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NOTE: Nineteen articles will begin with these same two introductory paragraphs but will then speak specifically about the Bible book in question.
It has often been said [by whom?] that it was an accepted practice in antiquity for a writer to attribute his work to a well-known figure from the past or a teacher who has greatly influenced him. The practice would have been condemned as dishonest by all authorities in antiquity. The book Forged: Writing in the Name of God – Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are by Agnostic New Testament Bible scholar Dr. Bart D. Ehrman contends that this is incorrect. Falsely attributed writings are often referred to as “pseudepigraphs,” but Ehrman maintains that the more honest term is “forgery.” The book suggests that 11 or more books out of the 27 books of the Christian New Testament canon were written as forgeries. This article and others will debunk this claim. In his book, Ehrman points out numerous inconsistencies which he finds within the New Testament which appear to support many of his claims, such as the fact that in Acts 4:13, the statement is made that both Peter and John were illiterate, yet in later years entire books of the Bible were then alleged to have been written by them. This last argument is quickly debunked on two grounds: (1) it was not years later that they wrote their books, it was over thirty years later, and in the case of John, it was over sixty years later; (2) the Greek means unlettered (YLT) that is, not educated in the rabbinic schools; not meaning illiterate. Nevertheless, below are three articles that destroy this argument of Ehrman.
In addition to the eleven books of the New Testament Ehrman identifies as forgeries, he discusses eight originally anonymous New Testament texts that had names of apostles ascribed to them later and are falsely attributed. These are not forgeries since the texts are anonymous but have had false authors ascribed to them by others.
Who Wrote It?
The author is unstated and unknown. There are several possibilities.
There are several possibilities as to who wrote Hebrews:
- Luke. The evidence is: the polished Greek, his association with Timothy who is mentioned in 13:23, and the similarities with Paul’s doctrine.
- Paul. The evidence is: the Pauline doctrine, the early Fathers in the East attributed it to Paul, and the reference to Timothy (13:23), his trusted companion.
- Barnabas. The evidence is: he was an associate of Timothy, some Fathers (for example, Tertullian) held this view, and he was a Levite (Acts 4:36), which fits with the emphasis in Hebrews.
- Apollos. The evidence is: the style of Greek fits his training, the Old Testament quotes fit his emphasis, and its eloquence matches his oratorical skills (see Acts 18:24).
- Priscilla and Aquila. Adolph Harnack held this view, but it lacks both positive internal and external evidence.
What Is Known about the Author?
Many things are known about the author of Hebrews: (1) He was not one of the twelve apostles (2:3–4). (2) He wrote before the destruction of Jerusalem (chaps. 7–8). (3) He was well versed in the Old Testament (ninety-eight citations). (4) He wrote in a more technical Greek than the other New Testament writers. (5) He was familiar with Platonic thought. (6) He emphasized Jesus’s earthly ministry and high priestly ministry (chaps. 2, 7–10). (7) He was associated with Timothy (13:23). (8) He was in Italy when he wrote (v. 24). (9) He was known well enough to be accepted by the readers without mentioning his name.
Note: Paul, Luke, Apollos, and Barnabas all fit these characteristics, but Paul fits them best. However, those who reject Paul’s authorship point out that many things are unlike Paul’s other letters: his name is not given; the style is different; there is the common use of the name Jesus, the emphasis on Jesus’s earthly ministry, and the stress on Jesus’s high priestly ministry; all but one citation is from LXX; and greater warnings are given than Paul gave elsewhere. Those who support the Pauline authorship attempt to explain these by the special nature of the book, its message, and audience. They further note that doubts about Hebrews’ canonicity in the West were overcome when they were convinced that it was the work of the apostle Paul. Origen’s comment that only God knows for sure is apt.
Whoever the author was, the book was considered authentic from the time it was received by its first audience, who knew Paul’s companion Timothy (see 13:23). It was cited in the first century by Clement of Rome. It is alluded to in Shepherd of Hermas. It was accepted by Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian, Cyril of Jerusalem, Eusebius, Jerome, and Augustine. The West was slower to accept it because the author is not named and because the Montanist sect used chapter 6 to support their aberrant view that no second repentance is possible for those who slip away from the faith. But once the West was convinced of Hebrews’ apostolic source, it was universally accepted. The many personal references (5:11–12; 6:10; 10:32–34; 12:4; 13:23–24) show the readers knew and accepted the author.
FOR A DETAILED DISCUSSION SEE
WHO AUTHORED THE BIBLE BOOK OF HEBREWS: Paul, Luke, James, Priscilla and Aquila, Silas, Apollos, Barnabas, or Clement of Rome?