# Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews

The 1611 edition of the King James Bible ends the Epistle to the Hebrews with "Written to the Hebrewes, from Italy, by Timothie"

The authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews is unknown. It is one of the antilegomena, New Testament books whose canonicity was disputed. Traditionally, Paul the Apostle was thought to be the author. Since the third century doubts have been raised about the identity of the true author. [1] Modern scholars generally agree that it was not written by him.[2]

## Ancient views

Hebrews was included in the collected writings of Paul from a very early date. For example, the late second-century/early third century codex $\mathfrak{P}$46, a volume of Paul's general epistles, includes Hebrews immediately after Romans.[3]

Eusebius did not list the Epistle to the Hebrews among the antilegomena or disputed books (though he included the unrelated Gospel of the Hebrews).[4] He admitted that "some have rejected the Epistle to the Hebrews, saying that it is disputed by the church of Rome, on the ground that it was not written by Paul."[5] However, he cited the views of Clement of Alexandria, that it was written by Paul in Hebrew and later translated into Greek, possibly by Luke.[6]

Doubts about Pauline authorship were raised around the end of the second century, predominantly in the West. Tertullian attributed the epistle to Barnabas.[7] Both Gaius of Rome[8] and Hippolytus[9] excluded Hebrews from the works of Paul, the latter attributing it to Clement of Rome.[10] Origen noted that others had claimed Clement or Luke as the author, but he tentatively accepted Pauline authorship and the explanation of Clement of Alexandria.[11]

Jerome, aware of such lingering doubts,[12] included the epistle in his Vulgate but moved it to the end of Paul's writings. Augustine affirmed Paul's authorship and vigorously defended the epistle. By then its acceptance in the New Testament canon was well settled.

## Modern views

In general, the evidence against Pauline authorship is considered too solid for scholarly dispute. Donald Guthrie, in his New Testament Introduction (1976), commented that "most modern writers find more difficulty in imagining how this Epistle was ever attributed to Paul [instead of] disposing of the theory." Harold Attridge tells us that "it is certainly not a work of the apostle".[13] Daniel Wallace, who holds to the traditional authorship of the other epistles, states that "the arguments against Pauline authorship, however, are conclusive."[14] As a result, although a few theologians today believe Paul wrote Hebrews, such as R.C. Sproul,[15] contemporary scholars generally reject Pauline authorship.[16] As Richard Heard notes, in his Introduction to the New Testament, "modern critics have confirmed that the epistle cannot be attributed to Paul and have for the most part agreed with Origen's judgement, 'But as to who wrote the epistle, only God knows the truth.'"[17]

Attridge argues that similarities with Paul's work are simply a product of a shared usage of traditional concepts and language. Others, however, have suggested that they are not accidental, and that the work is a deliberate forgery attempting to pass itself off as a work of Paul.[18][19]

## Internal evidence

### Internal anonymity

The text as it has been passed down to the present time is internally anonymous, though some ancient title headings attribute it to the Apostle Paul.

### Stylistic differences from Paul

The style is notably different from the rest of Paul's epistles, a characteristic noted by Clement of Alexandria (c. 210), who argued, according to Eusebius, that the original letter had a Jewish audience and was written in Hebrew and later translated into Greek, "some say [by] the evangelist Luke, others... [by] Clement [of Rome]... The second suggestion is more convincing, in view of the similarity of phraseology shown throughout by the Epistle of Clement and the Epistle to the Hebrews, and in absence of any great difference between the two works in the underlying thought." He concluded that "as a result of this translation, the same complexion of style is found in this Epistle and in the Acts: but that the [words] 'Paul an apostle' were naturally not prefixed. For, he says, 'in writing to Hebrews who had conceived a prejudice against him and were suspicious of him, he very wisely did not repel them at the beginning by putting his name'"[20]

### Stylistic similarities to Paul

Among those still maintaining Pauline authorship are those that surmise that Paul omitted his name because he, the apostle to the Gentiles, was writing to the Jews.[21][22] They conjecture that Jews would have likely dismissed the letter if they had known Paul to be the source. They theorize that the stylistic differences from Paul’s other letters are attributed to his writing in Hebrew to the Hebrews, and that the letter was translated into Greek by Luke.[23]

The epistle contains Paul's classic closing greeting, "Grace...be with you..." as he stated explicitly in 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18 and as implied in 1 Corinthians 16:21-24 and Colossians 4:18. This closing greeting is included at the end of each of Paul's letters.

