Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Author of Hebrews

In light of the faux pas on Jeopardy last night, here is an excerpt from a piece I was commissioned to write on contested issues in Hebrews. The question on Jeopardy was which of Paul's letters has the most OT quotations. Apparently, the person who answered Romans was said to be wrong, while the person who answered Hebrews was considered right.

Paul is of course the traditional suggestion for the author of Hebrews, which is anonymous, but almost no scholars have thought that Paul was the author for almost a century. I wouldn't say it isn't possible. It just isn't the most likely reading of the evidence, in my opinion. 
Here is an excerpt from a piece I am finishing.
Author and Recipients
The question of the author’s specific identity must forever remain unanswered. The inevitable conclusion after the usual survey of the field remains that of Origen in the early third century: “God knows.” However, despite this overwhelming consensus, one frequently finds ebbs and flows in speculative preferences. For example, a few continue to suggest from time to time that the author might have been Priscilla. Nevertheless, as we have seen, this suggestion remains unlikely given the masculine singular, self-referential participle at 11:32.

It is still the overwhelming consensus that the author was not Paul. Several scholars consider Apollos as a strong possibility. What one thinks here likely relates to the question of Hebrews' similarity or dissimilarity to Philo, an issue of contention discussed below. David L. Allen has recently given his support to Luke as author. This position assumes that the author of Luke-Acts was the Luke of Paul’s letters. The excellent Greek of Hebrews suggests that the author was highly educated and that Greek was a first language. It is the strong consensus that the author functioned out of the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew Bible.

On the question of whether the author was a Jew or a Gentile, most seem to assume the author was Jewish. However, those who support a Lukan author implicitly raise the question of a Gentile author, since Luke was likely a non-Jew (cf. Col. 4:11). Nothing about Hebrews would necessitate that the author was Jewish. Gentile converts to Christian Judaism fully embraced the Scriptures and perspectives of their adopted religion. We simply lack enough information to know for certain...


Donald Johnson said...

I agree that Hebrews is anonymous for us, so authorship is speculation. Because of the details of the temple service given that would not be known by non-Jews because of the physical barrier in the Court of the Gentiles, I think it was written by a Jew. I think it is worth reading Ruth Hoppin's book about Hebrews being written by Priscilla and the addenda article at CBE discussing 2 possible concerns including the use of the masculine participle.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for the analysis.

aservantofJehovah said...

The letter was clearly written before the fall of the temple,by a recognised expert in the Torah. Hebrews 13:23 also suggest Paul as the writer.