The Authorship of
(© Jeffrey S. Bowman, all rights reserved, use by permission only)
A Theological Investigation into the Authorship of Hebrews
on the authorship of the book of Hebrews are at the same time extensive and
inconclusive. Since the time of
Origen (185 - 256 AD.) scholars have sought to identify the author of Hebrews.
Volumes have been written and theories have been postulated.
However, most will agree, that in all their efforts, conclusions have
been uncertain and many resolve, like Origen, that "God only knows"
who is the author. Yet one thing
is certain, Hebrews has had a place in the New Testament ever since the
formation of the canon of scriptures. Whoever
wrote Hebrews must have been well known to those early Christians. It is a book of no small size, has a doctrinal content which
presupposes a solid grasp of Old Testament concepts, and provides
clarification and a key to understanding Hebrew believers in the first
paper has a two-fold purpose: first to provide additional reasons why the
Apostle to the Uncircumcision, Paul, could not
have written Hebrews; and secondly, to offer "yet another"
hypothesis as to authorship. The
first purpose is born out of a strong conviction that some reasons have been
overlooked (or at least not given sufficient consideration) by students of the
issue. These reasons are meant to
enhance an already strong (at least in this writer's mind) case against
Paul's, or a student of Paul's, authorship.
The second offers a conclusion that is hopefully fresh, innovative, and
that opens the study door for more research.
FURTHER EVIDENCE AGAINST A PAULINE AUTHORSHIP OF HEBREWS
in his volume "New Testament Introduction" states: "Most modern
writers find more difficulty in imagining how this Epistle was ever attributed
to Paul than in disposing of the theory."
Guthrie continues and
lists five arguments against a Pauline authorship.
Summarized they are as follows: 1. The anonymity of the book is not in
keeping with Paul's pattern. 2.
Differences in style. 3. The
absence or lack of Pauline spiritual experience.
4. Theological differences both theoretical and practical.
5. A different historical
position of the writer than Paul.
One can also find
similar arguments against Paul or a student of Paul's authorship of Hebrew in
the research of many able New Testament scholars.
Books by Milligan, Zahn, and Allen & Grensted are of note.
is no doubt that those who hold to a Pauline authorship have somewhat answered
(in their mind fully answered) these objections.
However the discussion is far from being over and the case closed.
Paul the Apostle to the Uncircumcision
apostleship is different than that of the twelve apostles.
He was chosen by the risen Christ to be the apostle to the Gentiles.
He is never numbered with the twelve.
the powerful passage in Galatians 2:
is quite emphatic that he was the chosen apostle to the uncircumcision, the
Gentiles. As we comb through his
letters, we see a distinct pattern in both style and vocabulary that he uses
in describing his calling and message to the Gentiles.
This pattern is completely absent in the book of Hebrews. Such patterns are best seen in Paul's choice of illustrations
and metaphors in describing his theology.
These patterns provide us with fingerprints to look for in testing for
a Pauline authorship of Hebrews. When
we look for them, they are not to be found.
Consider the following Pauline vocabulary and concepts and observe the
Epistle of Hebrew's presentation of related themes:
could argue that Paul's audience would dictate his language and style.
This is no doubt true. However,
in his consistent choice of these terms and metaphors he teaches a distinct
body of theology.
"Pauline" theology is absent in the letter to the Hebrews.
In a candid manner, Hebrews presents a theology that is very much
converse of Paul. Some scholars
have even suggested that the author of Hebrews is not acquainted with Paul's
I disagree, but the
point of significant theological difference between Paul and Hebrews is noted.
Delitzsch, who favors the Pauline authorship admits:
It always seems strange that we do not anywhere meet with those
particular ideas which form, so to speak, the arteries of Paul's doctrinal
Milligan provides a fitting summary to this aspect of our study:
Not only can Paul not be the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, but
it is extremely unlikely that the writer is to be sought in the immediate
circle of his followers or friends: otherwise he would have reproduced more
closely his master's teaching.
PETER -- THE FORGOTTEN APOSTLE TO THE CIRCUMCISION
have been many suggestions offered as to who could have written Hebrews.
