Considering all these peculiarities we may well say that the Epistle to the Hebrews is no epistle in the true and proper sense, or at least, is no epistle in the ordinary sense. The author on his part has not surrendered himself to the free and unrestrained effusion of his thoughts, cares, wishes and feelings in this writing (as Paul does even in the most systematic of his epistles, that to the Romans), but he has; worked out and elaborated it according to a well considered plan, so that he evidently subordinates the subjective flow. of his thoughts and feelings to this objective plan. The strict order of his argumentation is never broken in upon by over flowing emotions (as is done for example in Romans 1:22-25; 2:1-4 and 24; 3:5 and 9; 7:24; 11:33, etc.). The readers. on their part could not possibly have understood the Epistle if, like the rest of the New Testament epistles, it had been read a single time before an assembly of the Church. The Epistle, in order to be understood, must be gone through section by section, slowly, carefully and repeatedly, with continual comparison of the Old Testament passages cited in it and their connection.
It is no ordinary epistle; it is more than that, it has in reality something of the nature of a theological treatise, written for a definite circle of readers. Not only is it a very special error or spiritual malady that is counteracted through out the entire epistle, not only must an exact acquaintance with the spiritual state of the readers be presupposed in the hortatory parts, but in ch. 5:12 it is even indicated that the readers collectively had passed over to Christianity together at one and the same time, and in ch. 6:10 and 10:32-34 reference is made to their former conduct, their former fortitude in the faith as contrasted with their present faint heartedness,—limitations of so definite a kind that we cannot suppose a whole church to be addressed, but only a very narrow and definite circle of individuals.
And we are at liberty to seek these Jewish Christians only in Jerusalem. The import of the epistle as a whole, and in its particular parts, has indeed the one practical aim of convincing the readers that it was no misfortune, and in no way dangerous as regards the salvation of their soul, to be excluded from the Temple and the Temple worship, and to make it clear to them that the central point for the Israelite who believes in the Messiah does not lie in Israelitism or Leviticism, but in Messiaism. The readers, therefore, did not only participate with many Jewish Christians living out of Jerusalem in the common erroneous notion that the Jewish theocracy with its ritual was the main concern, and that the Messiah was sent only on account of it, and therefore for those who have part in it, not indeed as a secondary thing, but still only, so to speak, as a reward and a gift testifying complacency with the theocracy. Not only had they not yet comprehended that the Jewish theocracy was rather established on account of the Messiah, and the Messiah sent on account of the whole world. But to this theoretically erroneous view there was added, in their case, the practical danger of being really and truly shut out from the Temple worship; indeed, it was this danger, evidently, that first awakened and called out the theoretical error. For the whole polemical aim of the epistle is directed not against conscious heretics and blameable heresy (as, for example, that of the Epistle to the Galatians), but against an aberration which had its root in weakness. The readers were too weak, too undeveloped in faith and knowledge to be able to bear and to overcome the terrible feeling of being shut out from the old theocratical sanctuary. Hence the theoretical statements of the epistle have an altogether unpolemical form, they are milk for the weak, ch. 5:12: "For even when you ought to be teachers, by reason of the lapse of time, again you are having need of one to be teaching you, what are the elements of the oracles of God, and have become to be having need of milk and not of solid nourishment."
What of polemical is in it is directed solely against the sin of faint heartedness, never against intentional error. But that practical danger could exist in this form only with such Jewish Christians as lived in Jerusalem itself. Elsewhere in Palestine and among the dispersion errors might arise similar to that in the Galatian Church, but never could those circumstances exist out of which such an involuntary fear of exclusion might spring. For where no Temple was, there the fear of exclusion from the Temple could not practically be felt. To be "excluded from the synagogue was no real misfortune. Indeed, nothing is said in the Hebrews Epistle of an excommunication from Jewish synagogues, but of exclusion from the Temple and altar and the Israelitish theocratic church as a whole. Such could be practically felt only in Jerusalem itself. Yet in one respect the excommunication from the Temple might affect Jewish Christians out of Jerusalem, when they came to .Jerusalem to any of the three great festivals, and then found the Temple closed against them.
No; it cannot have been the entire Church in Jerusalem for which the Epistle was intended. Ch. 6:10 proves this: "For, not unrighteous is God, to be forgetting your work and the love which you display for His name, in that you minister to the saints, and continue ministering." Also ch. 10:32—"But be calling to mind the former days, in which, being illuminated, a great combat you endured, of sufferings." It is hardly conceivable that a church, the number of whose members extended at all events to thousands, should formerly have been together as one man bold and true to their profession, and should afterwards have collectively as one man become weak and faint-hearted. Then ch. 2:3, "How shall we be escaping, when so great a salvation as this neglecting?" This leads us to think only of such readers as had been converted subsequent to the time of Christ's ascension, who, in general, lived at a later period, and who therefore had not themselves been witnesses of the public labours of Jesus. Moreover, ch. 5:12 in particular, forbids our supposing that the epistle was addressed to that entire church which was the mother church of all, which numbered among its members at all events many who had grown grey in Christianity,many who had been the personal disciples of Jesus, and again many who had been added at a later period from year to year. The members of this church were not like each other in respect to the time of their conversion, but different to the extent of perhaps thirty years; then it could not be presupposed of several thousands that they ought to be teachers; still less would this be said of a church in whose bosom there existed in reality many teachers; least of all can it be supposed, that such a church should as a body have so retrograded that it again needed milk.
Thus, the Epistle was intended for a limited circle of neophytes (novice, or new convert) in Jerusalem, who had become timorous lest they should be excluded from the Temple worship, threatened to withdraw themselves from Christianity (ch. 10:25), therefore were taken anew under instruction, and for whose instruction the Hebrews Epistle was to form a kind of guide.
The first year of the Jewish War was 66. The Epistle must have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem, because there are passages in which the Levitical ritual is spoken of as still subsisting (chs. 9:8; 10:1). It is not probable that the Epistle was written immediately before the War. Some leaders had already suffered martyrdom (ch. 13:7); the readers also had already suffered loss in their earthly possessions (ch. 10:34), and many of their fellowbelievers had been imprisoned; yet they themselves had not yet needed to strive even unto blood (ch. 12:4). On the other hand, it is taken for granted everywhere in the hortatory portions, that severer persecutions may come, nay, will come. The readers are systematically prepared for these, and exhorted to submit to the sufferings that were before them as a discipline from God (ch. 12:5, etc.), not to become faint hearted (ch. 10:38), to persevere in patience (ch. 10:36), to imitate the faith of the martyrs (ch. 13:7), and like Christ and all the Old Testament saints, to keep fixedly and alone before their eye the future goal, the entrance into the holiest of all (ch. 11 and ch. 12:1-3). Do we find, now, traces of the condition of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem growing worse after the year 58? First of all, the persecution under Nero in July, 64, which would certainly be a signal to the Jews. To persecute these Christians who were now held to be criminals against Caesar was no longer wrong, and would bring with it no danger. These Christians, whose leaders, Peter and Paul, had been murdered so shortly after as criminals and rebels, had no claim to, and no hope of, protection from the Romans. Certainly, then, there began in the summer or harvest of year 64 a season of aggravated persecution for the Christians of Jerusalem. Already, under Porcius Festus (60-62), the unbridled spirit of the Jews rose to a height hitherto unknown. In year 57 the Sicarii made an attempt at insurrection on a large scale, but was put down (Acts 21:38). Under Festus, again, arose the multitude of Goetes and false Messiahs; the fever of false Maccabeism raged widely, and ate into the vitals of a people become inwardly corrupt and morally dissolute. We can easily see how the Christians as "adherents of a Messiah" must have been exposed to the suspicion of the Gentile magistrates, who could hardly be expected to investigate with any great care into the nature and character of each particular Messiah, but in whose eyes all hope of a Messiah and all speaking of a Messiah must soon have been stamped as unlawful, and scouted as a Jewish association for treasonable purposes, after some dozens of Messiahs had, one after another, put them selves forth as agitators and rebels. Thus it became very easy for the Jews to blacken the Christians in the eyes of the Romans, or to obtain a bill of indemnity for any arbitrary persecutions of the Jews.
