From the Pastor’s Pen

Final Thoughts on Hebrews 1:1-4

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.           NKJV

Unlike the other New Testament epistles, which all open with an introduction by the writer of the book, the epistle of Hebrews skips the introduction entirely, immediately launching into a discourse on the fact that Jesus is the Messiah. Who was the writer of Hebrews?

The early church generally held that the Apostle Paul was the writer of Hebrews. In fact, not one of the early Greek Christian writers ascribed the epistle to anyone other than the Apostle Paul. So ingrained was Pauline authorship in church history that the King James translators not only believed that Paul wrote the letter, but prefaced it with “The Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Hebrews.”

However, despite the prevalent tradition of the early church that Paul was the writer of Hebrews, some scholars have suggested other authors wrote the letter, including Luke, Apollos, Barnabas, Priscilla, Aquila, Silas, and Philip. The following are the major objections to Pauline authorship along with responses to these objections:

Objection: The writer does not identify himself as Paul did in all of his letters.
Response: It is clear in verses such as Acts 9:23-24; 13:45; 14:19; 17:4-5, 13; 18:5-6, 12; 20:3, 19; 21:11, 20-21, 27-28; 22:30; 23:12-14, 20-21, 27, 30; 24:1, 5, 27; 25:2-3, 7, 14-15, 24; 26:2, 7, 21; 28:17-19, and II Cor. 11:24 that the Jews harbored deep hatred for the Apostle Paul and would not have read the letter if Paul had identified himself as the writer.

Objection: The writer of Hebrews states that salvation was “confirmed to us by those who heard Him (the Lord).” Paul never met any of the Apostles before his conversion on the road to Damascus.
Response: This objection is based on conjecture and not fact. In Acts 4:1-3, 5-7, 13-18, 21; 5:27-28, 33, 40-41 (compare with Acts 22:3; 23:6; Phil. 3:5) the Apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin. As a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, Paul had a number of opportunities to hear the Apostles confirm the gospel.

Objection: The language of Hebrews is similar to that of Luke, therefore Luke must have written Hebrews.
Response: As Luke was Paul’s frequent traveling companion and pupil (Colossians 4:14, II Timothy 4:11, Philemon 24), it should come as no surprise that the two of them would use similar language.

In addition to the fact that Luke had been Paul’s companion for a long time, there is a greater understanding and familiarity with Jewish doctrine and practices in Hebrews than Luke would have had as a Gentile, and upon examination, the language of Hebrews is virtually identical to that of Paul’s other letters. The following examples are used exclusively by Paul in his letters:
A. “Image of God” Compare Hebrews 1:3 with Colossians 1:15
B. “Mediator” Compare Hebrews 8:6 with I Timothy 2:5; Galatians 3:19-20
C. “God of peace” Compare Hebrews 13:20 with Romans 15:33; I Thessalonians 5:23
Many other examples are clearly consistent with Paul’s literary style and use of metaphors. These include the following:
D. “All things under His feet” Compare Hebrews 2:8 with I Corinthians 15:27
E. “His enemies under His feet (made His footstool)” Compare Hebrews 10:13 with
I Corinithians 15:25
F. “Christ was a sacrifice for our sins.” Compare Hebrews 9:26; 10:12 with I Corinthians 5:7
G. “The just shall live by faith.” Compare Hebrews 10:38 with Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11
H. “Righteousness (justification) by faith” Compare Hebrews 11:7 with Galatians 3:11; Philippians 3:9
I. “The word of God as a sword” Compare Hebrews 10:38 with Ephesians 6:17
J. “Immature Christians fed milk not solid food” Compare Hebrews 5:12-14 with
I Corinthians 3:2
K. “Boldness to enter the presence of God” Compare Hebrews 10:19 with Ephesians 3:12
L. “The Christian life is a race.” Compare Hebrews 12:1 with I Corinthians 9:24;
Philippians 3:14
M. “Subject to bondage” Compare Hebrews 2:15 with Galatians 5:1
N. “Grace be with you.” Compare Hebrews 13:25 to any of Paul’s letters which always end with this expression.

Other characteristics of Paul’s style appear in Hebrews such as a propensity to focus on a word and enter on a long parenthesis suggested by that word, a fondness for play upon words of similar sound, a disposition to repeat some favorite word, frequent appeals to the Old Testament, and quotations linked by “and again,” (compare Heb 1:5 2:13 with Rom. 15:10-12). Finally, a large number of manuscripts conclude Hebrews with “Penned to the Hebrews from Italy, by Timothy. Since Timothy often penned Paul’s letters as the Apostle dictated them, this is strong evidence for Pauline authorship.

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