"Sent from: Paul, in Italy and probably at Rome.
Sent to: 'The Hebrews,' possibly those who helped Paul in the Judean imprisonment.
Date: Possibly A. D. 62.
Purpose: To warn Jewish Christians against falling from the faith and to reconvince them that Christ and his gospel are above the law of Moses.
Main themes: Christ's authority and mission; faithfulness and first principles; Melchizedek priesthood; Christ's atonement; faith and endurance.
Background: Reason for Writing
"...Who were these Jews who first read this letter? The answer must come from the letter itself, since no information on the circumstances of writing is in Acts or early Christian sources...Like the Corinthians, the Hebrews had to go back and relearn the 'first principles' at a time when their gospel growth should have been advanced (Heb. 5:12-14). They were 'dull of hearing' (Heb. 5:11), which shows that Paul had particular information that worried him. What were their problems? One was living the gospel, a problem common to most branches of the Church in the letters. But the long arguments of reconversion center around Jewish ritual. The Hebrews overstressed the Levitical priesthood that operated the temple and the daily sacrifices that were superseded by Christ's great sacrifice. Chapters 7 through 10 are written for Jews who did not believe that Christ's coming outdated temple sacrifice. After the third journey Paul returned to Jerusalem and shared in temple sacrifice to show that he respected his Hebrew heritage (Acts 20). But it was another thing to believe that sacrifices were part of Christ's gospel, the Jewish heresy that this book combats." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 195 - 196.)
Bruce R. McConkie
"Paul is at his theological best in Hebrews...as an inspired theologian, Paul takes the revelations of the past, the dead letter of the ancient law, and ties it into the living Christianity of the present. He shows how the gospel grew out of the preparatory law which prevailed in Israel and which in fact had as its purpose the preparing of the way before the coming of that Prophet who led Israel of old and was the Author of both covenants.
"...In Hebrews we learn that Jesus was made a little lower than Elohim; that he has precedence over the angels; that he took upon himself mortality to bring salvation to man.
"In Hebrews our understanding is refreshed with the knowledge that salvation is available through his intercession; that he sacrificed himself for the sins of the world; that by his blood the saints are sanctified.
"In it we are taught that the Mosaic ordinances prefigured his ministry; that his gospel was offered to ancient Israel; that he is the Mediator of the new covenant.
"There is no other Biblical source for detailed knowledge of the Holy Priesthood; of Christ's status as the great High Priest and the Apostle of our profession; of the oath which God swore that his Son would be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
"And nowhere else in the Bible do we find the oath and covenant of the priesthood set forth; or that through this priesthood the gospel is administered; or that it is the power whereby eternal life is gained." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 3: 133-135.)
Hebrews 1 Latter-day Application of the Book of Hebrews
"...during my passage from adolescence to the adult world...I wondered if I really had a contribution to make to life. I wondered if others outside my family would ever love me. I was tormented by all of those doubts and fears... In short, I was experiencing a major crisis of self-confidence that so many of us undergo during adolescence.
"In this turmoil of doubts and fears, sustained by the love and teachings of my parents, I began to rediscover hope because of the growth of my childlike faith in Christ's love. The agent for this resurgence of hope, in my case, was the book of Hebrews. I still recall my excitement when its message broke into my consciousness. At that moment Paul seemed to speak to me: he was so vitally concerned with the message of Christ's love for us and his identification with us and our plight.
"I was struck by the beginning of this epistle of hope which establishes Christ's majesty. Paul identifies Christ as the maker of the world, as the perfected image of his Father, as the heir to all things. (See Heb. 1:1-3.) In short, I was left with no doubt that Christ was the single most important person in the history of the earth.
"On this foundation, Paul builds the rest of the epistle: He speaks of Christ's deep concern for us and our need to develop faith in him. Hope apparently comes in connection with that faith, for as Mormon points out it is impossible to have faith unless it is accompanied by hope. (See Moro. 7:40.)
"Paul points out that Christ, the son of God, suffered, learned the deeper significance of obedience, and was tempted as we are tempted. He came to understand totally our plight in life; he experienced our pains and frustrations; he came to feel deeply for us. (See Heb. 5:8; Alma 7:11-12.) I'd been feeling that no one understood me; now I realized that the Lord understood me totally. His path in life had been like an arduous climb through the thorn-infested, rugged mountains of hardship, so much more difficult than my own, and through it all his empathy for us-for me-remained a consuming passion in his life.
