Who Wrote the Book of Hebrews?

The best answer to this question is “we do not know who wrote the book of Hebrews.” It is an anonymous book and the earliest suggested author (Paul) is rarely defended today. This also means we know very little about when the book was written, the original audience, or where the author was when he wrote. This is remarkable since we can know all these things with a high level of certainty for many of Paul’s letters (especially Romans, 1-2 Corinthians or Galatians).

But there are a number of things we can know about the author of Hebrews from the book itself.

The author was a Jewish Christian, but undoubtedly a Hellenistic Jew. This would account for his detailed knowledge of the Hebrew Bible as well as his use of the Septuagint. The author regularly links verses together based on key words and themes to create chains of texts to support a his point. This method is found among the later rabbis and was probably the way a synagogue sermon was constructed.

The author was highly educated in both the Hebrew Bible and Hellenistic philosophy.  Scholars often point out the similarities between the book of Hebrews and the writings of the Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria (30 B.C. – A.D. 50). It is possible the author was educated in Alexandria since he reads the Hebrew Bible in ways which are similar to Philo. But as James Thompson observes, the parallels between Philo and Hebrews are insufficient evidence to prove the author knew Philo or his exegetical techniques (Hebrews, 24).

The author  may have been in the second generation of the church.  Hebrew 2:3 implies that the writer has received tradition from others who are the witnesses of Jesus. While this could imply an individual living in the 60’s who not from Judea, it may only mean the author was not a follower of Jesus until after the resurrection. On the other hand, the writer could be someone who heard the message of Jesus as a youth from of the now elderly apostles, allowing for a date well past A.D. 70.

The author was influenced by Paul. It is hard to imagine a writer in the first century who has not heard of Paul, so this does not require him to be a companion of Paul or even part of the Pauline circle (Barnabas or Timothy, for example).  Unlike James, the author of Hebrews did not make a conscious effort to deal with similar topics as Paul (justification by faith) nor is there a direct reference to Paul (as in 2 Peter). Undoubtedly the writer read or heard Paul and knows his theology. This helps explain how a tradition of Pauline authorship might have developed in the first place.

None of these points should be controversial. As it turns out, there only a few people mentioned in the New Testament who fit this description. Other than Paul, the obvious candidate is Apollos since he is from Alexandria, was a well-educated Hellenistic Jew,  and had some influence from Paul or Pauline theology. But there are other candidates: Barnabas, Aquila and Priscilla, or even Timothy have been suggested as as potential authors of the book.

How do these four points help us to make sense of the content of Hebrews? To what extent does the author’s anonymity hinder (or help?) our understanding of the book.

44 thoughts on “Who Wrote the Book of Hebrews?

  1. Very helpful summary – thank you!

    Would you say that the masculine participle used by the author in 11v32 rules out a female writer?

    • Thanks Rob. I am not sure it “rules it out” at all, on the basis of a “generic masculine” I suppose; the suggestion that Aquila and Priscilla were co-authors would allow for a kind of generic masculine there.

      Are there any documents in the whole Greek Literature that we know come from a woman that have a similar self reference (a participle)? I am not aware of any, but I have not looked for one either. Perhaps a letter in the papyri? My guess is that a woman would use the feminine, but there may be examples of women using a generic masculine participle in this kind of context.

      Another possibility is that διηγούμενον refers to the account of the other prophets, not the writer’s account (a substantive use of the participle). I am less than happy with that grammatically, but if I was committed to a female writer I could make it work!

      • That sounds good to me! 🙂 I will soon be reading a book that makes the case for Priscilla’s authorship… I’ll have to let you know when I’ve read it and what I think.

      • Oops–disclaimer… that’s an affiliate link for Words on the Word. Doesn’t change anything–just so used to using that page for the blog!

