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§ 100. The Epistle To The Hebrews.

I. Commentaries on Hebrews by Chrysostom (d. 407, ἑρμηνεία, in 34 Homilies publ. after his death by an Antioch. presbyter, Constantinus); Theodoret (d. 457); Oecumenius (10th cent.); Theophylact (11th cent.); Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274); Erasmus (d. 1536, Annotationes in N. T., with his Greek Test., 1516 and often, and Paraphrasis in N. T., 1522 and often); Card. Cajetanus (Epistolae Pauli, etc., 1531); Calvin (d. 1564, Com. in omnes P. Ep. atque etiam in Ep. ad Hebraeos, 1539 and often, also Halle, 1831); Beza (d. 1605, transl. and notes, 1557 and often; had much influence on King Jame’s Version); Hyperius (at Marburg, d. 1564); Dav. Pareus (d. 1615, Com. in Ep. ad Hebr.); Corn. A Lapide (Jesuit, d. 1637, Com. in omnes Pauli Epp., 1627 and often); Guil. Estius (R. C. Prof. at Douai, 1614, etc.); Jac. Cappellus (Sedan, 1624); Lud. Cappellus (Geneva, 1632); Grotius (d. 1645, Arminian, a great classical and general scholar); Joh. Gerhard (d. 1637); John Owen (the great Puritan divine, d. 1683, Exercitations on the Epistle to the Hebrews, London, 1668–80, in 4 vols. fol., Lat. transl., Amsterd., 1700 [new Engl. ed. in 7 vols., in his Works, Lond., 1826, 21 vols.; Edinb. ed. of Works by W. H. Goold, 1850–55; 24 vols., Philad. reprint, 1869], "a work of gigantic strength as well as gigantic size," as Chalmers called it, and containing a whole system of Puritan theology); Jac. Pierce (Non-conformist, d. 1726); Sykes (d. 1756); Carpzov (d. 1803, Exercitat., etc., 1750); J. D. Michaelis (2d ed., 1780–86, 2 vols.); Rosenmüller (1793); Storr (d. 1805; Tüb., 1789); Böhme (Lips., 1825); Mos. Stuart (Andover, 1827, 2 vols., 4th ed., abridged and revised by Robbins, 1860); Kühnöl (1831); Friedrich Bleek (Prof. in Bonn., d. 1859; the large Com. in 3 vols., Berlin, 1836–40, an exegetical masterpiece, most learned, critical, candid, judicious, and reverential, though free; his Lectures on Hebrews were ed., after his death, by Windrath, 1868); Tholuck (Hamburg, 1836, dedicated to Bunsen, 3d ed., 1850, transl. by James Hamilton, Edinb., 1852); Stier (1842); DeWette (1847, 2d ed.); Ebrard (1850, in Olshausen’s Com., vol. v.; Engl. transl., Edinb., 1853); Turner (new ed. N. Y., 1855); Sampson (ed. by Dabney, N. Y., 1856); Lünemann (in Meyer’s Com., 1857, 4th ed., 1878); Delitzsch (1857, transl. by Th. L. Kingsbury, Edinb., 1868, 2 vols.); John Brown (Edinb., 1862, 2 vols.); Reuss (in French, 1862); Lindsay (Edinb., 1867, 2 vols.); Moll (in Lange’s Com., translated and enlarged by Kendrick, 1868); Ripley (1868); Kurtz (1869); Ewald (1870); Hofmann (1873); Biesenthal (1878); Bloomfield; Alford; Wordsworth; W. Kay (in the Speaker’s Com. N. T, vol. iv., 1882); Moulton (in Ellicott’s Com. for English Readers); A. B. Davidson (of the New College, Edinburgh. 1882); Angus (1883); Sam. T. Lowrie (1884); Weiss (1888).

II. The doctrinal system of the Ep. has been most fully expounded by Riehm (d. 1888 in Halle): Der Lehrbegriff des Hebräerbriefs, Basel und Ludwigsburg, 1858–59, 2 vols.; new ed., 1867, in 1 vol. (899 pages). Comp. the expositions of Neander, Messner, Baur, Reuss, and Weiss. On the use of the O. T., see Tholuck: Das A. T. im N., Hamb., 3d ed., 1849; on the Christology of the Epistle, Beyerschlag: Christologie des N. T. (1866), 176 sqq.; on the Melchisedek priesthood, Auberlen, in "Studien und Kritiken" for 1857, pp. 453 sqq. Pfleiderer, in his Paulinismus (pp. 324–366), treats of Hebrews, together with Colossians and the Epistle of Barnabas, as representing Paulinism under the influence of Alexandrinism.

