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A CONSIDERATION OF THE

ATTESTATION OF SCRIPTURE TO

THE AUTHORSHIP OF HEBREWS

by Dr Fred Wittman

 

Introduction

There are several Books in the New Testament which are written anonymously. The one book that appears to provide the most interest and provoke the greatest variety of proposed authors is the book of Hebrews. From a consideration of all that has been written concerning its authorship, it is generally concluded that no one knows who wrote it, in spite of the fact that ‘‘all the early writings of Rome after its appearance reflect its use,’’1 that the Eastern Church assumed that Paul was the author and ‘‘did not doubt the canonicity of the Epistle.’’2 When the Western Church recognized the canonicity of Hebrews, it did so on the assumption that the writer was the apostle Paul.3 This recognition took place ‘‘late in the fourth century.’’4 From that time ‘‘until the Reformation’’ the author of Hebrews was regarded as Paul.5 Jülicher noted, ‘‘For about 1500 years the tradition of the Church has almost unanimously held that Paul was the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews.’’6

Since the Reformation, Hebrews has been the subject of a wide variety of proposals, most of which are based upon conjecture. However few have considered the testimony of Peter found in 2 Pet. 3:15,16. It is the intention of this paper to address this issue of Pauline authorship of Hebrews from an exegetical consideration of this passage particularly and other Scriptures in 1 and 2 Peter and Hebrews which are related to this problem.

The Problem

Internal evidence reveals an ambiguous authorship because the author neither identifies himself nor supplies personal details which would lead to his identity. In fact, it appears to some writers that Internal evidence negates Pauline authorship, even though the church regarded it as such for centuries. Guthrie writes, ‘‘Most modern writers find more difficulty in imagining how this Epistle’’3 could be considered written by Paul than in discounting the belief. He went on to list and describe five reasons to dispute Paul’s authorship:

(1) conflict between Paul’s usual claim and anonymity,

(2) discrepancy in style,

(3) lack of mention of personal experiences,

(4) diverse doctrinal emphasis contrasted with other Pauline Epistles, and

(5) reference to an occasion which does not depict Paul in Heb. 2:3.7

Some scholars claim the external evidence is not conclusive. Eusebius wrote a paragraph about the issue in which he made contradictory statements. An outstanding quote is, ‘‘Who the author of the Epistle is only God truly knows.’’8 Yet we already noted that the Western Church recognized canonicity on the basis of apostolic authorship or endorsement. Thus, there is a need for further light from a reliable source. It appears that Scripture is a source of light, which may confirm the opinions of some and cause further consideration of the issue for others. When Zahn discussed the problem, he exclaimed, ‘‘If only Paul had written Hebrews, or if the author of 2 Peter could have regarded Hebrews as a work of his!’’9 A close examination of 2 Pet. 3:15,16 may reveal the very truth Zahn would like to discover.

But even if 2 Pet. 3:15,16 does substantiate Pauline authorship, there would be a question as to the readership of 2 Peter, which must be the same as the readers of Hebrews if the problem is to be resolved. For some the authorship of 2 Peter must be established because ‘‘more modern scholars deny the genuineness of 2 Peter than that of any single book in the canon.’’10

The problem may best be defined by the proposal of four questions which must be answered adequately. What support does the Bible provide for Pauline authorship of Hebrews? Who was the author of 2 Peter? Who were the readers of 2 Peter? How can the internal objections to Pauline authorship of Hebrews be answered satisfactorily?

Presuppositions and Delimitations

      This study will be influenced by presuppositions and delimitations, which are assumed in matters of inspiration, interpretation, and New Testament special introduction or ‘‘higher criticism.’’

Inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture

      Verbal plenary inspiration of the Scriptures is presumed. By this is meant that the Scriptures in their entirety in the original autographs are God-breathed and borne or controlled by the Holy Spirit in the choice of the very words by the writers in their own styles, so that they bear divine authority (2 Pet. 1:20,21). The words in the original languages are the very words God intended but written in the styles of the writers.

      Inerrancy of The Word of God is also presumed. By this is meant that in the original languages the Scriptures are completely trustworthy and reliable, free from error and without mistake, and not capable of error.

Interpretation

The method of Interpretation which is used is the historical grammatical method, in which the context is considered in light of the historical setting at the time it was written and in light of the grammatical construction of words in their literal meaning in order to interpret the passage. ‘Thus, some components of speech will be examined in their grammatical and syntactical relationships in order to analyze the meaning that God intended to convey. Unless the context indicates figurative use, or describes that which is in question so that another meaning can be recognized, or the word has been used elsewhere in Scripture to mean something else, the normal meaning will be taken as the one intended by God and the author.

Higher criticism

The areas of Hew Testament special introduction which require delimitation in this paper are authorship and date of Hebrews and authorship of First Peter.

The authorship and date of Hebrews. The question of authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews has provoked discussion and proposals of such magnitude and variety that it is impossible to cover them all in this brief paper, or even to discuss fully and adequately the various objections to the historical view. Therefore, discussion will be confined to those pertinent comments and objections relating to the position indicated above under the heading, ‘‘The Problem.’’ Detailed argument will be limited to the main objections which are germane to a decision concerning the Scriptural evidence which will be presented.