  2. I was once told after I did a sermon on Hebrews 4 at a GGF church that Paul was indeed the author of Hebrews. I had said that it is unknown really, but one member of the congregation made it quite clear to me that he believed Paul wrote it, plain and simple. But as much as it seems to carry Paul’s theology, I think there are too many distinctions to prove that he wrote it. I would fit in with what P. Long says here, that the author was influenced by Paul. In Hebrews 2:3, the author includes himself in the group of people that had the gospel confirmed by those who were with the Lord and heard him announce salvation (Jobes 39). This, and the different writing styles seem to point away from Paul as being the author.
    The four points that P. Long has here do explain some of the content such as Jesus as High Priest and the extremely sophisticated language in Hebrews. If the author was a Hellenistic Jew that was highly educated in the Hebrew Bible, it would make sense that the author would be referring to very Jewish topics and stating his points in an elegant manner.

    • I am sure you were sensitive to your elder brother when you responded, right? I admit there are times the book seems like Paul, and others that are alien to Paul’s thought. I (personally) cannot be dogmatic on the authorship of the book.

      But….see my next post, Josh, for the possibility of Pauline authorship.

  3. I think that the book of Hebrews is an interesting book as according to its context. From my understanding, it kind of speaks to both groups of people, Jews and Christians. One of the main purposes of the book is to portray Christ as perfect and superior, which is obviously where the difference between Judaism and Christianity comes in. The writing in book is also focused on Christians who are being persecuted, and encouraging them to keep their faith in salvation.
    What we know is that Christology is definitely written about in Hebrews. For that reason and others, I think we can be safe in believing that the writer was influenced by Paul. The writer was also educated in what the Bible said, was a Jew, and may have not been a follower of Jesus until after the resurrection.
    With all of these facts combined, I think that we can say that Hebrews is a book of strong, Christ-centered theology, and also speaks to the culture of the Jews.

  4. The four points give clarity to the contents of Hebrews. As Chris has stated above, “I think we can be safe in believing that the writer was influenced by Paul. The writer was also educated in what the Bible said, was a Jew, and may have not been a follower of Jesus until after the resurrection.” We will never know the true author of Hebrews, but these four points shed light on the reason why Hebrews says what it does. The most interesting of these four points for me is the one about the author being a highly educated Hellenistic Jew. You mention in the main post that Hebrews shares “…a number of similarities to the writings of Philo of Alexandria.” It would be interesting to know more about what these similarities are, and how they have influence the content. You mention that the author may have been educated in Hellenistic philosophy, I am curious to where that plays a role in the content of Hebrews? If it makes use of philosophy, could Hebrews have appealed to more than just a Jewish audience?

  5. The author addresses issues that would seem to be important to the second-generation church rather than the first. The second generation had to deal with the identity of Christ and the relevance of the law in the light of the new covenant more than the first. This is why I think the author puts stress on the concept of Christ’s priesthood “after the order of Melchizedek”; in order to show that Christ’s covenant is beyond and therefor better than the old.
    Also, the analogies of Hebrews implies a reliance on Platonic dualism. This is why it is referred to as Hellenistic. I agree with Ty that Hebrew appealed to more than just Jews. The author may have intended for his (or her) message to reach traditional and Hellenistic Jews alike.

  6. Reasons for why Paul wrote Hebrews:
    1. Peter wrote Christian Jews scattered abroad and defended Paul’s letter to the same readership. Hebrews is the only letter Paul could have written to Jews and with the same subject matter, a new heavens and earth (2 Pt. 3:13-16; Heb. 11:10; 11:14-16; 12:22; 12:25-29.). The Holy Spirit using one writer to defend another writer’s credibility is unprecedented but necessary since Paul wrote the Jewish Christians.
    2. Stephen who performed signs and wonders preached the gospel to Paul though at that time Paul was not teachable (Heb. 2:3-4; Acts 6:8: Acts 7:51 – 56). Stephen preached to Paul and the Jews that they were sinners, Jesus was the Son of Man, resurrected, at the right hand of God, forgives sins and the keeper of his spirit. Paul referred to Stephen as Jesus witness. Paul fit well the Heb. 2:3-4 description.
    3. The Lord directly taught Paul a fuller understanding of the gospel and its ramifications so that he could refute the Judaizers after he was saved and left Damascus (Gal. 1:11-17). Even Ananias spoke the gospel to Paul before baptizing him and Paul receiving the Holy Spirit. The thief on the cross had a very limited knowledge of the gospel which was all that was required to be saved.
    4. The Hebrews letter was not anonymous, the writer expected the readership to know who wrote it (Heb. 13:18). The church generally has thought Paul was the author until the 18th century.
    5. The writer had a close but superior relationship with Timothy (Heb. 13:23). – Paul/Timothy have a spiritual father/son relationship (Phil. 2:22).
    6. The writer was in Italy (Heb. 13:24) and in prison (Heb. 13:19) – Paul was imprisoned in Rome.
    7. John wrote 5 letters with different writing styles. Is that a basis for rejecting John’s authorship? Neither is Paul’s writing style in Hebrews a basis for rejecting his authorship.

