Who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews?Posted: December 27, 2012 | |
I have been devotionally reading through the book of Hebrews as well as working through its Greek translation. One of the fascinating debates that has historically surrounded this book is the issue of who authored it. In the past I have held a variety of positions regarding its authorship, mainly oscillating between Paul and Luke. But once again I find myself questioning my stance, and no longer believe either of them wrote this letter.
The letter is primarily written towards Jewish believers. The author begins by drawing on the vast heritage of the Jewish forefathers, quoting and pulling together 8 different passages of Scripture in the first chapter.
The beginning of Hebrews also has some metaphorical similarities to the beginning of John’s Gospel in the way he wrote about Jesus. He uses the terminology of “Spoken to, radiance of God’s glory, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” ( Word was with God and was God) Yet the vast differences of style between the two discount any inklings that John was the author.
The author makes it clear in chapter 2 that he was not one of the original disciples of Jesus and is therefore a 2nd generation Christian. Through the use of inclusive language he also counts himself as being among the group of Christians he is speaking to.
Heb 2:1 – 4 WE must pay more attention…What WE have heard… how shall WE escape…announced to US…confirmed to US by those who heard him…
Paul goes to great lengths elsewhere to state that he also has seen the risen Christ and it was through that Damascus road experience which brought him to faith. The language used here is greatly different to the typical language Paul uses to identify himself as an Apostle born out of season and the “Fathering” aspect that he uses when writing to his converts. It’s certainly reasonable to believe that Luke could have been the one to scribe this letter. But then we can’t claim he was the author if he was writing it from a scribal position. Because of these differences I don’t think we can claim a Pauline, Luke or any other Apostolic authorship to this letter.
But the conclusion of the letter puts us in a bit of a quandary. Both the author and the recipients of this letter are companions of Timothy. If indeed the reference is about the same Timothy whom Paul trained up and released; we have a record of his imprisonment which was known to them.
The question to ask is when and where was Timothy imprisoned. Was he imprisoned with Paul when he was imprisoned in Rome? The conclusion of Hebrews points to a greeting coming from Rome / Italy, but also points out that the author is not imprisoned himself.
Heb 13:23-24 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you…those from Italy send you their greetings.
Was Timothy imprisoned elsewhere and was coming to meet this person in Rome or somewhere else within the boundaries of ancient Italy. Within the framework of how the mail system worked in ancient times “soon” could be a matter of days, weeks or even perhaps months. This leads us to further questions to ask.
Who were Timothy’s travelling companions. Who were his ministry companions. We know from Acts 16 that Timothy was a ministry companion with both Paul and Silas and in Acts 18 we read how Silas had continued ministering alongside Timothy in Macedonia and eventually they both came to Paul in Corinth. Like Paul, Silas also spoke in the synagogue, arguing the case for Christ from the Scriptures and was greatly experienced in doing so.
Could it be that Silas is the author of Hebrews? Certainly Silas fits the criteria of being a 2nd generation Christian. In the conclusion of 1 Peter 5:12, Peter speaks of Silas helping him to write his letter. Therefore we know that Silas was educated by and greatly influenced by the Apostles, he had the needed writing skills, he had the experience and is highly probable he had the relational connection with the recipients of this letter.
We know through the letter of 1 Peter that many of the early Jewish converts were scattered across the nations. Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. Because Peter referenced Silas, we can conclude that Silas was well known to these people also. This raises questions as to whether or not part of Silas’s ministry with Paul was to introduce Paul to those who were scattered? And if so, we now have the connection between those who were scattered, Timothy and Silas. It’s important for us to note the link of those scattered with the author of Hebrews through repeating my earlier notation of the use of inclusive language in the writing of this letter.
Therefore its now my hypothesis that the author of Hebrews was in fact Silas.