It is certain, then, that the year 60 or 61 formed an epoch of increased trouble to the Christians, and Josephus expressly relates that after the departure of Festus, and before the arrival of his successor Albinus, the Apostle James, son of Alphaeus, was stoned at the instigation of the high priest, Annas the younger. This murder was certainly the signal for something further. Then in year 62, the difficulties of the Christians in Jerusalem began to increase, and in the harvest of 64 there was a second and still greater aggravation of them. It might therefore be supposed that the Hebrews Epistle was written either late in the summer of 64, or in the year 62 or 63. But let us see whether ch. 13:23 gives any more definite information. Timothy had been in prison, and had just recovered his freedom when the Epistle was written. At the same time, we gather from ch. 13:23-24 that the person who wrote or worked out the Epistle was free, and in Italy, but in a different place from Timothy (if Timothy, who has just been set free, comes to him soon he will set out with him to the east), that, on the other hand, the proper author of the Epistle from whom the material (but not the diction, compare ch. 13:22) emanates, and in whose name the Epistle on to ch. 13:21 is written, was by no means so independent as to be able to set out as soon as he might please to Jerusalem, but was so restrained by the circumstances in which he was involuntarily placed, that he exhorted his readers (ch. 13:19) to pray God that he might be again restored to them.
But when could Timothy have been in prison in Italy? During the imprisonment of Paul at Rome, several of his helpers were involved in the judicial procedure against him and detained for a while in custody; so Aristarchus (Col. 4:10) and Epaphras (Phm. 23). It is not impossible that Timothy also, might have been kept in confinement at that time. When Paul wrote to the Colossians and Philippians, Timothy was with him (Col. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; 2:19). True, Paul does not precisely designate him as his fellow-prisoner, and makes no precise mention of an imprisonment of Timothy; but even the circumstance that the Epistle to the Philippians was written precisely in the name of Paul and Timothy (ch. 1:1), and that Timothy, thereby, joins in the thanksgiving for the gift which was sent, almost warrants the possibility that Timothy was imprisoned together with Paul. Just because Paul throughout the whole Epistle speaks in his own person, addresses his exhortations in his own name, speaks in ch. 3:4, etc., of his own former circumstances, because, in a word Timothy has no part in the contents of the writing,—that superscription Paul and Timothy servants of Jesus Christ would properly have had no meaning did not point to this, that the occasion of the Epistle—the gift which had been received—equally concerned Timothy and Paul, and this, indeed, is only conceivable on the sup position that Timothy shared in the fate of Paul as a prisoner. The analogous passage Col. 1:1 would then have a similar explanation. This supposition is confirmed by Phil. 2:19. Paul hopes that he will be able soon to send Timothy into the East. Why is this an object of hope to him? If Timothy was free, then he might simply have determined to send him thither. He hopes to send him, so soon as he knows how it may go with his own case (v. 23), and, in the same way, he hopes or "trusts" (v. 24) that the Lord will soon procure freedom for himself "also." These words, that I also myself shall come shortly, are so parallel with the words I hope to send Timothy shortly unto you, that it is not too bold to suppose that Timothy also, who "as a son with the father hath served with me" (v. 22), and who alone of all has not sought his own (vv. 20, 21), was involved in the procedure against Paul and imprisoned. If Timothy had been free, why did not Paul send him at once with Epaphroditus or instead of Epaphroditus, who (v. 27), had just recovered from a deadly disease? So there is the possibility that Timothy may have been at that time in prison. The Epistle to the Philippians was written in year 62, at all events before the third year of Paul's imprisonment at Rome, where his situation became worse. Now, if the setting at liberty of Timothy recorded in Heb. 13:23 is identical with what Paul hopes for in Phil. 2:19, then Hebrews was written towards the end of year 62, therefore just after the death of James the son of Alphaeus.
Next article will be, "Was Hebrews originally written in Greek?"
Timothy, after having been sent by Paul into the East, was urgently entreated by Paul (2 Tim. 4:21), whose case in the meantime (during the first half of year 63) had taken a serious turn to come back to him before the harvest of 63. We may be sure that he did so, and it is most likely that he himself was involved in the procedure against Paul. It is possible also, that after Paul's death he was taken prisoner in the persecution under Nero (July 64). In short, an imprisonment of Timothy in Italy may likewise be conceived of as possible in the year 64; only, that his being again set at liberty is less probable on this occasion than in the year 62. The Epistle might have been written between the harvest of 62 and late in the summer of 64. But the enquiry as to the author may be the first thing to give more light on the question.
But as the general tradition of the East named Paul as tile author, Clement was led to ask: May not the Epistle in its present form in reality perhaps have proceeded from another—from Luke? Wherefore not, he thought; how very possible is it that Paul wrote to those Aramaic speaking Jewish Christians in their own language, and that a disciple of Paul (for example Luke himself, whose style so much resembles that of the Epistle to the Hebrews) afterwards worked out the Epistle for a wider circle of readers. But Clement's disciple, Origen, departs from the supposition of an originally Aramaic writing, albeit he retains the substance of Clement's view. He too, notices the difference in style between the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Pauline Epistles. He too, does not venture to carry back that Epistle in its present form directly to Paul; but he can explain this phenomenon by a simpler and far more probable conjecture, namely, by the supposition that Paul did not verbally dictate this Epistle, but only delivered in free oral discourse the thoughts and the development of the thoughts, the composition and elaboration of which he left over to one of his disciples. That he thought it necessary to modify the opinion of Clement can only be explained on the ground that this was only an opinion, only a subjective supposition. This supposition is met with also in the later Church Fathers. Eusebius also repeats it. Elsewhere Eusebius speaks as if the Greek Epistle to the Hebrews comes from Paul.
Yet it was always evidently the old conjecture of Clement which in every case recommended itself on the simple ground, that everyone noticed the dissimilarity in style between the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Pauline Epistles.
Nowhere is there the faintest trace of an Aramaic original of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and our Greek Epistle to the Hebrews is indeed so original throughout, so evidently thought in Greek, both in form and import, that the supposition of its having arisen from an Aramaic original becomes at once an impossibility.
Just examine the number of Greek paranomasias and plays on words, of which only some (for example hupotaxai and amtpotakton—to subject. . . . unsubjected, ch. 2:8; apatOr and amEtOr—without father, without mother, ch. 7:3; eggizomen and egguos—we are drawing near, sponsor, ch. 7:19 and 22; paramenein and menein—abiding, remaining, ch. 7:23-24; hEgEsamenos and hEgiasthE—deeming, he is hallowed, ch. 10:29).
Only some of these could have arisen unconsciously in the hands of a translator, while the most are certainly intended (for example polumerOs kai polutropOs—in many parts and in many ways, ch. 1:1; emathen aph' hOn epathen—He learned from what He suffered, ch. 5:8; kalou te kai kakou—of ideal besides of evil, ch. 5:14; brOmasi kai pomasi—on foods and drinks, ch. 9:10; menousan, mellousan—permanent, future, ch. 13:14).
All that can be directly inferred from this mass of paranomasias is, that our Epistle cannot be the literal translation of an Aramaic original; that it may have been a free reproduction of such an original is not thereby set aside.
This reproduction, however, must have been executed in so free manner that, in the form and structure of the periods, as well as in the transference of the ideas, the writer has not bound himself down to the original; for the construction of the periods is so genuinely Greek, so rich, so fine, the language is so select and expresses modifications of ideas so delicate (for example metriopathein, to be moderate; euperiastatos, popular; misthapodosia, reward) that there are no Aramaic ideas and words whatever to which these Greek ones would correspond. The writer must, therefore, have entirely recast his original—and that not merely as regards the form, but also the matter. All the argumentations are so fine, so closely knit and interwoven with the grammatical form of the finely constructed period, that if this form was not possible in the Aramaic original, then must also the entire development of the thought have been different. Compare for example ch. 1:1-3; ch. 2:2-4; and 9, 10, 14, 15; ch. 3:1-2, etc.; ch.4:9 and 6, 7; ch. 5:7-10; ch.7:5-12, etc. Let anyone only try to render back these passages into the poor Aramaic language, and he will be convinced that more than half of the sentiments, but chiefly and entirely their fine connexion, would be lost.
Then there is also the use made of the Septuagint. In the particular passages we see that the argumentations based on Old Testament citations are substantially correct, and really founded on the sense which those citations have in the original. But in like manner we see that those argumentations, in respect of form, correspond to the words and expressions used in the Septuagint, even in those instances in which the Septuagint, although rightly rendering the sentiment as a whole, yet does not correspond to the most direct grammatical sense of the Hebrew original. Thus, for example in ch. 2:8, the argumentation is based on the word hupotassein (to be subjecting), which does not occur at all in the Hebrew original of Psalm 45:6-7. In like manner ch. 4:5 and ch. 10:5-7, etc. These argumentations also the writer must have entirely recast.