    This is not a matter to be contentious about. Ultimately the Holy Spirit wrote Hebrews. It is a wonderful book second only to Romans.

    • I will correct #7, John’s gospel and the three epistles are remarkably similar, there is no question they come from the same author. Revelation is radically different in literary style, but there are some clear theological themes connecting it to the Gospel of John. FWIW, for many scholars the John of Revelation is not the author of the anonymous Gospel of John.

      Because there is no author identified, Hebrews is anonymous even if the author expected people to know who he was.

  7. If Paul authored Hebrews, would he not have argued that his brethren in the flesh go beyond the New Covenant, all the way to the mystery revelation he had received? Or, is this a prophetic “love” letter penned by Paul for his brethren, but meant for a future generation, say a true Israel facing Jacob’s Trouble?

    • Check back tomorrow, I have a post scheduled on Paul and Hebrews.

      Best case scenario for Paul as the author is this is a synagogue sermon preached by Paul early in his career, someone like Luke or Apollos edited it into the document we now have.

  8. Barnabas has always been my favorite contender, and for entirely emotional reasons that have no relevance to the evidence. I’m intrigued by Barnabas because he is so quiet. He doesn’t have a single speaking line, and is hardly ever depicted saying much of anything. He tends to accompany Paul while Paul does all the talking. Despite that, he is of such central importance – without his influence in Jerusalem, would we even know who Paul is today? So I’ve always liked to think that Hebrews is our chance to finally hear what Barney has to say – whether or not there’s any compelling evidence for his being the author.

    • An intriguing argument for Barnabas is the frequent use of “encourage” in Hebrews, and Acts 4:36, Joseph the Levite was nicknamed “Son of Encouragement.” He is Levite, accounting for the interest in the Temple and has a Pauline influence.

      It is not implausible for Barnabas to have written the book, so your emotional reasons have some rational support.

  9. I have read these blogs, “Who wrote the book of Hebrews”, and “The author of Hebrews- Why not Paul”. As a novice on this entire subject, they are ‘deep’ and somewhat beyond my limited scope of knowledge. I have read the many comments and the textbook by Jobes. Every argument from Clement and Origen to Calvin and Luther sounds plausible. Maybe Paul wrote it, maybe he did not. I am in agreement with the first sentence of this blog “We do not know who wrote the book of Hebrews”. However, my mind goes to this thought; (and at the risk of showing my ignorance), why does knowing who wrote it matter so much? I accept the entire Bible as the accurate , inspired Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” God-Breathed. Does it matter who wrote it down? Perhaps, by the end of this Jewish Christian Literature course I will have a better understanding of the importance of authorship, in the meantime my focus will be to study and follow it.

    • I agree with you McKenzie, I feel that many times we do not always think about the context in which a book of the Bible is written. We only start looking into those thoughts and ideas when someone brings them up. Because of this, it makes it hard to have a set opinion on the topic. Reading “Letters to the Church”, blog posts, and listening in class; I think really opens our eyes to the things that are unknown about the book of Hebrews such as who wrote it. It will be interesting to see how the importance of an author of a book of the Bible affects the way that we read and understand it.

  10. I think that it is interesting to hear and read about all of the different ideas that people come up with when it comes to the book of Hebrews: who wrote it? Who was it written for? According to our in-class textbook “Letters to the Church” by Karen Jobes, some think that the book of Hebrews may have been a sermon for a group of people instead of a letter (Jobes, 2011). As Jobes points out the last chapter in Hebrews is a, “clear indication that it was sent as a personal correspondence to a specific group of people that the author had in mind” (Jobes, 2011, p.44). When looking at Hebrews 13: 20-24, it comes across as the closing of a letter; especially when it says, ” But I urge you, brethren, [h]bear with [i]this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly…Greet all of your leaders and all the [k]saints. Those from Italy greet you” (Hebrews 13: 22,24). From those verses I personally think that the book of Hebrews was a letter written to a certain group of people.

