How to Read Hebrews

The Book of Hebrews

Planting a garden requires the right tools. And so does interpreting the Bible. But instead of shovels, rakes, and weeders, we use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application. 

Hebrews walks through the identity of Jesus as savior and Lord. This video from The Bible Project provides an overview of the book.The goal of this post is not to replace your personal study of the Bible. Rather, it is to help you navigate the story of Hebrews, discover what it teaches, dive into how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and look at how it applies to your life. Use the questions below questions as a guide as you watch this video. 

Now that you have an overview of Hebrews in mind, you can apply what you know to interpret specific passages in Hebrews. Read about our assurance of faith in Hebrews 10:19–25. Utilize observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application to dissect the meaning of this passage. Use the ideas from the videos to inform your answers to the following questions. 

Hebrews 10:19-25 (ESV)

The Full Assurance of Faith

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,21and since we have a great priest over the house of God,22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Observation asks the basic question: who, what, where, and when. It examines the passage at a surface level—the characters, events, themes, culture, and genre. Observations may seem obvious at first, but they open the door to the meaning of any part of the Bible. Be careful to not jump ahead to interpreting the observations, or assigning them meaning. Just list them. 

Example: Jesus’ blood allows His followers to enter the holy places.

Observe: As you read the passage, what observations did you make about Hebrews 10:19–25? (Consider the major characters, plot points, locations, cities, landmarks, time period, background information, cultural aspects, genre, themes, and actions of the characters. Also, take note of any information offered in the video.)
Log In to Continue

Where an observation determines what the passage says, interpretation takes the next step to find out what the passage means. We’ve asked what the passage says about God and humanity, and now we ask what that means. Look at the themes and ask what they mean as well.

Example: (Observation) Jesus’ blood allows His followers to enter the holy places. (Interpretation) Christians can draw near to God and dwell in His presence because of the redemptive work of Christ.

Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What is the main message of Hebrews 10:19–25? How does its message connect with the main message of all of Hebrews? (Think about what this book teaches about God and humanity and what that teaching means, as well as the meaning of the themes. Consider insights from the video as well.)
Log In to Continue

Contextualization looks at how the passage fits into the rest of the book and into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fits into the biblical narrative. 

Example: In the Old Testament, it was impossible for anyone to go into the holy places of the tabernacle and temple. Only the priests, after a long purification ceremony, could enter in, but only for a moment. When Jesus died, the veil in the temple that separated the holy places from the people tore, which shows that those who trust in Jesus can now approach God. 

Contextualize: What themes does Hebrews 10:19–25 present? How do those themes connect with the rest of the book of Hebrews? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible? What themes connect back to the Old Testament?
Log In to Continue

Application asks, “So what?” It considers how the meaning of this passage applies to our day-to-day lives. The point of reading Scripture isn’t to become puffed up with knowledge, but to be transformed. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day.

Example: If I put my faith in Jesus, I can boldly approach God because Christ cleansed me. I do not need to fear God or His holiness when I come to Him in prayer. I can pray for myself and others as well as enjoy His presence in my daily life. 

Apply: How does the truth from Hebrews 10:19–25 affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some specific actions you could take to live out the truths found in this book this week? If you're having trouble coming up with an application of this particular passage, how could you apply the main message of Hebrews to your life this week?
Log In to Continue

The last step in reading the Bible helps wrap everything up. We take the time to summarize the main message and implications of the book. As you summarize what you learned, it solidifies what God taught you through this video.  

Share: Now that you’ve spent time learning about Hebrews, how would you explain the main points of this book to a friend? If you were going to explain what you learned to a friend, what would you say? What would you be sure to include? Why?
Log In to Continue

Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be like weeding a garden. You can find great joy in learning about God through His Word. Read through Hebrews this week. As you study, use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application as a guide. Take the next step and put what you learn into practice.

To learn more about The Bible Project, click here.