It would be tedious to attempt a review all the reasons why Barnabas,
Luke, Clement, Apollos, Philip, Priscilla & Aquilla, Silas, and others
have be promulgated as the author of Hebrews.
However there is
another potential author that has been overlooked.
This is none other than Peter, the Apostle to the Circumcision. It is all too obvious that many have overlooked Peter as a
potential author of Hebrews. But
why such an oversight is hard to tell because virtually no one addresses such
a prospect. Furthermore it is
equally apparent that Peter's Apostleship to the Circumcision is also
forgotten. Yet it is clear from
Galatians 2:7-9 that Peter's Apostleship to the Circumcision was in contrast
to that of Paul's to the Uncircumcision.
Let it be remembered that both were given these distinct spheres of
operation by Christ.
is in many ways Paul's counterpart. Peter
is the main figure for the first half of the book of Acts (as Paul is the
later half). His role in the
circle of the Twelve is that of leader. He,
along with James (the Lord's brother) and John, were the apostles singled out
by Paul in Galatians as being the "pillars" in the Jerusalem church.
Thus, Peter's role in the early church is prominent.
We possess his sermons (as recorded in Acts), and two letters that are
ascribed to him that we can use for data to compare with Hebrews.
When we set out to observe "fingerprint patterns" consisting
of style and vocabulary and then look at Hebrews we see a great connection.
Notice the following parallels:
these very definite relationships can also be added these observations as
brought out by A. Welch:
Both regard the Christian hope
and salvation as objective realities, and an eventful future inheritance
reserved till the second coming of Christ (I Pet. 1:3 and Heb. 6:18; I Pet.
1:5-10 and Heb. 1:14, 9:28).
Both regard faith as steadfast trust in an unseen God which sustains His
servants under temptation, and secures them final inheritance of His promises
(I Pet. 1:5-9 and Heb. 11:1).
Both regard righteousness as an upright life (I Pet. 2:24, 3:14; Heb
6:10, 10:23,24, 12:1-3,14).
Both emphatically connect the sufferings of Christ with our future
glory as two co-ordinate parts of God's scheme of redemption (I Pet. 1:11;
Both give the same prominence to Christ's fellowship with us inn
suffering, and to the value of suffering as a necessary discipline (I Pet.
2:19-23, 4:1,13; Heb. 2:10-18, 5:7,8; 12:2-8).
similarities are very interesting. Of
the NT letters, only Hebrews and Peter talk about the "blood of
sprinkling," and Christ as "Shepherd."
OBJECTIONS TO THE PETRINE AUTHORSHIP OF HEBREWS
the strongest objection to Peter being the author of Hebrews is his presumable
inability to compose such a masterpiece as Hebrews.
He was a fisherman who was not trained or schooled in the finer things
of literature and prose.
the surface this seems to be a very weighty objection.
However, textually and logically we find quite the opposite. In Acts 4:13 we find a revealing fact about Peter (and John):
Now when they [the religious
authorities at Jerusalem] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived
that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took
knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
came as a result of Peter preaching a very powerful sermon after he had healed
the lame man (Acts 3:1-26) and was, along with John, taken captive by the
religious authorities. Peter's
Holy Spirit inspired sermon brought 5,000 Jewish men (excluding women and
children) to belief in Jesus as Messiah (Acts 4:4).
It was on the next day that the religious leaders brought Peter and
John into their court and asked by what power the miracle was performed.
Once again Peter spoke with elegance and boldness:
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of
the people, and elders of Israel, 9
If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man,
by what means he is made whole; 10
Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the
name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the
dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
11 This is the stone which
was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
12 Neither is there
salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among
men, whereby we must be saved. 13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and
perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they
took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. 14 And beholding
the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against
Peter and John had an ability, a
Holy Spirit given ability, to proclaim the message of Good News for Israel.
To be sure, they were ignorant and unlearned in the rabbinical formulas
and ways, but they had been with Jesus and learned His ways.
In fact, every time we see or hear Peter in the book of Acts he is a
man who has a keen insight into the Old Testament and superior speaking
abilities which had been developed while he was with Jesus.
Even during his discipleship days with Jesus he was always ready to
speak out for what he thought was right.