In short, the entire Hebrews Epistle is in form and matter thought out in Greek. Granted that it really had an Aramaic writing for its basis, our Greek Epistle to the Hebrews would still not be a reproduction of this original writing, but an entirely new and original writing, to which the Aramaic writing bore the relation of a mere preparatory work, and we should not be at liberty to say: "The Epistle to the Hebrews was originally written in Aramaic," but more correctly would have to say: "The writer of the Hebrews Epistle made use of another writing of similar import, which happened to be written in Aramaic, as a preparatory work." But herewith the whole conjecture vanishes. For there are no positive grounds for this conjecture, and, thus modified, it would not even serve the end which it was intended to serve by Clement of Alexandria. If Paul had intended to deliver in writing to the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews a scheme of contents for the epistle which was to be written, in order that this author might carry it out, he would at least not have written this scheme in the Aramaic language. If, however, Paul or anyone else had written and sent an Aramaic epistle to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, and some other (Luke or anyone else) had set himself to translate it into Greek for the more general use of all Christians, he would have really translated it, and not have made something quite different out of it.
The conjecture of Clement, therefore, is mere conjecture, and indeed it is not even fitted to explain the coincidence of the un-Pauline style and the oriental tradition of the Pauline authorship. We can now pass to the inquiry respecting the author of the Hebrews Epistle.
But nowhere does Clement name the Epistle to the Hebrews, and nowhere does he name Paul as its author.
The series of properly Oriental witnesses for the Pauline authorship of Hebrews begins with Pantaenus, first teacher of catechetical school of Alexandria, concerning whom very little is known. He wrote numerous commentaries on the Scriptures. He was not heard of after the persecution of 203. Clement of Alexandria appealed to him for the information that Paul had put no inscription to the Hebrews Epistle, because he did not wish to urge his apostolical authority on the Jewish Christians. He appealed also to Pantaenus in support of its having been written by Paul. Likewise, Origen cites the Epistle as Pauline, and declares that "The nature of the diction of the Epistle inscribed 'To Hebrews' has not in the language of the apostle what is unskilful, he who acknowledged himself to be unskilful in speech, that is, in expression; but the epistle is in composition of its diction purer Greek."
All the following Greek Church Fathers named the Epistle as Paul's: Eusebius, Antonius, Athanasius, Didymus, Theophilus of Alexandria, the two Gregories, Basilius, Epiphanius, James of Nisibus, Ephraim of Syria, the two Cyrils, Chrysostom, etc. But some have called in question the antiquity and unanimity of this oriental tradition. One scholar thought that the "ancient men" to whom Origen referred might merely mean Pantaenus and Clement of Alexandria. But it is improbable that Origen should have designated these his immediate predecessors and teachers by such a vague expression.
Now Clement of Alexandria had not unconditionally held that Paul was the immediate author of the Hebrews Epistle. How then, can this Clement be brought forward among those to whom those churches might appeal which held the epistle to be directly Pauline? The sense of the passage is plainly, this: "The Alexandrians cannot, indeed, believe that this epistle, with this style, was thus composed by Paul himself; but whosoever will yet hold Paul to be the immediate and proper author (therefore in opposition to Clement!) we can do nothing against him, since even the ancients have handed down the epistle to us as one of Paul's."
Accordingly, a second objection also is herewith refuted. In the words, "If then any church is holding this epistle as of Paul" there evidently lies the presupposition, that only a few churches at that time held the epistle to the Hebrews to be a work of Paul. But the question treated of in the context of this passage is, not at all, whether the epistle was written by Paul or came into existence without Paul having anything to do with it. That the ancient tradition imputed it to Paul was a settled point, and only the certainty of this tradition could, induce Clement and Origen to form those two conjectures, by which the un-Pauline style at variance with the tradition might be explained. The question with Origen is rather, whether the epistle, precisely as we have it in Greek, can have come directly from Paul. The old tradition called it Pauline; the unPauline style had, however, justly struck the Alexandrians; it had become the settled opinion among them that the epistle in its present form could not be directly from Paul; either it is a translation of an Aramaic original (as Clement wrongly supposed), or, according to the better conjecture of Origen, Paul did not dictate the words of it but gave only the sentiments for it. These views, under the influence of the catechist school in Alexandria and the neighbourhood, may have been generally spread; hence Origen carelessly mentions them, but then it may have struck him, that this hypothesis might give offence, that there might possibly be churches which would zealously maintain the immediately Pauline origin; against these, he says, we cannot take any steps as the ancient tradition names the epistle simply as one of Paul's.
Origen certainly presupposes an absolute denial of the Pauline authorship as possible, but only as possible. He may have heard something of the Western views concerning the Hebrews Epistle. He also distinctly takes it for granted that some might feel themselves compelled to doubt the authority of the Hebrews Epistle on internal grounds, namely, on account of Hebrews 11:37 (where prophets are spoken of who were sawn asunder, while no such case is mentioned in the O.T.).
Again, reference has been made to the fact that Eusebius reckons the Hebrews Epistle among the antilegomena (things spoken against), inasmuch as he relates of Clement of Alexandria, that in his Stromateis (Miscellanies) he made use of proofs also from the antilegomena writings, namely, from the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the epistle of Clemens of Rome, Barnabas and Judas. But that the epistle to the Hebrews is here reckoned among the antilegomena is very simply explained from this, that Eusebius himself knew and mentions that some held Luke, others Clement of Rome, to be the proper and immediate author of it, and that the whole Western Church entirely denied it to be Paul's. In this sense he might call it an antilegomenon. But how firmly settled that tradition of the Pauline authorship in general was in the East is evident from this, that Eusebius in his principal passage on the Canon does not adduce the Hebrews Epistle among the antilegomena, and was therefore conscious of having already included it among the "Epistles of Paul"; accordingly, the same Eusebius cites it as Pauline in not less than twenty-seven passages.
Finally, the learned and widely read Jerome, who made use of the library of Caesarea, and therewith of the entire Christian literature of the first centuries, says, that the Hebrews Epistle was ascribed to Paul not only by Eastern Churches, but by all Greek ecclesiastic writers in time back.
Thus, then, the thesis is fully confirmed—that the primitive and general tradition of the East is in favour of the Pauline authorship. It is also confirmed by the remarkable circumstance, that the Hebrews Epistle, as is still evident from the numbering of the Kephalaia (titles) in Codex B (Vaticanus), originally stood between the Epistle to Galatians and that to the Ephesians, and was not till a later period in the fourth century placed after the Epistle to the Thessalonians, and still later, after the Pastoral Epistles.
But in the West it was altogether different. The bishop of Lyons, Irenaeus, who was among the first to follow the practice of citing the New Testament writings by their titles and authors, has, as is commonly supposed, not at all cited the Hebrews Epistle, at least not by its title and author; nay, there is a notice, certainly a very late one, to the effect that Irenaeus held the Hebrews Epistle to be un-Pauline. Meanwhile, these points would need a special examination. Only the second, vizt.: that Irenaeus never names Paul as the author of the Hebrews Epistle, is beyond all question true. There are serious doubts, on the other hand, against the first, that Irenaeus was not at all acquainted with the epistle, and did not make use of it. Eusebius notices a writing (now lost) of that Church Father with the express remark, that in it Irenaeus "mentions also the Epistle to the Hebrews." But it is quite vague how far he mentioned it, and he may only have cited particular passages. At any rate, Irenaeus knew the Epistle, but it cannot be inferred that he must have held it to be Pauline. There is not the slightest trace of his ever having declared it to be Pauline. On the contrary, it is thought that there is a trace of his having held it to be un-Pauline. Stephanus Gobarus (6th century) records that Irenaeus and Hippolytus held the Epistle to be un-Pauline. Hippolytus manifestly denied the Pauline origin of Hebrews. . But it is far more probable that Stephanus presumed, from the rare and scanty use which Irenaeus makes of the Hebrews Epistle, from his silence respecting the author, and finally, from the view entertained by his disciple Hippolytus, that his teacher also, Irenaeus, must have held the Epistle to be un-Pauline. But it is quite as possible that he had brought with him from Asia Minor to Lyons the tradition respecting the Pauline origin, but that he was unwilling to urge this on the Western Church.
