The Numerous Authorship Proposals for Hebrews

The Numerous Authorship Proposals for Hebrews

I was reading this morning from the introduction to Moffatt’s commentary on Hebrews in the International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, Ltd, 1979), and found an interesting quote on the variety of proposals for the authorship of the book.

Few characters mentioned in the NT have escaped the attention of those who have desired in later days to identify the author of Pros Hebraious. Apollos, Peter, Philip, Silvanus, and even Prisca have been suggested, besides Aristion, the alleged author of Mk 169-20. I have summarized these views elsewhere (Introd. to Lit. of NT., pp. 438-442), and it is superfluous here to discuss hypotheses which are in the main due to an irrepressible desire to construct NT romances. Perhaps our modern pride resents being baffled by an ancient document, but it is better to admit that we are not yet wiser on this matter than Origen was, seventeen centuries ago. … (p. xx, transliteration mine)

I would note in passing a different view in a book I recently published, The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul (Gonzalez, FL: Energion, 2013), p. 25-26, as well as in the appendix where Dave Black provides his own translation of Origen’s comments. Moffatt quotes these in full in Greek, providing sufficient context to judge.

My point here is not to argue for a particular author. In fact, I’ve been agnostic on the subject of authorship since the first time I studied it. While I feel that Dave Black has provided the strongest argument for Pauline authorship possible within limited space, I have not yet been moved from “possible” to “reasonably certain.”

But other hypotheses strike me much as they apparently struck Moffatt. There is simply too little information available to make such hypotheses seem more certain than “not absolutely excluded.” The study of internal evidence requires some literature to use in comparison, and other than Luke, we don’t have that much (if any) from any of the proposed authors. If Paul and Paul with Luke as amanuensis are excluded, there simply isn’t enough material available to produce a serious study.

I wrote about the problems of evidence back in 2007 when reviewing (or writing notes on) Ruth Hoppin’s book Priscilla’s Letter. While the process of editing and publishing Dave Black’s book has provided a better basis for the claim of Pauline authorship, I would still stand by almost everything I wrote at that time.

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