The epistle to the hebrews


XI. HISTORY AND AUTHORSHIP OF THE EPISTLE



Download 3.68 Mb.
Page18/102
Date27.05.2021
Size3.68 Mb.
1   ...   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   ...   102
XI. HISTORY AND AUTHORSHIP OF THE EPISTLE
In discussing the history of any one of the writings of the New Testament it is necessary to bear in mind the narrow range of the scanty remains of the earliest Christian literature, and the little scope which they offer for definite references to particular Books. It might perhaps have been expected that the arguments of the Epistle to the Hebrews would have given it prominence in the first controversies of the Church, but this does not appear to have been the case. Traces of its use occur indeed in the oldest Christian writing outside the Canon, the letter written by Clement of Rome to the Corinthians, but it is not referred to by name till the second half of the second century. There can be no doubt that Clement was familiar with its contents. He not only uses its language (ad Cor. 17, 36), but imitates its form in such a way (ad Cor. 9, 12, 45) as to shew that he had the text before him; but the adaptations of words and thoughts are made silently, without any mark of quotation or any indication of the author from whom they are borrowed (comp. Euseb. H. E. 3.38; Hier. de vir. ill. 15). The fact that the Book was known at Rome at this early date is of importance, because it was at Rome that the Pauline authorship was most consistently denied and for the longest period. In this connexion it is of interest that there are several coincidences of expression with the Epistle in the Shepherd of Hermas, which seem to be sufficient to shew that Hermas also was acquainted with it.

A comparison of the parallel passages leaves no doubt that Clement imitated the earlier text of the Epistle. This seems to be clear if (e.g.,) Clement's references to Noah and Rahab are set by the side of Heb. 11:7, 31.



ad Cor. 9 Nw'e pisto;" euJreqei;" dia; th'" leitourgiva" aujtou' paliggenesivan kovsmw/ ejkhvruxe, kai; dievswse dij aujtou' oJ despovth" ta; eijselqovnta ejn oJmonoiva/ zw'a eij" th;n kibwtovn.

ad Cor. 12 dia; pivstin kai; filoxenivan ejswvqh JRaa;b hJ povrnh......

The parallel with Heb. 1:3 f. makes it impossible to suppose that both writers are borrowing illustrations from some common source:



ad Cor. 36 o}" w]n ajpauvgasma th'" megalwsuvnh" aujtou' tosouvtw/ meivzwn ejsti;n ajggevlwn o{sw/ diaforwvteron o[noma keklhronovmhken: gevgraptai ga;r ou{tw": oJ poiw'n tou;" ajggevlou" aujtou' pneuvmata...

The most striking parallels with Hermas are Vis. 2.3, 2: Heb. 3:12; Sim. 1.1f.: Heb. 11:13 ff.; 13:14.


The other evidence which can be alleged to shew that the Epistle was known by the earliest Christian writers is less clear. Polycarp gives the Lord the title of ‘High-priest’ (Heb. 12 pontifex), a title which is peculiar to the Epistle among the apostolic writings, but it is not possible to conclude certainly that he derived it directly from the Book. So again when Justin Martyr speaks of Christ as ‘apostle’ (Apol. 1.12, 63: Heb. 3:1) and applies Ps. 110 to Him (Dial. 96, 113), he may be using thoughts which had become current among Christians, though these correspondences with characteristic features of the Epistle are more worthy of consideration because Justin has also several coincidences with its language (Heb. 8:7 f., Dial. 34; 9:13 f., Dial. 13; 12:18 f., Dial. 67).

On the other hand the Epistle was not included among the apostolic writings received by Marcion; nor does it find any place in the Muratorian Canon (comp. p. xxviii.), while by this catalogue it is distinctly excluded from the Epistles of St Paul (septem scribit ecclesiis).

Hier. Praef. in Ep. ad Tit. Licet non sint digni fide qui fidem primam irritam fecerunt, Marcionem loquor et Basilidem et omnes haereticos qui Vetus laniant Testamentum: tamen eos aliqua ex parte ferremus si saltem in Novo continerent manus suas...Ut enim de ceteris epistolis taceam, de quibus quidquid contrarium suo dogmati viderant eraserunt, nonnullas integras repudiandas crediderunt, ad Timotheum videlicet utramque, ad Hebraeos, et ad Titum. The last clause evidently refers to Marcion personally. Tertullian charges Marcion with the arbitrary rejection of the Pastoral Epistles, but he is naturally silent on his rejection of the Epistle to the Hebrews on which he agreed with him (adv. Marc. v.21).
Towards the close of the second century there is evidence of a knowledge of the Epistle in Alexandria, North Africa, Italy and the West of Europe. From the time of Pantaenus it was held at Alexandria to be, at least indirectly, the work of St Paul and of canonical authority; and this opinion, supported in different forms by Clement and Origen, came to be generally received among the Eastern Greek Churches in the third century.

