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Hebrews is arguably the deepest of all epistles in the new testament. Hence the writer would have had to be the most insightful among the apostles. Even Peter acknowledged Paul's scriptural depth

2 Peter 3:15

As also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand

But 2nd Thessalonians creates a problem about the authorship.

2 Thessalonians 3:17

The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which is a sign in every epistle; so I write.

1) Is 2 Thessalonians 3:17 enough to reject Paul as the author of Hebrews?

2) Based on the scriptural knowledge and intellectual depth a book like Hebrews would require, who was the most likely author?

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  • I'm looking for an answer that uses a hermeneutical approach along with the literary style of the new testament to address the question.
    – user20490
    Dec 3 '17 at 21:14
  • user20490 - No epistle ascribed to Paul has a salutation written by Paul's own hand. All of those "autographs" are "lost". However, it is evidence that Paul hadn't intended his Epistles to be copied and distributed - and for Christians to rely on the Holy Spirit instead. All I am saying, is: I am not sure how a conclusive answer could be given. Dec 5 '17 at 17:03
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"The salutation of Paul ..."

What Paul is saying here is not that every single letter by him will contain a special sign (σημεῖον) or that this particular greeting is the special sign.

As is explained in this podcast, Paul normally dictated his Epistles to someone, but he himself always wrote the last couple of lines in his own hand. This allowed those receiving the letter to see that the letter did, in fact, come from Paul and was not something spurious from someone else claiming to be Paul. He calls attention to this practice here in 2 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians (16:21ff) and Colossians (2:18), but nowhere else.

Therefore I think we can say that the salutation here in 2 Thessalonians is not enough in itself to prove or disprove that any of the letters attributed to Paul, including Hebrews, was actually written by him or not written by him.

Who could have written Hebrews?

A very extensive discussion of what we can infer from the text itself about who might have written Hebrews can be found in the question, "Can we tell from the text who wrote Hebrews?"

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  • But you didn't address my second question. I still give you my +1 despite that.
    – user20490
    Dec 4 '17 at 1:37
  • In essence, your second question was already addressed elsewhere - on the site so I linked to that question and answers.
    – user33515
    Dec 4 '17 at 3:35
  • +1, This answer is great, because it explains why a conclusive answer cannot possibly be given. Further, since we don't have any of those autographs, we can't know for sure. But what we do know for sure, is: according to those texts, Paul hadn't intended any of his texts to be copied and distributed - outside of their audience. "To the Hebrews" - is a very obvious exception because the audience is so large, and the text would certainly be distributed. The author of Hebrew relied on the authority of its argument, not its salutation. Dec 5 '17 at 17:07
  • Thank you for the kind feedback. But I don't get, "Paul hadn't intended any of his texts to be copied and distributed". Can you explain?
    – user33515
    Dec 5 '17 at 17:59
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Paul would very likely have used his handwriting for authentication as you pointed out, but as Origen wrote, “Only God knows for certain who wrote this book.”

Here are three excellent links that include a good representation of the arguments for and against Pauline authorship.

https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/who-wrote-the-book-of-hebrews/

http://thirdmill.org/seminary/lesson.asp/vs/HEB/ln/1

https://bible.org/article/introduction-book-hebrews

One thing is obvious. The book is missing its original title and introduction.

Why am I confident in this assertion?

It’s because the author promised to visit the recipients, which requires a destination that can’t be simply “Hebrews.” Jerusalem has been suggested by some scholars, but I favor Alexandria, because of its large Hellenistic Jewish population, scholarly traditions, gnostic inclinations, and the assumption that the contemporary Messianic leadership in Jerusalem obviated an external “word of exhortation” as described in Hebrews 13:22.

It's obvious that the introduction of Hebrews is missing because the ending uses the personal pronoun “I” three times, which would baffle the original recipients without the context of a named author.

From the text, what do we know explicitly about the author?

  • Wrote from Italy, perhaps Rome
  • Personally knew Timothy, a disciple of Paul
  • Planned to take Timothy along for the promised visit
  • Was not currently incarcerated
  • Was familiar with the Hebrew scriptures, specifically the Septuagint
  • Was well educated and used a formal style of Greek argument
  • Knew about Timothy’s incarceration and release from prison, which occurred after Paul’s second and final letter to Timothy
  • Uses a closing blessing similar to Paul's with the exception you noted.
  • Was a second-generation believer, who learned about Jesus from his disciples

A possible candidate is described in Acts 18:24 (NASB):

Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures.

This doesn’t mean that Paul couldn’t have been the author, but there's some strong evidence to the contrary including your reference to II Thessalonians 3:17.