III. On the introductory questions, comp. Norton in the: "Christian Examiner" (Boston), 1827–29; Olshausen: De auctore Ep. ad Hebraeos (in Opusc. theol., 1834); Wieseler: Untersuchung über den Hebraeerbrief, Kiel, 1861; J. H. Thayer: Authorship and Canonicity of the to the Hebrews, in the "Bibliotheca Sacra," Andover, 1867; Zahn, in Herzog’s "Encykl.," vol. v. (1879), pp. 656–671; and articles in "Bible Dictionaries," and in "Encycl. Brit.," 9th ed., vol. xi., 602 sqq.

The anonymous Epistle "to the Hebrews," like the Book of Job, belongs to the order of Melchizedek, combining priestly unction and royal dignity, but being "without father, without mother, without pedigree, having neither beginning of days nor end of life" (Heb. 7:1–3). Obscure in its origin, it is clear and deep in its knowledge of Christ. Hailing from the second generation of Christians (2:3), it is full of pentecostal inspiration. Traceable to no apostle, it teaches, exhorts, and warns with apostolic authority and power. Though not of Paul’s pen, it has, somehow, the impress of his genius and influence, and is altogether worthy to occupy a place in the canon, after his Epistles, or between them and the Catholic Epistles. Pauline in spirit, it is catholic or encyclical in its aim.12101210    See notes at the end of the section.


The Epistle to the Hebrews is not an ordinary letter. It has, indeed, the direct personal appeals, closing messages, and salutations of a letter; but it is more, it is a homily, or rather a theological discourse, aiming to strengthen the readers in their Christian faith, and to protect them against the danger of apostasy from Christianity. It is a profound argument for the superiority of Christ over the angels, over Moses, and over the Levitical priesthood, and for the finality of the second covenant. It unfolds far more fully than any other book the great idea of the eternal priesthood and sacrifice of Christ, offered once and forever for the redemption of the world, as distinct from the national and transient character of the Mosaic priesthood and the ever-repeated sacrifices of the Tabernacle and the Temple. The author draws his arguments from the Old Testament itself, showing that, by its whole character and express declarations, it is a preparatory dispensation for the gospel salvation, a significant type and prophecy of Christianity, and hence destined to pass away like a transient shadow of the abiding substance. He implies that the Mosaic oeconomy was still existing, with its priests and daily sacrifices, but in process of decay, and looks forward to the fearful judgment which a few years, afterward destroyed the Temple forever.12111211    Heb. 9:8, "while as the first tabernacle is yet standing" (τῆς πρώτης σκηνῆς ἐχούσης στάσιν); 9:6, "the priests go in continually" (εἰσίασιν, not went in, as in the E. V.); 8:4; 13:10; 6:8; 8:13; 10:25, 27; 12:27. Those who assign the composition to a time after the destruction of Jerusalem, deprive the present tenses of their natural import and proper effect. He interweaves pathetic admonitions and precious consolations with doctrinal expositions, and every exhortation leads him to a new exposition. Paul puts the hortatory part usually at the end.

The author undoubtedly belonged to the Pauline school, which emphasized the great distinction between the Old and the New Covenant; while yet fully acknowledging the divine origin and paedagogic use of the former. But he brings out the superiority of Christ’s priesthood and sacrifice to the Mosaic priesthood and sacrifice; while Paul dwells mainly on the distinction between the law and the gospel. He lays chief stress on faith, but he presents it in its general aspect as trust in God, in its prospective reference to the future and invisible, and in its connection with hope and perseverance under suffering; while Paul describes faith, in its specific evangelical character, as a hearty trust in Christ and his atoning merits, and in its justifying effect, in opposition to legalistic reliance on works. Faith is defined, or at least described, as "assurance (ὑπόστασις) of things hoped for, a conviction (ἔλεγχος) of things not seen" (11:1). This applies to the Old Testament as well as the New, and hence appropriately opens the catalogue of patriarchs and prophets, who encourage Christian believers in their conflict; but they are to look still more to Jesus as "the author and perfecter of our faith" (12:2), who is, after all, the unchanging object of our faith, "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever" (13:8).

The Epistle is eminently Christological. It resembles in this respect Colossians and Philippians, and forms a stepping-stone to the Christology of John. From the sublime description of the exaltation and majesty of Christ in Heb. 1:1–4 (comp. Col. 1:15–20), there is only one step to the prologue of the fourth Gospel. The exposition of the high priesthood of Christ reminds one of the sacerdotal prayer (John 17).