In the two letters that are ascribed to Peter we see in a compact form
that he had the capability to use strong imagery and prose.
was the Apostle to the Circumcision. Jesus
called him to that position of leadership which he filled.
He was called being a qualified candidate for his role.
A. Welch well summarizes this thought:
To our mind it is plain that Peter, in the providence of God, was
prepared for the work which he had to do as certainly as was the Apostle to
the Gentiles. He had a subtle
race to deal with in his kinsmen, and he was chosen by our Lord for the work
of propagating the gospel among them, because, by natural endowments and
intellectual training, he was admirably fitted for the task.
possible objection to Peter's authorship of Hebrews is a lack of an early
church witness. This is true.
However, there are no
witnesses for many of the other more commonly proposed (Luke, Silas, Barnabas,
etc.) authors and this has not hindered their popular acceptance.
Indeed, apart from a few references to Paul, the early church testimony
for an author is lacking. This
reminds us again that whoever wrote Hebrews was so well known by the readers
that his authorship (and/or apostleship) needed no special clearance.
Thus the argument that the author must have been an accepted apostle
has some strength. Peter most
certainly would fulfill this requirement.
VERSES OF CONSIDERATION
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we
have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the
word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience
received a just recompense of reward; 3
How shall we escape, if we
neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord,
and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
4 God also bearing
witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of
the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
will agree that this passage in Hebrews almost single handedly closes the door
on a Pauline authorship. This
passage runs counter to what Paul says in Galatians concerning his
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me
is not after man. 12
For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the
revelation of Jesus Christ.
1:15 But when it pleased
God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, 16 To reveal his
Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred
not with flesh and blood: 17
Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me;
but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter,
and abode with him fifteen days. 19
But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.
2:1 Then fourteen years
after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. 2 And I went up
by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the
Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I
should run, or had run, in vain...
6 But of these who seemed
to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God
accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference
added nothing to me: 7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the
uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was
unto Peter; 8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship
of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:).
have quoted from Galatians extensively so that a comparison could be made
between Hebrews 2 and Galatians 1 & 2.
In Galatians Paul says that he received his apostleship and message via
direct revelation from Jesus Christ. He
also stated that he did not spend any initial time with the twelve apostles. When he finally did gather with them they added nothing
to his apostleship and message. Clearly
the author of Hebrews came to Jesus and received his apostleship and message
in more of a man mediated and discipleship manner.
are we to understand Hebrews 2 in light of the possibility that Peter wrote
it? We find an interesting
possibility that is contained in John 1:35-42:
Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
36 And looking upon Jesus
as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
37. And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
38 Then Jesus turned, and
saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him,
Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?
39 He saith unto them,
Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day:
for it was about the tenth hour. 40
One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew,
Simon Peter's brother. 41
He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have
found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he
said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by
interpretation, A stone.
this passage we find all the needed ingredients for Hebrews 2.
We have John the Baptist pointing out the Messiah, Jesus inviting the
disciples to his house for what must have been an exposure to his messiahship
(salvation), and one of the ones invited was Andrew, Peters brother.
Immediately following, Andrew leaves to find his brother Peter.
When he finds Peter he confirms
("we have found the Messiah") the message of Jesus to him.
If this infolding of these two texts are allowed then we have an
indirect witness to Peter's authorship of Hebrews.
Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things
willing to live honestly. 19
But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you
the sooner.... 23
Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he
come shortly, I will see you. 24
Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They
of Italy salute you.
verses demonstrate that the author and the readers know each other.
They also have a common friend, Timothy. The author implies that he is in prison, and hopes to be
released to come and visit them "that I may be restored to you the
sooner." He also sends
greetings from "they of Italy."
Are we to understand that these Italians are from
Italy or in Italy?
If we allow the preposition [apo] to have its normal meaning then we
would conclude that they are from
Italy and visiting the author while he is in prison.
Paul did not write Hebrews is clear to most who address this study today.
The further evidence presented in this paper adds to an already strong
case against his authorship. It
is inconceivable that Paul would write in Hebrews what could be considered as
almost opposite ideas from his known writings.
