The book of Hebrews

 

Since the book of Hebrews provides an overlooked key to the scriptural rapture of the church, it will be worthwhile to discuss its authorship, which, although attributed to Paul by tradition, has been disputed since the early days of the church. Its location in the Bible is toward the back, following Paulís epistles and preceding the general epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude. Its position reflects the list of the epistles by the Third Council of Carthage: thirteen epistles of the apostles Paul, the one [epistle] to the Hebrews, by the sameÖ[1] Itís at the end of Paulís epistles for those who would attribute it to Paul and at the beginning of the general epistles for those who would attribute it to someone else. Although it is somewhat neglected because of its position, it provides excellent examples of reading and interpreting scripture as it reveals how the Old Testament prophesied Christ.

 

As mentioned Hebrews was attributed to Paul by tradition, but it differs from Paulís other epistles. Homer A. Kent, Jr. relates that the modern trend is to deny Paulís authorship.[2] Origen suggested that another had written a polished account of what Paul has dictated: The style of the EpistleÖhas not the vulgarity of diction which belongs to the apostle, who confesses that he is but common in speech, that is in his phraseology. But that this epistle is more pure Greek in the composition of its phrases, every one will confess who is able to discern the differences of styleÖ. But I would say, that the thoughts are the apostleís. but the diction and phraseology belong to some one who has recorded what the apostle said, and as one who noted down at his leisure what his master had dictated.[3] Clement of Alexandria attributed the stylistic differences to translation. Paul, he argues, had written the epistle to the Jews in Hebrew and Luke had translated it into Greek, noting the stylistic similarities with the book of Acts.[4] Kent states that the Greek Hebrews gives no evidence of being translated material,[5] and points to internal problems with identifying Paul as the Author: No name is given in the epistle, a feature contrary to Paulís otherwise invariable custom. The writer places himself among those to whom the message of Christ was confirmed by others (2:3), whereas Paul always insisted that he received his gospel not from men (Gal. 1:12)Ö. The style of writing, as well as the authorís preference for the Septuagint, differs somewhat of that of Paul, whose writing was often more bold than polished and whose use of the Septuagint was not as consistent as is found in Hebrews.[6] Origen concluded his above explanation with: If then, any church considers this epistle as coming from Paul, let it be commended for this, for neither did these ancient men deliver it as such without cause. But who it was that really wrote the epistle, God only knows. [7] And, the Lord has promised: the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things.John 14:26).

 

When the authorship of Hebrews is addressed generally the focus is on two things. First, someone is sought from a more Greek than Jewish environment, who would have written in a more polished Greek and cited the Septuagint consistent with the main text. Second, someone in Paulís circle is sought, focusing on the familiar details at the end of the epistle, such as, that I may be restored to you the sooner.Heb. 13:19 Know you that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you,Heb. 13:23 and they of Italy salute you.Heb. 13:24 What has been overlooked is the significance of another verse: I have written a letter to you in few words.Heb. 13:22 Hebrews is not an epistle of few words. A closer look at the epistle reveals a distinct break, an end of one voice and the beginning of another, between these two verses: Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you, Heb 13:17 and Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. Heb 13:18

The break has always been there and has always been noticed, but it has been attributed to the beginning of the benediction. It is more abrupt than a simple change of subject. It is the end of the body of the epistle and the beginning of the letter of few words between Pray for us13:18 and Amen,13:21 and is followed by the benediction in which we are told of the letter of few words. There are two authors of Hebrews, one for the body of the epistle, whose Greek is polished, and another for the brief letter and benediction, who is familiar with Paulís circle of acquaintances. When the ancient men of which Origen spoke received the epistle and read the brief letter and benediction in Paulís hand at the end, which was Paulís way of authenticating his epistles, ()[8] they knew it came from Paul and accepted it without question: The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle. (2 Thes 3:17)

 

For the speaker or other author we can look at the familiar details in the main body of the epistle. Who would be familiar with what Moses said, which is recorded nowhere else: so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake? Heb. 12:21 And, who would be familiar with the temple in heavenHeb. 9 after which the temple made by handsHeb. 8:5, Ex. 25:40 was modeled? The Lord is the author, and the one who transmitted to writing what He expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himselfLuke 24:27 is Luke. Hebrews is the teaching of the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and it is a commentary on the law that prophesied His coming.Matt. 11:13-14 It is also an excellent example of how to read between the lines of scripture.

 

 

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[1] F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.  233

[2] Homer A. Kent, Jr., The Epostle to the Heb.: A Commentary (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1990), p. 18, footnote 23

[3] Eusebius, Eusebiusí Ecclesiastical History, Book 6, Chap. 25, trans. Christian Frederick Cruse (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1991) p. 246

[4] Eusebius, Book 6 Chap. 14, pp. 233-334

[5] Kent p.22

[6] Kent p. 19

[7] Eusebius, Book 6, Chap. 25, p. 246

[8] Bruce,  pp.  255-256