  11. These four points help us to make sense of the content of Hebrews by giving us a basic understanding of what the author was like, and where most of the knowledge is coming from. Not knowing who the author is helps us to understand the book of Hebrews with an open mind because let’s say someone doesn’t like Paul’s writing and they think Paul wrote Hebrews that person might not want to read it, but not knowing who wrote Hebrews gives the person an open mind to reading the book. It also hinders our understanding of the book because we do not have a strong grasp on when the book was for sure written and how close it was to Jesus’ resurrection.

  12. The book of Hebrews is considered anonymous and there are many indicators that give us general ideas about the plausible author. The post from P. Long along with the text says that Paul is a possible author for the book of Hebrews. “In the earliest manuscript editions of the New Testament books, Hebrews is included after Romans among the books written by the apostle Paul. This was taken as evidence that Paul had written it…” (Jobes, 36- 37). I had similar thoughts to those of McKenzie McCord when she points out possible ignorance of wondering why does it really matter? I have heard many cases of the need for knowledge about context, audience, and authorship, but I still wonder why it changes the meaning in many cases. Scripture says in John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So if the Word was with God and the Word is God, does the author really influence the meaning? I think there are more important pieces of knowledge like the context of the Word rather than the author. It could also be positive that the author is unknown because readers can not judge or be biased to a certain authors that they like/ dislike.

  13. These four points help us in a couple different ways. Not knowing who the author is keeps us from comparing the points to other authors in the new testament. This allows for us to keep an open mind, and i would bet that it allowed the early church mostly Hellenistic Jews to keep an open mind and be accepting of the New Testament as well. The second is it gives legitimacy to Paul’s influence to the early Christian world. There is definitely influence in the way he writes the letter, especially when it comes to the athletic aspect of the early Christian world. In the end all of Scripture is God-breathed and only God himself will fully know who he inspired to write this scripture.

  14. I agree that Hebrews does not state who the author is. According to Jobes, there are several guesses, but none of them have been proven. Suggested authors of Hebrews are Paul, Apollos, Barnabas, Timothy, and even Priscilla. I agree that the author is a Jew. This is evidenced through the author’s reference of the Tabernacle and referring to Jesus as the High Priest. Based on the author’s writing style, we can know that the writing is more advanced than the other New Testament writers. The author also appears to have an advanced knowledge of Hebrew literature. I also agree that the author was influenced by Paul. As Professor Long pointed out, the author did not refer to the subjects in depth that Paul talks about in his letters. Subjects like sanctification and justification. We do not know who wrote Hebrews, but we do know that the author had a Jewish background and extensive knowledge of Jewish literature.

  15. The topic of who authored the book of Hebrews is a heated topic with multiple different arguments for different authors. Personally, I prefer the argument of Apollos being the author of Hebrews, though Jobes states that ultimately the authorship of Hebrews is anonymous (Jobes, Pg. 37). I totally agree and think to search for the answer to who authored the book of Hebrews may provide helpful information in understanding the Book, to ask who wrote the book is a question the book of Hebrews is not interested in answering. Scripture has a specific purpose and is God Breathed (2 Tim. 3:16), thus I do not think it is necessary to spend hours upon hours to answer this question. I find it much more fulfilling and purposeful to look at Hebrews for the answers it does provide for questions on Christology.
    In understanding the book of Hebrews and the concepts within it, not knowing the author does not hinder the reader from understanding said concepts. To understand the original audience, context, and culture at the time of the book being written certainly helps to understand it, and so does knowing the author, but it should not hinder those who read Hebrews today. Perhaps it only becomes a hindrance when we get so distracted trying to figure out authorship rather than focusing on Hebrews and the concepts presented within it.

  16. Origen’s opinion on who wrote the book of Hebrews, where he accepted that “Only God knows” (Jobes, 37). This statement shows that Origen did not allow this largely controversial subject to cause division between him and other believers.
    Although Origen held a rather neutral viewpoint, many other church leaders throughout history did not share his opinion. Many church leaders, including Clement, John Calvin, and Martin Luther believed that Paul was the author of Hebrews (Jobes, 37). This was a widely held view during and after the time of the Reformation, with even the King James Version of the Bible claiming that Paul was the author of Hebrews (Jobes, 37).
    Although Paul knew the author, it is clear that he is not the author based on various passages in the book (Jobes, 38). Personally, I accept Apollos as the author of Hebrews. First, he knew Paul personally, which explains why some of the writing is very similar (Jobes, 38). It is likely that Apollos’ theology was heavily influenced by Paul in various ways, but yet focused more on the Pentateuch than Paul had. The second reason is that although Apollos was a Jewish Christian, he writes in Greek to people who, though were also Jewish Christian, had been heavily influenced by the Hellenistic culture.
    Although, as Origen says “Only God knows” who wrote the book of Hebrews each person should examine the evidence for themselves and decide for themselves who they believe was the author of Hebrews.
    Do you think that we will get more evidence to better know who the author of Hebrews is? Lord willing yes.

  17. Paul is bold. He is clear and he does not hold back in what he says in his letters. In most letters he clearly states where the letter is going and from whom it is being sent. This is what makes me doubt that Paul is the author of Hebrews. Whoever it is, either chose to remain anonymous for protection, the protection of someone else, or it isn’t a letter at all. What makes this book even more interesting is that we do not know even when it is written, although there are a few clues that can help us narrow it down. Hebrews mentions a letter written from Clement to the Corinthians dated in AD 95 (Jobes, 32). Another clue is the topic of persecution, which is very likely referring to the reign of Nero and his horrible treatment of Christians (Jobes, 33). By knowing when Hebrews was written can help us determine who the author could be. By knowing who the author is, there may be some more clarity on cultural context and literary context. If it is Paul, then it can be compared to his other works, but if it is not, we can see the influence Paul had on the author. I think that the author’s anonymity both hinders us from understanding the voice of the book, but it also helps us in relying on illumination and knowing that this is the inspired Word of God. We know that He is the true author, despite who penned the book.

  18. I found this post to be very informing and I enjoyed reading the many different reasons as to why the author who he is.I also think it is interesting to read and hear about the different ideas that people have when it comes to the topic of who the author of Hebrews is. I appreciated that you broke up the post into four different parts in order for us to understand it better. I believe that the author of the “letter” made himself unknown for a reason only they will understand. We may never know who the true author of Hebrews is, but the only thing we can do it look at the facts that all line up and point to who we believe the author may be. I think you did a great job doing that.

  19. 1. The author was a Jewish Christian, but undoubtedly a Hellenistic Jew.
    The fact that the author was a Jewish Christian allows us to better understand the background behind what the author is writing. Based on the Jewish Christians of that time. For example, it allows us to see why Jewish law and tradition are constantly mentioned throughout the book and how they collide with the New Covenant through Jesus.
    2. The author was highly educated in both the Hebrew Bible and Hellenistic philosophy.
    The education of the author is evident throughout the book in the depth of theology. This allows us to narrow down even further the possible candidates for the author of this book. The reason education matters so much when it comes to the author is because very few at the time this book was written were well educated. Of those who were well educated it is possible that it was Appolos, Paul or Barnabas. It is also possible that the author is someone who was not mentioned in the Bible or in historical records.
    3. The author may have been in the second generation of the church.
    If this is the case then this would make sense because the author clearly understands the theology of the church past and present.
    4. The author was influenced by Paul.
    This is the problem with the author being in the second generation of the church is that he seems to be influenced by Paul and if that is the case than he could not be from the 2nd generation of the church.

    • “he could not be from the 2nd generation of the church.” – Anyone in the second gen of the church would have been influenced by Paul! Someone like Apollos, for example, was not an eyewitness of Jesus and learned the Gospel fully through Aquila and Priscilla, so second generation. But he was also in Paul’s circle, so may have been influenced by Paul’s work in Corinth.