There will not be a discussion concerning the dating nor the place of origin due to limitation of time and space. It is considered to be written in spring of A.D. 64 from Italy (Heb. 13:24), either just prior to or just after Paul’s release from his first Roman imprisonment.

The authorship of First Peter. Although questioned by some, it is assumed that the preponderance of evidence establishes Peter as the author of First Peter. C. Bigg considered it proven and ‘‘regarded as canonical from the time when ‘canonical’ first began to have meaning.’’11 The position stated above in regard to inspiration indicates the weight put upon the contents of the book itself as Holy Scripture. Therefore, it is accepted without question that the first verse substantiates its author to be Peter, the apostle of Jesus Christ.

Organization of the Study

The procedure which will be followed in this study will be to examine the pertinent Scripture passage in 2 Pet. 3:15,16 first. It will be shown that the writer of Second Peter endorsed Paul’s writings as Scripture and determine if this Scriptural endorsement was an apostolic endorsement. Thereupon, an effort to identify that apostolically-endorsed document will ensue with an attempt to identity the readers of Second Peter as the διασπρά of First Peter, hence the Jewish Christians of Asia Minor are the readers. Finally, counter proposals to the major objections to Pauline authorship will be offered in an attempt to make the historic, assumed attribution to Paul a more plausible view.

An Examination of the Pertinent Scripture (2 Pet. 3:15, 16)

“And continually deem the longsuffering of The Lord of ours, salvation! according as also Paul, the beloved brother of ours according to the wisdom given to him, wrote to you [plural], as also in all his [article as pronoun] epistles, speaking in them concerning these~ things, in which some [article] things are difficult to comprehend, which~ things the ones untrained as disciples and unsteady[not firmly fixed] wrench[distort and twist the original character or intended meaning of], as also The remaining Scriptures, to [the face of] their own [private] [article] utter destruction”
(A Precise Translation).

These verses are located in a description of the coming judgment of God in the destruction of the Heavens and the Earth, and the promise of new Heavens and a new Earth is reaffirmed. In view of this, the readers are exhorted to be diligent and to reckon the longsuffering of The Lord (or The Lord’s patient forbearance, long-delaying judgment) is salvation, ‘‘an opportunity for repentance’’ (cf. 1 Pet. 3:20).12 A better comparison is 2 Pet. 3:9, ‘‘The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.’’ Inserted into this exhortation is the reference to the apostle Paul.

A significant declaration

This next statement regarding Paul must be very significant. Why else would Peter refer to the writings of Paul? Why, especially here? Why would God so control him by His Holy Spirit to endorse those writings as Scripture? Is this the wisdom of God in action to preclude the doubtings and questionings of man so that those things which are apparently obscure may be known by His own children? Did God anticipate the battle that would rage in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries over the inspiration and authenticity of His Word? Certainly He who knows the End from the Beginning, Who knows ALL would have known this quandary would occur and provide sufficient Scripture to countermand it.

‘‘But those who are unlearned and unstable wrest (distort) the Scriptures.’’ ‘‘Unlearned αμαθής (ahmahtháys). Old word (alpha privative and μανθάνω (mahntháhn0) to learn).’’13 The root is the same as in μαθητής (mahthaytáys), ‘‘disciple.’’ Thus, it conveys the idea of those who are undiscipled. ‘‘. . . and unstable - ’αστήρικτος - ahstáyreektohs” (wanting firm foundation and anchorage, waver and drift about) “. . . wrest - στρεβλόω - strehblóh0” (distort, properly: to twist with a hand screw or windlass)14 “. . . to their own utter destruction.”

This seems to be a significant statement from the amount of discussion and discrepancy about its meaning. It appears that the very wresting over the other Scriptures described by it is the same treatment that it receives. But then, Satan’s modus operandi from the beginning has been to twist The Scripture so that humans will not understand The God’s Word to mean what God intended it to mean (Gen. 3:1-5). And so it continues today. Unregenerate humans cannot understand The Scriptures and regenerate humans, who seek to grasp Their meaning with the natural mind fail, because They are spiritually discerned (1 Cor.2:9-14).

Yet, Peter’s statement is significant because it endorses Paul’s writings as Scripture and indicates that Paul wrote a document to the same readers that Peter addressed.

A specific document

At this point most commentators seek to find an Epistle of Paul that corresponds closely with the context proceeding the reference to Paul and completely disregard the readers of both the document written by Paul and 2 Peter. Παûλος . . . ’έγραψεν ‘υμîν, culminative aorist, ‘‘Paul wrote’’ or perfective aorist, ‘‘Paul has written to you.’’ It Is not simply, ‘‘Paul, also according to the wisdom given unto him, has written.’’ But rather, ‘‘Paul . . . has written to you. Peter has a specific document in mind. ‘ως καì ’εν πάσαις [ταîς]15 ’επισταλοîς. ‘‘As also in all (his - article for pronoun) epistles.’’ ‘ως καì indicates a designation of a specific, separate, and additional item; which is included in the assertion.

