The Case for Apollos as the Author of Hebrews -- By: George H. Guthrie
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The Case for Apollos as the Author of Hebrews
Benjamin W. Perry Professor of Biblical Studies
Chair of the Department of Christian Studies
Jackson, Tennessee 38305
In Victor Hugo’s haunting story Les Miserables, Jean Valjean, an ex-convict, finds redemption at the home of a bishop, who, having been robbed by the criminal, forgives him and gives him a new start in life. Valjean, with the bishop’s riches in hand, carves out a new existence, an existence exemplifying the effects of grace. Yet, a dark line runs through the story since the protagonist has taken on a new identity and broken parole. He can escape the animalistic atmosphere of the rock quarries and the rut of a bitter, meaningless life, but it is a long and arduous path that leads to his deliverance from his burdensome secret. Jean Valjean has a secret, and that secret is woven with the thread of grace throughout the story.
There is another story involving a great secret. In this story it is God who has a secret, but rather than haunting him, this secret has haunted biblical scholars through the ages, scholars who have nothing better to think about at given moments. The secret? “Who wrote the Book of Hebrews?” Of course, from the first, we want to echo Origen, “Only God knows,” although I have a feeling Bill Lane, author of the Word Biblical Commentary on Hebrews, pressed for an answer upon entering the Lord’s presence at his death last year. At Bill’s funeral, his young grandson commented, “Well, I guess grandpa knows who wrote Hebrews now.”
We, earthbound as we are, must say from the start that the question we address today has no definitive answer. We simply are contained by the limitations of the evidence. The happy result for a speaker on the topic is it greatly relieves pressure to say anything in particular. Yet, the question is important, not because a definite answer can be reached but because of the questions this question has us ask of the text of Hebrews.
What I wish to accomplish in this paper is threefold. First, I take a brief look at a representative sampling of those who have suggested Apollos as the author of Hebrews, and consider why this suggestion has received wide approval over the past two hundred years especially. Second, I present a categorization of the arguments, delineating between those on more firm footing and those resting
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more on speculation. Third, I offer what I hope is a reasonable posture on the question under consideration.
A Cursory History of This Suggestion
It is widely published that Martin Luther was the first we know of to sugge...
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