  20. The four points with the author were cool and appreciated and very easy to understand wants you to put it all together. I feel that since we didn’t know who the author was it kind of kept us to keep comparing and trying to put together what’s going regarding the four points with New Testament I think not knowing the author kept me wondering what was going on and it those churches that open up early than usual it help the Jewish people welcome learning New Testament. In the passage it says that Paul helps the Christian world to see the bigger and better picture with his Letters. I feel that God has all the answers we may never know who was able to write this scripture but God will forever know.

  21. I really like the book of Hebrews because of how important a lesson there is on warning mankind on staying true to what God has taught us; however, the best part about the book of Hebrews is that no one knows who wrote it. I personally think that this is the best part about the book of Hebrews because there is not only an important learning opportunity, but it also really makes one think. Jobes said it best stating, “Origen does not venture a guess at the authors identity, commenting only, but who wrote the epistle, in truth only God knows” (Jobes 79). However, as we look at the four points stated in the blog post is it most evident that the only applicable candidate for the authorship of the book of Hebrews would be that of Apollos of Alexandria. With that being said I 100% agree with P.Long for he thinks that Apollos is the obvious answer. As well, Due to the fact that “he is from Alexandria, was a well-educated Hellenistic Jew, and had some influence from Paul or Pauline theology” (P.Long). If Apollos is factually the true author of Hebrews it definitely adds up because Apollos was a key supporter of Pauline literature and all throughout the book of Hebrews, is teachings and commands that Paul himself would have agreed upon and even spoke on himself. Jobes also mentions how “Apollos was a great defender of the Christian faith, vigorously refuting the opposing Jews in public debate and proving from the Old Testament that Jesus was the Messiah” (Jobes 85). With this quote in mind and the fact that Apollos was a key follower and supporter of Paul, I personally believe that the book of Hebrews was in fact authored by Apollos. Yes, though scholars and everyone else in this world can put their best guess together and have as much evidence as possible, it is still up to complete opinion regardless of the evidence and information provided, thus I stick with the Origen statement; “whoever wrote the epistle, in truth only God knows”.

  22. This is a major question that we all must ask about the book of Hebrews. There are a few people that may be the top people of interest in the writing of Hebrews. The first theory of the book was that it was written by Paul during his letters. This was the theory because the earliest copies dated back to be within Paul’s letters. This would have put Hebrews after the book of Romans. Calvin was the first one to doubt Paul’s authorship of the book while Luther found it doubtful not long after Calvin. There are other people from the times that we can assume may have been either, Luke, Clements, Barnabas, or possibly Apollos. Although most of the book we see almost the same views as the Paul which is the reason that we thought he was the one who wrote it. If you read through all of Hebrews, you can see that there are many similarities but the wording that is in the text is a little off form how Paul would make it sound. P Long claims that there is one obvious author which would be Apollos which could very much be true since we have no specific evidence on who It truly could be.

  23. This is one of the major questions that a lot of people are wondering is who actually wrote the book of Hebrews? The answer is that we are not one hundred percent sure who wrote it. Since we are not sure who wrote it we don’t have a lot of information about who the book was written too, or where the book was written. The book of Hebrews gives some ideas for us that we can connect with a person who might have wrote it. Karen H. Jobes writes about this topic in her book “Letters to the Church”. Her idea is that who ever wrote the book of Hebrews is trying to explain that since Jesus has come that there is no going back to the ways of the old covenant that God had made with Israel (Jobes, pg. 90). But I believe that just because we don’t know the author of the book doesn’t mean that the book isn’t true or that we can’t believe what happens in the book. Paul has written a lot of the books of the Bible so some people believe the closest guess they could have is Paul. But it still remains anonymous.

  24. To answer your question at the end of this post I think there are major benefits to not knowing who the author is. Typically when people remain anonymous it is for a reason. I think this could have been the case with Hebrew. While I am not yet sure of the reason, I hope to find out more as I continue to learn more about Jewish Chrisitan Literature. I don’t yet know the benefit of remaining anonymous in this case, I do see some positives so far. While many would like to know who the author is, we don’t know. This has opened many conversations, debates, and deep research into who the author of Hebrews is. These are all positive things, it gets us talking with others about the Bible which could lead to deeper conversations. The second positive is that while we may not know exactly who the author is, we know a lot about them. This was demonstrated in the post above, but also in Letters to the Church by Karen H. Jobes. She walks us through the book of Hebrews in the first few chapters of her book. She examines a lot of the qualities about the author. All of which give us more understanding and background to the book of Hebrew.

