by Henry Alford
THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS
1. THE most proper motto to prefix to this section would be that saying of Origen (in Euseb. H. E. vi. 25)—
2. For these latter words represent the state of our knowledge at this day. There is a certain amount of evidence, both external, from tradition, and internal, from approximation in some points to his acknowledged Epistles, which points to St. Paul as its author. But when we come to examine the former of these, it will be seen that the tradition gives way beneath us in point of authenticity and trustworthiness; and as we search into the latter, the points of similarity are overborne by a far greater number of indications of divergence, and of incompatibility, both in style and matter, with the hypothesis of the Pauline authorship.
3. There is one circumstance which, though this is the most notable instance of it, is not unfamiliar to the unbiassed conductor of enquiries into the difficulties of Holy Scripture; viz. that, in modern times at least, most has been taken for granted by those who knew least about the matter, and the strongest assertions always made by men who have never searched into, or have been unable to appreciate, the evidence. Genuine research has led in almost every instance, to a modified holding, or to an entire rejection, of the Pauline hypothesis.
4. It will be my purpose, in the following paragraphs, to deal (following the steps of many who have gone before me, and more especially of Bleek) with the various hypotheses in order, as to both their external and internal evidence. It will be impossible in citing the external evidence, to keep these hypotheses entirely distinct: that which is cited as against one will frequently be for another which is not under treatment, and must be referred back to on reaching that one.
5. As preliminary then to all such specific considerations, we will enquire first into the external and traditional ground, then into that which is internal, arising from the Epistle itself, of the supposition that ST. PAUL was the Author and Writer, or the Author without being the Writer, of the Epistle.
6. Some (e. g. Spanheim, Gerhard, Calov., Wittich, Carpzov, Bengel, Baumgarten, Semler, Storr, al., and more recently Mr. Forster, Apostolical Authority of the Epistle to the Hebrews, pp. 625 ff.) think that they see an allusion to our Epistle in 2 Peter 3:15-16. But to this there are several objections (see Bleek, Einleitung, § 21); among which the principal is, that no passages can be pointed out in our Epistle answering to the description there given. This point has not been much pressed, even by those who have raised it; being doubtless felt to be too insecure to build any safe conclusion upon(2).
7. The same may be said of the idea that our Epistle is alluded to by St. James, ch. James 2:24-25. Hug (Einleit. 4th edn. pt. ii. pp. 442 f.), following Storr (Opusc. Acad. ii. p. 376, Bl.), supposes that the citation of Rahab as justified by works is directly polemical, and aimed at Hebrews 11:31. But as Bleek well remarks, even were we to concede the polemical character of the citation, why need Hebrews 11:31 be fixed on as its especial point of attack? Was it not more than probable, that the followers of St. Paul would have adduced this, among other examples, in their oral teaching?
8. We come then to the first undoubted allusions to the Epistle; which occur in the Ep. of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians, dating before the conclusion of the first century. Clement is well acquainted with the Epistles of St. Paul: he quotes by name 1 Cor. (c. 47, p. 305, ed. Migne, see Prolegg. to Vol. II. ch. iii. § i. 2 α); he closely imitates Romans 1:29-32 (c. 35, pp. 277 f.); he frequently alludes to other passages (see Lardner, Credibility, &c. vol. ii. pp. 34–39; some of whose instances are doubtful). But of no Epistle does he make such large and constant use, as of this to the Hebrews: cf. Lardner, ib. pp. 39–42(3); and this is testified by Eusebius, H. E. iii. 38:—
and by Jerome, Catal. Script. Eccl., vol. ii. p. 853:—
“Scripsit ex persona Romanæ Ecclesiæ ad Eccl. Corinthiorum valde utilem Epistolam, quæ et in nonnullis locis publice legitur, quæ mihi videtur characteri Epistolæ quæ sub Pauli nomine ad Hebræos fertur, convenire. Sed et multis de eadem Epistola non solum sensibus sed juxta verborum quoque ordinem abutitur. Omnino grandis in utraque similitudo est.”
9. Now some have argued from this (e. g. Sykes, Cramer, Storr; not Hug, see his edn. 4, pt. ii. p. 411) that as Clement thus reproduces passages of this as well as of other Epistles confessedly canonical, he must have held this to be canonical, and if he, then the Roman church. in whose name he writes; and if canonical, then written by St. Paul, But Bleek well observes, that this whole argument is built on an unhistorical assumption respecting the Canon of the N. T., which was certainly not settled in Clement’s time; and that, in fact, his use of this Epistle proves no more than that it was well known and exceedingly valued by him. It is a weighty testimony for the Epistle, but says nothing as to its Author(5).
10. The first notices in any way touching the question of the authorship meet us after the middle of the second century. And it is remarkable enough, that from these notices we must gather, that at that early date there were the same various views respecting it, in the main, which now prevail; the same doubt whether St. Paul was the author, or some other Teacher of the apostolic age; and if some other, then what part St. Paul had, or whether any, in influencing his argument or dictating his matter.
11. The earliest of these testimonies is that of PANTÆNUS, the chief of the catechetical school in Alexandria about the middle of the second century. There is a passage preserved to us by Eusebius (H. E. vi. 14) from the Hypotyposeis of Clement of Alexandria, in which the latter says—
12. There can be no doubt that by ὁ μακάριος πρεσβύτερος here, Clement means Pantænus. Eusebius (H. E. Romans 1:11; vi. 13) tells us of Clement, ἐν αἷς συνέταξεν ὑποτυπώσεσιν ὡς ἂν διδασκάλου τοῦ πανταίνου μέμνηται: and in the latter place he adds, ἐκδοχάς τε αὐτοῦ γραφῶν καὶ παραδόσεις ἐκτιθέμενος.
13. Nor can there be any doubt, from these words, that Pantænus believed the Epistle to be the work of St. Paul. But as Bleek observes, we have no data to enable us to range this testimony in its right place as regards the controversy. Being totally unacquainted with the context in which it occurs, we cannot say whether it represents an opinion of Pantænus’s own, or a general persuasion; whether it is adduced polemically, or merely as solving the problem of the anonymousness of the Epistle for those who already believed St. Paul to be the Author. Nothing can well be more foolish, and beside the purpose, than the reason which it renders for this anonymousness: are we to reckon the assumption of the Pauline authorship in it as a subjectivity of the same mind as devised the other? For aught that this testimony itself says it may have been so: we can only then estimate it rightly, when we regard it as one of a class, betokening something like consensus on the matter in question.
14. And such a consensus we certainly seem to be able to trace in the writers of the Alexandrian school. CLEMENT himself, both in his works which have come down to us, and in the fragments of his lost works preserved by Eusebius, frequently and expressly cites the Epistle as the work of St. Paul. Nay, his testimony goes further than this. In a well-known passage of Eusebius (H. E. vi. 14) he cites from the Hypotyposeis as follows:—
καὶ τὴν πρὸς ἑβραίους δὲ ἐπιστολὴν παύλου μὲν εἶναι φησί, γεγράφθαι δὲ ἑβραίοις ἑβραϊκῇ φωνῇ, λουκᾶν δὲ φιλοτίμως αὐτὴν μεθερμηνεύσαντα ἐκδοῦναι τοῖς ἕλλησιν. ὅθεν τὸν αὐτὸν χρῶτα εὑρίσκεσθαι κατὰ τὴν ἑρμηνείαν ταύτης τε τῆς ἐπιστολῆς καὶ τῶν πράξεων. μὴ προγεγράφθαι δὲ τὸ παῦλος ἀπόστολος, εἰκότως· ἐβραίοις γάρ φησιν ἐπιστέλλων πρόληψιν εἰληφόσι κατʼ αὐτοῦ καὶ ὑποπτεύουσιν αὐτόν, συνετῶς πάνυ οὐκ ἐν ἀρχῇ ἀπέστρεψεν αὐτοὺς τὸ ὄνομα θείς.
15. Valuable as the above passage is, it fails to point out to us definitively the ground and the extent of the opinion which it expresses. The citations from the Epistle throughout Clement’s writings shew us, that his persuasion respecting its having been put into Greek by St. Luke, did not prevent him from every where citing the Greek as the words of St. Paul; either expressly naming him, or indicating him under the words ὁ ( θεῖος) ἀπόστολος. See Strom. ii. [2 (8), 4 (12), 22 (136)] pp. 433, 435, 501, P.; iv. [17 (103–105), 20 (128)] pp. 608 f., 621; v. [10 (63)] p. 683; vi. [8 (62)] p. 771. But whether the opinion was derived from tradition, or from his own critical research, there is nothing here to inform us. The reference to the similarity of diction to that in the Acts seems rather to point to the latter source. Nor again can we say whether he is representing (1) a general opinion, prevalent as transmitted in the Alexandrian church, or (2) one confined to himself, or (3) one which had spread through the teaching of Pantænus his master. This last is hardly probable, seeing that he gives for the anonymousness of the Epistle a far more sensible reason than that which he immediately after quotes from Pantænus. We can derive from the passage nothing but a surmise respecting the view prevalent in Alexandria at the time. And that surmise would lead us to believe that St. Paul was not there held to have been the writer of the Epistle in its present Greek form, however faithfully that present form may represent his original meaning.
16. We now come to the testimony of ORIGEN from which, without being able to solve the above historical question, we gain considerably more light on the subject of the tradition respecting the Epistle.
17. In his own ordinary practice in his writings, Origen cites the Epistle as the work of St. Paul, using much the same terms as Clement in so doing: viz. either ὁ παῦλος, or ὁ ἀπόστολος. See e. g. Princip. iii. 1. 10, vol. i. p. 117; iv. 13, p. 171; iv. 22, p. 183: De Oratione, c. 27, pp. 245, 249 f.: Exhort. ad Martyr. 44, p. 303; and many other passages in Bleek, al. In the Homilies on Joshua, vii. c. 1, vol. ii. p. 412, he distinctly ascribes fourteen Epistles to St. Paul. But in what sense he makes these citations, we must ascertain by his own more accurately expressed opinion on the matter; from which it will appear, how unfairly Origen has been claimed by superficial arguers for the Pauline authorship, as on their side.
18. Before however coming to this, it may be well to adduce two or three passages in which he indicates the diversity of opinion which prevailed. In his Comm. on Matthew 23:27 (vol. iii. p. 848), speaking of the slaying of the Prophets, he cites, as from St. Paul, 1 Thess. 1:14, 15, and Hebrews 11:37-38; and then adds, “Sed pone aliquem abdicare Epistolam ad Hebræos quasi non Pauli, necnon et secretum ( ἀπόκρυφον) adjicere Isaiæ, sed quid faciet in sermones Stephani” &c. And then after a caution against apocryphal works foisted in by the Jews (among which he clearly does not mean to include our Epistle, cf. his Comm. on Matthew 13:57, p. 465(7)), he adds, “Tamen si quis suscipit ad Hebræos quasi Epistolam Pauli” &c.
Again, in his Ep. to Africanus, c. 9, vol. i. p. 19, in the course of removing the doubt of his friend as to the authenticity of the history of Susanna, he mentions the traditional death of Isaiah, which he says is ὑπὸ τῆς πρὸς ἑβραίους ἐπιστολῆς μαρτυρούμενα, ἐν οὐδενὶ τῶν φανερῶν (canonical) βιβλίων γεγραμμένα (meaning, not that the Epistle was not one of these books, but that the account of Isaiah’s martyrdom is not in any canonical book of the O. T.). Then he adds—
ἀλλʼ εἰκός τινα θλιβόμενον ἀπὸ τῆς εἰς ταῦτα ἀποδείξεως συγχρήσασθαι τῷ βουλήματι τῶν ἀθετούντων τὴν ἐπιστολὴν ὡς οὐ παύλῳ γεγραμμένην· πρὸς ὃν ἄλλων λόγων κατʼ ἰδίαν χρῄζομεν εἰς ἀπόδειξιν τοῦ εἶναι παύλου τὴν ἐπιστολήν.
It would have been of some interest to know who these τινες were, and whether their ἀθέτησις arose from the absence of ancient tradition as to the Pauline authorship, or from critical conclusions of their own, arrived at from study of the Epistle itself. But of this Origen says nothing.
19. The principal testimony of his own is contained in two fragments of his lost Homilies on this Epistle, preserved by Eusebius, H. E. vi. 25:—
περὶ τῆς πρὸς ἑβραίους ἐπιστολῆς ἐν ταῖς εἰς αὐτὴν ὁμιλίαις ταῦτα διαλαμβάνει·
“ ὅτι ὁ χαρακτὴρ τῆς λέξεως τῆς πρὸς ἑβραίους ἐπιγεγραμμένης ἐπιστολῆς οὐκ ἔχει τὸ ἐν λόγῳ ἰδιωτικὸν τοῦ ἀποστόλου, ὁμολογήσαντος ἑαυτὸν ἰδιώτην εἶναι τῷ λόγῳ, τουτέστι τῇ φράσει, ἀλλὰ ἐστὶν ἡ ἐπιστολὴ συνθέσει τῆς λέξεως ἑλληνικωτέρα, πᾶς ὁ ἐπιστάμενος κρίνειν φράσεων διαφορὰς ὁμολογήσαι ἄν. πάλιν τε αὖ ὅτι τὰ νοήματα τῆς ἐπιστολῆς θαυμάσιά ἐστι, καὶ οὐ δεύτερα τῶν ἀποστολικῶν ὁμολογουμένων γραμμάτων, καὶ τοῦτο ἂν συμφήσαι εἶναι ἀληθὲς πᾶς ὁ προσέχων τῇ ἀναγνώσει τῇ ἀποστολικῇ.”
τούτοις μεθ ʼ ἕτερα ἐπιφέρει λέγων ·
“ ἐγὼ δὲ ἀποφαινόμενος εἴποιμ ʼ ἂν ὅτι τὰ μὲν νοήματα τοῦ ἀποστόλου ἐστίν, ἡ δὲ φράσις καὶ ἡ σύνθεσις ἀπομνημονεύσαντός τινος τὰ ἀποστολικά, καὶ ὡσπερεὶ σχολιογραφήσαντος τὰ εἰρημένα ὑπὸ τοῦ διδασκάλου. εἴ τις οὖν ἐκκλησία ἔχει ταύτην τὴν ἐπιστολὴν ὡς παύλου, αὕτη εὐδοκιμείτω καὶ ἐπὶ τούτῳ · οὐ γὰρ εἰκῆ οἱ ἀρχαῖοι ἄνδρες ὡς παύλου αὐτὴν παραδεδώκασι. τίς δὲ ὁ γράψας τὴν ἐπιστολήν, τὸ μὲν ἀληθὲς θεὸς οἶδεν · ἡ δὲ εἰς ἡμᾶς φθάσασα ἱστορία ὑπό τινων μὲν λεγόντων ὅτι κλήμης ὁ γενόμενος ἐπίσκοπος ῥωμαίων ἔγραψε τὴν ἐπιστολήν, ὑπό τινων δὲ ὅτι λουκᾶς ὁ γράψας τὸ εὐαγγέλιον καὶ τὰς πράξεις .”
We learn from these remarkable fragments several interesting particulars: among which may be mentioned—
First, Origen’s own opinion as to the Epistle, deduced from grounds which he regards as being clear to all who are on the one hand accustomed to judge of style, and, on the other, versed in the apostolic writings; viz. that its Author in its present form is not St. Paul, but some one who has embodied in his own style and form the thoughts of that Apostle. One thing however he leaves in uncertainty; whether we are to regard such disciple of St. Paul, or the Apostle himself, as speaking in the first person throughout the Epistle.
20. Secondly, the fact that some churches, or church, regarded the Epistle as the work of St. Paul. But here again the expression is somewhat vague. The εἴ τις ἐκκλησία may be an uncertain indication of several churches, or it may be a pointed allusion to one. If the latter, which from αὕτη following is the more probable, the church would probably be the Alexandrian, by what we have already seen of the testimonies of Pantænus and Clement. The words αὕτη εὐδοκιμείτω καὶ ἐπὶ τούτῳ must be taken as meaning, “I have no wish to deprive it of this its peculiar advantage:” and the ground, οὐ γὰρ εἰκῆ οἱ ἀρχαῖοι ἄνδρες ὡς παύλου αὐτὴν παραδεδώκασι, must be, his own conviction, that the νοήματα of the Epistle proceeded originally from the Apostle. Who the ἀρχαῖοι ἄνδρες were, it is impossible for us to say. Possibly, if we confine our view to one church, no more than Pantænus and Clement, and their disciples. One thing is very plain; that they cannot have been men whose παράδοσις satisfied Origen himself, or he would not have spoken as he has. Be they who they might, one thing is plain; that their παράδοσις is spoken of by him as οὐκ εἰκῆ, not as resting on external matter of fact, but as finding justification in the internal character of the Epistle; and that it did not extend to the fact of St. Paul having written the Epistle, but only to its being, in some sense, his.
21. Thirdly, that the authorship of the Epistle was regarded by Origen as utterly unknown. Thus only can we interpret the words, τίς δὲ ὁ γράψας τὴν ἐπιστολήν, τὸ ἀληθὲς θεὸς οἶδεν. For that it is in vain to attempt to understand the word ὁ γράψας of the mere scribe, in the sense of Romans 16:22 (as Olshausen and Delitzsch), is shewn by its use in the same sentence, λουκᾶς ὁ γράψας τὸ εὐαγγέλιον καὶ τὰς πράξεις(8).
22. This passage further testifies respecting external tradition, as it had come down to Origen himself. He speaks of ἡ εἰς ἡμᾶς φθάσασα ἱστορία: clearly meaning these words of historical tradition, and thereby by implication excluding from that category the παράδοσις of the Pauline authorship. And this historical tradition gave two views: one that Clement of Rome was the Writer; the other, that St. Luke was the Writer.
23. And this last circumstance is of importance, as being our only clue out of a difficulty which Bleek has felt, but has not attempted to remove. We find ourselves otherwise in this ambiguity with regard to the origin of one or the other hypothesis. If the Pauline authorship was the original historical tradition, the difficulties presented by the Epistle itself were sure to have called it in doubt, and suggested the other: if on the other hand the name of any disciple of St. Paul was delivered down by historical tradition as the writer, the apostolicity and Pauline character of the thoughts, coupled with the desire to find a great name for an anonymous Epistle, was sure to have produced, and when produced would easily find acceptance for, the idea that St. Paul was the author. But the fact that Origen speaks of ἡ εἰς ἡμᾶς φθάσασα ἱστορία, not as for, but as against the Pauline hypothesis, seems to shew that the former of these alternatives was really the case.
24. As far then as we have at present advanced, we seem to have gathered the following as the probable result, as to the practice and state of opinion in the Alexandrine church:—
(a) That it was customary to speak of and quote from the Epistle as the work of St. Paul.
(b) That this was done by writers of discernment, and familiarity with the apostolic writings, not because they thought the style and actual writing to be St. Paul’s, but as seeing that from the nature of the thoughts and matter, the Epistle was worthy of and characteristic of that Apostle; thus feeling that it was not without reason that those before them had delivered the Epistle down to them as St. Paul’s.
(c) That we no where find trace of historical tradition asserting the Pauline authorship: but on the contrary, we find it expressly quoted on the other side(9).
25. We now pass to other portions of the church: and next, to proconsular Africa. Here we find, in the beginning of the third century, the testimony of TERTULLIAN, expressly ascribing the Epistle to Barnabas. The passage occurs De Pudicitia, c. 20, vol. ii. p. 102, where, when he has shewn from the writings of the Apostles themselves the necessity “de ecclesia eradicandi omne sacrilegium pudicitiæ sine ulla restitutionis mentione,” he proceeds—
“Volo tamen ex redundantia alicujus etiam comitis Apostolorum testimonium superinducere, idoneum confirmandi de proximo jure disciplinam magistrorum. Extat enim et Barnabæ titulus ad Hebræos, adeo satis auctoritatis viri, ut quem Paulus juxta se constituerit in abstinentiæ tenore (1 Corinthians 9:6). Et utique receptior apud ecclesias Epistola Barnabæ illo apocrypho pastore mœchorum (the Pastor of Hermas). Monens itaque discipulos, ‘omissis omnibus initiis’ &c. (citing Hebrews 6:4-8). Hoc qui ab Apostolis didicit et cum Apostolis docuit, nunquam mœcho et fornicatori secundam pœnitentiam promissam ab Apostolis norat.”
26. From the way in which the Epistle is here simply cited as the work of Barnabas, we clearly see that this was no mere opinion of Tertullian’s own, but at all events the accepted view of that portion of the church. He does not hint at any doubt on the matter. But here again we are at a loss, from what source to derive this view. Either, supposing Barnabas really the author, genuine historical tradition may have been its source,—or lacking such tradition, some in the African church may originally have inferred this from the nature of the contents of the Epistle; and the view may subsequently have become general there. One thing however the testimony shews beyond all doubt: that the idea of a Pauline authorship was wholly unknown to Tertullian, and to those for whom he wrote.
27. If it were necessary further to confirm evidence so decisive, we might do so by citing his charge against Marcion, of falsifying the number of the Epistles of St. Paul (Adver. Marc. v. 21, vol. ii. p. 524):—
“Miror tamen, quum ad unum hominem literas factas receperit, quod ad Timotheum duas et unam ad Titum, de ecclesiastico statu compositas, recusaverit. Affectavit, opinor, etiam numerum Epistolarum interpolare.”
Now seeing that Marcion held ten Epistles only of St. Paul, it would appear by combining this with the former testimony, that the Epistle to the Hebrews was not here reckoned among them.
28. Among the witnesses belonging to the end of the second and beginning of the third century, none is of more weight than IRENÆU(10), a Greek of Asia Minor by birth, and Bishop of Lyons in Gaul, and thus representing the testimony of the church in both countries. In his great work against Heresies, he makes frequent use of the Epistles of St. Paul, expressly quoting twelve of them. There is no citation from the Epistle to Philemon, which may well be from its brevity, and its personal character. But no where in this work has he cited or referred to the Epistle to the Hebrews at all, although it would have been exceedingly apposite for his purpose, as against the Gnostics of his time. Eusebius, H. E. v. 26, says—
καὶ ( φέρεται εἰρηναίου) βιβλίον τι διαλέξεων διαφόρων (called by Jerome (Catalog. Script. Eccles., vol. ii. p. 873), “liber variorum tractatuum”), ἐν ᾧ τῆς πρὸς ἑβραίους ἐπιστολῆς καὶ τῆς λεγομένης σοφίας σολομῶντος μνημονεύει, ῥητά τινα ἐξ αὐτῶν παραθέμενος.
From this it would seem that Eusebius was unable to find any citations of the Epistle in other works of Irenæus known to him. And he does not even here say that Irenæus mentioned St. Paul as the author of the Epistle.
29. Indeed we have a testimony which goes to assert that this Father distinctly denied the Pauline authorship. Photius (Bibl. Cod. 232, vol. iii. (Migne) p. 291 b) cites a passage from Stephen Gobar, a tritheist of the sixth century, in which he says ὅτι ἱππόλυτος καὶ εἰρηναῖος τὴν πρὸς ἑβραίους ἐπιστολὴν παύλου οὐκ ἐκείνου εἶναί φασιν. The same is indeed asserted of Hippolytus by Photius himself (Cod. 121, p. 94 a: λέγει δὲ ἄλλα τέ τινα τῆς ἀκριβείας λειπόμενα, καὶ ὅτι ἡ πρὸς ἑβραίους ἐπιστολὴ οὐκ ἐστὶ τοῦ ἀποστόλου παύλου): but it is strange, if Irenæus had asserted it, that Eusebius should have made no mention of the fact, adducing as he does the citation of the Epistle by him. At the same time, Gobar’s language is far too precise to be referred to the mere fact that Irenæus does not cite the Epistle as St. Paul’s, as some have endeavoured to refer it(11): and it is to be remembered, that Eusebius does not pretend to have read or seen all the works of Irenæus then extant: his words are (H. E. v. 25), καὶ τὰ μὲν εἰς ἡμετέραν ἐλθόντα γνῶσιν τῶν εἰρηναίου τοσαῦτα. Bleek puts the alternative well, according as we accept, or do not accept, the assertion of Gobar. If we accept it, it would shew that Irenæus had found some where prevalent the idea that St. Paul was the author; otherwise he would not have taken the pains to contradict such an idea. If we do not accept it as any more than a negative report, meaning that Irenæus no where cites the Epistle as St. Paul’s, then at all events, considering that he constantly cites St. Paul’s Epistles as his, we shall have the presumption, that he neither accepted, nor knew of, any such idea as the Pauline authorship(12).
30. If we now pass to the church of Rome, we find, belonging to the period of which we have been treating, the testimony of the presbyter CAIUS. Of him Eusebius relates (H. E. vi. 20).
These words, μὴ συναριθμήσας ταῖς λοιπαῖς, can lead only to one of two inferences: that Caius, not numbering the Epistle among those of St. Paul, either placed it by itself, or did not mention it at all. In either case, he must be regarded as speaking, not his own private judgment merely, but that of the church to which he belonged, in which, as we further learn, the same judgment yet lingered more than a century after.
31. Another testimony is that of the fragment respecting the canon of the N. T. first published by Muratori, and known by his name, generally ascribed to the end of the second or the beginning of the third century (Routh, Reliq. Sacr. i. pp. 394 ff.). In this fragment it is stated, that St. Paul wrote Epistles to seven churches; and his thirteen Epistles are enumerated, in a peculiar order: but that to the Hebrews is not named, unless it be intended by the second mentioned in the following sentence: “Fertur etiam ad Laudecenses, alia ad Alexandrinos Pauli nomine ficta ad hæresem Marcionis: et alia plura quæ in catholicam ecclesiam recipi non potest: fel enim cum melle misceri non congruit.” But this is very improbable: though some have imagined an allusion in the last clause to the Vatican LXX text of the passage cited Hebrews 12:15.
