hebrew, Judae and etc. "Hebrew is Greek: Joseph Yahuda" – george Aug 28 '19 at 10:17
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The Hebrew letter seems to have been written to a specific yet unidentified group of Jewish Christians. In this letter, the author addresses a number of very specific problems. The most prevalent and overshadowing issue is that of the Jewish Christians who were having difficulty being able to properly represent the Law of Moses, the priestly system, the symbolism of sacrificial worship, and Jesus as the actual substance of these things.

Though there is no way to determine the authorship or the actual destination of the letter with the evidences currently available to us, it is possible that the book of Hebrews may have been Apollos’ letter to the church at Corinth between A.D. 52-54 from Ephesus. Montefiore, in his commentary on Hebrews, gives an excellent analysis of the internal evidence that seems to tie the Hebrew letter to 1 Corinthians.

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