Authorship of Hebrews Presentation by Brian Maregedze
AUTHORSHIP OF HEBREWS PRESENTATION BY BRIAN MAREGEDZE
PASS DIVINITY 2016
Today the writer would like to educate the readers on the authorship of Hebrews. This is imperative since its one of those books that students find challenging but the following information will definitely make one understand better and easier.
Church tradition has it that Paul wrote the book of Hebrews, and until the 1800s, that issue was closed. However, though a vast majority of Christians—both and scholars and the laity—still believe Paul wrote the book, there are some tempting reasons to think otherwise.
The human author of this book does not name himself. On the other hand, he is not anonymous, for he speaks as though the readers are familiar with his identity.
Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I shall see you. (Hebrews 13:23).
The author of this book was not attempting to be anonymous. If that had been the case, he would not have closed the book on this personal note. He goes unnamed, but assumes that his readers know who he is. This has led to a number of different theories as to the identity of the author.
The following explanations will help in understanding differing views on who the author is and also assist one to come up with the most possible author of the book of Hebrews.
Many of the teachings found within this epistle have already been introduced in other epistles of Paul’s. It has been suggested that, if this epistle was not written by Paul, then it was at least written by someone who was familiar with Paul’s teachings and writings.
Clement of Alexandria tells of a tradition that he had heard that the epistle was written by Paul in Hebrew and translated into Greek by Luke.
The epistle to the Hebrews he [Clement] attributes to Paul, and says that it was written to the Hebrews in the Hebrew language, and that Luke translated it carefully and gave it out to the Greeks. Hence the same style of expression is found in this epistle and in the Acts. (Eusebius, History of the Church 6:14).
However the book does not read like a translation. Its quotations of the Old Testament are evidently taken from the Greek Septuagint.
The most compelling evidence for Pualine authorship of Hebrews comes from Scripture itself. Remember that Peter wrote to the Hebrews (that is, the Jews; see Galatians 2:7 , 9 and 1 Peter 1:1 ). Peter wrote: “…just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him[emphasis added]” (2 Peter 3:15 ). In that last verse, Peter is confirming that Paul had also written a letter to the Hebrews! The theology presented in Hebrews is consistent with Paul’s. Paul was a proponent of salvation by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8 , 9 ), and that message is strongly communicated in this epistle (Hebrews 4:2 , 6:12 , 10:19-22 , 10:37-39 , and 11:1-40 ). Either Paul wrote the epistle, or the writer was trained by Paul. Although it is a small detail, this epistle makes mention of Timothy (Hebrews 13:23 ), and Paul is the only apostle known to have ever done that in any letter.
Tertullian , the third century Christian theologian, believed that Barnabas wrote the book of Hebrews.
Barnabas has several items which are in favor of his
First, Barnabas can be associated with Rome, having accompanied Peter on a visit to that city after they left Corinth, following Claudius’ death in A.D. 54 (Hill 1979 145).
A second reason which supports Barnabas as an author is that his name meant “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36), and 13:22 may have been designed as a play on words. This would certainly fit in well with Barnabas’ known exhoratory skills.
Third, Barnabas was a Levite who would have been acquainted with the temple ritual, but Guthrie (1982) argues that this consideration carries little weight because the author of Hebrews is more interested
in the biblical cults than in the current ritual, although a Levite would certainly have been deeply concerned about the issues raised in this book. In opposition to this view, Borchert (1985 322) says, “The question
remains whether a Cypriot Jew would develop a writing style closely akin to the Alexandrian writers. It is, of course, not impossible because Philo and other Alexandrian writings were known on the island.”
Fourth, Hill (1979 :145) argues, “The situation ad-dressed by the letter to the Hebrews requires that it be written by someone who had already proved himself a mediator in the church, and this Barnabas had certainly done (Acts 9:26-30; 11:22-30; 15:22-39).”
However, Guthrie (1982) makes a strong argument that Acts 15:23-24 could not apply to Barnabas for the same reason that it could not apply to Paul, but he does say, “The absence of data regarding
the way in which Barnabas became a Christian makes it impossible to be certain.”
We know very little about Apollos except that he was an Alexandrian Jew who was said to be eloquent of speech (Acts 18:24).
Ever since Luther first suggested Apollos, he has gained tremendous popularity among New Testament scholars, although some consider Apollos nothing more than a “brilliant guess” (Lightfoot 1976 25). Borchert (1985) says, “Nevertheless, if one is to conjecture about who wrote Hebrews, it would be difficult to propose a finer candidate.”Henshaw (1952 344) notes, “There is only one person, of those whom we know, satisfies all the conditions, namely, Apollos.”
Because Apollos was aware that there was a growing tendency in Corinth to venerate him above Paul, he decided not to accede to Paul’s wish that he revisit the church at that time, stating instead that he
would come sometime later (1 Cor. 16:12). In line of this proposed visit, Apollos sent a letter to the church addressed to the “He-brews” because, from 2 Corinthians 11:22, there is evidence of Jewish
troublemakers at Corinth. Montefiore suggests that instead of following Apollos’ advice, the Hebrews took his letter and used it as an example of the wisdom and eloquence which they themselves boasted. They also
launched an intense depreciation of Paul be-cause he, they claimed, lacked these qualities (506). Paul’s response to this matter is contained in 1 Corinthians1-4.
