In light of my answer to the following question on this site here, that the word "hebrew" was used by foreigners to refer to the "man who crossed over", is it possible that we should reevaluate the meaning of the name assigned to the book of Hebrews?

As the original meaning does not denote a nationality, but an action of passing over, and crossing over, then does the name of the book of Hebrews really translate as "Those Who Have Crossed Over" ? The ones who converted from the Mosaic law to the gospel of Christ?

  • 2
    The author didn't give the book the title, and the word Hebrew doesn't occur in the book. Thus, a more relevant question might be, "Who was the book written to?"
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 21:43
  • 2
    Or is this effectively a church history question: "What did those who first applied the title to the book understand by it?" Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 21:57
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    The book was almost certainly given its name by others on the basis that it deals with so many Jewish questions. So, treating the title as part of the sacred text is not appropriate.
    – user25930
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 22:08
  • Yes, but ultimately the Holy Spirit was in control of all of the content & the preservation of God's word. So, how do we know that the title assigned was not done by the agency of the Holy Spirit?
    – Gina
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 23:20
  • That is the problem - we do not.
    – user25930
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 11:18

1 Answer 1


Abraham is first called an Hebrew in Genesis 14:13. Eber was the son of Salah, Genesis 10:24, who was the son of Shem. Shem is deliberately called 'the father of all of the children of Eber' in Genesis 10:21.

Balaam prophesied, Numbers 24:24, of a coming affliction (from a navy from Chittim) upon what he refers to as 'Eber'. Some have attached a significance to this regarding 'crossing over' but I have yet to discover why they do so. The overwhelming evidence is that 'Hebrew' means 'descended from Eber'.

I have counted thirty times in Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, I Samuel and Jeremiah where the term 'Hebrew' is used in scripture. It appears to me to always have an ethnic meaning.

The writer to the Hebrews addresses 'holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling' who profess Christ Jesus (3:1) who are in danger of 'coming short' (4:2) who are 'dull of hearing' (5:11) who have certain who 'have the rule over them' to whom they are to submit (13:17). This looks like an ekklesia to me, that is to say a global thing not a local thing.The emphasis of content is clearly to ex-Jews.

So 'To the Hebrews' seems a fine enough description to my own mind as it denotes an ethnic characteristic (which still prevailed) rather than a religious title (Jews) which would no longer be appropriate.

The epistle clearly is applicable to ex-Jews who have been converted but the principles applied also apply to Gentiles, because they are spiritual principles which are common to all mankind, not just to those who were privileged to be of Hebrew birth.

I cannot see any connection with the concept of 'crossing over' in either the Hebrew scriptures or the Greek scriptures, myself.

  • did you read the previous answer cited that explained the original meaning had no reference to a nation as it was used before a nation of Israelite people existed?
    – Gina
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 20:36
  • @Gina That was where I started from, myself, in my first sentence, regarding Abraham. My understanding of the etymology is that the name 'Eber' is the origin of the word 'Hebrew'. The 'crossing over' meaning is a later usage.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 13:51
  • I may offer an "answer" to this one to express / propose thoughts more fully.
    – Gina
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 14:35

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