The use of proof-texts from the Old Testament seems at times contrary to the obvious historical import of the passage, but is always ingenious, and was, no doubt, convincing to Jewish readers. The writer does not distinguish between typical and direct prophecies. He recognizes the typical, or rather antitypical, character of the Tabernacle and its services, as reflecting the archetype seen by Moses in the mount, but all the Messianic prophecies are explained as direct (Heb. 1:5–14; 2:11–13; 10:5–10). He betrays throughout a high order of Greek culture, profound knowledge of the Greek Scriptures, and the symbolical import of the Mosaic worship.12121212    The charge of partial ignorance of the Jewish ritual is unfounded, and can therefore not be made an argument either for or against the Pauline authorship. In the genuine text of Heb. 10:11, the high priest is not mentioned, but the priest (ἱερεύς), and in 7:27 the high priest is not asserted to offer daily sacrifice, but to need daily repentance. The altar of incense is placed in the holy of holies, 9:4; but this seems to have been a current opinion, which is also mentioned in the Apocalypse of Baruch. See Harnack in "Studien und Kritiken" for 1876, p. 572, and W. R. Smith in " Enc. Brit.," xi., 606. He was also familiar with the Alexandrian theosophy of Philo,12131213    See Carpzov, Sacrae Exercitationes in Ep. ad Heb. ex Philone Alex. (Helmstadii, 1750); Riehm, l.c., pp. 9 sqq.; Hilgenfeld, Einleit., p. 384; and Pfleiderer, Paulinismus. but he never introduces foreign ideas into the Scriptures, as Philo did by his allegorical interpretation. His exhortations and warnings go to the quick of the moral sensibility; and yet his tone is also cheering and encouraging. He had the charisma of exhortation and consolation in the highest degree.12141214    The Epistle is called a λόγος παρακλήσεως , Heb. 13:22; comp. 12:5; 6:18 Altogether, he was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and gifted with a tongue of fire.

The Style.

Hebrews is written in purer Greek than any book of the New Testament, except those portions of Luke where he is independent of prior documents. The Epistle begins, like the third Gospel, with a rich and elegant period of classic construction. The description of the heroes of faith in the eleventh chapter is one of the most eloquent and sublime in the entire history of religious literature. He often reasons a minori ad majus (εἰ ... πόσῳ μᾶλλον). He uses a number of rare and choice terms which occur nowhere else in the New Testament.12151215    See note II. at the close.

As compared with the undoubted Epistles of Paul, the style of Hebrews is less fiery and forcible, but smoother, more correct, rhetorical, rhythmical, and free from anacolutha and solecisms. There is not that rush and vehemence which bursts through ordinary rules, but a calm and regular flow of speech. The sentences are skilfully constructed and well rounded. Paul is bent exclusively on the thought; the author of Hebrews evidently paid great attention to the form. Though not strictly classical, his style is as pure as the Hellenistic dialect and the close affinity with the Septuagint permit.

All these considerations exclude the idea of a translation from a supposed Hebrew original.

The Readers.

The Epistle is addressed to the Hebrew Christians, that is, according to the usual distinction between Hebrews and Hellenists (Acts 6:1; 9:27), to the converted Jews in Palestine, chiefly to those in Jerusalem. To them it is especially adapted. They lived in sight of the Temple, and were exposed to the persecution of the hierarchy and the temptation of apostasy. This has been the prevailing view from the time of Chrysostom to Bleek.12161216    So also DeWette, Tholuck, Thiersch, Delitzsch, Lünemann, Riehm, Moll (in Lange’s Com.), Langen, Weiss. The objection that the Epistle quotes the Old Testament uniformly after the Septuagint is not conclusive, since the Septuagint was undoubtedly used in Palestine alongside with the Hebrew original.

Other views more or less improbable need only be mentioned: (1) All the Christian Jews as distinct from the Gentiles;12171217    So Oecumenius, Lightfoot, Lange; also Grimm (sub verbo): "Omnes de Judaeis sive aramaice sive graece loquentibus Christiani." (2) the Jews of Jerusalem alone;12181218    Ebrard. Moulton, on the contrary, thinks that some other church in Palestine is addressed, and that Jerusalem is excluded by Heb. 2:3. (3) the Jews of Alexandria;12191219    Wieseler (who adds an unlikely reference to the temple of Onias in Leontopolis), Credner, Baur, Hilgenfeld, Köstlin, Reuss, Bunsen, Conybeare and Howson, and Plumptre. (4) the Jews of Antioch;12201220    Von Hofmann. (5) the Jews of Rome;12211221    Wetstein, Alford, Holtzmann, Kurtz, Zahn; also Renan, who thinks (L’Antechrist. p. 211) that the Ep. was written by Barnabas in Ephesus, and addressed to the church in Rome; hence it was first known in Rome. (6) some community of the dispersion in the East (but not Jerusalem).12221222    A. B. Davidson (Ep. to the Hebr., 1882, p. 18).

Occasion and Aim.

