Did Jude Write Hebrews?

1. Jude started to write an epistle about the “salvation” he shared in common with his readers but changed to writing his shorter epistle (Jude 3). I suggest that he later completed this postponed work and it is the Epistle to the Hebrews.

2. I also suggest that the short epistle (ἐπέστειλα) Auctor (my name for the author of Hebrews) wrote in a “few words” (Heb. 13:22) is the one attributed to Jude. It is indeed a very short epistle.

3. Many see Hebrews 13:22 as referring to Hebrews, but could Auctor really describe that epistle as brief? It is the third longest epistle in the NT, after Romans and 1 Corinthians.

The suggestion that Auctor is referring to a different document than that which he is now sending them explains the mysterious καὶ at the beginning of his statement: καi γαρ δια βραχεων ἐπέστειλα υμιν (“For I also wrote to you an epistle with few words”). Translators have usually ignored this conjunction. (The NIV and NET do have: “for in fact I have written to you quite briefly,” a translation for καὶ nowhere attested in BDAG or LN). Furthermore, his use of the verb ἐπέστειλα refers to a specific letter that Auctor wrote. He did not use the word εγραψα, which was the way a letter writer in the NT normally referred to his present writing (as in Rom. 15:15; 1 Cor. 5:11, 9:15; Gal. 6:11; Philemon 9, 21; 1 Pet. 5:12; 1 John 2:14, 21, 26; 1 John 5:13; 3 John 9).

This verb (ἐπιστέλλω) only occurs elsewhere in the NT in reference to the so-called Apostolic Letter coming for the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:20; 21:25). I believe Auctor used this specific word so that his readers would understand that he was referring to a previous letter that he had sent and not the sermon he was currently sending to them!

4. Jude stated that he wanted to write about our common “salvation.” Hebrews deals much with the theme of “salvation.” The noun σωτηρια (soteria, salvation) appears in 1:14; 2:3; 2:10; 5:9; 6:9; 9:28; 11:7). The verb σωζω (sodzo, save) appears in 5:7 and 7:25. The salvation/save word-group appears more often in Hebrews than in any other NT book (e.g., only 5 times in Romans).

5. Jude itself is also an “exhortation” (Jude 3, παρακαλων) very similar to the hortatory thrust of Hebrews. The noun παρακλησις (paraklesis, encouragement or exhortation) occurs in Hebrews 6:18, 12:5, 13:22 (where it appears to be a self description of the work). The verb παρακαλεω (parakaleo, encourage or exhort) appears in Hebrews 3:13, 10:25, 13:19 and 13:22. Only 2 Corinthians contains a larger number of examples of this word-group, but the sense of the word there is more as “encouragement” rather than “exhortation.” The large number of hortatory subjunctives in Hebrews also illustrates its character as an “exhortation.”

6. Scholars view both Jude and Hebrews as examples of an early Christian sermon. A sermon is here defined as a sustained exposition of Scripture (not occasional citations as are found in the Pauline and Petrine letters). This involves not only the citation of a text but a following explanation of the text. This is quite obvious in Jude 5-19, and is characteristic of Hebrews throughout the work (e.g., Heb. 10:5-7, 8-9; 12:26-27).

7. Hebrews focuses on the exposition and application of two primary texts (Psalm 110 and Hab. 2:4), with a number of secondary texts utilized along the way. Jude deals in the body of his sermon (5-19) with the citation and exposition of four primary “texts” with a few secondary texts along the way. The pesher type of interpretation witnessed at Qumran is present in both books and seems to be peculiar to them in the NT writings.

8. In addition to the use of canonical Jewish Scripture, both books refer to events recorded in non-canonical writings (Heb. 11:35-38; Jude 9, 14-15). Bauckham views them both as being in the matrix of “first century Palestinian Apocalyptic Jewish Christianity.”

9. Both books contain an extended benediction (Heb. 13:20-21, Jude 24-25). These benedictions include a prayer that God would “equip” their readers and that God would “keep” their readers. These are the only extended benedictions in the NT that include a prayer appropriate to the specific circumstances of the readers. (The textual status of Rom. 16:25-27 is uncertain).

10. Each book shares a more elevated literary style compared to other books of the NT. Although this is a generally observed characteristic, when examined it does not seem to be statistically significant, apart from their more extensive vocabulary. No one, however, mistakes the Greek style and vocabulary of Hebrews and Jude with that of Paul or John.

