Who Wrote Hebrews? The Internal and External Evidence Reexamined -- By: David Alan Black

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 18:2 (Spring 2001)
Article: Who Wrote Hebrews? The Internal and External Evidence Reexamined
Author: David Alan Black


Who Wrote Hebrews?
The Internal and External Evidence Reexamined

David Alan Black

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

Introduction

Who wrote Hebrews? This question has puzzled Bible readers for generations. Scholars have suggested several names as possibilities for the author of this book, including Apollos, Barnabas, Luke, Priscilla, Silas, and, of course, Paul. Generally the debate centers around Paul: Did he or did he not write the book? That he did not is a view that has dominated Protestant NT studies since the Enlightenment and has even penetrated Catholic scholarship, despite the greater regard for tradition there. Indeed, that Hebrews is non-Pauline is now considered one of the “assured results” of scholarly research.1 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. In fact, the last major defense of Pauline authorship was by William Leonard in The Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews published in 1939.2 Thus, even though most scholars would agree that the author was at home in Pauline circles, as evidenced from his relations to Timothy (13:23), 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.

In part 1 of this essay, we will reexamine the internal evidence for Pauline authorship, concentrating on the letter’s language and style, while in part 2 we will analyze the statements of the earliest Christian fathers concerning the authorship of Hebrews. The question we wish to pose here is: In view of the letter’s unique language and elegance of style, does a scrutiny of the contacts between Hebrews and the Pauline letters confirm the view, clearly voiced at Alexandria by Pantaenus and the ἀρχαῖοι ἀνδρες whose lives went back before the middle of the second century, that the epistle had Paul for its author?

The Internal Evidence

We turn our attention first to the internal evidence. The use of internal evidence to prove the authorship of a NT book has always been a complex matter. In investigating the authorship of this epistle we must bear in mind that we are dealing with a...

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