The question as to the author of the epistle to the Hebrews has engaged the minds of many learned theologians, from the very earliest church fathers, until the present day. There are three leading opinions entertained in regard to this question. The overwhelming majority ascribe the authorship of this epistle to the apostle Paul. There are some who ascribe it to other authors than the apostle Patti, either Barnabas or Luke. Others ascribe it to the apostle Paul in concert or conjunction with another author, and this other author is held to be according to some Apollos, and according to others Luke.
The objections that have most generally been raised against the apostle Paul being the author of this epistle are as follows: the chief and foremost is the fact that the name of the author is not mentioned. The strength of this objection does not lie in the fact that this epistle is without an inscription, for So is the epistle of John, concerning which it was never doubted but that he was the author of it, but in the constant usage of Paul, prefixing his name unto all his other epistles. Hence unless a just and good reason can be given why he should divert from that custom in the writing of this epistle, it may well be supposed that it is not of him. Another objection is based upon the fact of the dissimilitude of style, and manner of writing, from that used by St. Paul in his other epistles. It is stated that “the style and language, the categories of thought and the method of argument, all differ widely from those of any writings ascribed to Paul.” Finally it is maintained that Paul could not have written“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”; for he emphatically declares that he did not receive his gospel from the older disciples ( ).
Various answers have been given to the objection that the author’s name is not mentioned, while it was invariably the custom of the apostle Paul to prefix his name unto all his other epistles. Some have explained this from the fact that the apostle Paul was very specifically the apostle to the Gentiles; that his allotment of work was to labor among the Gentiles, and if in writing unto the Hebrews, he had prefixed his name unto his epistle, he might have seemed to transgress the line of his allotment. By .agreement James, Peter, and John were to attend the ministry of the Circumcision, while the apostle Paul and Barnabas would attend to the ministry of the Gentiles. Hence Paul, finding it necessary for him to write unto the Hebrews, would not prefix his name with an apostolic salutation unto his epistle, that he might not seem to have invaded the province of others, or transgressed the line of his allotment. This explanation, as though the apostle concealed his name in this epistle, because he was doing Chat which was not meet for him to do, is unworthy of the apostle Paul. The commission given by the Lord Christ unto His apostles was that they should teach all nations, and even though it be true that Paul was especially called to minister unto the Gentiles, this did not mean that he did not also labor for the conversion of the Jews, as well as that we find Peter ministering unto the Gentiles. In writing this Epistle to the Hebrews he did nothing but what in duty he ought to do in obedience to Christ, and therefore he need not conceal his name as though he were doing something unjustifiable.
There is another answer to this objection which is far more satisfactory, namely this, that the apostle Paul had weighty reasons not to declare his name at the very beginning of this epistle to the Hebrews, because of the prejudices that many of them had against him. This is the explanation given by many theologians. It is very fittingly stated by Barnes in his notes on the New Testament. “The name of Paul was odious to the Jews. He was regarded by the nation as an apostate from their religion, and everywhere they showed peculiar malignity against him. See the Acts of the Apostles. The fact that he was so regarded by them might indirectly influence even those who had been converted from Judaism to Christianity. They lived in Palestine. They were near the temple, and were engaged in its ceremonies and sacrifices—for there is no evidence that they broke off from these observances on their conversion to Christianity. Paul was abroad. It might have been reported that he was preaching against the temple and its sacrifices, and even Jewish Christians in Palestine might have supposed that he was carrying matters too far. In these circumstances it might have been imprudent for him to have announced his name at the outset, for it might have aroused prejudices which a wise man would wish to allay. But if he could present an argument, somewhat in the form of an assay, showing that he believed that the Jewish institutions were appointed by God, and that he was not an apostate and infidel; if he could conduct a demonstration that would accord in the main with the prevailing views pf the Christians in Palestine, and that was adapted to strengthen them in the faith of the gospel, and explain to them the true nature of the Jewish rites, then the object could be gained without difficulty, and then they would be prepared to learn that Paul was the author, without prejudice or alarm. Accordingly he thus conducts the argument and at the close gives them such imitations that they would understand who wrote it without much difficulty. If this was the motive, it was an instance of tact such as was certainly characteristic of Paul, and such was not unworthy any man.” Hence this defect of inscription rather proves, than disproves that this epistle is of the apostle Paul.
Owen gives us still another reason why the apostle did not prefix this epistle to the Hebrews with his name and apostolic authority. “Unto all others he prefixed this title: declaring himself thereby to be one so authored to reveal the mysteries of the gospel that they to whom he wrote were to acquiesce in his authority, and to resolve their faith into the revelation of the will of God made unto him and by him, the church being to be “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” . . . .“In his dealing with the Hebrews the case was far otherwise. They who believed, amongst them, never changed the old foundation, or church-state grounded on the Scriptures, though they had a new addition of privileges by their faith in Christ Jesus, as the Messiah now exhibited. And therefore be deals not with them as with those whose faith was built absolutely by apostolic authority and revelation, but upon the common principles of the Old Testament, on which they still stood, and out of which evangelical faith was educed. Hence the beginning of the Epistle, wherein he appeals to the Scriptures as the foundation that he intended to build upon, and the authority which he would press them withal, supplies the room of that intimation of his apostolic authority which in other places he maketh use of. And it serves to the very same purpose. For, as in those epistles he proposeth his apostolic authority as the immediate reason of their assent and obedience; so in this he doth the scriptures of the Old Testament.” (Owen Volume XVIII, pp. 82, 83).
Having answered the chief and foremost objection against Paul being the author of this epistle, we can be more brief with the other two. It has indeed been admitted by competent authorities that the style and language, and the method of argument, in this Epistle, differ remarkably from those of the other epistles of Paul. The reasons for this are not far to seek. “The argument treated of in this Epistle is diverse from that of most the others; many circumstances in those to whom he wrote singular; the spring of his reasonings and way of his arguings peculiarly suited unto his subject matter and the condition of those unto whom he wrote. Besides, in the writing of this epistle there was in him an especial frame and incitation of Spirit, occasioned by many occurrences relating unto it. His intense love and neat relation in the flesh unto them to whom he wrote, affectionately remembered by himself, and expressed in a. manner inimitable,, did doubtless exert itself in his treating about their greatest and nearest concernment.” (Owen Vol. XVIII, p. 77). Hence the very subject matter of which he treats in this Epistle, and the unique circumstances of those whom he is addressing, amply explains the differences of style and language, and the method of argument, which the apostle uses in this Epic tie in distinction from all his other writings.
The remaining objection that the apostle Paul could not have written, because the writer of it seems not to reckon himself among the apostles, but among their auditors, does not carry much weight. The apostle here places himself among those unto whom he wrote, though not personally concerned in every particular detail. This he does very frequently in his writings, as is evident from such passages as and . (See also ). Hence when the apostle here says “us” he means the church at large.
Among the external evidences that this Epistle was written by the apostle Paul, the testimony given unto it by the apostle Peter in, deserves consideration in the first place. Here we read, “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according unto the wisdom given him, hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things.” From these words of Peter it is evident that the apostle Paul wrote a peculiar epistle unto them unto whom Peter wrote his, namely, to the Jewish Christians. “He hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles;”—‘Besides his other epistles to other churches and persons, he hath also written one unto you.’ From this it is evident that besides the other epistles of Paul, he also wrote to the Hebrew Christians, hence it is evident from this testimony of Peter that the anonymous writer of this Epistle was none other than the Apostle Paul.