The Epistle is quoted as St Paul's by Dionysius of Alexandria (Euseb. H.E. 6.41), by Theognostus, head of the Catechetical School (Routh, Rell. Sacr. 3.409: Heb. 6:4; Athan. Ep. ad Serap. 4.9ff. [Migne, P.G. 26.650f.]), by Peter of Alexandria (Routh, Rell. Sacr. 4.35) and by the Synod of Antioch c. 264 A.D. (Routh, Rell. Sacr. 3.299). It seems to have been used by Pinytus, Bp of Gnossus in Crete (Euseb. H.E. 4.23: Heb. 5:12-14), and by Theophilus of Antioch (ad Autol. 2.25: Heb. 5:12; 12:9). Methodius also was certainly acquainted with the Epistle (Conv. 4.1, Heb. 1:1; id. Heb. 5:7, Heb. 11:10; de Resurr. 5, Heb. 12:5), though he does not quote it as St Paul's (the supposed reference to Heb. 11. in Conv. 5.7 kata; to;n ajpovstolon is doubtful). It is quoted as Scripture in the first of the Letters to Virgins which bear the name of Clement (Ep. ad Virg. 1.6: Migne, P.G. 1.391); and it is referred to in the Testaments of the xii. Patriarchs (Test. Levi § 18: Heb. 7:22 ff.).


About the same time a Latin translation of the Epistle found a limited public recognition in North Africa, but not as a work of St Paul. So Tertullian speaks of it as being ‘more widely received among the Churches than the Shepherd’ (de Pudic. 20 utique receptior apud ecclesias illo apocrypho Pastore moechorum). Cyprian however never quotes it, and, by repeating the statement peculiar to Western writers that St Paul ‘wrote to seven churches’ (de exhort. mart. 11), he also implicitly denies its Pauline authorship.

In Italy and Western Europe the Epistle was not held to be St Paul's and by consequence, as it seems, it was not held to be canonical. Hippolytus (Lagarde pp. 64, 89, 118, 149) and Irenaeus (Euseb. H. E. 5.26) were acquainted with it, but they held that it ‘was not Paul's’ (Steph. Gobar ap. Phot. Cod. 232); and if Irenaeus had held it to be authoritative Scripture, he could hardly have failed to use it freely in his Book ‘against heresies.’ Caius also reckoned only thirteen Epistles of St Paul (Euseb. H. E. 6.20; Hier. de vir. ill. 59); and Eusebius, where he mentions the fact, adds that the opinion was ‘still held by some Romans.’

Phot. Cod. 232 (Migne, P.G. 103.1103); Stephen Gobar (vi. cent.) states o{ti JIppovluto" kai; Eijrhnai'o" th;n pro;" JEbraivou" ejpistolh;n Pauvlou oujk ejkeivnou ei\naiv fasin...The statement as to Hippolytus is confirmed by a reference which Photius elsewhere makes to Hippolytus himself: Cod. 121 (P. G. 103.403) levgei de; a[lla tev tina th'" ajkribeiva" leipovmena kai; o{ti hJ pro;" JEbraivou" ejpistolh; oujk e[sti tou' ajpostovlou Pauvlou. With regard to Irenaeus there is no direct confirmation. Eusebius (l.c.) simply says that he quoted ‘phrases from the Epistle to the Hebrews and the so-called Wisdom of Solomon’ in his Book of ‘Various Discussions.’ The connexion shews that, if he had quoted it as St Paul's, Eusebius would have noted the fact. Stephen Gobar may have interpreted the silence of Irenaeus in his quotations, or something in the form of it, as a practical denial of the Pauline authorship. So Jerome paraphrases the words of Eusebius as to Caius (l.c.) th;n pro;" JEbraivou" mh; sunariqmhvsa" tai'" loipai'" by decimam quartam quae fertur ad Hebraeos dicit non eius esse.

The coincidences with the language of the Epistle, which are quoted from Irenaeus, would at the most prove no more than that he was acquainted with the Book, which is established by other evidence (2.30, 9: Heb. 1:3).

The Epistle is not quoted by Novatian, or Arnobius (yet see 2.65; Heb. 9:6), or Lactantius, who however seems to have been acquainted with it (Inst. 4.20: Heb. 8:7 ff.; 4:14; Heb. 3:3 ff.; 5:5 f.; 7:21; comp. Lardner, Credibility, lxv. § 6, 4, 14 ff.). They did not therefore, we may conclude, recognise its canonical authority.

Victorinus of Pettau repeats the familiar Western clause that ‘Paul recognises seven churches’ (Routh, Rell. Sacr. 3.459).


It is impossible to decide certainly whether the Epistle formed a part of the earliest Syriac Version. The position which it holds in the Peshito at present shews at least that it was not regarded strictly as one of St Paul's Epistles but as an appendix to the collection. In accordance with this view it is called simply the ‘Epistle to the Hebrews,’ and not, after the usage in the other Epistles, ‘the Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews.’

It is instructive to notice that in the Cambridge MS. of the (later) Harclean Version the title given is ‘The Epistle to the Hebrews, of Paul the Apostle.’ The Oxford (New Coll.) MS. of the same Version, which White published, has only ‘The Epistle to the Hebrews,’ comp. p. xxvii.


This meagre account indicates all the independent external evidence which has been preserved by tradition as to the origin of the Epistle. Later writers simply combine and repeat in various ways the views which it represents. To speak summarily, when the book first appears in general circulation three distinct opinions about it had already obtained local currency. At Alexandria the Greek Epistle was held to be not directly but mediately St Paul's, as either a free translation of his words or a reproduction of his thoughts. In North Africa it was known to some extent as the work of Barnabas and acknowledged as a secondary authority. At Rome and in Western Europe it was not included in the collection of the Epistles of St Paul and had no apostolic weight.

In order to decide between these conflicting judgments, and to account for their partial acceptance, it is necessary to examine the evidence more in detail.

