On the Pauline Authorship of Hebrews (Part 2): The External Evidence Reconsidered -- By: David Alan Black

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 16:3 (Summer 1999)
Article: On the Pauline Authorship of Hebrews (Part 2): The External Evidence Reconsidered
Author: David Alan Black

On the Pauline Authorship of Hebrews (Part 2):
The External Evidence Reconsidered

David Alan Black

Professor of New Testament and Greek
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587


The question, “Who wrote the Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews?” is, as Ray Stedman and others have quipped, akin to asking, “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?” The traditional author, as reflected in the letter’s superscription in the Authorized Version,1 is of course the Apostle Paul, but hardly any scholar of late would agree with this traditional assessment. Just as today we know that the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire, so scholars are certain that the Letter to the Hebrews is neither an epistle, nor written by Paul, nor addressed to Hebrews—that is, to unconverted Jews. At the same time, almost all would agree that the author was at home in Pauline circles, as evidenced from his relations to Timothy. Nevertheless, the conviction of a great many writers who have carefully examined the epistle is that, while at first glance the letter may resemble the Pauline epistles, when more fundamentally examined, its deeper and real affinities must lie elsewhere.

The writer who would challenge this learned consensus opinio must either be a hopeless obscurantist or possessed with a morbid desire to commit academic hara-kiri. Surely there is no easier way to destroy one’s standing in the scholarly guild than to affirm the Pauline authorship of Hebrews. However, to a writer whose daily routine is to ride pell-mell through the countryside on his thoroughbred race horse, this is perhaps not as daunting a challenge as it may appear. Moreover, if this writer enjoys an occasional game of devil’s advocate and, in addition, is of the opinion that scholarly acceptability is never an excuse for compromising one’s personal convictions, fear of expulsion from the academy carries with it no great terror.

In part 1 of this series, we examined the overlooked affinities that exist between Hebrews and the Pauline writings. There it was shown that these affinities are both numerous and significant. We now turn our attention to the external evidence relevant to the issue of authorship.2 Beginning in the second century, the history of the canonization of Hebrews and the question of whether Paul

wrote it are intermingled. Hence the question of the canonicity of the epistle is dependent somewhat on how we answer the question of authorship. However, it would be impossible to deal with ...

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