Who Wrote Hebrews?

Introduction

Among the books that comprise the New Testament, few incite as much controversy about the nature of their authorship as the letter that begins not with a greeting, but with an assertion about how God communicates to his people. Commonly called “Hebrews” because of its extremely Jewish slant in argumentation and assumptions, this book gives an insight into the superiority of Jesus Christ over all previous revelations from God. The question that plagues scholars of the work is simply, “Who wrote it?”

This question has been beaten and battered throughout the centuries and no conclusion has been reached. There are, however, a few leading theories as to its authorship. This paper will strive to present the cases for the most widely suggested authors and the arguments for and against each suggestion, as well as how each suggestion has been accepted throughout history. That stated, the most commonly suggested authors of the book of Hebrews in our day, arranged in order of age of the view, are: (1) Paul, (2) Barnabas, (3) Luke, (4) Apollos, and (5) Priscilla.

Paul

Among the views suggested, the oldest view, aside from anonymity, has to be Paul. Historically, this was the view that most tended to agree with on an informal level. It seems that since Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament, and the ideas put forward in Hebrews were very Pauline, this was a sensible conclusion to reach. The first to actually attribute the book of Hebrews to Paul in writing was Clement of Alexandria. In the Hypotyposes, he documents the view of “the blessed presbyter”. Most assume this anonymous presbyter to be his predecessor, Pantaenus of Alexandria. When speaking of Clement’s writings in the Hypotyposes, Eusebius states:

The epistle to the Hebrews he asserted was written by Paul to the Hebrews in the Hebrew tongue, but it was carefully translated by Luke and published among the Greeks since one finds the same character of style and of phraseology in the epistle as in the Acts: “But it is probable that the title, Paul the Apostle, was not prefixed to it. For as he wrote to the Hebrews, who had imbibed prejudices against him and suspected him, he wisely guards against diverting them from the perusal, by giving his name.” A little after this he observed, “Now as the blessed presbyter used to say, ‘since the Lord who was the apostle of the Almighty, was sent to the Hebrews, Paul by reason of his inferiority, as if sent to the Gentiles, did not subscribe himself an apostle of the Hebrews, both out of reverence for the Lord, and because he wrote of his abundance to the Hebrews, as a herald and apostle of the Gentiles.’” [1]

This quote, assumedly from Pantaenus, gives not only the clearest early evidence of a Pauline view, but also outlines the common rebuttals to issues brought up with the idea of Pauline authorship. These arguments and rebuttals will be outlined later. If Eusebius can be trusted, and if we can give the title of “the blessed presbyter” to Pantaenus, then we can trace this view to the mid second century.

This Pauline view remained the dominant one for quite some time in the Eastern Church. As for the Western church, some vague reports about the Barnabas view were recorded. This will also be discussed later. This lack of definitive authorship gave the book of Hebrews a lot of trouble in the West in making it into proposed canons. Those that chose to omit the book usually did so because the author was unknown, those who included it usually cited Paul as the author and placed it with the Pauline epistles. In the Eastern Tradition this pattern rang true as well. The book of Hebrews was always cited, though not always with full confidence, as Paul’s. This view was set into history by Augustine of Hippo. For the most part, the church at large adopted whatever view Augustine put forward on any subject. Though Augustine, stopped citing Hebrews as Paul’s in his later years, his early hesitant ascriptions to Paul caught on and Pauline authorship became the dominant view until the reformation. Other notable scholars who joined Augustine in this view are Hilary and Jerome.[2]

Arguments For Pauline Authorship

The arguments for the Pauline authorship of Hebrews are admittedly weak. The main argument for Pauline authorship rests in its acceptance by early church fathers as Pauline, but, as has just been shown, this is shaky evidence at best. Many, early church fathers did not agree with the idea of Pauline authorship, and those who did were not always wholehearted in their agreement.

The only other real argument comes from the ideological content of Hebrews. It very obviously has Pauline theology within it. However, this does not mean that Paul actually wrote the book, only that his teachings were instrumental in its writing. There is a massive difference between the two.

Arguments Against Pauline Authorship

The arguments against Pauline authorship are quite a bit more convincing. The following arguments and the order in which they are presented are from Guthrie’s New Testament Introduction and are not my own, but they excellently prove the point that Paul himself could not have been the author of this fine book.