The Epistle was prompted by the desire to strengthen and comfort the readers in their trials and persecutions (Heb. 10:32–39; Heb. 11 and 12), but especially to warn them against the danger of apostasy to Judaism (2:2, 3; 3:6, 14; 4:1, 14; 6:1–8; 10:23, 26–31). And this could be done best by showing the infinite superiority of Christianity, and the awful guilt of neglecting so great a salvation.

Strange that but thirty years after the resurrection and the pentecostal effusion of the Spirit, there should have been such a danger of apostasy in the very mother church of Christendom. And yet not strange, if we realize the condition of things, between 60 and 70. The Christians in Jerusalem were the most conservative of all believers, and adhered as closely as possible to the traditions of their fathers. They were contented with the elementary doctrines, and needed to be pressed on "unto perfection" (5:12; 6:1–4). The Epistle of James represents their doctrinal stand-point. The strange advice which he gave to his brother Paul, on his last visit, reflects their timidity and narrowness. Although numbered by "myriads," they made no attempt in that critical moment to rescue the great apostle from the hands of the fanatical Jews; they were "all zealous for the law," and afraid of the radicalism of Paul on hearing that he was teaching the Jews of the Dispersion "to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs" ( Acts 21:20, 21).

They hoped against hope for the conversion of their people. When that hope vanished more and more, when some of their teachers had suffered martyrdom (Heb. 13:7), when James, their revered leader, was stoned by the Jews (62), and when the patriotic movement for the deliverance of Palestine from the hated yoke of the heathen Romans rose higher and higher, till it burst out at last in open rebellion (66), it was very natural that those timid Christians should feel strongly tempted to apostatize from the poor, persecuted sect to the national religion, which they at heart still believed to be the best part of Christianity. The solemn services of the Temple, the ritual pomp and splendor of the Aaronic priesthood, the daily sacrifices, and all the sacred associations of the past had still a great charm for them, and allured them to their embrace. The danger was very strong, and the warning of the Epistle fearfully solemn.

Similar dangers have occurred again and again in critical periods of history.

Time and Place of Composition.

The Epistle hails and sends greetings from some place in Italy, at a time when Timothy, Paul’s disciple, was set at liberty, and the writer was on the point of paying, with Timothy, a visit to his readers (13:23, 24). The passage, "Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them" (13:3), does not necessarily imply that he himself was in prison, indeed 13:23 seems to imply his freedom. These notices naturally suggest the close of Paul’s first Roman imprisonment, in the spring of the year 63, or soon after; for Timothy and Luke were with him there, and the writer himself evidently belonged to the circle of his friends and fellow-workers.

There is further internal evidence that the letter was written before the destruction of Jerusalem (70), before the outbreak of the Jewish war (66), before the Neronian persecution (in July, 64), and before Paul’s martyrdom. None of these important events are even alluded to;12231223    Zahn refers Heb. 10:32-34 to the Neronian persecution; but this is excluded by 12:4, "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood" (μέχρι αἳματος). Harnack finds also traces of the Domitian persecution. Still more unlikely. on the contrary, as already remarked, the Temple was still standing, with its daily sacrifices regularly going on, and the doom of the theocracy was still in the future, though "nigh unto a curse," "becoming old and ready to vanish away;" it was "shaken" and about to be removed; the day of the fearful judgment was drawing nigh.12241224    Lardner, Thiersch, Lindsay, Bullock (in Smith’s B. Dict., Am. ed., II., 1028), and others, assign the Epistle to a.d. 63; DeWette, Moll, and Lange to between 62 and 66 (between the death of James and the outbreak of the Jewish war); Ebrard to 62; Wieseler (Chronol, des Ap. Zeitalters, p. 519) to July, 64; Stuart and Tholuck to about 64; Weiss to 65 ("bald nach der Mitte der sechziger Jahre"); Hilgenfeld to between 64 and 66; Davidson (Introd., revised ed., I. 222) to 66; Ewald to 67; Renan and Kay to 65. On the other hand, Zahn gives as the date a.d. 80, Holtzmann and Harnack about 90, Volkmar and Keim, 116-118. These late dates are simply impossible, not only for intrinsic reasons and the allusion to Timothy, but also because Clement of Rome, who wrote about 95, shows a perfect familiarity with Hebrews.