Victorinus (A.D. 303), the Muratorian Canon, and the presbyter Gajus (about 190), count only 13 Pauline epistles. Cyprian says in two passages that Paul wrote to seven churches; besides Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Colasse, Philippi, Thessalonica, and Galatia, there remains here no place for the" Hebrews." Cyprian may not have counted the Hebrews Epistle because its readers formed no church; he reckons the province of Galatia as a church! Tertullian, in a passage where everything depended on his being able to confirm the authority of the Hebrews Epistle, with great decision and candour names Barnabas as its author. From the second to the fourth century, then, in Italy as in Africa, the Hebrews Epistle was held to be un-Pauline. As yet at the time of Eusebius, at least in Rome, the doubt as to the Pauline authorship had not entirely disappeared, as Eusebius records.
First in the time of Arian controversy then, there took place a revolution of opinion on this question in the West, and a complete victory over the Western tradition by the Eastern brought about, doubtless, through the influence of the oriental Nicenes, who now indeed found their most faithful allies and fellow-sufferers in the Western Church, and came into the most active contact with it. Hilary of Poictiers (A.D. 368), Lucifer of Cagliari, Ambrose (398), Philastrius, Gaudentius, Jerome, etc., considered the Hebrews Epistle as a work of Paul.
Now, just as the attempt has been made to overthrow the fact that the primitive tradition of the East declared the epistle to be Pauline, so, on the other hand, it has also been attempted to do away with the equally certain fact, that the West, in the fourth century, held the epistle to be un-Pauline. Tertullian, the energetic opponent of Marcion, who in his opposition to the Gnostics, never fails to impute to Marcion as a crime his every doubt respecting the authenticity of a biblical book, does not in a single syllable charge him with holding the Hebrews Epistle to be un-Pauline, and yet by himself declares the epistle to be a work of Barnabas! Assuredly he would not have adopted this view from Marcion! Hug likewise thinks that the Western Church originally possessed the Hebrews Epistle, but when the Montanists appealed to Heb. 6:4, etc., from opposition to them, it was first ignored (as was done by Irenaeus), and then declared to be spurious. But Tertullian also, who was a Montanist, had no other opinion than that the epistle proceeded from Barnabas! And how, in general, would the whole immense Church of the West have declared an epistle to be spurious, which according to tradition was apostolical, merely to be able to get rid of a single argument of a sect! It might, on the same principle, have declared the entire New Testament to be spurious, on account of the Gnostics and Ebionites!
These two theses then may be considered as thoroughly confirmed, that the tradition of the East held the epistle to be Pauline, that, on the other hand, the West came to know it in general at a later period, and then very decidedly held it to be un-Pauline. The question now arises, what critical inferences are to be drawn from this phenomenon? Not a few draw from it the simple result, that "the external testimonies contradict each other, and consequently, that the internal reasons alone must decide." But this is hasty and groundless. In weighing the two traditions against each other, that of the East is the heavier in the scale. First of all, it is reasonable to expect a surer and more general knowledge concerning the author of an epistle in the district to which that epistle was written, than in that from which it was written. In Jerusalem, whither the epistle had been sent, it must have been known and learned who the author was; for, although he does not name himself in the inscription, the bearer of the epistle would certainly not deliver it with the words: "Here I bring you an epistle out of Italy from somebody; who that somebody is however you must not know"—for then had the authority of the epistle been but ill cared for! but the bearer must, in all probability, have brought to the teacher of that circle of readers an additional private writing, and to the circle of readers themselves have mentioned and certified the name of the author. From thence, along with the epistle (which soon indeed came to have a high significance for the whole of oriental Christendom, being, as it were, a divinely authenticated document for the loosing of the band between Christianity and Judaism), the knowledge of its author, too, must have spread—first, and most surely, to Lesser Asia, Syria, Egypt! What we learn there respecting the Hebrews Epistle we shall have to consider as the surest information.
It was altogether different in Italy, where the author wrote. True, he writes salutations from the Italian Christians, but this surely does not necessitate the supposition that he first sent round everywhere to the Christian churches of Italy, announced his intention to write to some Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, and obtained authority from them to send their salutations. The salutation, ch. 13:24, is in so vague and general a form as to lead to the supposition, that the author ventured to write it at his own hand. Let it be granted, however, that in the author's immediate neighbourhood the notice would be spread that he was writing to Christians in Jerusalem, this notice would be forgotten in the next months, years, decades. The Western Church did not happen at first to see the Epistle itself. Very natural! The Epistle, in respect of its import, had an interest only where there were Jewish Christians who still from piety observed the Levitical law; such there were in Palestine, Syria, Alexandria, doubtless also in Lesser Asia. In Italy the Jewish Christians were small in point of numbers, and gradually decreasing; there they were from the commencement more mixed with Gentile Christians. The Hebrews Epistle came also into the Western Church, but late and slowly. It was not, so to speak, waited for and read with avidity as a practically important writing. It came thither slowly, by means of copies. No Paul had named himself in the inscription; it was therefore not at all imagined that the epistle was Pauline.
In the beginning of the second century it was not yet received into the ecclesiastical collection of books prescribed to be read (the canon) of the Western Church; now as from the beginning of the second century, from the death of the last apostle, the Church clung with tenacity to all old tradition, the Western Church also made no change in its canon; the Hebrews Epistle indeed spread gradually, but the old tradition of the West had not reckoned it among the canonical epistles. Consequently it was allowed to stand outside the canon, and, least of all, was there any inclination to acknowledge it as Pauline.
Now, that in the fourth century, the Western Church followed the oriental tradition so soon as that Church came into more lively contact with it, can only be explained from the fact, that the Eastern Church must have had weighty positive reasons in support of it. In general, the Eastern differs from the Western tradition as regards the Hebrews Epistle in this, that the former bears a positive, the latter a negative character. The former went out from the knowledge that the epistle was Pauline, and only afterwards were doubts awakened (in the Alexandrians) on account of the style, which, however, could not overthrow that tradition, but only led to attempts to reconcile them with it. Nor was there any doubt in Alexandria as to who was the first and proper author, but only as to who was the translator, or who had worked it out, whether Clement of Rome, or Luke. It was a settled point, that Paul was the proper author. The tradition of the Western Church, on the contrary, went out from an ignorance of the epistle, an ignorance of the author, and we meet nowhere any positive statement respecting the person of the author, with the single exception of that of Tertullian. True, when he names Barnabas, Tertullian seems to express, not a suggestive conjecture but a tradition; at all events, however, this tradition was only a local one, and in all probability rested, in its first origin, only on a conjecture. Origen, when he brings together all the opinions respecting the Hebrews Epistle, knows nothing of that of Tertullian; Jerome adduces it as "juxta Tertullianum," and has therefore regarded it as entirely a subjective view of this Church Father.
These considerations will suffice to convince us that the critic—let him, if he will, form an opinion respecting the author of the Hebrews Epistle only on internal grounds—is, at all events, not at liberty to set up any hypothesis which leaves it unaccountable, how the Eastern Church came to the consciousness of having got this epistle as one sent by Paul.
And now if, in a previous chapter, it was left an open question whether the Hebrews Epistle was written in the year 62, before—or in the year 64, after the death of Paul, the decision already inclines to the first of these dates. For let it also be granted, that the Eastern Church had actually erred in considering Paul as the author, even this error would cease to be explicable, if the Hebrews Epistle generally speaking came first into the east after the death of the apostle. Think only of Hebrews 13:19. ("Now much more exceedingly am I entreating (you) this to do, that MORE SPEEDILY I may be restored to you").
Against the possibility that Paul was the author there is generally brought ch. 2:3: "how shall we escape, if we neglected so great a salvation as this; which, indeed, having received a beginning to be spoken through the Lord,—by those who heard, unto us, was confirmed."
Here the author distinguishes himself from the Apostles, while Paul elsewhere was wont studiously to lay stress on his apostolic authority, as in Gal. v. 1; 2. Cor. 11:12. The author, in Heb. 2:3, does not distinguish himself from the apostles as one who is not an apostle, but, as one who was not an eye-witness he distinguishes himself from the eye-witnesses of the life and labours of that Son of God who brought the salvation. The author is not addressing those who cast doubts on, his authority, and the question in the Hebrews Epistle is not whether Paul derives his office as immediately as the twelve from Christ, or whether he has it from men. But the antithesis in that passage is between the word of the law, which was spoken by angels on Sinai, and the word of the New Testament salvation, which has been made known "to us" first by the Lord Himself and then by ear-witnesses. Paul himself could not have written otherwise here; he too could and must include himself, along with his readers, ,among those who had not themselves been witnesses of the life of Jesus. Accordingly, on the supposition of the Pauline author ship, the "we" explains itself admirably even when taken as plural. For "we" is said in opposition to the contemporaries of Moses, and only denotes generally the Christians. The author, in using the plural word, had in view not so much himself, as his readers. This verse, then, in no wise presents any hindrance to the supposition of the Pauline authorship. Quite as little does ch. 13:19.
On the other hand, no inference can be drawn that Paul was the author, from the circumstance that in ch. 13:23 the author speaks of his "brother Timothy." Paul gives him the same designation in Col. 1:1. But why may not another helper of Paul, for example a Luke, a Mark, have given to Timothy as his fellow-helper the name "brother"? Only so much can be inferred from the postscript ch, 13:20, etc., that the author must have been a man who belonged to the specially Pauline circle, and was in Rome either in the year 62 or year 64.
The supposed "allegorical interpretation" of the Old Testament in the Hebrews Epistle, or, more correctly, the typology in this Epistle, consists simply in the author's shewing that the types were only types, that is, in other words, that no prophecy found a perfect fulfilment in the old covenant, that all fulfilments rather pointed always again to a further future. For example, it was no arbitrary allegorizing, but pure objective truth to say, that the state of separation between God and the people under the old covenant, the existence of two compartments in the tabernacle, a Holy of Holies, the necessity of ever-repeated sacrifices, pointed to a relation of man to God which was not yet established. Thistypology, however, we also find in Paul's writings, e.g. in Galatians 4. But the fact that such typologies occur seldom in Paul's writings, while in the Hebrews Epistle they form the substance of the writing, is naturally accounted for by the aim and object of the Epistle, which is, to consider the Old Testament institutions with the intent to discover whether, and in how far, they point forwards to something more perfect. But a difference which can be explained by considering the object of a writing, ought not logically to be made a ground from which to infer a different author.
Nor is it otherwise with reference to a second consideration, that the doctrine of the resurrection, which plays so important a part in Paul's writings, is not treated of in the Hebrews Epistle. It was necessary that Paul should develop this doctrine in detail when writing to the Corinthians, because they disputed it, in like manner to the Thessalonians, because they had false apprehensions of it. But in what part of the Epistle to the Galatians, for example, has Paul even made mention of the resurrection? The objection would only have any force if, in the Hebrews Epistle, there was some indication of the nonexistence of the resurrection being presupposed. But, indeed, the antithesis between the humiliation and exaltation of Christ, the suffering and glorification of believers, forms rather the ground tone upon which the whole symphony of ideas in the Hebrews Epistle is built. Compare Hebrews 1:3, 2:5-9, and 10-15, 10:19, etc., 11:5, 12:1-3, and 18-24, and 26-29, 13:14.
A third objection is founded on the circumstance of the Pauline doctrine, that the Gentiles also are called to the gospel, not being found in the Hebrews Epistle. Very naturally! This question had been settled in the year 51 in Jerusalem (Acts 15); and in the year 55, in opposition to the Galatian false teachers. From the fact that this question is not again touched in the Hebrews Epistle, the only reasonable inference that can be drawn is, that the readers of the Hebrews Epistle did not doubt the lawfulness of the baptism of uncircumcised persons; only the emancipation of native Israelites—of the circumcised, the Jewish Christians—from the ritual of the temple, was not yet clear to them. But that the author, on his part, must have been convinced of the right of the uncircumcised to be received into the Church, follows, as the most necessary consequence, from the whole doctrinal position of this epistle. If even the Jewish Christians are to go out from the "camp," (ch. 13:13) how much less could he expect the Gentile Christians to enter into this camp? But why does he, in ch. 2:16, place the "seed of Abraham" in opposition to the angels, and not humanity as a whole? Just because the "seed of Abraham" forms here the antithesis to the angels, and not to the Gentiles, it follows, that this expression (which is therefore used there in reality not in the empirico-historical sense, but with evident reference to Genesis 22:18, consequently, in the prophetico-ideal sense) must embrace the entire Messianic Church, the spiritual seed of Abraham, and is used therefore quite in the Pauline sense (Romans 4:16).
A fourth objection, that the opposition between "works" and "faith" is not developed, has more apparent reason. But neither, for example, is this opposition developed, nay It IS not even touched, in the Epistle to the Thessalonians. Tholuck, indeed, thought that we were entitled to expect that antithesis precisely in the Hebrews Epistle, as the error of the Hebrews consisted in an unintelligent cleaving to the works of the law. But this may be very much doubted. The Levitical ritual acts might certainly be designated works of the law; but this could be properly only in so far as anyone considered these to be meritorious services on his part. This the Galatian false teachers did. They were proud of their extraordinary perfect fulfilment of the ritual and ceremonial ordinances, and thought that they could thereby acquire righteousness before God, and deserve heaven. The readers to whom this, epistle was addressed appear in a quite different position. Their malady was not pride and self-righteousness, but fear and scruples of conscience. They thought not that they did and deserved something great when they kept the law, but they believed that they needed the Old Testament means of atonement in order to be free from guilt. They were not work-righteous, on the contrary they were earnestly desiring atonement (nowhere does the author find it necessary to prove to them that an atonement is necessary), but they could not yet believe that the one sacrifice of Christ was sufficient. Thus, in their case, the opposition could not be that between "works of law" and "faith," but only that between the "shadow of law" and the "perfection." In dealing with such readers Paul also could certainly not write otherwise than is written in the Hebrews Epistle. For no one will fail to perceive that the difference between the doctrinal system of the Hebrews Epistle and that of the Epistle to the Romans is only a formal one. The Hebrews Epistle represents precisely the same thing in its objective-historical aspect as is treated in the Romans Epistle in its subjective-psychological aspect. Moreover, the latter is not altogether wanting even in the Hebrews Epistle. This refers to ch. 4, "the word which did not mingle itself in faith with those who heard it," and the "living word with which we have to do" (verses 2 and 12-13). Further, compare the concluding remark at ch. 10:15-18 and the introductory remark to the section 12:18-29.
The last objection rests on this, that Paul always represents Christ only as the sacrifice, not as the priest, while it is precisely the reverse in Hebrews. But, here also, there is no material difference. For if Paul in Ephesians 5:2 teaches that Christ gave Himself an offering and sacrifice (in like manner Gal. 2:20), and if the Hebrews Epistle speaks of a priest who offered himself (7:27, etc.), then Paul certainly considers Christ not merely as the offered but also as the offerer, and the Hebrews Epistle considers Him not merely as the offerer but also as the offered.
There remains therefore, at most only the question why Paul does not elsewhere also designate Christ as the true "priest," why he has not applied the word "priest" to Him, if as Tholuck says "he had become conscious of the idea of the Messiah's priesthood in the lofty form in which, it appears in our epistle." But whether or not Paul might use the word "priest," he at all events opened up the view and the representation of a priesthood of Christ when in Ephesians 5:2 and Galatians 2:20 he wrote: Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice. Here certainly he did not think of Christ as a lay person, who offered Himself to another priest instead of an animal! And in Romans 8:34 he ascribes also the priestly work of intercession to Christ. But that the word "priest" is used precisely in the Hebrews Epistle finds its natural explanation in this, that the point from which the author of the Epistle started in his argumentation was the priestly institution, and he proved that this institution of the Old Testament also is fulfilled in Christ. In Eph. 5 and Gal. 2 on the contrary he starts from the work of Christ, and touches only slightly and casually on the analogy between it and the Old Testament sacrificial ritual—just as much so as, for example in 1. Cor. 5:7, he touches on the analogy between Christ and the Old Testament passover lamb.
There is, therefore, in the doctrinal system of the Hebrews Epistle no peculiarity which forbids us from ascribing its authorship to Paul.
On the contrary, there are in that Epistle a multitude of most peculiarly Pauline ideas. The designation of God as the one by whom and for whom are all things, is Pauline (Heb. 2:10; 1. Cor. 8:6); the idea of the Son as the exact Image of the Father (Heb. 1:1-2; 2. Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15); the exaltation of Christ above the angels (Heb. 2:9; Phil. 2:9) into heaven (Heb. 4:14, 7:26, Eph. 4:10), besides, the remarkable and quite special idea that God the Father alone is excepted in the subjection of all things to Christ (Heb. 2:8-9; 1. Cor. 15:27); that the exalted Christ intercedes with the Father for His own (Heb. 7:25; Romans 8:34); that He has destroyed death and its power (Heb. 2:14; 1. Cor. 15:54-57; 2. Tim. 1:10); again the remarkably specialcombination of ideas, that Christ, having died once, cannot die again (Heb. 9:26; 10:12; Romans 6:9); farther, that Christ died for every creature (Heb. 2:9; Eph. 1:10: Romans 8:22); that when He comes again, He will come not as a Saviour, but as a Judge (Heb. 9:27; Titus 2:13; 2. Tim. 4:1 and 8; Romans 8:24; 13:11); that, till then, He rules and reigns at the right hand of God (Heb. 1:3; 10:12-13; 1. Cor. 15:25). In like manner, that the law cannot save, and is destined to be abrogated (Heb. 4:2; 7:16-19; 8:7; Romans 2:29; 2. Cor. 3:6; Gal. 3:3; 4:3and9).
Then there is the designation of the law as a shadow (Heb. 8:5; 10:1; Col. 2:17). Also the putting together of the expectation with the faith and the love (Heb. 6:10, etc.; 10:22-25; 1. Thess. 5:8; 1. Cor. 13:13). Also the request to be interceded for (Heb. 13:18-19; Phil. 1:25; 2:14; Phm. 22), and the antithesis between "mature" and "minor" (Heb. 5:13-14; 1. Cor. 3:1; 13:11; Romans 2:20; Eph. 4:14).
Especially remarkable, however, is the agreement of the Hebrews Epistle with Paul in the reference to the second Psalm (Heb. 1:5, etc.; Acts 13:33, etc.), and in the inference, drawn from Abraham's readiness to offer up Isaac, that Abraham believed in the possibility of a resurrection of Isaac.
This Pauline complexion of the doctrinal system does not, indeed, necessitate our coming to the conclusion that Paul was the author of the Epistle, but still leaves room for the possibility of another author. This other, however, must at all events be sought for among the disciples and helpers of Paul. The Epistle must have emanated from this circle. Only thus can the recurrence of Pauline ideas and combinations of ideas—even in the minutest particulars be accounted for.
Further, we may compare Heb. 2:4 with 1. Cor. 12:4; Heb. 13:20 with Romans 15:33, 16:20; 2. Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; 1. Thess. 5:23. Also Heb. 12 1 with 1. Tim. 6:12 and 2. Tim. 4:7. Finally, the genuine Pauline expression, perissoterOs, meaning more exceedingly, found in Heb. 2:1, 6:17, and 13:19. Also peithometha, found in Heb. 13:18, meaning "we persuade ourselves."
Again there are dogmatical expressions which do not recur in other Pauline epistles. In Hebrews there are twenty words related to the verb teleioO (finish, mature, perfect). This frequence in Hebrews is explained by the object of the writing, namely, to shew the fulfilment of all the Old Testament types, and does not therefore point to a different writer. Similarly, the designation of Christ in Heb. 3:1 as Apostle of God to men is explained from the context, and Paul would have been able to find no other word to express the appellative idea of Jehovah Malak (angel, messenger) without, at the same time, expressing the Gentile idea "angel."
If now we look at the remaining phrases, we are at once struck with a great dissimilarity from the Pauline style, consisting in this, that far fewer and weaker Hebraisms occur in the Hebrews Epistle than elsewhere in the Pauline epistles. Hebraisms are indeed found in Hebrews, partly, but only in those passages in which reference is directly made to Old Testament declarations and expressions (for example, in ch. 7:1 the word kopE, peculiar to the usage of the Septuagint, meaning combat; also the words en tE osphui, ch. 7:10, meaning in the loins).
There were also phrases which were entirely naturalised in the speech of the Christians, and whose foreign origin was no longer felt by anyone, phrases such as "to taste death," "to perceive death," "was not found." See Hebrews 2:9; 11:5.
Sometimes there are loose connexions of sentences which are conceived in Hebrew, but are, at the same time, also tolerable for the Grecian ear, and cannot be said to be not Greek.
All these single instances are very far from giving to the writing as a whole that Hebrew colouring which belongs to the Pauline epistles; in it all is thought in Greek, in the writings of Paul the Semitic connexion of the thoughts is everywhere apparent.
Now this can scarcely be explained by the circumstance that Paul has, in this writing, carefully elaborated a treatise, and not surrendered himself as elsewhere to the impulse of his feelings. It would be wrong to deny that a man of the mind of Paul, if he had made it his aim to write good Greek, such Greek as that of the Epistle to the Hebrews, might have accomplished it. But it will be all the more difficult to perceive, why he should have studied to attain so fine a Greek style in writing precisely to the Hebrews.
The Thayer-Grimm Lexicon gives a list of 169 Greek words which are peculiar to the Hebrews Epistle only. Many of these are quite long words and not very common. I shall give six of them: apoleipetai (is being left) ch. 4:6 and 9; theatrizomenoi (being a gazingstock) ch. 10:33 only; aspasamenoi (saluting) ch. 11:13; analogiasthe (take ye into account) ch. 12:3 only; antikatestEte (you did repulse) eh. 12:4; antagOnizomenoi (contending) ch. 12:4 only.
There are many other long and sonorous terms, often compounds. The verb koinOneO (participate) in Hebrews 2:14 is followed by a genitive, whereas, in Romans 15:27 and 1. Tim. 5:22 it takes a dative. Then there is the elegantly connecting adverb hothen (whence), for which Paul uses dio, dia touto), in Luke and Acts found 4 times, in Hebrews 6 times, none in Paul. Next comes eanper (if ever even) found twice in Hebrews, for which Paul uses eige (if to be sure) and eiper (if so be that). Four times is eis to diEnekes found in Hebrews, but nowhere else, meaning finality. Another term is dia pantos, meaning continually, found 3 times in Hebrews, 3 times in Acts, and once in Luke. Paul has it once in Romans 11:10 and once in 2. Thess. 3:16, but otherwise Paul uses the more homely word pantote, meaning always, 27 times. This word is only found once in Hebrews (7:25).
Now this more select style affords certainly an indirect argument against the Pauline authorship. For, although the fact that the Hebrews Epistle has the nature of a treatise and was worked out with more scientific composure and care, may in some measure account for the author's having paid more attention to the diction than he did in other epistles, it still remains unaccountable that Paul should have aimed in so high a degree at a fine style when writing precisely to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, while he gives himself free scope in writing to the Ephesians, Corinthians, Romans, etc. That so elegant a structure of period as we find, for example, in ch. 1:1-3; ch. 10:19-25; 11:32-38; 12:18-24, that so elegant an arrangement of the words as we find, for example, in ch. 7:4:—"Now be observing how great this one is,—to whom—a tenth—Abraham gave, out of the choicest spoils(even Abraham) the patriarch!"
This was not natural to Paul the Apostle, as is too apparent from his epistles. The author of Hebrews uses in comparisons para (beside, beyond, by, from, etc.) with the accusative, which never occurs in Paul's writings; he uses the word makrothumia (patience) at ch. 6:12 and 15 to designate an idea for which Paul always employs the proper favourite expression hupomonE (endurance); he uses kathizein (to be seated) intransitively, which Paul, with the exception of the single passage, 2. Thess. 2:4, always applies intransitively in the sense of "set:" he says in seven passages IEsous (especially remarkable in ch. 13:20), and IEsous Christos only in two passages (13:8 and 21), while Paul almost never says IEsous alone. He says Jesus Christ about 70 times, and Christ about 200 times, "the Lord" (ho Kurios) 147 times. The author cites the Old Testament passages with the words "Spirit is saying" (pneuma legei), or merely "is saying" (legei), while Paul usually introduces citations by "it has been written" (gegraptai)—31 times. But only in 1. Tim. 4:1 and Gal. 5:16 does Paul use "is saying." Moreover, the Rabbinical controversial formulas, so common in Paul's writings (for example when an objection is introduced with the words, "but someone will be declaring") are entirely wanting in the Hebrews Epistle.
That the Epistle always strictly follows the Septuagint in the citations, while Paul often cites freely, is a circumstance to which, considered in itself, no weight can be attached. To account for this it has only to be remembered that the author of this epistle wrote with the Septuagint in his hand, and with the intention that his writing should be formally studied by his readers and compared with the Septuagint. It is a circumstance of more importance that the citations of our epistle follow the recension contained in the Codex Alexandrian, while those of Paul, when he follows the Septuagint, for the most part agree with the Codex Vaticanus.