There are several points which Guthrie (1982) and Lightfoot (1976 26) give in support of Apollos. First, he was an Alexandrian Jew and therefore could have been well versed in the type of thought current there. This fact would also account for the extensive use of the
Septuagint in the Old Testament quotations. Second, Acts mentions his great biblical knowledge and his oratorical gifts, both of which would support the claim of his authorship of Hebrews. Third, Apollos knew
Timothy and had a close association with Paul.
Fourth,Apollos was “fervent in spirit,” a man characterized by
boldness of speech. Fifth, Apollos was a man of high reputation in the early church. Sixth, Apollos “spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus.” This accords with the subject of the Epistle.
R.C.H. Lenski (1946 24) believes that the evidence is simply too strong to deny that Apollos wrote the Epistle. He states that the only evidence lacking that would re-move all doubt that Apollos was the author is a New Testament passage that actually places Apollos in Rome.
A challenge which arose pertaining to Apollos’ authorship is that no argument concerning style and phraseology is possible because there are no extant writings of Apollos to compare with Hebrews. Hiebert (1977 81) concludes that no decisive evidence against Apollos which exists.4(78-79) argues that Apollos was probably not the only Alexandrian in the apostolic age who was mighty in the Scriptures or that he possessed all the characteristics in more abundance his contemporaries. He concludes, “The wide acceptance of the conjecture as a fact is only explicable by our natural unwillingness to frankly confess our ignorance on a matter which excites our interest” (1892 79). Lightfoot (1976 :26) has similar reservations by saying, “The hypothesis of Apollos as author has received wide acceptance; but without doubt much of this can be accounted for on the ground that in the search for a positive solution, there seems to be no other place to go.”
We have already noted the words of Eusebius in mentioning the similarity of Greek style which is found in Acts and Hebrews. This is a very high style of Greek.
Furthermore, we know from 2 Timothy 4:11 that Luke was with Paul in Rome just prior to Paul’s death. It was at this time that Paul instructed Timothy to come to Rome.
Over the past years, Luke has increasingly found many supporters which base their opinion upon the verbal similarities between Hebrews and Acts, particularly some affinities with Stephen’s speech (Guthrie 1982). Westcott (1892:76) remarks, “When every allowance has been made for coincidences which consist in forms of expression which are found also in the Septuagint or in other writers of the New Testament, or in late Greek generally, the likeness is unquestionably remarkable.
However, Lightfoot (1976: 24-25) adds, “It would be precarious to claim Lukan authorship solely on the grounds of stylistic similarities.”
Some scholars and early church writers have suggested that Paul wrote the epistle, and Luke translated it into Greek. Borchert (1985 321-322) suggests that this is improbable for two reasons. First, the Greek of Hebrews does not look like a transliterated Greek; and second, Luke-Acts has a very Gentile outlook, while Hebrews has a highly Jewish outlook.
In the book of Hebrews, we see that Timothy is now in prison, but it soon to be released. The author plans to journey with Timothy back to the churches to whom the epistle is written.
Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I shall see you. (Hebrews 13:23).
In the next verse, the author delivers a greeting from the believers of Italy: Those from Italy greet you (Hebrews 13:24b).
We can conclude from this that the epistle was written from Italy after Timothy had come to Rome in accordance with Paul’s instructions. It was not written by Paul, for he was not released from prison following this imprisonment.
Borchert, Gerald L. “A Superior Book: Hebrews.” Review and Expositor 82 (Summer 1985) 319-323.
Delitzsch, Franz. Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. 2 vols. Reprint ed. Minnesota: Klock and Klock, 1978.Filson, Floyd V. “The Epistle to the Hebrews.” Journal of Bible and Religion 22 (1954):20-26.
Guthrie, D. “The Epistle to the Hebrews.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. (1982) 2665-667.
Henshaw, T. “The Epistle to the Hebrews.” New Testament Literature in the Light of Modern Scholarship. London, George Allen Ltd., 1952.
Hiebert, D. Edmond. “The Non-Pauline Epistle and Revelation.” An Introduction to the New Testament, 3. Chicago, Moody Press, 1977.
Hill, David. New Testament Prophecy. Atlanta, John Knox Press, 1979.
Hurst, L.D. “Apollos, Hebrews, and Corinth: Bishop Montefiore’s Theory Examined.” Scottish Journal of Theology 38 (1985): 505-513.
Legg, John D. “Our Brother Timothy: A Suggested Solution to the Problem of the Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews.” Evangelical Quarterly 40 (October-December 1968): 220-223.
Lenski, R.C.H. An Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Epistle of James. Columbus, Wartburg Press, 1946.
Lightfoot, Neil R. Jesus Christ Today. Abilene, Bible Guides, 1976.
Milligan, R. The Epistle to the Hebrews. New Testament Commentary, 9. St. Louis, Christian Board of Publication, 1875.
Shackelford, Don. “On to Maturity.” New Testament Survey: An Introduction and Survey of the New Testament. Searcy, AR. College of Bible and Religion at Harding University, 1987.
Westcott, B.F. The Epistle to the Hebrews. 2nd ed.London, MacMillan and Sons, 1892.
http://www.truthmagazine.com/archives/volume40/GOT040175.html, accessed on 7 October 2016.
https://christcenteredteaching.wordpress.com/2012/05/26/who-authored-hebrews-why-i-think-it-was-barnabas/, accessed on 08 October 2016.
More points can be added for analysis
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‘Only God knows’-Origen (referring to the author of Hebrews).
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