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§ 2. To whom was the Epistle written ? It purports to have been written to the “ Hebrews.” This is not found, indeed, in the body of the epistle, though it occurs in the subscription at the end. It differs from all the other epistles of Paul in this respect, and from most of the others in the New Testament. In all of the other epistles of Paul, the church or person to whom the letter was sent is specified in the commencement. This, however, commences in the form of an essay or ho. inily; nor is there anywhere in the epistle any direct intimation to what church it was sent. The subscription at the end is of no authority, as it cannot be supposed that the author himself would affix it to the epistle, and as it is known that many of those subscriptions are false. See the remarks at the close of the Notes on Romans, and I. Corinthians. Several questions present themselves here which we may briefly investigate.
(I.) What is the evidence that it was written to the Hebrews? In reply to this we may observe (1.) That the inscription at the commencement « The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews,” though not affixed by the author, may be allowed to express the current sense of the church in an cient times in reference to a question on which they had the best means of judging. These inscriptions at the commencement of the epistles have hitherto in general escaped the suspicion of spuriousness, to which the si:b. scriptions at the close are justly exposed. Michaelis. They should not in any case be called in question, unless there is good reason from the epistle itself, or from some other source. This inscription is found in all our present Greek manuscripts, and in nearly all the ancient versions. It is found in the Peshito, the old Syriac version, which was made in the first or in the early part of the second century. It is the title given to the epistle by the Fathers of the second century, and onward. Stuart. (2.) The testimony of the Fathers. Their testimony is unbroken and uniform. With one accord they declare this, and this should be regarded as testimony of great value. Unless there is some good reason to depart from such evidence, it should be regarded as decisive. In this case there is no good reason for calling it in question, but every reason to suppose it to be correct; nor so far as I have found is there any one who has doubted it. (3.) The internal evidence is of the highest character that it was written to Hebrew converts. It treats of Hebrew institutions. It explains their nature. It makes no allusion to Gentile customs or laws. It all along supposes that those to whom it was sent were familiar with the Jewish history ; with the nature of the temple service; with the functions of the priestly office; and with the whole structure of their religion. No other person than those who had been Jews are addressed throughout the epistle. There is no attempt to explain the nature or design of any customs except those with which they were familiar. At the same time it is equally clear that they were Jewish converts-converta from Judaism to Christianity — who are addressed. The writer addresses them as Christians, not as those who were to be converted to Christianity : he explains to them the Jewish customs as one would do to those who had been converted from Judaism ; he endeavours to guard them from apostasy, as if there were danger that they would relapse again into the system from which they were converted. These considerations seem to be decisive ; and in the view of all who have written on the epistle, as well as of the Christian world at large, they settle the question. It has never been held that the epistle was directed to Gentiles; and in all the opinions and questions which have been started on the subject, it lies been admitted that whereve:
whey resided, the persons to whom the epistle was addressed were originally Hebrews who had never been converted to the Christian religion.
(II.) To what particular church of the Hebrews was it written? Very Jifferent opinions have been held on this question. The celebrated Storr held that it was written to the Hebrew part of the churches in Galatia ; and that the epistle to the Galatians was addressed to the Gentile part of those churches. Semler and Noessett maintained that it was written to the churches in Macedonia, and particularly to the church of Thessalonica. Bolten maintains that it was addressed to the Jewish Christians who fled from Palestine in a time of persecution, about the year 60, and who were scattered through Asia Minor. Michael Weber supposed that it was addressed to the church at Corinth. Ludwig conjectured that it was addressed to a church in Spain. Wetstein supposes that it was written to the church at Rome. Most of these opinions are mere conjectures, and all of them depend on circumstances which furnish only slight evidence of probability. Those who are disposed to examine these, and to see them confuted, may consult Stuart's Commentary on the Hebrews, Intro. § 5-9. The common, and the almost universally received opinion is, that the epistle was addressed to the Hebrew Christians in Palestine. The reasons for this opinion, briefly, are the following. (1.) The testimony of the ancient church was uniform on this point that the epistle was not only written to the Hebrew Christians, but to those who were in Palestine. Lardner affirms this to be the testimony of Clement of AlexanJria, Jerome, Euthalius, Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Theophylact; and adds that this was the general opinion of the ancients. Works, vol. vi. pp. 80, 81, ed. Lond. 1829. (2.) The inscription at the commencement of the epistle leads to this supposition. That inscription, though not appended by the hand of the author, was early asfixed to it. It is found not only in the Greek manuscripts, but in all the early versions, as the Syriac and the Itala ; and was doubtless affixed at a very early period, and by whomsoever affixed, expressed the current sense at the time. It is hardly possible that a mistake would be made on this point; and unless there is good evidence to the conirary, this ought to be allowed to determine the question. That inscription is, « The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews.” But who are the Hebrews--the E3pãcou? Prof. Stuart