32. As far then as we have advanced, the following seems to be our result. No where, except in the Alexandrine church, does there seem to have existed any idea that the Epistle was St. Paul’s. Throughout the whole Western church, it is either left unenumerated among his writings, or expressly excluded from them. That it is wholly futile to attempt, as Hug and Storr have done, to refer this to any influence of the Montanist or Marcionite disputes, has been well and simply shewn by Bleek. The idea of the catholic teachers of the whole Western church disparaging and excluding an apostolical book, because one passage of it (ch. Hebrews 6:4-6) seemed to favour the tenets of their adversaries, is too preposterous ever to have been suggested, except in the interests of a desperate cause: and the fact that Tertullian, himself a Montanist, cites Hebrews 6:4-6 on his side, but without ascribing it to St. Paul, is decisive against the notion that his adversaries so ascribed it at any time: for he would have been sure in that case to have charged them with their desertion of such an opinion(14).
33. And even in the Alexandrine church itself, as we have seen, there is no reliable trace of a historical tradition of the Pauline authorship. Every expression which seems to imply this, such e. g. as that muchadduced one of Origen, οὐ γὰρ εἰκῆ ὡς παύλου αὐτὴν οἱ ἀρχαῖοι ἄνδρες παραδεδώκασι; when fairly examined, gives way under us. The traditional account ( ἡ εἰς ἡμᾶς φθάσασα ἱστορία), though inconsistent with itself, was entirely the other way(15).
34. The fair account then of opinion in the latter end of the second century seems to be this: that there was then, as now, great uncertainty regarding the authorship of our Epistle; that the general cast of the thoughts was recognized as Pauline, and that οἱ ἀρχαῖοι ἄνδρες, whatever that may imply, had not unreasonably ( οὐκ εἰκῆ) handed it down as St. Paul’s: but on what grounds, we are totally unable to say: for ecclesiastical tradition does not bear them out. In proconsular Africa it was ascribed to Barnabas: by the tradition which had come down to Origen and his fellows, to Luke or Clement; while the Western church, even when represented by Irenæus, who was brought up in Asia, and even including the church of Rome the capital of the world, where all reports on such matters were sure to be ventilated, seems to have been altogether without any positive tradition or opinion on the matter.
35. Before advancing with the history, which has now become of secondary importance to us, I will state to what, in my own view, this result points, as regarding the formation of our own conclusion on the matter.
36. It simply leaves us, unfettered by any overpowering judgment of antiquity, to examine the Epistle for ourselves, and form our own opinion from its contents. Even were we to admit the opinion of a Pauline authorship to the rank of an early tradition, which it does not appear in the strict sense to have been, we should then have ancient ecclesiastical tradition broken into various lines, and inconsistent with itself: not requiring our assent to one or other of its numerous variations. Those who are prepared to follow it, and it alone, will have to make up their minds whether they will attach themselves to the catechetical school of Alexandria, and if so, whether to that portion of it (if such portion existed, which is not proved) which regarded the Epistle as purely and simply the work of St. Paul, or to that which, with Clement, regarded the present Epistle as a Greek version by St. Luke of a Hebrew original by St. Paul,—or to the West African church, which regarded it as written by Barnabas; or to the ἱστορία mentioned by Origen, in its Clementine or its Lucan branch; or to the negative view of the churches of Europe.
37. For to one or other of these courses, and on these grounds, would the intelligent follower of tradition be confined. It would be in vain for him to allege, as a motive for his opinion, the subsequent universal prevalence of one or other of these views, unless he could at the same time shew that that prevalence was owing to the overpowering force of an authentic tradition, some where or other existing. That the whole church of Rome believed the Pauline authorship in subsequent centuries, would be no compensation for the total absence of such belief at that time when, if there were any such authentic tradition any where, it must have prevailed in that church. That the same was uniformly asserted and acted on by the writers of the Alexandrine church in later ages, does not tend to throw any light on the vague uncertainty which hangs over the first appearances of the opinion, wherever it is spoken of and its grounds alleged by such earlier teachers as Clement and Origen.
38. And these considerations are much strengthened, when we take into account what strong reasons there were why the opinion of the Pauline authorship, when once advanced by men of authority in teaching, should gain general acceptance. We see this tendency already prevailing in the writings of Clement of Alexandria and Origen; who, notwithstanding the sentences which have been quoted from them, yet throughout their writings acquiesce for the most part in a conventional habit of citing the Epistle as the work of St. Paul. And as time passed on, a belief which so conveniently set at rest all doubts about an important anonymous canonical writing, spread (and all the more as the character of the times became less and less critical and enquiring) over the whole extent of the church.
39. It will be well to interpose two cautions, especially for young students. It has been very much the practice with the maintainers of the Pauline authorship to deal largely in sweeping assertions regarding early ecclesiastical tradition. They have not unfrequently alleged on their side the habit of citation of Clement and Origen, as shewing their belief respecting the Epistle, uncorrected by those passages which shew what that belief really was. Let not students then be borne away by these strong assertions, but let them carefully and intelligently examine for themselves.
40. Our second caution is one regarding the intelligent use of ancient testimony. Hitherto, we have been endeavouring to trace up to their first origin the beliefs respecting the Epistle. Whence did they first arise? Where do we find them prevailing in the earliest times, and there, why? Now this is the only method of enquiry on the subject which is or can be decisive, as far as external evidence is concerned. In following down the stream of time, materials for this enquiry soon fail us. And it has been the practice of some of the fautors of the Pauline authorship, to amass long ‘catenæ’ of names and testimonies, from later ages, of men who simply swelled the ranks of conformity to the opinion when it once became prevalent. Let students distrust all such accumulations as evidence. They are valuable as shewing the growth and prevalence of the opinion, but in no other light. No accretions to the river in its course can alter the situation and character of the fountain-head.
41. We proceed now with the history of opinion, which, as before remarked, is become very much the history of the spread of the belief of a Pauline authorship.
At Alexandria, as we might have expected, the conventional habit of quoting the Epistle as St. Paul’s gradually prevailed over critical suspicion and early tradition.
42. DIONYSIUS, president of the catechetical school, and afterwards Bishop of Alexandria, in the middle of the third century, cites Hebrews 10:34(16) expressly as the words of St. Paul. PETER, bishop (cir. 300), who suffered under Diocletian, cites Hebrews 11:32 as St. Paul’s ( τοῦ ἀποστόλου(17)).
HIERAX or Hieracas, of Leontopolis, who lived about the same time, and who, although the founder of a heresy, appears not to have severed himself from the church, is repeatedly adduced by Epiphanius as citing the Epistle as τοῦ ἀποστόλου: and the same Epiphanius says of the Melchisedekites (see on ch. Hebrews 7:3), that they attempted to support their view ἐκ τῆς πρὸς ἑβραίους τοῦ παύλου ἐπιστολῆς.
ALEXANDER, bishop cir. 312, in Theodoret, H. E. i. 5, says in an Epistle to Alexander, Bishop of Constantinople—
σύμφωνα γοῦν τούτοις βοᾷ καὶ ὁ μεγαλοφωνότατος παῦλος, φάσκων περὶ αὐτοῦ ὃν ἔθηκε κληρονόμον πάντων, διʼ οὗ καὶ τοὺς αἰῶνας ἐποίησεν.
ANTONIUS, the celebrated promoter of the monastic life in E gypt, in one of his seven epistles to various monasteries(18), which remain to us in a Latin version, says—
“De quibus Paulus ait, Quia non perceperunt repromissiones propter nos (Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:39-40).”
43. But the most weighty witness for the view of the Alexandrine church at this time is ATHANASIUS, in the middle of the fourth century. In his Epistola Festalis, vol. ii. p. 767, he enumerates τὰ κανονιζόμενα κ. παραδοθέντα πιστευθέντα τε θεῖα εἶναι βιβλία, among which he names fourteen Epistles of St. Paul, and among them our Epistle, without alluding to any doubt on the subject. And in his other writings passim he cites the Epistle as St. Paul’s (see many examples in Bleek, p. 136).
44. Belonging to nearly the same time in the same church are the anonymous SYNOPSIS Sacræ Scripturæ,—ORSIESIUS or Oriesis, whose Doctrina de Institutione Monachorum remains in a Latin version by Jerome,—MARCUS DIADOCHUS, whose discourse against the Arians we still possess,—in all of which the Epistle is either expressly or implicitly cited as the work of St. Paul.
45. It would be to little purpose to multiply names, in a church which by this time had universally and undoubtingly received the Pauline authorship. Bleek has adduced with copious citations, DIDYMUS (the teacher of Jerome and Rufinus),—MARCUS EREMITA (cir. 400),—THEOPHILUS of ALEXANDRIA (cir. 400),—ISIDORE of PELUSIUM (+ 450),—CYRIL of ALEXANDRIA (+ 444): concerning which last it is to be observed, that though Nestorius had adduced passages from the Epistle on his side, as being St. Paul’s, Cyril, in refuting them, does not make the slightest reference to the formerly existing doubt as to the authorship.
46. And so it continued in this church in subsequent times: the only remarkable exception being found in EUTHALIUS (cir. 460), who, though he regards the Epistle as of Pauline origin, and reckons fourteen Epistles of St. Paul, yet adduces the old doubts concerning it, and believes it to be a translation made by Clement of Rome from a Hebrew original by the Apostle. The passage, which is a very interesting one, will be found in Migne’s Patr. Gr. vol. 85, p. 776, and is cited at length by Bleek. I give an abridgment of it:—
ἡ δὲ πρὸς ἑβραίους ἐπ. δοκεῖ μὲν οὐκ εἶναι παύλου διά τε τὸν χαρακτῆρα, κ. τὸ μὴ προγράφειν, ὡς ἐν ἁπάσαις ταῖς ἐπιστολαῖς, καὶ τὸ λέγειν (ch. Hebrews 2:3-4) … τοῦ μὲν οὖν ἠλλάχθαι τὸν χαρακτῆρα τῆς ἐπ., φανερὰ ἡ αἰτία· πρὸς γὰρ ἑβραίους τῇ σφῶν διαλέκτῳ γραφεῖσα ὕστερον μεθερμηνευθῆναι λέγεται, ὡς μέν τινες, ὑπὸ λουκᾶ, ὡς δὲ οἱ πολλοί, ὑπὸ κλήμεντος· τοῦ γὰρ καὶ σώζει τὸν χαρακτῆρα.
Then he gives the usual reason for the want of a superscription, viz. that St. Paul was not the Apostle of the Jews, but of the Gentiles, citing Galatians 2:9-10; and proceeds, μαρτυρεῖται δὲ καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἑξῆς ἡ ἐπιστολὴ εἶναι παύλου, τῷ γράφειν—ch. Hebrews 10:34, in which the reading τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου is his point: καὶ ἐκ τοῦ λέγειν—ch. Hebrews 13:18-19; καὶ ἐκ τοῦ λέγειν—ch. Hebrews 13:23, in which he interprets ἀπολελυμένον, sent forth εἰς διακονίαν, which he says no one could do but St. Paul: and then, τοῦτον τάχιον προσδοκῶν, τὴν ἰδίαν αὐτοῖς, ὡς ἔθος πολλαχοῦ, σὺν αὐτῷ παρουσίαν ἐπαγγέλλεται.
This testimony is valuable, as shewing that in the midst of the prevalence of the now accepted opinion, a spirit of intelligent criticism still survived.
47. If we now turn to other parts of the Eastern church, we find the same acceptation of the Pauline authorship from the middle of the third century onwards. Bleek gives citations from METHODIUS, Bishop of Olympus in Lycia, cir. 290 (which seem to me more decisive as to recognition of the Epistle than he thinks them): from PAUL of SAMOSATA, Bishop of Antioch in 264: from JACOB, Bishop of NISIBIS, cir. 325: from EPHREM SYRUS (+ 378).
48. A separate notice is required of the testimony of EUSEBIUS of Cæsarea, the well-known church historian. In very many passages throughout his works, and more especially in his commentary on the Psalms, he cites the Epistle, and always as the work of St. Paul, or of ὁ ἀπόστολος, or ὁ ἅγιος ἀπ., or ὁ θεῖος ἀπ. In his Eccl. History also he reckons it among the Epistles of St. Paul; e. g. H. E. ii. 17, διηγήσεις … τῶν πάλαι προφητῶν ἑρμηνευτικάς, ὁποίας ἥ τε πρὸς ἑβραίους καὶ ἄλλαι πλείους τοῦ παύλου περιέχουσιν ἐπιστολαί. In the chapter (iii. 25) which treats especially of the canon of the N. T., while there is no express mention of the Epistle to the Hebrews, it is evident, by comparing his words there and in another place, that he reckons it as confessedly one of the writings of St. Paul. For there he says, speaking of those N. T. books which are ὁμολογούμενα, “received by all”—
καὶ δὲ τακτέον ἐν πρώτοις τὴν ἁγίαν τῶν εὐαγγελίων τετρακτύν· οἷς ἕπεται ἡ τῶν πράξεων τῶν ἀποστόλων γραφή· μετὰ δὲ ταύτην τὰς παύλου καταλεκτέον γραφὰς κ. τ. λ.
And in iii. 3, τοῦ δὲ παύλου πρόδηλοι και σαφεῖς αἱ δεκατέσσαρες.
Still it would appear that Eusebius himself believed the Epistle to have been written in Hebrew by St. Paul and translated. In H. E. iii. 38, a passage part of which has been above cited (par. 8), he says—
ἑβραίοις γὰρ διὰ τῆς πατρίου γλώττης ἐγγραφῶς ὡμιληκότος τοῦ παύλου, οἱ μὲν τὸν εὐαγγελιστὴν λουκᾶν, οἱ δὲ τὸν κλήμεντα τοῦτον αὐτὸν ἑρμηνεῦσαι λέγουσι τὴν γραφήν· ὃ καὶ μᾶλλον εἴη ἂν ἀληθές, τῷ τὸν ὅμοιον τῆς φράσεως χαρακτῆρα τήν τε τοῦ κλήμεντος ἐπιστολήν, καὶ τὴν πρὸς ἑβραίους ἀποσώζειν, καὶ τῷ μὴ πόῤῥω τὰ ἐν ἑκατέροις τοῖς συγγράμμασι νοήματα καθεστάναι.
If such was his view, however, he was hardly consistent with himself: for in his comm. on Psalms 2:7, vol. v. p. 88, he seems to assume that the Epistle was written in Greek by the Apostle himself:—
ὁ μέν τοίγε ἑβραῖος ἐλέγετο κύριον εἶναι τῆς λέξεως ἔτεκον, ὅπερ καὶ ἀκύλας πεποίηκεν· ὁ δὲ ἀπόστολος νομομαθὴς ὑπάρχων ἐν τῇ πρὸς ἑβραίους (i. 5) τῇ τῶν οʹ ἐχρήσατο:
an inconsistency which betrays either carelessness, or change of opinion.
49. Marks of the same inconsistency further appear in another place (H. E. vi. 13), where he numbers our Epistle among the ἀντιλεγόμεναι γραφαί, saying of the writings of Clement of Alexandria, κέχρηται δʼ ἐν αὐτοῖς. καὶ ταῖς ἀπὸ τῶν ἀντιλεγομένων γραφῶν μαρτυρίαις, τῆς τε λεγομένης σολομῶντος σοφίας, καὶ τῆς ἰησοῦ τοῦ σιράχ, καὶ τῆς πρὸς ἑβραίους ἐπιστολῆς, τῆς τε βαρνάβα καὶ κλήμεντος καὶ ἰούδα. It has been suggested that the inconsistency may be removed by accepting this last as a mere matter of fact, meaning, as in H. E. iii. 3, ὅτι γε μήν τινες ἠθετήκασι τὴν πρὸς ἑβραίους πρὸς τῆς ῥωμαίων ἐκκλησίας ὡς μὴ παύλου οὖσαν αὐτὴν ἀντιλέγεσθαι φήσαντες, οὐ δίκαιον ἀγνοεῖν: cf. also H. E. vi. 20, end.
50. As we pass downwards, I shall mention but cursorily those writers who uniformly quote the Epistle as St. Paul’s; pausing only to notice any trace of a different opinion, or any testimony worth express citation. The full testimonies will be found in Bleek, and most of them in Lardner, vol. ii.
51. Of the class first mentioned in the foregoing paragraph, are Cyril of Jerusalem (+ 386); Gregory of Nazianzum (+ 389); Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis in Cyprus (+ 402); Basil the Great, Bishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia (+ 379); his brother Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa (cir. 370); Titus of Bostra (+ cir. 371); Chrysostom (+ 407); Theodore of Mopsuestia (+ cir. 428); Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus in Cilicia (+ 457).
52. In the works of this latter Father we find it asserted that the Epistle was written from Rome. Also we find the Arians charged with setting it aside as spurious:—
θαυμαστὸν οὐδὲν δρῶσιν οἱ τὴν ἀρειανικὴν εἰσδεξάμενοι νόσον κατὰ τῶν ἀποστολικῶν λυττῶντες γραμμάτων καὶ τὴν πρὸς ἑβραίους ἐπιστολὴν τῶν λοιπῶν ἀποκρίνοντες καὶ νόθον ταύτην ἀποκαλοῦντες (Proœm. ad Hebr. init. vol. iii. p. 541).
The same accusation is found—in the Dialogue on the Trinity, ascribed sometimes to Athanasius, sometimes to Theodoret: where the orthodox interlocutor makes the rather startling assertion, ἀφʼ οὗ κατηγγέλη τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ χριστοῦ παύλου εἶναι πεπίστευται ἡ ἐπιστολή:—and in Epiphanius, Hær. lxix. 14, p. 738, where at the same time he charges them with misusing Hebrews 3:2, τῷ ποιήσαντι αὐτόν, for the purposes of their error. (See the passages at length in Bleek.) From this, and from the Epistle of Arius to Alexander, where he professes his faith and cites Hebrews 1:2 (Epiph. ubi supra, § 7, p. 733), it is plain that the Arians did not reject the Epistle altogether. Nay, they hardly denied its Pauline authenticity; for in that case we should have Athanasius in his polemics against them, and Alexander, defending this authenticity, whereas they always take it for granted. Moreover in the disputation of Augustine with the Arian Gothic Bishop Maximinus, we find the latter twice quoting the Epistle as St. Paul’s(19). So that whatever may have been done by individual Arians, it is clear that as a party they did not reject either the Epistle itself or its Pauline authorship.
53. Correspondent with the spread of the acceptance of the Epistle as St. Paul’s, was its reception, in the MSS., into the number of his Epistles. It was so received in the character of a recent accession, variously ranked: either at the end of those addressed to churches, or at the end of all. Epiphanius (Hær. xlii. vol. i. p. 373), at the end of the fourth century, says, speaking of the Epistle to Philemon—
οὕτως γὰρ παρὰ τῷ ΄αρκίωνι κεῖται (viz. ninth, between Col. and Phil.) παρὰ δὲ τῷ ἀποστόλῳ ἐσχάτη κεῖται· ἐν τισὶ δὲ ἀντιγράφοις τρισκαιδεκάτη πρὸ τῆς πρὸς ἑβραίους τεσσαρεσκαιδεκάτης τέτακται· ἄλλα δὲ ἀντίγραφα ἔχει τὴν πρὸς ἑβραίους δεκάτην, πρὸ τῶν δύο τῶν πρὸς τιμόθεον, καὶ τίτον καὶ φιλήμονα.
The Epistle holds the place first here mentioned, viz. last of all, in the Iambi ad Seleucum, supposed by some to be the work of Gregory of Nazianzum, but more probably that of his contemporary Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium (see Bleek, p. 156, note 187): but the latter place in the arrangement of Athanasius (Bl. p. 135, note 143), of the Synopsis Sacræ Scripturæ (wrongly ascribed to Athanasius, but belonging to the Alexandrian school, Bl. p. 137. 7), of the Council of Laodicæa (Bl. p. 154): of Theodoret and Euthalius: of our uncial MSS. A, B, C, H, (20), and cursive 16, 17, 22, 23, 46, 47, 57, 71, 73, al.; and of the Memphitic version.
54. The motives for these differing arrangements were obvious. Some placed it last, as an addition to the Epistles of St. Paul; others, to give it more its proper rank, put it before the Epistles to individuals. But had it been originally among St. Paul’s Epistles, there can be no doubt that it would have taken its place according to its importance, which is the principle of arrangement of the undoubted Pauline Epistles in the canon.
55. A trace of a peculiar arrangement is found in B, the Vatican Codex. In that MS., all the fourteen Epistles of St. Paul form one continued whole, numbered throughout by sections. But the Epistle to the Hebrews, which, as has been observed, stands after 2 Thess., does not correspond, in the numeration of its sections, with its present place in the order. It evidently once followed the Epistle to the Galatians, that Epistle ending with § 59, Heb. beginning with § 60,—and Eph. (the latter part of Heb. being deficient) with § 70. This would seem to shew that the MS. from which (21) was copied, or at all events which was at some previous time copied for its text, had Heb. after Gal.; which would indicate a still stronger persuasion that it was St. Paul’s(22). In the Sahidic version only does it appear in that place which it would naturally hold according to its importance: i. e. between 2 Cor. and Gal. But from the fact of no existing Greek manuscript having it in this place, we must ascribe the phænomenon to the caprice of the framer of the version.
56. Returning to the Western church, we find that it was some time after the beginning of the third century before the Epistle was generally recognized as St. Paul’s; and that even when this became the case, it was not equally used and cited with the rest of his Epistles.
About the middle of the third century flourished in the church of Rome NOVATIAN, the author of the celebrated schism which went by his name. We have works of his(23) full of Scripture citations, and on subjects which would have been admirably elucidated by this Epistle. Yet no where has he quoted or alluded to it. That he would not have had any feeling adverse to it, is pretty clear; for no passage in the N. T. could give such apparent countenance to his severer view “de lapsis,” as Hebrews 6:4-6. Yet, judging by the Tractatus ad Novatianum Hæreticum(24), he never cited it for his purpose. Nor does that treatise, full as it is of Scripture citations, adduce one from our Epistle.
57. Contemporary with Novatian, we have, in the West African church, CYPRIAN, Bishop of Carthage (+ 258). In all his writings, he never cites, or even alludes to, our Epistle; which he would certainly have done for the same reason as Novatian would have done it, had he recognized it as the work of St. Paul; the whole of whose Epistles he cites, with the exception of that to Philemon. In all probability, Tertullian’s view (“Da magistrum”) was also his, that it was written by Barnabas (see above, par. 25).
58. A little later we have a witness from another part of the Latin church, VICTORINUS, Bishop of Pettau on the Drave, in Pannonia (+ cir. 303). He asserts in the most explicit manner, both in his fragment De Fabrica Mundi and in his commentary on the Apocalypse, that St. Paul wrote only to seven churches; and in the latter he enumerates the churches:—
We may add to this, that the Epistle to the Hebrews is never quoted in this Commentary.
59. About the middle of the fourth century, we find the practice beginning in the Latin church, of quoting the Epistle as St. Paul’s: but at first only here and there, and not as if the opinion were the prevailing one. Bleek traces the adoption of this view by the Latins to their closer intercourse with the Greeks about this time owing to the Arian controversy, which occasioned several of the Western theologians to spend some time in the East, where the Epistle was cited, at first by both parties, and always by the Catholics, as undoubtedly St. Paul’s. Add to this the study of the Greek exegetical writers, and especially of Origen, and we shall have adduced enough reasons to account for the gradual spread of the idea of the Pauline authorship over the West.
60. A fitting example of both these influences is found in HILARY, Bishop of Poitiers (+ 368), who seems to have been the first who thus regarded the Epistle. He quotes it indeed but seldom, in comparison with other parts of Scripture, and especially with St. Paul’s Epistles; but when he does, it is decisively and without doubt, as the work of the Apostle. These citations are found in his treatise De Trinitate, which he wrote in his exile in Phrygia, and in his Commentary on the Psalms, “in quo opere,” says Jerome (Catal. 100, vol. ii. p. 933), “imitatus Origenem, nonnulla etiam de suo addidit.”
61. LUCIFER of Cagliari (+ 371) also cites the Epistle as St. Paul’s, but once only, De non conveniendo cum Hær. c. 11, pp. 782 f. (Migne): though he frequently cites Scripture, and especially St. Paul’s Epistles. And it is observable of him, that he was exiled by the Emperor Constantius, and spent some time in Palestine and the Thebaid.
62. Fabius Marius VICTORINUS belongs to these same times. He was born in Africa, and passed the greater part of his days as a rhetorician at Rome: being baptized as a Christian late in life. Most of his remaining works are against the Arians: and in them he cites our Epistle two or three times, and as St. Paul’s; still, it has been observed (by Bleek), not with such emphasis as the other books of Scripture, but more as a mere passing reference. He is said by Jerome (Catal. 101, p. 935) to have written “Commentarii in Apostolum,” i. e. on the Pauline Epistles: yet it would appear, from what Cassiodorus implies in the sixth century(26), that up to his time no Latin writer had commented on the Epistle, that he did not include it among them.
63. Other Latin writers there are of this time, who make no use of our Epistle, though it would have well served their purpose in their writings. Such are—PHŒBADIUS, Bishop of Agen, in S.W. Gaul (+ aft. 392); ZENO(27), Bishop of Verona (cir. 360); PACIANUS(28), Bishop of Barcelona (cir. 370); HILARY the Deacon, generally supposed to be the author of the Comm. on St. Paul’s Epistles found among the works of Ambrose (cir. 370)(29); OPTATUS, Bishop of Milevi (cir. 364–375), who wrote De Schismate Donatistarum. All these quote frequently from other parts of the N. T. and from St. Paul’s Epistles.
64. On the other hand, AMBROSE, Bishop of Milan (+ 397), combating strongly the Arians of his time, and making diligent use of the writings of Origen, Didymus, and Basil, often uses and quotes the Epistle, and always as the work of St. Paul. (See copious citations in Bleek.) In one celebrated passage in his treatise De Pœnitentia (ii. 2 (6, 7), vol. iii. p. 417), where he is impugning the allegation by the Novatians of Hebrews 6:4 ff., he defends the passage from misunderstanding; confesses its apparent inconsistency with St. Paul’s conduct to the sinner at Corinth; does not think of questioning the apostolical authority of the passage, but asks, “Numquid Paulus adversus factum suum prædicare potuit?” and gives two solutions of the apparent discrepancy.
