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Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

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INTRODUCTION TO THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS.

I. THE AUTHORSHIP.—II. THE ARGUMENT.

THE authorship and the argument of this Epistle are questions of peculiar interest.

The argument creates no special difficulty; the authorship has given rise to much discussion. The whole question indeed is specially deserving of attention, and we may be excused for giving space to it.

(1) Was the Epistle written by Apollos? In commenting on Genesis 48:20, Luther says incidentally: ‘The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, whoever he was, whether Paul, or, as I think, Apollos.’ This opinion he repeats in his sermon on 1 Corinthians 3:4, suggesting that from the eloquence of Apollos, his knowledge of the Scriptures, and the general esteem in which he was held in the early Church, he was competent to write it. The opinion therefore first appeared in the sixteenth century,(1) and now numbers amongst its adherents Tholuck, Alford, and others, all of whom are dissatisfied with the evidence of the common theory that it was written by Paul, and all concur in accepting a theory which is without any external evidence whatever. To maintain that Apollos might have written it is just enough; but to maintain that he did write it, or that he probably did, on the grounds assigned, is to overlook some of the first principles of historical investigation.(2)

But not only is there no proof; there are several serious objections to the theory itself. Apollos was a Christian Jew of Alexandria (Acts 18:24). He had many devoted adherents among the early Christians (1 Corinthians 1:12), and shared their attachment even with Paul himself. It is also clear from the Epistle that the author was known to his friends (cf. Hebrews 13:18-19; Hebrews 13:23); and yet we are required to believe that the secret was so kept that it was never guessed till the sixteenth century, and that the church at “Alexandria, the most learned church in Christendom, with a school (founded, it is said, by Mark, who was certainly pastor there) which sent forth a succession of men eminent for their erudition and research, allowed a distinguished Alexandrine teacher to be despoiled of his honour, and uniformly ascribed the authorship (as we shall see) to another. Apollos may have been the author, that is, he was learned and eloquent enough to write it; but the fact, if fact it be, is absolutely without evidence, and is on other grounds highly improbable.

(2) Was it written by Barnabas? The chief argument in favour of this theory is the statement of Tertullian (about 220), and the theory itself has been supported by Ullmann and Wieseler. ‘There is extant’ (says Tertullian) ‘an Epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas, a man,’ he adds, ‘sufficiently authorized by God, inasmuch as Paul associated him with himself in maintaining the doctrine of self-denial’ (namely, that he declined wages for preaching); ‘and verily,’ he adds, ‘this Epistle of Barnabas is more generally received among the churches than the apocryphal Pastor’ (the Shepherd of Hermas, whom he supposes to be too lax in his views and discipline). He then quotes Hebrews 6:4-8, and adds: ‘The men who received this doctrine from the Apostles, and taught it with them, had never learned that a second repentance was promised by the Apostles to adulterers and fornicators.’ This seems strong testimony, and is the stronger from the fact that if Tertullian had supposed that the Epistle could have been attributed to Paul, he would have attributed it to him so as to gain for his views on the non-restoration of the fallen ,the greater authority.

But on the other hand, when Tertullian lived it is now known that there was no Christian Latin literature (see Wordsworth on Hippolytus and the Church al Rome), so that his opinion on a literary question is not entitled to great weight. It never gained acceptance in Christendom. It was not received in Cyprus, the country of Barnabas. Epiphanius (A.D. 367), Bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, knows nothing of it, and ascribes the Epistle to Paul. In Africa, the country of Tertullian, it was not received. The greatest African writers, Augustine and Athanasius, ascribe it to Paul, as do the African Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (419).

Besides, if Barnabas had written the Epistle, he would naturally have prefixed his name to it. Barnabas took part with Peter at Antioch in the debate concerning the ceremonial law (Galatians 2:13), and his name would have commended any Epistle to all Hebrew Christians, as did the names of Peter and James. And further, it is a constant tradition that Barnabas wrote one Epistle, and that Epistle is expressly stated by Eusebius and Jerome not to form part of the Canonical Scriptures. Whether it be the same Epistle as is now known by his name, is doubtful. If it be his, no one can doubt that the acknowledged Epistle of Barnabas is in all respects a very different composition from the Epistle to the Hebrews; and it is certain that the one Epistle which the ancient Church attributed to Barnabas is not the Epistle to the Hebrews which both Eusebius and Jerome place in the Canon.

How Tertullian’s opinion originated it is impossible to say, but the phraseology he employs is very peculiar, and may suggest an explanation. Instead of speaking of the Epistle of Barnabas, he speaks of the ‘titulus Barnabae,’ a book with the name of Barnabas upon it as an inscription. It is very possible he may have had a volume inscribed ‘Barnabae’ containing the Epistle of Barnabas and the nameless Epistle to the Hebrews. It was not uncommon in ancient times to bind together compositions of different authors. The Epistle of Clement is now appended in this way to the Alexandrine MS., as is the Epistle of Barnabas to the Sinai tic, and so, curiously enough, is the Epistle of Barnabas to one of the oldest MSS. of Tertullian. Some of the most remarkable discoveries of modern times—by Cureton, for example—have been made by the examination of different works bound up under one name.

(3) Was it written by Clement, Paul’s fellow-labourer (Philippians 4:3), afterwards Bishop at Rome? The ancient testimonies on this question, Origen (220), Eusebius (330), and Jerome (380), say only that some persons were of opinion that the language of the Epistle was from him, and that the substance was Paul’s: either he clothed the thoughts of the apostle in the dress they wear, or he translated it out of the Hebrew. That he was the author of the Epistle is an opinion maintained by no ancient authority.

In fact, Clement has frequently quoted from the Epistle in his own Epistle to the Corinthians, written it is generally admitted twenty or thirty years later, and quoted it with passages taken from Holy Scripture.(1) Of course he would hardly have made those quotations if he had been himself the author. His own Epistle, moreover, addressed to the Church at Corinth, and intended to allay the spirit of division that prevailed then, is a good specimen of early Christian writing, but it is very different, as anyone may see, from the Epistle to the Hebrews.

(4) Was it written by Luke? Here again the question has to do only with the form; no ancient writer ascribing anything to him but the words; the form, and not the substance. The reason for this supposition is that the style is thought to be unlike Paul’s and to be like Luke’s. This question we shall look at by and by. Meanwhile, note that Luke was not of Hebrew origin, nor was he probably even a Hellenistic Jew. Eusebius and Jerome speak of him as a Gentile Christian, and as a native of Antioch, the capital of Syria, and the country of Gentile Christianity. It is hardly likely that a Gentile or even a Hellenistic Jew would have written an Epistle to Hebrews. If Luke had written it, the fact would have been known to the Christians of Syria and Asia, and to the Church at Antioch; and yet the Bishops assembled at that city in 269 to examine the teaching of Paul of Samosata who was bishop there, quote the Epistle (Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 11:26. See Routh’s Rel. iii. 298, 299), and expressly ascribe it, not to Luke, but to Paul.

(5) Was it written by Paul? In considering this question, the canonical authority may also be settled, and the subordinate question, Is the language Paul's, or only the thoughts, or both? And it may be convenient to divide the question into two—the external testimony, and the internal evidence.

The Epistle to the Hebrews was no doubt written during Paul’s lifetime. It speaks throughout of the Temple as still standing, and of the Temple worship as still going on. This is the natural meaning of the perfect tense throughout, as most of the Greek commentators note; and though it warns the readers of the doom hanging over Jerusalem (Hebrews 10:25), there is nothing to indicate that the war waged by Vespasian and Titus had yet commenced.

This war began in the reign of Nero, and Paul was martyred in the last year of the Emperor’s life (see Pearson, A.D. 60-67, and Clinton’s Fasti Romani, 44-48). Therefore Paul was alive when the Epistle was written. Since also the writer promises to visit the Hebrews with Timothy (Hebrews 13:23), it would seem to have been written before Timothy settled at Ephesus, an event that is said to have taken place some time before Paul’s own martyrdom. This is the old tradition, and agrees with the general tenor of the Epistle. This mention of ‘Timothy my brother’ has been thought by some to be sufficient to identify the author with Paul, for Paul often joins Timothy with himself in the addresses of his Epistles (Philippians 1; 1 Thessalonians 1; 2 Thessalonians 1), speaks of him as his workfellow (Romans 16:21), and three times as his brother (2 Corinthians 1; Colossians 1; Philippians 1); nor is Timothy ever so called by any other writer of Holy Scripture.

Why Paul should write to Hebrews, and why he should omit his name, are questions that belong more naturally to the division of Internal Evidence; but I may note here that it was no part of the writer’s purpose to remain concealed. Those to whom the Epistle is addressed knew the name of the writer (Hebrews 13:22). Alford indeed maintains that, besides the omission of the name, the Epistle is wanting in that authorization which he says Paul affirms is found in every Epistle of his—the message written in his own hand—‘The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand, which is a token in every Epistle: so I write’ (2 Thessalonians 3:17). But surely this is a mistake. The authorization is there. In all the thirteen acknowledged Epistles of Paul, the authorization is added: ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.’ This is the authorization he everywhere sends. These words formed the token by which his Epistles were known. No such close is found in any other New Testament Epistle written in Paul’s lifetime. Thirty years later Clement used it in his Epistle to the Corinthians, as thirty years later John also used it in the Revelation; but in the Epistles it is used by Paul alone, and it is found at the close of the Hebrews. Whether this reasoning be admitted or not, it is clear from the Epistle that the writer was known to those whom he specially addressed.

To whom then did Paul write? To believing Hebrews certainly. Whether to Hebrews in Galatia, in Thessalonica, in Corinth, in Asia Minor, or in Palestine, critics do not agree. Most have held, as nearly all the ancient churches held, that it was written to Hebrews in Palestine. Alford thinks that it was written to Hebrews in Rome. To believing Hebrews at all events it was written.

The Second Epistle of Peter was written a short time before the death of that Apostle, as most hold, later than the Epistle to the Hebrews. It was addressed by him, like the first Epistle, to the Hebrew converts in the East. In that Epistle, which was written about a year and a half after the first, and about the same time after what we have supposed to be the date of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Apostle speaks of an Epistle written by Paul, and written by Paul to Hebrews, ‘as our beloved brother Paul according to the wisdom given unto him hath written to YOU as also in all his Epistles.’ Hence, it has been said, Paul wrote to the Hebrews, and he wrote to the Hebrews in a distinct Epistle, and Peter claims for the whole inspired authority—‘which the unstable and unteachable wrest, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.’ Several competent scholars [Pearson (Opera Posth. Diss. i. p. 59) and Wordsworth] have regarded this language as a distinct inspired testimony to the authorship and claims of this Epistle. Even if 2 Pet. be of later date, it gives early testimony to the authorship of the Hebrews.

Before proceeding to give other testimonies, it may be worth while just to notice the testimony of the Apostolic Fathers, as they have been called. This testimony has increased of late years through the discovery of fragments of their works, and though those fragments are not all certainly genuine, the preponderance of evidence in favour of their genuineness is considerable, and the fragments are, at all events, of great antiquity.

Clement’s quotations are not new. His Epistle was written, it is said, in A.D. 68, or, as most hold, in 97. He quotes Hebrews 1:3-7; Hebrews 11:5; Hebrews 11:37, etc., Hebrews 12:1, and probably Hebrews 3:2; Hebrews 3:5, Hebrews 6:18, Hebrews 10:37, etc. The passages may be seen side by side in Jacobson’s edition of the Patres Apostolici; in Stuart’s Epistle to the Hebrews, i. 77, 94; in Forster’s Apostolical Authority of the Hebrews, sec. 13. The passages are quoted as passages from Scripture, and are generally quoted by Clement without any indication of quotation, and without any name. They are proofs of the existence of the Epistle, and of its authority. His silence as to the authorship has been differently interpreted. If he knew the author, and knew his reason for not giving his name, it was natural he should not assign it to Paul. Besides these quotations, it may be added that the allusions to the Epistle are so numerous that Dr. Westcott says, it is not too much to affirm that the Epistle must have transfused itself into Clement’s mind.

Ignatius has not generally been reckoned among the writers who quote the Epistle, but in two of the Ignatian Epistles which are generally regarded as genuine, which exist in Syriac and have been published by Cureton, he quotes as Scripture Hebrews 10:29, and especially Hebrews 13:17. These letters were written between 107 and 120 (see Ante-Nicene Fathers, pp. 190, 250).

Barnabas (130-150) quotes Hebrews 3:5; and though this may be a quotation from the Old Testament, the argument of his Epistle touches upon many questions which are discussed in the Hebrews (Ante-Nicene Fathers, p. 126). (1)

Polycarp, the teacher of Irenaeus, and the disciple of John, quotes it (see Routh, Opusc. Eccl. i. p. 24). He wrote probably about 150.

Irenaeus (130-200) is described by Alford as not quoting the Epistle, but in fact he quotes two passages at least, Hebrews 1:3 and Hebrews 13:15, ascribing the last passage by name to Paul. This last quotation is found in one of the recent fragments of Irenaeus (Ante-Nicene Fathers, i. 238 and 176). For an account of those fragments, see i. p. 20 of the same series. Many of his writings, it may be added, have been lost.

Justin Martyr (103-147) is one of the early Apologists. He was of Greek descent, and resided near Sichem. He reasoned with Jews at Ephesus, and taught the Gospel at Rome. He quotes from several Epistles, and from the Hebrews (Hebrews 1:9, Hebrews 13:8; Hebrews 13:7). The passages may be seen in Westcott, p. 147. (2)

Considering that two at least of these Apostolic Fathers (Clement and Irenaeus) were Westerns, and resided in a district where the Epistle was least known, the amount of testimony is really considerable, and is much more than has been hitherto supposed.

The other testimonies to the authorship of the Epistle are divided into those of general or local Councils, of members of the Eastern Churches, viz. in Palestine, Syria, Alexandria, Asia Minor, and Constantinople, and those of the Western Churches including Africa.

The earliest Council is that held at Antioch A.D. 269, which quotes the Epistle as Paul’s (see Routh, iii. 298). The second is the Council of Nice (A.D. 325), where it was received as the production of Paul (Wordsworth’s Introduction, p. 365). The third is the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 363), where it was decided that the uncanonical books are not to be read in the churches, but only the following: Genesis..., etc....Paul’s fourteen Epistles (Westcott, p. 483). The fourth is the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397), where it was ordered that none but the canonical Scriptures should be read in the churches, and among those are ‘the thirteen Epistles of Paul, and also the Epistle of the same to the Hebrews.’ In the next council held at Carthage twenty years later (A.D. 419), they are called ‘the fourteen Epistles of Paul’ simply; and so the phrase goes in later Councils.

If the Epistle was addressed to believing Hebrews at Jerusalem,—the common view,—we may begin our testimonies with Cyril, who was bishop in that city. He wrote his Catechetical Lectures in 349, and gives the names of the books of the two Testaments. Among them he recites the fourteen Epistles of Paul, affirming that the books themselves were delivered by apostles and primitive bishops (Westcott, p. 491).

In the same century Jerome was living at Bethlehem. He had come from Rome to fit himself for translating the Scriptures into his own tongue, and brought with him the prejudice of the Latin Church of his age against the Epistle and its translations, a prejudice that was occasioned in part by the fact that the doctrines of the Montanist Novatian teachers in the West concerning the renewing of the fallen to repentance were grounded on their interpretation of the early verses of the sixth chapter of the Hebrews. He states that it was received as Paul’s by all the churches of the East, and by all previous Greek-Christian writers. Though many attributed it to Barnabas or to Clement, he adds, that he himself receives it as Paul’s, but thinks the question of authorship a small one, since the book itself is read every day in public reading (Epist. ad Dardanum, Words. p. 31). Elsewhere (de Vir. Illust. p. 30) he says that the style created difficulty, and that some therefore thought that while the Sententiae were Paul’s, Barnabas, or Clement, or Luke had arranged and written them in his own style (Words. p. 30; Delitzsch, p. 12). There are several smaller mistakes in this statement, which, however, we need not notice.

Eusebius was Bishop of Caesarea (A.D. 340), the town where Paul was for two years confined. He says that the ‘fourteen Epistles of Paul are manifest and evident’ (E. H. iii. 3), and elsewhere states that he is disposed to think that the substance of the Epistle is Paul’s, but the diction from another hand, Clement’s (E. H. iii. 38; Words. Introduction, p. 364; and Del. p. 10). Elsewhere he reckons it among the Homologoumena (iii. 25), and quotes it as Paul’s (Words. Introduction). His testimony is the more important, because he was inclined to favour the Arians. ‘If,’ says Theodoret, Bishop of Cyprus (393), ‘the Arians are not willing to listen to us concerning the benefits which the Church has received from the Epistle to the Hebrews, let them listen to Eusebius of Palestine, to whom they appeal as an advocate of their own dogmas; for Eusebius admits that this Epistle is the work of the Divine apostle, and that all the ancients entertained this opinion concerning the authorship of it’ (Prooem. to his Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews).

Besides these Palestine authorities, Gregory Thaumaturgus (Bishop of Caesarea, A.D. 212-270) is now quoted by Cardinal Mai as assigning it to Paul, as does Basil the Great, Bishop of the same place (A.D. 371-380). Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407), Bishop of Antioch, and afterwards at Constantinople, speaks of the fourteen Epistles of Paul. Herein also Epiphanius (A.D. 367) of Cyprus, Theodoret of Cyrus, Gregory of Nyssa (A.D. 332-396) all agree.

