When I began to study the Bible I thought Paul wrote Hebrews. The more I studied, the more I began to know Paul’s other writings, the more I began to suspect that Paul did not write Hebrews. Someone who knew Paul and his writings must have written it. But I thought that Romans was the literary parent and Hebrews the literary child until Andrew Schlafly’s entry on Conservapedia—“Mystery: Did Jesus Write the Epistle to the Hebrews?”—flipped me out of the rut I was in.
It’s probably more prudent to say that the Holy Spirit flipped me out of my rut with Mr. Schlafly’s writing, but I want to be sure to share my gratitude with him since I reject his main point: “Jesus spent 40 days on Earth between the Resurrection and the Ascension, and it is implausible that He did not continue His ministry in an effective way. Writing (or distributing) an Epistle is most plausible activity, given what had transpired.” After God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, the writer of Hebrews began, in these last days he has spoken to us in a son…
The words to us aren’t an artifact of translating Greek to English. It is ἡμῖν penned by the author. Did Jesus write that God spoke to Jesus in a son? The Son [who] is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and [who] sustains all things by his powerful word? The writer of Hebrews continued, so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Did Jesus write that He was on earth writing Hebrews and sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on high simultaneously? Or did He mean that He was someone distinct from this mysterious Son? “Sit on my right” the Septuagint reads. The author of Hebrews changed κάθου (a form of κάθημαι; second person present tense) to ἐκάθισεν (a form of καθίζω; third person past tense).
All in all it seems simpler to conclude that Jesus did not write Hebrews personally and that it was written after his ascension (Acts 1:9-11). But what has grabbed me and won’t let go is Mr. Schlafly’s insight: “this sermon appears identical to the sermon given by Jesus on the road to Emmaus…” I have carped at Cleopas and the other disciple almost every time I’ve read their story, “Don’t tell me how you felt. Who cares how you felt!? Tell me what He said!” I was utterly unable to hear Hebrews as Jesus’ teaching on the Emmaus road because I was stuck thinking it was a late development dependent upon Paul’s theology in Romans.
This “Epistle was written before any physical persecution of the disciples: ‘In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.’ (12:4) Stephen was martyred around A.D. 37, merely a few years after the Crucifixion of Jesus, so this Epistle was written before then.” Was Hebrews one of the scrolls or parchments Paul prized? Was it the literary parent of Romans?
I’ll approach the next occurrence of ἁγιάσῃ (a form of ἁγιάζω) with this possibility in mind, not hearing the scratching of Jesus’ pen perhaps, but listening for the teaching that was foremost in his mind during the forty days between his resurrection and ascension (Hebrews 13:9-16 NET):
Do not be carried away by all sorts of strange teachings. For it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not ritual meals, which have never benefited those who participated in them. We have an altar that those who serve in the tabernacle have no right to eat from. For the bodies of those animals whose blood the high priest brings into the sanctuary as an offering for sin are burned outside the camp. Therefore, to sanctify (ἁγιάσῃ, a form of ἁγιάζω) the people by his own blood, Jesus also suffered outside the camp (πύλης; literally, gate). We must go out to him, then, outside the camp, bearing the abuse he experienced. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come (Revelation 21:9-27). Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, acknowledging his name. And do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.
To sanctify the people by his own blood, Jesus also suffered outside the camp. We must go out to him, then, outside (ἔξω) the camp (παρεμβολῆς, a form of παρεμβολή)… The anonymous author of “Sacrifice Outside the Camp” concluded: “So just as Christ went outside the camp, the readers are also to go outside the camp and thus bear reproach by abandoning the established fellowship and ordinances of Judaism.” That’s what I thought, too. In fact, I thought that would be the point of this essay when I thought Hebrews was a late development from the mind of some unknown disciple. Considering Hebrews as Jesus’ teaching during the forty days between his resurrection and ascension pushes me harder.
I assume that going out to Jesus, outside the camp, is a result of being sanctified by his own blood as opposed to its cause, though the NET translation (We must go out) of ἐξερχώμεθα (a form of ἐξέρχομαι; KJV: Let us go forth) sounds more like a prerequisite. Are we to go outside the Israelite camp only to join the Roman Catholic camp, the Greek Orthodox camp, the Lutheran camp, the Baptist camp, the Presbyterian camp, the Pentecostal camp or the name-your-favorite-religion camp? It got me thinking about yehôvâh.
He wasn’t a big fan of law or religion, at least it wasn’t his first choice. Yet, when he got down to it He spent a good deal of verbiage establishing a legal/religious category called outside (chûts, מחוץ) the camp (machăneh, למחנה), ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς in the Septuagint. It caused me to wonder if going outside the camp (see table below) meant anything more than trading in one legal/religious system for another.
I thought outside the camp was equivalent to not the camp. But outside the camp was as much a part of the Israelite camp as the Holy of Holies. It moved with Israel in total (or in part with its army). It was a place of execution (Leviticus 24:14, 23; Numbers 15:36). Or do you not know, Paul wrote the Romans, that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.
