Sunday, February 15, 2015

Against a Pauline Hebrews

The HCSB Study Bible articulates some standard arguments against the Pauline authorship of Hebrews.
“The text of Hebrews does not identify its author. What we do know is that the author was a second-generation Christian, for he said he received the confirmed message of Christ from ‘those who heard’ Jesus Himself (2:3). Because Paul claimed his gospel was revealed directly by the Lord (1Co 15:8; Gl 1:12), it is doubtful that he was the author of Hebrews.”
That’s a worthwhile argument, but I think it’s far from decisive. Hebrews 2:3 reads, “It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard.” The first clause refers to Jesus’s preaching of the gospel during his earthly ministry with the original twelve disciples (i.e. “those who heard”). The word translated “attested” is actually rendered as “confirmed” in most English translations. The idea is that “those who heard” had “confirmed” this writer’s message – which sounds a whole lot like Paul’s interaction with Peter, James, and John as described in Galatians:
“And when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised” (Gal. 2:9).
And again, the HCSB Study Bible:
“The author was familiar with Timothy, but he referred to him as ‘our brother’ (13:23), rather than as ‘my true son in the faith,’ as Paul did (1Tm 1:2).”
This, on the other hand, is a terrible argument. You would expect Paul to use more affectionate language when writing directly to Timothy than when writing to others about Timothy. Besides, Paul refers to Timothy as “our brother” in multiple other letters (2 Cor. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Thess. 3:2; Philem. 1:1). Consider also Romans 16:21, where Paul refers to Timothy simply as “my fellow worker.” Does all this count as evidence that Paul wasn’t the author of these letters, since he didn’t use a more affectionate designation for Timothy? Of course not.

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