FACTS ON HEBREWS

Author

The author is not identified.  The epistle has been ascribed to Paul, but Hebrews 2:3 presents a
major problem for this viewpoint.  Suggestions include: Barnabas, Apollos, Clement of Rome,
Luke Silas, Philip, Priscilla, and John Mark.  Origin confessed, "Who the author of Hebrews is,
God truly knows."

Readers

The ancient title designates the readers as "Hebrews," but the letter does not mention the
readers as either Jews or Gentiles.  Internal evidence suggests that they were Hebrew
Christians, perhaps at Rome (13:24).  

Date of Writing

A date of writing in the sixties accords well with the available data.  The epistle may have been
written before the Neronian persecution which began in July of A.D. 64 (12:4).

Historical Setting

Although they had been Christians for some time, the readers were making no spiritual progress
(5:11-12).  They had failed to grow in the Lord, and this was reflected in their Christian conduct
(10:25, 13:2-17).  These Hebrew Christians were looking backward to their Jewish ways instead
of forward to Christ (12:2).  In the face of the hardships of the Christian faith they were in danger
of drifting away (2:1) from the substance, Christ, to the shadows of the OT sacrificial system (10:
1).  

Purpose

The purpose of Hebrews is (1) teach concerning the superiority of Christ, (2) warn against
drifting to sin and disobedience, and (3) exhort the readers to move on to maturity in Christ.

Theme        

"Christ's Person and work--the believer's incentive to maturity and service."

Outline          

I.  Teaching About Christ (person 1-7); (work 8:1-10:18)
II. Exhortations to Maturity  10:19-13:24


FACTS ON JAMES

Author

The author of the epistle identifies himself as "James, bond-servant of God and of the Lord
Jesus Christ."  Four men by the name of James are mentioned in the NT: James the father of
Judas (not Iscariot), James the son of Zebedee, James the son of Alphaeus, and James the half-
brother of Jesus (Matt. 13:55, Gal. 1:19).  The traditional view from Eusebius on is that the
epistle was authored by James the half-brother of Jesus.  This James was an important leader in
the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17, 15:13-21, 21:8) and needed no further identification.  

Readers

The letter is addressed to believing Jews scattered throughout the Roman Empire (1:1-2).  Their
scattering was probably the result of persecution which broke out in Jerusalem after the stoning
of Stephen (Acts 8:1, 12:1-23).  

Date of Writing

The lack of reference to the Judaizing controversy addressed by the Jerusalem council seems to
indicate a date prior to A.D. 49.  If so, James was the first New Testament epistle.

Historical Setting

The letter indicates that the readers were suffering persecution and trials (1:2-4,12, 2:6, 5:4).
They were also lacking in fervor for good works and the practical application of truth to Christian
living.

Purpose

James insists that saving faith is a working faith, proving its genuineness by what it does.  He
writes to exhort his readers to live out the ethical implications of their faith.  

Theme

Tests of a living faith (1:3).

Outline

The epistle of James is difficult to outline because the variety of topics presented do not seem to
follow in specific logical order.  Like Proverbs and other wisdom literature, James sets forth a
variety of practical exhortations on various topics.  The following outline is adapted from the
article by D. Edmond Hiebert, "The Unifying Theme of the Epistle of James," Bibliotheca Sacra
135 (July-September 1978), pp. 221-24.

I. Faith tested by its response to trial  1:1-18
II.  Faith tested by its response to the Word of God  1:19-27
III. Faith tested by its reaction to partiality  2:1-13
IV. Faith tested by its production of good works  2:14-26
V. Faith tested by its production of self-control  3:1-12
VI Faith tested by its appropriation of true wisdom  3:13-18
VII. Faith tested by its reaction to worldliness  4:1-10
VIII. Faith tested by its avoidance of slander  4:11-12
IX. Faith tested by its avoidance of presumptuous planning  4:13-17
X. Faith tested by its reaction to injustice  5:1-11
XI. Faith tested by its consistence honesty  5:12
XII. Faith tested by its resort to prayer  5:13-18
XIII. Faith tested by its correcting the errant  5:19-20


FACTS ON FIRST PETER

Author

The writer demonstrates an intimate acquaintance with the life and teachings of Jesus (2:19-24,
3:18, 4:1, 5:1,5).  There are remarkable similarities between Peter's speeches in Acts and his
words in this epistle (Acts 2:32-36 with 1 Peter 1:21).  All evidence points to the Apostle Peter as
author of the letter.  

Readers

The epistle is addressed to the believers scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia,
Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1:1).  Most of the readers were of Gentile background, although
some may have been Hebrew Christians (2:10,12, 4:3).  

Date of Writing

The contents of the epistle reflect a concern for impending persecution.  This suggests that the
epistle was written not long before Peter's death (A.D. 64).  Peter arrived in Rome in A.D. 62 and
probably wrote this letter in A.D. 63 or early 64.

Historical Setting

Prominent in the background of 1 Peter is the theme of suffering due to persecution (1:6-7, 2:11-
20, 3:13-17, 4:3-5,12-19, 5:8-10).  Some believe that the sufferings and persecutions were those
which began due to Nero in A.D. 64.  It is more probable that the sufferings of these readers
were of a general nature which were common to first century Christians.  

