Authorship of Hebrews: Why not Paul?

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Read The series so far.

A pastor asked a good question in response to my suggestion that Jude was the author of Hebrews: “How does one go about determining authorship, when the majority of early, external material attributes authorship to Paul? Apart from the views of Origen, why is Paul not the favorable author?”

Earliest writers on the subject, Clement of Alexandria and Origen, wrote that the Greek in Hebrews was not Paul’s. They could be wrong, but they wrote and spoke the language. In response to the good questions, I wrote to the pastor the following:

The strongest internal arguments against Pauline authorship, in my opinion, are:

(1) Paul’s practice was to mention himself clearly as the author of his epistles, and write it with his own hand (2 Thess. 3:17), because there were many false “Pauline” epistles circulating. Such a practice is lacking in Hebrews.

(2) The Greek of Hebrews is just so different from the Greek of the Pauline books, both in vocabulary and in style. There are many examples, such as the much larger number of subordinate participles in Hebrews, but note what follows:

(3) Auctor (my name for the author of Hebrews) refers to the church leaders 3 times as the hegoumenoi (ηγουμενοι - Heb. 13:7, 17, 24), a title Paul never uses. Paul prefers “overseers” and “elders” and uses proisemenoi (προιστημενοι), episkepoi (επισκοποι), and presbuteroi (πρεσβυτεροι) in Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 3:2, 5; 1 Timothy 5:17. These last three words are never used this way in Hebrews (πρεσβυτεροι is used of the patriarchs, not church leaders in Heb. 11:2).

(4) Auctor builds one of his main arguments on the truth of the priesthood of Jesus, something Paul never mentions. Words with the root ιερ- (“priest”) appear 20 times in Hebrews, but that root never appears with reference to Jesus in the Pauline epistles.

(5) Auctor cites the OT differently than Paul does. ‘‘As it is written” (καθως γεγραπται) appears in Romans 11 times and never in Hebrews. “It says” or “he says” (ειρηκεν) appears in Hebrews 6 times and never in Paul.

I just can’t see Paul mentioning these important matters or using these expressions in Hebrews and not doing so in his 13 other books!

(6) There is more. Both authors cite Habakkuk 2:4 but apply it in different ways. Paul uses the verse to illustrate justification by faith in Romans and Galatians, but Auctor to illustrate the justified life of faith (chapter 11).

(6) There are also some very distinctive Pauline words that are “missing” in Hebrews: “Gospel” (ευαγγελιον) appears in each of the Pauline epistles, but never in Hebrews (the verb ευαγγελιζω appears in Hebrews 4:2). “Mystery” (μυστηριον) appears 20 times in the Pauline epistles, but never in Hebrews.

(7) Finally, Auctor includes himself as part of the 2nd generation believers (Heb. 2:3) who were not eyewitnesses and hearers of the Lord Jesus, thus excluding Paul who received special revelation from Jesus.

That there are themes in Hebrews that are also in Paul is something that should be expected—they both were Christian believers! All NT writers shared a common faith and a body of truths. What concerns us here is the way in which authors expressed those common beliefs, and they expressed them in different terms and ways.

I think that the only internal argument in favor of Pauline authorship is that the author of Hebrews evidently traveled with Timothy at times (Heb. 13:23). But if Paul had a large number of different fellow itinerants, why couldn’t Timothy also travel with more than one person? But even in Hebrews 13:23, Auctor refers to Timothy as “our brother” (ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν), while Paul never referred to Timothy as “my brother” but only as “my child” (τέκνον - 1 Tim. 1:12, 18; 2 Tim. 1:2; 2;1).

The placement of Hebrews following Romans in p46 does not necessarily imply Pauline authorship but only that Rome was its destination (Heb. 13:24: “those from Italy”). See Letters to the Church by Karen Jobes.

This is not something to fight about. I only expend this much effort on the subject because there are some Christians (and some teachers who should know better) who argue for the Pauline authorship of Hebrews with such zeal that you might conclude that it is a doctrine of the Faith! I may be wrong but I have a really hard time believing that Paul wrote a letter that seems to me to be so non-Pauline.

[node:bio/will-varner body]

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I suspect that Pauline authorship is embraced ...

I suspect that Pauline authorship is embraced for the wrong reasons. As in the article below

http://www.fredsbibletalk.com/fb002.html

How is this related to determing [sic] the author of Hebrews?   Just like the OT prophets, when an apostle wrote a letter to a church it was believed they wrote in what was called apostolic voice.  The recipients of the letter received it as inspired scripture because an apostle wrote it.  This meant only an apostle could have written Hebrews in order for it to find a place in the NT canon.  The only reasonable candidate is Paul, because he was an affirmed apostle.  The two other men often named as authors, Barnabas and Apollos, did not hold the qualification for an apostle.  Barnabas was from Cyprus and would not have witnessed Christ’s ministry, nor is there testimony that he witnessed the risen Lord.  The Acts record seems to indicate that he was added to the church after the Pentecost.  Plus, as Acts is read, Barnabas slowly begins to take a second seat to Paul whose ministry began to flourish in an apostolic manner (see Acts 13-16).  Eventually Barnabas fades from the narrative of Acts completely.  Apollos was also a second or third generation Christian from Alexandria, Egypt.  Though he was a brilliant scholar, he too would not have been present to see Christ’s ministry, or the risen Lord.  Also, it must be pointed out the Hebrews is an authoritative book calling for its readers to abandon the temple and Judaism.  No other candidate would have the respect of the people to make such a command; only Paul would have that authority.

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The apostle Luke?