First of all, the anonymity of Hebrews is a huge blow against Pauline authorship.[3] Every single Pauline epistle begins with the word “Paul,” lists any assisting authors, and then gives some description of Paul and his relation to the Lord Jesus Christ, usually “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Without exception, Paul always let his readers know who was writing in his other thirteen letters.

These letters are also written to a wide range of audiences. There are letters written to believing gentiles, believing Jews, believers dealing with antinomianism, believers dealing with Judaizers, believers dealing with apostates and Gnostics. A case could even be made that Romans was written to non-believers and believers alike. The idea that Paul would leave out his name for any reason, particularly because of his recipients, is rather absurd. This however is the counter claim. As seen above in the writings of Eusebius, the counter claim to this argument against Pauline authorship is that Paul did not want to alienate his readers.

This counterclaim was revived during the nineteenth century when a variety of views were being discussed. It is the most popular counterclaim to this argument against Pauline authorship, but one needs only read the words of Paul in any context to realize that he did not pull punches when addressing his readers. Paul was not interested in scratching itching ears. He simply preached the truth of Christ. Still, some modern scholars, such as W. Leonard, continue to use this counterclaim to continue to hold to a Pauline view. [4]

Second, the style of writing found in Hebrews is very different from all other Pauline works.[5] As Guthrie notes, “The language is more Greek, with its more polished periods, its more designed argumentation and its absence of the usual Pauline abruptness, digressions and even disorderliness.”[6] The suggestion of a different argumentation style can be clearly seen in English without even noting the Greek grammar. Paul is mildly famous for his run-on sentences and rabbit trails. The book of Ephesians alone contains eight of the longest sentences in the New Testament.[7] Paul has a tendency to get sidetracked from his main point and some of his arguments have only implied endings. The author of Hebrews, however, has a very structured style to his arguments. He progresses briskly through his points on Jesus’ supremacy. His organization is practically a cookie-cutter example of what we teach children good argument papers should be: an introduction, three main points with supporting evidence, and a conclusion. This kind of pristine argumentation is unheard of in Paul’s writings.

Third, there is no projection of the Pauline self into the writing.[8] In the majority of Paul’s works he makes emotional appeals and uses his own testimony as evidence and support for his claims. Paul mentions his own conversion experience on the road to Damascus in many of his letters. He also makes often, personal, notations to members in the churches to which he is writing or calls to mind a shared experience that he had with his readers. The author of Hebrews does none of this except mention the name of Timothy briefly. While this objection is an argument from silence, it should not be dismissed out of hand.

Fourth, there are minor theological differences between this epistle and Paul’s other epistles.[9] Paul tends to focus on the resurrection, human redemption and the tension between flesh and spirit. The author of Hebrews tends to focus on exaltation, human sanctification, and a simpler view of the new covenant, respectively.[10] These differences demand some attention when dealing with the question of Pauline authorship. Divergences of this kind, at the very least, call into question the unity of an author’s work and at the most demand an entirely separate author.

Striking similarities can, of course, also be noted. In Lietzmann’s Handbuch zum Neuen Testament similarities about the new covenant, Abraham’s faith, spiritual gifts, and about Christ’s previous glory, self-humbling, obedience, and self-offering for us are noted between Hebrews and Paul’s other epistles. This fact of similarity causes opponents of the Pauline view to be less enthusiastic about their emphasis on the differences. Neither the similarities nor differences should be thought of as conclusive proof in either direction.[11]

Fifth, Paul repeatedly says he was supernaturally converted on the road to Damascus, and the Author of Hebrews says he is a second-generation believer.[12] This argument is undoubtedly the knockout blow to the Pauline view as it is an argument from internal evidence that is nearly inexplicable. In Hebrews 2:3, the author states, “After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard…” To put that in simpler terms, the author is saying that the gospel was first taught by Jesus. The author then places himself into a group of people who heard the gospel from the disciples, but not from Jesus himself. This means that the author of Hebrews has to be a second-generation believer, in other words, a believer who was converted to the faith by the apostles, but who did not hear the teachings of Jesus themselves. The author draws a distinction between himself and those who heard revelation directly from Jesus the Christ.

Paul on the other hand goes to great lengths to make it clear to his readers that he received his message from the ascended Christ. The doctrine he so often taught to the early church was always revealed to him by Christ, not confirmed to him by those who heard Jesus with their own two ears. Paul makes it clear time and time again that he himself heard Jesus with his own two ears.

