Who Wrote the Book of Hebrews?

By Brian Chilton

Throughout the past several weeks, we have been exploring who the authors of the books of the New Testament were. Already we have seen that there are good reasons for supporting the traditional view that the apostles Matthew and John wrote the Gospels attributed to them, John Mark writing the Second Gospel which was a documentation of Simon Peter’s testimony, Dr. Luke as the author of the Third Gospel and Acts after having attributed information from numerous eyewitnesses, and the apostle Paul as the author of all thirteen epistles attributed to him. Now, we examine a more mysterious letter. Let’s look at the Book of Hebrews.

Book Hebrews Authorship

Date: Many scholars believe that Hebrews was written sometime before the destruction of the temple (AD 70). More likely than not, the epistle was written sometime during the reign of Emperor Nero (AD 64-68).[1]

Purpose: The book of Hebrews exalts Jesus and shows that he is superior to the sacrifices of old. The term “kreitton” (literally, “more excellent” or “better”) permeates the book. The book of Hebrews ties together the Old and New Testaments better than any other in the New Testament.

Author: Here is the million-dollar question; Who wrote the book of Hebrews? Many early church leaders believed Paul to have been the author. Origen is often quoted as saying in reference to the book of Hebrews’ authorship that “in truth, only God knows.” However, a further investigation of Origen’s writings will demonstrate that he believed Paul to have been the author.[2] But was Paul the author? It’s possible, but not certain.

Unlike the thirteen letters attributed to Paul,[3] Hebrews nowhere identifies Paul nor anyone else as its author. There is one certainty pertaining to the author of Hebrews and that is that the author was someone who was known in the ranks of Paul’s cohorts. The author knew Timothy and referred to him as “our brother” (Hebrews 13:23, CSB) rather than “my son” as Paul did in (1 Timothy 1:2). Thus, it would seem as though the writer is a cohort of Paul, perhaps even a second-generation Christian as the writer notes that “salvation had its beginning when it was spoken of by the Lord, and it was confirmed to us by those who heard him” (Hebrews 2:3). Scholars have proposed Luke, Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Apollos, Timothy, Philip, Peter, Silas, Jude, and Aristion as the authors.

Because the author is a second-generation Christian, I do not think Barnabas, Peter, Silas or Jude (if referencing the Lord’s brother) would be candidates. Because the author references Timothy as a brother, I do not think Timothy is a likely candidate either. I used to think Barnabas was the author, but since Barnabas was an early Christian and the author of Hebrews is a second-generation Christian, I no longer think that is the case. In all likelihood, I believe Luke to have been the author of the book. In the end, though, God knows. The author, whomever it may be, had the backing of the apostle Paul and that is why the book was established as canonical as far as apostolic authority is concerned.

About the Author:

Brian Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is a Ph.D. student at Liberty University in the Theology and Apologetics program. Brian is full member of the International Society of Christian Apologetics and the Christian Apologetics Alliance. Brian has been in the ministry for over 14 years and serves as the pastor of Huntsville Baptist Church in Yadkinville, North Carolina.

[1] CSB Study Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017), 1946.

[2] Origen writes, “However, some one hard pressed by this argument may have recourse to the opinion of those who reject this Epistle as not being Paul’s; against whom I must at some other time use other arguments to prove that it is Paul’s.” Origen, A Letter from Origen to Africanus, 9.

[3] See Brian Chilton, “Did Paul Write All Thirteen Letters Attributed to Him?,”BellatorChristi.com (July 17, 2017), retrieved August 1, 2017,https://bellatorchristi.com/2017/07/17/did-paul-write-all-thirteen-letters-attributed-to-him/.

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2wNTMvu

 


 

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4 replies
  1. George Degan says:

    Thank you for the insight provided.

    I’m a bit confused though. You speculate early on that you think the author was a cohort of Paul, “perhaps even a second-generation disciple…” then proceed with the rest of your piece assuming it was a second-generation disciple. You never state why you think that. Is there any evidence that could support this?

    I thought that inclusion in the Canon required the author to be a witness of Jesus’ ministry. Is there evidence of 2G Christians having witnessed his ministry?

    I had always considered it to be Peter fo (at least) two reasons:

    1. it seems to resemble the style of his two letters. Is there other evidence (in case it’s eventually shown not to be 2G) that would “disqualify” Peter?
    2. Peter’s ministry seems to focus on the Jews (a.k.a. Hebrews). Was he considered the “Apostle to the Jews” as Paul seemed to be to the Gentiles?

    (I also see some similarities to Jude’s writing, though there’s really not a lot to go on with him…)

    I’d value your input or perhaps you could direct me to some other sources to continue my own investigation.

    Warm Regards,

    Reply
  2. Nate Kern says:

    Thanks for doing this blog. I love the topic! Ultimately it doesn’t matter who penned it, since it is up to the Holy Spirit to use it, but here is why I think Sha’ul wrote it.
    It had the same theme as two other Pauline writings. “The righteous man will live by faith.”
    One of these books was written to a predominately gentile audience. One was written to a mixed Jewish/ Gentile audience, and one (Hebrews) was written to a predominately Jewish audience.
    The three books are not the same, but similar due to the needs of the audience.

    Reply

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