Peter, probably in Rome (5:13, cf. Rev. 17:5,9, 18:2,10,21), was anticipating more intense
persecution, and wrote to the believers in the provinces to encourage them in their present
struggle.

Purpose  

The epistle was written to exhort the readers to conduct themselves in accordance with their
living hope.  The letter confirmed their knowledge of salvation and encouraged them in their
submission to authority and joyful response to suffering.

Theme         

Suffering as a Christian and how to endure it triumphantly.

Outline

I. Salvation in Christ 1:1-2:12
II. Submission to Authority   2:11-3:12        
III. Suffering for Righteousness   3:13-419        
IV. Supervision by Elders  5:1-14


FACTS ON SECOND PETER

Author

Differences in style between 1 and 2 Peter and the lack of external evidence for Petrine
authorship have led to questions regarding the authenticity of this epistle.  But there is no doubt
that the author intended to identify himself as the Apostle Peter.  He refers to himself as "Simon
Peter" (1:1).  He writes of his approaching death (1:14) which was predicted by Jesus (Jn. 21:18-
19).  He claims to be a witness of Jesus' transfiguration (1:16-17) as was Peter (Matt. 17:1-4).  
The evidence points to this epistle being a genuine work of the Apostle Peter.        

Readers

The readers are of the epistle are believers (1:1).  They are apparently the same group of
Christians addressed in 1 Peter (2 Pet. 3:1).  Most were of Gentile background, though some
may have been Hebrew Christians.

Date of Writing

When Peter wrote this letter, he believed his death to be imminent (1:14-15).  Since Peter died in
Rome during the Neronian persecution which began after Rome's burning (July 18, A.D. 64), the
epistle was probably written shortly before Peter's death in the summer of A.D. 64.

Setting

The problem facing the readers of Second Peter was false teaching.  There were false teachers
within the church who had apostatized from sound doctrine (2:1,21). These false teachers were
advocating a complete abandonment of moral standards (2:10). One of their major doctrinal
deviations was a denial of Christ’s second coming (3:4). Peter devotes most of his third chapter
to this problem.   

Purpose

Peter writes to warn his readers against false teachers (2:1-2, 3:17).  Peter intends the letter to
stir the readers to remember the orthodox teachings, and thus encourage growth in true
knowledge of the Lord Jesus (3:1-2,18).  

Theme        

Growing in the knowledge of Christ (3:18).

Outline

I.  The Nature of True Knowledge  1
II.  The Peril of False Teaching  2
III.  The Coming of the Lord  3


FACTS ON FIRST JOHN

Author

Although the epistle is anonymous, both internal and external evidence support the view that the
author is John the Apostle and author of the Fourth Gospel.  Most scholars recognize the
similarity in thought, vocabulary and style between the Gospel of John and 1 John.   

Readers

The readers are believers of Gentile background 3:1-2, 5:21).  Since John spent his later years
at Ephesus, it is likely that the epistle was written from that city to a nearby group of Asian
churches with whom John was personally acquainted.  

Date of Writing

The epistle was probably written after the Fourth Gospel since the author seems to assume an
acquaintance on the part of his readers with the facts of the gospel.  The absence of any
reference to suffering would indicate that the letter was written before the persecution of
Domitian around A.D. 95.  Most scholars date the epistle around A.D. 90.

Historical Setting

First John is written to churches in which false prophets had appeared (4:1) who were drawing
Christians from fellowship with the true believers (2:19).  The false teachers claimed a special
illumination by the Spirit (2:20,27) and claimed to have reached a state of moral perfection (1:8-
10).

The chief theological error tempting the readers was a denial of the incarnation of Jesus (2:22, 4:
2).  John combats this error by claiming to have been an eyewitness to the life and ministry of
Christ (1:1-4,8, 2:2, 3:16, 4:10).

Purpose

In his epistle, John combats false teaching with a clear presentation of the truth.  The primary
purpose in writing is to promote fellowship in the body of God (1:3).

Theme     

Fellowship in the family of God (1:3).  

Outline

I.  Walking in the light 1-2
II.  Abiding in Love  3-4
III. Overcoming by Faith  5


FACTS ON SECOND JOHN

Author

Both internal evidence and early church tradition indicate that this letter was written by the
Apostle John. However, the reference to the author as “the elder” (v. 1) has led some to
conclude that the epistle was written by someone else. Yet the title “elder” would have been a
fitting designation for John since he was advanced in years at the time of writing. Since the letter
bears a close resemblance in language and thought with First John, it is clear that Second John
was also authored by the Apostle.

Readers

John addressed his second letter to the “elect lady.” Scholars have debated whether this refers
to an individual or a church. The use of the second person plural, rather than the singular in
verses 8,19, and 12, may suggest that a community of believers is in mind. The personification of
the church as a lady may be consisted with the idea of the church as the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:
19-32). However, it may be best to interpret “lady” in the simplest, most literal manner as
referring to a Christian lady. Perhaps a local body of believers meeting in her home would also
benefit from the letter.