The place of composition was either Rome or some place in Southern Italy, if we assume that the writer had already started on his journey to the East.12251225    The inference of the place from οἱ ἀπὸ τῆσ Ἰταλίας Heb. 13:24, is uncertain, since in the epistolary style it may imply that the writer was at that time out of Italy, or in Italy (which would be more distinctly expressed by ἐν Ἰταλίᾳ orοἱ ἐξ ). The brethren may have been fugitives from Italy (so Bleek). But the latter view seems more natural, and is defended by Theodoret, who knew Greek as his mother tongue. Tholuck and Ebrard quote the phrases οἱ ἀπὸ γῆς and οἱ ἀπὸ θαλάσσης, travellers by land and sea, and from Polybius, οἱ ἀπὸ τῆσ Ἀλεξανδρείας βασιλεῖς, the Alexandrian kings. Still more to the point is Pseudo-Ignatius Ad. Her. 8, quoted by Zahn (see his ed. of Ign., p. 270, 12): ἀσπάζονταί σε ... πάντες οἱ ἀπὸ Φιλίππων ἐν χριστῷ, ὂτεν καὶ ἐπέστειλά σοι. Others assign it to Alexandria, or Antioch, or Ephesus.12261226    The Sinaitic MS. and C have the subscription "to the Hebrews," A adds "from Rome," K "from Italy." Sam. Davidson dates it from Alexandria, Renan from Ephesus, where he thinks Barnabas was at that time with some fugitive Italians, while Timothy was imprisoned perhaps at Corinth (L’Antechrist. p. 210).


This is still a matter of dispute, and will probably never be decided with absolute certainty. The obscurity of its origin is the reason why the Epistle to the Hebrews was ranked among the seven Antilegomena of the ante-Nicene church. The controversy ceased after the adoption of the traditional canon in 397, but revived again at the time of the Reformation. The different theories may be arranged under three heads: (1) sole authorship of Paul; (2) sole authorship of one of his pupils; (3) joint authorship of Paul and one of his pupils. Among the pupils again the views are subdivided between Luke, Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Silvanus, and Apollos.12271227    For the patristic testimonies, I refer to the collection in Charteris, Canonicity, pp. 272-288; for a candid and exhaustive discussion of the whole question, to Bleek’s large Com., I., 82-272; also to Alford’s Com., vol iv., Part I., pp. 1-62

1. The Pauline Authorship was the prevailing opinion of the church from the fourth century to the eighteenth, with the exception of the Reformers, and was once almost an article of faith, but has now very few defenders among scholars.12281228    Von Hofmann (of Erlangen) is almost the only one in Germany; Bishop Wordsworth and Dr. Kay in England. Among the older defenders of the Pauline authorship we mention Owen (1668), Mill (1707), Carpzov (1750), Bengel (1752). Sykes (1755), Andr. Cramer (1757), Storr (1789), and especially the learned and acute Roman Catholic scholar, Hug, in his Einleitung. It rests on the following arguments:

(a) The unanimous tradition of the Eastern church, to which the letter was in all probability directed; yet with the important qualification which weakens the force of this testimony, that there was a widely prevailing perception of a difference of style, and consequent supposition of a Hebrew original, of which there is no historic basis whatever. Clement of Alexandria ascribed the Greek composition to Luke.12291229    Dr. Biesenthal has, by a retranslation of the Ep. into Hebrew, endeavored to prove this theory in "Das Trostschreiben des Ap. Paulus an die Hebraeer,"Leipz., 1878. But, of course, this is no argument any more than Delitzsch’s Hebrew translation of the entire New Testament. Such happy phrases as πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως (Heb.1:1) and ἔμαθεν ἐφ’ ὧν ἔπαθεν τὴν ὑπακοήν (5:8) cannot be reproduced in Hebrew at all. Origen observes the greater purity of the Greek style,12301230    συνθέσει τῆς λέξεως ἐλληνικ–ϊωτέ–ͅϊρα. Ap. Euseb. H. E. VI. 25. and mentions Luke and Clement, besides Paul, as possible authors, but confesses his own ignorance.12311231    τίς δὲ ὁ γράψας τὴν ἐπιστολὴν, τὸ μὲν ἀληθὲς θεὸς οἷδεν.

(b) The mention of Timothy and the reference to a release from captivity (Heb. 13:23) point to Paul. Not necessarily, but only to the circle of Paul. The alleged reference to Paul’s own captivity in 10:34 rests on a false reading (δεσμοῖς μου, E. V., "in my bonds," instead of the one now generally adopted, τοῖς δεσμίοις, "those that were in bonds"). Nor does the request 13:18, 19, imply that the writer was a prisoner at the time of composition; for 13:23 rather points to his freedom, as he expected, shortly to see his readers in company with Timothy.

(c) The agreement of the Epistle with Paul’s system of doctrine, the tone of apostolic authority, and the depth and unction which raises the Epistle to a par with his genuine writings. But all that can be said in praise of this wonderful Epistle at best proves only its inspiration and canonicity, which must be extended beyond the circle of the apostles so as to embrace the writings of Luke, Mark, James, and Jude.