The testimony of Alexandria is the earliest and the most explicit. It has been preserved by Eusebius from lost writings of Clement and Origen. Clement, he writes (H. E. 6.14), says in his outlines ( JUpotupwvsei") ‘that the Epistle is Paul's, and that it was written to Hebrews in the Hebrew language, and that Luke translated it with zealous care and published it to the Greeks; whence it is that the same complexion of style is found in the translation of this Epistle and in the Acts. [Further] that the [ordinary] phrase ‘Paul an Apostle’ was not placed at the head of the Epistle for good reason; for, he says, in writing to Hebrews who had formed a prejudice against him and viewed him with suspicion, he was wise not to repel them at the beginning by setting his name there.’ The last clause only is quoted in Clement's own words, but there can be no doubt that Eusebius has given correctly the substance of what he said, as far as it goes, but much is left undetermined which it would be important to know. There is nothing to indicate the source of Clement's statement, or how far it was the common opinion of the Alexandrine Church at the time, or whether the hypothesis of a Hebrew original was framed to explain the peculiarities of the un-Pauline style. In part this deficiency may be supplied by another quotation from Clement in regard to the Epistle which Eusebius makes in the same place. ‘The blessed presbyter [Pantaenus?] used to say: since the Lord was sent to the Hebrews, as being the Apostle of the Almighty, Paul through modesty, as was natural since he had been sent to the Gentiles, does not style himself apostle of the Hebrews, both for the sake of the honour due to the Lord, and because it was a work of supererogation for him to write to the Hebrews, since he was herald and apostle of the Gentiles.’ It appears then that the exceptional character of the Epistle had attracted attention at Alexandria in the generation before Clement, and that an explanation was offered of one at least of its peculiarities. It is possible therefore, though not likely, that Clement derived from his master the idea of a Hebrew original. At any rate the idea was compatible with what he had learnt from Pantaenus as to the authorship of the Greek text.

The whole passage of Eusebius (H. E. 6.14) deserves to be quoted at length: th;n pro;" JEbraivou" de; ejpistolh;n Pauvlou me;n ei\naiv fhsin [ejn tai'" JUpotupwvsesi] gegravfqai de; JEbraivoi" JEbrai>kh'/ fwnh'/: Louka'n de; filotivmw" aujth;n meqermhneuvsanta ejkdou'nai toi'" {Ellhsin: o{qen to;n aujto;n crw'ta euJrivskesqai kata; th;n eJrmhneivan tauvth" te th'" ejpistolh'" kai; tw'n Pravxewn: mh; progegravfqai de; tov JPau'lo" ajpovstolo"j eijkovtw": ‘ JEbraivoi" gavr,’ fhsin, ‘ejpistevllwn, provlhyin eijlhfovsi katj aujtou' kai; uJpopteuvousin aujtovn, sunetw'" pavnu oujk ejn ajrch'/ ajpevstrefen aujtou;" to; o[noma qeiv".’ Ei\ta uJpoba;" ejpilevgei ‘ [Hdh dev, wJ" oJ makavrio" e[lege presbuvtero", ejpei; oJ kuvrio" ajpovstolo" w]n tou' pantokravtoro" ajpestavlh pro;" JEbraivou", dia; metriovthta oJ Pau'lo", wJ" a]n eij" ta; e[qnh ajpestalmevno", oujk ejggravfei eJauto;n JEbraivwn ajpovstolon diav te th;n pro;" to;n kuvrion timhvn, diav te to; ejk periousiva" kai; toi'" JEbraivoi" ejpistevllein ejqnw'n khvruka o[nta kai; ajpovstolon.’

There is no direct evidence to identify Pantaenus with ‘the blessed elder,’ for Clement appears to have derived his information from more than one of his generation (comp. Euseb. H. E. 5:11), but the identification appears to be natural from the position which Pantaenus occupied (comp. H. E. 5:11; 6:13).

The use of h[dh in the second (verbal) quotation from Clement seems to imply that Clement is meeting a difficulty which was freshly urged in his own time. It had been, he seems to say, adequately met before.

If Pantaenus had spoken of a Hebrew original it is most likely that Clement would have noticed the fact. The argument from style may naturally mark a second stage in the controversy as to the authorship of the Epistle.
The judgment of Origen is quoted by Eusebius (H. E. 6.25) in his own words. After remarking that every one competent to judge of language must admit that the style of the Epistle to the Hebrews is not that of St Paul, and also that every one conversant with the apostle's teaching must agree that the thoughts are marvellous and in no way inferior to his acknowledged writings, Origen, he tells us, after a while continued, ‘If I were to express my own opinion I should say that the thoughts are the thoughts of the apostle, but the language and the composition that of one who recalled from memory and, as it were, made notes of what was said by his master. If therefore any Church holds this Epistle as Paul's, let it be approved for this also [as for holding unquestioned truths], for it was not without reason that the men of old time have handed it down as Paul's [that is, as substantially expressing his thoughts]. But who wrote the Epistle God only knows certainly. The account that has reached us is twofold: some say that Clement, who became bishop of the Romans, wrote the Epistle, others that Luke wrote it, who wrote the Gospel and the Acts. But on this I will say no more.’