In Asia Minor, Gregory of Nazienzum (A.D. 391) reckons among the ‘God-inspired writings’ ‘the fourteen Epistles of Paul.’ Amphilochius (A.D. 380), Bishop of Iconium, puts his reasons into verse, and reckons among the words of truth and inspired Scriptures the twice seven Epistles of Paul. Some, adds he, say that the Epistle to the Hebrews is spurious, οὐϰ εὐ λέγοντες, γνησία γὰρ ἡ ϰάρις. So says also Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia in Cilicia (A.D. 394), and a hundred and twenty years earlier Archelaus, Bishop of Cashara in Mesopotamia (A.D. 278), in his controversy with Manes, quotes Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 3:5-6. The passages may be seen in Routh, v. 127-149. The testimony of Ephrem of Syria (A.D. 439) and of Severian Bishop of Galata in Syria may be seen in Lardner, ii. 482, 620.

As yet I have said nothing of Alexandrian writers. The church in that city was of primitive origin. It is said to have been founded by Mark, who was with Paul in his first imprisonment at Rome (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24), and perhaps also at his martyrdom (2 Timothy 4:11). The church was also distinguished by the ability of its pastors, and Jerome says that the Catechetical school there began a Marco Evangelista. One of the chief teachers of the school, a presbyter of the church, was Pantaenus (A.D 155-216), the teacher of Clement of Alexandria (see Routh, i. 376). He ascribes the book to Paul, and gives reasons why the apostle omits his name (West p. 309; see Delitzsch, p. 8). Clement (A.D. 220) of Alexandria taught (according to the summary of his Hypotyposes or Outlines as given by Eusebius) that the Epistle to the Hebrews is Paul’s written in Hebrew, and that Luke, having carefully φιλοτιμως translated it, published it for the use of the Greeks. Hence, he adds, the similarity of colouring ϰρῶτα between this Epistle and the Book of Acts. In his Adumbrationes (Comments on the Canonical Epistles) he expressly assigns the Hebrews to Paul, adding that Luke translated it. He regularly quotes it in the Stromata as Paul’s (West. p. 311; Words. p. 365).

Origen, a pupil of Clement’s, holds substantially the same view. See Wordsworth’s translation of the passage ‘on the Can.,’ p. 237, and Stuart, i. p. 127. The meaning of this passage has been questioned, and Alford quotes it as affirming that no one can know who wrote the Epistle; but not only does the passage itself correct this rendering, the rendering is contradicted by two facts. First, after writing this passage, Origen always quotes the Epistle as Paul’s, or as the apostle’s (see Stuart, i. 133). Secondly, in a passage given by Westcott as containing Origen’s mature judgment on the Epistle, he says (A.D. 240) that he has written elsewhere ‘to show that the Epistle is Paul’s’ (West. p. 318).

These facts are important. They show that in the second and third centuries there was a uniform and constant tradition at Alexandria that the SUBSTANCE of the Epistle was Paul’s, and that there was a difference of opinion as to the person who reduced the Epistle to writing. Pantaenus gives no hint that the diction had one author and the matter another. Clement suggests a Hebrew original and a Greek translation. Origen differs from his master, and suggests that Paul arranged the materials and another wrote, Clement or Luke. The discrepancy shows how all agreed as to the substance; and in all the subsequent testimony at Alexandria, the distinction between substance and language ceases. Hence Dionysius of Alexandria (A.D. 247) ascribes the Epistle to Paul (Delit. p. 10; Words. p. 366); as does Peter, a celebrated Bishop of that city (A.D. 300) (see Routh, iv. p. 35), and his successor Alexander (A.D. 313) (see passage in West. 319; Lardn. ii. 302); and so, finally, do the two great leaders in that city, Athanasius (A.D. 373) and Cyril (A.D. 412). The passages may be seen in Lardner, ii. 400, 401, iii. 9; and a confirmation of the statement may be seen in a recently published Catena of Dr. Cramer (A.D. 1844), in which Cyril, Athanasius, and others all speak of the Hebrew as Paul’s.

It may be added, to complete this Eastern testimony, that nearly all the most ancient Greek MSS. place the Epistle to the Hebrews among Paul’s Epistles,(1) not after the Pastoral Epistles as is done by the Vulgate, and in the A. V., but before them. In the Alex., the Sinaitic, the Vat, the Cod. Eph., the Codex Coislianus, in several ancient Cursive MSS. (see Tisch. N. T., ed. 1858, p. 555), and in older MSS. still, the Epistle to the Hebrews is placed immediately after the Epistle to the Galatians, and before that to the Ephesians. This fact appears from the present numerals of the sections in the Vat. (see Cardinal Mai’s note, p. 429). In the most ancient Sahidic version it is inserted before the Epistle to the Galatians.

It may be added, as bearing upon the question of canonicity, that the Epistle is found in the earliest versions of the New Testament, the Syriac, and the old Italic; and those versions were made as early as the end of the second century at latest, or about a hundred and thirty years after the Epistle was written.

While the evidence of the Eastern Churches (Palestinian, Syrian, Arabic, Alexandrian, the last half Latin and half Syrian or Greek) is thus decided, the evidence of the Western Church is in a very different position. The history of the Epistle in this respect is the very opposite of that of the Book of Revelation. That book was received unanimously by the Western Church, and questioned in the East. The Hebrews, on the contrary, was received unanimously in the East, and questioned in the West. The amount and value of this Western questioning we now proceed to discuss.

Here again I may remark the question has been unfairly represented, either by inadvertence upon the part of readers, or by forgetfulness of facts upon the part of writers.

Dr. Westcott, for example, says of Cyprian that he makes no reference to the Epistle, and that he implicitly denies that the work is Paul’s (p. 325). In the same way Victorinus is quoted as rejecting it. The grounds for these statements are—(1) that Cyprian does not quote the Epistle, and (2) that he speaks of Paul’s Epistles to Seven Churches only. So also in the case of Victorinus. To the first reason I reply that Cyprian quotes comparatively little from the New Testament, that there are several other Epistles not quoted from, and that in fact he does quote from Hebrews 12:6 (see Works, p. 30). As to Victorinus, nothing remains of his but a brief fragment of half-a-dozen pages of a commentary on Genesis apparently, entitled, ‘On the making of the World’ (Routh, iii. 455). In those fragments he refers to only six books of the New Testament, and his non-quotation from the Hebrews proves nothing. The second argument is, that both writers speak of Paul’s letters to seven churches only, and of course, it is concluded, the Hebrews is not included among them. The statement of both is in substance:—Behold the seven horns of the Lamb, the seven eyes of God, the seven spirits before the Throne, the seven lamps, the seven candlesticks, the seven women in Isaiah, the seven deacons, the seven trumpets, the seven angels who sounded, the seven seals which were broken, the seven pairs which Noah took into the ark, the sevenfold vengeance promised to Cain, the seven pillars of the house of Wisdom of which Solomon speaks, and of course the seven churches to whom John wrote, and the seven churches of Paul (apud Paulum). Each writer is commenting upon the number of seven, its significance, and its completeness, and on the impossibility of there being more than the four Gospels, and seven Epistles to as many churches. Now, in fact, Paul did write to seven churches only, as John did, but the very place of the Epistle to the Hebrews, standing as it does among the Catholic Epistles, and after the Epistles to particular churches, shows that it was regarded, not as an Epistle to a Church, but to Hebrew believers; and the implicit denial, as it has been called, of the Pauline authorship based on these facts, is really without foundation. Perhaps the favourite theory may be saved, and no dishonour be done to any Epistle by the later discovery of more than one Father that there are Epistles to seven churches, and that Paul wrote twice seven Epistles in all, including the Hebrews ! Of course I am not quoting Cyprian or Victorinus as saying anything in favour of the Epistle, except that Cyprian once quotes it. I only affirm that their authority against it amounts really to nothing.(1)

Another similar statement is, that no Latin Father before Hilary (A.D. 368) quotes the Epistle as Paul’s (West p. 331). This statement may sound startling, but it really amounts to very little. There is no Latin Father before Hilary to quote it. Clement, as we have seen, quotes the Epistle, as he quotes most of the Epistles, without mentioning the author; but he is not properly a Latin Father. Tertullian quotes and speaks of it as a book included under the title of Barnabas; and he is rather to be reckoned a heretic Father of the North African Church, as he certainly was when he wrote the treatise De Pudicitia, in which the Epistle is quoted. Apollonius and Victor are Latin Fathers, but they have left no works behind them. Minucius Felix is the only author of any note before Tertullian. He wrote Octavius, a book on Evidences, but, like most of the books of the early Apologists, it contains no quotations from the Christian Scriptures; while the Letters of Cornelius given in Cyprian quote only one passage out of the whole of the New Testament (Matthew 5:8). The Latin literature of the first three centuries is, in fact, exceedingly scanty, and what we have supplies little or no evidence in the way of quotation upon the question of the Canon at all. It may be worth noticing, after these sweeping statements about Hilary, that the Epistle to the Hebrews had been translated into Latin, and had received its place among the Latin Scriptures a hundred years at least before Hilary’s day.

