Who Wrote Hebrews?

It’s fairly common knowledge among Christians that we don’t know for sure who wrote the book of Hebrews in the Bible. The Church knows it to be inspired Scripture, despite the lack of certainty regarding its author.

Well, I’ve been reading an interesting book on Church history called Roots of the Faith, by Mike Aquilina, and he directed my attention to an interesting section in the writings of a Church historian named Eusebius, who lived in the late 200’s through the early 300’s. Since I happen to have Eusebius’ Church History on my shelf, I looked that particular section up for myself because it sounded intriguing.

Here, Eusebius is describing the writings of Clement of Alexandria, who was born circa 150, and Clement seemed to be quite confident in his knowledge of who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews:

“He says that the Epistle to the Hebrews is the work of Paul, and that it was written to the Hebrews in the Hebrew language; but that Luke translated it carefully and published it for the Greeks, and hence the same style of expression is found in this epistle and in the Acts. But he says that the words, Paul the Apostle, were probably not prefixed, because, in sending it to the Hebrews, who were prejudiced and suspicious of him, he wisely did not wish to repel them at the very beginning by giving his name.”
–Eusebius, Church History, 6.14.2-3

So he’s saying that Paul wrote Hebrews, but left out his usual greeting for good reasons. The writing somewhat resembles Luke, because Luke translated it into the Greek.

Eusebius continues,

“Farther on he says: ‘But now, as the blessed presbyter said, since the Lord being the apostle of the Almighty, was sent to the Hebrews, Paul, as sent to the Gentiles, on account of his modesty did not subscribe himself an apostle of the Hebrews, through respect for the Lord, and because being a herald and apostle of the Gentiles he wrote to the Hebrews out of his superabundance.’” (6.14.4)

So even though Paul’s primary mission was to the Gentiles, his “superabundance” overflowed to the Hebrews as well, and the Church has been blessed to this day with the Epistle to the Hebrews apparently as a result of Paul going above and beyond the call of duty (so to speak). I understand that there are other sources from the early Church which also offer insight into the subject of Hebrews’ authorship, but Eusebius is the one I came across and I just thought it was really interesting.

Bonus

Unrelated to the authorship of Hebrews but included in the same chapter, Eusebius refers to Clement’s writings regarding Mark’s Gospel:

“As Peter had preached the Word publically at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it. When Peter learned of this, he neither directly forbade nor encouraged it.”
–Eusebius, Church History, 6.14.6

Interesting stuff!

-Ben 10/28/14

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4 Comments on “Who Wrote Hebrews?”

  1. mtsweat says:

    Very interesting! Amazing how much has been preserved if we’re willing to invest a little study time isn’t it? Thanks… great share.

    • Ben says:

      Thanks for stopping by!

      I appreciate it.

      Yes, over the last year I have become aware of a treasure trove of ancient writings that greatly improve our ability to understand Scripture.

      It took the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholics to demonstrate to me that the writings of the early Church Fathers are an indispensable resource for Christians. I had assumed for years that the Bible was all we could really trust, but without venturing off into to the untrustworthy writings that basically no one accepts (like the gnostic gospels), there are volumes worth of great writings that have been cherished for centuries for their insight into the faith that we today are trying so desperately to live with authenticity. There’s no need to figure out Christianity (and the Bible!) from scratch, or simply rely upon the insights of modern authors… what a relief it was for me to discover this.

      This post was more along the lines of “gee whiz information” but I like to get people interested in the writings of the early Church in a way that might get them reading more for themselves.

      Blessings!

      -Ben

  2. Dale says:

    This has always fascinated me! I think it’s been ever since I had a (Protestant) professor in college who threw out the idea that Priscilla might have written Hebrews – accounting for the Greek style and a reason why she might not have wanted to identify herself. He was by no means trying to say anything definitive – just more of a “what if”.

    The information in your post really is enlightening! I did not realize anyone that close to the actual writing of Hebrews had ever identified Paul. Perhaps it’s the Protestant attitude you mentioned a while back of “Let’s dismiss everything that happened between the Book of Acts and the Reformation”.

    And while I’m thinking about it – I’m starting Brideshead Revisited this week – finally.

    • Ben says:

      Hi Dale!

      Yes, I’m sure I’ve heard various speculations about the author of Hebrews for years. People assemble clues in order to take guesses, but as far as I’m concerned, Eusebius/Clement are not only relatively close to the time Hebrews was written, but the reasons actually make a lot of sense.

      I’ve been told that there are other early writings that comment on Hebrews’ authorship, so this may not be a closed case by any stretch. But being able to point to this as my reasoning that Paul wrote Hebrews will probably go a long way in any conversation on the subject. I would gladly hear other sources if there are differences out there.

      One of the cool things about becoming Catholic is that I hardly have to base anything serious on just my own opinion anymore (thank goodness!). I can save my own opinion for things like movie/book reviews 🙂

      Speaking of which, I’m quite sure you will enjoy Brideshead Revisted, but of course do not hesitate to be honest in your analysis, even if you disagree.

      -Ben