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The epistles of Paul were written to particular persons, churches, or groups of churches and dealt with the special circumstances and needs of their readers. Four of Paul’s letters which have come down to us were addressed to individuals: Philemon, Titus, and the two to Timothy. Of these, the letter to Philemon is the only strictly private letter, those to Timothy and Titus, Paul’s trusted helpers, having more of an official character. With one or possibly two exceptions, all the other epistles were addressed to local churches. Galatians was addressed to a group of churches, and, in the opinion of many, Ephesians was a circular letter designed for the churches of the region of which Ephesus was the chief city. Two of Paul’s letters—Romans and Colossians—were written to churches that the apostle did not found and had never visited. Seven of them (1 and 2 Thess., Gal., 1 and 2 Cor., Eph., and Phil.) were addressed to churches where he was well known and for whose instruction and progress in the Christian life he had personally labored.
Paul wrote THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS, but this author does not accept this reality. Who wrote this important and enlightening book of Hebrews? Why does it really matter if the book is canonical, authoritative, and inspired? The book was not signed, and so there have been many suggestions over the centuries. Honestly, there is no absolute determinative evidence for any suggested author, even Paul. However, we do not live in an absolute world. God is absolute, and the Word of God in the original is absolute. It seems that most researchers that address this appear to offer just a few suggestions to live with the belief that it is best to say that we do not know. Since the first century, there have been many suggested authors: Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Silas, Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila, James, Philip, Jude, Clement of Rome have all been offered as suggested authors of the book of Hebrews. So, who really wrote the book of Hebrews? Indeed, the book of Hebrews is packed with the most relevant and beneficial information as well as with serious and weighty exhortation, excellent encouragement, and severe warnings lest we fall away from the faith. The better we become informed about this Bible book, the more we profit from what it has to say. Having some certainty as to who the author is will also give us a deeper appreciation of its authentic and authoritative state.
Paul is known best as the apostle “to the nations.” But his ministry was not limited to the non-Jews? Not at all! Just before Paul was baptized and commissioned for his work, the Lord Jesus said to Ananias: “Go, for he [Paul] is a chosen instrument of mine, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.” (Acts 9:15; Gal. 2:8-9) The book of Hebrews is indeed in line with Paul’s mission to bear the name of Jesus to the sons of Israel.
However, some skeptics doubt Paul’s authorship of Hebrews. They say that Paul’s name does not appear in the letter. But many other canonical books do not name the author, who is frequently made known to us by internal evidence. In fact, Paul may have deliberately left out his name in writing to the Hebrew Christians in Judea. Acts 21:28 tells us the Jews were crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” Others say that the change of style from his other epistles is problematic to Paul’s authorship. In his preaching to pagans, Jews, or Christians, Paul always displayed his capacity to “become all things to all people.” Here Paul is writing to Jews from a Jew, making arguments that they would have been fully able to understand and appreciate. – 1 Cor. 9:22.
The internal evidence of Hebrews supports Paul’s authorship. The author was in Italy and was affiliated with Timothy. These facts fit Paul. (Heb. 13:23-24) Likewise, the doctrine is characteristic of Paul, even though the points being made are offered from a Jewish mindset, developed to appeal precisely to the Hebrew congregation. On this point, Clarke’s Commentary, Volume 6, page 681, says concerning Hebrews: “That it was written to Jews, naturally such, the whole structure of the epistle proves. Had it been written to the Gentiles, not one in ten thousand of them could have comprehended the argument because unacquainted with the Jewish system; the knowledge of which the writer of this epistle everywhere supposes.” This allows the account to contain differences in style compared with Paul’s other epistles.
The discovery in about 1930 of the Chester Beatty Papyrus No. 2 (P46) has delivered further proof of Paul’s authorship. This papyrus codex was copied about 110-150 A.D., 50-80 years after Paul’s death. The renowned British textual scholar Sir Frederic Kenyon said: “It is noticeable that Hebrews is placed immediately after Romans (an almost unprecedented position), which shows that at the early date when this manuscript was written no doubt was felt as to its Pauline authorship.” On this same question, McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia states pointedly: “1. There is no substantial evidence, external or internal, in favor of any claimant to the authorship of this epistle except Paul. 2. There is nothing incompatible with the supposition that Paul was the author of it. 3. The preponderance of the internal, and all the direct external evidence, goes to show that it was written by Paul. (See the Bibliotheca Sacra, Oct. 1867.) 4. The apparent coincidences with Luke’s phraseology merely go to show, if they indeed be anything more than casual, that he exercised more than usual liberty as an amanuensis or reporter of Paul.”
The Pauline Epistles fall into four well-defined groups. This grouping represents not only their probable chronological order, but, to some extent, their differences of aim and subject-matter as well. It is as follows:
- The Earlier (or Missionary) Epistles (A.D. 52–53).
1 and 2 Thessalonians.
- The Great Doctrinal Epistles (A.D. 55–58).
1 and 2 Corinthians.
- The Epistles of the Imprisonment (A.D. 61–63).
Hebrews. (CPH Believes Paul wrote Hebrews, not Stevens)
- The Pastoral Epistles (A.D. 67–68).
The epistles of the first group are short, simple, and practical. They may be regarded as illustrating Paul’s earlier missionary instruction to his converts—hence the name “Missionary Epistles,” sometimes applied to them. They treat but one doctrinal subject—the second coming of Christ.
