Table of Contents
Over the years there has been extensive debate with regard to the Hebrews authorship and this has led to heightened speculation on some of the most likely people who might have peened it. However, of all the likely writers, Paul has over the centuries stood out as the most likely author. For instance, the Chester Beatty papyrus which can be dated back to 200AD has a collection of the Paul’s epistles and Hebrews is one of them. Those that proponents of the Pauline authorship always note that he deliberately omitted mentioning his name based on the fact the recipients of the letter, Jews, would have failed to take the letter serious if they knew that it was penned him. This paper shall therefore delve to undertake an extensive analysis of some of the likely candidates to have authored the Hebrews and finally present why Paul is the most likely candidate.
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Analysis of the authorship of Hebrews
Church tradition has always thought that Paul was the author of Hebrew. However, there exist a large number of Christians, both the laity and the scholars, who still hold a contrary view and believe that there the reasons presented on Pauline authorship lack sufficient backing. The major objection by those who are against the Pauline authorship is that the book lacks a salutation. It is important to note that in all Paul’s epistles there were some sort of personal salutation. Therefore, by him adopting an anonymous approach in writing the book of Hebrews makes it unusual which therefore discredits the view that he was the actual author. The second reason presented is that the style and overall composition is not consistent to that of Paul’s other epistles. The Hebrews appears to have been written by a sophisticated writer, while Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:6 and 1 Corinthians 1:17 he had mentioned that he purposely avoided the use of commanding vocabulary, something that is well used in the Hebrews book.
It is important to note that the Hebrews book extensively uses the old testament as a reference and also quotes from it. With Paul being a Pharisee then means that he would be more conversant with the scripture in the original Hebrew language. An analysis of other letters he penned notes that Paul either quoted from the original Hebrew, Masoretic text, or paraphrased it. However, the quotes that are present in the Hebrews show that they were derived from the Greek old testament, the Septuagint, something that is not consistent with Paul’s use. The final reason that discredits Pauline authorship is the fact Paul as an apostle always laid claims that he got his revelations from the Jesus directly (Galatians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 11:23).
The question therefore arises, if Paul didn’t write this book, who then offers a more likely candidate? The other likely candidates that have been suggested include Luke, Apollos, Barnabas and clement of Rome.
Luke has authored other New Testament books such as Acts and Luke. His writing style was technical, something that is similar with that of the author of Hebrews. He was closely acquainted with timothy and Paul while his theology seeming to be similar to that of Paul. Nonetheless what discredits him is that he had a special focus in writings on women and gentiles. It is certain that the writer of the Hebrews clearly doesn’t seem to share that focus. Certainly if indeed he was the author then he would be transcribing what Paul had spoken or written originally
Martin Luther was of the opinion that Apollos was the most likely author. Based on Luke, Apollos was an individual who was well versed with the Bible and was very eloquent with a good understanding of theology. It is certain the author of Hebrews shared these talents. Further since he Hellenistic, a group the Jews looked down upon, would be a likely reason why he might have wanted to maintain an anonymous persona in his authorship of the book. The case against him as the author arises from the fact that there is no evidence of him being a close friend of Timothy something that can clearly can be characterized by the author of Hebrews. Further there is no evidence that he at a point ever resided in Italy.
Clement of Rome
Clement is also a likely candidate based on the fact he probably was friends with timothy, Luke and Paul as even the latter mentions him in Philippians 4:3. He additionally has a similar writing style just like the one in the Hebrews and the book of first clement also makes reference to the old testament. However, what disqualifies him is the fact his theological focus is completely different from that of Hebrews based on the fact he had less focus on grace and more on moral living. Therefore, if indeed he was the actual author then he must be transcribing to what Luke and Paul had written
Barnabas candidature as the author is cemented by the fact he was chosen as the actual author in 207AD by church father Tertullian. He was further friends with timothy and there is high likelihood that he might have stayed in Italy. Barnabas would have been well versed with the roles of priesthood as he was a Levite. The Hebrews author utilized the priesthood imagery as in Hebrews in 4:14 he refers to Jesus as the great high priest. However, there is nothing in the epistle to indicate that indeed Barnabas had penned the epistle.
Why Paul is the most likely candidate
Despite there being other likely candidates, Paul’s candidature stands out as there is extensive evidence that supports this notion. The most outstanding evidence can be derived from the scripture as 2 peter 3:15 confirms that indeed Paul had written a letter to the Hebrews. The second evidence that supports the Pauline authorship is based on the fact the theology that is present in the Hebrews is one that is similar with Paul’s theology. According to Ephesians 2:8-9, it is clear that Paul was a strong advocate of salvation by faith alone and this same message is well articulated in this letter to the Hebrews especially in Hebrews 11:1-40 and 10:37-39. Therefore, what comes out clear is that it is either the writer had been an individual that Paul had trained or it was Paul himself.
The third reason to affirm the Pauline authorship are based on the fact the closing verse in Hebrews 13 has a close resemblance to those used in the Pauline acknowledged letters. Both timothy and Paul for years were close associates and this can provide a good explanation of the remarks present in Hebrews 13:23. Further, Paul’s sentiments expressed in Hebrews 13:25 that “grace be with you all” are also presents in epistles that Paul had peened down in 2 Thess. 3:18 and Romans 15:33. The fourth reason is based on the facts the ideas that are present in the Hebrews have a close resemblance to those present in Paul’s other letters. For instance, Paul pays a critical attention to the two covenants and he further stresses on Christology. It is important to mention that the aforementioned topics were of huge concern to the person that penned the Hebrews. Some examples of the phrases and terms that were also found in Paul’s other letters include the law by angels, Hebrews 2:2 and Galatians 3:19; heavenly Jerusalem, Galatians 4:26 and Hebrews 12:22; and the public saints’ persecution, 1 Corinthians 4:9 and Hebrews 10:33.
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It is certain to note that there is a striking resemblance between the Galatians and the Hebrews books and to some extent there are those scholars who perceive that the Hebrews may have been influenced by Galatians and this therefore makes Paul to be the most likely candidate. The final reason that supports the Pauline authorship is that the construction of Hebrew adheres to the same patterns as highlighted by other letters penned by Paul. The general structure commences with doctrinal portion which is then followed by a duty exhortation. For instance, Hebrews 13 adheres to the closing patterns that are evident in other Paul’s letters such as the Galatians.
The paper has identified that the debate on authorship of the book of Hebrews as one that has dragged for decades. There have been different suggestions on the likely authors of Hebrews with the most likely candidates Paul, being Luke, Barnabas, Apollo and clement of Rome. However, of them all Pauline authorship stands out based on the fact there is extensive internal evidence to support it. But as church father Origen (185 AD – 254 AD) once noted, it is only God who knows the true author of the Hebrews.
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- Lane, William L. Hebrews 1-8, Volume 47A. Zondervan, 2017.
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- Schreiner, Thomas R. Commentary on Hebrews. Vol. 36. B&H Publishing Group, 2015.