"Later, according to Paul, Christ in his role as the great high priest entered into the presence of his Father where we remained his concern. (See Heb. 4:15.) Struggling to find my personal bearings, I liked to imagine that our fears and concerns, our trials, seemed foremost in his mind as he pled our case with the Father. His love for the truly penitent and his intercession on their behalf gave me hope." (Arthur R. Bassett, "Hope," Ensign, Apr. 1979, 8)
Hebrews 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers
Paul's eloquent beginning to his most sophisticated audience may be likened to us today, "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 to us by a latter-day prophet unto whom he hath given the keys of the kingdom and by whom he hath revealed his mind and will."
William Grant Bangerter
"One of the principal purposes of this general conference of the Church is to announce again that God has raised up a prophet by whom he declares his will to the peoples of this world. This means that not only is the prophet sent to those who accept his words, such as the members of the Church, but also he is speaking in the name of God to all the inhabitants of the earth. He says, as did an ancient prophet, 'Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken' (Isa. 1:2). He has been sent especially to you who do not believe in God or in prophets. Wouldn't you like to know what he is saying? He says that in these last days God has restored the ancient gospel in its fulness and wishes to make a new covenant with all people. He says that Jesus Christ will shortly come again to the earth to save and judge the world and that we should all get ready. Now whether you believe it or not, this is earthshaking news." ("The Voice of the Lord Is unto All People," Ensign, Nov. 1979, 9)
Hebrews 1:2 by whom also he made the worlds
Neal A. Maxwell
"John and Paul tell us that before His mortal ministry, Jesus was the Creator of this and other worlds. (See John 1:3, 10; Eph. 3:9; Heb. 1:2.) ...It is interesting that some sincere Christians do not think of Christ in those, perhaps galactic, terms, thus ignoring this dimension of Jesus' divinity." ("The New Testament-A Matchless Portrait of the Savior," Ensign, Dec. 1986, 22)
Bruce R. McConkie
"We are blessed with the knowledge that ours is not the only inhabited earth. Rather, Christ acting under the direction of the Father is the Creator of worlds without number. Moses was permitted to see many of these earths, to learn that they are inhabited by the spirit children of the Father, and to receive the revelation that it is the Lord's work and glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of the inhabitants of all these earths. (Moses 1:27-41; D. & C. 76:22-24; John 1:1-5; Heb. 1:1-4; Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 72-74.)" (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 212.)
Neal A. Maxwell
"The Restoration gives us few details concerning the universe, of course, but from what we are given we know that we are not alone, and that we are in the midst of meaning and of unfolding, divine purposes.
"Though understandably desiring to know more, we do not presently possess the capacity to absorb more. Nor do we have an adequate 'security clearance.' This was the case with Moses: 'But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.' (Moses 1:35.)
"Physicist Paul Horowitz of Harvard University is paraphrased as saying that 'if the recent discovery of a planet circling a nearby star is a normal, mundane consequence of the ordinary star-making process, it is likely that millions of stars within our own Milky Way galaxy have Earthlike planets.' Enoch, we remember, in speaking of God's creations, mentioned 'millions of earths like this' (Moses 7:30)." (If Thou Endure It Well [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 81.)
Neal A. Maxwell
"'Worlds without number' have been created (Moses 1:33; see also John 1:3; Heb. 1:2; 2:3; D&C 93:10). These gospel truths are very significant assurances for us, situated as we are on this tiny 'speck of sand' at the outer edge of a minor galaxy, the Milky Way. Without the gospel's fulness, we would appear to be living during one tick of the geological clock and in the midst of unexplained vastness.
"Nevertheless...a universal God is actually involved with our small, individual universes of experience! In the midst of His vast dominions, yet He numbers us, knows us, and loves us perfectly (see Moses 1:35; John 10:14)." (Ensign, November 1987, p. 30.)
Hebrews 1:3 the express image of his person
The First Presidency
"Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is 'the express image' of His Father's person (Hebrews 1:3). He walked the earth as a human being, as a perfect man, and said, in answer to a question put to Him: 'He that hath seen me hath seen the Father' (John 14:9). This alone ought to solve the problem to the satisfaction of every thoughtful, reverent mind. The conclusion is irresistible, that if the Son of God be the express image (that is, likeness) of His Father's person, then His Father is in the form of man; for that was the form of the Son of God, not only during His mortal life, but before His mortal birth, and after His resurrection. It was in this form that the Father and the Son, as two personages, appeared to Joseph Smith, when, as a boy of fourteen years, he received his first vision. Then if God made man-the first man-in His own image and likeness, he must have made him like unto Christ, and consequently like unto men of Christ's time and of the present day. That man was made in the image of Christ, is positively stated in the Book of Moses: 'And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so...And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him, male and female created I them' (2:26, 27).
