Study Guide

Hebrews

Hebrews Introduction

Making old stuff into new stuff is all the rage. Anyone who's been on Pinterest knows it, and anyone who's seen Shmoop's bedazzled mason jar collection definitely knows it.

The Epistle to the Hebrews is all about taking things that are old and outdated and making them into shiny new creations. The author of the book was a 1st-century Jewish guy who also happened to believe that Jesus was the savior the world had been waiting for. On one hand, he really loved ancient Jewish scriptures and traditions—so timeless and vintage (just like our mason jars). On the other hand, Jesus had said and done a bunch of cool new things (just like our bedazzling gun).

So what's a guy torn between the old and new world supposed to do?

Repurpose, reuse, and upcycle!

The author uses all his creative know-how to take the old covenant God made with his people and give it a couple little tweaks.

Back in the first five books of the Bible (also known as the Torah), God gave the world a bunch of laws to follow. Sometimes people followed them, and sometimes they didn't. According to Hebrews, the law-breakers in the bunch were really getting God down. But instead of tossing out the people like an old mason jar, God decided just to add a little glitter.

That glitter was named Jesus. As Hebrews tells it, he came to Earth to right all the wrongs that couldn't be fixed by the law. When he died, he got rid of sin. Anyone who believed in him got to be part of the new covenant and eventually got to read a book called the New Testament. Sure, Christians still hung onto Jewish scripture, but they made sure to tell everyone that it was the Old Testament. So last season.

Needless to say, not everyone was super thrilled about the new ideas that the author of Hebrews had. Jewish folks thought their original covenant with God was still an oldie but goodie. But Christianity caught on faster than a viral video about upcycling old books. Well, maybe not that fast.

Ironically, many folks today say that Christian beliefs are moldy and outdated. Maybe they need one of those crafty listicles ("23 Ways to Make Your Old Covenant Smell Like New Again" or "74 Amazing Ideas for Remodeling Your Dogma")? Hey, after almost 2,000 years, even new ideas can start to seem a little dusty.

What is Hebrews About and Why Should I Care?

Get ready to suit up because the Bible's about the get sporty.

If you love the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and the human drama of athletic competition, then you're really gonna love the Epistle to the Hebrews.

This book is all about endurance. Back in the 1st century, it was tough to be a Christian. After all, when you're part of a fringe religious minority, not too many people are rooting for you to pull out a win. Sure, Christianity was the underdog, but these guys weren't gonna go down without a fight.

Christians were trying to go the distance in a tough race. The Roman Empire couldn't stand 'em because they wouldn't play ball and worship Roman gods. And many Jewish folks were pretty ticked about how they'd been trash-talking Jewish law. But these believers had one guy on their side(lines) and his name was Jesus.

Here's the kicker: if the Christians could keep their eyes on the ball and come out victorious, they'd get way more than a Super Bowl ring. They'd get eternal happiness.

We'd say reading Hebrews is even more thrilling than 1st baseline tickets to the World Series.

Hebrews Resources

Historical Documents

The Epistle to the Hebrews
The full text of the Revised Standard Version. Read it. Analyze it. Enjoy it.

Video

Smart Guys Talk Hebrews
From Yale University's online course offering, this lecture has everything you need to know about the Epistle to the Hebrews and then some.

Audio

Entertaining Angels by Newsboys
The title of this Christian pop song comes from Hebrews 13:2: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it." Personally, we always like to keep some brie on hand in case an angel stops by.

Faith by LaShell Griffin
This gospel song opens with a quote from Hebrews 11:1: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Images

A Little Bit of Hebrews
Some pieces from a 3rd century letter that contain the first verse from the Epistle to the Hebrews. Parchment doesn't really age well.

Jesus As the High Priest
He looks a little funky in his coat of many colors.

Drop Anchor
Pope Pius X used the symbol of an anchor on his official papal quote of arms, which, he explained, was inspired by Hebrews 6:19: "We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul."

Coat of Quotes
The symbol for Mansfield College (a part of Oxford University in merry ol' England) includes the Latin quote, Deus locutus est nobis in filio. In case your Latin is a bit rusty, that's a direct quote from Hebrews 1:2: "[God] has spoken to us by a Son."

O, Canada!
The Canadian coat of arms includes another Latin quote from Hebrews. Desiderantes meliorem patriam comes from 11:16 and means "desir[ing] a better country." Oh, come on. We think Canada's great as it is!