This, the strongest argument, is often brushed off by stating that Paul is merely trying to identify with his readers with this comment. These counterclaims are weak at best, and downright childish at worst. There is no linguistic reason to suggest that Paul as the author of Hebrews is merely trying to identify with his readers.

Evidences Suggesting Non-Pauline Authorship

At this point, many of the arguments in favor of a particular author run along the same lines of thinking. That being said, each piece of the puzzle in determining the authorship will be outlined here and referred back to in the future. Some key elements about the book of Hebrews need to be accounted for when arguing for or against a particular author.

First, the author of Hebrews quoted largely from the Septuagint, not the Hebrew Bible. This is fairly unique to the book of Hebrews. Few other New Testament works quote as heavily from the Septuagint as Hebrews does. In particular, it is very uncharacteristic of Paul to do so. The question then becomes: is there a type of person in this culture who would quote from the Septuagint instead of from the Hebrew Bible? The most common and best answer to this question is: yes, a Hellenistic Jew would.

When Alexander the Great conquered the “known world,” or at least the Persian and Egyptian empires, he gave rise to what is called Hellenization. In essence, Hellenization was the process of diluting a conquered nation’s culture and assimilating them into the Greek culture. This involved intermarrying Alexander the Great’s Greek subjects with his newly conquered Persian and Egyptian subjects, as well as relocating people and in general, mixing things up culturally so that the new Greek culture could take hold. This process did not begin very strongly in Israel until after Alexander the Great died and his successors invaded and Hellenized Palestine.

The result was that a large number of people living in Israel and practicing Judaism were not full blood Jews. Some of them had no Jewish blood and had been converted and passed the Jewish religion on to their children, others were mixed race Jews. These people grew up in a culture controlled by the Greco-Roman Empire and spoke primarily Greek and Aramaic.

Also, during this period of Hellenization, the Hebrew Bible was translated many times into Greek manuscripts. These manuscripts were called Septuagints and Hellenistic Jews grew up reading and orally learning the scripture form the Septuagint, not in the original Hebrew.

The author of the book of Hebrews was, therefore, likely a Hellenistic Jew because of the frequency with which he quotes the Septuagint instead of the Hebrew text. A Hellenistic Jew fits the profile of a person who would potentially know the scriptures quite extensively, as the author of Hebrews clearly did, but who did not know them in Hebrew.

Second, the author of Hebrews wrote in exceptional Greek. The level of Greek writing found in Hebrews is quite a bit higher in quality than many other New Testament documents except perhaps in Lukan literature. On this point, Origen noted:

The style of the Epistle with the title, ‘To the Hebrews’ has not that vulgarity of diction which belongs to the apostle, who confesses that he is but common in speech, that is in his phraseology. But that this epistle is more pure Greek in the composition of its phrases, everyone will confess who is able to discern the difference of style.[13]

“Origen, knowing as he did Hebrew in addition to Greek, probably realized that the Greek of the epistle bore no sign of having been translated from Hebrew.”[14] This observation is an important key to understanding the author of Hebrews. The proficiency of the author in the Greek language again lends credence to the supposition that he was a Hellenistic Jew. A Jew from this background would be much more comfortable with the Greek language than someone brought up speaking primarily Hebrew. A Hellenistic Jew fits the criteria that an observation of Hebrews lays out.

Third, the author of Hebrews must be a second-generation believer. As shown above in the arguments against Pauline authorship, it is clear that the author of Hebrews was not around to hear the actual teachings of Christ, but received them second hand from Christ’s disciples. This means that candidates for the authorship of Hebrews cannot be one of the twelve apostles or one of the people mentioned as having, “accompanied [them] all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among them,” in Acts 1:21. All of these people would not fit the criterion of being a second-generation believer.

Fourth, the author of Hebrews must have been in close association with Paul. This is a necessity for two reasons. First, there is clearly a Pauline influence on the theology as has already been noted. There are ideas that are directly associated with Paul and his teachings. Second, the author mentions Timothy in 13:23. Granted, this may be a reference to some believer named Timothy other than the Timothy who was the apprentice of Paul, but, all things being equal, the latter is far more likely. It is therefore safe to say that if a believer in the ancient church was a close enough friend with Timothy to mention him in this letter they also knew Paul.