Date of Writing

The false teaching mentioned in the letter links it closely with the circumstances of First John.
Second John was probably written after First John had been sent, perhaps around A.D. 90.

Historical Setting

While living in Ephesus late in his life, John had apparently become acquainted with the children
of a Christian lady and was pleased to find them believing and living the God’s truth. It may have
been from them that John learned of the false teachers who were denying the humanity of Jesus
(v. 7). These false teachers were traveling among the churches taking advantage of the
hospitality offered by Christian people (verses 10-11). John warns of such men and their ideas
(verses 7, 9), instructing the believers how to respond to such deceivers.  

Purpose

The purpose of the letter is to warn the readers of the dangerous error infiltrating their
community by setting by presenting in clear terms the nature of the false teachers and their
doctrine.

Theme

The theme of the epistle is “walking in truth” (v. 4).

Outline

I. The Salutation  1-3
II. The Instruction  4-11
III. The Conclusion 12-13


FACTS ON THIRD JOHN

Author

Although the author of the epistle is not named, he refers to himself as “the elder” and this would
indicate that the same individual authored who authored Second John. The vocabulary and style
also unite it with Second John and point to the Apostle John as the author. Both writers rejoice
over those who are “walking in truth.” We may be confident that the Apostle John authored all
three of the letters which are associated with him.

Reader

The addressee of the epistle is the “beloved Gaius.” Although three other men in the New
Testament are know by this name (Rom. 16:23, 1 Cor. 1:14, Acts 19:29, 20:4,5), it is not likely
that this Gaius should be identified with any other. The Gaius in this letter was a consistent
Christian (3), known for his generous hospitality (5), and a well loved friend of the Apostle John.
The letter was apparently intended to be shared with others in the church community (14).

Date of Writing

Although Third John does refer to a previous letter (v. 9), this does not appear to be a reference
to either First or Second John, so no sequence of communication can be established. The
epistle was probably written about the same time as Second John, around A.D. 90.

Historical Setting

John the Apostle had received a report from those who had visited the community where Gaius
lived (3). John had learned of the faithful character and hospitality demonstrated by Gaius (3,5)
as well as the problem with Diotrephes (9-10) who had usurped authority and was abusing the
brethren. John urges his readers not to imitate the evil actions of Diotrephes.

The Apostle enlists the help of Gaius to assure a welcome and support for the co-workers who
had been rebuffed by Diotrephes (5-8). John expresses his desire to visit Gaius soon and to deal
with the troublemaker in person (10). Demetrius, who is so highly commended in verse 12, may
have served as the carrier of the letter.

Purpose

John writes to commend Gauis for walking in the truth and to encourage the practice of
hospitality so that the messengers from John might receive a proper  welcome when they visit the
congregation. The letter is also intended to censure the conduct of Diotrephes and reveal John’s
plans to deal with the situation in person.

Theme

The theme of Third and Third John is the same,  “walking in truth” (3).  

Outline

I.  Commendation of Gaius 1-8
II.  Condemnation of Diotrephes 9-11
III. Commendation of Demetrius 12-14


FACTS ON JUDE

Author

The author identifies himself as "Jude [Gk. Judas], a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of
James."  It is unlikely that the author was Judas the apostle (Lk. 6:16), for he seems to
distinguish himself from the apostles (Jude 17).  Both internal evidence and the testimony of the
church fathers indicate that the epistle was written by Jude (or Judas), the half-brother of Jesus
(Matt. 13:55, Mk. 6:3), who came to faith after the resurrection (Jn. 7:5, Acts 1:14).

Readers

Jude wrote to believers (v. 1), but gives no indication as to their specific location.  They had
heard of the words of the apostles and were acquainted with the teachings of Paul (18,19).  They
apparently had some knowledge of Jewish inter-testamental and apocryphal literature, but this
does not demand a Jewish setting.  It is probable that the readers were Palestinian Christians,
both Jews and Gentiles.

Date of Writing

Jude appears to have been written after 2 Peter (A.D. 64) and before the destruction of
Jerusalem (A.D. 70).  The letter was probably written not long after A.D. 64 when the error Peter
had predicted had come to fruition.  The book may be dated around A.D. 65-68.

Historical Setting

Jude writes to deal with an outbreak of false teaching (3-4).  He addresses himself to the same
problem which concerned Peter (2 Pet. 2:1-2,10), and encourages the readers to contend
earnestly for orthodox Christianity (v. 3).  The false teachers were denying Christ and perverting
the doctrine of grace.  They were ruled by their passions (vv. 4,16) and scoffed at the accepted
Christian way (v. 17).

Purpose

The purpose of the letter is to encourage the readers to contend for Christian orthodoxy (v. 3),
to remind them of God's judgment on the ungodly (v. 5), and to instruct the readers how to offset
the evil effects of the false teachers (17-23).  

Theme    

Contending for the faith in the face of apostasy.  

Outline

I.  Introduction  1-4
II.  Examples of Judgment  5-7
III.  Character of False Teachers  8-16
IV.  Response of Believers  17-23
V.  Benediction  24-25
General Epistles
Hebrews - Jude