The Occasion of Hebrews

How did the author of Hebrews address the challenges and concerns facing his readers?

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Any time you try to discern what problems occasioned a given letter, you're in murky territory; so I always answer these cautiously. Having said that, with Hebrews, one thing that's pretty evident is they were inclined, or tempted if you want to use that language, to go back to the old covenant. There was pressure of some sort; we don't know whether it's social pressure from the Jewish community perhaps, or some sort of legal pressure from the Roman authorities. We don't know for sure, but there was external pressure and internal inclination to go back to the old covenant. And that's why the author's message throughout is, listen to Jesus. That's all that Hebrews is getting at, from beginning to end, is listen to Jesus. And, that is, whatever the disease was in the Hebrew's spiritual health, the cure was listening to Jesus.

Answer by Dr. Sean McDonough

Dr. McDonough teaches New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.