Online Bible Commentary
By His Son
Hebrews 1:1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (NIV)
The writer of the book of Hebrews is unknown to us today. However, he was known to those to whom this letter was addressed (Heb 13:19-23). The writer was writing to Jewish converts to Christianity, therefore he was very likely one of their own, a Jew, like Paul. However, he wrote in a classical style of Greek, unlike the simple style of Paul. Old Testament quotes are mostly taken from the Greek Septuagint, from which Paul did not regularly quote. And, the writer was anonymous. Paul identified himself in his other writings.
And yet, the doctrine is Pauline. The timing of the writing was also Pauline. The writing was likely during the sixties A.D. There is no mention of the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. Also, the writing was that of a second generation Christian (Heb. 2:3, 13:7), so it was likely not written prior to the sixties A.D. The writer was either writing from Italy or to Italy, as one who had been there (Heb. 13:24). Paul was imprisoned in Italy two different times during the sixties, and left the country in between the two imprisonments. The writer only mentions one other brother by name, Timothy, who was like a son to Paul (Heb 13:23).
The early Eastern Church (Dionysius and Clement, both of Alexandria), from the very beginning, claimed Paul was the writer. The Western Church later agreed. Other suggested writers were Luke, Apollos, or Barnabas. None of these carry the weight of evidence as writer that Paul does, however. Luke was not Jewish. Apollos was from Alexandria, the hometown of the Septuagint, and yet, strangely, no early tradition suggested he was the writer. Luther was the first to suggest Apollos, some 1500 years later. Barnabas likely knew Jesus personally, and would not qualify as a second generation Christian.
If the writer was Paul, the discrepancies can be explained. The classical Greek language and heavy use of the Septuagint could have been provided by Luke, Apollos, or another of the classical Greek writers, as Paul dictated the letter to them, or their designates. Paul mentioned Apollos in his letter to Titus (Ti 3:13), written between his two imprisonments in Rome. The anonymity of the letter could have been on purpose, because of Paul’s unpopularity among Jews, or as a result of the persecution of Paul by Nero in Rome.
If I had to make a guess of the writer, I would guess Paul. He could have written it in 63-65 A.D, between his two imprisonments, to his new Christian converts in Rome for the purpose of strengthening their faith. Or it could well have been his last writing, late 67-early 68 A.D., in response to the Gentiles in Asia Minor turning from his teaching to those of false teachers. Thus he may have reached out to his own people, the Jews, after he was rejected by the Gentiles. However, the identity of the writer is not crucial, for the author of all Scripture is God, the Holy Spirit.
The subject of the Book of Hebrews is two-fold. The first part, Heb. 1:1-10:18, references the superiority of Christ. The second part, Heb. 10:19-13:25, references exhortations to obedient living. The subject of the above passage is the superiority of Christ to the Prophets.
Prior to the coming of Christ, God spoke through “Prophets” (v. 1a). He spoke “many times and in various ways” (v. 1b). Some ways that he spoke was through law, history, poetry, and prophecy. He spoke orally through His Spirit to Prophets and through writing, such as the finger of God writing the Ten Commandments upon the tablets.
But “in these last days” God has spoken through “His Son” (v. 2a). God appointed Jesus Christ “heir of all things” (v. 2b). He is the owner of all things, the universe. And, through Jesus, the “universe” was created (v. 2c).
Jesus “is the radiance of God's glory” (v. 3a). All of the Father’s moral and spiritual glories are seen in Jesus. He is the “exact representation” (v. 3b) of the Father. God has been revealed through the personhood of Jesus Christ. Jesus said “I and the Father are One” (Jn. 10:30) and “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14: 9).
All things are sustained “by His powerful word” (v. 3c). “In Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17b). The Lord speaks, and His powerful word sustains life and maintains the universe in its proper order. Furthermore, Jesus is superior over the prophets because, only He, could provide “purification for sins” and then sit down at the right hand of the Father in Heaven (v. 3d).
So, Jesus is superior over the Old Testament Prophets. When Jesus came to earth, it was the end of the Prophets. Prophets are no more, no matter what some may claim. God no longer speaks through Prophets. He speaks through the Bible, the Word of God, through prayer, and through the workings of the Holy Spirit on earth. Since His coming “He has spoken to us by His Son.”