  25. Before studying Hebrews I was not aware that the author was unknown. So it is interesting to take into consideration what that means to not know the author, audience or place in which the book was written. As Professor Long has stated, “there are a number of things we can know about the author of Hebrews from the book itself” (Long 2018). These qualities of the book of Hebrews, although they don’t directly reveal the author of the book, it does give some context and understanding to how Romans were being treated and viewed. Karen Jobes in her book Letters to the Church mentions that not only was the author of Hebrews very highly educated, but he (or she) wrote in “highly literary and very ornate” sentences and phrases (Jobes, 2011). Jobes also mentions that although the author had a Pauline influence on his theology and writing, the author’s writings are actually very distinct from anything Paul would have written (Jobes, 2011). Although the author knew of Paul’s theology and seemed to have been very well educated in their understanding of the Scriptures, they did not directly reference Paul or deal with topics similar to what Paul dealt with in his books (Long, 2018). All this can draw conclusions to the author of Hebrews being well educated and highly knowledgeable. However, although we can make inferences and hypotheses about the author, the anonymity of the book does cause setbacks for the contents within the book. For example, because scholars and readers of Hebrews are unaware of the author, the authority within the writing may come into question. If Hebrews is claiming that Jesus is to be our “Great High Priest”, then how can we justify that the author is coming with an authority to make such a claim (Jobes, 2011)? We can take into account the education of the author and his Jewish Christian standing. But, without knowing his identity it makes it harder to defend what he is trying to express. There also is difficulty in understanding the cultural context of Hebrews. Since the author does not distinguish when the book is being written, it hinders the importance or significance of what the author is trying to communicate. There seems to be a lot more questions than answers within the author’s identity, timing and audience (Long, 2018). We can make some sense of the content of Hebrews, but without knowing the author’s situation and identity, the difficulties of understanding the book grow greater.

    Jobes, K. H. (2011). Letters To The Church: A Survey of Hebrews and the General Epistles. Zondervan.

  26. At the end of this post you ask the question: “To what extent does the author’s anonymity hinder (or help?) our understanding of the book.”

    To this question of the author’s anonymity, I don’t think it has any adverse affect on the message of Hebrews. While knowledge of the author’s identity, say Paul for instance, would help contextualize the author’s message in regards to the New Testament as a whole, I don’t think the added context is essential to understanding Hebrews. Also, if the author were a key figure among the apostles, such as Paul or Apollos, wouldn’t he identify himself? I find the possibility of the “torn page” (the thought that the author’s name was simply lost) difficult to believe. When this letter was distributed to the churches in Rome wouldn’t the audience ask who wrote it? And given the general track record of the scriptures being inerrant wouldn’t such a detail, assuming it was important, be included in the text. And the text was likely copied. Did those copies all exclude that same detail? I think the author chooses to remain anonymous yet it seems that their education and acquaintance with other key figures of the early church lends them enough credibility to be included with the other New Testament books. So the author’s identity doesn’t impact the message of Hebrews because if it did it would have been included with the text. Or maybe I’m just way off track and this isn’t a situation in which the inerrancy of scripture applies.

  27. I find it important before reading a book from Scripture to know who the author is and the time frame it was written. This helps me when reading the book to have more context and to better understand the book. In the case of Hebrews, there is no author. I have heard from multiple people in my church that Paul was mostly likely the author of the book. But while reading, Jobes’s book, there are many points she shares that does not support Paul as the author. A supporting idea is that when the book of Hebrews is compared to Paul’s Epistles the style of the words are very different. Jobes states, “The apostle Paul, for instance, never alludes to Jesus as a priest, which is the major motif of Hebrew (Jobes, 2011).” Another difference is that Paul in his epistles starts with an introduction. In the case of Hebrews there is no introduction. But ultimately God only knows who wrote the book. I believe that the author might have left the book anonymous for various reason. The author might have wanted readers to grasp the message of the book without being in danger or targeted.

Leave a Reply