Q&A: Authorship of Hebrews

Authorship of Hebrews

Who wrote the Book of Hebrews?

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Answer

The question of who wrote the book of Hebrews has been debated from the very earliest days of the church. In the Eastern empire, especially in Alexandria, Clement of Alexandria, and then his student, Origen, were aware of traditions that Paul wrote Hebrews, that Luke may have written Hebrews. But Origen, in the early third century, probably said the truest thing that anyone can say, and that is, "As to who actually wrote the book, God alone knows the truth." Other theories were that Barnabas wrote Hebrews. That was held by Tertullian. Much later, in the Reformation period, Martin Luther suggested that Apollos wrote Hebrews, but there's no tradition of that in the early centuries of the church. We really don't know. Calvin, aware of those early traditions, weighed in on the question of Pauline authorship, saying he just could not imagine that Paul would group himself among those who heard the gospel through the other apostles rather than through direct revelation from Christ, as Paul so clearly claims in his epistles. So, Calvin said 2:1-4, for his mind, were pretty conclusive against Pauline authorship. But we really don't know.

Answer by Dr. Dennis E. Johnson

Dr. Dennis E. Johnson is Academic Dean and Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in California.