The Book of Hebrews


Who Wrote Hebrews? Hebrews 5:13-14

Identifying the author of Hebrews is not as simple as it is with many other New Testament books because the author never identified himself. As early as the patristic period, Clement of Alexandria, who lived from approximately A.D. 150 to 215, and Origen of Alexandria, who lived from around A.D. 185 to 254, acknowledged that there was a variety of opinions on the authorship of Hebrews in their day. Early on, the apostle Paul was the candidate named most frequently, but scholars also suggested Barnabas, Luke, Apollos, and even Clement of Rome. 

Today, the majority of interpreters reject Pauline authorship. We’ll touch on three reasons for this stance. This book is anonymous, and it was Paul’s practice to name himself in his epistles. In fact, as 2 Thessalonians 2:2 makes clear, Paul was deeply concerned that forgeries had spread under his name. So, it seems unlikely that he would have failed to identify himself had he written Hebrews. 

For the sake of time, we’ll point out just two rather obvious features of the author’s life.  

In the first place, the author of Hebrews was a Hellenistic Jew. Most scholars today agree that Paul did not write Hebrews. In the end, though, it’s best to conclude with Origen that only God really knows. Hebrews’ authorship has been debated throughout the years, but this shouldn’t prevent us from learning as much as we can about the author and his character from clues found in the text. 

We can see from the text that both Jewish and Hellenistic influences shaped the author and his book. The author’s strong Jewish heritage is evident in his knowledge of the Old Testament. In fact, he quoted the Old Testament at least 31 times in his 13 chapters. 

It would also appear that the author had a strong Hellenistic upbringing. In the past, interpreters pointed to the author’s use of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, as evidence that he was a Hellenistic Jew. In the second half of the last century, however, research into the Dead Sea Scrolls has revealed that quotations initially assumed to be directly from the Septuagint, could have come from non-traditional Hebrew texts. For this reason, we can’t be certain that the author of Hebrews used the Septuagint. 

But despite this discovery, we can still be confident that the author of Hebrews was Hellenistic. His sophisticated Greek offers strong evidence of a Hellenistic upbringing. And his vocabulary and style give evidence of a mastery of the language that even surpasses the writings of Luke. 

Not only was the author of Hebrews a Hellenistic Jew, but we can also add to our profile that he was a passionate intellectual. Interpreters widely acknowledge that the author of Hebrews was an intellectual. The theological arguments in Hebrews are more complex than many of those found in the rest of the New Testament. In fact, the author himself noted the priority of sophisticated theological reflection in passages like Hebrews 5:13-14 where he indicated that to distinguish good from evil, followers of Christ must become doctrinally mature.

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