"The Father of Jesus is our Father also. Jesus Himself taught this truth, when He instructed His disciples how to pray: 'Our Father which art in heaven,' etc. Jesus, however, is the firstborn among all the sons of God the first begotten in the spirit, and the only begotten in the flesh. He is our elder brother, and we, like Him, are in the image of God. All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity." (JOSEPH F. SMITH, JOHN R. WINDER, ANTHON H. LUND, from James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-75), 4: 206.)
Derek A. Cuthbert
"...the teachings of most churches...is...that we cannot know and should not know what God is like.
"How wonderful that the Almighty God has identified himself to us through his beloved son, Jesus Christ. He has revealed himself as our Father in Heaven, who wants us, his children, to keep in touch with him while we are away from our heavenly home. Ask a little child to close his eyes and think of God and then describe him. Will he describe a spirit? No! He will tell of a loving, kindly faced, white-robed personal being. In his epistle to the Hebrews, Paul describes Jesus, in relation to God the Father, as 'being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.' (Heb. 1:3.) Yes, the Holy Bible answers the question as to what God is like, but people have been led astray by nonbiblical teachings and by half-truths. To correct the traditions of error handed down through the centuries, God himself has appeared in a pillar of light, together with his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to the Prophet Joseph Smith." ("What's the Difference?" Ensign, Nov. 1985, 24-25)
Bruce R. McConkie
"The resurrected Lord Jesus-having a tangible body of flesh and bones, a body which was felt and handled by the apostles in the upper room, a body that ate and digested food (Luke 24:36-43)-is in 'the express image' of his Father's 'person.' (Heb. 1:3.)
"So the Son appears and is in all respects like his Father; and conversely, the Father looks and acts and is in all respects like the Son. Their physical appearance is the same, both possess the attributes of godliness in their fulness and perfection; each would do and say precisely the same thing under the same circumstances. (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 294-295.) Hence the enigmatic and epigramatic statement: 'He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.'" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 731.)
Hebrews 1:3 upholding all things by the word of his power
"The Father had given [Jehovah] all power and all authority in the universe. Jesus was 'the brightness of [the Father's] glory, and the express image of his person,' who upholds 'all things by the word of his power.' (Heb. 1:3.) Such divine acts as the creation of worlds without number, the governing of the earth and millions of others like it, the revelation to the prophets, and the atonement for all of God's children were entrusted into the hands of Jesus Christ, Jehovah, the Lord God of the universe, the Father of heaven and earth. Jesus was, as Paul taught, 'in the form of God' and 'thought it not robbery to be equal with God.' (Philip. 2:6.) How mighty this man was as a spirit son of God in premortality that the Father would endow him with all of the attributes of deity save only those that pertain to the possession of a physical body. How we, his spirit siblings but spiritual underlings, must have stood in awe of him as we followed him in the course that the Father laid out for his children. How we must have admired the indescribable wisdom with which, even then, he administered the Father's plan. How we must have marveled at the unutterable courage with which he stepped forward to accept the burden of the holy atonement. If the present sensitivities that we feel for him, his sacred eternal work, and his gospel plan are any indication of the admiration that we had at that time in his presence, then heaven is a glorious place indeed. And if it is glorious because of the presence of the Son there, how glorious it must be because of the presence of the Father, the source of all glory in eternity." (Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5: The Gospels [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986], 1 - 2.)
Hebrews 1:4 Being made so much better than the angels
Paul's audience must not have fully appreciated the role of Jehovah in the pre-mortal councils in heaven. Rather, they knew of Jesus of Nazareth; they knew of his teachings in Galilee; they had come to believe that he was the long-awaited Messiah-and this in spite of the fact that his mortal ministry did not usher in the anticipated political and military redemption of Israel. 'What think ye of Christ' (Matt. 22:42)? It would seem that the early Christians were too close to Christ to see him for who he really was. Like a man so close to the Great Wall of China that all he can see is one brick, the Jewish saints were so close to Jesus in time and space that they could not see him for who he really was. Indeed, some would have been more impressed with an angelic visitation than with the Savior's teachings (see Heb. 2:1-3). Was Christ greater than a prophet? Was Christ greater than Father Jacob (Jn. 4:12)? Was Christ greater than Father Abraham (Jn. 8:53)? Was Christ greater than an angel? Spencer W. Kimball declared, "The heavens may be full of angels, but they are not like the Son of God." ("The Privilege of Holding the Priesthood," Ensign, Nov. 1975, 79)
"The epistle to the Hebrews was probably written to Jewish Christians who were struggling with the issue of the Law of Moses and its fulfillment in the gospel of Christ. This epistle is an extended essay on the superiority of Christ and the gospel to Moses and the institutions of the Mosaic Law. The author emphasizes the superiority of Christ to angels (Heb. 1-2) and to Moses (Heb. 3), his superiority as a high priest to the Jewish high priests (Heb. 4-5), the superiority of his Melchizedek Priesthood to the priesthood of Aaron (Heb. 7), and the superiority of his sacrifice and covenant to those of the Mosaic Law (Heb. 8-9), which he flatly declares to be obsolete (Heb. 8:13)." (Stephen E. Robinson, "The Law after Christ," Ensign, Sept. 1983, 72)
B. H. Roberts
"In this passage the superiority of Jesus over the angels is manifested in four ways: first, by the direct affirmation of God, that he was made 'better' than the angels; second, that by inheritance he obtained a more exalted name; third, that the angels are commanded to worship him; fourth, God, the Father, addressing Jesus, said, 'Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.' In this passage the Father directly addresses Jesus by the title 'God.' And as God is exalted above all angels, Jesus must be superior to angels, for he is 'God.'" (The Mormon Doctrine of Deity [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1903], 73 - 75.)