There are subordinate suppositions that make some candidates more or less likely, but these four qualifications are the main ones that have narrowed the list to the possible authors chosen in the introductory paragraph. Many more extreme minority views exist, but none can be seriously defended because they do not fit into these four criteria.

Barnabas

Arguments For Barnabas

Based on the four criteria above, Barnabas is a likely candidate for the authorship of Hebrews. Nothing that we know about Barnabas directly contradicts with the four criteria above.  We know for certain that he was in close association with Paul at the beginning of Paul’s missionary journeys. The book of Acts makes it clear that Paul and Barnabas were partners for an extended period of time. We also, can’t say for certain if Barnabas was a first or second-generation believer. Because of this uncertainty, the door is open to suppose that he was a second-generation believer who may have written Hebrews. It is also questionable as to whether Barnabas could or could not have written such an Alexandrian text as Hebrews. He is not known to be a Hellenistic Jew and his known connections were with Jerusalem and Cyprus. This does not mean he couldn’t be the author, as there is the possibility of Hellenistic influence on the people of Cyprus. He may have been a Hellenistic Jew in culture, even though he was a true Hebrew by birth.[15]

Apart from the four main criteria, there are other subordinate arguments to support the Barnabas theory. First of all, it may be the oldest view in the church, possibly even older than the Pauline view. The view that Barnabas was the author can be traced back all the way to Tertullian. In On Modesty Tertullian clearly makes the claim that Barnabas wrote the book of Hebrews, not as a matter of opinion, but speaking as if it were a point of fact. “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 in the uninterrupted observance of abstinence.”[16] He goes on to repeat Barnabas’ name with all certainty in relation to Hebrews two more times.

Clearly Tertullian thought the matter closed and that there was ample evidence to conclusively attribute the book of Hebrews to Barnabas. His assumptions may have been pre-mature, but his view may have been correct, it is up for the evidence to decide. The fact that Tertullian made this claim so early in history is significant, as historicity must take into account the age of the information at hand. Usually, with time comes corruption and so an earlier source is better. However, this is not the be-all end-all. Mistakes may happen in any age and Tertullian may well have been mistaken. This early view was also not present in the Eastern Church, only the Western Church. A localized view, such as this, weakens the argument of age.

Another subordinate argument is the fact that Barnabas was a Levite. We learn this from Acts 4:36. As a Levite, he would be better acquainted with the inner-workings of the temple rituals. The author of Hebrews makes many mentions of what the temple was and how it worked. He compares the person and work of Christ to the sacrificial system many times and in very unique ways. These comparisons are not likely the product of the average Jew who had less knowledge of how the temple operated. This point, however, cannot be over-stressed, as the operations of the temple were available in the Hebrew Bible to any person who was literate and had access to the scriptures, which this author obviously was and did based on their copious references to Old Testament texts.

The last argument in support of the Barnabas view lies in a title given to Barnabas in the book of Acts. Barnabas is called the “son of consolation” in chapter four. In the book of Hebrews, the author intends to offer a “word of consolation.” This similarity may have no meaning at all, or it may be a reflection of Barnabas’ self in the work.[17]

Arguments Against Barnabas

Aside from the complications of specific arguments mentioned above, there are standalone arguments against the Barnabas view.

First, there is the question of why so many authors attributed the work to Paul, if Barnabas was known to be the author from an early time. Were the authorship of Hebrews as certain as Tertullian suggested, there would not have been as much turmoil in the church on the subject as there was.

Second, if the non-canonical epistle of Barnabas is correctly attributed, then there are massive syntactical differences between the known works of Barnabas and the writing in the book of Hebrews. The syntactical and spiritual differences make it impossible for Barnabas to have authored both letters. Because his name appears in the Epistle of Barnabas, and Hebrews is anonymous, it seems less likely that he wrote the latter than the former.[18]

Third, an original argument is that Barnabas was a companion of Paul early in Paul’s ministry. More than that, the two of them clearly had a large falling out that is not seen to be reconciled in recorded history. If this falling out was as impactful as the bible suggests, it is very unlikely that we can attribute the Pauline influence to Barnabas. Barnabas would likely not allow such an infiltration of Pauline ideas into his work as this author clearly did. Not only that, but Paul and Barnabas were in close contact with each other very early in Paul’s ministry. The ideas put forward in Hebrews are characteristic of a more robust, tried, and tested Pauline theology. This means that Paul likely influenced the author later in Paul’s life and ministry. Barnabas was not in close proximity to Paul late in his ministry, but early in it, and so his theology had likely not reached this stage of development when they were interacting with each other.