But what seems more significant than all this is the manner in which the thoughts themselves are arranged, and the proofs adduced. The method of passing, immediately at the conclusion of a section, to the theme of a new section, and in this way intimating that theme, is nowhere to be found in Paul's writings. He generally adduces his proofs immediately, by appealing to the inner experience (for example, Romans 7), or when he actually deduces propositions from propositions, he simply makes one proposition follow another with a "because," and carries forward the chain of ideas without logical arrangement, now looking backwards, now forwards (compare for example, Romans 1:19-20; 2:14-16; 3:4-8), and often interrupts himself by accessory ideas (for example, Romans 5:13-17).
In the Hebrews Epistle we find everywhere a strictly syllogistical arrangement of the members composing the proof, and that generally in such a form as that the conclusion is forthwith inferred from one of the two premises, while the other connecting premiss is brought in afterwards.
All these considerations are so forcible and conclusive that we can say nothing else than this: By how much the spirit and doctrine of the epistle is Pauline, by so little can it be supposed that this diction should have come from the hand of the Apostle.
In the Eastern countries the positive tradition was in favour of a Pauline authorship, but not so in the Western countries. There was one powerful argument against Paul as the real author, namely, the peculiarities of style. Only by a forced process may these peculiarities be broken down, and in this state, one be one, weakened of their effect; indeed, it cannot be proven with mathematical certainty that it was absolutely impossible for Paul to throw himself, for once, into a different kind of style. But no positive reason can be discovered by which Paul should have been induced to write in a style so different from that which he was accustomed, and a sound critical mind will be ever and again forced into the conviction, that in the Epistle another hand than Paul's held the pen.
Nor it is otherwise with the second class of hypotheses, however great they may be. Already must reasonable doubts be awakened by the single circumstance, that criticism has arrived at no judgment in any measure certain as to who the author can have been if it was not Paul. Criticism had split itself into many hypotheses on this matter, against everyone of which there were substantial doubts. The most untenable of these was the conjecture which makes Clement of Rome the author; it remains untenable even when separated from the auxiliary conjecture with which is appears in ancient times to have been connected, namely, that Clement only translated the Epistle from an Aramaic original. This conjecture as a whole evidently rests on the circumstance that many ideas of the Hebrews Epistle recur in the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians.
The relation between these two Epistles does not resemble that between Paul's Epistle to the Romans and his Epistle to the Galatians, or that between Ephesians and Colossians—in other words, that it is not one spirit and one doctrinal system from which the two Epistles, the Hebrews Epistle and Clement's Epistle, have proceeded with equal originality—but rather that Clement, in particular passages of his epistle, alludes to particular passages of the Hebrews Epistle, cites them, and thus places himself in a relation of dependence on the particular Epistles of Paul. The spirit of Clement's epistle-in so far as he does not give citations but writes independently, is altogether different from the spirit of the Hebrews Epistle.
In like manner untenable is the opinion that Mark was the author of Hebrews; not because he, as belonging to Jerusalem (Acts 12:12), must have been better acquainted with the Temple than our author, from a false exegesis of ch. 9, is made out to have been, but because Mark did not belong to the Pauline circle either in the course of his outer life (see Acts 15:37—40; 1. Peter 5:13), or in his inner character (yet he was for a while in Rome at same time as Paul, according to Col. 4:10, Phm. v. 24). Mark did not stand in the near relation described in Hebrews 13:23, and, moreover, as regards his style, he deviates still more than Paul from the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Nor can Aquila be thought of as the author, inasmuch as he was not living in Italy in the years round about 62, but in Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:19), while the Hebrews Epistle was written in Italy (see explanation of 13:24).
Some, with greater confidence, have declared Barnabas to be the author of Hebrews. But appeal can be made in support of this hypothesis to anything but ancient ecclesiastical tradition, with the exception of Tertullian. On the other hand, it is not to be objected to this hypothesis, that such a supposed want of acquaintance with the Temple as is found in the Hebrews Epistle would not be conceivable in the case of a Levite (Acts 4:36). Nor can any argument against it be drawn from the so-called "epistle of Barnabas," which is altogether unlike the Hebrews Epistle, as this epistle, although written by a man of the name of Barnabas, can hardly have been written by that Barnabas who is mentioned in the New Testament. With more reason is reference made against this hypothesis to the circumstance, that Barnabas (according to Acts 14:12), was inferior even to Paul in the gift of eloquence, while the author of the Hebrews Epistle far surpassed Paul in skill in the use of language. To this is to be added, that Barnabas, from the time spoken of in Acts 14, completely retires from notice, and disappears from history. In the Pauline epistles written from Rome mention is nowhere made of him.
Titus also was at that time in Dalmatia (2 Tim. 4:10). Even on this account, we are not at liberty to suppose that he can have been the author, nor has anyone in reality suggested him.
On the other hand, Luther and other German theologians conjectured that Apollos was the author. He was indeed an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures (Acts 18:24; compare 1. Cor. 1:4), who from the very first was wont to dispute with the Jews (Acts 18:28). And as exceedingly little is known of him, a number of conjectures are possible in regard to him. He may have laboured in Palestine, he may have acquired great influence there; he may have had in view in the expression my brother Timothy (Hebrews 13:23), merely the general brotherly relation of the Christian to the Christian; for he cannot have stood in a special relation to Timothy before the year 64, which is the latest date that. can be supposed for the composition of the Hebrews Epistle. Nor can he have been in Italy at the time of Paul's imprison ment, as Paul never mentions him. And there are certainly no inconsiderable difficulties which stand in the way of this hypothesis, and which can be obviated only by a very unnatural explanation of Hebrews 13:24. Besides, it is not very probable that Apollos can have coincided so thoroughly with the Pauline system of doctrine, from the intimations which we find in the Acts of the Apostles, and in the Epistle to the Corinthians.
With much more reason it may be supposed that Silas or Luke was the author. Against Luke it has been stated that he was a Gentile Christian, and Colossians 4:14 and 10 has been assumed to prove that. But there is not an atom of proof in these two verses. Just read Romans 3, verse 2 and you will find out that Luke could only have been a Jew. It was the Jews who "were entrusted with the oracles of God," and no one else. Assuredly, the Hebrews Epistle must have been written by a Hebrew Christian. How could any mere Gentile have done so? This is inferred from the fact that the author in ch. 1:1 speaks of "the fathers," where it is evidently the people of Israel that are meant, and that in ch. 11:2 he calls the believers of the old covenant "the elders." Had he spoken of "our fathers," then there would be some ground for the inference; but it is difficult to see why an author, writing to Jewish Christians, should not have been able so far to forget himself or his readers as to say: "Before time God has spoken to the fathers by the prophets." Surely the Gentile Christians, too, had with Jesus the Messiah, received also the word of prophecy; surely they, too, had entered into the right and relation of children among the people of God! And that same Luke speaks of the events which happened to Jesus among the Jewish people as "concerning the matters having been fully assured among us" (Luke 1:1). Such passages, therefore, as Hebrews 1:1, 11:2, cannot be made to bear against the authorship of Luke. On the other hand, circumstance speaks for Luke, that from the year 62 onwards he was with Paul in Italy, and a fellow helper with Timothy (Phm. 1 and 24); Silas stood in the same relation to Timothy (see 1. Thess. 1:1); true, in year 62, Silas was not in Italy, but he was certainly there with Peter "in Babylon" in the year 64, immediately after the death of Paul (see 1. Peter 5:13). Now, as the Hebrews Epistle must have been written either in the year 62 or in 64, in the former case Luke might be held to be the author, in the latter case Silas. But there is one reason for rejecting it, the same by which this entire second class of hypothesis is overthrown. The firmness and unanimity of the oriental tradition remains altogether inexplicable, if it be not supposed that the Hebrews Epistle came to Jerusalem, under the name and the authority of Paul.