This testimony is of the highest value as supplementary to and in part explaining that of Clement. Origen does not refer to any ‘Hebrew’ original. It is not possible then that this hypothesis formed part of the ancient tradition. It was a suggestion which Origen did not think it worth while to discuss. He was aware that some Churches did not receive the Epistle as St Paul's. In the strictest sense of authorship he agreed with them. At the same time he held that in a true sense it could be regarded as St Paul's, as embodying thoughts in every way worthy of him.

Thus Clement and Origen, both familiar with the details of the tradition of ‘the men of old time’ to whom they refer, agree in regarding the Greek Epistle as St Paul's only in a secondary sense. Clement regards it as a free translation of a ‘Hebrew’ original, so made by St Luke as to shew the characteristics of his style: Origen regards it as a scholar's reproduction of his master's teaching. Each view must have been consistent with what was generally received; and this can only have been that the Epistle rightly had a place among the apostolic letters though its immediate authorship was uncertain. The practice of Clement and Origen is an application of this judgment. Both use the Epistle as St Paul's without any qualification because it was naturally connected with the collection of his letters; and Origen goes so far as to say that he was prepared to shew that ‘the Epistle was Paul's’ in reply to those ‘who rejected it as not written by Paul’ (Ep. ad Afric. 9); and in another passage, preserved indeed only in a Latin translation, he speaks of ‘fourteen Epistles of St Paul’ (Hom. in Jos. vii.).

The judgment of Origen must be given in the original (Euseb. H. E. 6.25).

o{ti oJ carakth;r th'" levxew" th'" pro;" JEbraivou" ejpistolh'" oujk e{cei to; ejn lovgw/ ijdiwtiko;n tou' ajpostovlou, oJmologhvsanto" eJauto;n ijdiwvthn ei\nai tw'/ lovgw/, toutevsti th'/ fravsei, ajllj e[stin hJ ejpistolh; sunqevsei th'" levxew" eJllhnikwtevra, pa'" oJ ejpistavmeno" krivnein fravsewn (al. fravsew") diafora;" oJmologhvsai a[n. pavlin te au\ o{ti ta; nohvmata th'" ejpistolh'" qaumavsiav ejsti kai; ouj deuvtera tw'n ajpostolikw'n grammavtwn, kai; tou'to a]n sumfhvsai ei\nai ajlhqe;" pa'" oJ prosevcwn th'/ ajnagnwvsei th'/ ajpostolikh'/.

touvtoi" meqj e{tera ejpifevrei levgwn

ejgw; de; ajpofainovmeno" ei[poimj a]n o{ti ta; me;n nohvmata tou' ajpostovlou ejsti;n hJ de; fravsi" kai; hJ suvnqesi" ajpomnhmoneuvsantov" tino" [ta; ajpostolika; kai; wJsperei; scoliografhvsantov" tino"] ta; eijrhmevna uJpo; tou' didaskavlou. ei[ ti" ou\n ejkklhsiva e[cei tauvthn th;n ejpistolh;n wJ" Pauvlou, au{th eujdokimeivtw kai; ejpi; touvtw/. ouj ga;r eijkh'/ oiJ ajrcai'oi a[ndre" wJ" Pauvlou aujth;n paradedwvkasi. tiv" de; oJ gravya" th;n ejpistolhvn, to; me;n ajlhqe;" qeo;" oi\den, hJ de; eij" hJma'" fqavsasa iJstoriva uJpov tinwn me;n legovntwn o{ti Klhvmh" oJ genovmeno" ejpivskopo" JRwmaivwn e[graye th;n ejpistolhvn, uJpov tinwn de; o{ti Louka'" oJ gravya" to; eujaggevlion kai; ta;" Pravxei".

ajlla; tau'ta me;n w|de ejcevtw.

The sense of the ambiguous phrase tiv" oJ gravya" th;n ejpistolhvn (Rom. 16:22) is fixed by the context beyond all reasonable doubt. The ‘writing’ included all that is described under ‘expression’ (fravsi") and ‘composition’ (suvnqesi"). In this sense, on the ground that the Epistle shewed correspondences of style with their acknowledged compositions, some held that Clement and some that St Luke ‘wrote’ it.

The Homily from which this passage was taken was written after A.D. 245. The Epistle to Africanus was written A.D. 240. We may therefore rightly conclude that we have in the quotation Origen's mature and final judgment from a critical point of sight. Practically he might still use it as St Paul's in the sense which he explains.


Looking back over the records of the first three centuries Eusebius expressed the judgment to which the facts pointed plainly with all their apparent discrepancies. In different places he ranks the Epistle among ‘the acknowledged’ (3.25), and the ‘controverted’ Books (6.13). He held himself that it was originally written in ‘Hebrew,’ and that Clement of Rome (rather than St Luke) had translated it, on the ground of its likeness to Clement's own Letter both in style and subject-matter (3.38). He used the Greek text as St Paul's habitually; and reckoned his Epistles as fourteen (H. E. 3.3), though he noticed that ‘some rejected the Epistle to the Hebrews on the ground that it was controverted (ajntilevgesqai) by the Roman Church as not being Paul's.’ At the same time he justified his own decision by the plea that it was reasonable ‘on the ground of its antiquity that it should be reckoned with the other writings of the Apostle’ (H. E. 3.38). Such a statement would be inconsistent with the idea that he held it to be St Paul's in the same sense as the other Epistles. He held it to be canonical Scripture and Pauline, so to speak, for ecclesiastical use. Eusebius in other words, like Origen, was chiefly concerned to maintain the canonicity of the Epistle, and he upheld its ultimate Pauline authorship as connected with its apostolic authority.