Luke

Arguments For Lukan Authorship

In favor of Luke there are a few arguments that differ from the norm for the other views. First of all, Luke was a Hellenistic Jew who may easily have been a second-generation believer. He says as much in his gospel. “Just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well […] to write it out for you.” Luke seems to make it clear that he was not in the original group of disciples who witnessed Jesus’ earthly ministry, but joined later.

The real thing that proponents of the Lukan view make a fuss over is the linguistic analysis. Scholars have gone to great length to show that there are remarkable similarities in grammar and Greek styles between the Epistle to the Hebrews and the books of Luke and Acts.[19] Westcott noted, “no impartial student can fail to be struck by the frequent use [in Hebrews] of words characteristic of St. Luke among writers of the New Testament.”[20] While these similarities are sometimes over-emphasized, they are not completely without merit.

Luke also spent quite a bit of time with Paul the Apostle if the Acts of the Apostles is anything to be trusted. As his travelling companion, Luke would likely have picked up many of the Pauline ideologies that underlie the book of Hebrews. This would account for the apparent Pauline influence.

Another point in Luke’s favor is that he has written other canonical books. When searching for the author of a book, it is best to start with writers who have written other inspired texts before moving on to unknown writers.

Finally, The Lukan view is very old. Origen suggested that some of his contemporaries held to a Lukan view.[21] All of this together makes a very compelling case for Lukan Authorship.

Arguments Against Lukan Authorship

The only real problem with the Lukan view, as will be the case with others, is that there is simply not enough positive evidence for the assertion. There may be a lack of disqualifying factors for Luke, but there are also no particularly qualifying factors. Linguistic similarities don’t prove authorship.

Along these same lines, but in a more narrowed scope, there is not enough positive evidence from the text to assert this level of Theology from Luke. Nothing that we know about Luke from his other writings would suggest that he is an orator, as the author of Hebrews seems to be, or a theologian, as the author of Hebrews clearly is. Luke is described as a writer, a historian and a doctor, but the book of Hebrews is clearly the work of a teacher or instructor. We never see Luke in the role of a teacher in any of his literature.

This does not disprove his authorship; we simply don’t have enough information about Luke to assert that these two different kinds of men were bound up in the person of Luke.

Apollos

Historically, the view that Apollos might be the author of Hebrews is fairly recent. Martin Luther first produced a coherent case for Apollos’ authorship. Regardless of the age, this view has garnered great respect in the scholarly community. Many consider the information we have about Apollos from the New Testament to line up extremely well with the requirements mentioned earlier for the Authorship of Hebrews.

Arguments For Apollos

These arguments are, again, taken directly from Guthrie’s New Testament Introduction because of the clarity with which he presents Luther’s case: [22]

  1. Apollos’ close acquaintance with Paul, thus accounting for the Pauline Influence.
  2. His connection with Alexandria, which would account for the Alexandrian coloring.
  3. His knowledge of the scriptures, which would explain the biblical content of the argument and the use of the LXX version.
  4. His eloquence, which well suits the oratorical form of the epistle.
  5. Host contacts with Timothy.
  6. His considerable influence in various churches.

These six arguments concisely explain the best reasons supporting an Apollos view. From what we have in the books of Acts, 1 Corinthians, and Titus, Apollos was a strong leader in the early church, powerful in spoken word, and repeatedly compared in eloquence and leadership abilities to Peter and Paul, arguably the two most influential Apostles to live. Apollos had a place of prominence in the church and there were obviously many people who regarded his teachings as first-rate.

Even more than the six reasons above, we also know with certainty how Apollos came to be a member of the early church. He was preaching from the scriptures and testifying of Jesus, but he knew only about the baptism of John. Priscilla and Aquila, and later Paul himself, instructed Apollos in a more in-depth manner to make sure his theology was correct.

This “conversion” lines up perfectly with the second-generation nature of the believer who wrote Hebrews. Apollos is the only man among the listed candidates, besides Paul, whose conversion to Christianity is recorded in the scriptures, and so can categorically fit into the role of a second-generation believer.

All of these arguments make Apollos a very strong candidate for the authorship of Hebrews; however, there are some opposing arguments to this view that bare important consideration.

Arguments Against Apollos

There are three main arguments against the Apollos view of authorship.

