No one knows who the author is. Paul (Origen/Clement of Alexandria), Barnabas (Tertullian), Luke or Clement of Rome (Calvin) , Apollos (Luther), Priscilla (Harnack), Silas, Timothy, Epahras, Philip the Evangelist, and Mary the mother of Jesus have all been proposed inconclusively. Based on the little that the text discloses, accompanied by the excellent use of Greek, we can tell that Hebrews was written by a strongly literate/educated, second generation (2.3), Hellenistic Jewish Christian. Dating is in the range of 60-70 AD (after 60 AD because it speaks to second generation Christians; before 70 AD because temple sacrifices are still mentioned.
All we can be sure of is that the audience was a specific group of second generation Jewish Christians. Rome is a possible destination for the Epistle.
Jews were coming down hard on fellow Jews that turned to Jesus. Rome is transitioning from skepticism to persecution of Christians. Judaism is a protected religion of the state. These two pressures are tempting the audience to return to Judaism.
To encourage living by faith and show the superiority of following Jesus as apposed to living under Judaism.
How to Read it
The whole book of Hebrews is one sustained argument (superiority of Jesus to Judaism) – occasionally interlaced with application/exhortation. The author bases his arguments on exposition of Scripture, so note what Scripture he uses and how he uses it:
He is using the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew OT); therefore certain quotations will read different than our version of the OT.
He uses a common rabbinic way of arguing called “from lesser to greater” (if it is true of A, how much more so for Z).
All OT passages are translated in light of Christ.
His form of Scriptural argument sites a text, then uses other texts and events of Christ to support the text.
The Seven OT Expositions of Hebrews:
1. Psalm 8.4-6 in Hebrews 2.5-18
2. Psalm 95.7-11 in Hebrews 3.7-4.13
3. Psalm 110:4 in Hebrews 4.16-7.28
4. Jeremiah 31.31-34 in Hebrews 8.1-10.18
5. Habakkuk 2.3-4 in Hebrews 10.32-12.3
6. Proverbs 3.11-12 in Hebrews 12.4-13
7. Exodus 19 (the Sinai Theophany) in Hebrews 12.18-29
I. Christ’s Superiority to Old Covenant Leaders (1-7)
a. Christ’s Superiority to Angels (1.5-2.18)
b. Christ’s Superiority to Moses (3.1-4.13)
c. Christ’s Superiority to Aaronic Priests (4.14-7.28)
i. Superior by Suffering (4.14-5.10) – read 4.15-16 high priest who can relate
ii. Exhortation against lazy Faith (5.11-6.12)
iii. Superior like Melchizedek (6.13-7.28)
II. Christ’s Superiority in His Sacrifice as Priest (8-10:18)
a. Superior Covenant (8) – read 8.10-11 law on hearts
b. Superior Sanctuary (9.1-10)
c. Superior Sacrifice (9.11-10.18) – read 9.12, 10.12 Devine sacrifice
III. Perseverance in Faith (10.19-12.29)
a. Reasons for Persevering in Faith (10.19-10.39) – read 10.26 no second sacrifice
b. Example of Faith (11)
c. Accepting Hardship and Submitting in Faith (12) – read 12.7 disciplined as sons
IV. Conclusion (13)
Hebrews shows the superiority of following Jesus as opposed to living under Judaism. Great bridge to understand the Old Testament in relation to the New.