2. The Non-Pauline Authorship is supported by the following arguments:

(a) The Western tradition, both Roman and North African, down to the time of Augustin, is decidedly against the Pauline authorship. This has all the more weight from the fact that the earliest traces of the Epistle to the Hebrews are found in the Roman church, where it was known before the close of the first century. Clement of Rome makes very extensive use of it, but nowhere under the name of Paul. The Muratorian Canon enumerates only thirteen Epistles of Paul and omits Hebrews. So does Gaius, a Roman presbyter, at the beginning of the third century. Tertullian ascribed the Epistle to Barnabas. According to the testimony of Eusebius, the Roman church did not regard the Epistle as Pauline at his day (he died 340). Philastrius of Brescia (d. about 387) mentions that some denied the Pauline authorship, because the passage 6:4–6 favored the heresy and excessive disciplinary rigor of the Novatians, but he himself believed it to be Paul’s, and so did Ambrose of Milan. Jerome (d. 419) can be quoted on both sides. He wavered in his own view, but expressly says: "The Latin custom (Latina consuetudo) does not receive it among the canonical Scriptures;" and in another place: "All the Greeks receive the Epistle to the Hebrews, and some Latins (et nonnulli Latinorum)." Augustin, a profound divine, but neither linguist nor critic, likewise wavered, but leaned strongly toward the Pauline origin. The prevailing opinion in the West ascribed only thirteen Epistles to Paul. The Synod of Hippo (393) and the third Synod of Carthage (397), under the commanding influence of Augustin, marked a transition of opinion in favor of fourteen.12321232    "Pauli Apostoli epistolae tredecim, ejusdem ad Hebraeos una." This opinion prevailed until Erasmus and the Reformers revived the doubts of the early Fathers. The Council of Trent sanctioned it.

(b) The absence of the customary name and salutation. This has been explained from modesty, as Paul was sent to the Gentiles rather than the Jews (Pantaenus), or from prudence and the desire to secure a better hearing from Jews who were strongly prejudiced against Paul (Clement of Alexandria). Very unsatisfactory and set aside by the authoritative tone of the Epistle.

(c) In 2:3 the writer expressly distinguishes himself from the apostles, and reckons himself with the second generation of Christians, to whom the word of the Lord was "confirmed by them that heard" it at the first from the Lord. Paul, on the contrary, puts himself on a par with the other apostles, and derives his doctrine directly from Christ, without any human intervention (Gal. 1:1, 12, 15, 16). This passage alone is conclusive, and decided Luther, Calvin, and Beza against the Pauline authorship.12331233    Calvin: "Scriptor unum se ex apostolorum discipulis profitetur, quod est a Paulina consuetudine longe alienum." And on Heb. 2:3, "Hic locus indicio est; epistolam a Paulo non fuisse compositam,"etc.

(d) The difference, not in the substance, but in the form and method of teaching and arguing.12341234    As Calvin expresses it: "Ipsa docendi ratio et stilus alium quam Paulum esse satis testantur." On this point see especially Riehm’s valuable Lehrbegriff, etc., and the respective sections in the works on the N. T. Theology; also Kurtz’s Com., pp. 24 sqq. The parallelisms which Dr. Kay sets against this argument in the Speaker’s Com., pp. 14 sqq., only prove what nobody denies, the essential agreement of Hebrews with the Pauline Epistles

(e) The difference of style (which has already been discussed). This argument does not rest on the number of peculiar words for such are found in every book of the New Testament, but in the superior purity, correctness, and rhetorical finish of style.

(f) The difference in the quotations from the Old Testament. The author of Hebrews follows uniformly the Septuagint, even with its departures from the Hebrew; while Paul is more independent, and often corrects the Septuagint from the Hebrew. Bleek has also discovered the important fact that the former used the text of Codex Alexandrinus, the latter the text of Codex Vaticanus.12351235    See the proof in Bleek, vol. I. 338-375. Conveniently ignored in the Speaker’s Com., p. 13. It is incredible that Paul, writing to the church of Jerusalem, should not have made use of his Hebrew and rabbinical learning in quoting the Scriptures.

3 Conjectures concerning the probable author. Four Pauline disciples and co-workers have been proposed, either as sole or as joint authors with Paul, three with some support in tradition—Barnabas, Luke, and Clement—one without any Apollos. Silvanus also has a few advocates.12361236    Of the other friends of Paul, Timothy is excluded by the reference to him in Heb. 13:23. Mark, Demas, Titus, Tychicus, Epaphroditus, Epaphras, Aristarchus, Aquila, Jesus Justus have never been brought forward as candidates. Silvanus, or Silas, is favorably mentioned by Böhme, Mynster, and Riehm (890 sqq.), on account of his prominent position, Acts 15:22, 27, 34, 40; 16:19; 1 Pet. 5:12.