The following are the passages in which Eusebius states the facts as to the Epistle in his own words.



H. E. 3.3 tou' de; Pauvlou provdhloi kai; safei'" aiJ dekatevssare" ejpistolaiv. o{ti ge mhvn tine" hjqethvkasi th;n pro;" JEbraivou", pro;" th'" JRwmaivwn ejkklhsiva" wJ" mh; Pauvlou ou\san aujth;n ajntilevgesqai fhvsante", ouj divkaion ajgnoei'n. kai; ta; peri; tauvth" de; toi'" pro; hJmw'n eijmhmevna kata; kairo;n paraqhvsomai.

H. E. 3.37 [Klhvmh"] safevstata parivsthsin o{ti mh; nevon uJpavrcei to; suvggramma. e[nqen eijkovtw" e[doxen aujto; toi'" loipoi'" ejgkatalecqh'nai gravmmasi tou' ajpostovlou: JEbraivoi" ga;r dia; th'" patrivou glwvtth" ejggravfw" wJmilhkovto" tou' Pauvlou, oiJ me;n to;n eujaggelisth;n Louka'n oiJ de; to;n Klhvmenta tou'ton aujto;n eJrmhneu'sai levgousi th;n grafhvn. o} kai; ma'llon ei[h a]n ajlhqev", tw'/ to;n o{moion th'" fravsew" carakth'ra thvn te tou' Klhvmento" ejpistolh;n kai; th;n pro;" JEbraivou" ajposwvzein, kai; tw'/ mh; povrrw ta; ejn eJkatevroi" toi'" suggravmmasi nohvmata kaqestavnai.

Theodoret (Praef. in Ep. ad Heb.) exaggerates, when he says of Eusebius, ou|to" tou' qeiotavtou Pauvlou thvnde th;n ejpistolh;n wJmolovghsen ei\nai kai; tou;" palaiou;" a{panta" tauvthn peri; aujth'" e[fhsen ejschkevnai th;n dovxan.


It will be evident from the facts which have been given how slender is the historical evidence for the Pauline authorship of the Epistle when it is traced to the source. The unqualified statements of later writers simply reproduce the testimony of Clement or Origen as interpreted by their practice. But it is not clear that any one among the earliest witnesses attributed the Greek text to St Paul. It is certain that neither Clement nor Origen did so, though they used the Epistle as his without reserve. What they were concerned to affirm for the book was Pauline, or, we may say more correctly, apostolic authority.

Viewed in this light the testimony of Alexandria is not irreconcilable with the testimony of the West. The difference between the two springs from the different estimate which they made of the two elements of the problem, canonicity (apostolicity) and authorship. The Alexandrines emphasised the thought of canonicity and, assured of the canonicity of the Epistle, placed it in connexion with St Paul. The Western fathers emphasised the thought of authorship and, believing that the Epistle was not properly St Paul's, denied its canonical authority. The former were wrong in affirming Pauline authorship as the condition of canonicity. The latter were wrong in denying the canonicity of a book of which St Paul was not recognised as the author. Experience has shewn us how to unite the positive conclusions on both sides. We have been enabled to acknowledge that the canonical authority of the Epistle is independent of its Pauline authorship. The spiritual insight of the East can be joined with the historical witness of the West. And if we hold that the judgment of the Spirit makes itself felt through the consciousness of the Christian Society, no Book of the Bible is more completely recognised by universal consent as giving a divine view of the facts of the Gospel, full of lessons for all time, than the Epistle to the Hebrews.

In deciding the question of the authorship of the Epistle the uniform testimony of the Roman Church, in which the Epistle was known from the earliest times, is of decisive importance. If St Paul had written it, it is difficult to understand how Clement could have been unacquainted with the fact, and how it should have been persistently denied or disregarded by all the later writers of the Church, so far as we know, for more than two centuries. On the other hand, if the Epistle was added as an appendix to St Paul's Epistles in an Eastern collection of apostolic writings made about the same time as Marcion's, it is easy to see, from the example of the Syriac Versions, how naturally St Paul's name would be extended to it, and then how various explanations would offer themselves to account for its peculiarities. For the distinct theories of Clement and Origen shew that these were no part of an original tradition.
The practical judgment of Alexandria found formal expression in a Festal Epistle of Athanasius (A.D. 367). Among the books of the Old and New Testaments which he reckons as ‘held canonical and divine,’ he enumerates ‘fourteen Epistles of the Apostle Paul’ in the order of the oldest MSS. (‘... 2 Thess., Hebrews, 1 Timothy...’). And from his time this reckoning of the ‘fourteen Epistles’ became universal among Greek writers; but there is no reason to suppose that either he or the other fathers who followed him wished to go beyond the testimony of Clement and Origen and Eusebius.