This brings us to the third class of conjectures, which however, has received but small accessions since the time of Origen, so that we are spared the trouble of enumerating various particular hypothesis, and instead of this, can immediately pass to a positive construction of the right view. The data at which we have arrived in ch. 4—5 form the starting point: (1). The tradition of the East is capable of explanation only on the supposition that the epistle was handed to the readers under the name of Paul. (2). That the Western Church was at first unacquainted with the epistle, is fully accounted for by the circumstance of its having been designed for the Jewish Christians of Palestine, and the ignorance of that Church, at a later period, respecting its author, is explained by the want of an inscription, and the un-Pauline style. (3). The author stood in a near personal relation to Timothy. (4). The doctrine is Pauline, the diction un-Pauline. Let us now call to mind a very remarkable circumstance already hinted at in the explanation of ch. 13:19 and 22, etc., but which has yet perhaps been quite unobserved, namely, that ch. 13:22—25 cannot have been written in the name of the person who wrote ch. 1:1 to ch. 13:21, nevertheless, that it must have been written by the same hand. The postscript is not in the name of him in whose name the epistle was written; for the person in whose name v. 19 is written was, against his will, so situated as to be prevented from setting out on a journey to the readers. This did not depend on his own will; nor did he by any means hope to be shortly set free, but he admonished the readers to pray that he might be restored to them; he therefore took it for granted that he would be still in confinement when the readers should have received the epistle into their hands. On the other hand, the person in whose name v. 22—25 is written is already about to set out on a journey, and it depends only on the speedier or later coming of Timothy, who has just been set free, whether he will set out towards the East along with him or alone.
And yet, the postscript is written and composed by the same hand that wrote and composed the epistle. For in v. 22 the author of the postscript apologizes for several harshnesses in his admonitions, and asks the readers to excuse, these on account of the short and compressed character of the writing. The postscript, therefore, does not proceed from an amanuensis to whom the epistle had been verbally dictated, but from one to whom the material had been given while the diction was left to himself.
Who then was the author? who the composer? The composer was a friend or fellow-helper of Timothy (13:23), but was not, precisely at that time, in the same place (13:23, "if he should be coming more speedily") in which Timothy had, up till about that time, been imprisoned. Now, we found, in the Epistle to the Philippians, the clearest traces of an imprisonment of Timothy. Paul would like to send Timothy into the East, but cannot yet do so; he hopes, however, to be able shortly to send him thither. When Paul wrote the Epistle to the Philippians in the year 62, Timothy was accordingly in prison, but with the hope of being soon released. At that time Luke was not precisely in Rome itself; for Paul sends no salutations from him to the Philippians who were so well known to him. Shortly afterwards, we suppose the Hebrews Epistle to have been finished, certainly a few days after the departure of Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25). Paul, we suppose, intended to have fully talked over the subject with Luke, perhaps to have given him a scheme or preparatory work in writing; he himself was deprived of the leisure necessary for the composition by the legal procedure against him, which precisely at that time (Phil. 2:23) had passed into a new stage. Luke worked out the Epistle for Paul, and as in his name, not however in Rome, where perhaps he might have been involved in the procedure against Paul, but in another place in Italy, somewhere in the neighbourhood of Theophilus. When the work was finished, the news reached him that Timothy had been set free in Rome. He himself purposed to set out for the East, though not directly to Palestine (for in 13:23, he takes it for granted that the Hebrews Epistle would be in the hands of the readers before he should see them personally); Timothy, too, in company with whom he wishes and hopes to make the journey (v. 23) was (according to Phil. 2:23) shortly to direct his course to Lesser Asia. How exactly do the most particular, the most trifling notices harmonize here!
One is even warranted in saying that this hypothesis leaves nothing unexplained. First of all, it completely explains the internal phenomena of the epistle. Commissioned by Paul to work out the writing, Luke wrote in the name of Paul (13:19), only, however, in that part where he added the personal concluding requests (which had possibly been given to him in writing by Paul) ; nowhere did he affect to speak in the name of Paul or to allude to events in the life of Paul; nowhere, indeed, with the exception of ch. 13: 19, does a first person singular occur, while the omission of an inscription becomes also perfectly intelligible. On the other hand, it becomes also perfectly intelligible how Luke, writing in virtue of a commission from Paul, might speak of the members of the Old Testament covenant simply as "the fathers," the" elders." This hypothesis explains the combination of thoroughly Pauline ideas and doctrinal forms of expression with the un-Pauline diction; it explains also, the circumstance that of all the New Testament writings, precisely those of Luke have most similarity in point of style with the Hebrews Epistle. How similar in style are the two introductions, Luke 1:1—4 and Hebrews 1:1—3.
Secondly, the origin of the ecclesiastical tradition becomes intelligible on this hypothesis. The bearer of the epistle, unknown to us, delivered it to the readers as an "epistle which Paul sends to them," and thereby as a Pauline epistle. Assuredly he did not fail to communicate to them what was necessary respecting the peculiar manner in which it had been prepared, to tell them that the epistle was written by the hand of Luke, and at the same time not verbally dictated to Luke. Without such a notification none of the readers could have understood the postscript, especially v. 22 and v. 23. But, in a way which is easily conceivable, the notification was soon lost.
What the readers found in the epistle was kept and considered, with reason, as the teaching and the admonitions of the apostle. And thus the epistle was taken as one of Paul's, wherever it spread. And how highly important did this epistle, designed at first only for a very limited circle of readers, become, even in the course of the next ten years, for the whole of Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor, and all quarters where there were parties of Jewish Christians who had not yet raised themselves to the Pauline stand-point. This epistle was indeed a document containing a Divine warrant for the complete severance of Christendom from the mother's lap of the bodily Israel!
For the Western Church, which from the first was entirely under Pauline influence, the epistle for the same reason did not possess this practical importance; it had long before been rendered superfluous here by the Romans Epistle; the state of things as a whole which occasioned the' necessity for an Epistle to the Hebrews in the East, had been obviated long before in Italy by the Romans Epistle. No wonder then., that the Hebrews Epistle should have spread there late and slowly.
It is quite conceivable how this epistle, with no inscription and un-Pauline in style, should not have been acknowledged as Pauline. Had there been preserved, say in Rome, from the time of Clement onwards, a notice of the existence of this epistle, but at the same time also a notice that Paul had not composed it himself, does not the opposition of the Western Church to the Pauline authorship become doubly intelligible?
In the third place, the conclusion to which we have come, respecting the circle of readers for whom this epistle was intended, wonderfully harmonises with the hypothesis that Paul was, at least indirectly, the author of it. The question has been asked, why the Apostle to the Gentiles should have come to write to Jewish Christians in Palestine. But we know that the epistle was not written to Churches, but to a limited circle of individual Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, whose conversion had taken place not very long before. May it not have been such Jewish Christians as had been converted just about the time when Paul was taken prisoner in Jerusalem (Acts 21), who perhaps were first awakened by Paul himself, during those seven days when as yet he went out and in in freedom (Acts 21:27), and were brought to embrace Christianity by his powerful address (Acts 22)? What a great and profound crisis arose in those days among the Jews themselves, is evident from Acts 23:9; even in the company of Paul's bitterest enemies there were those who sought to frustrate the plot which was formed to murder him, by betraying it to the nephew of Paul (Acts 23:16). But Paul was from that period so firmly rooted in his love for the Church in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17), and he so identifies his cause with that of this Church, that this of itself already suffices to explain how he may have addressed a writing to individuals among the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem. For, let it be granted also, that these individuals were not gained over to Christianity precisely through Paul's personal influence, still Luke remained those two years in Jerusalem (Acts 21:15, 27:1, etc.; see Luke 1:3, "having fully followed all accurately from the very first"). And thus the readers were certainly well enough acquainted at least with him, so that at his suggestion, and through him, Paul might address a writing to them. The notice, too, respecting the former zeal of these readers (Heb. 6:10, 10:32, etc.) thus obtains a sufficient explanation.
Finally, this hypothesis throws light On the passages which refer to an impending persecution, as well as the reference to the martyrdom of the leaders (13:7). The epistle to the Philippians had been written in. the year 62, and the epistle to Hebrews sent soon afterwards to the East. Just at that time the apostle James, son of Alpheus, had been stoned; the news of his death would just have, reached Italy when Luke was writing the epistle. Shortly afterwards, Luke, as well as Timothy, set out on a journey eastward, first to Asia Minor, but Luke (Heb. 13:23), certainly, also to Palestine. Luke returned back to Paul earlier than Timothy (2 Tim. 4:11), standing faithfully by his spiritual father even to his death. Timothy also received a pressing charge to return (2 Tim. 4:21), and would doubtless comply with it. Paul suffered martyrdom in the beginning of 64. Among the revelations of the Holy Spirit, whose instrument he was, and which he has left behind him as an everlasting legacy, the Hebrews Epistle occupies a very important place. It is the knife which completely severed and delivered the newborn church of the New Testament Israel from the maternal womb of the Old Testament theocracy.
A.T. Last updated 25.3.2006