Such a shift in theological paradigms is highly unlikely.
Peter write Hebrews? I trust that
the data presented here demonstrates such a possibility.
As more data is gathered
, Peter may stand out as the best overall candidate.
A. Welch provides us with a fitting final point:
When we recognize Peter as the author of Hebrews, we feel at once that
an inequality which has hitherto existed in our New Testament has been
redressed. The Apostle of the Circumcision seems now to have something
like his due share of space assigned to him.
There may not be much in this, but one can hardly help thinking of it.
Does it not seem anomalous that we should have only two small Epistles
from the pen of an apostle who occupied so important a position during our
Lord's public ministry, and figured so prominently in connexion with the early
organisation of the Christian Church? We
naturally expect him to have relatively something like the same prominent
position in the New Testament that he occupied in the early Church.
Willoughby C. & Grensted, L. W., Introduction
to the Books of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1913)
J.N., Notes on the Epistle to the
Hebrews (Denver: The Wilson
Franz, Commentary on the Epistle to the
Hebrews (Edinburgh: T. &
T. Clark, N.D.)
Donald, New Testament Introduction
(Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1976)
Everett F., Introduction to the New
Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm.
B. Eerdmans, 1971)
D. Edmond, An Introduction to the
Non-Pauline Epistles (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962)
J. Vernon, The Authorship of Hebrews, or
Did Paul Write Hebrews? (Pasadena: Thru
the Bible Radio Network, N.D.)
George, The Theology of the Epistle to
the Hebrews (Minneapolis, The James Family Christian Publishers, 1978)
Arthur, An Exposition of Hebrews
(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,
John A.T., Redating the New Testament
(Philadelphia: Westminster Press,
George, A Historical Introduction to the
Study of the Books of the New Testament (London:
John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1892)
Moses, Commentary on the Epistle to the
Hebrews (Andover: Flagg,
Gould, and Newman, 1833)
W.H. Griffith, Hebrews, A Devotional
Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm.
B. Eerdmans, 1970)
A., The Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Edinburgh:
Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1898)
Brooke Foss, The Epistle to the Hebrews
(London: MacMillan and Co., Ltd., 1909)
Theodor, Introduction to the New
Testament (Minneapolis: Klock
& Klock, 1977)
Donald, New Testament Introduction
(Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1976) p.688.
 Ibid. p.688-690.
Milligan, George, The Theology of the
Epistle to the Hebrews (Minneapolis, The James Family Christian
Publishers, 1978); Zahn, Theodor, Introduction
to the New Testament (Minneapolis:
Klock & Klock, 1977); and Allen, Willoughby C. & Grensted, L.
W., Introduction to the Books of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T. &
T. Clark, 1913)
 Even when Paul discusses Hebrew subjects (i.e., Rom. 2, 3, 9 - 11; Gal. 2 - 4; etc.) he does so from his distinct theological context.
 E. F. Scott (The Literature of the New Testament, 1932, p. 198) as quoted by Guthrie, loc. cit. p. 689.
Delitzsch, Franz, Commentary on the
Epistle to the Hebrews (Edinburgh:
T. & T. Clark, N.D.) II. p. 412.
 Loc. cit. p. 26.
 See Guthire, loc. cit.; Harrison, Everett F., Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1971); Zahn, Theodor, Introduction to the New Testament (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1977); and almost any other New Testament Introduction for a summary of these various views.
Welch, A., The Authorship of the
Epistle to the Hebrews (Edinburgh:
Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1898) p. 17,18.
 Loc. cit. p.22.
 That is at least as far as my current studies have shown. I have searched many early church fathers and they along with other commentators have not postulated Peter as the author of Hebrews.
 As found in similar constructs: Luke 23:51; John 1:44, 11:1; Acts 17:13; etc,. It seems to me that those who wish to make this read like the author is in Italy do so with a view to making Paul the author. This text, if read in its simple construct, can furnish us with some clues concerning the author and his readers.
 Areas such as Hellenistic overtones in Hebrews, use of the LXX in OT quotes, correlation between II Peter and Hebrews, further linguistic greek patterns, etc., need to be researched.
 Loc. cit. p 13.