Hebrews 1:4 he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name
What is the name that Christ obtained? This 'more excellent name' is greater than any other name. It is a name greater than Christ, Lord, God, or King. It is greater than Jesus, Immanuel, or Jehovah. It is a name, 'Far above...every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come' (Eph 1:21). It is a name shared by no other. Likely, it is also a name known by no other, for 'he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself' (Rev. 19:12).
Thus, not knowing this 'more excellent name,' we will worship him by the name of Jesus, 'That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father' (Phil. 2:10-11).
Bruce R. McConkie
"The name of Jesus-wondrous name-the name in which the truths of salvation are taught; the name in which the ordinances of salvation are performed; the name in which miracles are wrought, in which the dead are raised and mountains moved;
"The name of Jesus-wondrous name-the name by which worlds come rolling into existence; the name by which redemption comes; the name which brings victory over the grave and raises the faithful to eternal life;
"The name of Jesus-wondrous name-the name by which revelation comes and angels minister; the name of him by whom all things are and into whose hands the Father hath committed all things; the name of him to whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess in that great day when the God of Heaven makes this planet his celestial home." (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 300.)
Hebrews 1:8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever
"Paul, when speaking of Jesus Christ, gives us to understand that he is the Firstborn of every creature, for by him were all things made that were made, and to him pertains all things; he is the head of all things; he created all things, whether visible or invisible, whether they be principalities, powers, thrones, or dominions; all things were created by him and for him, and without him was not anything made that was made. (Col. 1:13-19; Heb. 1:1-3; John 1:1-3; D&C 76:24).
"If all things were created by him and for him, this world on which we stand must have been created by him and for him; if so, he is its legitimate, its rightful owner and proprietor, its lawful sovereign and ruler ..." (" 'My Friend, My Savior, My Lord, My God': Latter-day Prophets Bear Testimony of Jesus Christ," New Era, Dec. 1979, 8)
Hebrews 1:9 God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows
To king David it was revealed that the Father would anoint the Son with 'the oil of gladness' (see Ps. 45:6-7). This answers an important question. The title of Christ means "the Anointed One." That is an important and well-known concept, but equally important is to know who anointed him and with what he was anointed. Paul tells us that Elohim anointed Jehovah 'with the oil of gladness.' Just as with all other priesthood ordinations, the anointing is performed with holy oil, in this case, 'the oil of gladness,' a term which is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Hence, Christ was anointed by the Father with the Holy Ghost according to the scripture, 'God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power' (Acts 10:38).
Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
'There are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones-
For instance, Jesus said: Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
Secondly: the spirits of just men made perfect, they who are not resurrected, but inherit the same glory.' (DC 129:1-3)
Parley P. Pratt
"Angels are of the same race as men. They are, in fact, men who have passed from the rudimental state to the higher spheres of progressive being. Some have died and risen again to life, and are consequently possessed of a divine, human body of flesh and bones, immortal and eternal. They eat, drink, sing and converse like other men. Some of them hold the keys of Apostleship and Priesthood, by which they teach, instruct, bless, and perform miracles and many mighty works. Translated men, like Enoch, Elijah, John the Apostle, and three of the Apostles of the Western Hemisphere, are also like angels.
"Angels are ministers, both to men upon the earth, and to the world of spirits. They pass from one world to another with more ease, and in less time than we pass from one city to another. They have not a single attribute which man has not. But their attributes are more matured, or more developed, than the attributes of men in this present sphere of existence.
"Whenever the keys of Priesthood...are enjoyed by man on the earth, the people thus privileged, are entitled to the ministering of angels." (Key to the Science of Theology/A Voice of Warning [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1965], 113.)
"These angels are under the direction of Michael or Adam, who acts under the direction of Christ." (Kent P. Jackson, comp. and ed., Joseph Smith's Commentary on the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 186.)