Among Western writers who were not Latin Fathers, however, are Irenaeus and Hippolytus. The former was Bishop at Lyons, and though he is mentioned as not having quoted the Epistle, he has really quoted it, and according to the Pfaffian fragments has ascribed it to Paul. As to Hippolytus, who was Bishop at Portus Romanus, we have fragments only of his works, though they are considerable. His Refutation of all Heresies fills a volume in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, and it may be said that though perhaps he does not quote the Epistle, in three passages he quotes remarkable Old Testament passages which are quoted in the Hebrews: ‘Our God is a consuming fire,’ for example; and, ‘The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent.’ At the same time much cannot be made of his silence. His quotations from the New Testament are, considering his subject, exceedingly few,—not more, I suppose, than 80 in 500 pages; and he gives no quotations from the First of John and Philemon (Westcott). His quotations, it may be added, are not always distinguishable from his own composition.

But though no importance is to be attached to the silence of Latin writers, there are two or three testimonies in relation to the Epistle which deserve special attention. Eusebius states that Caius, an ecclesiastical man, as he calls him, and of great reasoning power λογικωτατος mentions only thirteen Epistles of Paul, not enumerating the Hebrews with the other Epistles, and he intimates that he does this in a treatise against Montanism. This Caius was a presbyter of Rome, and flourished (about A.D. 196) towards the end of the second century (Eus. vi. 20; Words. 367).

There is a similar omission in the Muratorian Canon, as it is called, a list of the canonical books of Scripture belonging probably to the latter part of the second century, and ascribed by some to this Caius. The manuscript which contains that canon was written in the eighth century, and is a Latin translation from the Greek, as is proved by the Graecisms of the style. It is most carelessly written, and there are several lacunae in the MSS. If this is the authority to which Eusebius refers, it partly corroborates his statement, though in fact it merely says that Paul writes to no more than seven churches by name, and shows ‘by this sevenfold writing that there is only one Church spread abroad through the whole world’ (see Ante-Nicene Fragments, p. 161). If this Muratorian fragment was not by Caius, then it is an additional confirmation of the statement of Caius. It illustrates very well how the canon was now taking a definite form. It detracts from the value of the document that it does not contain the First Epistle of John, and that the Epistle of James and one Epistle of Peter are omitted.

A hundred and fifty years later (A.D. 380), Philastrius, Bishop of Brescia, and a friend of Ambrose of Milan, speaks of some heretics who say that Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews was not written by him, but is either by Barnabas the Apostle, or by Clement, while others say that it is Luke’s. There is also an Epistle written to the Laodicaeans, and because in it are certain things of which they do not think well, therefore it is not read in the church. ‘Though it is read by some, it is not read in the church to the people, but only the thirteen Epistles of Paul and occasionally the Epistle to the Hebrews. They think it not Paul’s because the author has written in a rhetorical style, and because it speaks of Christ as man (Hebrews 3:3); therefore it is not read as well as because of what it says on the impossibility of restoring the fallen (Hebrews 6:4), a passage that might favour the Novatians’ (Words. p. 16). Here he ascribes the opinion to heretics, though he says also that the Epistle was not commonly read in the churches.

These two authorities (Caius and Philastrius) are confirmed by the language of Jerome. He says that the Epistle was received as canonical by all the churches of the East, and by all early Greek Christian writers, though some ascribed it to Barnabas and others to Clement, while they read it in their churches nevertheless. He adds that the Latinorum Consuctudo did not regard it as canonical, just as the Gracorum Consuctudo did not regard the Revelation as canonical; and yet, he continues, we receive both as canonical, following herein the authority of ancient writers (Westcott, p. 403).

How the Epistle got this repute at Rome it is not difficult in some measure to explain. Let me repeat that there was a very scanty literature, and very little knowledge of theology or Scripture, at Rome during those early centuries, that the Roman Church up to the time of Augustine always admitted fewer canonical books than the Eastern, that in the ancient Latin lists just named the Epistles to Jews are all omitted (Hebrews, James, and I Peter), and we have some explanation of the facts. It may be added that the great controversy in Italy in the first century was in relation to Montanism and Novatianism, both heresies maintaining that the fallen could not be restored to the Church. The list of Caius, giving to Paul thirteen Epistles, is expressly said by Jerome to be in his Treatise on Montanism (see Jerome’s testimony in Words. p. 32, App.), and Philastrius states that the Epistle was read in the churches only ‘sometimes,’ because of the teaching of the Epistle, and the support it seemed to give to the Novatian heresy. At the same time this was not the only reason; for Tertullian, who was a Montanist, does not quote the Epistle as Paul’s, though stating that the doctrine of the Epistle was received from the apostles.

While there is this negative testimony up to this date, there are on the other side other facts connected with the Western Church: (1) Clement quotes it largely, as he does other New Testament books; (2) the Epistle is included in the old Italic version of Scripture (A.D. 150 to 200, Stuart, i. 144); (3) it is quoted by Irenaeus; (4) by Rufinus, one of the few Latin writers of this century, the Hebrews is ascribed to Paul, and is said to be among the books which the Fathers included in the Canon (Words. p. 20, App.). In the Decretals of Damasus (A.D. 366-384) the Pope, who sent Jerome to Palestine to complete his revision of the old Latin versions, the Hebrews is reckoned as Paul’s, and is said to be one of those Divine writings which the universal Catholic Church holds (Words. p. 38). Other Decretals by Innocent (402), and by Gelasius (492), to the same effect may be seen in Words. pp. 38, 39, App. Their genuineness, however, is questioned.

From the time of Jerome the Epistle was generally received in the Latin Church, though with some misgivings upon the part of some authorities. Hilary of Poictiers (A.D. 368), and Pelagius (A.D. 425), both speak of it as Paul’s (Westc. p. 401), as do Ambrose of Milan (A.D. 340, 397), Lucifer of Cagliari in Sardinia (A.D. 370), and Augustine, though not without some hesitation. The lists of Jerome, Augustine, and the old Latin version all agree with our modern Canon, except that the last omits the two shorter Epistles of John. Cassiodorus (A.D. 468-560) appeals to all, and affirms that the Canon had been long since settled. The Middle Age writers agree in these conclusions—Primasius, Isidore, Alcuin, and Aquinas; and in the year 1546 the Church of Rome pronounced an anathema on all who denied the canonical or the Pauline origin of the Epistle. The evidence is not strengthened by her denunciations, but the decision has value as showing how she sided with Jerome and Augustine, the writers with whom the Latin literature of the Western Church really begins.

Internal evidence, though often regarded as very decisive, is really often delusive. A few years ago the literary world was startled by the discovery of an alleged poem of Milton’s, and the highest literary authorities pronounced it impossible that it should be his. No one, on comparing the L’Allegro and the Paradise Lost of the same author, would guess them to be by the same author. Johnson, it is well known, had three styles, and between the first and the last there is a wide difference. The style of the Letters of Junius has been traced in half-a-dozen contemporaneous writers, and all have been charged in succession with the authorship of these volumes. And when we go back and examine literature which belongs to another country and another age, with scanty materials to guide us, conjecture becomes much more unsatisfactory. The Book of Job has been ascribed on internal evidence by the most eminent authorities to Moses, and to the time of the Captivity. The Pentateuch has been divided among a dozen writers, and each critic has sought to set aside the theories of his predecessors. I am speaking only of general impressions when I say that the Hebrews does not differ more from the rest of Paul’s Epistles than the hopeful tone of First Thessalonians differs from the sadness of Second Timothy, than the style and general spirit of the Galatians differs from the style and spirit of the Ephesians, or than the Book of the Revelation differs from the Gospel of John.

The question needs, however, to be examined in detail.

Let me premise that the question of the authorship differs from the question of the canonical authority. Clement, for example, quotes the Epistle as he quotes other parts of Scripture, but without mentioning the author’s name. Origen, who maintained that the thoughts were Paul’s, held that the words were by another, and yet he has written Homilies upon the whole book, expounding it as Scripture. The ancient versions, the Italic and the Syriac, place it in the sacred volume without giving evidence of its authorship. In other words, whilst there is extensive external evidence of its Pauline origin, there is still more extensive evidence in favour of its canonicity. It is very conceivable that we may admit the second without admitting the first, being either in doubt, or disposed to think, though without external evidence, that the thoughts are Paul’s, and the composition partly Luke’s or Apollos’s, and partly in the closing chapter Paul’s—a view that has found favour with some German scholars. Even Alford, who questions strenuously its Pauline origin on internal evidence chiefly, does not scruple to admit its canonical authority. Calvin and Beza, who question its Pauline authority, also maintain strenuously its canonicity.

