The Book Of Hebrews Revisited -- By: Ruth Hoppin

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 17:1 (Winter 2003)
Article: The Book Of Hebrews Revisited
Author: Ruth Hoppin

The Book Of Hebrews Revisited

Is Priscilla the author? And how does this epistle’s theology relate to gender equality?

Ruth Hoppin

Ruth Hoppin is a free-lance writer and independent researcher in New Testament studies. She writes and speaks on Priscilla as author of Hebrews, and inspirational topics. Her book, Priscilla’s Letter: Finding the Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Lost Coast Press, 2000), is available from cbe‘s Book Service. Hoppin is a contributor to the IVP Women’s Bible Commentary and a forthcoming volume in the Feminist Companion to the New Testament and Early Christian Writings series (Sheffield Academic Press).

This article originated as a paper that I presented at the Pacific Coast Region/Society of Biblical Literature meeting, New Testament Epistles and Apocalypse Section, at St. Mary’s College, Moraga, California, in March 2002. I wish to focus here on the distinctive theology of Hebrews and how it relates to gender equality.

Could Priscilla Have Written Hebrews?

To name Hebrews “Priscilla’s Letter” has its own implications for gender equality, of course. Here is a brief recapitulation of my argument.1

Eliminating other possibilities one by one, I match Priscilla’s career with that of the unknown author, citing the following points of identity:

  • She was a colleague of Paul and Timothy.
  • Her career centered along the Rome/Ephesus axis, route of the epistle.
  • She was a teacher/catechist/evangelist.
  • There are two literary links to the epistle. One is the reference in Hebrews to instruction in baptisms— instructions Priscilla had to give Apollos (Acts 18 and 19). The second is Hebrews’ scriptural grounding for the messiahship of Jesus—the subject of Apollos’s preaching as Priscilla’s protégé.
  • She was trained in rhetoric as the daughter of an eminent Roman family.
  • Priscilla broke with precedent by naming specific women as exemplars of faith in a roll call of heroes, and by alluding to many others clearly or obliquely.
  • She embodies a cogent explanation for the loss of the author’s name.

If you are not ready to posit Priscilla as the author of Hebrews, then think “Priscilla—or a person who matches the same description.”

Implications of the theology of Hebrews for gender equality are just that: implications. Hebrews is not an intentional feminist polemic, but a pastoral explication and exhortation. If its theo...

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