Dieter

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  • Dieter - +1 for the suggestion of Apollos. But, I think it is disingenuous to say what we know "certainly" about the author, from those arguments: How is it certain that Timothy was only imprisoned once? How is it necessary to assume knowledge of the Septuagint, if it is plausible that it was translated from Aramaic - and used the Septuagint texts instead of Hebrew? How do we know that Paul was only ever in Italy while imprisoned? etc., etc. Dec 5 '17 at 17:17
  • This is a great answer dieter +1
    – user20490
    Dec 5 '17 at 18:22
  • I'm tempted to accept your answer now because of the links you provided. But I'll hold out a little to see if better answers arise. Apollos is indeed a good guess. Because even Paul acknowledged his gift for teaching in 1-cor 3:6. Moses described his teaching as water in Deut 32:2. So I really like the suggestion of Apollo as the likely author.
    – user20490
    Dec 5 '17 at 18:26
  • Elika - Good questions. IF Paul wrote Hebrews, it gets sandwiched during the time Paul was freed in Rome, around 63 C.E. and before he went on his travels to Macedonia, Crete, Asia Minor, and possibly Spain. This is exactly the same time period that Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy (likely before since Paul hadn't departed Rome yet), and referring to him as his son (I Timothy 1:2) rather than "our brother" as in Hebrews 13:23. The writer of Hebrews wrote masterfully in Greek, using the Greek argument form called synkrisis, which means Hebrews was likely to have been authored in Greek.
    – Dieter
    Dec 6 '17 at 7:13
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2 Thessalonians 3:17 isn't enough evidence to dispute Paul's authorship of the book of Hebrews, Paul being the apostle to the gentiles as clearly identified in his commission:

Acts 26:16-18

16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; 17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. The book of Hebrews in all clarity separated law and Grace and required one with proper divine commission and deep measure of revelation and deep spiritual understanding only given by the Holy Ghost, having a deep search of the word and by the Holy Ghost. The book required not just an instructor but one with an apostolic commission having the Mind of Christ. We read in the scripture:

1 Corinthians 2:9-16

9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. Paul had such a call for we read again:

1 Corinthians 4:15

15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Paul, the masterbuilder was prepared by the Holy Ghost for the great task of laying the foundation of the Spiritual household of God as it says in Romans:

1 Corinthians 3:9,10

9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. 10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. This commission requires on called like Bezaleel in the old testament who was chosen and named by the Lord for the special work of building the tabernacle and the vessel's of the tabernacle. God , prepaired, anointed and placed Bezaleel for that very purpose as we read in the scripture:

Exodus 31:2-6

2 See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: 3 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, 4 To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, 5 And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. 6 And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee; The strength of the superstructure ( building) , lays on the substructure (foundation). Through his apostle, Paul God was laying a sure foundation for the Spiritual house he was building: We read again:

Ephesians 2:19-22

19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

The book of Hebrews was also addressed to the Jews to whom the temple worship. Paul's ministry was not accepted among the Jews as he was foreword by the Lord and as also evidenced from the book of acts:

Acts 22:17,18

17 And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; 18 And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.

By the wisdom of the Holy Spirit Paul concealed writing his name in writing His epistle to the Hebrews, so as not to lay a stumbling block for them. As Paul acknowledges: 1 Corinthians 9:19-22

19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. 20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Yet again Hebrews 13:22- 24 strongly suggests Paul's authorship.

Hebrews 13:23,24

23 Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you. 24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.

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  • Wonderfully written Samuel. I had been praying about this question for some time. And one day, it came to my mind that Paul intentionally hid his authorship because of persecution in the empire. So this answer helps. +1
    – user20490
    Dec 5 '17 at 18:35
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The exegetical argument that "To the Hebrews" was written by Paul center around the personal greetings in chapter 13:

NIV Hebrews 13: 23I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you. 24Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.

Against Pauline authorship is the absence of Paul's name which is as you point out is extremely strong evidence against it.

Someone suggested to me that it could be that he had to keep a low profile because of some unidentified situation. That's pretty thin ice. And since scripture is silent about any such thing we should not take such an idea into account

So in the complete absence of Paul's name, the lack of any chat, opening blessing, closing blessing, etc. IE: any Pauline features... No, I can't see it.

I would be blindly speculating if I hazarded a guess as to the actual author as it is anonymous and except for the last couple of verses completely impersonal. That rules out all of the authors of the epistles.

One clue is that the title "To the Hebrews" is present in every ancient copy and so appears original. No one referred to the Jews as "Hebrews" that I can think of so I don't think it is any of the gospel writers. Apollos? I don't know.

Whoever wrote it, though, did a bang up job. It is exquisitely composed.

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  • The letter was classified as Pauline by the Catholics - As opposed to all other of Saint Paul's purported epistles, whose canonicity was determined by... someone else ?
    – Lucian
    Dec 4 '17 at 1:06
  • The problem with textual criticism is that it establishes style, rather than authorship: which, of course, is not to say that there is no connection whatsoever between the two concepts. For instance, in Romanian literature, the same man who is known for fathering brutal, down-to-earth historical novels, handling the harsh, every-day realities of warfare, revolts, and peasant life, also wrote Adam and Eve, a romantic fantasy novel dealing with, among other things, reincarnation..
    – Lucian
    Dec 4 '17 at 1:22
  • Ruminator thanks for this answer. But you didn't answer my second question. "Whoever wrote it". My second question requires an informed speculation about who the "whoever" was. +1 all the same.
    – user20490
    Dec 4 '17 at 1:39
  • @user20490 Thanks. I updated the answer with my ruminations on who might be the author but probably nothing you could hang your hat on.
    – Ruminator
    Dec 4 '17 at 1:50
  • @Ruminator 😁😁😁. Very funny. At least my hat is not my head.
    – user20490
    Dec 4 '17 at 1:53

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