65. We have an important testimony concerning our Epistle from PHILASTRIUS, Bishop of Brescia (+ cir. 387), who while he cites the Epistle as unhesitatingly as his friend Ambrose, in his treatise De Hæresibus (§ 89, Migne, Patr. Lat. vol. xii. p. 1200), says—
Then he proceeds to give orthodox explanations of both places.
He has also another remarkable passage, Hær. 88, p. 1199:—
“Propter quod statutum est ab apostolis et eorum successoribus, non aliud legi debere in ecclesia catholica, nisi legem et prophetas et evangelia et actus apostolorum et Pauli tredecim epistolas, et septem alias, Petri duas, Joannis tres, Judæ unam et unam Jacobi, quæ septem actibus apostolorum conjunctæ sunt. Scripturæ autem absconditæ, id est, apocrypha, etsi legi debent morum causa a perfectis, non ab omnibus legi debent, quia non intelligentes multa addiderunt et tulerunt quæ voluerunt hæretici.”
These testimonies of Philastrius are curious, and hardly consistent with one another, nor with his own usual practice of citing the Epistle as St. Paul’s. They seem to lead us to an inference agreeing with that to which our previous enquiries led, viz. that though some controversial writers in the Latin church at the end of the fourth century were beginning to cite the Epistle as St. Paul’s, it was not at that time so recognized in that church generally, nor publicly read: or if read, but seldom.
66. This reluctance on the part of the Latin church to receive and recognize the Epistle was doubtless continued and increased by the use made of some passages in it by the Novatian schismatics. We have seen already, in par. 64, that Ambrose adduces this fact: and Bleek brings several instances of it from other writers. But as time advanced, the intrinsic value of the Epistle itself, and the example of writers of the Greek church, gained for it almost universal reception, and reputation of Pauline authorship in the West. Thus GAUDENTIUS, successor of Philastrius in the see of Brescia in 387, to which he was summoned from travelling in Cappadocia,—and FAUSTINUS, who followed in this, as in other things, the practice of Lucifer of Cagliari,—cite the Epistle without hesitation as St. Paul’s. So in general does RUFINUS (+ cir. 411), having spent a long time in Egypt, and being familiar with the writings of Origen. He gives “Pauli apostoli epistolæ quatuordecim” among the writings “quæ patres intra canonem concluserunt(31):” and in his writings generally cites the Epistle as Pauline without hesitation(32).
67. I shall close this historical sketch with a fuller notice of the important testimonies of JEROME and AUGUSTINE, and a brief summary of those who followed them.
68. JEROME (+ 420) spent a great portion of his life in Egypt, Palestine, and other parts of the East; was well acquainted with the writings of Origen; and personally knew such men as Gregory of Nazianzum, Didymus, Epiphanius, and the other Greek theologians of his time. It might therefore have been expected, that he would, as we have seen other Latin writers do, have adopted the Greek practice, and have unhesitatingly cited and spoken of this Epistle as the work of St. Paul. This however is by no means the case. On the whole his usual practice is, to cite the words of the Epistle, and ascribe them to St. Paul(33): and in his work De Nominibus Hebraicis (vol. iii. pp. 4 ff. ed. Migne), where he interprets the Hebrew words which occur in Scripture, in the order of the books where they are found, he introduces the Epistle as St. Paul’s (p. 113), after 2 Thessalonians.
69. But the exceptions to this practice of unhesitating citation are many and important: and wherever he gives any account of the Epistle, he is far from concealing the doubts which prevailed respecting it. I shall give some of the most remarkable passages.
In the Catalogus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum, chap. 5, under Paulus (vol. ii. pp. 837, 839), he says—
“Scripsit autem novem ad septem ecclesias epistolas, ad Romanos unam, ad Corinthios duas, ad Galatas unam, ad Ephesios unam, ad Philippenses unam, ad Colossenses unam, ad Thessalonicenses duas: præterea ad discipulos suos, Timotheo duas, Tito unam, Philemoni unam. Epistola autem quæ fertur ad Hebræos non ejus creditur propter stili sermonisque distantiam, sed vel Barnabæ juxta Tertullianum, vel Lucæ evangelistæ juxta quosdam, vel Clementis, Romanæ postea ecclesiæ episcopi, quem aiunt sententias Pauli proprio ordinasse et ornasse sermone: vel certe, quia Paulus scribebat ad Hebræos et propter invidiam sui apud eos nominis titulum in principio salutationis amputaverat. Scripserat autem ut Hebræus Hebræis Hebraice, id est suo eloquio disertissime, ut ea quæ eloquenter scripta fuerant in Hebræo eloquentius verterentur in Græcum: et hanc caussam esse, quod a cæteris Pauli epistolis discrepare videatur.”
70. In this passage, while he relates the doubts and hypotheses, his own leaning seems to be, to believe that the fact of St. Paul having written in Hebrew, and having omitted a salutation owing to his unpopularity among the Jews, would be enough to account for the phænomena of the Epistle.
71. But in other places, he gives other reasons for the difficulties of the Epistle and for the doubts respecting it. Thus in his Comm. on Galatians 1:1 (vol. vii. p. 374), he says—
Again, on Isaiah 6:9-10 (vol. iv. p. 97)—
“Pauli quoque idcirco ad Hebræos epistola contradicitur, quod ad Hebræos scribens utatur testimoniis quæ in Hebraicis voluminibus non habentur.”
72. In the prologue to his Comm, on Titus, he severely blames the Marcionites and other heretics for excluding arbitrarily certain Epistles from the number of the Apostolic writings, instancing the Pastoral Epistles and this to the Hebrews. He then proceeds (vol. vii. pp. 685 f.)—
“Et si quidem redderent caussas cur eas apostoli non putarent, tentaremus aliquid respondere et forsitan aliquid satisfacere lectori. Nunc vero cum hæretica auctoritate pronuncient et dicant Illa epistola Pauli est, hæc non est, ea auctoritate refelli se pro veritate intelligant, qua ipsi non erubescant falsa simulare.”
Still that this strong language does not prove him to have been satisfied as to the Pauline authorship, is shewn by two passages in his commentary on this same Epistle to Titus (vol. vii. p. 695):—
“Et hoc diligentius observate, quomodo unius civitatis presbyteros vocans postea eosdem episcopos dixerit. Si quis vult recipere eam epistolam quæ sub nomine Pauli ad Hebræos scripta est, et ibi æqualiter inter plures ecclesiæ cura dividitur. Siquidem ad plebem scribit ‘Parete principibus vestris’ &c. (Hebrews 13:17).”
And (vol. vii. p. 714)—
“Relege ad Hebræos epistolam Pauli, sive cujuscumque alterius eam esse putas, quia jam inter ecclesiasticas est recepta; totum illum catalogum fidei enumera, in quo scriptum est ‘Fide majus sacrificium Abel a Cain obtulit Deo’ &c. (Hebrews 11:4-8).”
And again in his Comm. on Ezekiel 28 (vol. v. p. 335)—
“Et Paulus apostolus loquitur, siquis tamen ad Hebræos epistolam suscipit, ‘Accessistis ad Sion montem’ &c. (Hebrews 12:22).”
And on Ephesians 2 (vol. vii. p. 583), having quoted 1 Cor. he says—
“Nescio quid tale et in alia epistola, si quis tamen eam recipit, prudentibus quibusque lectoribus Paulus subindicat, dicens, ‘Hi omnes testimonium accipientes fidei’ &c. (Hebrews 11:39).”
73. The following expressions regarding the Epistle, testifying to the same doubt, occur in his writings:—
Epistle 73 (125), ad Evangelum (Evagrium), § 4 (vol. i. p. 442), “Epistola ad Hebræos, quam omnes Græci recipiunt, et nonnulli Latinorum:” Comm. on Matthew 26 (vol. vii. p. 212), “Paulus in epistola sua quæ scribitur ad Hebræos, licet de ea multi Latinorum dubitent:” Catal. 59 (vol. ii. p. 899), “sed et apud Romanos usque hodie quasi Pauli apostoli non habetur:” Comm. in Isaiah 6 (vol. iv. p. 91), “quam Latina consuetudo non recipit:” ib. in c. viii. (vol. iv. p. 125), “licet eam Latina consuetudo inter canonicas scripturas non recipiat:” in Zach. Hebrews 8:1-3 (vol. vi. p. 838), “Paulus, si tamen in suscipienda epistola Græcorum auctoritatem Latina lingua non respuit, sacrata oratione disputans ait” &c.
74. A passage requiring more express notice is found in his Epistle to Dardanus, § 3 (vol. i. p. 970), where after citing testimonies from Hebrews 11:12, he proceeds—
“Nec me fugit quod perfidia Judæorum hæc testimonia non suscipiat, quæ utique veteris Testamenti auctoritate firmata sunt. Illud nostris dicendum est, hanc epistolam quæ inscribitur ad Hebræos, non solum ab ecclesiis Orientis, sed ab omnibus retro ecclesiasticis Græci sermonis scriptoribus quasi Pauli apostoli suscipi, licet plerique eam vel Barnabæ vel Clementis arbitrentur: et nihil interesse cujus sit, cum ecclesiastici viri sit, et quotidie ecclesiarum lectione celebretur. Quod si eam Latinorum consuetudo non recipit inter scripturas canonicas, nec Græcorum quidem ecclesiæ Apocalypsin Joannis eadem libertate suscipiunt: et tamen nos utraque suscipimus, nequaquam hujus temporis consuetudinem, sed veterum scriptorum auctoritatem sequentes, qui plerumque utriusque abutuntur testimoniis, non ut interdum de apocryphis facere solent (quippe qui et gentilium literarum raro utantur exemplis) sed quasi canonicis.”
75. There are some points in this important testimony, which seem to want elucidation. Jerome asserts, for example, that by all preceding Greek writers the Epistle had been received as St. Paul’s: and yet immediately after, he says that most (of them, for so only can “plerique” naturally be interpreted) think it to be Barnabas’s or Clement’s(35): and think it to be of no consequence (whose it is), seeing that it is the production of a “vir ecclesiasticus,” and is every day read in the churches. Now though these expressions are not very perspicuous, it is not difficult to see what is meant by them. A general conventional reception (“susceptio”) of the Epistle as St. Paul’s prevailed among the Greeks. To this their writers (without exception according to Jerome: but that is a loose assertion, as the preceding pages will shew) conformed, still in most cases entertaining their own views as to Barnabas or Clement having written the Epistle, and thinking it of little moment, seeing that confessedly it was the work of a “vir ecclesiasticus,” and was stamped with the authority of public reading in the churches. The expression “vir ecclesiasticus” seems to be in contrast to “homo hæreticus(36).”
76. The evidence here however on one point is clear enough: and shews that in Jerome’s day, i. e. in the beginning of the fifth century, the custom of the Latins did not receive the Epistle to the Hebrews among the canonical Scriptures.
77. Jerome’s own view, as far as it can be gathered from this passage, is, that while he wishes to look on the Epistle as decidedly canonical, he does not venture to say who the author was, and believes the question to be immaterial: for we cannot but suppose him, from the very form of the clause “et nihil interesse” &c., to be giving to this view his own approbation.
78. And consistent with this are many citations of the Epistle scattered up and down among his works: as, e. g.—
Comm. on Isaiah 57, vol. iv. p. 677—
“Mons … de quo ad Hebræos loquitur qui scribit epistolam” &c.
Comm. on Amos 8, vol. vi. p. 339—
“Quod quicunque est ille qui ad Hebræos scripsit epistolam disserens ait” &c.
Comm. on Jeremiah 31:31, vol. iv. p. 1072—
“Hoc testimonio apostolus Paulus, sive quis alius scripsit epistolam, usus est ad Hebræos” &c.(37)
(37) See also on Isaiah 57. vol. iv. p. 700; l. ib. p. 583; xxiv. ib. p. 338; viii. ib. p. 125; vii. p. 108; &c.
And intimations conveyed in other places, besides that above cited from the Catalogus (par. 69):—
Ep. 53 (103), ad Paulinum, § 8, vol. i. p. 280—
“Paulus apostolus ad septem scribit ecclesias (octava enim ad Hebræos a plerisque extra numerum ponitur)” &c.
Comm. on Zachar. vol. vi. p. 854 f.—
“Et in Esaia legimus, ‘Apprehendent septem mulieres’ &c. Quæigitur septem ibi mulieres appellantur, id est ecclesiæ, quarum numerus et in Paulo apostolo continetur (ad septem enim scribit ecclesias, ad Romanos, ad Corinthios, ad Galatas, ad Ephesios, ad Philippenses, ad Colossenses, ad Thessalonicenses), et in Joannis apocalypsi in medio septem candelabrarum, id est, ecclesiarum, Ephesiorum &c., varietate et auro purissimo Dominus cinctus ingreditur: nunc in propheta Zacharia decem nominantur” &c.
79. And as Bleek has very satisfactorily shewn, no difference in time can be established between these testimonies of his, which should prove that he once doubted the Pauline authorship and was afterwards convinced, or vice versâ. For passages inconsistent with one another occur in one and the same work, e. g. in the Comm. on Isaiah, in which, notwithstanding the testimonies above adduced from it, he repeatedly cites the Epistle as the work of St. Paul(38). And these Commentaries on the Prophets were among his later works.
80. We may safely then gather from that which has been said, what Jerome’s view on the whole really was. He commonly, and when not speaking with deliberation, followed the usual practice of citing the Epistle as St. Paul’s. But he very frequently guards himself by an expression of uncertainty: and sometimes distinctly states the doubt which prevailed on the subject. That his own mind was not clear on it, is plain from many of the above-cited passages. In fact, though quoted on the side of the Pauline authorship, the testimony of Jerome is quite as much against as in favour of it. Even in his time, after so long a prevalence of the conventional habit of quoting it as St. Paul’s, he feels himself constrained, in a great proportion of the cases where he cites it, to cast doubt on the opinion, that it was written by the Apostle.
81. The testimony of AUGUSTINE (+ 430) is, on the whole, of the same kind. It was his lot to take part in several synods in which the canon of the N. T. came into question. And it is observable, thatwhile in two of these, one held at Hippo in 393, when he was yet a presbyter, the other the 3rd council of Carthage in 398, we read of—
“Pauli apostoli epistolæ tredecim: ejusdem ad Hebræos una,”—clearly shewing that it was not without some difficulty that the Epistle gained a place among the writings of the Apostle,—in the 5th council of Carthage, held in 419, where Augustine also took a part, we read—
“epistolarum Pauli apostoli numero quatuordecim.”
So that during this interval of 25 years, men had become more accustomed to hear of the Epistle as St. Paul’s, and at last admitted it into the number of his writings without any distinction(39).
82. We might hence have supposed that Augustine, who was not only present at these councils, but took a leading part in framing their canons, would be found citing the Epistle every where without doubt as St. Paul’s. But this is by no means the case. Bleek has diligently collected many passages in which the unsettled state of his own opinion on the question appears. In one remarkable passage, De Doctrina Christiana, ii. 8 (12), vol. iii. pt. i. p. 40 (Migne), where he says of his reader—
“In canonicis autem scripturis ecclesiarum catholicarum quamplurium auctoritatem sequatur, inter quas sane illæ sint quæ apostolicas sedes habere et epistolas accipere meruerunt. Tenebit igitur hunc modum in scripturis canonicis, ut eas quæ ab omnibus accipiuntur ecclesiis catholicis, præponat eis quas quidam non accipiunt: in eis vero quæ non accipiuntur ab omnibus, præponat eas quas plures gravioresque accipiunt, eis, quas pauciores minorisque auctoritatis ecclesiæ tenent,”—
having said this, he proceeds to enumerate the canonical books of the O. and N. T. (“totus autem canon scripturarum, in quo istam considerationem versandam dicimus, his libris continetur” &c.), giving fourteen Epistles of St. Paul, among which he places the Epistle to the Hebrews last: which, as we have seen, was not its usual place at that time.
83. Plainer testimonies of the same uncertainty are found in other parts of his writings: e. g. De Peccatorum Meritis et Remissione, i. c. 27 (50), vol. x. pt. i. p. 137—
“Ad Hebræos quoque epistola, quamquam nonnullis incerta sit, tamen quoniam legi, quosdam … eam quibusdam opinionibus suis testem adhibere voluisse, magisque me movet auctoritas ecclesiarum orientalium, quæ hanc quoque in canonicis habent, quanta pro nobis testimonia contineat, advertendum est.”
Inchoata Expositio Epistolæ ad Romanos (written in A.D. 394), § 11, vol. iii. pt. ii. p. 2095—
“Excepta epistola quam ad Hebræos scripsit, ubi principium salutatorium de industria dicitur omisisse, ne Judæi, qui adversus eum pugnaciter oblatrabant, nomine ejus offensi vel inimico animo legerent, vel omnino legere non curarent quod ad corum salutem scripserat: unde nonnulli eam in canonem scripturarum recipere timuerunt. Sed quoquo modo se habeat ista quæstio, excepta hac epistola, omnes quæ nulla dubitante ecclesia Pauli apostoli esse firmantur, talem continent salutationem” &c.
De Civitate Dei, xvi. 22, vol. vii. p. 500—
“In epistola quæ inscribitur ad Hebræos, quam plures apostoli Pauli esse dicunt, quidam vero negant.”
De Fide, Spe et Caritate (A.D. 421), c. 8 (2), vol. vi. p. 235—
“In epistola ad Hebr., qua teste usi sunt illustres catholicæ regulæ defensores.”
84. Sometimes indeed he cites our Epistle simply with the formulæ “Audisti exhortantem apostolum,” Serm. Leviticus 5, vol. v. p. 376: “Audi quod dicit apostolus,” Serm. lxxxii. 8 (11), p. 511: see also Serm. clix. 1, p. 868; clxxvii. 11, p. 960: Expos. Verb. ad Rom. § 19, vol. iii. pt. ii. p. 2102: sometimes with such words as these, “quos reprehendit scriptura dicens,” Enarr. in Psalms 130 § 12, vol. iv. pt. ii. p. 1712: “Aperuit Scriptura, ubi legitur,” Contra Maxim. Ar. ii. 25, vol. viii. p. 803. But much more frequently he cites either merely “epistola ad Hebræos” (In Psalms 118 Serm. xvii. § 2, vol. iv. pt. ii.: De Trinit. iii. 11 (22), vol. viii. ib. xiii. 1 (3), xiv. 1; Serm. lxxxii. § 15), or “epistola quæ scribitur ad Hebræos” (In Joan. Tract. lxxix. § 1, vol. iii. pt. ii.), or “epistoia quæ est ad Hebræos” (In Joan. Tract. xcv. § 2: Contra Serm. Arian. c. 5, vol. viii: De Trinit. xii. 13 (20); xv. 19 (34)), or “epistola quæ inscribitur ad Hebræos” (De Genesi ad Litt. x. 9, vol. x. pt. i.: In Psalms 118 Serm. xvi. c. 6: De Fide et Opp. c. 11 (17), vol. vi.: De Civit. Dei x. 5). It is certainly a legitimate inference from these modes of quotation, that they arose from a feeling of uncertainty as to the authorship. It would be inconceivable, as Bleek remarks, that Augustine should have used the words “in epistola quæ inscribitur ad Romanos, ad Galatas” &c.
85. It is of some interest to trace the change of view in the Romish church, which seems to have taken place about this time. In the synod of Hippo, before referred to (par. 81), and in the 3rd council of Carthage (ib.), it was determined to consult “the church over the sea” for confirmation of the canon of Scripture as then settled: “de confirmando isto canone transmarina ecclesia consulatur.” And what was meant by this, is more fully explained by a similar resolution of the 5th council of Carthage (ib.): “Hoc etiam fratri et consacerdoti nostro, sancto Bonifacio urbis Romanæ episcopo, vel aliis earum partium episcopis pro confirmando isto canone innotescat, quia et a patribus ita accepimus legendum.” Whether these references were ever made, we have no means of knowing: but we possess a document of the same age, which seems to shew that, had they been made, they would have resulted in the confirmation of the canonical place of the Epistle. Pope Innocent I. in his letter to Exsuperius, Bishop of Toulouse (A.D. 405 ff.), enumerates the books of the N. T. thus: “Evangeliorum libri quatuor, Pauli apostoli epistolæ quatuordecim, epistolæ Joannis tres” &c.(40)
(40) Galland. Biblioth. viii. pp. 563 ff. Bl. p. 230.
86. Yet it seems not to have been the practice of the writers of the Roman church at this time to cite the Epistle frequently or authoritatively. That there are no references to it in Innocent’s own writings, and in those of his successors Zosimus (417–419) and Bonifacius (419–422), may be accidental: but it can hardly be so, that we have none in those of his predecessor Siricius, who often quotes Scripture: in those of Cælestine I. (422–432), some of whose Epistles are regarding the Nestorian controversy: in the genuine writings of Leo(41) the Great (440–461).
87. Bleek adduces several contemporary Latin writers in other parts of the world, who make no mention of nor citation from our Epistle. Such are Orosius (cir. 415), Marius Mercator, Evagrius (cir. 430), Sedulius. Paulinus of Nola (+ 431) cites it once, and as St. Paul’s(42). After the middle of the fifth century, the practice became more usual and familiar. We find it in Salvianus (+ aft. 495), Vigilius of Tapsus (cir. 484), Victor of Vite, Fulgentius of Ruspe (+ 533), his scholar Fulgentius Ferrandus (+ cir. 550), Facundus of Hermiane (cir. 548), &c.: and in the list of canonical books drawn up in 494 by a council of seventy bishops under Pope Gelasius, where we have “epistolæ Pauli apostoli numero quatuordecim, ad Romanos epistola una, … ad Philemonem epistola una, ad Hebræos epistola una.”
88. In the middle of the sixth century we find Pope Vigilius, who took a conspicuous part in the controversy on the three chapters, in his answer to Theodore of Mopsuestia, impugning the reading χωρὶς θεοῦ instead of χάριτι θεοῦ, Hebrews 2:9 (see in loc. in the Commentary), without in any way calling in question the authority or authenticity of the Epistle.
89. To the same time (cir. 556) belongs the work of Cassiodorus, De Divinis Lectionibus; who, while he speaks of various Latin commentaries on the Pauline and Catholic Epistles, knew apparently of none on that to the Hebrews, and consequently got Mutianus to make the Latin version of Chrysostom’s homilies on it, “ne epistolarum ordo continuus indecoro termino subito rumperetur.”
90. Gregory the Great (590–605) treats our Epistle simply as St. Paul’s, and in his Moral. in Job xxxv. 20 (48), p. 1166 vol. ii. (Migne), lays a stress on the circumstance that the Church received as the Apostle’s fourteen canonical Epistles only, though fifteen were written by him: the fifteenth being probably the Epistle to the Laodiceans.
91. The testimonies of Isidore of Hispala (Seville: + 636) are remarkable. Citing the Epistle usually without further remark as St. Paul’s, and stating the number of his Epistles as fourteen, he yet makes the number of churches to which the Apostle wrote, seven, and enumerates them, including the Hebrews, not observing that he thus makes them eight (Proœmiorum in O. et N. T. § 92, vol. v. p. 215):—
“Paulus apostolus quatuordecim epistolis prædicationis suæ perstrinxit stylum. Ex quibus aliquas propter typum septiformis ecclesiæ septem scripsit ecclesiis, conservans potius nec excedens modum sacramenti, propter septiformem Sancti Spiritus efficaciam. Scripsit autem ad Romanos, ad Corinthios, ad Galatas, ad Ephesios, ad Philippenses, ad Colossenses, ad Thessalonicenses, ad Hebræos: reliquas vero postmodum singularibus edidit personis, ut rursus ipsum illum septenarium numerum ad sacramentum unitatis converteret.”
Again, Etymol. vi. 2. 44 f., vol. iii. p. 248, in enumerating the writings of St. Paul, he says—
“Paulus apostolus suas scripsit epistolas quatuordecim, ex quibus novem septem ecclesiis scripsit, reliquas discipulis suis Timotheo, Tito, et Philemoni. Ad Hebræos autem epistola plerisque Latinis ejus esse incerta est propter dissonantiam sermonis, eandemque alii Barnabam conscripsisse, alii a Clemente scriptam fuisse suspicantur.”
And almost in the same words, De Officiis i. 12. 11, vol. vi. p. 376.
92. After this time the assertors of an independent opinion, or even reporters of the former view of the Latin church, are no longer found, being overborne by the now prevalent view of the Pauline authorship. Thomas Aquinas indeed (+ 1274) mentions the former doubts, with a view to answer them: and gives reasons for no superscription or address appearing in the Epistle.
And thus matters remained in the church of Rome until the begining of the sixteenth century: the view of the Pauline authorship universally obtaining: and indeed all enquiry into the criticism of the Scriptures being lulled to rest.
93. But before we enter on the remaining portion of our historical enquiry, it will be well to gather the evidence furnished by the Græco-Latin MSS., as we have above (par. 53) that by the Greek MSS.
The Codex Claromontanus (D, of cent. vi.: see Proleg. to Vol. II. ch. v § i.) contains indeed the Epistle, but in a later hand: and after the Epistle to Philemon we have an enumeration of the lines in the O. and N. T., which does not contain the Epistle to the Hebrews: thus shewing, whatever account is to be given of it, that the Epistle did not originally form part of the Codex.
The Codex Boernerianus (G, cent. ix.: see ibid.) does not contain our Epistle.
The Codex Augiensis (F, of cent. ix.: see ibid.) does not contain the Epistle in Greek, but in Latin only.
These evidences are the more remarkable, as they all belong to a period when the Pauline authorship had long become the generally received opinion in the Latin church.
94. We now pass on at once to the opening of the sixteenth century: at which time of the revival of independent thought, not only among those who became connected with the Reformation, but also among Roman-Catholic writers themselves, we find the ancient doubts concerning the Pauline authorship revived, and new life and reality infused into them.
95. Bleek mentions first among these LUDOVICUS VIVES, the Spanish theologian, who in his Commentary on Aug(43) de Civit. Dei, on the words “in epistola quæ inscribitur ad Hebræos,” says, “Significat, incertum esse auctorem:” and on the words, “in epistola quæ inscribitur ad Hebræos, quam plures apostoli esse dicunt, quidam vero negant,” says, “Hieronymus, Origenes, Augustinus et alii veterum de hoc ambigunt: ante ætatem Hieronymi a Latinis ea epistola recepta non erat inter sacras.”
96. A more remarkable testimony is that of CARDINAL CAJETAN, as cited by Erasmus(44)—
“Thomas Bionensis Cardinalis Cajetanus adhuc vivens, cum alibi, tum in libello contra Lutheranos de Eucharistia, sine Pauli nomine citat hanc epistolam: uno loco subjicit, quod juxta genuinum sensum tractat auctor illius epistolæ. Si non dubitabat de auctore, quid opus erat illa periphrasi?”
Bellarmine (De Controvers. Fid. Christ. p. 54) cites Cajetan as objecting to the idea that St. Paul wrote the Epistle, ch. Hebrews 9:4, as inconsistent with 1 Kings 8:9, and saying, “Igitur aut mentitur Paulus, aut hujus epistolæ auctor non est(45).”
97. ERASMUS gives it as his decided opinion that the Epistle is not written by St. Paul: and alleges at length the principal arguments on which it is founded. The passage is a long one, but very important, and I shall quote it entire. It occurs at the end of his Annotations on the Epistle, Opp. vol. vi. foll. 1023–4:—
“Optime Lector, nihilo minoris velim esse tibi hanc epistolam quod a multis dubitatum sit Pauli esset an alterius. Certe cujuscunque est, multis nominibus digna est quæ legatur a Christianis. Et ut a stilo Pauli, quod ad phrasin attinet, longe lateque discrepat: ita ad spiritum ac pectus Paulinum vehementer accedit. Verum ut non potest doceri certis argumentis cujus sit, quod nullius habeat inscriptionem: ita compluribus indiciis colligi potest, si non certis, certe probabilibus, ab alio quopiam quam a Paulo scriptam fuisse. Primum quod sola omnium Pauli nomen non præferat, tametsi non me fugit, hoc utcunque dilui ab Hieronymo, sed ita ut magis retundat adversarii telum, quam adstruat quod defendit: ‘Si ideo,’ inquit, ‘Pauli non est quod Pauli nomen non præferat, igitur nullius erit, cum nullius præferat titulum.’ Sed audi ex adverso. Si ideo quisque liber hujus aut illius credi debet quod ejus titulum præferat, igitur et evangelium Petri apocryphum Petro tribui debet, quod præferat Petri nomen. Deinde quod tot annis, nempe usque ad ætatem Hieronymi, non recepta fuerit a Latinis, quemadmodum ipse testatur in epistolis suis. Ad hanc conjecturam facit quod Ambrosius, cum omnes Paulinas epistolas sit interpretatus, in hanc unam nihil scripserit. Præterea quod enarrans Esaiæ caput 6. recensuit Hieronymus, quod in hoc quædam testimonia citentur ex veteri Testamento, quæ non reperiantur in Hebræorum voluminibus, de quibus nonnihil attigimus hujus epistolæ cap. 12. Adde huc, quod quum nemo Scripturarum testimonia disertius aptiusque citet quam Paulus, tamen locum ex Psalmo 8 refert in contrarium sensum, illinc colligens Christum dejectum, quum totus Psalmus attollat dignitatem humanæ conditionis. Ut ne dicam interim, inesse locos aliquot, qui quorundam Hæreticorum dogmatibus prima fronte patrocinari videantur: velut illa, quod velum separans sancta sanctorum interpretatur cœlum: ac multo magis, quod palam adimere videatur spem a baptismo relapsis in peccatum, idque non uno in loco: cum Paulus et eum receperit in communionem sanctorum, qui dormierat cum uxore patris. Adde huc, quod divus Hieronymus cum aliis aliquot locis ita citat hujus epistolæ testimonia, ut de auctore videatur ambigere: tunc edisserens caput Hieremiæ 31., ‘Hoc,’ inquit, ‘testimonio Paulus apostolus, sive quis alius scripsit epistolam, usus est ad Hebræos.’ Rursum in Esaiæ capite 1., ‘Dicitur et in epistola quæ fertur ad Hebræos: aliisque locis pene innumeris, alicubi negans referre cujus sit, modo salubria doceat. Item capite 6., ‘Unde et Paulus apostolus in epistola ad Hebræos, quam Latina consuetudo non recipit.’ Rursus enarrans Esaiæ caput 8. citans hujus epistolæ testimonium dicit, ‘In epistola quæ ad Hebræos inscribitur docet, licet eam Latina consuetudo inter canonicas Scripturas non recipiat.’ Item enarrans Matthæi caput 26., ‘Licet,’ inquit, ‘de ea Latinorum multi dubitent.’ Item in Zachariæ caput 8. citans addit, ‘Si tamen in suscipienda epistola Græcorum auctoritatem Latina lingua non respuit.’ Item in epistola ad Paulinum, ‘Octava enim ad Hebræos a plerisque extra numerum ponitur.’ Idem in Catalogo refert Gajum in hac fuisse sententia, ut tredecim duntaxat epistolas adscriberet Paulo, quæ est ad Hebræos negaret illius esse. Deinde subjicit suo nomine Hieronymus, ‘Sed et apud Romanos usque hodie quasi Pauli non habetur.’ Consimilem ad modum Origenes, Homilia xxvi. in Matthæum, cum adducat hujus epistolæ testimonium, non audet tamen ab adversario flagitare, ut Pauli videatur, ac remittit pene ut sit eo loco, quo liber qui inscribitur, Secreta Esaiæ. Et Augustinus citaturus hujus epistolæ testimonium, De Civitate Dei libro xvi. capite xxii., præfatur hunc in modum: ‘De quo, in epistola quæ inscribitur ad Hebræos, quam plures apostoli Pauli esse dicunt, quidam vero negant, multa et magna conscripta sunt.’ Quin idem alias frequenter adducens hujus epistolæ testimonium, ‘Scriptum est,’ inquit, ‘in epistola ad Hebræos,’ omisso Pauli nomine: ‘Sic intellectum est in epistola ad Hebræos:’ et, ‘De illo etiam in epistola legitur, quæ inscribitur ad Hebræos.’ Hæc atque hujusmodi cum plus centies occurrant, nusquam, quod sane meminerim, citat Pauli nomine, cum in cæteris citationibus Pauli titulum libenter sit solitus addere. Ambrosius licet in hanc unam non ediderit Commentarios, tamen ejus testimoniis non infrequenter utitur, et videtur eam Paulo tribuere. Quin Origenes apud Eusebium testatur a plerisque dubitatum, an hæc epistola esset germana Pauli, præsertim ob stili dissonantiam, quanquam ipse Paulo fortiter asserit: locus est Ecclesiasticæ Historiæ libro vi. capite xvii. Rursus ejusdem libri capite xv. narrat, apud Latinos hanc epistolam non fuisse tributam Paulo apostolo. Restat jam argumentum illud, quo non aliud certius, stilus ipse, et orationis character, qui nihil habet affinitatis cum phrasi Paulina. Nam quod afferunt hic quidam, Paulum ipsum Hebraice scripsisse, cæterum Lucam argumentum epistolæ, quam memoria tenebat, suis explicuisse verbis, quantum valeat, viderint alii. Neque enim in verbis solum aut figuris discrimen est, sed omnibus notis dissidet. Et ut Paulus Græce scribens multum ex idiomate sermonis Hebraïci retulit, ita et in hac, quam ut volunt isti scripsit Hebraïce, nonnulla sermonis illius vestigia residerent. Quid quod ne Lucas quidem ipse in actis apostolorum, hoc est in argumento, quod facile recipit orationis ornamenta, parum abest ab hujus epistolæ eloquentia. Equidem haud interponam hoc loco meam sententiam. Cæterum admodum probabile est quod subindicavit divus Hieronymus in Catalogo Scriptorum Illustrium, Clementem, Romanum Pontificem a Petro quartum, auctorem hujus epistolæ fuisse. Clementis enim meminit Paulus, et hic Timothei facit mentionem. Sed præstat, opinor, ipsa Hieronymi verba super hac re adscribere: ‘Scripsit,’ inquit, ‘nempe Clemens sub persona Romanæ ecclesiæ ad ecclesiam Corinthiorum valde utilem epistolam, quæ et in nonnullis locis publice legitur, quæ mihi videtur characteri epistolæ, quæ sub Pauli nomine ad Hebræos fertur convenire. Sed et multis de eadem epistola non solum sensibus, sed juxta verborum quoque ordinem abutitur. Omnino grandis in utraque similitudo est.’ Hactenus divus Hieronymus, satis civiliter indicans prudenti doctoque lectori, quid ipse suspicetur. Idem in epistola ad Dardanum testatur hanc a Latinis non fuisse receptam sed a plerisque Græcis scriptoribus hactenus receptam, ut crederent esse viri ecclesiastici, Pauli tamen esse negarent: sed Barnabæ potius aut Clementi tribuerent, aut juxta nonnullos Lucæ, quod idem diligenter annotavit Hieronymus in Pauli Catalogo. Ex his dilucidum est, ætate Hieronymi Romanam ecclesiam nondum recepisse auctoritatem hujus epistolæ: et Græcos qui recipiebant judicasse non esse Pauli: denique Hieronymus ad Dardanum negat referre cujus sit, quum sit ecclesiastici viri. Et tamen hodie sunt qui plusquam hæreticum esse putant si quis dubitet de auctore epistolæ, non ob aliud, nisi quod in templis additur Pauli titulus. Si ecclesia certo definit esse Pauli, captivo libens intellectum meum in obsequium fidei: quod ad sensum meum attinet, non videtur illius esse, ob causas quas hic reticuisse præstiterit. Et si certo scirem non esse Pauli, res indigna est digladiatione. Nec hac de re tantum verborum facerem, nisi quidam ex re nihili tantos excitarent tumultus.”
Other passages to the same effect are cited in Bleek.
98. LUTHER spoke still more plainly. In his introduction to his version of the Epistle, he maintains that it cannot be St. Paul’s, nor indeed the writing of any Apostle: appealing to such passages as ch. Hebrews 2:3; Hebrews 6:4 ff.; Hebrews 10:26 ff.; Hebrews 12:17. But whose it is, he does not there pretend to say, further than that it comes from some scholar of the Apostles, well versed in the Scriptures. And with this view his manner of citation is generally consistent. His well-known conjecture, that the Writer of the Epistle was Apollos, is expressed in his Commentary on Genesis 48:20; “Auctor epistolæ ad Hebræos, quisquis est, sive Paulus, sive, ut ego arbitror, Apollo, eruditissime allegat hunc locum.” In his Epistel a. Christent. Hebrews 1:1 ff. the following occurs:—
Das ist eine starke, machtige und hohe Epistel, die da hoch herfähret und treibet den hohen Artikel des Glaubens von der Gottheit Christi, und ist ein glaubwürdiger Wahn, sie sei nicht St. Pauli, darum dass sie eine geschmucktere Rede führet, denn St. Paulus an andern Orten gepfleget. Etliche meinen sie sei St. Luca, etliche St. Apollo, welchen St. Lucas rühmet, wie er in der Schrift machtig sei gewesen wider die Juden, Apgs. 18:24. Es ist ja wahr, dass keine Epistel mit solcher Gewalt die Schrift führet, als diese, dass ein treflicher apostolischer Mann gewesen ist, er sei auch wer er wolle.
99. Here he seems to imply that others had already conjectured Apollos to be the author. But this does not appear to be so: and he may, as Bleek imagines, be merely referring to opinions of learned men of his own day, who had either suggested, or adopted his own view.
100. CALVIN’S opinion was equally unfavourable to the Pauline authorship. While in his Institutes he ordinarily cites the Epistle as the words of “the Apostle,” and defends its apostolicity in the argument to his commentary (“Ego vero eam inter apostolicas sine controversia amplector, nec dubito, Satanæ artificio fuisse quondam factum, ut illi autoritatem quidam detraherent”), yet he sometimes cites the “autor epistolæ ad Hebræos;” and when he comes to the question itself, declares his view very plainly:—
“Quis porro eam composuerit, non magnopere curandum est. Putarunt alii Paulum esse, alii Lucam, alii Barnabam, alii Clementem.—Scio Chrysostomi tempore passim inter Paulinos a Græcis fuisse receptum: sed Latini aliter senserunt, maxime qui propiores fuerunt apostolorum temporibus. Ego ut Paulum agnoscam autorem, adduci nequeo. Nam qui dicunt, nomen fuisse de industria suppressum, quod odiosum esset Judæis, nihil afferunt. Cur enim mentionem fecisset Timothei, si ita esset? hoc enim indicio se prodebat. Sed ipsa docendi ratio et stilus alium quam Paulum esse satis testantur: et scriptor unum se ex apostolorum discipulis profitetur c. 2, quod est a Paulina consuetudine longe alienum.”
And similarly on ch. Hebrews 2:3 itself:—
“Hic locus indicio est, epistolam a Paulo non fuisse compositam. Neque enim tam humiliter loqui solet, ut se unum fateatur ex apostolorum discipulis: neque id ambitione, sed quia improbi ejusmodi prætextu tantundem detrahere ejus doctrinæ moliebantur. Apparet igitur non esse Paulum, qui ex auditu se habere evangelium scribit, non autem ex revelatione.”
See also his comment on ch. Hebrews 12:13.
101. Very similar are the comments of BEZA, at least in his earlier editions: for all the passages quoted by Bleek, from his introduction, on ch. Hebrews 2:3 and 13:26, as being in his own edition of Beza 1582, and from Spanheim, as not extant in that edition, are, in the edition of 1590, which I use, expunged, and other comments, favourable to the Pauline origin, substituted for them.
102. And this change of opinion in Beza only coincided with influences which both in the Romish and in the Protestant churches soon repressed the progress of intelligent criticism and free expression of opinion. Cardinal Cajetan was severely handled by Ambrosius Catharinus, who accused him of the same doubts in relation to this Epistle as those entertained by Julian respecting the Gospel of St. Matthew: Erasmus was attacked by the theologians of the Sorbonne in a censure which concludes thus(46): “Mira autem arrogantia atque pertinacia est hujus scriptoris, quod, ubi tot catholici doctores, pontifices, concilia declarant, hanc epistolam esse Pauli, et idem universalis ecclesiæ usus ac consensus comprobat, hic scriptor adhuc dubitat tanquam toto orbe prudentior.” And finally the council of Trent, in 1546, closed up the question for Romanists by declaring, “Testamenti Novi … quatuordecim epistolæ Pauli apostoli, ad Romanos &c.… ad Hebræos.” So that the best divines of that church have since then had only that way open to them of expressing an intelligent judgment, which holds the matter of the Epistle to be St. Paul’s, but the style and arrangement that of some other person: so Bellarmine, De Controversiis, Paris, 1613, fol. pp. 51 f.: so Estius, in his introduction to the Epistle, which is well worth reading, as a remarkable instance of his ability and candour:—
“Cum aliis omnino dicendum arbitramur, subjectum sive materiam totius epistolæ, simul et ordinem a Paulo fuisse subministratum, sed compositionem et ornatum esse cujusdam alterius, cujus opera Paulus utendum putaverit, sive Clemens Romanus is fuerit, sive Lucas individuus apostoli comes et laborum socius, quod magis est verisimile.”
At the end of the same chapter of his introduction he enquires at length, “an sit fidei, Paulum esse auctorem: an hæreticum sit, aliter sentire.” And he concludes, “temerarium esse, si quis epistolam ad Hebræos negaret esse Pauli apostoli, sed hæreticum ob id solum pronuntiare non ausim:” giving as his own opinion, “Neque vero dubitamus an Paulus apostolus materiam scribendæ hujus epistolæ suppeditaverit, ordinemque præscripserit, sed an ipse sit auctor scriptionis seu compositionis.”
103. In the Protestant churches we find, as might be expected, a longer prevalence of free judgment on the matter. It will be seen by the copious citations in Bleek (pp. 254 ff.), that Melanchthon remained ever consistent in quoting the Epistle simply as “epistola ad Hebræos:” that the Magdeburg Centuriators distinctly denied the Pauline origin (“His et similibus rationibus mota prudens vetustas, quæ omnia ad ἀναλογίαν fidei examinare solita est, de epistola ad Hebræos jure dubitasse videtur”): that Brenz, in the Confessio Wirtembergica, distinguishes in his citations this Epistle from those of St. Paul.
104. At the same time we find inconsistency on the point in Brenz himself: in the Commentary on the Epistle written by his son, the Pauline authorship is maintained: also by Flacius Illyricus (1557) on a priori grounds. In the Concordien-Formel, the Epistle is cited in the original German without any name, whereas in the Latin version we have “apostolus ait,” and the like. And this latter view continued to gain ground. It is maintained by Gerhard (1641) and Calov. (1676): and since the middle of the seventeenth century has been the prevailing view in the Lutheran church.
105. In the Calvinistic or Reformed Church, the same view became prevalent even earlier. Of its various confessions, the Gallican, it is true, sets the Epistle at the end of those of St. Paul, thus: … “ad Titum una, ad Philemonem una: epistola ad Hebræos, Jacobi epistola:” but the Belgic, Helvetic, and Bohemian Confessions cite and treat it as St. Paul’s.
106. The exceptions to this prevailing view were found in certain Arminian divines, who, without impugning the authority of the Epistle, did not bind themselves to a belief of its Pauline origin. Such were Grotius, who inclines to the belief that it was written by St. Luke: Le Clerc, who holds Apollos to have been the Author: Limborch, who holds it to have been written “ab aliquo e Pauli comitibus, et quidem conscio Paulo, … atque e doctrina Pauli haustum:” and among the Socinians, Schlichting, who says of it—
“Licet Paulum ipsum autorem non habuerit, ex ejus tamen, ut sic dicam, officina prodierit, h. e. ab aliquo ex ejus sociis et comitibus fortassis etiam Pauli instinctu ac, ut ita dicam, spiritu scripta fuerit.”
107. There was also a growing disposition, both in the Romish and in the reformed churches, to erect into an article of faith the Pauline origin, and to deal severely with those who presumed to doubt it. Many learned men, especially among Protestants, appeared as its defenders: among whom we may especially notice Spanheim (the younger, 1659), Braun and D’Outrein in Holland, our own Owen (1667), Mill (1707), Hallet (the younger, 1727), Carpzov (1750), Sykes (1755), J. C. Wolf (1734), and Andr. Cramer (1757), to whom Bleek adjudges the first place among the upholders of the Pauline authorship.
108. Since the middle of the last century, the ancient doubts have revived in Germany; and in the progress of more extended and accurate critical enquiry, have now become almost universal. The first that carefully treated the matter with this view was Semler (1763), in his edition of Baumgarten’s Commentary on the Epistle. Then followed Michaelis, in the later editions of his Introduction: in the earlier, he had assumed the Pauline authorship. The same doubts were repeated and enforced by Ziegler, J. E. C. Schmidt (1804), Eichhorn (1812), Bertholdt (1819), David Schulz (who carried the contrast which he endeavours to establish between the Writer of this Epistle and St. Paul to an unreasonable length, and thereby rather hindered than helped that side of the argument), Seyfferth (who sets himself to demonstrate from the Epistle itself, that it cannot have been written by St. Paul, but has no hypothesis respecting the Writer), Böhme (who holds Silvanus to have been the Writer, from similarities which he traces between our Epistle and 1 Peter, the Greek of which he holds also to have proceeded from him), De Wette (who inclines to Apollos as the author, but sees an improbability in his ever having been in so close a relation to the Jewish Christians of Palestine), Tholuck (whose very valuable and candid enquiry in his last edition results in a leaning towards Apollos as the Writer), Bleek (whose view is mainly the same), Wieseler (who supports Barnabas as the probable Writer), Lünemann (who strongly upholds Apollos), Ebrard (who holds St. Paul to have been the Author, St. Luke the Writer), Delitzsch (who holds St. Luke to have been the Writer).
109. The principal modern upholders of the purely Pauline authorship in Germany have been Bengel (+ 1752), Storr (1789), and recently Hofmann.
110. In our own country, the belief of the direct Pauline origin, though much shaken at the Reformation(47), has recovered its ground far more extensively. The unwillingness to disturb settled opinion on the one hand, and it may be the disposition of our countrymen to take up opinions in furtherance of strong party bias, and their consequent inaptitude for candid critical research on the other, have mainly contributed to this result. Most of our recent Theologians and Commentators are to be found on this side. Among these may be mentioned Whitby, Macknight, Doddridge, Lardner, Stuart (American), Forster (Apostolical Authority of the Epistle to the Hebrews), and Bishop Wordsworth, in the third vol. of his Greek Testament; also Conybeare and Howson (Life of St. Paul), but doubtingly, and Davidson (Introd. to N. T.), who holds that St. Luke co-operated with the Apostle in making the Epistle what it now appears.
111. I am obliged, before passing to the internal grounds on which the question is to be treated, to lay down again the position in which we are left by the preceding sketch of the history of opinion.
112. It is manifest that with testimony so divided, antiquity cannot claim to close up the enquiry: nor can either side allege its voice as decisive. In the very earliest times, we find the Epistle received by some as St. Paul’s: in the same times, we find it ascribed by others, and those men of full as much weight, to various other authors.
113. I briefly thus restate what has already been insisted on in paragraphs 35–40, because the time has not yet entirely passed by, when writers on the subject regard our speculations concerning the probable author of the Epistle as limited by these broken fragments of the rumours of antiquity: when a zealous and diligent writer among ourselves allows himself to treat with levity and contempt the opinion that Apollos wrote it, simply on the ground that he is a claimant “altogether unnoticed by Christian antiquity(48).” What we require is this: that we of this age should be allowed to do just that which the ἀρχαῖοι ἄνδρες did in their age,—examine the Epistle simply and freely for and by itself, and form our conclusion accordingly, as to its Author, readers, and date: having respect indeed to ancient tradition, where we can find it, but not, where it is so broken, and inconsistent with itself, bound by any one of its assertions, or limited in our conclusions by its extent.
114. I now proceed to the latter and more important portion of our enquiry: whether the internal phænomena of the Epistle itself point to St. Paul as its Author and Writer,—or Author without being the Writer,—and if they do not either of these, whom, as an Author, their general character may be regarded as indicating.
115. But as this portion is most important, so has it been most diligently and ingeniously followed out by disputants on both sides. And it is not my intention to enter here on the often-fought battle of comparisons of ἅπαξ λεγόμενα, and tabular statements of words and phrases. The reader will find these given at great length and with much fairness in Davidson, who holds the balance evenly between previous disputants. And if he wishes to go still further into so wide a field of discussion, he may consult Mr. Forster’s large volume, which is equally fertile in materials for both conclusions, often without the writer being conscious that it is so(49).
116. The various items of evidence on this head will be presented to my reader in the references throughout the Epistle. He will there see, as indeed from the tables in any of the writers on the subject,—how like, and yet how unlike, the style of our Epistle is to that of the great Apostle: how completely the researches of such books as Mr. Forster’s have succeeded in proving the likeness, how completely at the same time they have failed to remove one iota of the unlikeness: so that the more we read and are borne along with their reasonings, the closer the connexion becomes, in faith and in feeling, of the writer of the Epistle with St. Paul, but the more absolutely incompatible the personal identity: the more we perceive all that region of style and diction to have been in common between them, which men living together, talking together, praying together, teaching together, would naturally range in; but all that region wherein individual peculiarity is wont to put itself forth, to have been entirely distinct.
117. I need only mention, as an indication to the student how to arrive at such convictions for himself, the different tinge given to the same or similar thoughts; the wholly differing rhythm of sentences wherein perhaps many words occur in common; the differing spirit of citation (to say nothing of the varying modus citandi); the totally distinct mode of arguing; the rhetorical accumulation; the equilibrium, even in the midst of fervid declamation, of periods and clauses; the use of different inferential and connecting particles. All of these great and undeniable variations may be easily indeed frittered down by an appearance of exceptions ranged in tables; but still are indelibly impressed on the mind of every intelligent student of the Epistle, and as has been observed, are unanswerable, just in proportion as the points of similarity are detailed and insisted on(50).
118. It is again of course easy enough to meet such considerations in either of two ways; the former of which recommends itself to the mind which fears to enquire from motives of reverence, the latter to the superficial and indolent.
119. It may be said, that the Holy Spirit of God, by whose inspiration holy men have written these books of the New Testament, may bring it about, that the same person may write variously at different times, even be that variety out of the limits of human experience; that the same man, for instance, should have written the Epistle to the Romans and the First Epistle of St. John. In answer to which we may safely say, that what the Holy Spirit may or can do, is not for us to speculate upon: in this His proceeding of inspiration, He has given us abundant and undeniable examples of what He has done; and by such examples are we to be guided, in all questions as to the analogy of His proceedings in more doubtful cases. As matter of fact, the style and diction of St. Paul differ as much from those of St. John as can well be conceived. When therefore we find in the sacred writings phænomena of difference apparently incompatible with personal identity in their authors, we are not to be precluded from reasoning from them to the non-identity of such authors, by any vague assertions of the omnipotence of the Almighty Spirit.