First, while there are many good suggestions about Apollos, much of the information is speculative and may be manipulated to better support the Apollos case. There is no evidence of Apollos’ Philonic education. While Apollos was from Alexandria, so were many other Christians, which means that his Alexandrian background hardly proves his authorship. The same goes for his knowledge of the scriptures, acquaintance with Paul, and his eloquence in speaking. None of these truly make the case for Apollos’ authorship strong; they merely keep it from being weak.[23]

Second, “the absence of any early tradition in support [of Apollos’ authorship] is a serious difficulty, especially as it might have been expected that the Alexandrian church would have preserved such a fact, if fact it was.”[24] This is a serious blow to the suggestion that Apollos wrote the book. Being an Alexandrian, the Alexandrian church would have surely kept a record of his Spirit inspired writing and promoted such a view. No record is found, and the early Alexandrian church instead held largely to a Pauline view.

Third, and this can be applied to many of the views, it does not account for why the book was left anonymous. Surely someone as respected and widely followed as Apollos would have attached his name to the document in order for it to be weightier. As it is, no scholars who hold to an Apollos view have produced a significant work with a logical reason as to why the epistle was left anonymous. The same is true for the views of Barnabas, Luke, Clement of Rome, Silas, or many other suggestions. While this may be simply a stylistic choice, as in the gospel of John, the question still needs addressing. The only views that seem to do so are Paul and Priscilla: Paul, as stated above, so as not to alienate his readers, Priscilla, as described below.

Priscilla

Arguments For Priscilla

The Priscilla view is by far the youngest of the popular views. Put forward first by Adolf von Harnack, a Liberal German Scholar from the late 19th century, and gaining more support in recent years due to the Feminist movement. This view’s arguments line up very closely with arguments for Apollos’ authorship. The main thrust of the argument, however, is found in the anonymity of the author. In a personal letter to Lee Anna Starr, Harnack summarizes his case. He states:

The problem is this: Since the letter (according to the closing verses of Chapter 13) was written by a person of high standing and an apostolic teacher of equal rank with Timothy, and if Luke or Clement, or Barnabas, or Apollos, had written it, we do not understand why their names or signatures should have been obliterated, hence we must look for a person who was intimately associated with Paul and Timothy, as the author, that we may understand why the name is not given. This can only be Priscilla.[25]

Harnack also points out some of the same arguments as earlier. Lee Anna Starr builds on his case putting forth her own list of criteria. Arguments such as the necessity of a Hellenistic Jew, a second-generation believer, close with Paul and Timothy, and a respected teacher all appear in her work. She also goes to great lengths to show that Priscilla was active and influential in both the church in Rome and the Churches in Ephesus and Corinth.[26]

While Harnack makes some good points on the question of anonymity, and Lee Anna Starr and Ruth Hoppin do their best to strengthen his view, there are still opposing arguments that simply cannot be ignored, and that objectively eliminate Priscilla as a viable candidate.

Arguments Against Priscilla

There are a number of issues that arise when dealing with the idea that Priscilla wrote the book of Hebrews.

First, the strongest reason to reject the Priscilla view is the use of a first person masculine participle in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 11:32 says, “And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets.” The participle that is translated as “if I tell” is diegoomenon. While in English it carries no gender, in the Greek this is an expressly masculine participle used in the first person. It means that the person writing the words must be a man. After this argument is made clear, all other arguments for Priscilla, or any other female author, seem utterly unnecessary. To seriously contend that a woman authored Hebrews, you must contend that either (a) the female author was being intentionally deceptive, not just in leaving her name off of the document, but also in adding information in her grammar to mislead the reader or (b) the bible is in error. Both of these conclusions are dangerous notions to consider and cannot be entertained.

While it should be superfluous to discuss any other arguments further, there are more to be given in opposition to the Priscilla view. The main thrust of the Priscilla argument revolves around the fact that the epistle is anonymous. However, it seems odd that this line of argumentation is never applied to other anonymous books. The reason for the anonymity can be simply accounted for in various ways without resorting to the notion of a conspiracy or cover-up of the author’s identity. The author may have simply wanted the readers to asses the writing for its apparent truth instead of for its authorship. The author may have been making a point about pride and humility. The author may not have wanted to waste time or paper with pleasantries, but instead go straight to the point. The author may have wanted to avoid follow-up questions to his work. There are dozens of other reasons that may come before heading to the assumption that the author feared his name would dissuade readers from reading. There are no scholars who seriously contend that the Gospel of John was written by Mary, the mother of Jesus or that the book of Job was written by Rahab. Why then this book as the target for female authorship claims?

