So, who wrote Hebrews?


This is a question that has been asked since the final stroke of the pen. It is a question that has been debated by all sides. I have just finished reading the introduction in Ellingworth’s commentary on Hebrews, and he has surveyed all of the possibilities of authorship. They range from Paul to Apollos; Barnabas to Luke; Priscilla to the virgin Mary. Ellingworth has left no stone unturned. He has interrogated the suspects, which in turn have left us many clues to consider.

The majority if church history has regarded Paul as the author of Hebrews. But in light of Heb. 2.3, it would seem that Paul could not have been the author of this sermon/epistle. Heb 2.3 says that the gospel “was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard.” It is hard to see Paul as the author of this epistle, because he says that he “did not receive it [the gospel] from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” Gal. 1.12. There is also the matter of style, vocabulary, theology. Also, according to Ellingworth “the idea of Pauline authorship of Hebrews is now universally abandoned.” (Ellingworth, pg. 3).

But who then is the author of this literary masterpiece? There is no clear answer, for the evidence for each of the suspects is not as conclusive as one would hope. Involved in the question of authorship is also the question of the date of Hebrews composition, the geographical place if was written to, the circumstances that led to it’s writing, and the ethnicity of the recipients. All of these make factors make it quite impossible for us to know who the guilty party is.

Some of the things we can deduce from Hebrews is that whoever the author is, he knew his readers quite well. There is a pastoral care and concern that runs throughout Hebrews. Whether it is a concern that his readers do not fall away, or a concern that they understand some important doctrinal truth, the author deeply cared for his readers.

So in determining the author of Hebrews, we are not on solid ground. All of the evidence for a particular author is not as air tight as we would like. I do think that the evidence for non-Pauline authorship is quite strong, but nevertheless it to is not air tight. So I would agree with the words of Origen: “But who wrote the epistle, in truth God knows” (taken from Ellingworth, pg. 5).

17 thoughts on “So, who wrote Hebrews?

  1. Sept. 20, 2006

    To Dr. Christianna Stewart,

    I am delighted to read that you think Priscilla may have written Hebrews. I
    have written extensively on Priscilla’s authorship of Hebrews. I can post a summary of the case for Priscilla if anyone is interested. Also, you can read my article, “Advocates for Priscilla” in the Winter 2006 edition of E-Quality. Go to http://www.cbeinternational.org, click on E-Quality, and find my article in the archives.

  2. I have been increasing convinced of Pricillan authorship over the last 14 years when I first read of an arguement for it. I think the stongest arguement is the question where we must all start.
    Why did the author wish to be anonymous?
    If the author was a women, it would be read by men in a man’s world.
    It has been said; this strongest point of all creates a problem of it’s own. The problem; Who would treat the epistle with the respect it deserved without knowing who wrote it. This of course has been answered by 2000 years of acceptance.
    The traditional fundamental attitude toward women prevented previous generations from considering Pricilla. Now conservatives run from the idea because it’s being heralded by ‘Evangelical Feminists’ as some sort of triumph that a women wrote part of our sciptures.
    I am very conservative and it is from a very high view of scipture that I see Pricillan authorship as a very good possibility.
    It is a classic case of ‘clowns to left and jokers to right’. We should all refuse to consider the agenda of some modern authors and evaluate the arguements they make solely on the strength and merit of their own.
    We will not know this side of glory who wrote Hebrews, but I am convinced, Pricilla is as likely as any and as for now, it is the direction I lean.

  3. Hello, Clifford. My name is Lane Keister. Came across your blog looking for references to Philip Towner (I’m trying to find out if he has a blog: it doesn’t look like it).

    But I have a question for you: have you examined the force of “ebebaiothe” in Hebrews 2:3? “Attested” is a very poor translation. The idea is more of “confirm.” If that is so, then there is no material difference between what Hebrews 2:3 is saying and what Galatians 2:2, where Paul wanted to confirm that he had not been running in vain (yes, the construction is different. But the thought is similar). However, Hebrew people would want to know that Paul’s message was not original with him. Therefore, Paul in Hebrews (I do think Paul wrote Hebrews, contra 99.99% of modern scholarship and contra quite a bit of older scholarship as well) does not have the same issues regarding his apostleship as he does in other books where he is forced to defend himself. In short, I am firmly convinced that 2:3 cannot be used against Pauline authorship. I do realize, of course, that that conclusion does not force Pauline authorship. I am amazed that modern scholarship is so cock-sure of their interpretation of 2:3, that they assume that that is what it means! I have not found a single modern scholar, for instance, who has interacted with John Owen’s rather detailed refutation of such an interpretation. After all, Owen (who believed in Pauline authorship) did read 2:3 and felt that an explanation was necessary as to why the verse did not preclude Pauline authorship. What do you think?