The Epistle is used without reserve as a writing of St Paul's by Alexander of Alexandria in writing to Arius (Theodor. H. E. 1.4; Socr. H. E. 1.6), and there is no reason for thinking that on this point Arius differed from the other teachers of Alexandria. At a later time some Arians denied the Pauline authorship of the Book while still they used it (Epiph. Haer. 69.14; comp. Theodoret, Praef. ad Epist.). The Epistle is also quoted as St Paul's (not to mention lesser names) by Didymus (de Trin. i. p. 23; Migne, P. G. 39.307), Isidore of Pelusium (Epp. Lib. 1.7; 94, Heb. 4:13), Cyril of Alexandria (de ador. in spir. et ver. ii. p. 58; Migne, P. G. 68.226) and other Alexandrine fathers; by Cyril of Jerusalem (Cat. 4.36 ta;" Pauvlou dekatevssara" ejpistolav", by Jacob of Nisibis and Ephrem Syrus (Bleek, Einl. § 39); by the Cappadocian fathers Basil (adv. Eunom. 1.14; 4:2) and the two Gregories, Gregory of Nyssa (In Christi Resurr. ii.; Migne, P. G. 46.639) and Gregory of Nazianzus (devka de; Pauvlou tevssarev" tj ejpistolaiv, Migne, P. G. 37.474); by Epiphanius (Haer. lxxvi. p. 941 ejn tessareskaivdeka ejpistolai'" tou' aJgivou ajpostovlou Pauvlou. Comp. Haer. xlii. p. 373), and by the representatives of the Church of Antioch, Theodore of Mopsuestia (Kihn Theodor v. Mopsuestia 61 ff.) and Chrysostom (Praef. in Com.).


From the fourth century the canonical authority of the Epistle came to be recognised in the West, and in part, as a consequence, its Pauline authorship. Fathers, like Hilary, who were familiar with Greek writers naturally adopted little by little their mode of speaking of it. Still the influence of the old belief remained; and Jerome shews that the judgment which Eusebius notes in his time still survived unchanged: ‘The custom of the Latins’ he says ‘does not receive it among the canonical Scriptures as St Paul's’ (Ep. ad Dard. 129). And while he himself rightly maintained its canonical authority and used it freely, he was ever scrupulously careful to indicate in his quotations that he did not by so doing decide the question of its authorship. Augustine adopted the same general view as Jerome, and under his influence lists of Books for use in Church were authorised at three African Councils, at Hippo in 393, and at Carthage in 397 and 419. In all of these the Epistle to the Hebrews was included; and henceforward, while the doubts as to the authorship of the Epistle were noticed from time to time, the canonical authority of the Book was not again called in question in the West till the time of the Reformation. The Catalogue of the second Council of Carthage was transcribed in a letter of Innocent I to Exsuperius, and became part of the Law of the Roman Church.

The language of the decrees of the African Councils preserves a significant trace of the transition from the earlier view in the West to that which finally prevailed. In the Council of Hippo and the first Council of Carthage the enumeration runs: Pauli Ap. Epistolae xiii.: eiusdem ad Hebraeos una. In the second Council of Carthage the two clauses are combined: Epist. Pauli Ap. numero xiv.

The Epistle is used as St Paul's among others by Hilary (De Trin. 4.11), Lucifer (De non conv. c. haer., Migne, P. L. 13.782), Victorinus Afer (c. Ar. 2.3), Pacianus (Ep. 3.13), Faustinus (De Trin. 2.13), Ambrose (De Sp. S. 3.8, 51), Pelagius (Comm. in Rom. 1.17), Rufinus (Comm. in Symb. Apost. 36, Pauli apostoli epistolae quatuordecim).

On the other hand it is not used by Phaebadius, Optatus, Zeno, Vincent of Lerins, Orosius. Philastrius notices that it was not read in Churches (Haer. 88), or, at least, only sometimes (Haer. 89, interdum).

The language of Jerome is full of interest, and in several places it is easy to see the influence of the Greek or Latin work which he has before him. He repeats the familiar Western saying that ‘St Paul wrote to seven Churches,’ adding that ‘very many rejected the Epistle to the Hebrews,’ which would have given an eighth (Ep. ad Paul. 53 (103) § 8; de virr. ill. 5). He notices the Western custom and tradition which questioned its authority and denied its Pauline authorship (Ep. ad Evang. 73 (126) § 4; ad Dard. 129 § 3; Comm. in Matt. 26:8, 9; in Isa. 6:2; 8:16 f.). He discusses the common objections to the Pauline authorship (de virr. ill. c. 5; Comm. in Gal. 1:1), and notices one which he probably owed to Origen (Ep. ad Afri. 9), that the Epistle contained references to Apocryphal Books (Comm. in Isa. 6:9 ff.). In many places he uses the Epistle as St Paul's without any reserve (Comm. in Isa. 5:24; 7:14); and again he speaks of ‘the writer of the Epistle whoever he was,’ ‘the Apostle Paul or whoever wrote the Epistle’ (Comm. in Amos 8:7, 8; in Jer. 31:31 f.).

The language of Augustine is equally uncertain. At one time he leaves the question of the canonicity of the Epistle uncertain (Inchoat. Expos. Ep. ad Rom. § 11). At another time he inclines to accept it on the authority of ‘the Eastern Churches’ (de pecc. mer. et remiss. 1.27, 50). And in common use he quotes it in the same way as the other Epistles of St Paul, though less frequently (Serm. 55.5 & c.).


It is needless to follow in detail the statements of later writers. A few interesting traces of old doubts survive. The Epistle was wanting in the archetype of D2 and probably in the archetype of F2 and G3 (see pp. xvi., xxvii.). Some Commentators deal only with thirteen Epistles of St Paul (Hilary of Rome, Migne P. L. xvii. pp. 45 ff.; Pelagius, P. L. xxx. pp. 645 ff.; comp. Cassiod. de inst. div. litt. 4.8), though Hilary and Pelagius speak of the Epistle to the Hebrews elsewhere as a book of the Apostle. But the notices as to the authorship

of the Book are for the most part simple repetitions of sentences of Jerome. Here and there a writer of exceptional power uses his materials with independence, but without real knowledge. Thomas Aquinas, for example, marshals the objections to the Pauline authorship and the answers to them in a true scholastic form, and decides in favour of the Pauline authorship on the ground of ancient authority and because ‘Jerome receives it among the Epistles of Paul.’