The current proponents of the Priscilla view betray a bias in their attempts to prove their points. Usually, scholarly proponents of the Priscilla view are of liberal natures that also fight for female pastorates, homosexual ordinations, and expressly feminist theology. The argument for Priscilla is often used as support for their political causes. On the part of the laity, those who hold the Priscilla view often hold it simply because they, “like the idea that a woman wrote a book in the New Testament.”

The error in their holding of this view lies less in the fact that they hold it, and more in the reasons that they do so. It is good to hold a view and defend the view you hold, however, it should be held because of what the Biblical text actually says. It is bad to hold a view for personal or political reasons, particularly if it contradicts what the text says or suggests. When we build our theology on phrases such as, “I like the idea of…” or, “I would feel better if…” or, “I can’t accept what it suggests because of x, y, and z,” we are in a sorry state. We must go where the text leads us, no matter how hard it is. While I betray a slight bias in the argumentation against this view, my bias is a biblical one. The proponents of this view have no such claim.

The Best View

What then is the best view to hold? Based on the evidence, it seems that no conclusive case can be made. It is therefore necessary to follow the example set for us by Origen. After his musings on the style of Greek exemplified in the book of Hebrews, he finished his analysis with, “But who it was that really wrote the epistle, God only knows.”[27] God supernaturally wrote the book of Hebrews through whatever author actually did the writing and His inerrant inspiration told the author to leave the book anonymous. It is therefore wise for us to leave the book anonymous as well.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are many views currently in circulation about who wrote the book of Hebrews. The main views are that of Paul, Barnabas, Luke, Apollos and Priscilla. This is not even mentioning other present but less popular, in our day, views such as Clement of Rome, Silas, Aristion, Peter, Philip, Jude, John, Epaphras, and even Mary the mother of Jesus.[28] Needless to say, there are enough views to keep scholars occupied for years past and years to come. While it may be intriguing and even fun to debate different views, we must not too dogmatically stick to one view because there simply is no way to know for sure. In the end, the path of moderation is best as we attempt to rightly divide the word of truth, and examine and exegete so great a work as the Epistle to the Hebrews.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Allen, David. Lukan Authorship of Hebrews. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

Bruce, F. F. The Epistle to the Hebrews: Revised. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990.

Eusebius. Ecclesiastical History. Translated by C.F. Cruse. Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History Complete and Unabridged: New Updated Edition, edited by Agnes Lawless, Scott Pinzon and Heather Stroobosscher, Reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.

Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Introduction. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1990.

Starr, Lee Anna. The Bible Status of Woman. Zarepath, NJ: Pillar of Fire, 1955.

Tertullian. “On Modesty.” Translated by Rev. S. Thelwall. Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Series 1, vol. 4, 74-101. 1885. Second Printing, Peabody MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995.

Walvoord, John F ed., Roy B Zuck, ed. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 1983.

Westcott, B. F. The Epistle to the Hebrews. London: Macmillan, 1892; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955.

[1] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History vi.14.2-4.

[2] Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1990), 670.

[3] Ibid, 672.

[4] Ibid, 671.

[5] Ibid, 672.

[6] Ibid.

[7] John F Walvoord, ed., Roy B Zuck, ed., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 1983), 616.

[8] Guthrie, 672.

[9] Ibid, 672-673.

[10] Ibid, 673.

[11] Ibid, 709.

[12] Ibid, 673.

[13] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History vi.25.11-12.

[14] F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews: Revised. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990), 15.

[15] Guthrie, 675.

[16] Tertullian, On Modesty, 20.

[17] Guthrie, 675.

[18] Ibid, 676.

[19] David Allen used almost half of his book, Lukan Authorship of Hebrews analyzing the Greek grammar.

[20] B.F. Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews (London: Macmillan, 1892; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), xlviii.

[21] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History vi.25.11-14.

[22] Guthrie, 679.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Lee Anna Starr, The Bible Status of Woman (Zarepath, NJ: Pillar of Fire, 1955), 189.

[26] Ibid, 190-206.

[27] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History vi.25.14.

[28] David Allen, Lukan Authorship of Hebrews (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 13.

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