I was thinking a little today about the theory of authorship that has Paul preaching a sermon in Hebrew and Luke translating it into Greek. There are some qualities about this theory that make it attractive (i.e. the excellent quality of the Greek, similar phrases in Acts, etc.). But as I was pondering this theory, a few questions came to my mind:
1. If Paul preached this sermon in Hebrew, we must ask ourselves if Luke knew Hebrew well enough to translate it into Greek? We know from Acts 21.40 and 22.2 that Paul spoke to the people in Hebrew (at least he did in this instance), but do we know that Luke understood Hebrew well enough to translate it into excellent Greek. Along these same lines, the rhetorical devices used in Hebrews is amazing. Are there similar ones that were used in Hebrew that would translate over into Greek?
2. If we assume that Paul originally preached the contents of Hebrews in Hebrew, then the were his readers exclusively Jewish Christians? Were they former Jewish Priests in Jerusalem (Spicq)? This possibly changes the geographic location and purpose of Hebrews.
3. If Hebrews was a sermon transcribed and translated into Greek, what about chapter 13? Did Luke write that or was that also Paul’s doing? Chapter 13 seems to be more of an epistle than a sermon, but who wrote it?
4. Was Paul’s sermon transcribed while he was preaching it, or was it written down first, and then translated into Greek? Did Luke translated Paul’s sermon as he was preaching it, or did he just shorthand it all and then later add the rhetoric that makes it so beautiful?
5. Where the Old Testament quotations by Paul from the Hebrew text or the LXX (for example, what of the OT quote in Heb. 1.6)?
6. Was the Hebrew sermon preached by Paul inspiried, or was it the Greek that we have now in written form?
Maybe these questions are easier to answer than I realize, but they were going through my mind today as I pondered the authorship of Hebrews. If Luke did in fact translate Paul’s sermon from Hebrew into Greek, then he is quite the scholar and linguist, along with the doctor and historian.
Note: I also picked up Luke T. Johnson’s new commentary on Hebrews.