Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews

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The authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews is uncertain; most modern scholars generally agree that it was not written by Paul, and doubts have been raised about the true author since the third century AD.


Internal anonymity

The text as it has been passed down to the present time is internally anonymous, though ancient title headings attribute it to the Apostle Paul. The Epistle to the Hebrews was thought by some in antiquity such as Clement of Alexandria (Fragments from Eusebius Ecclesiastical History Book VI) to be by Paul, though it does not identify itself as such.

Style different from Paul

Some traditions attribute the letter to Paul, but the style is notably different from the rest of Paul's epistles. Eusebius reports that the original letter had a Jewish audience and was written in Hebrew, and then later translated into Greek by Luke.

Moreover, the writing style is substantially different from that of Paul's authentic epistles, a characteristic first noticed by Clement (c. 210). In Paul's letter to the Galatians, he forcefully defends his claim that he received his gospel directly from the resurrected Jesus himself.

Acceptance by the Church

Nevertheless, in the fourth century, the Church largely agreed to include Hebrews as the fourteenth letter of Paul. Jerome and Augustine of Hippo were influential in affirming Paul's authorship, and the Church affirmed this authorship until the Reformation.

Doubts in antiquity

However, even in antiquity doubts were raised about Paul's alleged authorship. The reasons for this controversy are fairly plain. For example, his letters always contain an introduction stating authorship, yet Hebrews does not. Also, while much of its theology and teachings may be considered Pauline, it contains many other ideas which seem to have no such root or influence.

Suggested alternative authors


Tertullian (On Modesty 20) indicates that Barnabas is the author of the epistle to the Hebrews - "For there is extant withal an Epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas – a man sufficiently accredited by God, as being one whom Paul has stationed next to himself…". Internal considerations suggest the author was male (Hebrews 11:32), he was an acquaintance of Timothy (Hebrews 13:23), and was located in Italy (Hebrews 13:24).

Barnabas, to whom other noncanonical works are attributed (such as Epistle of Barnabas), was close to Paul in his ministry, and exhibited skill with the Midrash; the other works attributed to him bolster the case for his authorship of Hebrews with similar style, voice, and skill.

Luke or Clement

In response to the doubts raised about Paul's involvement, other possible authors were suggested as early as the third century CE. Origen of Alexandria (c. 240) suggested that either Luke the Evangelist or Clement of Rome might be the author.


Martin Luther proposed Apollos, described as an Alexandrian and "a learned man" (Acts 18:24), popular in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:12), and adept at using the scriptures and arguing for Christianity while "refuting the Jews" (Acts 18:2728).


In more recent times, some scholars have advanced a case for the authorship of Hebrews belonging to Priscilla. Perhaps the most thoroughly presented argument that Priscilla authored Hebrews came from Berlin Prof. Adolph Von Harnack in 1900. Starr's book contains Harnack's summary of his research:

  • Letter to the Hebrews was written to Rome—not to the church, but to the inner circle (Romans 16:5)
  • The fact that the author's name was "blotted out by the earliest tradition" is considered "amazing."
  • Closing verses of chapter 13 say the letter was written by a person of high standing and an apostolic teacher of equal rank with Timothy. The author must have been intimately associated with Paul and Timothy. Therefore, Harnack reasons, there must have been a reason why the author's name is not given. Harnack concludes: "This can only be Priscilla."

Harnack gives four reasons for his conclusion that Priscilla wrote the Letter to the Hebrews:

  1. Priscilla had an inner circle in Rome, "the church that is in their house" (Romans 16:5).
  2. She was an Apostolic teacher of high standing, and known throughout Christendom of that day (Romans 16).
  3. She was the teacher of the intelligent and highly educated Apollos (Acts 18).
  4. She and her husband Aquila labored closely and taught together, explaining why both the pronouns "I" and "we" were used by the author.

Nevertheless, other commentators have observed that the self-reference in Hebrews 11:32 employs the masculine participle διηγούμενον ("describing in full"), implying that Priscilla could not have been the author; or else she was masquerading as a male in order to gain credibility.

Views of modern scholars

In general, the evidence against Pauline authorship is considered too solid for scholarly dispute. Donald Guthrie, in his New Testament Introduction (1976), commented that "most modern writers find more difficulty in imagining how this Epistle was ever attributed to Paul than in disposing of the theory." Harold Attridge tells us that "it is certainly not a work of the apostle"; Daniel Wallace simply states, "the arguments against Pauline authorship, however, are conclusive." As a result, few supporters of Pauline authorship remain.

As Richard Heard notes, in his Introduction to the New Testament, "modern critics have confirmed that the epistle cannot be attributed to Paul and have for the most part agreed with Origen’s judgement, ‘But as to who wrote the epistle, God knows the truth.’"

The King James Bible 1611 ed. ends the Epistle to the Hebrews with "Written to the Hebrewes, from Italy, by Timothie"
The King James Bible 1611 ed. ends the Epistle to the Hebrews with "Written to the Hebrewes, from Italy, by Timothie"


  • 1.^ Clontz, T.E. and J., "The Comprehensive New Testament with complete textual variant mapping and references for the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Josephus, Nag Hammadi Library, Pseudepigrapha, Apocrypha, Plato, Egyptian Book of the Dead, Talmud, Old Testament, Patristic Writings, Dhammapada, Tacitus, Epic of Gilgamesh", Cornerstone Publications, 2008, p. 685, ISBN 978-0-977873-71-5
  • 2.^ Lane, William L. Hebrews 1-8 (Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 47A. Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1991), Introduction page cliv.
  • 3.^ A number of mss., namely the earliest extant (P46), bear the simple title "To the Hebrews" without Paul's name.
  • 4. Eusebius, Church History 6.25.11-14
  • 5. von Harnack, Adolph, “Probabilia uber die Addresse und den Verfasser des Habraerbriefes,” Zeitschrift fur die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der aelteren Kirche (E. Preuschen, Berlin: Forschungen und Fortschritte, 1900), 1:16–41. English translation available in Lee Anna Starr, The Bible Status of Woman. Zarephath, N.J.: Pillar of Fire, 1955), 392–415
  • 6. Lee Anna Starr, The Bible Status of Woman. Zarephath, N.J.: Pillar of Fire, 1955)
  • 7. Craig Blomberg, From Pentecost to Patmos, Apollos, 2006, pp. 411
  • 8. "The Authorship of the Book of Hebrews", Jeffrey S. Bowman.
  • 9. Peter Kirby,
  • 10. "Hebrews: Introduction, Argument and Outline", Daniel Wallace
  • 11., Richard Heard, Introduction To The New Testament

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