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?)