By this adjunct the epistle of Paul, referred to in ’έγραψεν ‘υμîν is definitely distinguished from his other epistles; but what is true of the former is asserted also of the latter, i.e. that they contain the same exhortations, a statement, however, which is more precisely limited by λαλω^ν ’εν ’αυταíς‘ περì τούτων [the phrase following ’επισταλοîς]. The difference in the reading, that is, whether the article is to be put with πάσαις or not, is of trifling importance for the meaning.16

Peter referred to a specific document written by Paul to the same readers that he is presently addressing. The deletion of the article may serve as further support of a distinction between the document and ‘‘all Epistles’’ -- ‘‘as also in all epistles’’ written by Paul (inferred). If Peter meant that it was an epistle like the others, he could have included ’άλλαις or omitted καì , but he didn’t do either.

The significance discussed

Since it has been pointed out that there is a significance to Peter’s insertion referring to Paul, to the document Paul wrote to Peter’s readers, and to Paul’s Epistles, it is logical to discuss who the author is that referred to Paul in order to determine the validity and the importance of such endorsement.

The author identified. In the discussion of Petrine authorship,

Origen is cited as the first church writer to discuss the point, and while he is personally persuaded that St. Peter is the author (P.G. 12, 437.857; 14, 1179) he acknowledges the matter is contested (P.G. 20, 583).16

Eusebius quoted Origen, ‘‘And Peter, on whom the Church of Christ is built, against which the gates of Hades shall not prevail, has left one acknowledged epistle, and, it may be, a second also; for it is doubted.17

Jerome wrote that Peter authored ‘‘two epistles -which are called catholic, the second of which, on account of its difference from the first in style is considered by many not to be by him.’’18

The author of the Second Epistle of Peter is clearly designated at the beginning as ‘Simon [or, as some manuscripts have it,‘‘Symeon,’’ according to the original Hebrew form of the name] Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ’. In II Peter 1.14, moreover, the author appears as the disciple to whom the risen Christ spoke The Words that are recorded in John 21.18; in vs. 16-18 he designates himself clearly as an eyewitness of the earthly life of Jesus and in particular of the transfiguration, Matt. 17.1-13, and in ch. 3.15 he puts himself on a parity with the apostle Paul. Throughout the whole Epistle the author writes as one of the twelve apostles would naturally write.19

The various objections raised by the critics as to Peter’s authorship are inconsequential. They fail to prove that Peter is not the author and merely seek to cast doubt that he is the author. Space does not permit a detailed examination of them.

There should be no doubt that Peter is the author if verbal, plenary inspiration is held as a vital doctrine. The apostleship of the author is clearly substantiated so that there is no confusion. God has seen fit that Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit, did include sufficient data to identify him as an apostle.

Apostolic endorsement. Peter’s reference to Paul’s Epistles and the document written to his readers was clearly an apostolic endorsement. ‘ως καì τàς πολλάς indicates that Peter put the writings of Paul on the same level and equal to the other Scriptures. These undiscipled and unstable people who twist Paul’s writings also twist the rest or the remaining Scriptures.

The manner in which St. Paul’s epistles are spoken of is somewhat strange. They are mentioned collectively, not one only, but all, as writings κατ’ ’εξοχήν , not merely known and widely spread in the Church, . . . as they do also the other Scriptures (τàς λοιπàς γραφάς). This last expression may either mean The Old Testament Scriptures or other Christian Scriptures, but the term ‘αι γραφαί of itself also denotes writings which were considered specially holy, which were esteemed ecclesiastically canonical, and side by side with these (by the word λοιπàς) the Pauline epistles are ranked.’’ There is no doubt that the expression does classify the epistles of Paul with the sacred writings, that is, with the Old Testament Scriptures.20

Upon this statement of Peter’s, carefully examined, hinges weighty support for the endorsement of the New Testament Scriptures as inspired of God and recognized in the church between A.D. 6421 and A.D. 68.22 However, Bigg does not agree that this is an endorsement of a canonical body of the Pauline Epistles. He wrote,

It is by no means necessary to see in these words, as some have done, a reference to a definite canonical body of Pauline Epistles. St. Peter tells us that he was acquainted with several letters of St. Paul’s, but does not say how many, nor whether they were earlier or later in date than the letter or letters referred to in ’έγραψεν ‘υμîν.23

Yet Peter used πάσαις - all. This would seem to indicate that Peter was aware of all the writings of Paul. However, Strachan has an explanation which serves to resolve the issue.

‘ως καì τàς λοιπàς γραφάς. (1) There has been much discussion among commentators as to the meaning γραφάς. Spitta takes γραφάς in sense of ‘‘writings, ’’ and concludes that these were by companions of the Apostle Paul; but this is a very unusual sense of γραφή unless the name of an author is given. Mayor and others interpret as the O.T. Scriptures; while some who are prepared to assign a late date in the second century to the epistle, think that both Old and New Testament Scriptures are meant. On every ground the hypothesis of γραφάς = O.T. Scriptures is to be preferred. (2) The difficulty in connexion [spelling] with the meaning of γραφάς is largely occasioned by the phrase λοιπàς γραφάς. Does this mean that the Epistles of St. Paul are regarded as Scripture? Attempts have been made (e.g., by Dr. Bigg) to cite classical and other parallels that would justify the sense for τàς λοιπàς, ‘‘the Scriptures as well’’. In these, certain idiomatic uses of ’άλλος and other words are referred to, but no real parallel to this sense of λοιπός can be found, and the connexion [spelling] implied in λοιπός is closer than ’άλλος. The result of the whole discussion is practically to compel us to take τàς λοιπàς γραφάς in the obvious sense ‘‘the rest of the Scriptures,’’ and we cannot escape the conclusion that the Epistles of Paul are classed with these. The intention of the author of 2 Peter seems to be to regard the Pauline Epistles, or those of them that he knew, as γραφαί, because they were read in the churches along with the lessons from the O.T. 24

If one does not agree that this endorsement of Peter includes all of Paul’s writings, at least it cannot be denied that the one document, to which Peter referred was written to his readers by Paul, was endorsed as Scripture. This truth naturally leads to a consideration of inspiration, completion, and preservation of Scripture.

