Guessing the Date of the Epistle to the Hebrews

hebrewspicture source: cedricphilippe.

It is my personal guess that the Epistle to the Hebrews was written around 60-80 A.D. Below I will give some reasons for having come to this viewpoint.

First, however, I will start out by stating that I believe that this Epistle was written to a Jewish audience because the Letter seems to presuppose a meaningful understanding of the references to the Old Testament, ceremonial rituals of the Jewish priesthood etc. The reason for stating this is that I believe that the persecution of Hebrews 10 was not a persecution carried out by Roman authorities but was a persecution carried out by Jewish authorities (such as Saul once was) within Israel. Thus, for this proposal of a date, we should not be worried about whether the Roman emperor ordered the Christians to be persecuted at that time or not.

Taking that viewpoint into consideration, below you will find some arguments for why I believe that this Epistle was written around 60-80 A.D.:

  1. The author still seemed to have had fresh, detailed memories of the ceremonial system if he did not daily witness these sacrifices. The temple of Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D., so it might not have been written soon after.
  2. The author seems to have in mind that this ceremonial system was in the past or at least had become outdated, and by using a platonic argument, he seems to indicate that this imperfect model (which was in the past (?)) had been surpassed by the perfect model, which is currently in Heaven. (This seems to presuppose the author’s rightful understanding of Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple in Matthew 24 / Mark 13.)
  3. The non-canonical 1 Clement seems to be based on the Epistle to the Hebrews (see for example 1 Clement 36:2-6), therefore the Epistle to the Hebrews has to be written earlier than 90 A.D. The fact that the author of 1 Clement refers several times to the Epistle to the Hebrews, seems to indicate that Clement understood that his audience was very familiar with the Epistle to the Hebrews. This argument would place the Epistle to the Hebrews more probably around 85 A.D. and the 1 Clement epistle around 90 A.D.
  4. Timothy is referred to in Hebrews 13:23. He was younger than, for example, Paul but “even” he probably did not live far beyond 100 A.D.

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