Sunday School Bible Survey:      HEBREWS

Theme: Christ is better.

Key verses:
"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds" (1:1, 2).

From the Scofield Study Bible:

WRITER: The authorship of Hebrews has been in controversy from the earliest times. The book is anonymous, but the reference in II Peter 3:15 seems conclusive that Paul was the writer. See also Hebrews 13:23. All agree that, whether by Paul or another, the point of view is Pauline. We undoubtedly have here the method of Paul's synagogue addresses. No book of Scripture more fully authenticates itself as inspired.

DATE: From internal evidence it is clear that Hebrews was written before the destruction of the Temple, A.D. 70 (cf. 10:11).

THEME: The doctrinal passages reveal the purpose of the book. It was written with a twofold intent:

  1. To confirm Jewish Christians by showing that Judaism had come to an end through the fulfilment by Christ of the whole purpose of the law; and
  2. The hortatory passages show that the writer had in view the danger ever present to Jewish professed believers of either lapsing back into Judaism, or of pausing short of true faith in Jesus Christ.

It is clear from the Acts that even the strongest of the believers in Palestine were held to a strange mingling of Judaism and Christianity (e.g. Acts 21:18-24), and that snare would be especially apt to entangle professed Christians amongst the Jews of the dispersion.

The key-word is "better." Hebrews is a series of contrasts between the good things of Judaism and the better things of Christ. Christ is "better" than angels, than Moses, than Joshua, than Aaron; and the New Covenant than the Mosaic Covenant. Church truth does not appear, the ground of gathering only being stated (13:13). The whole sphere of Christian profession is before the writer; hence exhortations necessary to warn and alarm a mere professor.

Hebrews is in six divisions, but these include five parenthetic passages of exhortation.

  1. The great salvation, 1:1—2:18 (2:1-4, parenthetic).
  2. The rest of God, 3:1—4:16 (all parenthetic).
  3. Our great High Priest, 5:1—8:6 (5:11—6:12, parenthetic).
  4. The new covenant and the heavenly sanctuary, 8:7—10:39 (10:26-39, parenthetic).
  5. The superiority of the faith way, 11:1-40.
  6. The worship and walk of the believer-priest, 12:1—13:25 (12:3-17, parenthetic).


  1. We cannot be certain, but most people believe the apostle Paul is the author of the epistle to the Hebrews.
  2. J. Vernon McGee said, "Eusebius, in the 4th century, was the first to question the Pauline authorship...In spite of the fact that the Pauline authorship cannot be confirmed in a dogmatic fashion, there is abundant evidence that Paul was the author. Both internal and external evidence support the authorship of Paul. The writer had been in bonds (10:34); he wrote from Italy (13:24); his companion was Timothy (13:23). The writing is Pauline and, in my opinion, Peter identifies Paul as the writer (II Peter 3:15, 16; cf. I Peter 1:1)" (Thru the Bible).
  3. Some of the Jewish Christians were tempted to go back into Judaism and to renounce their Christian faith. So, the author of this epistle wrote it to encourage them to be steadfast in the faith of Christ (cf. 2:3; 3:12; 6:6; 10:26).
  4. In a few short years, there would be no more temple; there would be no more priests; there would be no more altar; and there would be no more sacrifice.
  5. This epistle was written to prepare these Jewish Christians for that coming catastrophe because many of these Jewish Christians believed that the temple worship was permanent (cf. Matthew 24:1, 2).
  6. The ordinances observed in the temple — its rites, its rituals, its types, its ceremonies, and so on — were incomplete and transitory revelations pointing to the cross (cf. Heb. 9:12-15).
  7. Therefore, the chief purpose of the epistle is to demonstrate that the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel are far better than anything found in the Old Testament.
  8. The word "better" is found 13 times in the epistle (cf. 1:4).
  9. J. Vernon McGee gives an interesting quote from the poet Samuel Coleridge. "Coleridge said that Romans revealed the necessity of the Christian faith, but that Hebrews revealed the superiority of the Christian faith" (Thru the Bible).
  10. John Phillips said, "Romans expounds and explains the believer's relationship to the moral law, and Hebrews expounds and explains the believer's relationship to the ceremonial law. Romans moves from law to grace, and Hebrews, from shadow to substance" (Exploring the Scriptures).

OUTLINE (adapted from J. Vernon McGee):

  1. Christ better than Old Testament economy (Chapters 1—10)
  1. Christ is superior to prophets (1:1-3)
  2. Christ is superior to angels (1:4 — 2:18)
  3. Christ is superior to Moses (3:1 — 4:2)
  4. Christ is superior to Joshua (4:3-13)
  5. Christ is superior to the Levitical priesthood (4:14 — 7:28)
  6. Christ as our High Priest ministers in superior sanctuary by better covenant built upon better promises (8 — 10)
  1. Christ brings better benefits and duties (Chapters 11 — 13)
  1. Faith (Chapter 11)
  2. Hope (Chapter 12)
  3. Love (Chapter 13)

These are simple Sunday School survey notes. They are not for sale. The author used many outlines from popular Bible teachers such as C.I. Scofield and J. Vernon McGee, and he has tried to give credit when using their material.

—  Pastor James J. Barker  —