  4. How about Jude?

    1. Jude started to write an epistle about their common “salvation” but changed to his writing of the shorter epistle (Jude 3) I suggest that this work is the Epistle to the Hebrews.

    2. I also suggest that the epistle that Auctor wrote (ἐπέστειλα) in a “few words” is Jude, a short epistle (Heb. 13:22).

    3. Could Auctor be referring to his own epistle as brief? It is the third longest epistle in the NT, after Romans and 1 Corinthians (NA27). The suggestion that Auctor is referring to different document than that which he is now sending them explains the mysterious καὶ at the beginning of his statement: καὶ γὰρ διὰ βραχέων ἐπέστειλα ὑμῖν (“For I also wrote to you an epistle with few words”). Translators ignore this conjunction. Furthermore, his use of the verb ἐπέστειλα refers to a specific letter which Auctor wrote. He did not use the word ἔγραψα , which was way a writer referred to his present writing: Rom. 15:15; 1 Cor. 5:11; 9:15; Gal. 6:11; Philemon 9, 21; 1 Pet. 5:12; 1 John 2:14, 21, 26; 5:13; 3 John 9. This verb (ἐπέστειλα ) only occurs elsewhere in reference to the so-called Apostolic Letter (Acts 15:20; 21:25). I believe Auctor used this specific word so that his readers would understand that he was referring to a previous letter and not the sermon he is currently sending to them!

    4. Hebrews deals much with the theme of “salvation.” The noun appears in 1:14; 2:3; 2:10; 5:9; 6:9; 9:28; 11:7). The verb appears in 5:7; 7:25.

    5. Jude is an “exhortation” (Jude 3) very similar to the hortatory thrust of Hebrews. The noun occurs in Hebrews 6:18; 12:5; 13:22 (where it appears to be a self description of the work). The verbal appears in 3:13; 10:25; 13:19, 22. The large number of hortatory subjunctives in Hebrews also illustrate its character as an “exhortataion.”

    6. Both works are viewed by scholars as examples of an early Christian sermon. A sermon is here defined as a sustained exposition of Scripture (not occasional comments as are found in Pauline letters). This involves not only the citation of a text but an explanation of the text(s). This is quite obvious in Jude (5-19) and is characteristic of Hebrews throughout the work (see, e.g., 10:5-7).

    7. Hebrews focuses on the exposition and application of two primary texts (Psalm 110 and Hab. 2:4), with a number of secondary texts. Jude deals in the body of his sermon (5-19) with the citation and exposition of four main “texts.”

    8. In addition to the use of canonical Jewish scripture, both books refer to events recorded in non-canonical writings (Hebrews 11:35-38; Jude 9, 14-15).

    9. Both books contain an extended benediction (Hebrews 13:20-21; Jude 24-25). These benedictions include a prayer that God would “keep” their readers and that God would “equip” their readers. These are the only extended benedictions in the NT books that add such a prayer that is appropriate to the specific circumstances of their readers. (The textual status of Rom. 16:25-27 is disputed).

    10. Each book shares a more elevated literary style compared to other books of the NT. This is a very general characteristic and when examined does not seem to be statistically significant. No one, however, mistakes the Greek style of Hebrews and Jude with Paul’s or John’s.

    11. Only the authors of Hebrews (11:5) and Jude (14) refer to Enoch and use him to make their point. (Enoch’s name is mentioned in the genealogy of Luke 3:37)

  5. I dnt knw but if it was paul why would he choose to be annonymous all of a sudden? And i also think it was written by a woman bt the question remains, which one?

  6. Why does it matter Christians? The spirit of the episitle is what matters most no? I lean towards Paul based on evidence as discussed in Greenbaggins post.
    It reads “masculine” as in authoritarian, to me.
    But male/female doesn’t matter when it comes to Gods’ truth, does it? Of course not!

    I think many a lukewarm Christian best read this epistle with the aid of the Holy Spirit only, to benefit from its exhortations and eternal warnings.

    THIS is what we should be discussing most of all;
    Rejections, backslidings, melding holy with unholy,
    pride, anger, greed, sloth, entering Gods rest, etc.

    This is what Hebrews is meant for.

    You wanna break down the Arameic or Greek or
    whatever translation, fine but….do it in the spirit of the word, not the letter of the (law) word.

  7. At the end of In Chapter 13 of Hebrews, the writer, mentions that Timothy has been release from prison we know was one of the people who worked along side Paul. We know the writer was in Italy because it clear states that people from Italy sends there greetings. We Paul was in Rome because, when the Jews tried to put him to death he, told them that he was Roman citizen and requested to be heard by Caesar. This leads me to believe it was either written by Paul or dictated by Paul.

  8. It’s a most inspirational book….and one of my favorites….regardless of the author….. We all know where the “inspiration” came from for the written word. Amen?

  9. Perhaps, and I’m considering the options, but Clement seems a possibility. Anyone done comparative work on 1st Clement and Hebrews?

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