The second group is the great repertory of Paul’s doctrinal and ethical teaching. Galatians and Romans deal chiefly with his doctrine of justification by faith. They are designed to disprove the current Jewish teaching (which was invading the churches) that men might be saved by obedience to the Mosaic law. On the contrary, Paul maintained that the sole basis of salvation is the grace of God, to be appropriated by faith on man’s part. The Jewish doctrine represents man as achieving his salvation by meritorious deeds. Thus the great dogmatic watchwords of the two systems are, on the Jewish side, debt and works, and on Paul’s side, grace and faith.
The third group of letters is predominantly Christological. Errors had invaded the churches addressed, which tended to degrade the person and work of Christ, and the apostle writes with a view to showing his pre-eminence and saving power so that the readers may be induced to keep their allegiance to Christ and his gospel. The errors which were current in Galatia and Rome undermined the necessity and significance of faith; those at Colossae and Ephesus degraded the object of faith, and so destroyed its meaning and power.
The Pastoral Epistles were designed to instruct Timothy and Titus in their duties as superintendents of the churches in Ephesus and Crete and were thus semi-official in character. But they also have a strong personal element and a tone of warm sympathy and affection.
Paul’s epistles represent a wide variety of themes and purposes. They are equally different in style and tone. Some are plain and straightforward, others obscure and difficult. Some are persuasive and gentle, others vehement and severe. More commonly, these elements are blended, in varying proportions, in the same letter. In 1 and 2 Corinthians, affectionate assurances and appeals are especially mingled with passionate warnings and denunciations. Galatians and Romans are chiefly argumentative and polemic; Philippians is the most affectionate and commendatory of all Paul’s epistles. Due to the differing times, circumstances, and purposes of his various letters, this variety in the apostle’s writings enables us to view the apostle and his work on many sides and in many lights. It gives us a distinct advantage in the apprehension of his teaching and in the appreciation of his great personality. He becomes a living figure—a toiling, suffering, rejoicing, triumphing man. No biblical character, except Jesus Christ, is so clearly portrayed in Scripture as is the apostle Paul.
This vital quality is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of the Pauline epistles. They are the work of an eager and intense mind which was absolutely absorbed in the cause of Christ. Every epistle is a transcript of some quality of the man. Whether the apostle commends the commonest virtues and duties, warns his readers against false doctrine and practice, or expounds and defends his gospel of gracious salvation, or portrays the heavenly life’s glories that await the Christian, we note the same energy of feeling and depth of conviction.
The charm and power of Paul’s letters lie in this earnestness and sincerity, rather than in their literary character. Paul set no great value on the rhetorician’s art. In his preaching and writing he was quite indifferent to “excellency of speech or of wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:1). The methods of “the wise,” “the scribe” and “the disputer of this world” (1 Cor. 1:20) did not seem to him adapted to the proclamation of the plain and simple message of the gospel. He confessed that he was “unskilled in speaking,” that is, plain and unpolished in style. Still, he states, “I am not so in knowledge” (2 Cor. 11:6), that is, in a clear grasp of the truths of Christianity. Even his enemies, desirous as they were to disparage him, were compelled to admit that his letters were “weighty and strong” (2 Cor. 10:10).
The principal literary peculiarities of Paul’s letters are: (1) Carelessness of outer form. This characteristic is partly due to the impetuous rush of his thoughts and to his complete concentration of them upon the subject in hand. (2) His habit of digression. He frequently abandons the main line of his argument for a time and takes up some incidental feature of it, or some point suggested to his mind by some word or phrase he had just been using. This peculiarity illustrates the richness and variety of his thought, which may be compared to a swollen stream which now and again overflows its banks. (3) The use of such rhetorical forms and devices as anacoluthon, paronomasia, and allegory. Although Paul disclaimed being a rhetorician, he employed, like every forceful and vigorous writer, such rhetorical arts as were natural for his mind and suited to his purpose. If his letters are not marked by fine writing, they are characterized by vigorous thought and forcible, and sometimes eloquent, expression. But Paul’s eloquence is never the stilted and conventional eloquence of the professional sophist (teacher of philosophy and rhetoric in ancient Greece) but is the eloquence of elevated thought, fitly expressed, which moves the heart by its own inherent impressiveness and power. (4) The frequent occurrence of complex figures and long and involved sentences, or gaps in the argument that must be filled up to apprehend the meaning clearly. These peculiarities often make it difficult to follow the apostle’s thought and render some form of explanation, by means of analysis, commentary, or paraphrasing, almost indispensable to the reader of the English translation.
The apostle is by no means an easy writer to understand, but the difficulties are not insuperable. He possessed clear and definite ideas; the difficulty presented by his style and modes of thought and argument need not, if we will use available aid, prevent us from obtaining a definite understanding of them.
Without some appreciation of Paul’s letters’ literary peculiarities and historical circumstances of Paul’s letters, it is impossible to understand them accurately. If we read them as if they had been written in our own time by a man who possessed the education, modes of thought, and methods of argument which are common in our age, we shall miss much of their true force and flavor. They are ancient writings, and they reflect a world of long ago. Their essential substance of truth is, indeed, changeless, but the vessel which holds the treasure is of antique mold and, like all things ancient, must be seen and appreciated in the light of its time. Moreover, the Pauline writings may be likened to a vessel that is of an individual pattern, having peculiarities all its own. These, too, must be, in some measure, seen and felt before we can perceive the fitness of this vessel to enshrine the jewel of divine truth.
 The Story of the Bible, 1964, page 91.
 John M’Clintock and James Strong, “Hebrews, the Epistle to The,” Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1891), 147.
 THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS: Who Wrote the Book of Hebrews? By Edward D. Andrews