Let me revert to the language of Peter in relation to Paul’s Epistles (2 Peter 3:15)—words that were long since quoted as referring to the Hebrews. This second Epistle is said to be written to strangers of the Dispersion, i.e to believing Jews who alone answer the description; and its purpose is to exhort them to patience amid the trials of their faith. This lesson is the very lesson of the Hebrews, the readers of which are exhorted to be followers or imitators of those who through faith and patience μακροϕυμία are inheriting the promises (Hebrews 6:12; see Hebrews 12:2, Hebrews 2:18, Hebrews 4:15-16). This interpretation has been as vigorously questioned as maintained, but no one seems to have considered whether there is not evidence in the Second Epistle of Peter of his knowledge of the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is admitted that he has taken expressions largely from Paul’s writings generally, and it might be expected that if he had referred to the Hebrews he would have taken expressions from it too.

There is a remarkable sameness of expression in the Epistle to the Hebrews and in the Epistles of Peter. Phrases are found in both, and in no other books of the New Testament to an extent and in forms which make it clear the sameness cannot be accidental. A comparison between them will often throw light upon the meaning of each, and it will be found to have interest in connection with the authorship of the Epistle. Peter’s pointed reference to Paul’s writings, and the fact that he addressed his Epistles to Hebrews scattered abroad, and exhorted them to practise the same patience in suffering upon which the Epistle to the Hebrews insists, all combine to make the Pauline origin of the thoughts at least probable.

The following are the more important parallelisms:—

Hebrews 1:1, and 2 Peter 3:2, where both describe God as having spoken to the Fathers by prophets, and as giving the Gospel through His Son. Both also use the phrase ‘in the last days,’ or ‘at the end of these days.’

Hebrews 2:7; Hebrews 2:9, and 2 Peter 1:17, where each speaks of glory and honour as ascribed to Christ, quoting apparently from the 8th Psalm, and combining terms found only here.

Both speak of Christ as ‘without spot’ ἄμωμος and as offering Himself without spot unto God (Hebrews 9:14, and 1 Peter 1:18-20).

Both speak of Him as dying once for all ἄπαξ for sin (Hebrews 9, 10, and 1 Peter 3:18)—a description found only here.

Both speak of the sprinkling of His blood ῥαντισμός a familiar idea in the Law, but found only in these two Epistles, Hebrews 9:13, and 1 Peter 1:2.

Both speak of the sympathy which Christ has for us, and which we ought also to have for one another (Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 10:34, and 1 Peter 3:8)—expressions found only in these Epistles.

Both speak of Christ as the Chief Shepherd, or as the Great Shepherd—a comparison found only here.

Both speak of the entrance εἴσοδος into Christ’s kingdom and glory (Hebrews 10:19, and 2 Peter 1:11), and both speak of angels as subject to the Son (Hebrews 1:6; Hebrews 2:5, and 1 Peter 3:22)—expressions found nowhere else in the New Testament.

Similarly Christians are described in both Epistles, and nowhere else, as strangers παρεπίδημοι; as having tasted that the Lord is gracious, or as having tasted the good word of life (Hebrews 6:5, and 1 Peter 2:3); as ‘fed with milk, and not yet fit for solid food’ (Hebrews 5:12-14, and 1 Peter 2:2). In both, Christians are exhorted ‘to exercise oversight lest,’ ‘to look carefully lest’ ἐπισκοποῦντες (Hebrews 12:15; 1 Peter 5:2); the only places where the verb is found. In the passages where the awful results of apostasy are described the thought is alike in both, and the guilt is made to depend upon the fact that the men whom they warn had received a fuller knowledge ἐπίγνωσιν of the truth (Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:26-29, and 2 Peter 2:20-21). The prayer of the two apostles is that God Himself would be pleased to perfect them καταρτίσαι ὑμᾶς, or in the revised text of Peter καταρτίσει simply, a phrase found in this sense in these Epistles alone (Hebrews 13:21; 1 Peter 5:10). Here are fifteen descriptions of Christ and of Christian men peculiar to these Epistles, and they seem to lead to the conclusion that the writer of the Epistles of Peter must have seen the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Why should he write to Jews at all? Is there not prima facie evidence against his writing? True, Peter was the apostle of the Circumcision, as Paul was of the Gentiles; but this did not exclude the one or the other from the care of any part of the Church. Peter was the first to win the Gentiles to the Church. Paul always visited the synagogues and preached to the Jews in every city to which he went. Nay, he himself says that he was the servant of all that he might gain the more. To the Jews he became as a Jew, that he might by all means save some of them. Nay, he was even specially interested in their salvation. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Therefore he says, Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer unto God for Israel is that they may be saved. And if this was his feeling for all the seed of Abraham, how much more for those among them who were endeared by their fellowship in the Gospel! He had made collections in all parts of Europe for the relief of the bodily wants of the saints at Jerusalem: how natural that he should think of their temptations and strengthen their hearts to meet them!

Besides, as no one was more zealous than Paul to promote the salvation of his kinsmen, none was more capable. He was a Pharisee, and the son of a Pharisee, had been brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of his fathers. After the straitest sect of their religion he had lived a Pharisee. He was therefore eminently qualified to reason with his own nation on the true nature and end of the Mosaic Institutes, and to handle them with all the learning and wisdom which the Epistle to the Hebrews displays.

But why should he write anonymously? His thirteen Epistles all commence with his name, which occurs nowhere in this Epistle. Like the First Epistle of John, it is anonymous: is that a proof that it is not of apostolic origin?

The Epistles to which Paul has prefixed his name were all addressed to Gentiles; and as he was the apostle of the Gentiles he magnified his office, and claimed to be heard by them in virtue of it. But in addressing Hebrews his position was different. It is true that the person from whom the Epistle came should be known, for how else could its reception be ensured? They whom the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews desired to assure of the fact knew well the hand from which that Epistle came. ‘Pray for us that I may be restored to you the sooner;’ ‘Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty? with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.’ These expressions prove that they to whom the Epistle was sent in the first instance knew from whom it came; and the bearer of the Epistle would naturally inform them by whom it was sent. Hence, as we find from external evidence, all the Eastern and ancient churches ascribed it to Paul. So says Eusebius; so says Pantaenus a hundred and fifty years earlier.

Clearly, therefore, the name of the writer was not withheld from any desire to maintain entire secrecy, much less for any unworthy purpose; for the author was well known to his friends, and could be known by all who cared to inquire of them. Alford indeed remarks on the gaucherie of the writer in concealing his name, and yet telling them substantially who he was, and concludes that Paul would never have done this; but this gaucherie, if it be such, is chargeable upon the writer, whoever he was; and as Alford has the highest opinion of his profound sagacity, why charge him with what may be no gaucherie at all, but may be the soundest wisdom?

The case is that the Epistle was written not only for steadfast friends, but for waverers, for Judaizing Christians, and even indirectly for unchristianized Jews. To two-thirds of this last class he was specially odious—to the Judaizing Christians because he had rebuked Peter openly to his face, and maintained the equality of all Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, under the Gospel; and to unchristianized Jews as the renegade whose life they sought, and whose name would have deterred them from reading anything he had written. In the last two cases his name would have frustrated the very design with which the Epistle was sent.

His Master, who ‘witnessed a good confession before Pontius Pilate,’ had set him the example. He withdrew from districts that refused to receive Him. He charged those who witnessed His mighty works not to make Him known, lest they should provoke prematurely the jealousy of His enemies. He carefully abstained from putting stumbling-blocks in their way, lest they should sin. Paul caught the same spirit. He sought to give no offence either to Jew or to Gentile, or to the Church of God. He never compromised truth, indeed never concealed the Cross, or corrupted the simplicity of the Gospel by human additions, or by worldly wisdom; but if the withholding of his name was likely to gain his end, he was the first to withhold it. If Paul had been the author of this Epistle, there are good reasons why he should have withheld it; and as those reasons do not apply with anything like the same force to any one else, the very withholding of the name, instead of diminishing, does, in fact, increase the probability that the Epistle is his.

Upon the question of the internal evidence we cannot enter at length. It may be enough to state briefly the objections and the answers given to them under the heads of single words; or combinations of words; the mode of quotation, and the general style of argument and thought.

