A Submission to The Four Controversies Contest
When I encounter a controversial issue in the Bible, I put my drive into high gear and do an in-depth study for my own personal satisfaction.
One such issue presented itself when our Bible Study coordinator introduced The Epistle to the Hebrews for our point of focus during the current session.
A big question was asked by the coordinator, “Who wrote this epistle addressed to the Hebrews?”
In my previous readings, I always believed that Apostle Paul was the author and I asserted this belief. To my bewilderment, the coordinator did not agree with my assertion. He flatly said that the author was unknown.
Yes, I am aware that this disagreement exists but I need to revisit this issue one more time to see for myself if I can be swayed otherwise.
First, let me restate the reasoning of some scholars and theologians why they cannot give anyone credit of authorship; much less, Apostle Paul, based on the following presumption:
1) According to C.I. Scofield, Editor of The Scofield Bible Study, the Letter to the Hebrews is an anonymous book. Its authorship has been debated since post-apostolic days. In certain passages, its language is like Paul’s and, because of the personal reference to Timothy in 13:23, some scholars have attributed the letter to Paul. But, that’s where they leave it hanging in limbo. Maybe yes, maybe no. Nothing definite came out of it.
As an aside, C. I. Scofield believes that Hebrews is a part of the Scripture, that speaks with divine authority, although there is no definitive authorship that can be ascertained. He also noted that the letter was composed before the destruction of Jerusalem, since it is evident that the temple was still standing when Hebrews was written.
2) The salutation in Hebrews differs considerably from the salutations Apostle Paul used in all his other letters. Such letters are addressed to the Romans, the Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus and Philemon. In these letters, his salutations almost always mention Timothy referring to Timothy as his fellow worker, his faithful brother in Christ, his true child in the faith. Therefore, the naysayers contend, why exclude Timothy in his salutation to the Hebrews? The question then is: Does not mentioning Timothy in the salutation negate his authorship?
We need to look into that issue to see the intent of the writer.
Here is the basis for what I believe resulting from my investigative study that refutes the above claim. I didn’t have to go far to find the answer.
1) A comparative study of Apostle Paul’s style of writing in each of his letters, juxtaposed with the style of writing in the letter to the Hebrews gives the clue. He was addressing the Hebrew believers who had a totally different background and culture.
2) There is a definite distinction in dealing with the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews were the chosen people of God; they were set apart, while the Gentiles were the outcasts in the Jewish community. Apostle Paul was exercising some “political correctness” so as not to offend the Hebrew superiority.
3) Apostle Paul had to keep the Hebrews on a pedestal to maintain their friendship. The nuance then is in “to whom” Paul is addressing the letter. Here, he addresses it to the Hebrews – believers who have a Jewish background – the circumcised, legalistic, ritualistic, with Mosaic upbringing. Hence, it shows in his introduction: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our father by the prophets…”
4) I would contend that the above introduction may sound as if it was Peter speaking in as much as Peter was the leader of the twelve apostles whose ministry was geared towards the Israelites. Is there a possibility then that Peter wrote this epistle? Let’s look at his introduction in I Peter 1:1, where he says, “To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion…” It does sound like it could be Peter as he is referring to the Israelites or the Christian Hebrews who were scattered abroad whom the author in the Hebrew introduction addressed as well. But, the distinction comes in when Peter continued in II Peter 3:1 by saying, “This is now, beloved, the second epistle that I write to you.” Obviously, Peter demonstrated he wrote only two epistles, which are The First Letter of Peter written in 65 A.D. and The Second Letter of Peter, written in 66 A.D. Therefore, no theologian or Bible scholar would credit Peter as the author of Hebrews.
5)Additionally, William R. Newell, the author of Hebrews Verse-By-Verse, convincingly argues that from Chapter 13:18 to the end of the chapter, Paul is plainly speaking, as Peter testifies in II Peter 3:15, saying, “And remember, the Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother, Paul, also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him – speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture…”
Who are the “you” whom Peter says Paul addressed? I Peter 1:1 tells us they are the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion (the dispersed Israelites.)
6) In conclusion, the last three verses of the last chapter of Hebrews (13:22-25 – New Living Translation - NLT) show without a tint of doubt that Apostle Paul is the author of this epistle, in as much as he is the only apostle who mentions Timothy in all his letters. He may not have mentioned Timothy in his salutation but he sure mentioned Timothy as he concludes, “I urge you, dear brothers and sisters, to pay attention to what I have written in this brief exhortation. I want you to know that our brother, Timothy, has been released from jail. If he comes here soon, I will bring him with me to see you.”
That settles this controversy for me.