As the contrary has been lately stated, it may be well to say that Leo the Great quotes the Epistle as St Paul's (Serm. xliv. § 2; comp. Serm. iii. (ii.) 1; xxiv. (xxiii.) 6; lxviii. (lxvi.) 3; lxix. (lxvii.) 2; [Ep. lxv. § 11]). He quotes it indeed, as Bleek justly observed, comparatively rarely.
At the revival of Greek learning in Europe, when ‘the Grammarians’ ventured to reopen questions of Biblical criticism, the authorship and, in part, the authority of the Epistle was called in question. On this, as on other similar subjects, Card. Caietan [Th. de Vio] spoke with unusual freedom. Erasmus, with fuller knowledge, expressed his doubts ‘not as to the authority but as to the author of the Epistle, doubts’ he adds characteristically ‘which would remain till he saw a distinct judgment of the Church upon the point.’ Luther denied the Pauline authorship of the Book without hesitation, and, referring to the earlier traditions, conjectured that it was more likely to have been written by Apollos (comp. Bleek, 249 n.). Calvin, while maintaining the full apostolical authority of the Epistle, professed that he ‘could not be brought to think that it was St Paul's.’ He thought that it might be a work of St Luke or of Clement. Beza also held that it was written by a disciple of St Paul. At first he inclined to adopt Luther's conjecture as to the authorship, but this opinion he afterwards withdrew silently.

The judgment of Card. Caietan is worth noticing more in detail, for even Bleek had not seen his Commentary. He first quotes the statements of Jerome at some length, and concludes from these that St Paul cannot be confidently held to be the author of the Epistle. He then goes on to argue that doubt as to the authorship of the Book involves doubt as to its authority. This doubt as to the authority of the Epistle he justifies by reference to what he regards as false arguments in 1:5 b, 9:15 ff. He regards 2:3 as inconsistent with a belief in the Pauline authorship, but adds, that following common custom he, like Jerome, will call it St Paul's.

He explains the stress which he lays on the evidence of Jerome by a significant sentence: quos [libros] ille canonicos tradidit, canonicos habemus; et quos ille a canonicis discreuit, extra canonem habemus.

The Colophon of the Commentary is interesting. Caietae die 1 Junii M.D.XXIX. Commentariorum Thomae de Vio, Caietani Cardinalis sancti Xisti in omnes genuinas epistolas Pauli et eam quae ad Hebraeos inscribitur, Finis.


The review of the historical evidence as to the authorship of the Epistle will have shewn sufficiently that there was no clear or uniform tradition on the subject in the early Church. Obvious circumstances are adequate to explain why the names of St Paul, and St Luke, of Barnabas, and Clement were connected with it; and in no case is the external testimony of such a character as to justify the belief that it was derived from a tradition contemporary in origin with the Book. It remains therefore to consider how far internal testimony helps towards the solution of the question.

The direct evidence furnished by the Epistle is slight, though there is not the least indication that the author wished to conceal his personality. He was intimately acquainted with those to whom he writes: Heb. 6:9 f.; 10:34 (toi'" desmivoi" sunepaqhvsate); 13:7; 13:19 (i{na tavceion ajpokatastaqw' uJmi'n), but the last clause does not necessarily imply that he belonged to their society, or that he was in confinement. He speaks of Timothy as a common friend: 13:23 (ginwvskete to;n ajdelfo;n hJmw'n T. ajpolelumevnon...compare note on the passage), and there is no reason to question the identity of this Timothy with the companion of St Paul. He places himself in the second generation of believers, as one who had received the Gospel from those who heard the Lord (2:3).

This last statement has been justly held to be a most grave (or indeed fatal) objection to the Pauline authorship. It is not possible to reconcile it without unnatural violence with St Paul's jealous assertion of his immediate discipleship to Christ (contrast Gal. 1:1; 11 f.). On the other hand these few notices might all apply equally well to St Luke or Barnabas or Clement.

The language and the teaching of the Epistle offer materials for comparison with writings of the four authors suggested by tradition. With St Luke the comparison is practically confined to the language: with Barnabas, if we assume that his letter is authentic, Clement and St Paul, it embraces both language and teaching.

It has been already seen that the earliest scholars who speak of the Epistle notice its likeness in style to the writings of St Luke; and when every allowance has been made for coincidences which consist in forms of expression which are found also in the LXX. or in other writers of the N. T., or in late Greek generally, the likeness is unquestionably remarkable. No one can work independently at the Epistle without observing it (comp. p. xlvii.). But it is not possible to establish any sure conclusion on such a resemblance. The author of the Epistle may have been familiar with the writings of St Luke themselves, or he may have been in close connexion with the Evangelist or with those whose language was moulded by his influence. In any case the likeness of vocabulary and expression is not greater than that which exists between 1 Peter and the Epistles of St Paul. If indeed it were credible that the Epistle was originally written in ‘Hebrew,’ then the external and internal evidence combined would justify the belief that the Greek text is due to St Luke. If that opinion is out of the question, the historical evidence for St Luke's connexion with the Epistle is either destroyed or greatly weakened, and the internal evidence gives no valid result.

