Some few Greek copies not having the name of the apostle Paul prefixed to this Epistle, though most of them have, hath made many doubt concerning the writer of it, as others, especially heretics, of its authority. The conjectures of those who ascribe it to Barnabas, Luke, or Clemens, &c. seem groundless; since the character the Holy Ghost gives of its penman, and his state, in Heb_10:34, and Heb_13:19, Heb_13:23, is not agreeable to any of them. This is most certain, that the apostle Paul did write such an Epistle; that it was well known to the dispersed churches of Christ then; that it was abused by men of corrupt minds, as it is at this day, since the Spirit gives us undeniable testimony of it in 2Pe_3:15-16. That this Epistle should be it, (when it is so like the rest of his writings; when it is strongly confirming the truth the apostle Peter had written to them, Heb_6:2 Heb_10:26-27; when it is so expressive of his condition in bonds, Heb_10:34 Heb_13:19 Col_4:18, of his known companion Timothy, Heb_13:23 Col_1:1, of his love to, and concern for, those to whom he writes, Rom_9:1-3 Rom_10:1, and of his known doctrine, that Judaism had its completion in Christianity; that the veil was rent asunder, that they might discern the temple or church to be laid open to Gentiles as well as Jews, as at Antioch, Galatia, &c., he tanght them; besides, that it hath the signal by which he declareth all his Epistles are to be known, Heb_13:25, compare 2Th_3:17-18, and the general consent of the church through the successive ages of it, entitling of him to it), I say, that this Epistle should be it, seems not difficult to determine. It is conjectured that the reason why he prefixed not his name to it, as to the rest of his Epistles, was, lest the great prejudice the Jews had causelessly taken up against him, as an enemy to the Mosaical law, would prevent their reading or weighing of it as they ought. It is directed by him to the dispersed tribes of believing Israel, under the name of Hebrews, being the common one of all the posterity of Heber by Abraham, both which patriarchs were great separatists from the idolatrous world in their respective ages, and in whose families the church of God was continued; a name grateful to them, because the Lord honoured it by adding it to his title, Exo_3:18, and ascribed it to their progenitor, Gen_14:13, of a natural descent from whom they were most fond, Joh_8:33 2Co_11:22. And the apostle Peter confirmeth these to be the persons, 1Pe_1:1-2; compare 2Pe_1:1 2Pe_3:15. Written this was in the Greek language, as his other Epistles, it being then the most diffusive dialect in the world, and especially the common one of these Hebrews, Act_6:1, as Josephus himself testifieth; though the Greek idioms themselves, and the translation of other words in the Epistle, show it abundantly. For the time of his writing it to them, most likely it was after his appearing before the emperor Nero at Rome, 2Ti_4:16,17, during his liberty, Act_28:30, upon Timothy's dismission to them, Heb_13:23, and before the first of the ten bloody persecutions, Heb_12:4, about the same year wherein he despatched other of his Epistles to the churches.
The design of the apostle in this Epistle, is fully to discover to the believing Hebrews, that they had not lost by renouncing Judaism and turning Christians, since the whole economy of Moses was designed but to lead them to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to be perfected in him, he being the truth and substance of all those shadows. To confirm them in the faith of this, and to encourage them more cheerfully to undergo those cruel persecutions, in loss of goods, liberty, relations, estates, country, and life itself, which their enemies would pursue them with for it; he shows them, that it was never God's purpose to have the earthly Mosaical church frame to continue in the world, it being weak and insufficient for priesthood, sacrifice, ordinances, ceremonies, to purge their conscience, and to bring them unto God; but to be a type of, and a guide to, a better, which he did resolve to pitch by his own Son, even that heavenly one, in which both Jew and Gentile should acquiesce, and which should continue immovable to the end of the world. In handling which:
First: He instructs them in the transcendent excellency of his person and offices; in respect of his Deity, Heb_1:1-14; of his humanity exceeding angels, Heb_2:1-18; as a Prophet exceeding Moses, Heb_3:1-4:13; as a Priest exceeding Aaron, Heb_4:14-5:9; as a King and Priest exceeding Melchisedec, Heb_5:10, to Heb_7:28.
Secondly: He instructs them in the doctrine of the heavenly church frame pitched by him, with its appurtenances, which exceeded the earthly Mosaical one; in respect of covenant most excellent, Heb_8:1-13; of gospel sacrifice, ordinances, and administrations, for efficacy exceeding all the Levitical ones, Heb_9:1-10:18; where he proceedeth to improve and apply his former doctrine, that they might answer their high privileges by the performance of proportionable duties, becoming this great gospel Minister and his heavenly church frame, from Heb_10:19-13:20; concluding the whole with solemn prayer to God, for his enabling of them to the performance of these duties, Heb_13:20-21: adding his desire of their candid acceptance of this Epistle from him; comforting them with Timothy's despatch to them, and his own hopes of seeing them; giving them the church's usual salutations, and his own valediction, whereby he discriminateth and closeth all his Epistles.