Hebrews Introduction
While the full title given to Hebrews in the KJV is The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews, this book is more like an extended sermon intended for wide circulation among many churches than a letter. It is carefully crafted and written in high quality Greek. It has brief final greetings at the end, but otherwise the usual features of letter-writing in the Greco-Roman culture of the first century a.d. are very conspicuously absent. Most noticeably, there is no introduction and no opening greeting, which are both standard for letters. It is thus more a sermonic message intended to encourage and revitalize readers/hearers whose faith has apparently lost vigor and focus (5.11; 6.12). Additionally, no author's name is mentioned in the text of Hebrews, and by default some authorities in the Early Church attributed it to Paul. The KJV follows that attribution. Although its title suggests an audience of Jewish Christians, the content suggests Christians of both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. Judging from 10.32-34, the audience seem to have been subject to persecution. A case can be made for dating Hebrews to the mid-80s, certainly not later than the mid-90s since 1 Clement, written then, alludes clearly to Hebrews 1.
Hebrews is an excellent example of how the early Christian preaching typically applied texts from the Old Testament to show how Jesus' life and ministry, death, and resurrection, are integrally part of God's grand purpose to bring the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life to all people. There is a singular focus throughout Hebrews on Jesus as the true and final revelation of God. As the eternal Son of God, Jesus' status is declared to be higher than that of the prophets or angels or even Moses, the great mediator and Torah-bringer. The author says that what God has done through Jesus the Christ can save people from the power of sin and death. Jesus is described as a great High Priest whose sacrifice was offered once-for-all-people. Chapter 11 may be the best loved part of Hebrews. It profoundly defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (11.1) and then reviews a lengthy list of exemplars from the Hebrew scriptures whose lives have modeled how to live by faith in God. The implications for the readers are clear all along—to likewise live without fear by faith, whatever comes.
The Greatness of the Son of God (1.1-4)
The Son Is Greater than the Angels (1.5—2.18)
Jesus the Son of God Is Greater than Moses and Joshua (3.1—4.13)
Jesus the Son of God Is the Great High Priest (4.14—7.28)
Jesus Brings a New and Extended Covenant (8.1—9.22)
Christ Jesus' Sacrifice Is Once for All (9.23—10.39)
A Definition of Faith and Some Exemplars of Faith (11.1-40)
Encouragement to Follow the Example of Jesus (12.1—13.19)
Final Blessings and Greetings (13.20-25)

King James Version 1611, spelling, punctuation and text formatting modernized by ABS in 1962; typesetting © 2010 American Bible Society.

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