Those of us who use the Christian Light Publications Sunday School materials will be studying Hebrews for the next three months (June, July, August). I thought I should post a few suggested study helps for this book.
I have never taught the book of Hebrews, but here are some resources I would want to use if I did. First, however, let me remind you that the very best thing you can do to understand any book of the Bible better is to prayerfully read it over and over. Some of the best preachers have said they aim to read a book 50 times before beginning a preaching series on it! If you want to understand as deeply as you are capable of understanding, here are more reading tips for those 50 (or 25?) times through Hebrews:
- Read it straight through, in one sitting.
- Try reading aloud.
- Try listening to an audio Bible.
- Read it in multiple translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, etc.).
- Imagine you are part of the original audience for the letter, or that you are the human author. What can you learn about the needs or concerns of each?
- After several times through, choose a theme/word that intrigues you and listen for it the whole way through as you read.
- Look for patterns of thought in the book (Jesus is better than X; warning against falling from faith; etc), divide the book into sections (chapters divisions aren’t always in the right spot) and give a simple heading to each section.
- After more readings, begin using study helps (below); use them to test your insights and to help you see new things as you read.
- Tell a family member or friend what you are discovering as you read Hebrews; the telling will help you organize and summarize your observations, leading to new insights.
For most Sunday School teachers I would recommend George Guthrie’s commentary in the NIV Application Commentary series. This series is usually very readable and includes helpful suggestions for applications (implications!) of the text for today. Guthrie’s volume is one of the best in the series, for he is known for his extensive study of the literary structure (outline) of Hebrews—a book that is harder to outline than many, given its sermon-style delivery. (Isn’t it hard to find an outline in a lot of sermons today, too?) I have found Guthrie’s commentary helpful.
Some other helpful commentaries:
- O’Brien, Peter T. The Letter to the Hebrews. PNTC. Eerdmans, 2010. 630pp.
- Lane, William. L. Hebrews, 2 vols. WBC. Word, 1991. 617pp.
- Cockerill, Gareth L. The Epistle to the Hebrews. NICNT. Eerdmans, 2012. 742pp.
- Schreiner, Thomas R. Hebrews. BTCP. B&H, 2015. 560pp.
I have O’Brien and have found him helpful. (He draws on Guthrie’s insights and many others.) Lane’s commentary is a modern classic, though I haven’t seen it. Cockerill and Schreiner are new and promising.
Debates over Calvinism and Arminianism commonly arise while interpreting Hebrews. Calvinist commentators include Guthrie, O’Brien and Schreiner. Arminian (and/or Wesleyan, which is related) commentators include Lane and Cockerill. In case you’re wondering, I prefer the Arminian reading, despite the fact that I don’t yet own one of those Arminian Hebrews commentaries!
For in-depth help with the question of falling from faith, I recommend Kept by the Power of God, by I. Howard Marshall. (I own this book and have read parts of it.)
If I had more time and experience teaching Hebrews, I’d want to also recommend some online resources and more practical teaching helps. But I’m certain the above resources are some of the best available for those who want to study Hebrews carefully.
What else would you suggest? Share resources in the comments below.