The superficial resemblances between the Epistle and the Letter of Clement, both in vocabulary and form, are very striking. It would be easy to draw up a list of parallelisms in words and manner sufficient to justify the judgment of Eusebius (comp. pp. lxii., lxx.). But these parallelisms are more than counterbalanced by differences in both respects. Clement has an unusually large number of peculiar words; and his heaping together of coordinate clauses (as 1, 3, 20, 35, 36, 45, 55), his frequent doxologies (20, 38, 43, 45, 50, 58, 59), and to a certain extent (comp. p. 476) his method of quotation, sharply distinguish his writing from the Epistle to the Hebrews. Moreover a closer examination of the parallelisms with the Epistle makes it clear that they are due to a use of it, like the use which is made of Epistles of St Paul (e.g., c. 49). And, what is of far greater moment, the wide difference between the two works in range of thought, in dogmatic depth, in prophetic insight, makes it impossible to suppose that the Epistle to the Corinthians could have been written after the Epistle to the Hebrews by the same writer. Clement is essentially receptive and imitative. He combines but he does not create. Even if the external evidence for connecting him with the Epistle were greater than it is, the internal evidence would be incompatible with any other connexion than that of a simple translator (comp. Lightfoot, Clement 1.101f.).

Some differences in style between the Epistle and the writings of St Paul have been already noticed. A more detailed inquiry shews that these cannot be adequately explained by differences of subject or of circumstances. They characterise two men, and not only two moods or two discussions. The student will feel the subtle force of the contrast if he compares the Epistle to the Hebrews with the Epistle to the Ephesians, to which it has the closest affinity. But it is as difficult to represent the contrast by an enumeration of details as it is to analyse an effect. It must be felt for a right appreciation of its force. So it is also with the dogmatic differences between the writer and St Paul.

There is unquestionably a sense in which Origen is right in saying that ‘the thoughts’ of the Epistle are the thoughts of St Paul. The writer shews the same broad conception of the universality of the Gospel as the Apostle of the Gentiles, the same grasp of the age-long purpose of God wrought out through Israel, the same trust in the atoning work of Christ, and in His present sovereignty. He speaks with the same conscious mastery of the Divine Counsel. But he approaches each topic from a different side. He looks at all as from within Israel, and not as from without. He speaks as one who step by step had read the fulfilment of the Old Covenant in the New without any rude crisis of awakening or any sharp struggle with traditional errors. His Judaism has been all along the Judaism of the prophets and not of the Pharisees, of the O. T. and not of the schools (comp. § x.).

The differences between the Epistle and the Epistle which bears the name of Barnabas involve a contrast of principles and will be considered separately (see § xii.).

We are left then with a negative conclusion. The Epistle cannot be the work of St Paul, and still less the work of Clement. It may have been written by St Luke. It may have been written by Barnabas, if the ‘Epistle of Barnabas’ is apocryphal. The scanty evidence which is accessible to us supports no more definite judgment.

One conjecture, however, remains to be noticed, not indeed for its own intrinsic worth, but because it has found favour with many scholars. Luther, as we have seen, with characteristic originality conjectured that it was the work of Apollos. The sole ground for the conjecture is the brief description of Apollos which is found in the N. T. (Acts 18:24 ff.; 1 Cor. 1:12; 3:4 ff.). But the utmost which can be deduced from these notices is that Apollos, so far as we know, might have written the Epistle; just as what we know of Silas is consistent with the belief that he wrote it, and has even suggested it. But on the other hand it is to be remembered that there is not the least evidence that Apollos wrote anything, or that he was the only man or the only Alexandrian in the Apostolic age who was ‘learned...and mighty in the Scriptures,’ or that he possessed these qualifications more than others among his contemporaries, or that, in the connexion in which they are noticed, they suggest the presence of the peculiar power which is shewn in the Epistle. The wide acceptance of the conjecture as a fact is only explicable by our natural unwillingness to frankly confess our ignorance on a matter which excites our interest.

And yet in this case the confession of ignorance is really the confirmation of an inspiriting faith. We acknowledge the divine authority of the Epistle, self-attested and ratified by the illuminated consciousness of the Christian Society: we measure what would have been our loss if it had not been included in our Bible; and we confess that the wealth of spiritual power was so great in the early Church that he who was empowered to commit to writing this view of the fulness of the Truth has not by that conspicuous service even left his name for the grateful reverence of later ages. It was enough that the faith and the love were there to minister to the Lord (Matt. 26:13).

In the course of the last century the authorship of the Epistle has been debated with exhaustive thoroughness. Bleek's Introduction to his Commentary is a treasury of materials, arranged and used with scrupulous fairness. It would be difficult to make any important additions to his view of the external facts. All the recent Commentaries discuss the question more or less fully. It will be enough to refer to some representative writers who advocate the claims of particular men to the authorship. The case for St Paul is maintained, with various modifications, by Ebrard, Hofmann, Biesenthal, Kay: for St Luke, by Delitzsch: for Apollos by Alford, Kurtz, Farrar: for Barnabas by Grau, Renan, Zahn: for St Mark by E. S. Lowndes (comp. Holtzmann, Einl. 318 f.).




Share with your friends:
1   ...   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   ...   102




The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2020
send message

    Main page