120. Again it may be strongly urged, that the same person, writing at different times, and to different persons, may employ very various modes of diction and argument. Nothing can be truer than this: but the application of it to the question of identity of authorship is matter of penetration and appreciation. Details of diversity which may be convincing to one man, may be wholly inappreciable, from various reasons, by another. As regards the matter before us, it may suffice to say, that the incompatibility of styles was felt in the earliest days by Greeks themselves, as the preceding testimonies from Clement of Alexandria and Origen may serve to shew. Further than this we can say nothing which will be allowed as of any weight by those who unfortunately fail to appreciate the difference. We can only repeat our assurance, that the more acumen and scholarship are brought to bear on the enquiry, aided by a fairly judging and unbiassed mind, the more such incompatibility will be felt: and say, in the words of Origen cited above, par. 19, ὅτι ὁ χαρακτὴρ τῆς λέξεως … οὐκ ἔχει τὸ ἐν λόγῳ ἰδιωτικὸν τοῦ ἀποστόλου, … πᾶς ὁ ἐπιστάμενος κρίνειν φράσεων διαφορὰς ὁμολογήσαι ἄν.
121. I now proceed to consider the principal notices in the Epistle itself, which have been either justly or unjustly adduced, as making for or against the Pauline authorship.
122. In ch. Hebrews 13:23, we read, γινώσκετε τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν τιμόθεον ἀπολελυμένον, μεθʼ οὗ, ἐὰν τάχιον ἔρχηται, ὄψομαι ὑμᾶς. This notice has been cited with equal confidence on both sides. The natural inference from it, apart altogether from the controversy, would be, that the Writer of the Epistle was in some other place than Timotheus, who had been recently set free from an imprisonment (for this and no other is the meaning of the participle), and that he was awaiting Timotheus’s arrival: on which, if it took place soon, he hoped to visit the Hebrews in his company.
123. It is manifest, that such a situation would fit very well some point of time after St. Paul’s liberation from his first Roman imprisonment. Supposing that he was dismissed before Timotheus, and, having left Rome, expecting him to follow, had just received the news of his liberation, the words in the text would very well and naturally express this. It is true, we read of no such imprisonment of Timotheus: and this fact seems to remove the date of the occurrence out of the limits of the chronology of the Pauline Epistles. But if the command of the Apostle in 2 Timothy 4:9 was obeyed, and Timotheus, on arriving, shared his imprisonment, the situation here alluded to may have occurred not long after.
124. On the other hand, the notice would equally well fit some companion of St. Paul, either St. Luke, or Silvanus, or Apollos, writing after the Apostle’s death. All these would speak of Timotheus as ὁ ἀδελφὸς ἡμῶν.
125. On the whole then, this passage carries no weight on either side. I own that the ὄψομαι ὑμᾶς has a tinge of authority about it, which hardly seems to fit either of the above-mentioned persons. But this impression may be fallacious: and it is only one of those cases where, in a matter so doubtful as the authorship of this Epistle, we are swayed hither and thither by words and expressions, which perhaps after all have no right to be so seriously taken.
126. Similar remarks might be made on the notice of ch. Hebrews 13:25, ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς ἰταλίας, as carrying no weight either way. As regards its meaning, it is indeed surprising that Bleek should maintain, that it excludes the supposition of the writer being in Italy, in the face of the classical and N. T. usage of the prepositions of origin,— ὁ ἐκ πελοποννήσου πόλεμος,— λάζαρος ὁ ἀπὸ βηθανίας, and the like. The preposition may doubtless be taken as used with reference to those who were to receive the salutation: it may be the salutation, not the persons, which the preposition brings away from Italy. It may be as if I were to write to a friend, ‘I have the best wishes for you from Canterbury:’ which, although it would not be the most usual way of expressing my meaning, and might be said if I were elsewhere, yet would be far from excluding the supposition that I was myself writing from that city(51).
127. If the words then do not forbid the idea that the Writer was in Italy, I do not see how they can be used for or against the Pauline authorship. As observed before, the Apostle may have been somewhere in that country waiting for Timotheus, when liberated, to join him. And we may say the same with equal probability of any of St. Paul’s companions to whom the Epistle has been ascribed. The only evidence which can be gathered from the words, as being exceedingly unlike any thing occurring in the manifold formulæ of salutation in St. Paul’s Epistles, is of a slighter, but to my mind of a more decisive kind.
128. The evidence supposed to be derivable from ch. Hebrews 10:34 (rec.), καὶ γὰρ τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου συνεπαθήσατε, vanishes with the adoption of the reading τοῖς δεσμίοις συνεπαθήσατε, in which almost all the critical editors concur.
129. The notice ch. Hebrews 13:7, μνημονεύετε τῶν ἡγουμένων ὑμῶν κ. τ. λ., will more properly come under consideration when we are treating of the probable readers, and of the date of the Epistle(52). I may say thus much in anticipation, that it can hardly be fairly interpreted consistently with the known traditions of the death of St. Paul, and at the same time with the hypothesis of his authorship.
130. The well-known passage, ch. Hebrews 2:3, requires more consideration. It stands thus:—
πῶς ἡμεῖς ἐκφευξόμεθα τηλικαύτης ἀμελήσαντες σωτηρίας, ἥτις ἀρχὴν λαβοῦσα λαλεῖσθαι διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκουσάντων εἰς ἡμᾶς ἐβεβαιώθη;
The difficulty, that St. Paul should thus include himself among those who had received the gospel only at second hand, whereas in Galatians 1:12 he says of it, οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐγὼ παρὰ ἀνθρώπου παρέλαβον αὐτὸ οὔτε ἐδιδάχθην, ἀλλὰ διʼ ἀποκαλύψεως ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ, has been felt both in ancient and modern times. Euthalius, Œcumenius, and Theophylact, Luther, Calvin, and all the moderns have alleged it, either to press or to explain the difficulty. I must own that, in spite of all which has been so ingeniously said by way of explanation by the advocates of the Pauline authorship, the words appear to me quite irreconcileable with that hypothesis.
131. To pass by the ancient explanations, which will hardly be adopted in our own day(53),—the most prevalent modern one has been, that the Apostle here adopts the figure συγκατάβασις, or communicatio, by which a writer or speaker identifies himself with his readers or hearers, even though, as matter of actual fact, that identification is not borne out strictly. Such “communication” is most commonly found in hortatory passages, but is not confined to them. A writer may, for the purpose of his argument, and to carry persuasion, place himself on a level with his readers in respect of matters of history, just as well as of moral considerations. The real question for us is, whether this is a case in which such a figure would be likely to be employed.
Thl.: πῶς οὖν ἀλλαχοῦ οὐκ ἀπʼ ἀνθρώπων φησὶν ἀκοῦσαι; διότι ἐκεῖ μὲν μέγα καὶ ἀναγκαῖον ἦν τὸ κατεπεῖγον αὐτὸν συστῆσαι, ὅτι οὐκ ἀνθρώπων ἐστὶ μαθητής· διεβάλλετο γὰρ ὡς μὴ τοῦ κυρίου ἀκούσας· καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐκινδύνευε τὸ αὐτοῦ κήρυγμα παρὰ τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ ἀπιστηθῆναι. νῦν δὲ οὐ τοσαύτη χρεία τούτου· οὔτε γὰρ ἑβραίοις ἐκήρυξεν, οὔτε διεβάλλετο πρὸς τούτους ὡς ἀνθρώπων μαθητής, καὶ οὐχὶ χριστοῦ. ἢ ὅτι καὶ ἐνταῦθα ἐπάγων· “ συνεπιμαρτυροῦντος τοῦ θεοῦ σημείοις καὶ τέρασι,” δείκνυσιν ὅτι οὐκ ἀπʼ ἀνθρώπων, ἀλλʼ ἐκ θεοῦ παρέλαβε ταῦτα.
132. And to this the answer must be, it seems to me, unhesitatingly in the negative. That an Apostle, who ever claimed to have received the gospel not from men but from the Lord himself,—who was careful to state that when he met the chief Apostles in council they added nothing to him,—should at all, and especially in writing (as the hypothesis generally assumes) to the very church where the influence of those other Apostles was at its highest, place himself on a level with their disciples as to the reception of the gospel from them,—is a supposition so wholly improbable, that I cannot explain its having been held by so many men of discernment, except on the supposition that their bias towards the Pauline authorship has blinded them to the well-known character and habit of the Apostle.
133. And to reply to this, that he thus speaks of himself when his Apostolical authority is called in question, as it was in the Galatian church, and partially also in the Corinthian, but does not so where no such slight had been put upon his office, is simply to advance that which is not the fact: for he does the same in an emphatic manner in Ephesians 3:2-3, εἴγε ἠκούσατε τὴν οἰκονομίαν τῆς χάριτος τοῦ θεοῦ τῆς δοθείσης μοι εἰς ὑμᾶς, ὅτι κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν ἐγνωρίσθη μοι τὸ μυστήριον κ. τ. λ.: in which Epistle, to whomsoever addressed, there exist no traces of any rivalship to his own authority being in his view.
134. Certain other passages have been adduced as bearing out the idea of συγκατάβασις here. But none of them, when fairly considered, really does so. For to take them one by one:—
In Ephesians 2:3; Colossians 1:12-13; Titus 3:3, there is no such figure, but the Apostle is simply stating the matter of fact, and counts himself to have been one of those spoken of.
In 1 Corinthians 11:31-32, he is asserting that which is true of all Christians equally; himself as liable to fall into sin and thus to need chastisement, being included.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:17,—where see note,—there is no such figure, for the Apostle is merely giving expression to the expectation that he himself should be among them who should be alive in the flesh at the coming of our Lord.
In Jude, 1 Thessalonians 4:17, there is no such figure. St. Jude, in writing thus, is giving us plain proof that he himself was not one of the Apostles.
135. Much stress has been laid, and duly, on the entire absence of personal notices of the Writer, as affecting the question of the Pauline authorship. This is so inconsistent with the otherwise invariable practice of St. Paul, that some very strong reason must be supposed, which should influence him in this case to depart from that practice. Such reason has been variously assigned. And first, with reference to the omission of any superscription or opening greeting. It has been supposed that he would not begin by designating himself as an Apostle, because the Lord Himself was the Apostle (ch. Hebrews 3:1) of the Jewish people (so Pantænus, above, par. 11). Or, because the Jewish Christians in Palestine were unwilling to recognize him as such, only as an Apostle to the Gentiles (so Theodoret, Proœm. Ep. ad Hebr.: and al.). But to this it might be answered, Why then not superscribe himself δοῦλος ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ or the like, as in Philippians 1:1 and Philemon 1:1, or simply παῦλος, as in 1 and 2 Thess.? But a further reply has been given, and very widely accepted: that being in disfavour among the Jews, he did not prefix his name, for fear of exciting a prejudice against his Epistle, and so perhaps preventing the reading of it altogether. (So Clement of Alexandria, above, par. 14. So also Chrys. (Homil. iii. p. 371), καὶ τοῦτο δὴ τῆς παύλου σοφίας· ἵνα γὰρ μὴ μετάσχῃ τοῦ μίσους τὰ γράμματα, καθάπερ προσωπείῳ τινὶ τῇ τοῦ ὀνόματος ἀφαιρέσει κρύψας ἑαυτόν, οὕτως αὐτοῖς λανθανόντως τὸ τῆς παραινέσεως ἐπιτίθησι φάρμακον· ὅταν γὰρ πρός τινα ἀηδῶς ἔχωμεν, κἂν ὑγιές τι λέγῃ, οὐ προθύμως οὐδὲ μεθʼ ἡδονῆς δεχόμεθα τὰ λεγόμενα· ὅπερ οὖν, ἵνα μὴ καὶ τότε συμβῇ, ἀφεῖλε τὴν ἰδίαν προσηγορίαν τῆς ἐπιστολῆς, ὥστε μηδὲν τοῦτο γενέσθαι κώλυμα τῇ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς ἀκροάσει· οὐ γὰρ οἱ ἄπιστοι μόνον ἰουδαῖοι, ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ πιστεύσαντες αὐτοὶ ἐμίσουν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀπεστρέφοντο.) But this cannot have been the purpose of the Author throughout, as is sufficiently shewn by such notices as those of ch. Hebrews 13:18-19; Hebrews 13:23, which would have been entirely without meaning, had the readers not been aware, who was writing to them. Yet, it is said, these notices do not occur till the end of the Epistle, when the important part of it has already been read through. Are we then to suppose that St. Paul seriously did in this case, that which he ironically puts as an hypothesis in 2 Corinthians 12:16, ὑπάρχων πανοῦργος, δόλῳ ὑμᾶς ἔλαβον? And if he did it, how imperfectly and clumsily! Could he not as easily have removed all traces of his own hand in the Epistle, as those at the beginning only? And how are we to suppose that the Epistle came to the church to which it was addressed? Did he put it in at a window, or over a wall? Must it not have come by the hand of some friend or companion? Must it not have been given into the hand of some ἡγούμενος? How happened it that the question was never asked, From whom does this come? or if asked, how could it be answered but in one way? And when thus answered, how could it fail but the Epistle would thenceforth be known as that of St. Paul?
136. It may be said that these last enquiries would prove too much: that they would equally apply, whoever wrote the Epistle: and that the name of the Author was, on the view which they imply, equally sure to have been attached to it. But we may well answer, that this, however plausible, is not so in reality. It does not follow, because the name of the great Apostle was sure to be generally attached to it if he really wrote it, that every other name was equally sure. Many of his disciples and companions, eminent as they were, bore no authority to be compared with his. This is true even of St. Luke and Barnabas: much more of Titus, Silas, and Clement. And if one of these had been the acknowledged author, there being no notices in the Epistle itself whereby he might be with certainty recognized after the first circumstances of its sending were forgotten, how probable, that a writing, committed to the keeping of a particular church, should have been retained indeed as a sacred deposit by them, but, in the midst of persecutions and troubles, have lost the merely traditional designation which never had become inseparable from it. In the one case, the name of St. Paul would commend the Epistle, and so would take the first, and an inalienable place: in the other, the weight and preciousness of the Epistle would survive the name of its Writer, which would not of itself have been its commendation. The like might have happened to the Gospel, or Acts, of St. Luke, but for the fact, that in this case not one particular church, but the whole Christian world, was the guardian of the deposit, and of the tradition attached to it.
137. Another solution has been suggested by Steudel: that the book has more the character of a treatise than of an Epistle, and therefore was not begun in epistolary form: some letter being probably sent with it, or the customary personal messages being orally delivered. But the postulate may be safely denied. Our Epistle is veritably an Epistle: addressed to readers of whom certain facts were specially true, containing exhortations founded on those facts, and notices arising out of the relation of the writer to his readers; which last sufficiently shew, that no other Epistle could have accompanied it, nor indeed any considerable trusting to the oral supplementing of its notices.
138. Yet another solution has been given by Hug and Spanheim: that in an oratorical style like that of the opening of this Epistle, it was not probable that a superscription would precede. True: but what, when conceded, does this indicate? Is it not just as good an argument to shew that one who never begins his Epistles thus, is not the Writer, as to account for his beginning thus, supposing him the Writer? The reason for our Epistle beginning as it does, is unquestionably, the character of the whole, containing few personal notices of the relation of the Writer to his readers. But granted, as we have sufficiently shewn, that it was not the object of the Author to remain unknown to his readers, I ask any one capable of forming an unbiassed judgment, is it possible that were St. Paul that author, and any conceivable Hebrew church those readers, no more notices should be found, not perhaps of his apostleship, but of the revelations of the Lord to him, of his pure intent and love towards them? Any one who can suppose this, appears to me, I own,—however it may savour of presumption to say so,—deficient in appreciation of the phænomena of our Epistle, and still more of the character of the great Apostle himself.
139. In Bleek’s Introduction to his Commentary, on which, in the main features, this part of my Prolegomena is founded, several interesting considerations are here adduced as bearing on the question of the authorship, arising out of the manner in which variuos points which arise are dealt with, as compared with the manner usual with St. Paul. Such considerations are valuable, and come powerfully in aid of a conclusion otherwise forced upon us: but when that conclusion is not acquiesced in, they are easily diluted away by its opponents. They are rather confirmatory than conclusive: and have certainly not had justice done them by the supporters of the Pauline hypothesis; who, as they seem to themselves to have answered one after another of them, represent each in succession as the main ground on which the anti-pauline view is rested.
140. I would refer my English readers for the discussion of these points to Dr. Davidson’s Introduction to the N. T., vol. iii., where they are for the most part treated fairly, though hardly with due appreciation of their necessarily subordinate place in the argument. The idea which a reader, otherwise uninformed, would derive from Dr. Davidson’s paragraphs, is that those who allege these considerations make them at least co-ordinate with others, of which they in reality only come in aid.
141. The same may be said of the whole mass of evidence resting on modes of citation, ἅπαξ λεγόμενα, style of periods, and the like. It abounds on the one hand with striking coincidences, on the other with striking discrepancies: each of these has been made much of by the ardent fautors of each side,—while the more impartial Commentators have weighed both together. The general conclusion in my own mind derived from these is, that the author of this Epistle cannot have been the same with the author of the Pauline Epistles. The coincidences are for the most part those which belong to men of the same general cast of thought on the great matters in hand: the discrepancies are in turns of expression, use of different particles, different rhythm, different compounds of cognate words, a mode of citation not independent but rather divergent,—and a thousand minor matters which it is easy for those to laugh to scorn who are incapable of estimating their combined evidence, but which when combined render the hypothesis of one and the same author entirely untenable.
142. To the phænomena of citation in our Epistle I shall have occasion to advert very soon, when dealing with the enquiry who the author really was. (See below, parr. 149, 152, 158, 180.) The reader will find them treated at great length in Bleek, Davidson, and Forster.
143. Before advancing to clear the way for that enquiry by other considerations, I will beg the reader to look back with me once more over the course and bearing of the external evidence as regards the Pauline hypothesis.
144. The recognition of the Epistle as Pauline begins about the middle of the second century, and, in one portion only of the church—the Alexandrine. Did this rest on an original historical tradition? We have seen reason to conclude the negative. Was it an inference from the subject and contents of the Epistle, which, when once made, gained more and more acceptance, from the very nature of the case? This, on all grounds, is more probable. Had an ancient tradition connected the name of St. Paul with it, we should find that name so connected not in one portion only, but in every part of the church. This however we do not find. We have no trace of its early recognition as Pauline elsewhere than in Alexandria. And even there, the earliest testimonies imply that there was doubt on the subject. Elsewhere, various opinions prevailed. Tertullian gives us Barnabas: Origen mentions two views, pointing to St. Luke and to Clement of Rome. None of these claim our acceptance as grounded on authentic historical tradition. But each of them has as much right to be heard and considered, as the Alexandrine. And the more, because that was so easy a deduction from the contents of the Epistle, and so sure to be embraced generally, whereas they had no such source, and could have no such advantage.
145. But there was one view of our Epistle, which never laboured under the uncertainty and insufficient reception which may be charged against the others: viz. that entertained by the church of Rome. It is true, its testimony is only negative: it amounts barely to this—“the Epistle is not St. Paul’s.” But this evidence it gives “semper, ubique, ab omnibus.” And its testimony is of a date and kind which far out-weighs the Alexandrine, or any other. Clement of Rome, the disciple of the Apostles, refers frequently and copiously to our Epistle, not indeed by name, but so plainly and unmistakeably that no one can well deny it. He evidently knew the Epistle well and used it much and approvingly. Now, had he recognized it as written by St. Paul,—he might not indeed have cited it as such, seeing that unacknowledged centos of N. T. expressions are very common with him,—but is it conceivable that he should altogether have concealed such his recognition from the church over which he presided? Is it not certain, that had Clement received it as the work of St. Paul, we should have found that tradition dominant and firmly fixed in the Roman church? But that church is just the one, where we find no trace of such a tradition: a fact wholly irreconcileable with such recognition by Clement. And if Clement did not so recognize it, are we not thereby brought very much nearer the source itself, than by any reported opinion in the church of Alexandria?
146. I shall have occasion again to return to this consideration: I introduce it here to shew, that in freely proposing to ourselves the enquiry, ‘Who wrote the Epistle?’ as to be answered entirely from the Epistle itself, we are not setting aside, but are strictly following, the earliest and weightiest historical testimonies respecting it, and the inferences to be deduced from them. And if any name seems to satisfy the requirements of the Epistle itself, those who in modern times suggested that name, and those who see reason to adopt it, are not to be held up to derision, as has been done by Mr. Forster, merely because that name was not suggested by any among the ancients. The question is as open now as it was in the second century. They had no reliable tradition: we have none. If an author is to be found, αὐτὸ δείξει.
147. With these remarks, I come now to the enquiries, (1) What data does the Epistle furnish for determining the Author? and (2) In what one person do those characteristics meet?
148. (1. α) The WRITER of the Epistle is also the AUTHOR. It is of course possible, that St. Paul may have imparted his thoughts to the Hebrew church by means of another. This may have been done in one of two ways: either by actual translation, or by transfusion of thought and argument: setting aside altogether the wholly unlikely hypothesis, that the Epistle was drawn up and sent as St. Paul’s by some other, without his knowledge and consent.
149. But first, the Epistle IS NOT A TRANSLATION. The citations throughout, with one exception (noticed below, § ii. par. 35 note), are from the LXX, and are of such a kind, that the peculiarities of the LXX version are not unfrequently interwoven into the argument, and made to contribute towards the result: which would be impossible, had the Epistle existed primarily in Hebrew. Besides, the prevalence of alliterations and paronomasiæ, and the Greek rhythm, to which so many rhetorical passages owe their force, would of themselves compel us to this conclusion(54).
150. And secondly, there are insuperable difficulties in the way of the hypothesis of any such secondary authorship as has very commonly been assumed, from the time of Origen downwards. Against this militate in their full strength all the considerations derived from those differences of style and diction, which in this Epistle are inseparably interwoven into the argument: against this the whole arrangement and argumentation of the Epistle, which are very different from those of St. Paul, shewing an independence and originality which could hardly have been found in the work of one who wrote down the thoughts of another: against this also the few personal notices which occur, and which manifestly belong to the Author of the Epistle. Supposing St. Paul to be speaking by another in all other places, how are we to make the transition in these? The notices which on the hypothesis of pure Pauline authorship, seemed difficult of explanation, appear to me absolutely to defy it, if the secondary authorship be supposed.
151. ( β) The Author of the Epistle was a JEW. This, as far as I know, has never been doubted. The degree of intimate acquaintance shewn with the ceremonial law might perhaps have been acquired by a Gentile convert: but the manner in which he addresses his readers, evidently themselves Jews, is such as to forbid the supposition that he was himself a Gentile. Probability is entirely against such an address being used: and also entirely against the Epistle finding acceptance, if it had been used.
152. ( γ) He was, however, not a pure Jew, speaking and quoting Hebrew: but a HELLENIST: a Jew brought up in Greek habits of thought, and in the constant use of the LXX version. His citations are from that version, and he grounds his argument, or places his reason for citing, on the words and expressions of the LXX, even where no corresponding terms are found in the Hebrew text.
153. ( δ) He was one intimately acquainted with the way of thought, and writings of St. Paul. I need not stay here to prove this. The elaborate tables which have been drawn up to prove the Pauline authorship are here very valuable to us, as we found them before in shewing the differences between the two writers. Dr. Davidson, Mr. Forster, or Bleek, in his perhaps more pertinent selections from the mass, will in a few minutes establish this to the satisfaction of any intelligent reader. That our Author has more especially used one portion of the writings of the great Apostle, and why, will come under our notice in a following section.
154. ( ε) And, considering the probable date of the Epistle, which I shall by anticipation assume to have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem, such a degree of acquaintance with the thoughts and writings of St. Paul could hardly, at such a time, have been the result of mere reading, but must have been derived from intimate acquaintance, as a companion and fellow-labourer, with the great Apostle himself. The same inference is confirmed by finding that our author was nearly connected with Timotheus, the son in the faith, and constant companion of St. Paul.
155. ( ζ) It is moreover necessary to assume, that the Author of our Epistle was deeply imbued with the thoughts and phraseology of the Alexandrian school. The coincidences in thought and language between passages of this Epistle and the writings of Philo, are such as no one in his senses can believe to be fortuitous. These will for the most part be found noticed in the references, and the Commentary: those who wish to see them collected together, may consult Bleek, vol. i. pp. 398–402 note, where other sources of information on the subject are also pointed out, especially Carpzov, Exercit. Sacr. in S. Pauli Epist. ad Heb. ex Philone Judæo (Amst. 1750). The reader may also refer to Loesner’s more accessible work.
156. These coincidences may have arisen from one of two reasons: either merely from the Author being acquainted with the writings of Philo, or from his having been educated in the same theological school with that philosopher, and so having acquired similar ways of thought and expression. The latter of these alternatives is on all grounds, and mainly from the nature of the coincidences themselves, the more probable. By birth or by training, he was an Alexandrian; not necessarily the former, for there were other great schools of Alexandrian learning besides the central one in that city, one of the most celebrated of which was at Tarsus, the birth-place of the Apostle Paul. So that this consideration will not of itself fix the authorship on that companion of St. Paul whom we know to have been an Alexandrine by birth.
157. ( η) The author was not an Apostle, nor in the strictest sense a contemporary of the Apostles, so that he should have seen and heard our Lord for himself. He belongs to the second rank, in point of time, of apostolic men,—to those who heard from eye and ear-witnesses. This will follow from the consideration of the passage ch. Hebrews 2:3, in parr. 130–132 above.
158. ( θ) We may add to the above data some, which although less secure, yet seem to be matters of sound inference from the Epistle itself. Of such a character are, e. g. that the author was not a dweller in or near Jerusalem, or he would have taken his descriptions rather from the then standing Jewish temple, than from the ordinances in the text of the LXX:—that he was a person of considerable note and influence with those to whom he wrote, as may be inferred from the whole spirit and tone of his address to them: that he stood in some position of previous connexion with his readers, as appears from the ἀποκατασταθῶ ὑμῖν, ch. Hebrews 13:19; that he lived and wrote before the destruction of Jerusale
159. (2.) It will be impossible to apply the whole of these data to the enquiry respecting individual men, without assuming, with regard to the last two mentioned at least, the result of the two following sections, ‘For what readers the Epistle was written,’ and ‘The place and time of writing.’ I shall therefore suspend the consideration of those Tests till the results shall have been arrived at(55), and meantime apply the others to such persons as are given us by history to choose from.