1. De Wette quotes a list of words used only in the Hebrews, and not found in the recognised Epistles of Paul. He takes the list as Schultz gives it (see Stuart’s Introduction to the Epistle, pp. 308 and 289). The total number of such words is 118, or, omitting six that are found in quotations from the LXX., 112. The Epistle covers about twenty pages in the Oxford Revised Text, so that words peculiar to this Epistle amount to about five and a half in each page. In fact, words of this class amount, according to Forster, to 151, or about seven and a half in each page. Now, in First Corinthians there are 230 words peculiar to that Epistle. The Epistle covers twenty-seven pages, so that they amount to eight and a half per page (see the list in Stuart, pp. 298, 299). If we take First Timothy, the case is much stronger. That Epistle is one-third of the length of the Hebrews, and it contains 74 words found nowhere else in Paul’s writings—nearly half the number found in the Hebrews. The number of peculiar Pauline words found in the entire New Testament (excepting the Hebrews) is 791, of which 614 are found but once, or in only one Epistle of his. These Epistles cover 132 pages, and the peculiar words amount to six in each page. The peculiar words of the Hebrews amount, according to Forster, to seven and a half per page, and yet it is on this ground that De Wette questions the Pauline origin of the Epistle itself.(1)

But we may go further. There are 54 words taken from the LXX. which are found only in the Hebrews and in Paul’s Epistles. There are 21 words peculiar to the Hebrews and Paul’s Epistles or speeches, and found elsewhere neither in the New Testament nor in the LXX. άθλεῖν, etc. φιλοξενία and there are 38 words which are occasionally found in the New Testament, but which in frequency of usage are peculiar to the Hebrews and to Paul’s Epistles ( άγιασμός, used eight times by Paul in Romans, Corinthians, Thessalonians, Timothy, and Hebrews, and only once elsewhere). These are all characteristic words, and are found in the Hebrews and in Paul’s acknowledged Epistles. There are indeed 177 more which occur more than once in his acknowledged Epistles ( φιλοτιμεῖσθαι, πολιτεύεσθαι, etc.), none of which are found in the Hebrews, and great stress has been laid upon this fact. Here again, however, we need only to complete the statement of the facts, and the objection is answered. There are 172 words which are acknowledged to be Pauline, and yet are not found in the Corinthians; and there are 159 which are not found in the Romans; while in the shorter Epistles the number of omitted words is proportionately much larger. These figures are subject to correction, as may be gathered from the note below; but they will be found in any case to supply but a feeble reply to the external evidences.

2. The quotations in the Epistle to the Hebrews are objected to by various writers, and on various grounds. De Wette objects to the number of them, and refers to the fact that in Ephesians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, and Titus, there are not more than four or five quotations in all; but the answer is plain. In an Epistle to the Hebrews quotations from the Old Testament are the very things we should expect. In fact, while there are 34 quotations in the Hebrews, there are 48 in the Romans, an Epistle unquestionably Paul’s, and addressed to a mixed church—Jewish only in part. The quotations in the Hebrews are 3.5 per page: the quotations in the Romans are rather more.

De Wette maintains also that the symbolical use and occasional accommodation of the Old Testament passages and ordinances to the argument in hand is foreign to Paul’s manner, though like Philo’s. But the facts are really the other way. Paul uses the Old Testament in his acknowledged writings in the very way in which the Jews were accustomed to use it. He sometimes appeals to direct prophetic utterances; sometimes to similarity of sentiment; sometimes he accommodates passages which in their original reference have a local or temporary meaning to describe things that happened at the time he wrote. Sometimes he appeals to the Old Testament for analogical cases to confirm or impress the doctrine which he inculcates, and sometimes he uses Old Testament language as the vehicle of thought in order to express his own ideas. In particular, and to meet De Wette’s objection, he employs the Old Testament ex concessu in what seems an allegorizing sense. It is thus he allegorizes on the history of Sarah and Hagar (Galatians 4); on the command of Moses not to muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn (1 Corinthians 10); on the veil over the face of Moses (2 Corinthians 3); on the declaration that a man should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife (Ephesians 5). All these examples are found in Paul’s accepted writings, and all have their parallels in the Hebrews.

Schultz, and after him De Wette and Alford, object to the manner of citing the Old Testament by Paul, and by the writer of the Hebrews, as different Paul, it is said, always appeals to the Old Testament as a written record, whereas the writer of the Hebrews quotes it as the immediate word of God, or of the Holy Ghost Paul’s phrase is, ‘It is written;’ the Hebrews’ phrase is, ‘God says,’ or ‘the Spirit says;’ and, it is added, Paul never uses the phrase, ‘God says,’ which, it is said, is found in this Epistle.

Now the facts are that in twenty-one cases the quotation in the Hebrews, ‘He says’ εῒπε, λέγει, ϕηοί, is used generally without any nominative; in thirteen of these God, or the Lord, is probably the nominative; four have ‘Christ’ implied; in two other passages ‘the Spirit’ is expressed; and once we have ‘the Scripture saith;’ and once ‘that which was commanded.’ In Romans, ‘It is written,’ or a similar form, is used sixteen times; ‘the Scripture saith’ is used eight times; ‘Isaiah saith,’ ‘Moses saith,’ ‘the oracle saith,’ is used fourteen times. So the Hebrew usage preponderates even in the Romans.

The statement that Paul never used ‘God saith’ is contradicted by the fact that ‘God’ is the nominative in two passages in the Romans, in four passages in the Corinthians, and in one in the Galatians. Thrice only, indeed, is ‘God,’ or ‘Lord,’ expressed (2 Corinthians 6:16-18); but then in Hebrews, out of fourteen passages, it is expressed only once (Hebrews 6:14).

The Epistles to the Corinthians may be taken as a specimen of the formula of quotation. In First Corinthians ‘It is written’ is always used, except in one passage (Hebrews 6:16), and four times there is no formula. In Second Corinthians ‘It is written’ is thrice used; ‘He saith’ thrice; and there are two quotations without any formula. There is in fact no great difference between the Hebrews and other Epistles, except that ‘He saith’ is there the preponderating form, as elsewhere ‘It is written’ is the preponderating form. Even of these differences there is an obvious explanation. The common form of quotation from Scripture among the Jews was, and still is, ‘It is said,’ or ‘According as it is said.’ To a Greek this phrase would be very ambiguous: to a Jew it is perfectly natural and clear. Of course this reasoning does not prove that Paul wrote the Hebrews; but it proves that, whoever wrote it, wrote as to Jews, and as one who knew their ways. It proves, moreover, that the difference of quotation between the Hebrews and other Epistles is trivial, and is explained by facts with which Paul was perfectly familiar.

3. But what of the argument from these quotations? Who could imagine, it has been said, that the second Psalm, for example, had anything to do with the resurrection, or that the eighth Psalm had anything to do with our Lord, or that the 110th Psalm, with its reference to Melchizedek, applies to the Divine priesthood of our Redeemer? These quotations, it has been said, are not made in the proper sense of the passages quoted. And again the answer is at hand. The second Psalm is quoted in the New Testament, and is applied to our Lord by the apostles (Acts 4:25); and the very verse quoted in the Hebrews to prove the resurrection of Christ is quoted for the same purpose by Paul (Acts 13:33), being quoted by no other New Testament writer.

The eighth Psalm is quoted by our Lord as fulfilled in Himself (‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings,’ etc.); and is made the basis of a similar argument by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:27 (‘and hast put all things under His feet’).

As for the 110th Psalm, which contains the allusion to Melchizedek, our Lord has quoted it as fulfilled in Himself, and it is recognised as Messianic by His Jewish hearers. ‘Jesus answered and said, How say the Scriptures that Christ is the Son of David? for David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on my right hand till I make Thy foes Thy footstool. David himself therefore calleth Him Lord.’ If this use of the Psalm is Philonistic, as some have stated, it is also scriptural.

In brief, the common arguments based on internal evidence against the Pauline origin of the Epistle prove little, and certainly cannot be regarded as setting aside the external authority.

That when the writer of the Hebrews expresses thoughts found elsewhere in Paul’s writings, he often employs forms of expression that differ from those of his acknowledged Epistles, is admitted, and what the most satisfactory explanation of those differences may be is a question open to discussion. A later expression of the same thoughts by the same writer, a Hebrew original, the employment of the pen, and, in some degree, of the style of another, all have been suggested as explanations. We are not bound to decide on any of these explanations. What may be safely affirmed is, that there is nothing in this difficulty that justifies us in setting aside the historical evidence, which is very decidedly to the effect that in its substance the Epistle is Paul’s.

II.—THE ARGUMENT.

The Epistle consists of two parts: the first part chiefly doctrinal (chap. Hebrews 1:1 to Hebrews 10:18), the second part chiefly practical (Hebrews 10:19 to Hebrews 13:25.)—the whole abounding in warnings against apostasy and unbelief.

1. DOCTRINAL.—In the first part, the supreme authority of the gospel and the inferiority of the law and of all other dispensations, are proved by comparing the heralds or teachers of these dispensations, their servants or priests, their covenants, their worship, and their sacrifices (Hebrews 1:1 to Hebrews 10:18).

2. PRACTICAL.—Upon this doctrinal argument are based exhortations to patient endurance and trust. Faith is shown to be the essential and permanent grace; its power and blessedness are traced through a long line of heroes and confessors, ending in Christ Himself; and the Hebrew Christians are encouraged to endure trials as fatherly chastisement common to all true sonship, and fitted to promote their holiness. The blessedness of the new covenant is then used, as often in the earlier part of the Epistle, to set forth the awfulness of apostasy (Hebrews 10:19 to Hebrews 12:29); and the Epistle closes with exhortations to special duties and virtues, blended with personal allusions, and ending with the apostolic benediction (chap. 13).

DOCTRINAL OUTLINE (chap. Hebrews 1:1 to Hebrews 10:18).

Christ, the author and teacher of the gospel, is superior to prophets, to angelic messengers, and to Moses, the mediator of the law.

