An Exegesis Of Hebrews 13:1–17 -- By: T. C. Smith

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 07:1 (Fall 1989)
Article: An Exegesis Of Hebrews 13:1–17
Author: T. C. Smith


An Exegesis Of Hebrews 13:1–17

T. C. Smith

Emeritus Professor of Religion
Furman University

The main section of the Epistle to the Hebrews (chapters 1–12), because of its rhetorical style, resembles a sermon or a series of sermons preached to a congregation while the style of chapter 13 is epistolary and is akin to other letters of the New Testament. In fact the last chapter is so different from the other portions of the document that some have suggested an editor discovered this sermon and added chapter 13 to make it appear that the whole document was a letter addressed to a particular congregation. Since there is some similarity between this last chapter and what Paul wrote in his Corinthian correspondence, a few New Testament scholars believe that this is part of Paul’s severe letter (2 Cor. 10–13) to the church of Corinth. However, if one observes carefully the style and vocabulary of chapter 13, the differences between Paul’s writings and this letter in relation to these two matters are too apparent to deny.

Though there is a distinction to be made in the style between chapters 1–12 and chapter 13, there seems to be no need to attribute the latter to a person other than the author of the former. The epistolary form of the final chapter can be explained by the author’s desire to adapt his sermon to the practical needs of the community. To continue the euphonic prose of the sermon would by no means be appropriate when dealing with personal matters directed toward his readers. It is quite possible that the sermon was delivered orally by the author, and later he polished it up in classic literary form. He then decided that the theological content would be beneficial to other drifters in the larger Christian community and sent it perhaps to several congregations in his vicinity along with the final chapter as a pastorally-oriented postscript. In Hebrews 13:1–17 the author sets forth some Christian principles to guide us in practical life as we “run the race that is set before us... looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith” (12:1–2).

Our Relationship With Others (Verses 1–3)

The first three verses contain admonitions that relate to the proper behavior of believers toward one another. At the head of the list of injunctions stands philadelphia (brotherly or sisterly love). This ...

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