160. These are the following: Barnabas, Luke, Clement, Mark, Titus, Apollos, Silvanus, Aquila. These are all the companions of St. Paul, who were of note enough to have written such an Epistle: with the exception of Timotheus, who is excluded from the list, by being mentioned in the Epistle (ch. Hebrews 13:23) as a different person from the Author.
161. Of these, TITUS is excluded by the fact mentioned Galatians 2:3,—that he was a Greek, and not circumcised even at the time when he accompanied St. Paul in his third journey to Jerusalem, Acts 15:2-3 ff.
162. It is doubtful, whether a like consideration does not exclude ST. LUKE from the authorship of our Epistle. Certainly the first appearance of Colossians 4:10-14 numbers him among those who were not of the circumcision. Were this so, it would be impossible to allot him more than a subordinate share in the composition. This has been felt, and the hypothesis which takes him to have been the writer has been shaped accordingly. Thus we have seen above Clement of Alexandria held him to have translated the Epistle into Greek(56): and the idea that he wrote it under the superintendence of St. Paul, incorporating the thoughts of the great Apostle, has been of late revived and defended with considerable skill, by Delitzsch. And such, more or less modified, has been the opinion of many, both ancients and moderns: of Luculentius (cited in Delitzsch, p. 701, from Mai’s Scriptorum Veterum Nova Collectio ix. p. 251), Primasius (cent. vi.), Haym(57) (+ 853), Rhabanus Maurus (cir. 847): and of Grotius, Crell, Stein, Köhler, Hug, Ebrard: several of the latter holding the independent authorship of St. Luke, which Delitzsch also concedes to have been possible.
163. And certainly, could we explain away the inference apparently unavoidable from Colossians 4:14, such a supposition would seem to have some support from the Epistle itself. The students of the following commentary will very frequently be struck by the verbal and idiomatic coincidences with the style of St. Luke. The argument, as resting on them, has been continually taken up and pushed forward by Delitzsch, and comes on his reader frequently with a force which at the time it is not easy to withstand.
164. Yet, it must be acknowledged, the hypothesis, though so frequently and so strongly supported by apparent coincidences, does not thoroughly approve itself to the critical mind. We cannot feel convinced that St. Luke did really write our Epistle. The whole tone of the individual mind, as far as it appears in the Gospel and Acts, is so essentially different from the spirit of the Writer here, that verbal and idiomatic coincidences do not carry us over the difficulty of supposing the two to be written by one and the same. There is nothing in St. Luke of the rhetorical balance, nothing of the accumulated and stately period(58), nothing of the deep tinge, which would be visible even in narrative, of the threatening of judgment. Within the limits of the same heavenly inspiration prompting both, St. Luke is rather the careful and kindly depicter of the blessings of the covenant, our Writer rather the messenger from God to the wavering, giving them the blessing and the curse to choose between: St. Luke is rather the polished Christian civilian, our Writer the fervid and prophetic rhetorician. The places of the two are different: and it would shake our confidence in the consistency of human characteristics under the influence of the Holy Spirit, were we to believe Luke, the beloved Physician and Evangelist, to have become so changed, in the foundations and essentials of personal identity, as to have written this Epistle to the Hebrews.
165. If the preceding considerations have any weight, we must regard the coincidences above mentioned as the result of common education and manner of speech, and of common derivation of doctrine from the same personal source. St. Luke had derived his style from the same Alexandrine scholastic training, his doctrine from the same father in the faith, as the Writer of our Epistle.
166. It appears never to have been advanced as a serious hypothesis, that ST. MARK is the Writer of our Epistle. There are no points of coincidence between it and his Gospel, which would lead us to think so. He does not appear, after St. Paul’s second missionary journey, ever to have been closely joined for any considerable time in travel or in missionary work with that Apostle: and again, he seems to have been a born Jerusalem Jew (Acts 12:12; see Prolegg. Vol. I. ch. iii. § i.), which, by what has been before said, would exclude him.
167. The fact that SILVANUS, or Silas, belonged to the church at Jerusalem (Acts 15:22), would seem to exclude him also. In other points, our tests are satisfied by him. He was the constant companion of St. Paul: was imprisoned with him at Philippi (Acts 16:19 ff.), while Timotheus remained at large: is ever named by the Apostle before Timotheus (Acts 17:14-15; Acts 18:5; 2 Corinthians 1:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1): and afterwards is found in close connexion with St. Peter also (1 Peter 5:12). It must be acknowledged, that as far as mere negative reasons are concerned, with only the one exception above named, there seems no cause why Silvanus may not have written our Epistle. But every thing approaching to a positive reason is altogether wanting. We know absolutely nothing of the man, his learning, his particular training, or the likelihood that he should have given us such an Epistle as we now possess. His claim is (with that one reservation) unexceptionable: but it must retire before that of any who is recommended by positive considerations(59).
168. A far stronger array of names and claims is made out for CLEMENT OF ROME, one of the συνεργοί of St. Paul in Philippians 4:3. We have seen above (par. 19), that his name was one brought down to Origen by the φθάσασα εἰς ἡμᾶς ἱστορία, together with that of St. Luke: we have found him mentioned as held by some to be the translator, e. g. by Euthalius (par. 46), Eusebius (par. 48): the author, by Philastrius (par. 65), Jerome (par. 69), al. This latter has in modern times been the opinion of Erasmus (par. 97), and of Calvin (par. 100).
169. We cannot pronounce with any certainty whether Clement was a Jew by birth or not. The probability is against such a supposition. The advocates of this theory however rest his claim mainly on the fact that many expressions and passages of our Epistle occur in the (undoubtedly genuine) Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians(60).
170. But to this it has been satisfactorily replied by Bleek and others, that such passages have much more the air of citations, than that of repetitions of the same thought and diction by their original author, and that they in fact in no wise differ from the many other reproductions of passages of the N. T., especially of St. Paul’s Epistles, in the same letter of Clement. Bleek has besides directed attention to the great dissimilarity of the two writings, as indicating different authors. Clement’s Epistle has nothing of the Alexandrine character, nothing of the speculative spirit, of that to the Hebrews. His style is pure and correct, but wants altogether the march of periods, and rhetorical rhythm, of our Epistle. Another objection is, that had Clement written it, there could hardly have failed some trace of a tradition to that effect in the church of Rome; which, as we have seen, is not found.
171. The idea that BARNABAS was the author of our Epistle seems to have been prevalent in the African church, seeing that Tertullian quotes him as such without any doubt or explanation (above, par. 25). But it was unknown to Origen, and to Eusebius: and Jerome, in his Catalog. c. 5, vol. ii. p. 838, says “vel Barnabæ juxta Tertullianum, vel Lucæ Evangelistæ juxta quosdam, vel Clementis” &c.: so that it is probable that he recognized the notion as Tertullian’s only. And we may fairly assume that Philastrius (par. 65) and others refer to the same source, and that this view is destitute of any other external support than that which it gets from the passage of Tertullian(61).
172. It must then, in common with the rest, stand or fall on internal grounds. And in thus judging of it, we have two alternatives before us. Either the extant Epistle of Barnabas is genuine, or it is not. In the former case, the question is soon decided. So different are the styles and characters of the two Epistles, so different also the view which they take of the Jewish rites and ordinances, that it is quite impossible to imagine them the work of the same writer. The Epistle of Barnabas maintains that the ceremonial commands were even at first uttered not in a literal but in a spiritual sense (cf. Ep. Barn. c. 9, p. 749 f., ed. Migne, and al. fr.): finds childish allusions, e. g. in Greek numerals, to spiritual truths (c. 9, p. 752: λέγει γάρ· καὶ περιέτεμεν ἀβρ. ἐκ τοῦ οἴκου αὐτοῦ ἄνδρας δέκα κ. ὀκτὼ κ. τριακοσίους. τίς οὖν ἡ δοθεῖσα τούτῳ γνῶσις; μάθετε τοὺς δεκαοκτὼ πρώτους, εἶτα τοὺς τριακοσίους. τὸ δὲ δέκα κ. ὀκτώ, ί δέκα, ή ὀκτώ. ἔχεις ἰησοῦν. ὅτι δὲ σταυρὸς ἐν τῷ τ ἔμελλεν ἔχειν τὴν χάριν, λέγει καὶ τοὺς τριακοσίους): is in its whole diction and character spiritless, and flat, and pointless. If any one imagines that the same writer could have indited both, then we are clearly out of the limits of ordinary reasoning and considerations of probability.
173. But we may take the other and more probable alternative: that the so-called Epistle of Barnabas is apocryphal. Judging then of Barnabas from what we know in the Acts, many particulars certainly seem to combine in favour of him. He was a Levite, not of Judæa, but of Cyprus (Acts 4:36): he was intimately connected with St. Paul during the early part of the missionary journeys of that Apostle (Acts 9:27; Acts 15:41), and in common with him was entrusted with the first ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 11:22 ff; Acts 15:12 &c.: Galatians 2:9 &c.): he was called by the Apostles υἱὸς παρακλήσεως (Acts 4:36), which last word we have seen reason to interpret ‘exhortation.’
174. These particulars are made the most of by Wieseler (Chronologie des Apostolischen Zeitalters, pp. 504 ff.), as supporting what he considers the only certain tradition on the subject. But as we have seen this tradition itself fail, so neither will these stand under stricter examination. For Barnabas, though by birth a Cyprian, yet dwelt apparently at Jerusalem (Acts 9:27; Acts 11:22): and there, by the context of the narrative, must the field have been situated, which he sold to put its price into the common stock. As a Levite, he must have been thoroughly acquainted with the usages of the Jerusalem temple, which, as before observed, our Writer does not appear to have been. It is quite out of the question to suppose, as Wieseler does, that Barnabas, a Levite who had dwelt at Jerusalem, would, during a subsequent ministration in Egypt, have cited the usages of the temple at Leontopolis rather than those at Jerusalem. If such usages have been cited, it must be by an Egyptian Jew to whom Jerusalem was not familiar.
175. Perhaps too much has been made, on the other side, of the manifest inferiority of Barnabas to Paul in eloquence(62), and of the fact that as the history goes on in the Acts, the order becomes reversed, and from “Barnabas and Saul” or “Paul” (ch. Acts 11:30; Acts 12:25; Acts 13:2; Acts 13:7) we have “Paul and Barnabas” (ch. Acts 13:43; Act_13:46; Act_13:50; Acts 15:2 bis, Acts 15:22; Act_15:35, with only occasional intermixture of the old order, ch. Acts 14:14; Acts 15:12; Act_15:25): Barnabas gradually becoming eclipsed by the eminence of his far greater colleague. For (1) it is very possible that eloquence of the pen, such as that in our Epistle, might not have been wanting to one who was very inferior to St. Paul in eloquence of the tongue: and (2) it was most natural, that in a history written by a companion of St. Paul, and devoted, in its latter portion at least, to the Acts of St. Paul, the name of the great Apostle should gradually assume that pre-eminence to which on other grounds it was unquestionably entitled.
176. It would appear then, that against the authorship by Barnabas there can only be urged in fairness the one objection arising from his residence at Jerusalem: which, on the hypothesis of the Epistle being addressed to the church at Jerusalem, would be a circumstance in his favour with reference to such expressions as the ἀποκατασταθῶ ὑμῖν, ch. Hebrews 13:19, and the acquaintance with the readers implied throughout the Epistle. On the whole, it must be confessed, that this view comes nearest to satisfying the conditions of authorship of any that have as yet been treated; and should only be set aside, if one approaching nearer still can be found.
177. It remains that we enquire into the claims of the two remaining apostolic persons on our list, AQUILA and APOLLOS. The former of these, a Jew of Pontus by birth, was once, with his wife Priscilla, resident in Rome, but was found by St. Paul at Corinth on his first arrival there (Acts 18:2), having been compelled to quit the capital by a decree of Claudius. It is uncertain whether at that time he was a Christian; but if not, he soon after became one by the companionship of the Apostle, who took up his abode, and wrought at their common trade of tent-making, with Aquila and Priscilla. After this, Aquila became a zealous forwarder of the gospel. We find him (Acts 18:18) accompanying St. Paul to Ephesus, and in his company there when he wrote 1 Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:19): again at Rome when the Epistle to the Romans was written (Romans 16:3): at Ephesus again when 2 Tim. was written (2 Timothy 4:19).
178. From these places it appears, that Aquila was a person of considerable importance among the brethren: that the church used to assemble in his house: that he and his wife Priscilla had exposed their lives for the gospel’s sake. And from Acts 18:26 we find, that they were also well able to carry on the work of teaching, even with such a pupil as Apollos, who was mighty in the Scriptures.
179. It must be owned that these circumstances would constitute a fair prima facie case for Aquila, were it not for certain indications that he himself was rather the ready and zealous patron, than the teacher; and that this latter work, or a great share in it, seems to have belonged to his wife, Prisca or Priscilla. She is ever named with him, even Acts 18:26, where the instruction of Apollos is described: and not unfrequently, her name precedes his (Acts 18:18; Romans 16:3; 2 Timothy 4:19): an arrangement so contrary to the custom of antiquity, that some very sufficient reason must have existed for it. At all events, the grounds on which an hypothesis of Aquila’s authorship of our Epistle would rest, must be purely of a negative kind, as far as personal capacity is concerned. And it does not appear that any, either in ancient or modern times, have fixed on him as its probable writer.
180. There is yet one name remaining, that of APOLLOS, in whom certainly more conditions meet than in any other man, both negative and positive, of the possible authorship of our Epistle. The language in which he is introduced in the Acts (Acts 18:24) is very remarkable. He is there described as ἰουδαῖός τις, ἀλεξανδρεὺς τῷ γένει, ἀνὴρ λόγιος, δυνατὸς ὢν ἐν ταῖς γραφαῖς. Every word here seems fitted to point him out as the person of whom we are in search. He is a Jew, born in Alexandria: here we have at once two great postulates fulfilled: here we at once might account for the Alexandrian language of the Epistle, and for the uniform use of the LXX version, mainly (if this be so) in its Alexandrian form. He is an eloquent man (see note on λόγιος ad loc., Vol. II.), and mighty in the Scriptures. As we advance in the description, even minute coincidences seem to confirm our view that we are here at last on the right track. He is described as ἐπιστάμενος μόνον τὸ βάπτισμα τοῦ ἰωάννου, but being more perfectly taught the way of the Lord by Aquila and Priscilla. No wonder then that a person so instituted should specify βαπτισμῶν διδαχή as one of the components in the θεμέλιον of the Christian life (Hebrews 6:2). It is described as his characteristic, that he ἤρξατο παῤῥησιάζεσθαι ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ: is it wonderful then that he, of all N. T. writers, should exhort μὴ ἀποβάλητε τὴν παῤῥησίαν (Hebrews 10:35), and declare to his readers that they were the house of Christ ἐὰν τὴν παῤῥησίαν … κατασχῶμεν (Hebrews 3:6)?
181. Nor, if we proceed to examine the further notices of him, does this first impression become weakened. In 1 Corinthians 1-4, we find him described by inference as most active and able, and only second to St. Paul himself in the church at Corinth. It would be difficult to select words which should more happily and exactly hit the relation of the Epistle to the Hebrews to the writings of St. Paul, than those of 1 Corinthians 3:6, ἐγὼ ἐφύτευσα, ἀπολλὼς ἐπότισεν. And the eloquence and rhetorical richness of the style of Apollos seems to have been exactly that, wherein his teaching differed from that of the Apostle. It is impossible to help feeling that the frequent renunciations, on St. Paul’s part, of words of excellency or human wisdom, have reference, partly, it may be, to some exaggeration of Apollos’ manner of teaching by his disciples, but also to some infirmity, in this direction, of that teacher himself. Cf. especially 2 Corinthians 11:3.
182. It is just this difference in style and rhetorical character, which, in this case elevated and chastened by the informing and pervading Spirit, distinguishes the present Epistle to the Hebrews from those of the great Apostle himself. And, just as it was not easy to imagine either St. Luke, or Clement, or Barnabas, to have written such an Epistle, so now we feel, from all the characteristics given us of Apollos in the sacred narrative, that if he wrote at all, it would be an Epistle precisely of this kind, both in contents, and in style.
183. For as to the former of these, the contents and argument of the Epistle, we have a weighty indication furnished by the passage in the Acts: εὐτόνως γὰρ τοῖς ἰουδαίοις διακατηλέγχετο δημοσίᾳ, ἐπιδεικνὺς διὰ τῶν γραφῶν εἶναι τὸν χριστὸν ἰησοῦν. What words could more accurately describe, if not the very teaching itself, yet the opening of a course of argument likely, when the occasion offered, to lead to the teaching, of our Epistle?
184. Again, we seem to have found in Apollos just that degree of dependence on St. Paul which we require, combined with that degree of independence which the writer of our Epistle must have had. Instructed originally in the elements of the Christian faith by Aquila and Priscilla, he naturally received it in that form in which the great Apostle of the Gentiles especially loved to put it forth. His career however of Christian teaching began and was carried on at Corinth, without the personal superintendence of St. Paul; his line of arguing with and convincing the Jews did not, as St. Paul’s, proceed on the covenant of justification by faith made by God with Abraham, but took a different direction, that namely of the eternal High-priesthood of Jesus, and the all-sufficiency of His one Sacrifice. Faith indeed with him occupies a place fully as important as that assigned to it by St. Paul: he does not however dwell on it mainly as the instrument of our justification before God, but as the necessary condition of approach to Him, and of persistence in our place as partakers of the heavenly calling(63). The teaching of this Epistle is not indeed in any particular inconsistent with, but neither is it dependent on, the teaching of St. Paul’s Epistles.
185. We may advance yet further in our estimate of the probability of Apollos having written as we find the Author of this Epistle writing.
The whole spirit of the First Epistle to the Corinthians shews us, that there had sprung up in the Corinthian church a rivalry between the two modes of teaching; unaccompanied by, as it assuredly was not caused by, any rivalry between the teachers themselves, except in so far as was of necessity the case from the very variety of the manner of teaching. And while the one fact, of the rivalry between the teachings and their disciples, is undeniable, the other fact, that of absence of rivalry between the Teachers, is shewn in a very interesting manner. On the side of St. Paul, by his constant and honourable mention of Apollos as his second and helper: by Apollos, in the circumstance mentioned 1 Corinthians 16:12, that St. Paul had exhorted him to accompany to Corinth the bearers of that Epistle, but that he could not prevail on him to go at that time: he only promised a future visit at some favourable opportunity. Here, if I mistake not, we see the generous confidence of the Apostle, wishing Apollos to go to Corinth and prove, in spite of what had there taken place, the unity of the two apostolic men in the faith: here too, which is important to our present subject, we have the self-denying modesty of Apollos, unwilling to incur even the chance of being set at the head of a party against the Apostle, or in any way to obtrude himself personally, where St. Paul had sown the seed, now that there had grown up, on the part of some in that Church, a spirit of invidious personal comparison between the two.
186. If we have interpreted aright this hint of the feeling of Apollos as regarded St. Paul; if, as we may well suppose in one ζέοντι τῷ πνεύματι, such a feeling was deeply implanted and continued to actuate him,—what more likely to have given rise to the semi-anonymous character of our present Epistle? He has no reason for strict concealment of himself, but he has a strong reason for not putting himself prominently forward. He does not open with announcing his name, or sending a blessing in his own person: but neither does he write throughout as one who means to be unknown: and among the personal notices at the end, he makes no secret of circumstances and connexions, which would be unintelligible, unless the readers were going along with a writer personally known to them. And thus the two-sided phænomena of our Epistle, utterly inexplicable as they have ever been on the hypothesis of Pauline authorship or superintendence, would receive a satisfactory explanation.
187. It will be plainly out of place to object, that this explanation would only hold, on the hypothesis that our Epistle was addressed to the Jews at Corinth. The same spirit of modest self-abnegation would hardly, after such an indication of it, be wanting in Apollos, to whatever church he was writing. But I reserve it for the next section to enquire how far this view is confirmed or impugned by our conclusion as to the church to which the Epistle was, in all probability, originally addressed(64).
188. The history of the hypothesis that Apollos was the author of our Epistle, has been given by implication, from the time of Luther, its apparent originator, above in parr. 98–108. It may be convenient to give here, in one conspectus, the principal names in its favour: Luther, Osiander, Le Clerc, Heumann (1711), Lorenz Müller (1717), Semler, Ziegler, Dindorf, Bleek, Tholuck, Credner, Reuss, the R.-Catholics Feilmoser and Lutterbeck (the latter with this modification, that he believes St. Paul to have written the 9 last verses, and the rest to have been composed by Apollos in union with St. Luke, Clement, and other companions of the Apostle),—De Wette, Lünemann.
189. The objection which is commonly set against these probabilities is, that we have no ecclesiastical tradition pointing to Apollos: that it is unreasonable to suppose that the church to which the Epistle was sent should altogether have lost all trace of the name of an author who must have been personally known to them. This has been strongly urged, and by some, e. g. Mr. Forster, regarded as a ground for attempting to laugh to scorn the hypothesis, as altogether unworthy of serious consideration(65).
190. But if any student has carefully followed the earlier paragraphs of this section, he will be fully prepared to meet such an objection, and will not be deterred from the humble search after truth by such scorn. He will remember how we shewed the failure of every attempt to establish a satisfactory footing for any view of the authorship as being the tradition of the church: and proved that, with regard to any research into the subject, we of this day approach it as those of old did in their day, with full liberty to judge from the data furnished by the Epistle itself.
191. And he will also bear in mind, that the day is happily passing away with Biblical writers and students, when the strong language of those, who were safe in the shelter of a long-prescribed and approved opinion, could deter any from humble and faithful research into the various phænomena of God’s word itself: when the confession of having found insoluble difficulties was supposed to indicate unsoundness of faith, and the recognition of discrepancies was regarded as affecting the belief of divine inspiration. We have at last in this country begun to learn, that Holy Scripture shrinks not from any tests, however severe, and requires not any artificial defences, however apparently expedient.
FOR WHAT READERS IT WAS WRITTEN
1. That the book before us is an Epistle, not a homily or treatise, is too plain to require more than a passing assertion. Its personal and circumstantial notices are inseparable from it, and the language is throughout epistolary, as far as the nature of the subject would permit.
2. And it is almost equally plain, that it is an Epistle addressed to JUDÆO-CHRISTIANS. The attempt to dispute this(66) must be regarded rather as a curiosity of literature, than as worthy of serious attention. The evidence of the whole Epistle goes to shew, that the readers had been Jews, and were in danger of apostatizing back into Judaism again. Not a syllable is found of allusions to their conversion from the alienation of heathenism, such as frequently occur in St. Paul’s Epistles: but every where their original covenant state is assumed, and the fact of that covenant having been amplified and superseded by a better one is insisted on.
3. If then it was written to Judæo-Christians, on whom are we to think as its intended recipients?
4. Was it addressed to the whole body of such converts throughout the world? This view has found some few respectable names to defend it(67). But it cannot be seriously entertained. The Epistle assumes throughout a local habitation, and a peculiar combination of circumstances, for those who are addressed: and concludes, not only with greetings from οἱ ἀπὸ ἰταλίας, but with an expressed intention of the Writer to visit those addressed, in company with Timotheus; which would be impossible on this œcumenical hypothesis.
5. If then we are to choose some one church, the first occurring to us is the mother church at Jerusalem, perhaps united with the daughter churches in Palestine. And this, in one form or other, has been the usual opinion: countenanced by many phænomena in the Epistle itself. At and near Jerusalem, it is urged, ( α) would that attachment to the temple-worship be found which seems to be assumed on the part of the readers: there again ( β) were the only examples of churches almost purely Judaic in their composition: there only ( γ) would such allusions as that to going forth to suffer with Christ ἔξω τῆς πύλης (ch. Hebrews 13:12) be understood and appreciated.
6. But these arguments are by no means weighty, much less decisive. For ( α) we do not find any signs in our Epistle that its readers were to be persons who had the temple-service before their eyes; the Writer refers much more to his LXX, than to any existing practices: and men with their Bibles in their hands might well have been thus addressed, even if they had never witnessed the actual ceremonies themselves. Be sides which, all Jews were supposed to be included in the templerites, wherever dwelling, and would doubtless be quite as familiar with them as there can be any reason here for assuming. And again, even granting the ground of the argument, its inference is not necessary, for there was another Jewish temple at Leontopolis in Egypt, wherein the Mosaic ordinances were observed.
7. With regard to ( β), it may well be answered, that such an exclusively Jewish church, as would be found in Palestine only, is not required for the purposes of our Epistle. It is beyond question that the Epistle of St. James was written to Jewish Christian converts; yet it is expressly addressed to the dispersion outside Palestine, who must every where have been mingled with their Gentile brethren. Besides, it has been well remarked(68), that the Epistle itself leads to no such assumption of an exclusively Jewish church. It might have been sent to a church in which both Jews and Gentiles were mingled, in mediam rem, to find its own readers: and such an idea is countenanced by the ἐξερχώμεθα κ. τ. λ., ch. Hebrews 13:13, compared with the μὴ ἐγκαταλείποντες τὴν ἐπισυναγωγὴν ἑαυτῶν, ch. Hebrews 10:25. It has been well shewn by Riehm(69), that our Writer’s whole procedure as concerns Gentile Christians can only be accounted for by his regarding the Jewish people,— τὸν λαόν, or τὸν λαὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, ch. Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 4:9; Hebrews 13:12,— σπέρμα ἀβραάμ, ch. Hebrews 2:16,—as the primary stock, into which all other men were to be engrafted for the purposes of salvation: as a theocratic rather than a physical development. For that the Lord Jesus tasted death ὑπὲρ παντός, is as undeniably his doctrine.
8. The argument ( γ) is evidently not decisive. Wherever there were Jews, priding themselves on their own nationality, and acquainted with the facts of our Lord’s death, such an exhortation might be used. The type is derived from the usage of the tabernacle; the antitype, from a known historical fact: the exhortation is, as explained by Theodoret (see note on ch. Hebrews 13:13), to come forth out of the then legal polity of Judaism, content to bear the reproach accruing in consequence: all of which would be as applicable any where, as in Palestine, or at Jerusalem.