11. Only the authors of Hebrews (Heb. 11:5) and Jude (Jude 14) refer to Enoch and use him to make a point. Enoch’s name is mentioned in the genealogy of Luke 3:37, which Bauckham argues was preserved by Jude and his brothers—per Julius Africanus/Eusebius.

12. The writer of Hebrews appears to be engaged in an itinerant ministry (13:23). This is at least consistent with what we know of the missionary labors of Jude (1 Cor. 9:5, Africanus/Eusebius).

13. One objection to Jude authorship may be that there exists no patristic tradition about Jude’s being the author. But no tradition at all existed about Apollos being the author of Hebrews until Luther suggested it, and a large number of writers today seem to lean toward Apollos. The other possible objection is that Jude would not describe himself by the words of Hebrews 2:3: “It (salvation) was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard.” I am still working on this since this verse has been one of my strongest arguments against Pauline authorship, and it is the argument that Ellingworth uses against Jude. But Jude (like his brother James) was a non-believer in his older brother until after the resurrection, and he speaks of the “apostles” (“those who heard him”) as a group of which he was not a member (vs. 17). Perhaps, therefore, this is not an insuperable problem for Jude being Auctor—the author of Hebrews.

I know of only two published articles that have advocated Jude’s authorship of Hebrews: A.M. Dubarle (Revue Biblique, 1939), and Edgar Cooper (Lutheran Church Review, 1917). Bauckham and Ellingworth refer to two unpublished papers by a “P.Y. Deshpande” and a “J.L. Gilmore.”

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Jay's picture

I've been spending a ton of time in Hebrews lately, and as a result have been backing off of the personal belief that Paul was the author (I'd spent the previous 3-4 months in the Pauline Epistles before that - so the shift in tone and style was jarring).  Dr. Varner's article makes a lot of sense, and I appreciate it.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Lee's picture

Hear hear!!

Lee

Dan Salter's picture

1. Hebrews was written by a gifted teacher.
• Priscilla was a gifted teacher (Acts 18:24-26). This is of particular note in Paul’s and Luke’s mentions of Priscilla. Of whom else do we see so definite a mention of feminine instruction in Christianity during this male-dominated time period?

2. Some of the major topics in Hebrews have been identified as more feminine. Paul usually zeroes in on the crucifixion as the highlight of his soteriology while Hebrews focuses on the ascension. Paul’s church analogy of head and body likened to husband-wife relationship, used five times in his epistles, is left out of Hebrews’ discussion of the church, which favors the house analogy.
• This is obviously no proof at all, and only weak conjecture at best. Yet, Priscilla was acquainted with Paul’s preaching and ministry which can account for similarities, but her femaleness may also account for the differences.

3. Hebrews uses first person singular pronouns at times, but at other times first person plural (e.g., 6:9, 11; 13:18)
• Priscilla and Aquila were closely identified in ministry.

4. Hebrews was written to Christian Jews either (a) in Rome by someone in Ephesus or (b) in Ephesus by someone in Rome. The greeting in 13:19 means either Italians away from the city are greeting those still in Rome, or Italians in Rome are greeting those of the letter’s destination. The discussion of Timothy traveling to the letter’s destination lends support to Ephesus as the city on the opposite end of the transmission.
• Priscilla knew both the Jews of Rome (Acts 18:2) and the Jews of Ephesus (Acts 18:18-19, 24-26) and, like Timothy, had traveled with Paul. Thus, just as it is natural to understand Timothy going from Rome to Ephesus or the other way, so it would be to understand that of Priscilla. (In fact, at one point Paul greets Priscilla in Rome - Rom 16:3 and at another point when she was in Ephesus – 2 Tim 4:19). Besides Timothy (who is eliminated from consideration as author by his reference in the letter) only Priscilla and Aquila have as much biblical support for this passage between the cities. 

5. The letter’s salutation is stripped.
• The loss of the salutation seems unlikely to be accidental. Even sermon-letters (such as Ephesians) had salutations. If Priscilla were the author and the letter’s recipients intended to pass the letter on to other churches, they (Priscilla’s friends in either Rome or Ephesus who knew her well) may have hesitated in sending the instruction of a woman to other cities that did not know her for fear that they would not be able to get past her femaleness to consider the doctrinal import (sort of like what would happen in today’s churches). Therefore, they may have intentionally removed the salutation before sending it on.

 

 

Thus, by virtue of familiarity, opportunity, content, and experience, “evidence” favors Priscilla at least as much as anyone else. With the possible reason for the letter’s salutation being removed from this and no other epistle, the scales may actually tip.

