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I have pondered who wrote Hebrews for some time. In my studies, I have eliminated Paul for two reasons.

1) The style of Greek is different than the way Paul writes in his letters. It's a higher level of writing.

2) The emphasis of theology is different. For example, Paul always writes of Jesus' sacrifice being on Earth. Hebrews talks about Jesus' sacrifice from a heavenly standpoint (Hebrews 10).

Based on the writing, I began to wonder if it was Luke, as the Greek of Luke-Acts and Hebrews are so perfect. Then I read this verse this morning: "2:16 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham." Luke, as a Gentile, never speaks of Christ's help as only to the sons of Abraham. In his genealogy of Christ, Luke goes past Abraham all the way back to Adam to show that salvation is available for all men.

Are there other indications in Hebrews that could tell us the writer?

  • We often seem fine with accepting that Paul may not have written his letters by his own hand but dictated them. Could the change in Greek style simply reflect a different writer who was not strictly transcribing? The content itself is Pauline enough. – Joshua Feb 8 '16 at 20:50
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    @Joshua The seven authentic letters of Paul, despite being written by different amanuenses, are very close in style and vocabulary. They reflect Paul's own words, concerns, and modes of thought more than the amanuenses. Hebrews is of such a different style, vocabulary, and mode of thought that even in ancient times readers recognized it couldn't have come from Paul. Some passages are also highly suggestive that the author was a second or third generation Christian; he doesn't identify as an apostle. At most, it came from a student of Paul who borrowed certain expressions from their teacher. – user2910 Mar 21 '17 at 16:03
  • The best answer I have read remains the idea that Paul was the author but that Luke was his amanuenses. This would explain the similarities in language between Luke and Acts and, since Luke was an author on his own, some have argued more of his own style and vocabulary came through than with other amanuenses of Paul. That combined with theological themes found elsewhere in Paul makes a decent case. The truth, though, is that this is still just an educated guess, and there seems to be no way to know with certainty. – P. TJ Mar 26 '17 at 0:52
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I wrote this in an essay on Hebrews a few years back, and this was also asked here.


Origen (185-254 CE) in the East has been quoted as saying that God only knows who wrote the Epistle although he also suggested that Paul was the author (Robertson, 1932). Hippolytus (170-236 CE) from Rome denied it was written by Paul. Tertullian (160-220 CE) in North Africa spoke of an Epistle of Barnabas to the Hebrews (Vincent, 1886). At the councils of Carthage (397& 419 CE) it was accepted that Hebrews was Pauline and was affirmed in the council of Trent (1545-1563) (Vincent, 1886). During the reformation doubt was again put on the authorship as Luther (1484-1546) said it was written by Apollos (Robertson, 1932) and Calvin (1509-1564) denied it was Pauline (Vincent, 1886). Adolf von Harnac (1851-1930) suggested that Priscilla may have been the author but Robertson (1932) highlights that Hebrews 11:32 mentions a masculine participle that dismisses this theory.

The Epistle itself provides some information about the author. The author was a friend of Timothy (13:23) and was possibly writing in Italy (13:24), although this verse may mean “those who are originally from Italy”. In Hebrews 2:3 the author includes himself in receiving the message of salvation from those who first heard it, thus making it likely the author was not an Apostle but a second generation convert (Achtemeier, Green, & Thompson, 2001, p. 467). Throughout Hebrews the author attributed all of the Scriptural quotes to God. This use of Scripture suggests that the author believed the Old Testament to be the inspired word of God. The author had knowledge of the Jewish system leading many to think that the author was Jewish. All copies of the Epistle that have been found were written in polished Greek and not in Hebrew, indicating that the author was educated (Achtemeier, Green, & Thompson, 2001, p. 469). The author also used the Greek Septuagint and not a Hebrew Old Testament to quote from, probably due to the large Hellenistic influence of the time.

Also (this wasn't in my essay) in 5:11, 6:9, 11 etc the author refers to themselves as "we" suggesting that Hebrews may have been co-authored, perhaps in the same way that Philippians and Philemon is written by Paul and Timothy (Phil 1:1, Philemon 1).

Citations

Achtemeier, P. J., Green, J. B., & Thompson, M. M. (2001). Introducing the New Testament: its literature and theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Robertson, A. T. (1932). Word pictures in the New Testament. Nashville: Broadman.

Vincent, M. R. (1886). Vicent word studies in the New Testament. Hendrickson Publishers.