9. There seems then to be at least no necessity for adopting Jerusalem or Palestine as containing the readers to whom our Epistle was addressed. But on the other hand there are reasons against such an hypothesis, of more or less weight. These I will state, not in order of their importance, but as they most naturally occur.
10. The language and style of our Epistle, if it was addressed to Jews in Jerusalem or Palestine, is surely unaccountable. For, although Greek was commonly spoken in Palestine, yet on the one hand no writer who wished to obtain a favourable hearing with Jews there on matters regarding their own religion, would choose Greek as the medium of his communication (cf. Acts 22:2). And the Gospel of St. Matthew is no case in point: for whatever judgment we may form respecting the original language of our present Gospel, there can be no doubt that the apostolic oral teaching, on which our first three Gospels are founded, was originally extant in Aramaic: whereas it is impossible to suppose the Epistle to the Hebrews a translation, or originally extant in any other tongue than Greek. And, on the other hand, not only is our Epistle Greek, but it is such Greek, as necessarily presupposes some acquaintance with literature, some practice not merely in the colloquial, but in the scholastic Greek, of the day. And this surely was as far as possible from being the case with the churches of Jerusalem and Palestine.
11. A weighty pendant to the same objection is found in the unvarying use of the LXX version by our Writer, even, as in ch. Hebrews 1:6; Hebrews 2:7; Hebrews 10:5, where it differs from the Hebrew text. “How astonishing is this circumstance,” says Wieseler (ii. p. 497), “if he was writing to inhabitants of Palestine, with whom the LXX had no authority!”
12. Another objection is, that it is not possible to conceive either of St. Paul himself or of any of his companions, that they should have stood in such a relation to the Jerusalem or Palestine churches, as we find subsisting between the Writer of our Epistle and his readers. To suppose such a relation in the case of the Apostle himself, is to cut ourselves loose from all the revealed facts of his course, and suppose a totally new mind to have sprung up in Jerusalem towards him. And least of all his companions could such a relation have subsisted in the case of Apollos and Timotheus; at least for many years, far more than history will allow, after the speech of St. James in Acts 21:20.
13. be the impossibility, on the hypothesis now in question, of giving any satisfactory meaning to the notice in ch. Hebrews 13:24, ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς ἰταλίας. If the Writer was, as often supposed, in Rome, how unnatural to specify the Jews residing there by this name! if in Italy, how unnatural again that he should send greeting from Christian Jews so widely scattered, thereby depriving the salutation of all reality! If again he was not in Rome nor in Italy, what reason can be suggested for his sending an especial salutation to Jews in Palestine from some present with him who happened to be from Italy? The former of these three suppositions is perhaps the least unlikely: but the least unlikely, how unlikely!
14. Again, the historical notices in our Epistle do not fit the hypothesis in question. The great notice of ch. Hebrews 2:3, would be strictly true of any church rather than that of Jerusalem, or those in Palestine generally. At any date that can reasonably be assigned for our Epistle (see below, § iii.), there must have been many living in those churches, who had heard the Lord for themselves. And though it may be said that they had, properly speaking, received the tidings of salvation from those that heard Him, yet such a body, among whom Jesus Himself had lived and moved in the flesh, would surely not be one of which to predicate the words in the text so simply and directly. Rather should we look for one of which they might be from the first and without controversy true.
15. Another historical notice is found ch. Hebrews 6:10, διακονήσαντες τοῖς ἁγίοις καὶ διακονοῦντες, which would be less applicable to the churches of Jerusalem and Palestine, than to any others. For it was they who were the objects, not the subjects of this διακονία, throughout the ministry of St. Paul: and certainly from what we know of their history, their situation did not improve after that Apostle’s death. This διακονία εἰς τοὺς ἁγίους was a duty enjoined by him on the churches of Galatia (1 Corinthians 16:1; Romans 15:26), Macedonia, and Achaia, and doubtless by implication on other churches also (see Romans 12:13): the ἅγιοι being the poor saints at Jerusalem. And though, as Schneckenburger replies to this, some of the Jerusalem Christians may have been wealthy, and able to assist their poorer brethren, yet we must notice that the διακονία here is predicated not of some among them, but of the church, as such, in general: which could not be said of the church in Jerusalem.
16. There are some notices, on which no stress can be laid either way, as for, or as against, the claim of the Jerusalem church. Such are, that found ch. Hebrews 12:4, which in the note there we have seen reason to apply rather to the figure there made use of, than to any concrete fact assignable in history: and that in ch. Hebrews 5:12, which manifestly must not be taken to imply that no teachers had at that time proceeded from the particular church addressed, but that its members in general were behind what might have been expected of them in spiritual knowledge.
17. It may again be urged, that the absence, no less than the presence of historical allusions, makes against the hypothesis. If the Epistle were addressed to the church at Jerusalem, it seems strange that no allusion should be made in it to the fact that our Lord Himself had lived and taught among them in the flesh, had before their eyes suffered death on the Cross, had found among them the first witnesses of His Resurrection and Ascension(70).
18. If then we cannot fit our Epistle to the very widely spread assumption that it was addressed to the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem and Palestine, we must obviously put to the test, in search of its original readers, the various other churches which came within the working of St. Paul and his companions. Of many of these, which have in turn become the subjects of hypotheses, it is hardly necessary to give more than a list. Wall believed the Epistle to have been written to the Hebrew Christians of Proconsular Asia, Macedonia, and Greece: Sir I. Newton, Bolten, and Bengel, to Jews who had left Jerusalem on account of the war, and were settled in Asia Minor: Credner, to those in Lycaonia: Storr, Mynster, and Rinck, to those in Galatia: Lyra and Ludwig, to those in Spain: Semler and Nösselt, to those in Thessalonica: Böhme, to those in Antioch: Stein, to those in Laodicea (see the citation from Philastrius in § i. 65, and note): Röth, to those in Antioch: Baumgarten-Crusius, to those at Ephesus and Colossæ.
19. Several of these set out with the assumption of a Pauline authorship: and none of them seems to fulfil satisfactorily any of the main conditions of our problem. If it was to any one of these bodies of Jews that the Epistle was addressed, we know so little about any one of them, that the holding of such an opinion on our part can only be founded on the vaguest and wildest conjecture. To use arguments against such hypotheses, would be to fight with mere shadows.
20. But there are three churches yet remaining which will require more detailed discussion: CORINTH, ALEXANDRIA, and ROME. The reason for including the former of these in this list, rather than in the other, is, that on the view that Apollos was the Writer, the church in which he so long and so effectively laboured seems to have a claim to be considered.
21. But the circumstances of the Jewish portion of the church at CORINTH were not such as to justify such an hypothesis. It does not appear to have been of sufficient importance in point of numbers: nor can the ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκουσάντων εἰς ἡμᾶς ἐβεβαιώθη of ch. Hebrews 2:3 have been asserted of them, seeing that they owed their conversion to the ministry of St. Paul.
22. ALEXANDRIA is maintained by Schmidt and Wieseler to have been the original destination of the Epistle. There, it is urged, were the greatest number of resident Jews, next to Jerusalem: there, at Leontopolis in Egypt, was another temple, with the arrangements of which the notices in our Epistle more nearly correspond than with those in Jerusalem(71): from thence the Epistle appears first to have come forth to the knowledge of the church. Add to which, the canon of Muratori (see above, § i. 31) speaks of an Epistle “ad Alexandrinos,” which may probably designate our present Epistle. Besides all this, the Alexandrine character of the language, and treatment of subjects in the Epistle, and manner of citation, are urged, as pointing to Alexandrine readers.
23. And doubtless there is some weight in these considerations: enough, in the mere balance of probabilities, to cause us to place this hypothesis far before all others which have as yet been treated. Still there are some circumstances to be taken into account, which rather weaken its probability. One of these is that, various as are the notices of the Epistle from early Alexandrine writers, we find no hint of its having been addressed to their own church, no certain tradition concerning its author. Another arises from the absence of all positive history of the church there in apostolic times, by which we might try, and verify, the few historic notices occurring in the Epistle. Indeed as far as the more personal of those notices are concerned, the same objections lie against Alexandria, as have before been urged against Palestine: the difficulty of assigning a reason for the salutation from οἱ ἀπὸ ἰταλίας, and of imagining, within the limits which must be set to the date of the Epistle, any such relation of Timotheus to the readers, as is supposed in ch. Hebrews 13:23.
24. These objections would lead us, at all events, to pass on to the end of our list before we attempt to pronounce on the preponderance of probability, and take into consideration the claims of ROME herself. These were in part put forward by Wetstein(72), and have more recently been urged in Holzmann’s article on Schneckenburger in the Studien u. Kritiken for 1859, pt. 2, pp. 297 ff.
25. They may be briefly explained to be these: (1) The fact of the church at Rome being just such an one, in its origin and composition, as this Epistle seems to presuppose. It has been already seen (par. 7) that when, as we are compelled, we give up the idea of its having been addressed to a church exclusively consisting of Judæo-Christians, we necessarily are referred to one in which the Jewish believers formed a considerable portion, and that the primary stock and nucleus, of the church. Now this seems to have been the case at Rome, from the indications furnished us in the Epistle to the Romans. “The Jew first, and also the Gentile,” is a note frequently struck in that Epistle: and the Church at Rome seems to be the only one of those with which St. Paul had been concerned, which would entirely answer to such a description.
26. (2) The great key to the present question, the historical notice ch. Hebrews 2:3, fits exceedingly well the circumstances of the church of Rome. That church had arisen, not from the preaching of any Apostle among them, but from a confluence of primitive believers, the first having arrived there probably not long after our Lord’s Ascension: see Acts 2:10. In Romans 1:8, written in all probability in the year 58 A.D., St. Paul states, ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν καταγγέλλεται ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ κόσμῳ: and in Romans 16:19, ἡ γὰρ ὑμῶν ὑπακοὴ εἰς πάντας ἀφίκετο: the inferences from which, and their proper limitation, I have discussed in the Prolegomena to that Epistle, Vol. II. § ii. 2. γ. And in Romans 16:7, we find a salutation to Andronicus and Junius, Jews (see note there) οἵτινές εἰσιν ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις, οἳ καὶ πρὸ ἐμοῦ γέγοναν ἐν χριστῷ. So that here we have a church, the only one of all those with which St. Paul and his companions were concerned, of which it could be said, that the gospel ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκουσάντων ( τὸν κύριον) εἰς ἡμᾶς ἐβεβαιώθη: the Apostle himself not having arrived there till long after such βεβαίωσις had taken place.
27. Again (3) it was in Rome, and Rome principally, that Judaistic Christianity took its further development and forms of error: it was there, not in Jerusalem and Palestine, that at this time the διδαχαὶ ποικίλαι καὶ ξέναι, against which the readers are warned, ch. Hebrews 13:9, were springing up. “As soon as the gloom of the earliest history begins to clear a little, we find face to face at Rome Valentinians and Marcionites, Praxeas and the Montanists (Proclus), Hegesippus and the Elcesaites, Justin, and Polycarp. Here it was that there arose in the second half of the second century the completest exposition of theosophic Judaism, the Clementines, the literary memorial of a manœuvre which had for its aim the absorption of the whole Roman Church into Judæo-Christianity(73).” We have glimpses of the beginning of this state of Judaistic development even in St. Paul’s lifetime, at two distinct periods; when he wrote the Epistle to the Romans, cir. A.D. 58, cf. Romans 14:15 to Romans 14:13,—and later, in that to the Philippians, cir. A.D. 63 (see Prolegg. Vol. III. § ii. 5): cf. Philippians 1:14-17; again in the bitterness conveyed in βλέπετε τὴν κατατομήν, and the following verses, Philippians 3:2 ff.
28. It is also to be remarked (4) that the personal notices found in our Epistle agree remarkably well with the hypothesis that it was addressed to the church at Rome. The information respecting Timotheus could not come amiss to those who had been addressed ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς τιμόθεος ὁ συνεργός μου, Romans 16:21; who had been accustomed to the companionship of παῦλος καὶ τιμόθεος among them, Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; Philemon 1:1; and the ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς ἰταλίας of ch. Hebrews 13:24 receives a far more likely interpretation than that conceded as possible above, § i. 126, if we believe the Writer to be addressing his Epistle from some place where were present with him Christians from Italy, who would be desirous of sending greeting to their brethren at home. If he was writing e. g. at Alexandria, or at Ephesus, or at Corinth, such a salutation would be very natural. And thus we should be giving to οἱ ἀπό its most usual N. T. meaning, of persons who have come from the place indicated: cf. οἱ ἀπὸ ἱεροσολύμων, Matthew 15:1; οἱ ἀπὸ κιλικίας κ. ἀσίας, Acts 6:9; οἱ ἀπὸ ἰόππης, ib. Acts 10:23. Even Bleek, who holds our Epistle to have been addressed to the church in Palestine, takes this view, and assigns as its place of writing, Ephesus or Corinth. But then, what sense would it have, to send greeting to Palestine from οἱ ἀπὸ ἰταλίας?
29. Another set of important notices which this hypothesis will illustrate is found, where past persecution, and the death of eminent men in the church, are alluded to. These have ever presented, on the Palestine view, considerable difficulties. Any assignment of them to known historical occurrences would put them far too early for any probable date of our Epistle: and it has been felt that the deaths by martrydom of St. Stephen, St. James the Great, and the like, were far from satisfying the τὴν ἔκβασιν τῶν ἡγουμένων ὑμῶν, which they were commanded to consider: and though the time during which the Epistle must have reached Jerusalem was indeed one of great and unexampled trouble and disorganization, we know of no general persecution of Christians as such, since that which arose on account of Stephen, which was hardly likely to have been in the Writer’s mind.
30. But on the Roman hypothesis, these passages are easily explained. About 49 or 50, Claudius “Judæos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantes, Roma expulit” (Sueton. Claud. c. 25). This time may well be alluded to by the ἀναμιμνήσκεσθε τὰς πρότερον ἡμέρας of ch. Hebrews 10:32; for under the blundering expression “impulsore Chresto tumultuantes” it is impossible not to recognize troubles sprung from the rising of the Jews against the Christian converts. Thus also will the τοῖς δεσμίοις συνεπαθήσατε receive a natural interpretation, as imprisonments and trials would necessarily have accompanied these “assiduos tumultus,” before the final step of expulsion took place; and the τὴν ἁρπαγὴν τῶν ὑπαρχόντων ὑμῶν μετὰ χαρᾶς προσεδέξασθε may be easily understood, either as a result of the tumults themselves, or of the expulsion, in which they had occasion to test their knowledge that they had for themselves κρείσσονα ὕπαρξιν καὶ μένουσαν.
31. It is true there are some particulars connected with this passage, which do not seem so well to fit that earlier time of trouble, as the Neronian persecution nearly fifteen years after. The only objection to taking that event as the one referred to, would be the expression τὰς πρότερον ἡμέρας, and the implication conveyed in ἐν αἷς φωτισθέντες … ὑπεμείνατε: considering that we cannot go beyond the destruction of Jerusalem, at the latest eight years after, for the date of our Epistle. Still it is not impossible that both these expressions might be used. A time of great peril passed away might be thus alluded to, even at the distance of five or six years: and it might well be, that the majority of the Roman Jewish Christians had become converts during the immediately preceding imprisonment of St. Paul, and by his means.
32. On this supposition, still more light is thrown on this passage, and on the general tenor of the martyrology in the eleventh chapter. Thus the πολλὴ ἄθλησις παθημάτων is fully justified: thus, the ὀνειδισμοῖς τε καὶ θλίψεσι θεατριζόμενοι, which finds almost an echo in the “pereuntibus addita ludibria” of Tacitus, Ann. 15:44, and is so exactly in accord, when literally taken, with the cruel exposures and deaths in the circus. The δέσμιοι and the ἁρπαγή too, on this supposition, would be matters of course. And I own, notwithstanding the objection stated above, that all this seems to fit the great Neronian persecution, and in the fullest sense, that only.
33. To that period also may we refer the notice in ch. Hebrews 13:7, μνημονεύετε τῶν ἡγουμένων ὑμῶν, οἵτινες ἐλάλησαν ὑμῖν τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ, ὧν ἀναθεωροῦντες τὴν ἔκβασιν τῆς ἀναστροφῆς μιμεῖσθε τὴν πίστιν. It may be indeed, that this refers simply to a natural death in the faith of Christ: but it is far more probable, from the ἀναθεωροῦντες, and the μιμεῖσθε τὴν πίστιν, that it points to death by martyrdom; πίστις having been so strongly illustrated in ch. 11, as bearing up under torments and death.
34. On this hypothesis, several other matters seem also to fall into place. The γινώσκετε τὸν ἀδελφὸν τιμόθεον ἀπολελυμένον may well refer to the termination of some imprisonment of Timotheus consequent upon the Neronian persecution, from which perhaps the death of the tyrant liberated him. Where this imprisonment took place, must be wholly uncertain. I shall speak of the conjectural probabilities of the place indicated by ἐὰν τάχιον ἔρχηται, when I come to treat of the time and place of writing(74).
35. The use evidently made in our Epistle of the Epistle to the Romans, above all other of St. Paul’s(75), will thus also be satisfactorily accounted for. Not only was the same church addressed, but the Writer had especially before him the matter and language of that Epistle, which was written in all probability from Corinth, the scene of the labours of Paul and Apollos.
36. The sort of semi-anonymous character of our Epistle, already treated of when we ascribed the authorship to Apollos, will also come in here, as singularly in accord with the circumstances of the case, and with the subsequent tradition as regards the Epistle, in case it was addressed to the church in Rome. Supposing, as we have gathered from the notices of Apollos in 1 Cor., that he modestly shrunk from being thought to put himself into rivalry with St. Paul, and that after the death of the Apostle he found it necessary to write such an Epistle as this to the Church in the metropolis, what more likely step would he take with regard to his own name and personality in it, than just that which we find has been taken: viz. so to conceal these, as to keep them from having any prominence, while by various minute personal notices he prevents the concealment from being complete? And with regard to the relation evidently subsisting between the Writer and his readers, all we can say is that, in defect of positive knowledge on this head connecting Apollos with the church at Rome, it is evidently in the metropolis, of all places, where such a relation may most safely be assumed. There a teacher, whose native place was Alexandria, and who had travelled to Ephesus and Corinth, was pretty sure to have been: there many of his Christian friends would be found: there alone, in the absence of positive testimony, could we venture to place such a cycle of dwelling and teaching, as would justify the ἀποκατασταθῶ ὑμῖν of our ch. Hebrews 13:19; in the place whither was a general confluence of all, and where there is ample room for such a course after the decease of St. Paul.
37. And what more likely fate to befall the Epistle in this respect, than just that which did befall it in the Roman church: viz. that while in that church, and by a contemporary of Apollos, Clement, we find the first use made of our Epistle, and that the most familiar and copious use,—its words are never formally cited, nor is any author’s name attached? And was not this especially likely to be the case, as Clement was writing to the Corinthians, the very church where the danger had arisen of a rivalry between the fautors of the two teachers?
38. And as time goes on, the evidence for this hypothesis seems to gather strength, in the nature of the traditions respecting the authorship of our Epistle. While in Africa and the East they are most various and inconsistent with one another, and the notion of a Pauline origin is soon suggested, and gains rapid acceptance, it is in the church of Rome alone, and among those influenced by her, that we find an ever steady and unvarying assertion, that it was not written by St. Paul. By whom it was written, none ventured to say. How weighty the reasons may have been, which induced silence on this point, we have now lost the power of appreciating. The fact only is important for us, that the few personal notices which occur in it were in course of time overborne, as indications of its author, by the prevalent anonymous character: and that the same church which possessed as its heritage the most illustrious of St. Paul’s own Epistles, was ever unanimous in disclaiming, on the part of the Apostle of the Gentiles, the authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
39. The result of the above enquiry may be shortly stated. As the current of popular opinion in the church has gradually set in towards the Pauline authorship, inferring that a document at first sight so Pauline must have proceeded from the Apostle himself: so has it also set in towards the church at Jerusalem as the original readers, inferring that the title πρὸς ἑβραίους must be thus interpreted. But as in the one case, so in the other, the general popular opinion does not bear examination. As the phænomena of the Epistle do not bear out the idea of the Pauline authorship, so neither do they that of being addressed to the Palestine churches. And as in the other case there is one man, when we come to search and conjecture, pointed out as most likely to have written the Epistle, so here, when we pursue the same process, there is one place pointed out, to which it seems most likely to have been addressed. At Rome, such a Church existed as is indicated in it: at Rome, above all other places, its personal and historical notices are satisfied: at Rome, we find it first used: at Rome only, is there an unanimous and unvarying negative tradition regarding its authorship. To ROME then, until stronger evidence is adduced, we believe it to have been originally written.
TIME AND PLACE OF WRITING
1. Almost all Commentators agree in believing that our Epistle was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. And rightly: for if that great break-up of the Jewish polity and religious worship had occurred, we may fairly infer that some mention of such an event would have been found in an argument, the scope of which is to shew the transitoriness of the Jewish priesthood and the Levitical ceremonies. It would be inconceivable, that such an Epistle should be addressed to Jews after their city and temple had ceased to exist.
2. This then being assumed, as our ‘terminus ad quem,’ i. e. A.D. 70, or at the latest assigned date, 72, it remains to seek for a ‘terminus a quo.’ Such would appear to me to be fixed by the death of St. Paul: but inasmuch as (1) this would not be recognized either by the advocates of the Pauline authorship, or by those who believe that the Epistle, though possibly written by another, was superintended by the Apostle, and seeing (2) that the date of that event itself is wholly uncertain, it will be necessary to look elsewhere for some indication. And the only traces of one will, I conceive, be found by combining several hints furnished by the Epistle. Such are, ( α) that the first generation, of those who had seen and heard the Lord, was at all events nearly passed away: ( β) that the first leaders of the church had died, probably under the persecution elsewhere alluded to: ( γ) that Timotheus had been imprisoned, and was then set free, probably in connexion with that same persecution. If these notices are to be taken, as maintained above (§ ii. 31 ff.), to apply to the Neronian persecution, then the Epistle cannot have been written till some considerable time after that, in order to justify the expression ἀναμιμνήσκεσθε τὰς πρότερον ἡμέρας of our ch. Hebrews 10:32. Now that persecution broke out in 64, and lasted four years, i. e. till Nero’s death in 68. And I may notice, that even those who are far from adopting the views here advocated as to the Author and readers of the Epistle, yet consider, that the liberation of Timotheus may well have been connected with the cessation of the Neronian persecution.
3. If we follow these indications, we shall get the year 68 as our ‘terminus a quo,’ and the time of writing the Epistle will be 68–70, i. e. during the siege of Jerusalem by the armies of Titus, to which we may perhaps discern an allusion in ch. Hebrews 13:14, οὐ γὰρ ἔχομεν ὧδε μένουσαν πόλιν, ἀλλὰ τὴν μέλλουσαν ἐπιζητοῦμεν.
4. With regard to the place of writing, we are almost entirely in the dark. Taking the usual N. T. sense, above maintained, for οἱ ἀπὸ ἰταλίας,—‘persons whose home is in Italy, but who are now here,’—it cannot have been written in Italy. Nor is Apollos (for when we are left, as now, to the merest conjecture, it is necessary to shape our course by assuming our own hypothesis) likely, after what had happened, again to be found fixed at Corinth. Jerusalem, and indeed Palestine, would be precluded by the Jewish war then raging; Ephesus is possible, and would be a not unlikely resort of Timotheus after his liberation (ch. Hebrews 13:23), as also of Apollos at any time (Acts 18:24): Alexandria, the native place of Apollos, is also possible, though the ἐὰν τάχιον ἔρχηται, applied to Timotheus, would not so easily fit it, as on his liberation he would be more likely to go to some parts with which he was familiar than to Alexandria where he was a stranger. In both these cities there may well have been οἱ ἀπὸ ἰταλίας sojourning: and this very phrase seems to point to some place of considerable resort. On the whole then, I should incline to EPHESUS, as the most probable place of writing: but it must be remembered that on this head all is in the realm of the vaguest conjecture.
OCCASION, OBJECT OF WRITING, AND CONTENTS
1. The occasion which prompted this Epistle evidently was, the enmity of the Jews to the gospel of Christ, which had brought a double danger on the church: on the one hand that of persecution, on the other that of apostasy. Between these lay another, that of mingling with a certain recognition of Jesus as the Christ, a leaning to Jewish practices and valuing of Jewish ordinances. But this latter does not so much appear in our Epistle, as in those others which were written by St. Paul to mixed churches; those to the Romans(76), the Galatians, the Colossians. The principal peril to which Jewish converts were exposed, especially after they had lost the guidance of the Apostles themselves in their various churches, was, that of falling back from the despised following of Jesus of Nazareth into the more compact and apparently safer system of their childhood, which moreover they saw tolerated as a religio licita, while their own was outcast and proscribed.
2. The object then of this Epistle is, to shew them the superiority of the gospel to the former covenant: and that mainly by exhibiting, from the Scriptures, and from the nature of the case, the superiority of Jesus Himself to both the messengers and the high-priests of that former covenant. This is the main argument of the Epistle, filled out and illustrated by various corollaries springing out of its different parts, and expanding in the directions of encouragement, warning, and illustration.
3. This argument is entered on at once without introduction in ch. 1, where Christ’s superiority to the angels, the mediators of the old covenant, is demonstrated from Scripture. Then, having interposed (Hebrews 2:1-4) a caution on the greater necessity of taking heed to the things which they had heard, the Writer shews (Hebrews 2:5-18) why He to whom, and not to the angels, the future world is subjected, yet was made lower than the angels: viz. that He might become our merciful and faithful High Priest, to deliver and to save us, Himself having undergone temptation like ourselves.
4. Having mentioned this title of Christ, he goes back, and prepares the way for its fuller treatment, by a comparison of Him with Moses (Hebrews 3:1-6), and a shewing that that antitypical rest of God, from which unbelief excludes, was not the rest of the seventh day, nor that of the possession of Canaan, but one yet reserved for the people of God (Hebrews 3:7 to Hebrews 4:10), into which we must all the more strive to enter, because the word of our God is keen and searching in judgment, and nothing hidden from His sight, with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:11-13).
5. He now resumes the main consideration of his great subject, the High-priesthood of Christ, with a hortatory note of passage (Hebrews 4:14-16). This subject he pursues through the whole middle portion of the Epistle (Hebrews 5:1 to Hebrews 10:18), treating it in its various aspects and requirements. Of these we have (Hebrews 5:1-10) the conditions of High-priesthood: (Hebrews 5:11 to Hebrews 6:20) a digression complaining, with reference to the difficult subject of the Melchisedek-priesthood, of their low state of spiritual attainment, warning them of the necessity of progress, but encouraging them by God’s faithfulness: (Hebrews 7:1 to Hebrews 10:18) the priesthood of Christ after the order of Melchisedek, in its distinction from the Levitical priesthood (see the various steps set forth in the headings in the commentary), as perpetual,—as superior, in that Abraham acknowledged himself inferior to Melchisedek,—as having power of endless life,—as constituted with an oath,—as living for ever,—as without sin,—as belonging to the heavenly sanctuary, and to a covenant promised by God Himself:—as consisting in better ministrations, able to purify the conscience itself, and to put away sin by the one Sacrifice of the Son of God.
6. Having thus completed his main argument, he devotes the concluding portion (Hebrews 10:19 to Hebrews 13:25) to a series of solemn exhortations to endurance in confidence and patience, and illustrations of that faith on which both must be founded. In Hebrews 10:19-39, we have exhortation and warning deduced from the facts lately proved, our access to the heavenly place, and our having a great High-priest over the house of God: then by the Pauline citation ὁ δίκαιός ( μου) ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται, a transition note is struck to ch. 11 which entirely consists in a panegyric of faith and a recounting of its triumphs: on a review of which the exhortation to run the race set before us, and endure chastisement, is again taken up, ch. 12. And the same hortatory strain is pursued to the end of the Epistle; the glorious privileges of the Christian covenant being held forth, and the awful peril of forfeiting them by apostasy;—and those graces, and active virtues, and that stedfastness in suffering shame, being enjoined, which are necessary to the following and imitation of Jesus Christ. The valedictory prayer (Hebrews 13:20-21), and one or two personal notices and greetings, conclude the whole.
LANGUAGE AND STYLE
1. Something has already been said, in the previous enquiry into the authorship of our Epistle, respecting the question of its original language(77). There also the principal passages of the Fathers will be found which bear on this subject. They may be thus briefly summed up:—
2. The idea of a Hebrew original is found in Clement of Alexandria (cited above, § i. 14), in Eusebius (ib. 48), Jerome (Catalog. Script. Ecclesiastes 5, vol. ii., p. 839,“Scripserat (Paulus) ut Hebræus Hebræis Hebraïce”). Theodoret (Argum. ad Hebr. fin. vol. iii. p. 544, γέγραφε δὲ αὐτὴν τῇ ἑβραίων φωνῇ· ἑρμηνευθῆναι δὲ αὐτήν φασιν ὑπὸ κλήμεντος), Euthalius (above, § i. 46; Argum., τῇ σφῶν διαλέκτῳ γραφεῖσα), Primasius (Præfat., “Fertur apostolus hanc Hebræis missam Hebræo sermone … conscripsisse”), John Damascenus (Opp. Paris 1712, p. 258 (vol. ii. p. 997, ed. Migne), παύλου αὐτὴν ἑβραίοις τῇ ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ συντάξαντος), Œcumenius (Argum. 2), Theophylact (Comm. on ch. 1), in the schol. on ms. 31,—in Cosmas Indicopleustes,—in Rhabanus Maurus,—in Thomas Aquinas; in some modern writers, especially Hallet, in an enquiry into the author and language of the Epistle, appended to Peirce’s Commentary (1742), and to be found in Latin at the end of vol. iv. of Wolf’s Curæ Philologicæ,—and Michaelis.
3. Still such an apparently formidable array of ancient testimony is not to be taken as such, without some consideration. Clement’s assertion of a Hebrew original is not reproduced by his scholar Origen, but on the contrary a Greek original is presupposed by his very words (above, § i. 19). And this his divergence from Clement of Alexandria is not easy to explain, if he had regarded him as giving matter of history, and not rather a conjecture of his own. Indeed, the passage of Clement seems to bear this latter on the face of it: for it connects the similarity of style between this Epistle and the Acts with the notion of St. Luke being its translator. If we might venture to fill up the steps by which the inference came about, they would be nearly these: ‘The Epistle must be St. Paul’s. But St. Paul was a Hebrew, and was writing to Hebrews: how then do we find the Epistle in Greek, not unlike in style to that of the Acts of the Apostles? What, if the writer of the Greek of that book were also the writer of the Greek of this,—and St. Paul, as was to be supposed, wrote as a Hebrew to the Hebrews, in Hebrew, St. Luke translating into Greek?’
4. Again, Eusebius is not consistent in this matter with himself. In his Comm. on Psalms 2:7, vol. v. p. 88 (cited above, § i. 48), he says—
ὁ μέν τοιγε ἑβραῖος ἐλέγετο κύριον εἶναι τῆς λέξεως ἔτεκον, ὅπερ καὶ ἀκύλας πεποίηκεν· ὁ δὲ ἀπόστολος νομομαθὴς ὑπάρχων ἐν τῇ πρὸς ἑβραίους (Hebrews 1:5) τῇ τῶν ό ἐχρήσατο,
thus clearly implying that the Epistle was written in Greek. And such has been the opinion of almost all the moderns: of all, we may safely say, who have handled the subject impartially and intelligently. The reasons for this now generally received opinion are mainly found in the style of the Epistle, which is the most purely Greek of all the writings of the N. T.: so that it would be violating all probability to imagine it a translation from a language of entirely different rhetorical character. The construction of the periods is such, in distinction from the character, in this particular, of the Oriental languages, that if it is a translation, the whole argumentation of the original must have been broken up into its original elements of thought, and all its connecting links recast; so that it would not be so much a translation, as a re-writing, of the Hebrew Epistle.
5. The paronomasiæ(78) again, and the citations from the LXX being made in entire independence of the Hebrew text, form collectively a presumptive proof, the weight of which it is very difficult to evade, that the present Greek text is the original. Such peculiarities belong to thought running free and selecting its own words, not to the constrained reproduction of the thoughts of another in another tongue. Examine our English version in any of those numerous places where St. Paul has indulged in paronomasiæ, and no such will be found in the translation. And yet English is much nearer to Greek than Greek to any dialect of the Hebrew.
6. The same inference has been deduced from the appearance, e. g., of the two senses of covenant and testament for the word διαθήκη, ch. Hebrews 9:15 ff. al. This is well stated by Calvin in the argument to his Commentary:—
7. Again, the Epistle abounds with Greek expressions which could only have been expressed in the Hebrew by a circumlocution, and can therefore not be regarded as translations from it. The validity of this argument has been acknowledged even by those who deny that of the previous ones. We may instance such expressions as πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως (ch. Hebrews 1:1), ἀπαύγασμα (Hebrews 1:3), εὐπερίστατος (Hebrews 12:1), μετριοπαθεῖν (Hebrews 5:2), the repetition of the idea in ὑποτάσσω in Hebrews 2:5-8, … οὐ γὰρ ἀγγέλοις ὑπέταξεν τὴν οἰκουμ. τ. μέλλ.… ἐν τῷ γὰρ ὑποτάξαι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, οὐδὲν ἄφηκεν αὐτῷ ἀνυπότακτον.… ὁρῶμεν αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα ὑποτεταγμένα, whereas in Hebrew ὑποτάσσω can only be expressed by a periphrasis, to place under the feet ( שִׁית תַּהַת רַגְלַיִם)(80).
8. These considerations, coming in aid of the conviction which must be felt by every intelligent Greek scholar that he is reading an original composition and not a version, induce us to refuse the idea of a Hebrew original, and to believe the Epistle to have been first written in Greek.
9. The style of our Epistle has been already touched upon in our enquiry respecting the authorship, § i. 116 ff. From the earliest times, its diversity from that of the writings of St. Paul has been matter of remark(81). It is συνθέσει τῆς λέξεως ἑλληνικωτέρα (Orig(82)). The main difference for us, which will also set forth its characteristic peculiarity, is, that whereas St. Paul is ever as it were struggling with the scantiness of human speech to pour forth his crowding thoughts, thereby falling into rhetorical and grammatical irregularities, the style of our Epistle flows regularly on, with no such suspended constructions. Even where the subject induces long parentheses, the Writer does not break the even flow and equilibrium of his style, but returns back to the point where he left it(83).
10. Again, the greatest pains are bestowed on a matter which does not seem to have engaged the attention of the other sacred writers, even including St. Paul himself: viz. rhetorical rhythm, and equilibrium of words and sentences. In St. Paul’s most glorious outbursts of eloquence, he is not rhetorical. In those of the Writer of our Epistle, he is elaborately and faultlessly rhetorical. The πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως of the opening, are as it were a key-note of the rhythmical style of the whole. The particles and participles used are all weighed with a view to this effect. The simple expressions of the other sacred writers are expanded into longer words, or into sonorous and majestic clauses: the μισθός of St. Paul becomes μισθαποδοσία: the αἷμα, αἱματεκχυσία; the ὅρκος, ὁρκωμοσία: where St. Paul describes our ascended Lord as ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ θεοῦ καθήμενος (Colossians 3:1; cf. Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20), here we have ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς (ch. Hebrews 1:3), ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ θρόνου τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (Hebrews 8:1), ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ θρόνου τοῦ θεοῦ κεκάθικεν (Hebrews 12:2): where St. Paul describes Him as εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ (2 Corinthians 4:4), or as εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου (Colossians 1:15), here we have ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως τοῦ θεοῦ (Hebrews 1:3).
1. This part of our introduction must obviously be treated quite irrespective of the hypothesis of the Pauline authorship of the Epistle. That being assumed, its canonicity follows. That being denied, our object must be to shew how the Epistle itself was regarded, even by those who were not persuaded of its apostolicity.
2. The earliest testimonies to it are found where we might expect them, in the church of Rome, and in the writings of one who never cites it as apostolic. It will be important for us to see, in what estimation Clement held it. He makes, as we have already seen, the most frequent and copious use of it, never citing it expressly, never appealing to it as Scripture, but adopting its words and expressions, just as he does those of other books of the New Testament. It is to be observed, that when in the course of thus incorporating it he refers to ἡ γραφή, or uses the expression γέγραπται, it is with regard to texts quoted not from it only, but also from the O. T.: e. g. in c. 36, p. 281, where he introduces, in the midst of a passage adopted from Hebrews 1, with γέγραπται γὰρ οὕτως, the citation ὁ ποιῶν τοὺς ἀγγέλους αὐτοῦ κ. τ. λ. (Psalms 103:4): in c. 23, p. 260, where we have συνεπιμαρτυρούσης καὶ τῆς γραφῆς, ὅτι ταχὺ ἥξει καὶ οὐ χρονιεῖ (Hebrews 10:37; Habakkuk 2:3). By this procedure we cannot say that Clement casts any slight on this Epistle, for it is his constant practice. He frequently quotes Scripture as such, but it is always the O. T. Two or three times he adduces the sayings of our Lord, but never even this in the form of a citation from our existing Gospels, or in agreement with their exact words. All we can gather from Clement is, that, treating this as he does other Epistles(84), and appropriating largely as he does its words and expressions, he certainly did not rank it below those others: an inference which would lead us to believe that he recognized its canonical authority. But to found more than this on Clement’s testimony(85), would be unwarranted by fair induction.
3. Justin Martyr, amidst a few allusions to our Epistle, makes what can hardly but be called canonical use of it in his first Apology, § 63, p. 81. There, in explaining that the λόγος of God is also His Son, he adds, καὶ ἄγγελος δὲ καλεῖται καὶ ἀπόστολος. Now it appears from the Dial. cont. Tryph. c. 57, p. 154, that the allusion in the καλεῖται ἄγγελος is to Genesis 18:2. It would seem, therefore, seeing that Hebrews 3:1 is the only place where our Lord is entitled ἀπόστολος, that the καλεῖται is meant to embrace under it that passage as a Scripture testimony equipollent with the other.
4. In Clement of Alexandria and Origen, the recognition of our Epistle as canonical depends on its recognition as the work of St. Paul. Where they both cite it as Scripture, it is as written by him: and where Origen mentions the doubt about its being his, he adduces other Scripture testimony, observing that it needs another kind of proof, not that the Epistle is canonical, but that it is St. Paul’s(86).
5. And very similar was the proceeding of those parts of the church where the Pauline authorship was not held. Irenæus, as we have seen, makes no use of the Epistle. The fragment of Muratori, representing the view of the Roman church, probably does not contain it. Tertullian, who regards it as written by Barnabas, the comes apostolorum, cites it, not asauthoritative in itself, but ‘ex redundantia,’ as recording the sentiments of such a companion of the Apostles.
6. Our Epistle is, it is true, contained in the Syriac version (Peschito) made at the end of the second century: but it is entirely uncertain, whether this insertion in the canon accompanied a recognition of the Pauline authorship, or not. This recognition, which prevailed in that part of the church in after times, may have at first occasioned its insertion in the canon; but we cannot say that it did.
7. But in the Alexandrine church the case was different. There, as we have seen, the assumption of Pauline authorship appears early and soon prevails universally: and in consequence we find the canonical authority there unquestioned, and the Epistle treated as the other parts of Scripture(87).
8. Throughout the Eastern churches, the canonicity and apostolicity were similarly regarded as inseparably connected. It is true that Eusebius(88), in numbering it among the Antilegomena, together with the Epistles of Barnabas and Clement and Jude, and the Wisdom of the Son of Sirach, might seem to attribute to it another authorship, were it not evident from his constant use of it and his numbering it in his principal passage on the canon (H. E. iii. 25) among the Homologoumena, that the doubt must be resolved into that on the Pauline authorship.
9. In the Western church, where this was not recognized, neither do we find, even down to the middle of the fourth century, any use made of the Epistle as canonical. Even Novatian and Cyprian, who might well have thus used it, have not done so: nor in the controversies on the reception of the lapsed, and on the repetition of heretical baptism, do we ever find it adduced on either side, apposite as some passages are to the subjects in dispute. Only with the assumption, gradually imported from the East, of a Pauline origin, do we find here and there a Western writer citing it as of canonical authority.
10. It is in Jerome first that we find(89) any indication of a doubt whether canonicity and Pauline authorship are necessarily to stand and fall together. The same is found(90) now and then in the writings of Augustine. But soon after this time the general prevalence, and ultimately authoritative sanction, of the view of the Pauline authorship, closed up any chance of the canonicity of the Epistle being held on independent grounds: and it was not till the times of the Reformation, that the matter began to be again enquired into on its own merits.
11. The canonicity was doubted by Cardinal Cajetan(91), but upheld by Erasmus, in these remarkable words:—
In the Roman Catholic church, however, the authoritative sanction given by the Council of Trent to the belief of the Pauline origin effectually stopped all intelligent enquiry.
12. Among reformed theologians, the canonicity of our Epistle was strongly upheld, even when the Pauline authorship was not recognized. Calvin says, in his prologue to the Epistle—
“Ego vero eam inter apostolicas sine controversia amplector: nec dubito Satanæ artificio fuisse quondam factum ut illi auctoritatem quidam detraherent. Nullus enim est e sacris libris qui de Christi sacerdotio tam luculenter disserat, unici quod morte sua obtulit sacrificii vim dignitatemque tam magnifice extollat, de cærimoniarum tam usu quam abrogatione uberius tractet, qui denique plenius explicet Christum esse finem legis. Quare ne patiamur Dei Ecclesiam et nos ipsos tanto bono spoliari, sed ejus possessionem constanter nobis asseramus. Quis porro earn composuerit, non magnopere curandum est.”
13. Beza speaks in the same strain:—
“Verum quid attinet de scriptoris nomine contendere, quod scriptor ipse celatum voluit? Sufficiat hoc nosse, vere esse dictatum a Spiritu Sancto, quæ luculentissimam ac plane apostolicam veteris fœderis cum novo collationem, atque adeo novi fœderis veluti singularem quandam promulgationem ac sanctionem complectatur” (N. T. p. 335).
And again, ib. p. 382:—
“Non dubitavimus tamen passim eum apostolum vocare, quod spiritu vere apostolico præditus fuerit.”
14. Similarly also the Confessio Gallicana, which, though it divides it off from the Pauline writings, yet includes it without remark among the canonical books. So also the Arminians, e. g. Limborch, who, believing it to have been written “ab aliquo e Pauli comitibus et quidem conscio Paulo,” says—
“Interim divinam hujus epistolæ auctoritatem agnoscimus multisque aliis quas ab apostolis esse scriptas constat, ob argumenti quod tractat præstantiam præferendam judicamus.”
15. Among the early Lutheran divines there were some differences of opinion respecting the place to be assigned to the Epistle; the general view being, that it was to be read, as Jerome first wrote (Præfat. in libr. Salomon. Opp. ed. Migne, vol. ix. p. 1243) of the Apocryphal O. T. books, “ad ædificationem plebis,” but not “ad auctoritatem ecclesiasticorum dogmatum confirmandam(93).” In other words, it was set apart,—and in this relegation six other books shared, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, James, Jude, and the Apocalypse,—among the apocryphal writings appended to the N. T. And this order was usually followed in the German Bibles.
16. Soon however after the beginning of the 17th century, this distinction began to be obliterated, and the practice to be introduced(94) of calling these books “deuterocanonici” or “canonici libri secundi ordinis,” and, although thus called, of citing them as of equal authority, and equally inspired, with the other books. Since that time, the controversies respecting the books of Scripture have taken a wider range, and it has not been so much respecting canonicity, as respecting origin, character, and doctrine, that the disputes of divines have been waged.
17. In our own country, at the time of the Reformation, while the question of authorship was left open, the canonical authority of the Epistle was never doubted. To establish this, it may be enough to cite some testimonies.
In Tyndale’s prologue to the Epistle, he says, having mentioned the objection to the Pauline authorship from ch. Hebrews 2:3—
“Now whether it were Paul’s or no, I say not, but permit it to other men’s judgments: neither think I it to be an article of any man’s faith, but that a man may doubt of the author.”
Then, having met several objections against its canonicity urged from certain texts in it, as ch. Hebrews 6:4 ff., ch. Hebrews 10:26 ff., ch. Hebrews 12:17, he concludes—
“Of this ye see that this Epistle ought no more to be refused for a holy, godly, and catholic, than the other authentic Scriptures.”
And, speaking of the Writer, he says—
18. Fulke, in his defence of Translations of the Bible(96), while defending the omission of the name of St. Paul in the title of the Epistle in the Geneva Bible of 1560, says—
“Which of us, I pray you, that thinketh that this Epistle was not written by St. Paul, once doubteth whether it be not of apostolical spirit and authority? Which is manifest by this, that both in preaching and writing we cite it thus, the Apostle to the Hebrews.”
19. Bp. Jewel again, in his Defence of the Apology, p. 186, where he is speaking of the charge of anonymousness brought against it, says—
“The Epistle unto the Hebrews, some say, was written by St. Paul, some by Clemens, some by Barnabas, some by some other: and so are we uncertain of the author’s name.”
20. Whittaker (Disputatio de Sacr. Script. Controvers. i. quæst. i. c. 16(97)), says—
“Si Lutherus aut qui Lutherum sequuti sunt nonnulli aliter senserint aut scripserint de quibusdam libris N. T., … ii pro se respondeant: nihil ista res ad nos pertinet, qui hac in re Lutherum nec sequimur nec defendimus, quique meliori ratione ducimur.… De auctoritate nullius libri qui pertinet ad N. T. dubitamus, nec vero de auctore, præterquam Epistolæ ad Hebræos. Epistolam hanc esse omni modo canonicam concedimus: sed num a Paulo apostolo conscripta fuerit, non perinde liquet.… non valde de hac re contendamus: neque enim necesse est: et res in dubio relinqui potest, ut interim sua epistolæ auctoritas constet atque conservetur.”
21. With regard to the question itself, in what light we are to look on our Epistle with respect to canonicity, it is one which it will be well to treat here on general grounds, as it will come before us again more than once, in writing of the remaining books of the N. T.
22. We might put this matter on the ground which Jerome takes in his Epistle to Dardanus, “nihil interesse cujus sit, cum sit ecclesiastici viri:” or on that which Erasmus takes, when he says that the “auctor primarius” is the “Spiritus Sanctus,” and so puts by as indifferent the question of the “auctor secundarius:” thus in both cases resting the decision entirely on the character of the contents of the book itself.
23. But this would manifestly be a wrong method of proceeding. We do not thus in the case of other writings, whose unexceptionable evangelic character is universally acknowledged. To say nothing of later productions, no one ever reasoned thus respecting the Epistle of Barnabas, or that of Clement to the Corinthians, or any of the quasi-apostolic writings. None of the ancients ever dealt so before Jerome, nor did Jerome himself in other passages. More than intrinsic excellence and orthodoxy is wanting, to win for a book a place in the N. T. canon. Indeed any reasoning must be not only in itself insufficient, but logically unsound, which makes the authority of a book which is to set us our standard of doctrine, the result of a judgment of our own respecting the doctrine inculcated in it. Such judgment can be only subsidiary to the enquiry, not the primary line of its argument, which must of necessity be of an objective character.
24. And when we come to proofs of this latter kind, it may well be asked, which of them are we to accept as sufficient. It is clear, we cannot appeal to tradition alone. We must combine with such an appeal, the exercise of our own judgment on tradition. When, for example, the Church of England takes, in her sixth Article, the ground of pure tradition, and says,—
“In the name of the Holy Scripture, we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church,”
she would by implication, if consistent with herself, exclude from the canon at the least the Apocalypse, which was for some centuries not received by the Eastern and for the most part by the Greek church, and our Epistle, which was for some centuries not received by the whole Latin church. Nay, she would go even further than this: for even to the present day the Syrian church excludes the Apocalypse, the Epistles of St. Jude 1:2 and 3 John, and 2 Peter, from the canon. It is fortunate that our Church did not leave this definition to be worked out for itself, but, giving a detailed list of O. T. books, has appended to it this far more definite sentence: “All the books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive, and account them canonical:” thus adopting the list of N. T. books in common usage in the Western church at the time, about which there could be no difference.
25. If then tradition pure and simple will not suffice for our guide, how are we to combine our judgment with it, so as to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion? It is manifest, that the question of origin comes in here as most important. If the genuineness of a book be in dispute, as e. g. that of 2 Peter, it suffices, to make it reasonably probable that it was written by him whose name it bears. When this is received, all question of canonicity is at rest. In that case, the name of the Apostle is ample guarantee. And so with our Epistle, those who think they can prove it to be the work of St. Paul, are no longer troubled about its canonicity. This is secured, in shewing it to be of apostolic origin.
26. And so it ever was in the early church. Apostolicity and canonicity were bound together. And in the case of those historical books which were not written by Apostles themselves, there was ever an effort to connect their writers, St. Mark with St. Peter, St. Luke with St. Paul, so that at least apostolic sanction might not be wanting to them. What then must be our course with regard to a book, of which we believe neither that it was written by an Apostle, nor that it had apostolic sanction?
27. This question must necessarily lead to an answer not partaking of that rigid demonstrative character which some reasoners require for all inferences regarding the authority of Scripture. Our conclusion must be matter of moral evidence, and of degree: must be cumulative—made up of elements which are not, taken by themselves, decisive, but which, taken together, are sufficient to convince the reasonable mind.
28. First, we have reason to believe that our Epistle was written by one who lived and worked in close union with the Apostle Paul: of whom that Apostle says that “he planted, and Apollos watered, and God gave the increase:” of whom it is elsewhere in holy writ declared, that he was “an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures:” that he “helped much them which had believed through grace:” that he “mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.”
29. Secondly, having, as we believe, from his pen such an Epistle, we find it largely quoted by one who was himself a companion of the Apostles,—and almost without question appealed to as Scripture by another primitive Christian writer: and both these testimonies belong to that very early age of the Church, when controversies about canonicity had not yet begun.
30. Thirdly, in the subsequent history of the Church, we find the reception of the Epistle into the canon becoming ever more and more a matter of common consent: mainly, no doubt, in connexion with the hypothesis of its Pauline authorship, but, as we have shewn above, not in all cases in that connexion.
31. Fourthly, we cannot refuse the conviction, that the contents of the Epistle itself are such as powerfully to come in aid of these other considerations. Unavailing as such a conviction would be of itself, as has been previously noticed, yet it is no small confirmation of the evidence which probable authorship, early recognition, and subsequent consent, furnish to the canonicity of our Epistle, when we find that no where are the main doctrines of the faith more purely or more majestically set forth; no where Holy Scripture urged with greater authority and cogency; no where those marks in short, which distinguish the first rank of primitive Christian writings from the second, more unequivocally and continuously present.
32. The result of this combination of evidence is, that though no considerations of expediency, nor consent of later centuries, can ever make us believe the Epistle to have been written by St. Paul, we yet conceive ourselves perfectly justified in accounting it a portion of the N. T. canon, and in regarding it with the same reverence as the rest of the Holy Scriptures.
There are other subjects of deep interest connected with our Epistle, such as its relation, in point of various aspects of Christian doctrine, to the teaching of St. Paul, of St. John, of St. James, and of St. Peter: its connexion with, and independence of, the system of Philo: to treat of which would extend these prolegomena, already long, to the size of a volume. They will be found discussed in the first part of Riehm’s “Lehrbegriff des Hebraerbriefes,” Ludwigsburg, 1858.
the Second Week after Easter