has endeavoured to show that this was a term that was employed exclusively to denote the Jews in Palestine, in contradistinction from foreign Jews, who were called Hellenists. Comp. mNotes on Acts vi. 1. Bertholdt declares that there is not a single example which can be found in early times of Jewish Christians out of Palestine being called Hebrews. See a Dissertation on the Greek Language in Palestine, and on the meaning of the word Hellenists, by Hug, in the Bib. Repository, vol. i. 547, 548. Comp. also Robinson's Lex. on the word 'EBpãlos. If this be so, and if the inscription be of any authority, then it goes far to settle the question. The word Hebrews occurs but three times in the New Testament, (Acts vi. 1 ; 2 Cor. xi. 22 ; Phil. iii. 5,) in the first of which it is certain that it is used in this sense, and in both the others of which it is probable. There can be no doubt, it seems to me, that an ancient writer, acquainted with the isual sense of the word Hebrew, would understand an inscription of this kind - written to the Hebrews" -as designed for the inhabitants of Palestine, and not for the Jews of other countries. (3.) There are some passages in the epistle itself which Lardner supposes indicate that this epistle was written to the Hebrews in Palestine, or to those there who had been converted from Judaism to Christianity. As those passages are not conclusive, and as their force has been called in question, and with much propriety, by Prof
Stuart (pp. 32-34), I shall merely refer to them. They can be examined at leisure by those who are disposed, and though they do not prove that the epistle was addressed to the Hebrew Christians in Palestine, yet they can be best interpreted on that supposition, and a peculiar significancy would be at tached to them on this supposition. They are the following : ch. i. 2 ; iv. 2 ; ii. 1-4; v. 12; iv. 4-6; X. 26-29. 32-34 ; xiii. 13, 14. gument of Lardner is, that these would be more applicable to their condition than to others; a position which I think cannot be doubted. Some of them are of so general character, indeed, as to be applicable to Christians elsewhere; and in regard to some of them it cannot be certainly demonstrated that the state of things referred to existed in Judea, but taken together they would be more applicable by far to them than to the circumstances of any others of which we have knowledge ; and this may be allowed to have some weight at least in determining to whom the epistle was sent. (4.) The internal evi dence of the epistle corresponds with the supposition that it was written to the Hebrew Christians in Palestine. The passages referred to in the previous remarks (3) might be adduced here as proof. But there is other proof. It might have been otherwise. There might be such strong internal proof that an epistle was not addressed to a supposed people, as completely to neutralize all the evidence derived from an inscription like that prefixed to this epistle, and all the evidence derived from tradition. But it is not so here. All the circumstances referred to in the epistle ; the general strain of remark ; the argument; the allusions, are just such as would be likely to be found in an epistle addressed to the Hebrew Chrisrians in Palestine, and such as would not be likely to occur in an epistle addressed 10 21 : nther place or people. They are such as the following: (a.) The familiar acquaintance with the Jewish institutions supposed by the writer to exist among those to whom it was sent-a familiarity hardly to be expected even of Jews who lived in other countries. (6.) The danger so frequently adverted to of their relapsing into their former state; of apostatizing from Christianity, and of embracing again the Jewish rights and ceremonies—a danger that would exist nowhere elve in so great a degree as in Judea. Comp. ch. ii. 1-3; iii. 7–11. 15; iv. 1 ; vi. 1–8; X. 26–35. (c.) The nature of the discussion in the epistle-not turning upon the obligation of circumcision, and the distinction of meats and drinks, which occupied so much of the attention of the apostles and early Chris. tians in other places but a discussion relating to the whole structure of tho Mosaic economy, the pre-eminence of Moses or Christ, the meaning of the rites of the temple, &c. These great questions would be more likely rc arise in Judea than elsewhere, and it was important to discuss them fully, as it is done in this epistle. In other places they would be of less interest, and would excite less difficulty. (d.) The allusion to local places and events; to facts in their history ; and to the circumstances of public worship, which would be better understood there than elsewhere. There are no allusions or if there are they are very brief and infrequent—to heathen customs, games, races, and philosophical opinions, as there are often in the other epistles of the New Tes
Those to whom the cpistle was sent, are presumed to have an intimate and minute knowledge of the Hebrew history, and such a knowledge as could be hardly supposed elsewhere. Comp. ch. xi., particularly vs. 32-39. Thus it is implied that they so well understood the subjects referred to relating to the Jewish rites, that it was not necessary that the writer should specify them particularly. See ch. ix. 5. Of what other persons could this be so appropriately said as of the dwellers in Palestine ? (e.) The circumstances of trial and persecution so often referred to in the epistle, agree well
with the known condition of the church in Palestine. That is was subjected to great trials we know; and though this was extensively true of other churches, yet it is probable that there were more vexatious and grievous exactions; that there was more spite, and malice ; that there were more of the trials arising from the separation of families and the losses of property attending a profession of Christianity in Palestine than elsewhere in the early Christian church. These considerations—th
These considerations—though not so conclusive as to furnish. absolute demonstration-go far to settle the question. They seem to me so strong as to preclude any reasonable doubt, and are such as the mind can repose on with a great degree of confidence in regard to the original destination of the epistle.
(3.) Was it addressed to a particular church in Palestine, or to the Hebrew Christians there in general ?
