Who was the book of Hebrews written to?

Q. Who was the book of Hebrews written to?

Here is what I say about that in my study guide to Hebrews and Deuteronomy. (You can read the study guide online or download it for free at this link.)

The book of Hebrews was, like Deuteronomy, originally delivered as a
public address. It’s made up of four messages that were originally given in
gatherings of Jesus’ followers. (At the end the author calls the whole work
a “word of exhortation,” the technical term for a sermon or homily in the
Jewish synagogue.) These messages were then collected into a book and sent
out like a letter. The ending of Hebrews follows the form for letters in this
period. (The usual opening of a letter is missing, however, and that’s why the
author is unknown today.) This ending provides details that, together with
other references in the book, help us identify its recipients.

We can tell that they lived in the Roman Empire, most likely somewhere
in Italy (since the author sends them greetings from their friends who have come from Italy), perhaps in the city of Rome itself. We know that they lived
in the middle of the first century, some time before AD 70 when the Romans
destroyed the Jerusalem temple, because the author says that sacrifices are still
being offered there. They were Jews (descendants of the ancient Israelites)
who were facing a particular threat. At this time followers of Jesus were beginning to be distinguished from other Jews and singled out for persecution.
The believers addressed here were tempted to try to escape by going back to
the old covenant and identifying themselves simply as Jews. The author of
Hebrews urges them instead to remain faithful to the new covenant, despite
the risks and dangers, and show their fellow Jews and people of all other
nations how God has brought their rich spiritual heritage to its glorious
culmination through Jesus.

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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