    The complete and authoritative Word of God. If it is believed that The Word of God is complete, and it is, and that nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it, 25 then it must be believed that, what was once considered and attested to as part of The Word of God, is still a part of that same Word of God. If indeed, The Word of God liveth and abideth forever, 26 then God has put His seal upon it and man cannot destroy it, or lose it, or hide it for very long. It must surface again.

It is believed and taught that the church today (and individuals in the church, at least in America) possesses The complete Word of The God.

It is unique in its survival through time. . . . It was written on material that perishes, copied and recopied [hundreds of times] for hundreds of years. . . but did not diminish its style, correctness, nor existence. . . . It has survived time, persecution, and criticism.27

Since God has preserved His Word over a period of four thousand plus years and it is still as valid and true as it was over nineteen hundred years ago, it seems unreasonable to consider that one document, which was apostolically endorsed by Peter should be missing and not known to exist. Huther has reason to say, ‘‘It is plainly entirely arbitrary to assume, with Pott and Morus, that the apostle here refers to an epistle which we do not now possess.28

Perhaps it is from this premise that various attempts are made to identify different Epistles of Paul with the 2 Peter endorsement. Others have claimed it must be lost just like the first Corinthian letter Paul wrote, or the letter to Λαοδίκεια (Lah-oh-déekeh-eeah). But it must be remembered that neither of these letters are endorsed as Scripture. Neither Paul, nor any other person lays claim that they should be included with the canon of Scripture. Nor do the writings of the Church fathers indicate that the churches either circulated or gave authority to them. However, this document to the readers of 2 Peter was so endorsed and apparently circulated, even as 2 Peter, which was a circular letter. Therefore, the question is asked by some writers, ‘‘Which one of Paul’s existing letters in the canon of Scripture is the one to which Peter referred?”

The Search for the Proper Epistle

What seems to be the best way to find the document to which Peter referred? Some, assuming the document to be one of Paul’s Epistles signed by him, have begun an extensive study of the content of Paul’s Epistles and compared the passages dealing with the coming of Christ and the coming judgment with 2 Peter 3. Those who have done this have arrived at different answers proposing different Epistles, none of which agree as to the readership of 2 Peter. It would appear that a better way is to identify the readers of 2 Peter and then see if the probable Epistle or document contains the necessary data and exhortations.

The readers of 2 Peter identified

A look at the opening verse of the Epistle doesn’t help much. It indicates that Peter called those whom he addressed, “them that have obtained like precious faith with us.’’ Zahn appears to be looking for something he hasn’t found. He even expressed that desire in an exclamation in the following quote. He would like some distinction that the readers were Jewish, that is distinct from Gentiles.

The statement of Peter in i.1, that the readers, through the righteousness of our God and Saviour [spelling], Jesus Christ, have obtained faith of like value with that of Peter and his companions (n. 8), might be taken as implying a contrast between the Jewish Christians, in whose name Peter here speaks, and the Gentile Christians, whom he addresses; . . . If there were only something in the context to indicate a distinction between Jews and Gentiles within the Church! The author begins by calling himself by the name which he had always borne, using the form most distinctively Jewish, and then adds the surname which Jesus gave him in token of his position among the disciples, and his place in the future Church (n. 9). Quite in harmony with the use of these two names, he calls himself, from one point of view, a servant of Christ, and from the other, an apostle of Christ.29

He went on to draw a distinction between Jews and Gentiles, but was unable to prove that Peter was written for Jewish Christians alone, even though he noted that ‘‘there is not a single word in 2 Peter which suggests the Gentile character of the readers.’’30

Machen proposes a hypothesis concerning those addressed in the Epistle.

Of itself, ‘them that have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and the Saviour [spelling] Jesus Christ,’ refers to all Christians; but the actual destination of the letter might be narrowed by special instructions to the bearer. The general terms used in the address, therefore, do not exclude the view that the letter was addressed to some special church or group of churches.31

Really the key to the identity of the readers is found in 2 Pet. 3:1. Zahn nearly found it, but missed it by posing a theory that the earlier letter was ‘‘not our 1 Peter, but a letter which has not come down to us.’’32 But recall Huther’s statement above under paragraph titled, The complete and authoritative Word of God (end note 28). Machen discovers it, but modifies its impact by also posing the unorthodox lost letter theory.

The Dispersion - διασπορά

Note how effective Machen’s view would have been without the unorthodox alternative (unorthodox in the light of the doctrines of inspiration, completion, and preservation of Scripture).

The destination of the letter would be fixed if the interpretation of II Peter 3.1, ‘This is now, beloved, the second epistle that I write unto you,’ were certain. If these words refer to our First Epistle of Peter, then the readers of Second Peter were the same as the readers of First Peter -- they were the Christians of Asia Minor.33

Several writers concur with this view. McNeile, in writing about 1 Peter stated,

The epistle is addressed to ‘elect sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia’ (i. l), which means Christians who are the true Israel dispersed in the provinces mentioned.34

Bigg noted,

‘υμîν (see iii. I) means probably the Asiatic Christians to whom 1 Peter was addressed, possibly some other Church or group of Churches. Whoever they were, they had received a letter (or possibly letters) from St. Paul.35

and in another place he wrote,

The words which we find in iii. I, ‘‘this second Epistle I write unto you,’’ have generally been taken to mean that 2 Peter was addressed to the same Churches as the first. Some critics, notably Spitta and Zahn, deny this, chiefly on the ground that the former letter here referred to does not appear to have dealt with the same topics as 1 Peter. But this is not a conclusive reason. . . . There is no reason why the apostle, having written to the Diaspora such an Epistle as 1 Peter, should not within a very short time have written to the same people one just like 2 Peter. . . . There is nothing in the body of the Epistle to show that the recipients of 2 Peter were not the same as those of 1 Peter. . . . If 2 Peter was not directed to the Churches of Asia Minor, we do not know what was its destination, though we may feel quite certain that, like all other Epistles, it was addressed to the Christian community of some particular district and not to the Church at large. Beyond a doubt this is the impression which the author wishes to convey. These people had received a particular letter from St. Paul, a particular letter from St. Peter, and were exposed at the time to a particular danger.36

It is concluded that in 2 Pet. 3:1, Peter was referring to his First Epistle to those of the διασπορά in the provinces of Asia Minor. However, the references to true Israel and the inclusion of Gentile Christians, though held by numerous writers, is not borne out by a word study of διασπορά. It is found in the Septuagint twelve times, and is always used of Jews ‘‘dispersed’’ or ‘‘scattered’’ among the Gentile nations.37 It is not found in the papyri and other non literary sources.38 It is found only twice in classical literature where it means ‘‘scattering” or “dispersion.’’ 38 It is found In the New Testament only three times (John 7:35 James 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:1).39 In John 7:35 the meaning is clearly spelled out. The Jews questioned among themselves, ‘‘Will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles?’’ In James 1:1 there is no question that it refers to Jewish Christians -- ‘‘to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.’’ It seems unreasonable to make Peter’s use of this word, which is unanimously used to refer to the Jews, refer to Gentile Christians. Grant said that 1 Peter was ‘‘written to ‘the exiles of the dispersion’ in Asia Minor.”40 Peter used the term the same way that James used it to refer to Jewish Christians which are scattered among the Gentiles in places other than in Palestine. Kent concurs by stating, ‘‘The Epistles of James and Peter are not addressed to one congregation, but to Jewish readers over a wide area of the Diaspora.’’42

There is another consideration which adds support to this view. The verb form διασπείρω is found also only three times in the New Testament (Acts 8:1,4; 11:19). In Acts 8:1,4 it refers to the Jewish Christians, which were severely persecuted by their own countrymen in Jerusalem, that were scattered abroad and ‘‘went every where preaching The Word.’’ In Acts 11:19 these scattered or dispersed Jewish Christians traveled to preach The Word to Jews only. ‘‘Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching The Word to none but the Jews only.’’ This indicates that very likely there were ‘‘bodies’’ of Jewish Christians dotted throughout the Near East and further supports the fact that there would be a reason for Peter to address Jewish Christians. Jewish Christians of the διασπορά preached to Jews only. Here is the distinction Zahn was seeking.43

Peter addressed these Jewish Christians as ‘‘strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.’’ These are all provinces of Asia Minor. In their attempt to identify the document Paul wrote to these of the διασπορά, writers have suggested Galatians and Ephesians among others. Geographically both of these are from one part of that area. Both of these are circular type letters but neither fits the category of being written to Hebrew Christians, nor of being sent to all five provinces of Asia Minor, and neither are a document different from Paul’s Epistles. Then, is there not any writing of the New Testament which is anonymous or identified as Pauline and fits this description? What about Hebrews?

How Hebrews fits the description

Hebrews is a circular document, called a letter or Epistle (13:22), which was written to Jews who suffered persecution (10:34; 12:3,4) rather than a specific letter to a specified destination. In this respect it is similar to Second Peter. Huther said, ‘‘the document to which the author alludes is, by ’έγραψεν ‘υμîν, indicated as one addressed to the same circle of readers as Second Peter.”44 Concerning Hebrews Selby wrote, ‘‘This document is, to begin with, neither a letter nor an epistle.’’45 This statement contradicts the author’s own description, “. . . ’επέστειλα ‘υμîν.” - “I sent an epistle to you” (13:22).

