6

When I compare and contrast the writings in the book of Romans versus Hebrews they sound very different and in some cases a bit contradictory to each other. Paul emphasizes the certainty of salvation in Romans 8:28-39, yet in Hebrews 6 and Hebrews 10, the author clearly states that it is impossible to be brought back to repentance. So I don't think there is much of a case the Paul wrote it, but when I read the beginning of Hebrews, it sounds just like the beginning of Acts.

We know Luke wrote Acts so I would like to know if there is a case to me made that he also wrote Hebrews.

3

It is easy to show that Paul did not write the Epistle to the Hebrews, in fact that is the view of almost all modern scholars, who generally do not regard Hebrews as an epistle at all. Although attributed to Paul quite early, even many of the Church Fathers expressed doubts about Pauline authorship. When considering other possible authors, Luke was not among those they considered the main contenders.

The possibility of Lukan authorship depends in part on the reference to "our brother Timothy has been set free" in Hebrews 13:23. Interestingly, the King James Bible subscript attributes the letter to Timothy, in spite of this verse. In any event, only the closing verses seem to identify the book as an epistle, so they need not be original.

The hypothesis of authorship by Luke also depends on the assumption that Luke, the physician and companion of Paul, wrote the gospel that now bears his name. The gospel was originally anonymous and was only attributed to Luke later in the second century, so that most New Testament scholars now doubt that he really was the author of the Gospel of Luke. If Luke did not write the gospel, then there is no reason to believe that he wrote any other book in the New Testament.

This still leaves open the possibility that 'Luke', the actual author of Luke's Gospel was the author of Hebrews. A difficulty for any such hypothesis is that it is almost universally accepted that Hebrews was written prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, whereas scholars now say that Luke was written no earlier than the 90s of the first century. Also against this view is the fact that Luke/Acts was written with a strong emphasis on gentiles and is assumed to have been written by a gentile, whereas this does not seem the be the case with Hebrews. By comparison, there is nothing to support the option of Hebrews having been written by the same author.

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  • I've always been told that someone named Apaulos (not Paul) wrote the book of Hebrews by my Dad. He's pretty good about that stuff so I never asked. I guess we all should look into this deeper. – Vince Scalia Dec 9 '14 at 23:16
  • Just to clarify, there's no reason to think Luke the traveling companion of Paul wrote other books, but there is reason to think "Luke" the author of the gospel of Luke wrote Acts based on internal evidence. But there's no reason to think he wrote anything else in the New Testament. – Noah Dec 12 '14 at 14:34
  • @Dɑvïd We discussed this in Biblical Hermeneutics Chat – Dick Harfield Feb 5 '17 at 22:25
  • @DickHarfield: Hi Dick. "Interestingly, the King James Bible subscript attributes the letter to Timothy, in spite of this verse." note the subscript of Hebrews: "Written to the Hebrews from Italy, by Timothy." and compare with Philemon (for example): "Written from Rome to Philemon, by Onesimus a servant." It is not suggestion Timothy as the author, but either the amanuensis or the person by whom the letter was sent. Hope you would consider amending the statement. – Pieter Rousseau Oct 9 at 4:35
2

The textual similarities were also noted by Clement of Alexandria and recorded by Eusebius:

[Clement] has given in the Hypotyposes abridged accounts of all canonical Scripture, not omitting the disputed books...He says that the Epistle to the Hebrews is the work of Paul and that is was written to the Hebrews in the Hebrew language; but that Luke translated it carefully and published it for the Greeks, and hence the same style of expression is found in this epistle and in the Acts... (H.E 6.14)

One challenge to idea that Luke translated is the reality that Paul wrote in Greek. Why would he need someone to translate his own work? If there is merit to the Paul-Luke theory it seems that it would be one of collaboration not translation. If Luke is accepted as the writer of the Gospel and Acts, then his description of Paul's relationship with the Hebrews shows why a joint effort might be prudent: Paul was not well liked and a letter from Luke would likely be more favorably received.

In addition to the similarities of openings, both the Gospel and Acts reflect a very good understanding of the Old Testament and how it was fulfilled by Jesus; the same is true for the letter to the Hebrews. The fact that three works proclaim how Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures is at least a general connection that suggests a common writer.

Eusebius also reports Origen believed Paul wrote Hebrews but also said there was a tradition held by "others" that Luke was the writer:

But who wrote the Epistle in truth, God knows. Yet the account that has reached us, some saying that Clement, bishop of Rome, wrote the Epistle, and others that it was Luke, the one who wrote the Gospel and Acts. (H.E. 6.25-11-14)

It is speculative (as all are) but if one wanted to put forth Luke's role in Hebrews, rather translating for Paul, it would seem he filtered Paul (as in Acts) and was more author than translator.

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Based on the deep knowledge of Hebrew scriptures that would have been needed to write the letter, it is very unlikely that Luke wrote it since he was not Jewish. Tertullian suggested Barnabas as the author: "For there is extant withal an Epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas—a man sufficiently accredited by God, as being one whom Paul has stationed next to himself…". Internal considerations suggest the author was male, was an acquaintance of Timothy, and was located in Italy. Barnabas meets these criteria.

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  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Thank you for taking the time to share your insights. Be sure to visit the tour to learn more about this site. Due to the nature of this site, a reference may be required to support your conclusions. – Paul Vargas Dec 11 '14 at 16:22
  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. Could you expand this more, citing specifically where in Tertullian's writings you got that quote, and present more evidence for your claims of 'internal considerations'? As it stands, this doesn't show its work, which is a requirement. – Dan Dec 11 '14 at 17:19

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