Whether it was addressed to the churches in general in Palestine, or to some particular church there, it is now impossible to determine. Prof. Stuart inclines to the opinion that it was addressed to the church in Cesarea: The ancients in general supposed it was addressed to the church in Jerusalem. There are some local references in the epistle which look as though it was directed to some particular church. But the means of determining this question are put beyond our reach, and it is of little importance to settle the ques tion. From the allusions to the temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the whole train of peculiar institutions there, it would seem probable that it was directed to the church in Jerusalem. As that was the capital of the nation, and the centre of religious influence ; and as there was a large and flourishing church there, this opinion would seem to have great probability ; but it is impossible now to determine it. If we suppose that the author sent the epistle, in the first instance, to some local church, near the central seat of the great influence which he intended to reach by it-addressing to that church the particular communications in the last verses--we shall make a supposition which, so far as can now be ascertained, will accord with the truth in the case.
§ 3. The Author of the Epistle.
To those who are familiar with the investigations which have taken place n regard to this epistle, it need not be said that the question of its authorship lias given rise to much discussion. The design of these Notes does not permit me to go at length into this inquiry. Those who are disposed to see the investigation pursued at length, and to see the objections to the Pauline origin examined in a most satisfactory manner, can find it done in the Introduction to the Epistle to the Hebrews, by Prof. Stuart, pp. 77-260. All that my purpose requires is to state, in a very brief manner, the evidence on which it is ascribed to the apostle Paul. That evidence is, briefly, the following:
(1.) That derived from the church at Alexandria. Clement of Alexandria says, that Paul wrote to the Hebrews, and that this was the opinion of Pantaenus, who was at the head of the celebrated Christian school at Alexandria, and who flourished about A. D. 180. Pantaenus lived near Palestine. He must have been acquainted with the prevailing opinions on the subject, and bis testimony must be regarded as proof that the epistle was regarded as Paul's by the churches in that region. Origen, also, of Alexandria, ascribes the epistle to Paul; though he says that the sentiments are those of Paul, but that the words and phrases belong to some one relating the apostle's sentiments, and as it were commenting on the words of his master. The testimony of the church at Alexandria was uniform after the time of Origen, that it was the production of Paul. Indeed there seems never to have been any doubt in regard to it there, and from the commencement it was admitted as his production. The testimony of that church and school is particularly valuable, because (u) it was near to Palestine, where the epistle was probably sent ; (6) Clement particularly had travelled much, and would be likely to understand the prevailing sentiments of the East ; (c) Alexandria was the seat of the most celebrated theological school of the early Christian ages, and those who were at the head of this school would be likely to have correct information on a point like this ; and (d) Origen is admitted to have been the most learned of the Greek Fathers, and his testimony that the sentiments' were those of Paul may be regarded as of peculiar value.
(2.) It was inserted in the translation into the Syriac, made very early in the second century, and in the old Italic version, and was hence believed to be of apostolic origin, and is by the inscription ascribed to Paul. This may be allowed to express the general sense of the churches at that time, as this would not have been done unless there had been a general impression that the epistle was written by him. The fact that it was early regarded as an inspired book is also conclusively shown by the fact that the second epistle of Peter, and the second and third epistles of John, are not found in that version. They came later into circulation than the other epistles, and were not possessed, or regarded as genuine, by the author of that version. The epistle to the Hebrews is found in these versions, and was, therefore, regarded as one of the inspired books. In those versions it bears the inscription, « To tho Hebrews."
(3.) This epistle was received as the production of Paul by the Eastern churches. Justin Martyr, who was born at Samaria, quotes it, about the year 140. It was found, as has been already remarked, in the Peshito—the old Syriac version, made in the early part of the second century. Jacob, bishop of Nisibis, also (about A. D. 325) repeatedly quotes it as the production of an apostle. Ephrem Syrus, or the Syrian, abundantly ascribes this epistle to Paul. He was the disciple of Jacob of Nisibis, and no man was better qualified to inform himself on this point than Ephrem. No man stands deservedly higher in the memory of the Eastern churches. After him, all the Syrian churches acknowledged the canonical authority of the epistle to the Hebrews. But the most important testimony of the Eastern church is that of Eusebius, bishop of Cesarea, in Palestine. He is the well-known historian of the church, and he took pains from all quarters to collect testimony in regard to the Books of Scripture. He says, “ There are fourteen epistles of Paul, manifest and well known : but yet there are some who reject that to the Hebrews, alleging in behalf of their opinion, that it was not received by the church of Rome as a writing of Paul.” The testimony of Eusebius is particularly important. He had heard of the objection to its canonical authority. He had weighed that objection. Yet in view of the testimony in the case, he regarded it as the undoubted production of Paul. As such i was received in the churches in the East; and the fact which he mentions that its genuineness had been disputed by the church of Rome, and that he specifies no other church, proves that it had not been called in question in the East. This seems to me to be sufficient testimony to settle this inquiry The writers here referred to lived in the very country to which the cpistle was evidently written, and their testimony is uniform. Justin Martyr was born in Samaria ; Ephrem passed his life in Syria ; Eusebius lived in Cesarea, and Origen passed the last twenty years of his life in Palestine. The churches there were inanimous in the opinion that this epistle was written