In reference to whom it was addressed Zahn wrote, ‘‘It would be more plausible to assume that Hebrews was addressed to a group of Jewish Christian Churches outside of Jerusalem.’’ Although Zahn can accept the readership of Hebrews to be the same as 2 Peter, he has difficulty with authorship, but evidently prefers Paul. He exclaimed, ‘‘If only Paul had written Hebrews, or if the author of 2 Peter could have regarded Hebrews as a work of his!’’ The consistent use of the Septuagint in Hebrews would indicate that the Hebrew readers are more fluent in Greek than in Hebrew and therefore dwelling among Greek speaking Gentiles, thus the διασπορά.

Eusebius wrote of Clement of Alexander, who endorsed Pauline authorship ‘‘in the Hypotyposeis, . . . And as for the Epistle to the Hebrews, he says indeed that it was Paul’s.’’46 Guthrie discusses the form of the letter and indicates that

“style, method of argument and various incidental indications (e.g. ‘time would fail me to tell,’ xi.32) point rather to a sermon. And the form of the epistle presents certain problems. . . . Yet its oratorical character almost demands that it was originally a spoken sermon.”46

It is noted, therefore, that Hebrews is a circular letter written to Hebrew Christians outside of Palestine among Greek speaking Gentiles. It is an unusual document and not in form like other epistles, but with oratorical character. However, it contains a personal touch in the last chapter, especially its conclusion (10:39; 13:18-25).

The Longsuffering of The Lord of ours. Peter’s reference (3:15) to what Paul wrote to the διασπορά regarded “the longsuffering of The Lord of ours.” There are four references to this in the Epistle to the Hebrews quoted from A Precise translation herewith.

For it is proper for Him, for the sake of Whom |are| all the things and through Whom all the things |are existing| in order to lead many sons unto glory, to perfectly complete The Originator of our /Salvation through sufferings (Heb. 2:10).

Even though being 0Son, He learned by practice the obedience by things which He suffered. And He, being made perfect, became 0Causer of Eternal Salvation to all the ones continually obeying Him (Heb. 5:8,9).

Neither that He offer Himself many times, even as the high priest repeatedly entering into the Holy Places era by era with a stranger’s blood since it would be absolutely necessary for Him to suffer many times from world’s 0foundation. But now once for ever before consummation of the ages He stands displayed for nullification of sin through the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:25,26).

Wherefore Jesus also, in order that He sanctify the people by means of His own blood, suffered without the gate. Surely now let us exit to Him without the camp and continually bear the defamation of His! (Heb. 13:12).Counterproposals to the Main Objections

To Pauline Authorship

It was noted under the heading, ‘‘The Problem,’’ that Guthrie listed five areas which are given as grounds for the denial of Pauline authorship. These are addressed and answered as follows.

(1) Anonymity and lack of apostolic claim

It is often pointed out that Hebrews is written anonymously. This is answered by Clement of Alexander in the Hypotyposeis, which is worded by Eusebius.

And as for the Epistle to the Hebrews, he says indeed that it is Paul’s, but that it was written for Hebrews in the Hebrew tongue, and that Luke, having carefully translated it, published it for the Greeks; hence, as a result of this translation, the same complexion of style is found in this Epistle and in the Acts: but that the words ‘‘Paul an apostle’’ were naturally not prefixed. For, says he, ‘‘in writing to Hebrews who had conceived a prejudice against him and were suspicious of him, he very wisely did not repel them at the beginning by putting his name. . . . [Then lower down he adds:] But now, as the blessed elder used to say, “Since the Lord, being the apostle of the Almighty, was sent to the Hebrews, Paul, through modesty, since he had been sent to the Gentiles, does not inscribe himself as an apostle of the Hebrews, both to give due deference to The Lord and because he wrote to the Hebrews also out of his abundance, being a preacher and apostle of the Gentiles.47

Whether Hebrews was first written in Hebrew and then translated into Greek or not, has not been accurately substantiated. However, Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles and it has been noted that the Hebrews of the διασπορά intended to preach only to Jews, indicating an attitude of separatism. The Gentiles were despised. It is possible that Paul sensed the lack of credibility among the Hellenist Jewish Christians. There was an example of this spirit of separatism evidenced in Acts 6;1 which resulted in the selection of the first seven deacons from among the Hellenists. It appears that these Hellenistic Jews were known as Hebrews in contrast with Gentiles, but Hellenists in contrast with Palestinian Jews. If Paul wisely discerned this attitude, he would not want to alienate the readers, before they read the treatise.

Jerome concurs by writing ‘‘though to be sure, since Paul was writing to Hebrews and was in disrepute among them he may have omitted his name from the salutation on this account.’’48

(2) Discrepancy in style

The purpose of writing to Hebrews is different than that of Paul’s other Epistles and the readers have a different relationship. Paul admitted in 2 Cor. 11:6 and 1 Cor. 2:4,5 that he used rudeness of speech and not polished grammar and man’s wisdom in order that the faith of the Gentiles might stand in the power of God (1 Cor. 2:5).

Eusebius records Origin’s discussion of Hebrews, in his Homilies upon it:

That the character of the diction of the epistle entitled To the Hebrews has not the apostle’s rudeness in speech, who confessed himself rude in speech, that is, in style, but that the epistle is better Greek in the framing of its diction, will be admitted by everyone who is able to discern differences of style. But again, on the other hand, that the thoughts of the epistle are admirable, and not inferior to the acknowledged writings of the apostle, to this also everyone will consent as true who has given attention to reading the apostle.49

Paul was brought up in Jerusalem ‘‘at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers’’ (Acts 22:3). Therefore, he knew the operation of the temple worship, which was based upon the tabernacle worship in the wilderness. He knew the Rabbinic teachings and Hebrew law and could wax eloquent in speech (1 Cor. 2:1-5), but usually didn’t for the sake of Christ. But in a treatise to Hebrew Christians he would certainly use a different style from that rudeness used in a letter to Gentile Christians for whom he was responsible.

Numerous examples of vocabulary usage such as: milk (1 Cor. 3:2 cf. 5:12-14)50, subject matter: Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:5, 1 Cor. 12:11 cf. 2:4; 10:15, 29; 6:4); coming judgment (Rom. 12:19 cf. 10:26-31); coming of Christ (1 Thes. 4:13-17 cf.10:36, 37); redemption (Tit. 2:14 cf. 9:12; Eph. 1:7,14; Rom. 3:24 cf. 9:15; the blood of Christ (Eph. 1:7: 2:13; Col. 1:14, 20 cf. 9:12, 14; 10:29); mediator (Gal. 3:19,20; 1 Tim. 2:5 cf. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24); righteousness by faith (Rom. 4:13; 9:30; 10:6; Gal. 5:5; Phil. 3:9); God of Peace (Rom. 15:33; 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; Col. 3:15; 1 Thes. 5:23 cf. 13:20); bondage (Rom. 8:15,21; Gal. 4:24; 5:1 cf. Heb. 2:15); and many others; and the trilogy using the theme of the Epistle (the text from Hab. 2:4, ‘‘The just shall live by faith.’’ Hebrews completes the teaching from the theme -- “The Faith,” when coupled with the Romans theme -- ‘‘The Just’’and the Galatians theme -- ‘‘Shall Live’’), all reveal close proximity to Paul’s Epistles to the Gentiles, especially Romans and Galatians.

(3)Lack of mention of personal experiences

      Although Paul makes very limited mention of personal experiences, he does mention himself and makes request in the last chapter similarly to the way Paul mentions himself and makes request in other Epistles: ‘‘Pray for us’’ (13:18 cf. 1 Thes. 5:25); his manner of life in a good conscience (13:18 cf. 2 Cor. 1:12); his beseeching the hearers (13:19, 22 cf. Rom. 12:1; Eph. 4:1; 1 Cor. 1:10); his intention to see them shortly (13:23 cf. 1 Cor. 4:19; Phil. 2:24); his salutations are similar (13:24,25 cf. 2 Tim. 4:19, 22; Col. 4:15, 18, 23, 25; Phil. 4:21-23). There is a variant reading (10:34), which indicates that the author of Hebrews was in bonds and the recipient of compassion by the Hebrews. This is supported by original Aleph, second corrector of Claremontanus, the majority manuscripts, and Clement of Alexander -- i.e. a good spread: Alexandrian, main Western, and Byzantine texts, all support the fact.

(4) Diverse doctrinal emphasis

      This is to be expected when the readers of Paul’s other Epistles and those of Hebrews are considered, and the purposes of writing are contrasted.

(5) Reference to the confirmation of Christ’s message in 2:3

      It is claimed that this verse indicates that the author received his message from those who heard Christ and not directly, therefore was not one of the apostles. Consequently the author could not be Paul, since Paul was an apostle and claimed direct revelation from Christ. In reference to this Kent wrote,

The writer places himself among those to whom the message of Christ was confirmed by others (2:3), whereas Paul always insisted that he received his gospel not from men (Gal. 1:12). This objection is not insuperable. . . , and did not seem to be significant to the early Fathers; but it is considered serious by many.51

Heb. 2:3 does not say that they did not hear the message from The Lord, but only that it was confirmed by those who heard Him. The objection seems to be making much over little. A confirmation may be an attestation to facts already known and previously observed. βεβαιόω means ‘‘to make firm, to establish.’’52 It would seem other witnesses would serve to do that. ‘‘In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established’’ (2 Cor. 13:1). Kent answered the objection by explaining that

‘‘the ‘we’ of course is the customary way of including an author among his readers as a matter of courtesy. It takes us back to 1:2 where God is said to have spoken to ‘us,’ (which included the writer, Christian readers, and in a general way all men).’’53

This passage does not need to be a problem passage unless one wants to make it such. It seems that conclusive evidence against Pauline authorship is wanting. In light of the historic assumed attribution of authorship to Paul and the attestation of Scripture, it should seem apparent that the author of Hebrews was indeed Paul.

Conclusion

The sum of what has been written is this. The apostle Peter wrote two circular Epistles to the Jewish or Hebrew Christians dispersed throughout the provinces of Asia Minor. In the Second Epistle he endorsed a document written by Paul to these same Hebrew Christians, which he classified “with all his Epistles,” as Scripture (2 Pet. 3:15,16). This apostolic endorsement included all of Paul’s Epistles. It is therefore necessary, because of belief in the doctrine of inspiration, completion, and preservation, to identify this document which is included in the canon of Scripture. The only unidentified treatise-type Epistle which is in the canon of Scripture is the book of Hebrews. It is concluded that this is the document to which Peter referred.