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    If the Origen quote you refer to is the one in Lance's answer then it loses quite a lot by being taken out of it's context. – Jack Douglas Feb 8 '12 at 17:56
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    Hi Jack, I didn't have the direct Origen quote at hand, I was using what Robertson said (owww.studylight.org/com/rwp/view.cgi?bk=57&ch=0&vs=0-0] ): "Origen bluntly wrote: “Who wrote the Epistle God only knows certainly” as quoted by Eusebius. Origen held that the thoughts were Paul‘s while Clement of Rome or Luke may have written the book." The original quote from Lance is a good one and sheds way more light on what Origen thought than "God only knows, maybe Paul or Luke" – Ampers Feb 8 '12 at 22:14
  • There is a very good case being argued for Priscilla. Missing greeting that Paul normally included to the assembly. Missing post-script saluting the assembly. If the author feared rejection b/c "she" would be seen as possibly usurping authority, tho I cannot see how that would apply outside of the worship service, "she" may have left identifying marks out. Or, misogynist "scholars" may have deleted those greetings and salutations throughout the centuries. But, Heb. 2:3 is proof positive that the author was NOT Paul. Priscilla, a close associate was very familiar with Paul's style. – Gina Aug 17 at 20:58
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I like Origen's comment on the authorship of Hebrews:

But as for myself, if I were to state my own opinion, I should say that the thoughts are those of the apostle [Paul], but that the diction and phraseology are those of someone who wrote down at his leisure what had been said by his teacher. Therefore, if any church holds that this epistle is by Paul, let it be commended for this. For not without reason have the ancients handed it down as Paul’s. But who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows.

I don't think you will find hard internal evidence for the authorship, but I think the classical view of the church, that Paul was the author, is the best external evidence.

A great article on it is here.

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  • Origen's comments seem to be doublespeak! ISTM that the one thing that is certain is that Paul didn't write the essay because all of his writings begin with his name, talk about himself a lot and sometimes even end with his name. – user10231 Sep 29 '15 at 10:50
  • @WoundedEgo The concept of authorship was different in ancient times than it is today. In some circumstances, Paul could be considered the author even if he never saw the letter--for instance, if the writer had been taught these things by Paul, and then written them down for others, Paul might be considered the author even if he wasn't the writer. – Bruce Alderman Sep 29 '15 at 13:14
  • @BruceAlderman That is true today; it's called "forgery"! – user10231 Sep 29 '15 at 14:54
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Hebrews has long been associated with Paul, though, as you say, the Greek style and the focus are different.

The combination of literary Greek and knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures indicates the author was probably a Greek-speaking Jew.

A few apostles and teachers mentioned in the book of Acts fit this profile:

  • Barnabas, a Levite from Cyprus (Acts 4:36)
  • Aquila, native of Pontus (Acts 18:2)
  • Priscilla, wife of Aquila, possibly a native of Rome
  • Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew (Acts 18:24)

Beyond that, it's hard to narrow down the authorship. We just don't have enough details to make anything more than an educated guess.

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  • Matthew, Peter via Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Jude, the seven messengers to the seven churches. If the symbolism of Rev applies to the authorship of the NT, then it must have been Paul. – Bob Jones May 17 '12 at 3:27
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Internal Evidence is really hard to use to establish a claim for such a thing. It is too subjective and, as such, is most helpful for corroborating External Evidence.

The Greek in Hebrews is good - so Luke is a candidate. However, the content is decidedly Jewish, which Luke never really demonstrates as something about which he has tremendous grasp (throughout Luke-Acts). He tends to shy away from the Aramaic texts (outside of "amen") used in Mark, in particular throughout his writing in Luke-Acts.

Luke DOES demonstrate a tremendous understanding of the LXX, though.

I've always been more convinced by the argument for Apollos, personally.

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In the years I have dealt with this major issue, I have used cross references to determine for myself that Paul wrote Hebrews. The vast majority of opinions that "we do not know the author of Hebrews" I believe are based on tradition, and that of course is my opinion. Paul tells the Corinthians that he "robbed" or plundered other churches (ref. 2 Cor. 11:8); reminded the other churches/individuals of his "chains"(ref. Phil. 1:14,16; Col.4:; Philemon v.10) This is brought home in Hebrews 10:34 when Paul states " you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plunder of your goods...." so like Mark 7:7-9 "traditions" seem to be the guiding light. The ball is in your court. You decide.

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likely Apollos; the greek is MUCH different than Paul ever used; words and phrases Paul NEVER used; it is in Alexandrian greek tradition; Apollos was intimately associated with Paul and Timothy; Paul always called Timothy his son but not so here; He also is one who heard the gospel from others, whereas Paul heard directly from the Lord. I suppose Barnabas is possible, but Apollos was such a great scholar in the work, and Hebrews is such high greek and theology, and Apollos so highly regarded by Corinthians and other churches, that the others such as Barnabas, Silas or Aquila are unlikely.

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Traditionally, Paul the Apostle was thought to be the author.

If we use The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, under Epistle (page 369) > Paul's Epistles we read

Paul's epistles number fourteen (if we include Hebrews) ...

which transmits the idea that while not very clear, we're more inclined to consider it than not.

Apart from other arguments, to me the most clear is that if you look at Hebrews 13:25 (NASB)

Grace be with you all.

that is how Paul tends to close his letters (Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor. 16:23; 2 Cor. 13:14; Gal. 6:18; Eph. 6:24; Phili.. 4:23; Col. 4:18; 1 Thes. 5:28; 2 Thes. 3:18; 1 Tim. 6:21; 2 Tim. 4:22; Titus 3:15; and Phile. 25). Yet, this could have been a tradition at that time.

So, the best is to say the author is unknown. No matter how much discordance one finds on the Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews, its human author is unimportant.

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