Q&A: Hebrews and the Other NT Epistles

Hebrews and the Other NT Epistles

How is the Letter to the Hebrews similar to and different from other New Testament epistles?

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Answer

I think the main way the book of Hebrews is similar to other New Testament epistles is that it's written, it seems like it's written to a particular local Christian congregation. So, the author, in chapter 13, appears to have plans to visit this congregation. He speaks in chapter 10 into some particular circumstances and to past suffering that this congregation has gone through. And so it appears that he's writing to a particular congregation, and the epistles are written to particular congregations as well. There's also, at the beginning, some thanksgiving, and that's similar to the epistles.

And yet, it's very different at the same time. So, typically epistles start with the person who's writing them and then an address to whoever is receiving the epistle. The book of Hebrews doesn't start that way, and it seems, therefore, that it's probably less an epistle and more a homily, an extended sermon that's been put into a form that's going to reach this local congregation.

Answer by Dr. Stephen E. Witmer

Dr. Stephen E. Witmer is senior pastor of Pepperell Christian Fellowship in Pepperell, MA. He also teaches New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary