Mystery:Did Jesus Write the Epistle to the Hebrews?

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The Epistle to the Hebrews is at the highest intellectual level, and yet its authorship is a complete mystery. Not even modern, sophisticated analysis of authorship can suggest a plausible writer for this great work. Whoever wrote this apparently wrote virtually nothing else. Scholars agree that Paul certainly did not write this.

It was written after the Passion of Christ, as made clear by its references in the past tense to Jesus's work.

In contrast with all other epistles and letters in the New Testament, it is misnomer to call this the "Epistle" to the Hebrews. It is not a letter; there is no introduction, and it reads like a sermon rather than a letter.

Contents

Did Jesus write it?

Reasons to think so include:

  • by describing Hebrew culture in perfect Greek, this has Jesus' trademark intellectual style of overcoming ostensibly insurmountable barriers, analogous to His walking on water and turning water into wine.
  • the tone of authority is greater than in any other letter in the Bible, as in Hebrews 9:27: "It is reserved for men to die once, and then be judged."
  • this teaching is virtually identical in style and substance to the one made by Jesus on the road to Emmaus as described in the Gospel of Luke (Translated), which He likewise did while appearing to be someone else, and while speaking about Himself in the third person. Is this Epistle a transcription of Jesus's sermon on the road to Emmaus?
  • the writing has a "striking purity of language and elegance of Greek style," and "is a treasure-house of expressions characteristic of the individuality of the writer," using "168 terms ... which appear in no other part of the New Testament, among them ten words found neither in Biblical or classical Greek."[1] There is not a single grammatical flaw in the entire work, despite its complexity.
  • it is a playful enigma: a message to Hebrews written in perfect Greek, a miracle of an intellectual nature. Why isn't this message to Hebrews in the Hebrew language? It shows that God does have a sense of humor, and a highly intellectual one, like the encounter on the road to Emmaus.
  • the substance of this work is a firsthand account of Jesus becoming man, subsequently crying out to God to save Jesus from real death, which God then did by intervening; only Jesus could have described this;[2] the work quotes Jesus' thought process, which only Jesus would know.
  • Jesus occasionally visited the Apostles during this time, but spent most of this time doing something else - perhaps writing this Epistle?
  • the Epistle was directed at the Hebrew population, which was Jesus's first priority in His ministry.
  • Jesus was surely capable of writing a great work, and there is no other known written work by Him.
  • It is fitting that Jesus would make one last attempt -- post-Resurrection -- to persuade the Hebrew people for whom His ministry was originally intended.
  • In light of the rejection of Jesus by some Hebrew leaders, it makes sense that Jesus would write a post-Resurrection letter to the Hebrew people anonymously.
  • The Epistle to the Hebrews is unique in its attempt to explain the concept of faith -- something that Jesus emphasized in His ministry, and perhaps only He could explain as this Epistle does.
  • Jesus spent 40 days on Earth between the Resurrection and the Ascension, and it is implausible that He did not continue His ministry in an effective way. Writing (or distributing) an Epistle is most plausible activity, given what had transpired.
  • Many have attributed the Epistle of James to a brother of Jesus, and if His brother wrote a letter, then why wouldn't Jesus?
  • Hebrews 5:5 quotes something that God said directly to Jesus, which no one else would know.
  • the sermon/writing was likely intended for an audience in Jerusalem,[1] which is where Jesus was most focused.
  • Hebrews 13:19 apparently refers to the return of Jesus in the first person: "But I beseech you, please do this, that I may be restored to you more quickly."
  • Unlike most other writings in the New Testament after the Gospels, there is no reference to post-Ascension events.
  • ancient manuscripts refer in Hebrews 13:21 to God working among "you", not "us", which is what Jesus (rather than a disciple) would say.
  • "Amen" was typically added later at the end of New Testament letters (and the Book of Revelation), which means that the ending following Hebrews 13:21 is almost certainly not part of the original. Someone probably thought this letter was by Paul (since disproven) and copied the the endings from his letters (see, e.g., Titus).
  • the father-son analogy to explain the nature of God (Hebrews 7:4) was a personal favorite of Jesus in explaining life.
  • in Hebrews 12:4, the distinction between the speaker and the audience with respect to shedding blood in resistance to sin would have likely been only by Jesus: "You have not yet shed blood in resistance and striving against sin."

(add to list)

Objections -- and Rebuttals to the Objections

But of course there are many reasons which shed doubt on such an idea:

  • Jesus didn't leave any writings while he walked the earth. Therefore a note from the grave would have been doubly surprising for his pupils.
But this rebuttal is circular, assuming what it attempts to prove.
No, it just stresses the point how surprising this idea of Jesus's authorship is.
No, it would be more surprising if Jesus, as intelligent as He was, never ever ever wrote anything.
Pythagoras never ever ever wrote anything.
But scripts were plentiful in Jesus's time, and the importance of writing was widely recognized. The Old Testament relied on it.
  • Traditionally we expect God's word to be carved in stone, not scribbled on parchment...
But humor is no substitute for logical argument ...
Humor comes into place when there isn't any logical argument in the first place: your reasons are at best circumstantial, and the question "what did Jesus do during the forty days" is amusing - perhaps he had 39 days of a writer's block, and then started scribbling?
  • In light of the rejection of Jesus by some Hebrew leaders, it makes sense that Jesus would write a post-Resurrection letter to the Hebrew people not anonymously, as this would persuade them more easily.
No, it's clear that people who rejected Jesus when He was alive would not be persuaded by something attributed to him after the Passion for Christ.
So, why writing then at all?
Because Jesus would not have simply given up.
  • The idea of the authorship Jesu doesn't fit the first verses of the letter, where the author takes the position of one to whom God spoke in his Son:
But in these the Last Days He has spoken to us through His Son, whom He determined to be the inheritor of everthing, the Son, by whom He made the worlds,

Hebrews 1:2

  • The idea that this letter was written before the Ascension is ridiculous and stems from ignorance: the last verses include greetings from "those in Italy"...
The last verses could have been added later. By Martians. I mean, if youe're going to make wild suppositions and treat them as serious claims, why hedge your bets?
See the explanation above. The final verses that mention Italy were added after the final "Amen", which itself was an addition to several letters and the Book of Revelation, signifying "The End."--Andy Schlafly 12:24, 5 November 2012 (EST)
Even if we suppose that the words "those in Italy" were part of the original, who's to say they weren't authored by Jesus? Jesus is The Word made in flesh, there's nothing to prevent him from going to Italy and than quickly coming back to the Galilee during the 40 days before his Ascension. Sending an epistle from Italy would have also symbolized the universal message of Christianity - an epistle to the Hebrew is sent in Greek from Italy, the center of Latin culture. - Markman 14:55, 18 August 2013 (EDT)
  • There is zero archeological or documentary evidence to support such a claim.
No such evidence would be expected for a one-time sermon or epistle.

Rebuttals in detail

  • "the teaching is virtually identical in style and substance to the one made by Jesus on the road to Emmaus as described in the Gospel of Luke (Translated), which He likewise did while appearing to be someone else, and while speaking about Himself in the third person."
Contra: This statement is not only counterfactual - it doesn't fit into Aschlafly's line of reasoning, neither: Aschlafly himself states the epistle is very much different in style from the other parts of the New Testament. As for the substance of the teachings: "The central thought of the entire Epistle is the doctrine of the Person of Christ and His Divine mediatorial office." (from the source used by Aschlafly). Needless to say that e.g., the Jesus's status as a high-priest isn't mentioned on the road to Emmaus.
Pro: Why wouldn't Jesus mention his status as a high priest, when addressing a Hebrew audience???
Contra: You are missing the point: you claim that the "teaching is virtually identical in [...] substance to the one made by Jesus on the road to Emmaus" - but you are not able to show that!
Pro: It was the same sort of explanation -- the same style -- as the Epistle to the Hebrews, as inferred from the account of the discussion on the road to Emmaus in the Gospel of Luke.
Contra: You write Hebrews 5:5 quotes something that God said directly to Jesus, which no one else would know. . But if Hebrews is virtually identical in substance to the teaching on the road to Emmaus, the author of the epistle could have taken those somethings from reports of the encounter.
  • the writing has a "striking purity of language and elegance of Greek style," and "is a treasure-house of expressions characteristic of the individuality of the writer," using "168 terms ... which appear in no other part of the New Testament, among them ten words found neither in Biblical or classical Greek."[1] There is not a :Contra: God isn't the only one with decent grammar! This shows only that great intellects were attracted by Christianity even in the early years (as later was Augustinus). BTW: As the German language, Greek allows for an easy creation of new words. See e.g., ἀνασταυρόω : this word is uniquely used in the epistle and means "to crucify again" - its just a merge of ἀνα and σταυρόω. A German could speak of a "Zweitkreuzigung" in a similar manner.
Pro: Not the very early years, when this Epistle was written. Jesus's work was not yet made available and known to intellectuals at this early time.
Contra: An extraordinary statement! Do you think that not one gifted, well educated man heard (and was touched) by the teachings of Jesus in the early years?
  • it is a playful enigma: a message to Hebrews written in perfect Greek, a miracle of an intellectual nature. Why isn't this message to Hebrews in the Hebrew language? It shows that God does have a sense of humor, and a highly intellectual one, like the encounter on the road to Emmaus.
Contra: The author could choose between Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. Why shouldn't he write in Greek? Obviously he mastered the language very well (perhaps better than Aramaic and Hebrew), and Greek was spoken throughout the whole Roman empire.
Pro: The reason why it surprising to be in Greek is because the audience primarily spoke Hebrew.
Contra: Did his audience "primarily spoke Hebrew"? Are you sure? Did the author address the priests - or perhaps traders, scholars, even carpenters, etc.? To quote you: "For teaching purposes, the powerful Greek language would have been useful. Greek was in common use by Jewish people in Palestine, thanks in part to the conquest by Alexander the Great. Greek was even widely used in Jewish ossuaries to bury the dead. Commerce took place often in Greek, and Jesus had been in business as a carpenter. He surely knew the language. Several of the key terms, such as Jesus' criticism of the Pharisees as "hypocrites", is derived directly from Greek without any comparable term in Aramaic or Hebrew."
Pro: The Epistle is obviously directed to those well-versed in the Hebrew scriptures, which means Hebrew was their first language. Why would anyone other than Jesus quote Hebrew scriptures for a Hebrew audience in perfect Greek???--Andy Schlafly 21:58, 10 December 2012 (EST)
Contra: As you said: For teaching purposes, the powerful Greek language would have been useful.
  • ...speaking about Himself in the third person'
Contra: The use of the third person for the author can be found often in classical literature. E.g., when we read
Caesar saw the horse.
it could well be that Caesar was the author of this sentence. But what's about
Caesar saw me.
Here it is obvious that Caesar is not the author, as we have an instance of the first person (me). The same holds true for the Epistle to the Hebrews. One example is Hebrews 3:6
Χριστὸς δὲ ὡς υἱὸς ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ· οὗ οἶκός ἐσμεν ἡμεῖς ἐάνπερ τὴν παρρησίαν καὶ τὸ καύχημα τῆς ἐλπίδος μέχρι τέλους βεβαίαν κατάσχωμεν
Reading this, one sees that Christ is set over the house, while we (including the author!) are the house. A diligent study of the epistle reveals a couple of such examples.
  • ...the work quotes Jesus' thought process, which only Jesus would know.
Contra: If this logic were to hold true, it would mean that God was the author of Genesis. Along with every other event that is described in the Bible that no mortal man could have been witness to.

Links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The Catholic Encyclopedia
  2. Jesus "offered up prayers and heartfelt stirrings with loud cries and tears to Him having the power to save Him from death, and He was heard, for he feared God."
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