It was a place for the unclean (Leviticus 13:46; 14:3), including every leper, everyone who has a discharge (Deuteronomy 23:10), and whoever becomes defiled by a corpse (Numbers 5:3, 4). Those who are well don’t need a physician, Jesus answered the Pharisees, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Latrines were there outside the camp (Deuteronomy 23:12). If someone thinks he has good reasons to put confidence in human credentials (σαρκί, a form of σάρξ), I have more, Paul wrote believers in Philippi: I was circumcised on the eighth day, from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. I lived according to the law as a Pharisee. In my zeal for God I persecuted the church. According to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless. But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness. My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
The bodies of Nadab and Abihu were carried off there (Leviticus 10:4, 5). In him you also were circumcised, Paul wrote the Colossians, not, however, with a circumcision performed by human hands, but by the removal of the fleshly body, that is, through the circumcision done by Christ. Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead. And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.
But it was not a lawless place (Leviticus 17:3-5 NET).
Blood guilt will be accounted to any man from the house of Israel who slaughters an ox or a lamb or a goat inside the camp or outside the camp, but has not brought it to the entrance of the Meeting Tent to present it as an offering to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord. He has shed blood, so that man will be cut off from the midst of his people. This is so that the Israelites will bring their sacrifices that they are sacrificing in the open field to the Lord at the entrance of the Meeting Tent to the priest and sacrifice them there as peace offering sacrifices to the Lord.
Do we then nullify the law through faith? Absolutely not! Instead we uphold the law. For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” (and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
It was a place of purification. The red heifer was slaughtered outside the camp (Numbers 19:3) and its ashes were kept there (Numbers 19:9). They must be kept for the community of the Israelites for use in the water of purification – it is a purification for sin. It was a way station for soldiers returning from battle (Numbers 31:19), the spoils of war (Numbers 31:11-13) and Rahab, her father, mother, brothers, and all who belonged to her (Joshua 6:23). Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, her father’s family, and all who belonged to her. She lives in Israel (NET note 46 Heb “in the midst of Israel”) to this very day because she hid the messengers Joshua sent to spy on Jericho.
For the grace of God has appeared, Paul wrote Titus, bringing salvation to all people. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good.
It was above all else the place where the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, the way a person speaks to a friend and where Joshua lived (Exodus 33:7-11 NET):
Moses took the tent and pitched it outside the camp, at a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. Anyone seeking the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting that was outside the camp.
And when Moses went out to the tent, all the people would get up and stand at the entrance to their tents and watch Moses until he entered the tent. And whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. When all the people would see the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people, each one at the entrance of his own tent, would rise and worship. The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, the way a person speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his servant, Joshua son of Nun, a young man, did not leave the tent.
Just as the Father has loved me, Jesus said, I have also loved you; remain in my love. If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete. My commandment is this – to love one another just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because the slave does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. This I command you – to love one another.
More than a geographical location or an institutional affiliation to go to Jesus outside the camp seems like a state of the believing heart and mind. The Spirit is the one who gives life, Jesus said, human nature is of no help! The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. To go to Jesus outside the camp is integrally associated with sanctification, but doesn’t appear to be something one does once, rather continually, maybe even progressively until like Joshua one resides there permanently. Jesus said (John 14:23-26 NET):
If anyone loves me, he will obey (τηρήσει, a form of τηρέω) my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him. The person who does not love me does not obey (τηρεῖ, another form of τηρέω) my words. And the word you hear (ἀκούετε, a form of ἀκούω) is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me. I have spoken these things while staying with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.
|Reference||NET||Hebrew – outside||Hebrew – the camp||Septuagint|
|Exodus 29:14||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Exodus 33:7||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Exodus 33:7||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Leviticus 4:12||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Leviticus 4:21||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Leviticus 6:11||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Leviticus 8:17||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Leviticus 9:11||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Leviticus 10:4||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Leviticus 10:5||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Leviticus 13:46||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Leviticus 14:3||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Leviticus 16:27||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Leviticus 17:3||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Leviticus 24:14||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Leviticus 24:23||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Numbers 5:3||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Numbers 5:4||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Numbers 15:35||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||Both are in verse 36|
|Numbers 15:36||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Numbers 19:3||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Numbers 19:9||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Numbers 31:13||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Numbers 31:19||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Deuteronomy 23:10||he must leave the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Deuteronomy 23:12||outside the camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
|Joshua 6:23||outside the…camp||מחוץ||למחנה||ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς|
 “As early as the second century, this treatise, which is of great rhetorical power and force in its admonition to faithful pilgrimage under Christ’s leadership, bore the title ‘To the Hebrews.’ It was assumed to be directed to Jewish Christians. Usually Hebrews was attached in Greek manuscripts to the collection of letters by Paul… As early as the end of the second century, the church of Alexandria in Egypt accepted Hebrews as a letter of Paul, and that became the view commonly held in the East. Pauline authorship was contested in the West into the fourth century, but then accepted. In the sixteenth century, doubts about that position were again raised, and the modern consensus is that the letter was not written by Paul.” THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS
 His wife, my mother speculates, as do others. “Would Cleopas leave her in Jerusalem?”