(a) Barnabas.12371237    Tertullian, Ullmann, Wieseler, Thiersch, Ritschl, Renan, Zahn. W. R. Smith (in the "Enc. Brit.") likewise leans to the Barnabas hypothesis. He has in his favor the tradition of the African church (at least Tertullian), his Levitical training, his intimacy with Paul, his close relation to the church in Jerusalem, and his almost apostolic authority. As the υἱὸς παρακλήσεως(Acts 4:36), he may have written the λόγος παρακλήσεως(Heb. 13:22). But in this case he cannot be the author of the Epistle which goes by his name, and which, although belonging to the Pauline and strongly anti-Judaizing tendency, is yet far inferior to Hebrews in spirit and wisdom. Moreover, Barnabas was a primitive disciple, and cannot be included in the second generation (2:3).

(b) Luke.12381238    Clement of Alexandria (who, however, regarded Luke only, and wrongly, as translator), Calvin, Grotius, Crell, Ebrard, Delitzsch, Döllinger. Ebrard supposes that Luke wrote the Epistle at the request and in the name of Paul, who suggested the general plan and leading ideas. This is the most plausible form of the Luke hypothesis, but does not account for the doctrinal differences. He answers the description of 2:3, writes pure Greek, and has many affinities in style.12391239    This linguistic argument has been overdone by Delitzsch and weakened by fanciful or far-fetched analogies. See the strictures of Lünemann, pp. 24-31. But against him is the fact that the author of Hebrews was, no doubt, a native Jew, while Luke was a Gentile (Col. 4:11, 14). This objection, however, ceases in a measure if Luke wrote in the name and under the instruction of Paul.

(c) Clemens Romanus.12401240    Mentioned as a subjective conjecture by Origen (Κλήμης ὁ γενόμενος ἐπίσκοποσ Ῥωμαίων ἔγραψε τὴν ἐπιστολήν) alongside with Luke. Renewed by Erasmus and Bisping. He makes thorough use of Hebrews and interweaves passages from the Epistle with his own ideas, but evidently as an imitator, far inferior in originality and force.

(d) Apollos.12411241    Luther, Osiander, Norton, Semler, Bleek, Tholuck, Credner, Reuss, Bunsen, Hilgenfeld, Lange, Moll, Kendrick, Alford, Lünemann, Kurtz, Samuel Davidson, A. B. Davidson. The Apollos hypothesis has been the most popular until, within the last few years, Renan, Zahn, and W. Robertson Smith have turned the current again in favor of the Barnabas hypothesis. Riehm, after a full and judicious discussion, wavers between Apollos and Silvanus, but ends with Origen’s modest confession of ignorance (p. 894). A happy guess of the genius of Luther, suggested by the description given of Apollos in the Acts 18:24–28, and by Paul (1 Cor. 1:12; 3:4–6, 22; 4:6; 16:12; Tit. 3:13). Apollos was a Jew of Alexandria, mighty in the Scriptures, fervent in spirit, eloquent in speech, powerfully confuting the Jews, a friend of Paul, and independently working with him in the same cause at Ephesus, Corinth, Crete. So far everything seems to fit. But this hypothesis has not a shadow of support in tradition, which could hardly have omitted Apollos in silence among the three or four probable authors. Clement names him once,12421242    Ep. ad Cor., c. 47. but not as the author of the Epistle which he so freely uses. Nor is there any trace of his ever having been in Rome, and having stood in so close a relationship to the Hebrew Christians in Palestine.

The learned discussion of modern divines has led to no certain and unanimous conclusion, but is, nevertheless, very valuable, and sheds light in different directions. The following points may be regarded as made certain, or at least in the highest degree probable: the author of Hebrews was a Jew by birth; a Hellenist, not a Palestinian; thoroughly at home in the Greek Scriptures (less so, if at all, in the Hebrew original); familiar with the Alexandrian Jewish theology (less so, if at all, with the rabbinical learning of Palestine); a pupil of the apostles (not himself an apostle); an independent disciple and coworker of Paul; a friend of Timothy; in close relation with the Hebrew Christians of Palestine, and, when he wrote, on the point of visiting them; an inspired man of apostolic insight, power, and authority, and hence worthy of a position in the canon as "the great unknown."

Beyond these marks we cannot go with safety. The writer purposely withholds his name. The arguments for Barnabas, Luke, and Apollos, as well as the objections against them, are equally strong, and we have no data to decide between them, not to mention other less known workers of the apostolic age. We must still confess with Origen that God only knows the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews.


I.—The Position of Hebrews in the New Testament. In the old Greek MSS. (א, B, C, D) the Epistle to the Hebrews stands before the Pastoral Epistles, as being an acknowledged letter of Paul. This order has, perhaps, a chronological value, and is followed in the critical editions Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Westcott and Hort), although Westcott and Hort regard the Pastoral Epistles as Pauline, and the Ep. to the Hebrews as un-Pauline. See their Gr. Test., vol. II., 321.