The objections which are raised against Pauline authorship are not new and the main objections were answered by Origen, Clement of Alexander, and Jerome. Eusebius confirmed their testimony. Counter-proposals were proffered to each of the five objections. Since the church had accepted Pauline authorship for so many centuries, it would seem that there was good reason for such acknowledgment and belief. Origin confirms this, ‘‘For not without reason have the men of old time handed it down as Paul’s.’’54

This paper has reflected thorough investigation of that reason and provides evidence for a return to the historic attribution of Hebrew authorship to Paul as the Scripture attests.


End Notes

1And ‘‘Before the end of the first century Clement of Rome used Hebrews in writing to the Corinthians.’’ Everett F. Harrison, Introduction to the New Testament, revised ed. (Grand Rapids; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971), p. 367.

2Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction 4th revised ed. (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1990), p. 670.

3Guthrie, p. 671.

4Harrison, p. 368.

5Guthrie, p. 687.

6Adolf Jülicher, An Introduction to the New Testament. Trans. Janet Penrose (London: Smith, Elder, and Company, 1904), p. 154.

7 Jülicher, p. 688.

8Eusebius The Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 2 of 2 vols., Loeb Classical Library, p. 77.

9Theodor Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament, Vol. 3 of 3 vols. Trans. John Moore Trout et al. Reprint ed.(Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1953), p.199.

10A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures of the New Testament, Vol. 6 of 6 vols. (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), P. 139.

11Charles Bigg, The Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude in The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, ed. Charles Augustus Briggs, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Alfred Plummer (New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1003), p. 15.

12A. T. Robertson, 6:178.

13A. T. Robertson, 6:179.

14Henry Alford, The Greek Testament, Vol. 4 of 4 vols. (London: Rivingtons, Waterloo Place and Deighten, Bell and Co., 1861), p. 419.

15 A variant, which, it is thought, may not be significant, is noted in the critical text; χ, P, and majority for ταîς; P72 ,ABC, Ψ3, and others omit it. Eberhard Nestle, Novum Testamentum Graece 26th ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 1979), P. 614.

16 Joh. Ed. Huther, A Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the General Epistles of Peter and Jude (Edinburgh: T. & T. dark, 1881), pp. 374-375.

17A. Robert and A. Feuillet, Introduction to the New Testament, Trans. Patrick W. Skehan et al. (New York et al.: Desclee Company, 1965), p. 586.

17Eusebius The Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 2 of 2 vols., Loeb Classical Library, p. 77.

18Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men, Trans. Ernest Gushing Richardson, in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, 1st series, edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Ware, Vol. 3 of 14 vols. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1953), p. 361.

19J. Greshem Machen, The New Testament: An Introduction to its Literature and History, ed. W. John Cook (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1976), p. 256.

20Marcus Dodds, An Introduction to the New Testament (London: Hodder and Stroughton, 1909), p. 209.

21Harrison, p. 426.

22Guthrie, p. 850.

23Charles Bigg, p. 300.

24E. H. Strachan, The 2nd Epistle General of Peter in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll, Vol. 5 of 5 vols. reprint ed.(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), p. 147.

25Deut. 4:2; Eccles. 3:14; Rev. 22:18,19.

26Ps. 119:89; Matt. 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:23,25.

27 Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict (n.p.:Campus Crusade for Christ International, Inc., 1972), pp. 21-24.

28Huther, p. 374.

29Zahn, p. 206.

30Zahn, p. 207.

31Machen, p. 256.

32Zahn, p. 198.

33Machen, p. 256.

34A. H. McNeile, An Introduction to the Study of the New Testament, 2nd ed. C. S. C. Williams (Oxford: at the Clarendon Press, 1953), p. 214.

35Bigg, p. 299.

36Bigg, pp. 237-238.

37Edwin Hatch and Henry A. Redpath, A Concordance to the Septuagint (Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck -- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1975), p. 311.

38James Hope Moulton and George Mulligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), p. 154.

39Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon; reprint ed. (Oxford: at the Clarendon Press, 1978), p. 412.

40W. F. Moulton and A. S. Geden, A Concordance to the Greek Testament; 5th ed; reprint ed. (Edinburgh: T. & T. dark, 1963), p. 206.

41Robert M. Grant, A Historical Introduction to the New Testament (New York and Evanston: Harper and Row, 1963), p. 229.

42Homer A. Kent, Jr., The Epistle To the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972), p. 13.

43Zahn, p. 198.

44Huther, p. 374 (emphasis mine).

45Donald J. Selby, Introduction to the New Testament! ‘‘The Word became Flesh.’’ (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1971), p. 419.

46Zahn, p. 343.

47Zahn, p. 199.

45Eusebius, p. 47.

46Guthrie, pp. 724-725.

47Eusebius, p. 47.

48Jerome, p. 363.

49Eusebius, p. 77.

50Kent, p. 18.

51Kent, p. 19.

52Walter Baur, A Greek-English Lexicon of the Hew Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Trans. William F. Arndt and P. Wilbur Gingrich (Chicago; The University of Chicago Press, 1957), P. 138.

53Kent, p. 49.

54Eusebius, p. 77.

| | understood $singular &plural /the 0no article +masculine ~neuter
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