In the 13th chapter of Hebrews, Timothy is referred to as a companion. Timothy was Paul's missionary companion in the same way Jesus sent disciples out in pairs. Also, the writer states that he wrote the letter from "Italy", which also at the time fits Paul.[24] The difference in style is explained as simply an adjustment to a more unique audience, to the Jewish Christians who were being persecuted and pressured to go back to old Judaism.[22][25][21]

Although the writing style varies from Paul in a number of ways, some similarities in wordings to some of the Pauline epistles have been noted. In antiquity, some began to ascribe it to Paul in an attempt to provide the anonymous work an explicit apostolic pedigree.[26]

## Suggested authors

In more recent times, some scholars advanced a case for the authorship of Priscilla. This suggestion came from Adolf von Harnack in 1900. Harnack claimed that the Epistle was "written to Rome—not to the church, but to the inner circle"; that the earliest tradition 'blotted out' the name of the author; that "we must look for a person who was intimately associated with Paul and Timothy, as the author" and that Priscilla matched this description.[27] Other commentators have disagreed on the basis that the self-reference in Hebrews 11:32 employs the masculine participle, implying that Priscilla could not have been the author, unless she was masquerading as a male in order to gain credibility.[28] Ruth Hoppin, who argues that Priscilla 'meets every qualification, matches every clue, and looms ubiquitous in every line of investigation', suggests that the masculine participle may have been altered by a scribe, or that the author was deliberately using a neutral participle 'as a kind of abstraction'.[29]

Tertullian (On Modesty 20) suggested Barnabas as the author: "For there is extant withal an Epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas—a man sufficiently accredited by God, as being one whom Paul has stationed next to himself…". Internal considerations suggest the author was male, was an acquaintance of Timothy, and was located in Italy. Barnabas, to whom other noncanonical works are attributed (such as Epistle of Barnabas), was close to Paul in his ministry.

Other possible authors were suggested as early as the third century CE. Origen of Alexandria (c. 240) suggested that either Luke the Evangelist or Clement of Rome.[30] Martin Luther proposed Apollos, described as an Alexandrian and "a learned man", popular in Corinth, and adept at using the scriptures and arguing for Christianity while "refuting the Jews".

## References

1. ^ Eusebius' Church History 3.3.5: "It is not indeed right to overlook the fact that some have rejected the Epistle to the Hebrews, saying that it is disputed [ἀντιλέγεσθαι] by the church of Rome, on the ground that it was not written by Paul."
2. ^ Lane, William L. Hebrews 1-8. Dallas: Word, 1991. p. xlix.
3. ^ Comfort, Philip W. (2005). Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism. pp. 36–38. ISBN 0805431454.
4. ^ Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3.25.5 (text).
5. ^ Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3.3.5 (text); cf. also 6.20.3 (text).
6. ^ Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 6.14.2–3 (text), citing Clement's Hypotyposes.
7. ^ De Pudic. 20 (text).
8. ^ Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 6.20.3 (text).
9. ^ Photius, Bibl. 121.
10. ^ Bar Ṣalībī, In Apoc. 1.4.
11. ^ Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 6.25.11–14 (text).
12. ^ Jerome, Ad Dardanum 129.3.
13. ^ Peter Kirby, EarlyChristianWritings.com
14. ^ "Hebrews: Introduction, Argument and Outline", Daniel Wallace
15. ^ R.C. Sproul - The Supremacy of Christ - Ligonier.org. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
16. ^ Ehrman 2004:411
17. ^ Religion-online.org, Richard Heard, Introduction To The New Testament
18. ^ Bart D. Ehrman, Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are (HarperCollins, 2011) page 23.
19. ^ Clare K. Rothschild, Hebrews as Pseudepigraphon: The History and Significance of the Pauline Attribution of Hebrews (Mohr Siebeck, 2009) page 4.
20. ^ Eusebius (c. 311 / 1965). The History of the Church. London: Penguin. pp. #37, p.101.
21. ^ a b Epistle to the Hebrews - Biblical Training - 23 September 2014.
22. ^ a b Equipped for Every Good Work – Lesson 66 - Hebrews – Watchtower Bible and Tract Society – International Bible Students Association – 1946. p. 332.
23. ^ Keathley, Hampton IV. "The Argument of Hebrews"
24. ^ "Introduction to the Letter to the Hebrews". [1] Accessed 17 Mar 2013
25. ^ Hahn, Roger. "The Book of Hebrews". Christian Resource Institute. Accessed 17 Mar 2013
26. ^ Attridge, Harold W.: Hebrews. Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1989, pp. 1-6.
27. ^ von Harnack, Adolph, "Probabilia uber die Addresse und den Verfasser des Habraerbriefes, " Zeitschrift fur die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der aelteren Kirche (E. Preuschen, Berlin: Forschungen und Fortschritte, 1900), 1:16–41. English translation available in Lee Anna Starr, The Bible Status of Woman. Zarephath, N.J.: Pillar of Fire, 1955), 392–415
28. ^ Craig Blomberg, From Pentecost to Patmos, Apollos, 2006, p. 411
29. ^ Ruth Hoppin, 'The Epistle to the Hebrews is Priscilla's Letter', in Amy-Jill Levine, Maria Mayo Robins (eds), A Feminist Companion to the Catholic Epistles and Hebrews, (A&C Black, 2004) pages 147-170.
30. ^ Eusebius, Church History 6.25.11-14