But in the Latin and English Bibles, Hebrews stands more appropriately at the close of the Pauline Epistles, and immediately precedes the Catholic Epistles.

Luther, who had some doctrinal objections to Hebrews and James, took the liberty of putting them after the Epistles of Peter and John, and making them the last Epistles except Jude. He misunderstood Heb. 6:4–6; 10:26, 27; 12:17, as excluding the possibility of a second repentance and pardon after baptism, and called these passages, "hard knots" that ran counter to all the Gospels and Epistles of Paul; but, apart from this, he declared Hebrews to be, "an Epistle of exquisite beauty, discussing from Scripture, with masterly skill and thoroughness, the priesthood of Christ, and interpreting on this point the Old Testament with great richness and acuteness."

The English Revisers retained, without any documentary evidence, the traditional title, "The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews." This gives sanction to a particular theory, and is properly objected to by the American Revisers. The Pauline authorship is, to say the least, an open question, and should have been left open by the Revisers. The ancient authorities entitle the letter simply, Πρὸσ Ἑβραίους,and even this was probably added by the hand of an early transcriber. Still less is the subscription, "Written to the Hebrews from Italy by Timothy" to be relied on as original, and was probably a mere inference from the contents (Heb. 13:23, 24).

II.—The Hapaxtegomena of the Epistle. ἀγενεαλόγητος,without pedigree (said of Melchizedek), Heb. 7:3. ἀμήτωρ, motherless, 7:3. ἀπάτωρ, fatherless, 7:3. ἀπαύγασμα,effulgence (said of Christ in relation to God), 1:2. αἰσθητήριον, sense, 5:14. ἀκροθίνιον, spoils, 7:4. εὐπερίστατος(from εὖand περιίστημι,to place round), a difficult word of uncertain interpretation, easily besetting, closely clinging to (E. R. on the margin: admired by many), 12:1. κριτικός,quick to discern, 4:12. ἡ μέλλουσα οἰκουμένη, the future world, 2:5. μεσιτεύειν, to interpose one’s self, to mediate, 6:17., μετριοπαθεῖν, to have compassion on, to bear gently with, 5:2 (said of Christ). ὁρκωμοσία, oath, 7:20, 21, 28. παραπικραίνειν, to provoke, 3:16. παραπικρασμός,provocation, 3:8, 15. πολυμερῶς,by divers portions, 1:1. πολυτρόπως,in divers manners, 1:1. πρόδρομος,forerunner, 6:20 (of Christ). συνεπιμαρτυρεῖν, to bear witness with, 2:4. τραχηλίζειν. to open, 4:13 (τετραχηλισμένα, laid open). ὑποστασις,substance (or person), 1:3 (of God); confidence, 3:14; assurance, 11:1. This word, however, occurs also in 2 Cor. 11:17, in the sense of confidence. χαρακτήρ, express image (Christ, the very image of the essence of God), Heb. 1:3.

On the other hand, the Ep. to the Hebrews has a number of rare words in common with Paul which are not elsewhere found in the New Testament or the Septuagint, as αἰδώς(12:13; 1 Tim. 2:9), ἄναθεωρέω(Heb. 13:7; Acts 17:23), ἀνυπότακτος(Heb.2:8; 1 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 1:6, 10), ἀπείθεια(Heb. 4:6, 11; Rom. 11:30, 32; Eph. 2:2; Col. 3:5), ἀπόλουσις(Heb. 11:25; 1 Tim. 6:17), ἀφιλάργυρος(Heb. 13:5; 1 Tim. 3:3), ἔνδικος(Heb. 2:1; Rom. 3:8), ἐνεργής(Heb. 4:12; 1 Cor. 16:9; Philem. 6),ἐφάπαξ(Heb. 7:27; 10:10; Rom. 9:10; 1 Cor. 15:6), κοσμικός(Heb. 9:11; Tit. 2:12), μιμητής(Heb. 6:12; 1 Cor. 4:16, etc.), νεκρόω (Heb. 11:12; Rom. 4:19; Col. 3:5), ὀρέγομαι (Heb. 11:16; 1 Tim. 3:1; 6:10), παρακοή(Heb. 2:2; Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 10:6), πληροφορία(Heb. 6:11; 10:22; Col. 2:2; 1 Thess. 1:5), φιλοξενία(Heb. 13:2; Rom. 12:13).

On the linguistic peculiarities of Hebrews, see Bleek, I. 315–338 Lünemann, Com., pp. 12 and 24 sqq. (4th ed., 1878); Davidson, Introd., I. 209 sqq. (revised ed., 1882); and the Speaker’s Com. N. T., IV. 7–16.

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