1. Christ is superior to prophets, not in time, indeed (Hebrews 1:1-2), but in the unity and completeness of His teaching (Hebrews 1:1-2), and in His personal dignity as ‘Light of light,’ Son and Lord or heir, through whom the worlds were made and are still sustained (Hebrews 1:3), and as Redeemer and King (Hebrews 1:2-3).

2. Christ is superior to angels, as proved by His Divine origin, which differs from that of angels (Hebrews 1:4-5), by the worship they pay Him (Hebrews 1:6), by His office as eternal King (Hebrews 1:8-9) and as Creator (Hebrews 1:10), by His unchangeableness, and by His mission to preside and reign, as it is theirs to serve (Hebrews 1:13-14).

Hence the practical lesson, Give the more earnest heed to this gospel which Christ introduced, which apostles and others attested, and which God Himself confirmed by every form of miracle, and by the varied gifts of the Holy Ghost (Hebrews 2:1-4).

And yet this Son is ‘man’ also, a fresh proof of His superiority to angels, and of His fitness for His office. For it is ‘man’ who is to have supremacy (Hebrews 2:5-8), and it is by His manhood our Lord becomes our brother and helper and sympathizing priest (Hebrews 2:9-18).

3. Christ is superior to Moses, one of the most faithful of God’s servants. Moses was apostle, messenger, only; Christ was apostle and priest (Hebrews 3:1). Moses was part of a great economy; Christ was the founder of the economy itself (Hebrews 3:3, ‘house’). Moses and his economy were creations; Christ was the creator (Hebrews 3:4). Moses was a servant in the house; Christ was son (Hebrews 3:5-6)—the first in another’s house, the second in what was His own.

Again the lesson is plain, Be faithful and obedient and true—a lesson enforced by solemn examples and appeals. The Israelites perished through unbelief (Hebrews 3:7-11), and a like spirit will bring a like punishment and create a new example (Hebrews 3:12). The writer reminds his readers that we share in salvation only if we persevere (Hebrews 3:14). He appeals again to the case of the Israelites (Hebrews 3:15-19). They had a promise and a gospel (Hebrews 4:1-3) as well as we, and yet they missed ‘the land’ and the rest that were promised them. So David assures us that there is a truer rest, and a better Canaan, which later generations, and it may be we with them, may also miss through the same unbelief (Hebrews 4:4-11). Great caution is needed, for the Divine word discriminates, and God Himself, who knows all, is judge (Hebrews 4:12-13). And yet there is hope even for the feeblest believer. Our High Priest is Son of God and Son of Man. He is therefore as prompt to pity as He is mighty to save.

4. Christ’s priesthood superior to Aaron’s (chap, Hebrews 5:1 to Hebrews 7:28).—Every high priest (a) must be one with those he represents (Hebrews 5:1); (b) must have the ‘considerate mildness,’ the ‘sweet reasonableness’ of one who knows his own weakness and ours; (c) must be prepared to offer sacrifices for others (Hebrews 5:2-3); and having to act in matters relating to God (d), must be appointed by God (Hebrews 5:4). The first of these qualifications he has insisted upon already (chap. 2); the third he discusses later (chap. Hebrews 9:15 to Hebrews 10:18); the fourth and the second (d and b) he now proceeds to prove.

Christ, it is clear, did not take upon Himself this office, as is shown from the second Psalm, and from the hundred and tenth (Hebrews 5:5-6). His fitness to exercise compassion is proved by His own trials and prayers and tears, and by the efficacy of them (Hebrews 5:7-10).

Digression on the priesthood of Melchizedek, with warnings and exhortations. The digression necessary, partly because of the rudimentary knowledge of the persons addressed, partly because of the mystery of the truths themselves (Hebrews 5:11-14). Progress in knowledge essential (Hebrews 6:1-3): a truth confirmed by the danger of apostasy (Hebrews 6:4-6), and the miserable recompense of unfruitful professors (Hebrews 6:7-8), and by his own hope of better things for them, founded on the Divine faithfulness and on their own love (Hebrews 6:9-10). But he desires them still to persevere. Strengthened by the example of those who are fellow-heirs with them (Hebrews 6:11-12), by the example of Abraham, and by the promise given to them, which promise comes to us with a double confirmation, and introduces us to even greater blessedness (Hebrews 6:19-20).

The argument is now resumed. Christ being a priest after the order of Melchizedek, is superior to Aaron. Melchizedek was king and priest (Hebrews 7:1-2). His priesthood was not hereditary or temporary, and he received homage from Abraham, and virtually from Levi (Hebrews 7:3-10). And in all this superiority Christ shares, and shares pre-eminently. In dignity and in authority He is superior, and also in the perfection of His work. The Levitical priesthood perfected or justified none, and it was finally set aside on the ground of its unprofitableness. Christ’s priesthood, on the other hand, offers a sacrifice once for all, and saves to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him (Hebrews 7:11-19). There are also other proofs. Christ was appointed with an oath, with a double oath, with higher sanctions (Hebrews 7:20; Hebrews 7:22), and holds a permanent office, while His character and sonship give power to His office both with God and with man (Hebrews 7:23-28).

5. The Superiority of the New Covenant.—The efficacy, sacrifices, and worship contrasted with the imperfect and typical institutions of the law.

Christ, as priest, is seated at God’s right hand, the minister of a true tabernacle, not a typical one, and has offered a divine and heavenly sacrifice (Hebrews 8:1-6), whence it is clear that we have a better covenant, based upon better promises, and pronounced by God Himself to be superior to the old (Hebrews 8:8-9); for it is written on men’s hearts (Hebrews 8:10), gives its blessings to all (Hebrews 8:11), and provides for the forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 8:13). Divine and beautiful as were the temple and its services (Hebrews 9:1-5), they belonged rather to an earthly state (Hebrews 9:1) than to a heavenly one (Hebrews 9:11); and showed that the way into the holiest was not yet open, and that consciences were not at rest. The whole was at best a type or parable of a coming reality, which last alone could set completely right what was disordered. (Hebrews 9:6-10). All this Christ has realized by the offering up of Himself (Hebrews 9:11-14), ratifying the new covenant by His death (Hebrews 9:15-17) as the old typical covenant was ratified by the blood of its victims (Hebrews 9:8-21). Hereby He has obtained forgiveness (Hebrews 9:21-22), and has effectually opened the way into heaven, where He now appears for us (Hebrews 9:24); whence He will come again as judge, and complete His work as the Saviour of all who believe.

The superiority of His sacrifice is further proved by the inefficiency of the sacrifices of the law, which only revealed, and did not remove sin (Hebrews 10:1-4; Hebrews 10:11), by God’s repudiation of the victims and offerings of the law (Hebrews 10:6-8), and by the preparation and substitution of the offering of the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:5; Hebrews 10:7; Hebrews 10:9), and by the reality of the efficacy of His sacrifice. It requires and admits of no repetition—a repetition that is forbidden alike by Christ’s position in glory (Hebrews 10:12-13), by the perfect sanctification of all who believe, and by the completeness of that forgiveness of which prophets have long since spoken (Hebrews 10:15-18).

PRACTICAL LESSONS AND EXHORTATIONS (Hebrews 10:19-39, Hebrews 11:1-38, Hebrews 11:39 to Hebrews 12:11, Hebrews 12:12-29; Heb_13:1-25).

Grounds for stedfastness: An open door into heaven (Hebrews 10:19), a new way of access (Hebrews 10:20), and Christ’s appearance in heaven for us (Hebrews 10:21).

Stedfastness is strengthened by a fuller faith in Christ, who has freed us from guilt and impurity (Hebrews 10:22), by hope in the Divine faithfulness (Hebrews 10:23), by love of the Church, and continued fellowship with it (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Motives that ought to confirm us in stedfastness and guard us from apostasy: The impossibility of finding another sacrifice (Hebrews 10:26), the danger and imminence of final condemnation, and the heavier punishment that awaits apostates under the gospel (Hebrews 10:28-31). The same lesson is enforced by the memory of past struggles and losses, which are vain unless we persevere, by the certainty of our reward if we are faithful, and by the fact that a life of loving trust and expectancy is ever dear to God (Hebrews 10:35-39).

The nature, object, and necessity of faith (chap. Hebrews 11:1-6). Its utility in giving understanding or perception (Hebrews 11:2), righteousness (Hebrews 11:4), heaven (Hebrews 11:5). Its power and blessedness attested, before the law, by the life and blessedness of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc. (Hebrews 11:4-22); under the law, by Moses, by the Israelites at the Exode, by the early victories in Canaan, and by Rahab (Hebrews 11:24-30); after the law, by Judges and earlier Prophets (Hebrews 11:32-35); by others under the Kings, and in the days between Malachi and John the Baptist (Hebrews 11:35-38).