Jim, since that article references Acts, I assume he believes that Luke was an apostle, since he obviously considers Acts scripture and authoritative? Or maybe he doesn't believe Luke wrote either Luke or Acts?

Dave Barnhart

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Broadman Holman published

Broadman Holman published this book contending for Lukan authorship:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/books/products.asp?p=9780805447149

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Yup!

dcbii wrote:
Jim, since that article references Acts, I assume he believes that Luke was an apostle, since he obviously considers Acts scripture and authoritative? Or maybe he doesn't believe Luke wrote either Luke or Acts?

Same issue with Mark

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P46 and the manuscript evidence

The fact that Hebrews is bundled with the Pauline Epistles in P46 is certainly interesting, but we need to be careful not to draw too many conclusions about the way the canonical NT books are presented among the manuscripts. I just scanned through a list I have of the contents (which NT books represented) of all 128 papyri, all 300+ majuscules, and over 1700 of the 2914 cataloged minuscules, and I cannot find a single example where the manuscript contained only the General Epistles and Hebrews, or only Acts, General Epistles, and Hebrews. Every time Hebrews shows up, it fits into one of these categories:

 

It is stand-alone, likely due to the fragmentary nature of what was found

It is bundled with the Pauline Epistles (very common)

It is bundled with Acts and the Pauline Epistles (less common)

It is bundled with the Pauline Epistles and General Epistles (less common)

It is bundled with Acts, the Pauline Epistles and the General Epistles (common)

It is bundled with the entire NT minus the gospels (very common)

It is bundled with the entire NT minus Revelation (very common)

It is bundled with the entire NT (very common)

 

This evidence might at first appear to be very impressive. However, one thing about copyists through the ages--they were rarely innovators. They tended to follow the patterns given them. So what we know is that as early as 200 AD (the earliest probable date for P46), the common practice was apparently to bundle Hebrews with the Pauline Epistles. Once this practice became the habit, it continued. What we don't know is why the book was first bundled with Paul's letters, and what that decision tells us about the authorship of Hebrews.

 

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Not true

Will, you say that Paul never referred to Timothy as a brother. But in the letter to Philemon, Paul does refer to Timothy as "our brother". 

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Another approach

My college calc professor did his dissertation on this subject. If I remember correctly, his conclusion was that Luke was the author of Hebrews, but I don't have a copy of his paper on hand for reference. Might make some interesting reading for a statistics/theology lover.

http://www.worldcat.org/title/statistical-word-study-of-the-book-of-hebrews-as-to-its-pauline-authorship/oclc/20238082?referer=di&ht=edition

Dr. Malmanger is still teaching at MBBC.

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I vote for Luke

I vote for Lucan authorship but I think he wrote with the influence and advice of Paul. Thus we get the Greek of Luke enriched by the theology of Paul.

MS
--------------------------------
Luke 17:10

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Maybe

Maybe Hebrews is a copy of one of Paul's sermons.

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Paul Wrote Hebrews

I am surprised nobody has stood up for Pauline authorship here. I place greater weight on the historical tradition than the multitude of evidences provided by form, source, rhetorical, and linguistic criticism. I find it ironic that when liberal scholars apply the various criticisms to the Pastoral Epistles, evangelical scholars stand for Pauline authorship. However, when we encounter a book like Hebrews where authorship is not clearly stated, we employ the same method as the liberals in determining who did or did not write the book. I personally believe this method is flawed. In case you are wondering, I don't believe in a Q document and Matthew was probably written before Mark.

I will respond to points 1 and 7 above:

"(1) Paul’s practice was to mention himself clearly as the author of his epistles, and write it with his own hand (2 Thess. 3:17), because there were many false “Pauline” epistles circulating. Such a practice is lacking in Hebrews."

Interestingly, Eusebius quotes Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215) in regard to this point, "writing to Hebrews who had taken a prejudice against him and were suspicious of him, he wisely did not repel them at the beginning by placing his name [there]."

 

For years, I did not believe Paul wrote Hebrews based upon Hebrews 2:3. Will included this point in his article:

"(7) Finally, Auctor includes himself as part of the 2nd generation believers (Heb. 2:3) who were not eyewitnesses and hearers of the Lord Jesus, thus excluding Paul who received special revelation from Jesus."

If Paul wrote Hebrews, this statement seems to be contrary to Gal 1:12 where Paul says that he received revelation directly from Jesus Christ. However, critics of Pauline authorship are making a huge inference based upon a 1cp pronoun. In Heb 1:2, God has "in these last days spoken to us by His Son." By inference, one might conclude that Paul and his audience were witnesses to the teaching of Jesus. Furthermore, Heb 2:3 states, "how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation." Was the author in danger of losing his salvation? It appears that the author is identifying with his audience in both of these statements. 

More notably, Heb 2:3 states, "which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord." Could Paul include himself in this group who witnessed the teaching and miracles (v 4) of the Lord? I don't think so. I believe Paul identifies with his audience once again. He has something in common with them, he was not a witness to the teaching and miracles of the Lord.

I agree that we can't say for certain who wrote the book of Hebrews but if I had to put a percentage on it I'd say I'm 75% in favor of Pauline authorship.

 

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Tim, I also reject q and

Tim, I also reject q and prefer Matthian priority.  However, I think the historical tradition argument is always the weakest.  So much of Hebrews is similar to Lukan authority than Pauline.  I know that isn't conclusive, but if internal evidence is stronger than external, it would have to be Luke.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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If God would vote for the author. . .

. . . OH WAIT! He did!

And so did Paul (2 Tim. 2:23; Titus 3:9).

Deut. 29:29

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