Who Wrote Hebrews?

Derek Ouellette —  June 26, 2010

I have been intrigued by the question of who wrote Hebrews for a long time. Shrugging my shoulders and finding contentment with the probable reality that we’ll never know for sure, I usually get excited whenever a new possibility is brought to my attention.

Did Paul write Hebrews? Or Apollos, Barnabas, Luke, Silas or Priscilla? These are the regular suspects, but it seems to me these are more based on guesses and hopes then on actual evidence. I have always leaned toward a Pauline authorship myself because I find the language of Hebrews to be consistent with much of what we know of Paul’s other writings. Compare these parallels:

  • Preeminence of Christ: Heb 1:1-3 = Col 1:14-19
  • Humiliation of Christ: Heb 2:9-18 = Phil 2:5-11
  • Use of Israel as an example for believers: Heb 3:7-4:8 = 1 Cor 10:1-11
  • Appeal to Habakkuk’s “the just shall live by faith”: Heb 11:1-40 = Rom 1:17

And those are just a few, others could be cited. Furthermore, the author of Hebrews seems to have a close companionship with Timothy (Heb 13:23), plus we know that Paul was uniquely educated among his peers throughout the Greco-Roman world and especially among the Jewish people. On top of all this is Paul’s keen knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures (having been trained as a Pharisee under Gamaliel – Acts 22:30).

However, in spite of this evidence, there are many reasons to be suspecious of Paul’s authorship of Hebrews. For starters the professionals tell us that the linguistics of Hebrews compared to the Pauline corpus differ enough to call his authorship into question. Further we have the obvious problem of why he did not open and close the letter in his regular ways (i.e. “Paul, a apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God to the saints….)? Then we have the fact that Paul considered himself the apostle to the Gentiles, why would he write a letter exclusively to the Hebrews? And finally, many scholars place the writing of Hebrews sometime after Pauls death. So while it is possible that Paul wrote Hebrews, with this mounting evidence it seems unlikely.

However, when you combine the evidence in favor of a Pauline authorship with the evidence against his authorship an interesting conclusion may be drawn, or at least investigated: Whoever wrote Hebrews must have been intimately familiar with Paul.

And that is exactly what David Allen seeks to prove in Lukan Authorship of Hebrews. This book is at the top of my pile of “books to read”, stacked up on my desk. In the mean time, who do you think wrote Hebrews and why? (And do you think it matters?)

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • http://www.newwaystheology.blogspot.com/ Mason

    Well I’d lean towards Luke based on a number of factors, though I’ve always loved the idea of it being Priscilla. How much would it mess with people if a woman wrote a book of the Bible?

    Especially after taking quite a bit of Greek, it’s hard to believe Paul is behind it. It’s nothing like the way he writes, you can just feel it. That said, there are certainly Pauline themes so someone who knew Paul (like Luke or Apollos) makes sense.

    But, in the end it doesn’t really matter too much. It’s fascinating, and helps get a better idea of the background, but Hebrews in canonical either way so how much does it really change especially when no answer is for sure?

  • http://www.classicalchristianity.com MIke Spreng

    I know that Calvin believed it to be Paul. Who knows, maybe Hebrews was Paul’s last letter and just before writing it he took a Greek grammar class 😉

  • http://none Brad Dickey

    Well, other than a curiousity… who cares? I’d love to know. Truly. But I find it to fit snugly with all the other scripture, so I don’t need to know.

    It seems a western church thing to want to put it all neatly in a box. Mysteries are great. ESPECIALLY when you know the mystery to be God’s mystery… it then builds faith.

    It’s likely to be someone we don’t know of. There were how many disciples that were not apostles that traveled with Jesus? It could have been any of them.

    I heard a decent argument once for Barnabus.

    I don’t know. And I don’t dig into research on it. here’s why….

    By reading a book, like you have mentioned I see that person’s arguments. But I don’t know enough of the foundation to really question or cross examine his conclusions. Then I’m hit with my first view on the question to be from a bias source. And it affects how I look at it going forward.

    I’m not picking at you for looking into it, nor ANYONE for that matter? I just don’t know why it matters? If we read a book about gravity, and didn’t know who wrote it, but it panned out to be proven as trustworthy, why would I step off the empire state building? Just because I don’t know the author doesn’t make it less profound! 😛

  • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

    Well Brad, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with exploring these mysteries but I certainly want to avoid “anti-intellectualism”. And nobody said that because we don’t know the author that it’s content becomes “less profound”.

    I also don’t think there is a risk of anyone sky-diving off of the Empire State Building after reading this book or exploring this question. :)