Q&A: What Hebrews Tells Us About its Author

What Hebrews Tells Us About its Author

What kinds of things can we learn about the author of Hebrews from the contents of his letter?

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Answer

Well, even though we don't know for sure who the author of Hebrews is, we can learn quite a bit about him from the letter itself. First of all, we think it's a "him" because there's a masculine participle that's used later in the letter, which would identify a male as the author. Secondly, the author seems to be someone from the Pauline school, someone that knows Paul. We know this for a couple reasons. First, he refers to Timothy in the letter and is aware of Timothy's circumstances, and we know that Timothy was a close companion of Paul. Secondly, the author refers to the Pauline triad of "faith, hope and love" at a very critical juncture in the letter of Hebrews. In 10:22-25, he talks about pursing faith and growing in hope and pursuing love in a very deliberate manner which is reminiscent of Paul's own thought on those three as important virtues.

Another thing that we can learn about the author is that he knows rhetoric very well. He's very persuasive in his presentation, and part of his presentation is exegeting Scripture. So, he knows Jewish scripture very well and employs exegetical techniques that a good Jewish male who had been to school would have learned how to use. Also throughout the letter of Hebrews, there's a repeated use of a Jewish exegetical technique called the qol wahomer argument form, which basically is an argument that is made on the basis if something is true of a lesser case, then it's true of a greater case. And this kind of reasoning runs throughout the book of Hebrews at critical points. For example, if under the old covenant people were punished because of their sins, how much more will we expect judgment if we disobey the word of the gospel, the word that comes that through the Son of God, Jesus the High Priest.

Answer by Dr. Fredrick Long

Dr. Frederick Long is Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary.