The author, who formerly labored in the congregation to which he writes, intends to impart to his readers the perfect gnosis that they may perceive that the Christians are the only true covenant people, and that the Jewish people had never been in a covenant with God. His polemics are, above all, directed against Judaizing Christians. In no other writing of that early time is the separation of the Gentile Christians from the patriotic Jews so clearly brought out. The Old Testament, he maintains, belongs only to the Christians. Circumcision and the whole Old Testament sacrificial and ceremonial institution are the devil's work. According to the author's conception, the Old Testament, rightly understood, contains no such injunctions. He is a thorough anti-Judaist, but by no means an antinomist. The main idea is Pauline, and the apostle's doctrine of atonement is more faithfully reproduced in this epistle than in any other postapostolic writing.
The author no doubt had read Paul's epistles; he has a good knowledge of gospel-history but which of the gospels, if any, he had read, can not be asserted. He quotes IV Esdras (12:1) and Enoch (4:3; 16:5). The closing section (chapters 18-21), which contains a series of moral injunctions, is only loosely connected with the body of the epistle, and its true relation to the latter has given rise to much discussion.