James K's picture

Peter says that holy MEN of God wrote Scripture.  Zero chance it was Priscilla.  Sigh.

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.

Jim's picture

James K wrote:

Peter says that holy MEN of God wrote Scripture.  Zero chance it was Priscilla.  Sigh.

Men in 2 Peter 1:21 = ἄνθρωπος which is the generic word for men and can include men and women. 

James K's picture

Yes Jim, because he was speaking of men in general.  Apart from being holy, they were quite various in their professions and roles.  Nothing within scripture indicates women ever wrong scripture.  Sigh.

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.

Dan Salter's picture

James, regarding a book for whose authorship we have nothing but conjecture, you're suggesting that it was impossible for God to have used a woman because...well, he hadn't done that previously! Is that your conclusion? 

You must sigh over things an awful lot.

James K's picture

No Dan, I reject it because she wasn't a man, there is nothing internal or external to think it was a woman.  Your entire premise of a more womanly look on things is not worth the time I have typed this.  Be convinced of what you want.  I just have to shake my head at what some people say about things.

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.

Dan Salter's picture

Sorry to have taken up your time. I really do understand that people's time is valuable, and I don't want to infringe on your time just because I had a few minutes to spare. But before I leave you alone entirely, I do want to point out that my original comment had as its subject line "Here's some more conjecture..." The word "conjecture" ought to have signaled that I'm not necessarily convinced Priscilla wrote the book. All I suggested was that from what few tidbits of "evidence" we can sweep together, her authorship should, among unbiased thinkers, give her at least as much credibility as some other suggestions--such as Luke, who has nothing but fellowship with Paul and a command of Greek to commend him. Therefore, it is this conjecture of mine in suggesting Priscilla that you are attacking with your heavy dogma that that is impossible. Really? Impossible? Consider that word. In the words of Inigo Montoya: "I do not think it means what you think it means."

Jim's picture

You missed my point. 

ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos) (the Grk word for men in 2 Peter 1:21) can mean both men and women!

There is a very specific Grk word that means only male - men (not mail men! Smile ) And that is ἀνήρ (anēr) (Eg Matthew 14:21, "Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children."

ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos) many many times has the meaning of people ... including both genders. 

An example of this is found in 2 Peter 3:7, "But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." (both men and women will be judged in that day. The meaning is "ungodly people"!

For reference

 

 

Jay's picture

Given the clear teaching of Scripture on the leadership and headship of men in accordance with teaching and preaching (I Tim. 3, Titus 2, etc), I have a very, very, very (and probably a few more very's!) hard time believing that Priscilla was the author of Hebrews.

For whatever that's worth.

Jim is correct, though - "anthropos" is a generic term for 'people', although usually translated as 'man' (generic).  If the author needs to be specific that it was a male, then "aner" is the term to use, and "gune" is the specific for women.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Dan Salter's picture

James, one more thing...pardon the additional thought, but I wanted to answer your charge that my entire premise was that Hebrews presented "a more womanly look on things." Again, sorry, but that was not my entire premise. In fact, if you refer back to my comment, I think you are focusing on my point #2. Notice I indicated in my comments that "this is obviously no proof at all, and only weak conjecture at best." Please, pay special note of that. I'm saying, "This is only weak conjecture at best." Okay? Weak conjecture. That's what I'm calling that. Not proof. Not even strong conjecture. It is weak conjecture at best. So, my "entire premise" is not based on "a more womanly look on things." I'm repeating this just because I want to make sure you get it this time. It's not my premise. It's not even strong conjecture. It's just a point to make to introduce Priscilla's relationship with Paul, familiarity with his conceptual development, and the divergent direction taken.

My strongest points are (a) no one in the NT has as much background detail given about their lives so that we may be assured of their intimate knowledge of both Roman and Ephesian Christians with the opportunity that Priscilla and Aquila had. And (b) when you add the plausible conjecture of why the salutation was stripped, Priscilla stands alone as the one with the most NT conjectural evidence for authoring Hebrews. I know you believe in your heart that God would rather die than let a woman speak truth, but all I'm saying is that no other person has as much NT evidential support. Perhaps she did not write the letter. I have no idea. But to argue that she could not have is as uncovenantal as it is unbiblical.

Dan Salter's picture

Jay, 

I can understand your comment regarding leadership and headship in teaching and preaching because I understand the background. I must say that I don't agree. However, that is not the specific subject of the post, and I don't want to veer off from it. So, suffice it to say, that I can appreciate your objection to Priscilla although it doesn't, for me at least, rise to the issue status it would for you or some others.

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