The Authorship of Hebrews -- By: Simon J. Kistemaker

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 18:2 (Spring 2001)
Article: The Authorship of Hebrews
Author: Simon J. Kistemaker


The Authorship of Hebrews

Simon J. Kistemaker

Professor of New Testament Emeritus
Reformed Theological Seminary
Oviedo, Florida 32765

Introduction

The author addressed his epistle to the Hebrews,1 that is, Jewish Christians who probably resided in Rome. The epistle itself provides no direct indication that Gentile Christians were included. This observation becomes clear in the first two verses of the introduction (1:1, 2), where the term our forefathers occurs referring to the physical and spiritual forebears of the Jews. And in verse 2, the author mentions the expression “His Son,” which in the Greek simply reads as υἰῶ without any qualifier. He conveys the message that the Son is the one and only Son of God, for angels are created sons of God (Job 1:6; 2:1) and the saints are adopted sons and daughters of God (Rom. 8:23). Hence, the writer uses the noun in the abstract without the definite article or possessive pronoun. It is indeed significant that the author chooses the word Son at the outset of his epistle and not the words Jesus or Lord. He wants to stress the divinity of Jesus Christ as is evident also in the succeeding verse (1:3) where he describes Him as being the exact representation of God’s being. Jewish Christians are told that the Son of God is divine and they are the first readers of the Epistle to the Hebrews. But who was the author of this epistle?

Authorship

The Authorized Version/King James Version features the title, “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews,” but it adds the disclaimer in the margin, “Authorship uncertain, commonly attributed to Paul.” The history of authorship goes back to the second century in Alexandria, Egypt. In that city, Pantaenus was the first teacher appointed in a catechetical school. He flourished in the last two decades of the second century and was the primary teacher of Clement of Alexandria. Eusebius, who calls Pantaenus “the blessed presbyter,” has preserved a fragment from his hand on the subject of Paul in relation to Hebrews.

Since the Lord, being the apostle of the Almighty, was sent to the Hebrews, Paul having been sent to the gentiles, through modesty did not inscribe himself as an apostle to the Hebrews, both because of respect for the Lord and because he wrote to the Heb...

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