Reasons for patience (Hebrews 11:39 to Hebrews 12:11): The example of the Fathers, who finally received their reward, though it was long delayed (Hebrews 11:39; Hebrews 12:1), and of Christ Himself, who suffered more than all—the originator and finisher of faith (Hebrews 12:2-4). Further reasons are found in the fact that discipline is a test of all sonship (Hebrews 12:5), an evidence of Divine love (Hebrews 12:6), and a means of increasing holiness.

Exhortations to greater earnestness and to the cultivation of all virtue—(a) what we have to do (Hebrews 12:12-14); (b) and avoid (Hebrews 12:15-17); (c) and consider the excellence of the Mosaic law (Hebrews 12:18-21), and the greater excellence of the gospel (Hebrews 12:22-24). The obligation of greater earnestness (Hebrews 12:25-29), and of all virtue (chap. 13). Love of the brethren (Hebrews 13:1), love of strangers (Hebrews 13:2), compassion on all that suffer (Hebrews 13:3); purity in married life, contentment, and trust (Hebrews 13:4-6). The loving remembrance and imitation of departed leaders (Hebrews 13:8-9), and a heart established by grace, and by our participation in the great sacrifice of the Cross—a sacrifice for sin offered without the camp, in which therefore none, as in the sin-offering under the law, can share (Hebrews 13:10-11) but those who go forth without the camp (Hebrews 13:12-13). This we do, offering continually the sacrifice of thanksgiving and of a consistent confession of Christ’s name (Hebrews 13:15), with the added sacrifice of beneficence and subjection (Hebrews 13:16-17).

The writer asks the prayers of Hebrew Christians (Hebrews 13:18-19); prays to God for them—to God as the author of peace through the redemption of Christ (Hebrews 13:20), to God as the giver and perfecter of all good, working in us through Christ (Hebrews 13:21); commends to them his Epistle, speaks of the speedy visit of Timothy, and closes with the usual Pauline salutation (Hebrews 13:21-25).

SUMMARY OF EARLY EVIDENCE ON THE AUTHORSHIP AND GENUINENESS OF THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. WITH REFERENCE TO AUTHORITIES ACCESSIBLE MOSTLY TO ENGLISH READERS.

Name

Place

Date

Evidence

Reference

Clement

Rome

70-90

Quotes largely: no name

Jacobson’s Patr. Apost.: Stuart, i. 77, 94.

Ignatius(2)

Antioch

107-115

Quotes twice

Ante-Nic. Fathers, pp. 190, 250.

Polycarp

Smyrna

80-150

Quotes once more

Routh’s Op. Eccl. i, 13, 24. See Forstner, p. 547

Justin Martyr

103(1)-167(1)

Quotes thrice

Ante-Nicene Fathers; Westcott, p. 147.

Barnabas?

2d, Cent.

Quotes once?

Ante-Nicene Fathers.

Irenaeus(2)

Lyons

130(1)-200(1)

Quotes twice: once as Paul’s

Ante-Nicene Fathers, I, 238, 176.

Pantaenus

Alexandria

155-216

Acribes it to Paul

Routh, i. 376; Westcott, 309.

Caiu(3)

Rome

190

Does not include it in Paul’s Epistles

Wordsworth, 367; Westcott.

Muratori Canon(3)

Rome

200

Does not seem to include it.

Vet. Versio Ital.

Italy

200?

Puts it among Canonical Books

Stuart, i. 144.

Versio Syriaca

Palestine

200?

Puts it among Canonical Books

Hippolytus(2)(3)

Italy

230, d.

Is said not to quote it, but quotes thrice.

Ante-Nicene Fathers

Tertullian(3)

Africa

240, d.

Ascribes to Barnabas, and speaks of it as Apostolic in doctrine

Delitzch

Cyprian(3)

Africa

243-258

Does not quote, and speaks of Epistles to Seven Churches

Ante-Nicene Fathers, p. 30; Westcott

Clement

Alexandria

220,(1) d.

Says Paul wrote it in Hebrew

Westcott, 311; Wordsworth, 365.

Origen

Alexandria

253, d.

Says Paul gave the thoughts, and quotes it as his.

Wordsworth, 237; Stuart, i. 127.

Dionysius

Alexandria

247

Ascribes it to Paul

Westcott 310.

Gregory Thaumat.

Caesarea

212-270

Ascribes it to Paul

Cardinal Mai; Wordsworth.

Council of Antioch

Antioch

269

Ascribes it to Paul

Routh, i. 298.

Archelaus

Mexopotamia

270

Quotes it twice.

Routh i. 127, 149.

Peter, Bp.

Alexandria

300

Ascribes it to Paul

Routh, i. 35.

Alexander

Alexandria

313

Ascribes it to Paul

Lardner, i. 302.

Council of Nice

Nice

325

Ascribes it to Paul

Wordsworth, Intr. 365.

Methodius

Lycia

311

Quotes it

Westcott, 339.

Gregory Nazianzen

Nyssa

332

Ascribes it to Paul

Wordsworth, p. (23).

Eusebius

Caesarea

340

Discusses the whole question, and ascribes it to Paul

Wordsworth, 364; Delitz 10.

Chrysostom

347-412

Ascribes it to Paul

Westcott, 485.

Council of Laodicea

Landicea

363

Ascribes it to Paul

Westcott, p. 483

Victorinus(3)

Africa

386

Speaks of Eps. to Seven Churches

Routh, i. 455.

Council of Carthage

Africa

396

Ascribes it to Paul

Cave, Hist. Lit. 368; Wordsworth (33); Westcott, 483.

Cyril

Jerusalem

349

Ascribes it to Paul

Westcott, 491.

Jerome

Palestine and Rome

345-420

Ascribes it to Paul: notes the Latin feeling

Wordsworth, 30, 31; Delitzch, 12.

Damascus

Rome

366

Ascribes it to Paul

Wordsworth (38).

Epiphanius

Constantia

367

Ascribes it to Paul

Wordsworth, p. 16.

Hilary

Poictiers

350-368

Ascribes it to Paul

Westcott; Wordsworth, Intro. 368.

Lucifer

Cagliari

370

Ascribes it to Paul

Westcott, 404.

Basil

Caesarea

371

Ascribes it to Paul

Westcott, 397.

Athanasius

Alexandria

373

Ascribes it to Paul

Lardner, ii. 400, Hebrews 2:9; Cramer’s Catena

Ambrose

Milan

374

Ascribes it to Paul

Lardner, iii. 330, I Davidson.

Amphilochius

Iconium

380

Ascribes it to Paul

Wordsworth, p. (22).

Philastrius(2)

Brescia

380

Ascribes it to Paul

Wordsworth, p. (20).

Theodoret

Cyrus

393

Ascribes it to Paul

Wordsworth, Intro. 364.

Theodore

Cilicia

374

Ascribes it to Paul

Westcott, 393.

Augustine

Hippo

395

With some doubt, ascribes it to Paul

Wordsworth, p. (34).

Ephrem

Palestine

307

Ascribes it to Paul

Lardner, ii. 482.

Innocent

Rome

402

Ascribes it to Paul

Westcott, 512.

Sahidic Version

Egypt

4th Cent.

Includes the Epistle

MSS. Alex Vat.

4th, 5th, 6th Centuries

Hebrews is included among the Epistles of Paul

Tischendorf, N.T. 1858, p. 555-

Sinaitic Ephr.

4th, 5th, 6th Centuries

Hebrews is included among the Epistles of Paul

Tischendorf, N.T. 1858, p. 555-

Coislin (F.)

4th, 5th, 6th Centuries

Hebrews is included among the Epistles of Paul

Tischendorf, N.T. 1858, p. 555-

Canones Apostolici

Uncertain

Ascribes it to Paul

Words Canon, 85 p. (36).

Ruffinus

Sicily

320-410

Ascribes it to Paul

Words p. (19); West. 510.

EXTERNAL TESTIMONY.

English readers may be glad to have a few books named which they will find specially helpful:—GOUGE’S (W.) Commentary on the Epistle, being the substance of thirty years’ Wednesday’s lectures (two vols. fol. 1655), is still held in high esteem; OWEN’S (Dr. J.) Exposition of the Hebrews (in four vols. folio, 1668-74) is full of elaborate, doctrinal, and experimental comments; MACLEAN’S (A.) Paraphrase and Commentary on the Epistle is very judicious and excellent, and deserves to be better known; BROWN’S (Dr. John) Exposition is rich in evangelical and practical comment, though less critically accurate than is usual in his expositions; for the argument, and for pithy, striking suggestion, BENGEL’S Gnomon will never be consulted without advantage; BLEEK and DELITZSCH are very helpful for verbal criticism, and the last for doctrinal exposition; THOLUCK and EBRARD and STUART are each helpful in all departments; ALFORD is on this Epistle largely indebted to Delitzsch, and is generally good; for Rabbinical learning, the English reader may turn with profit to Owen and Lightfoot and Gill; as the scholar may turn to Wetstein, and Schoetgenius and Kuinoel.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Hebrews:4 Overview". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/hebrews-0.html. 1879-90.

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