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THE INTERDENOMINATIONAL THEOLOGICAL CENTER

TITLE: A POSITION PAPER ON THE AUTHORSHIP OF


THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS

SUBMITTED TO DR. MARGARET P. AYMER


IN PARTIAL COMPLETION OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR IBSL 531: INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW TESTAMENT

BY
JAMIN POWELL: SUBSTANCE EDITOR
ANTHONY CLINKSCALES: STYLE AND FORMAT EDITOR
JAMES GRANT: ACADEMIC INTEGRITY EDITOR

ATLANTA, GA
FEBRUARY 12, 2009

After studying the Letter to the Hebrews, reading three scholars New Testament
introductions, and considering the contributions of scholarly commentaries, we contend that
Hebrews was written by an erudite male immersed in the Hellenistic age. He was definitely
skilled in the art of rhetoric, and well-informed of the Jewish heritage (Torah). This homily was
composed with the intent of dealing with the apostatizing threat of a vast majority of followers
of the way.. Essentially, the Letter of Hebrews encourages Gods people to hold on a little bit
longer. Even though the master penman behind this literature has not been definitively declared,
we can ascertain that their voice was relevant and poignant to the people and their circumstances.
Validated firmly in rich historical context, and accompanied by extensive educational influence,
this text will prove pertinent and applicable to our 21st century congregations.
We agree with Carl Holladay, author of A Critical Introduction to the New Testament, that
the best way to establish a chronological frame for many New Testament writings, including the
Letter to the Hebrews, is to always consider the external and internal evidence that is available.1
Accordingly, eExternal evidence of the dating of Hebrews includes an epistle written by Clement
of Rome in 95-96 CE which mentions the Letter to the Hebrews. Clements epistle makes
plausible the origin of Hebrews as late as 95 CE.2 Within the Letter to the Hebrews, internal
evidence acknowledges temple worship practices (i.e. Levitical sacrifices in Heb. 10:2-3).
Contextually, references to traditional religious practices would make no sense if Hebrews was
written after the Temples destruction in 70 CE. And tThis theory is contingent upon our
interpretation of these references as being actual temple worship practices, and doeswhich do not
require allegorical interpretation. Furthermore, internal evidence found in chapter 5, verse
125:12 suggests that the assembly to whom the letter was written had been believers of the

1
2

Carl R. Holladay, A Critical Introduction to the New Testament, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005), 447.
David A. Desilva, The New Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2007), 782.

Christian gospel for an extended period of time. This makes it probable that at least 30 to 40
years had elapsed since the beginning of the Christian movement. Considering, Jesus ministry
began when he was about the age 30, we contend that the letter was composed sometime between
60 and 70 CE.
The dualistic language of Gnosticism, Platonism, and Stoicism, which characterizes the
language and style of the Pauline letters, is found in the Letter to the Hebrews. However, the lack
of established ownership to this particular writing is seemingly uncharacteristic of Paul himself.
Therefore, it is our assumption that the author of Hebrews is unknown. Nevertheless, we find in
Hebrews 13:22-23 a reference to Timothy which suggests the writers association in some sort to
Timothy in real time. In True to our Native Land, James Earl Massey affirms that many names
have been logically proposed for authorship. Paul, Apollos, Barnabas, Luke, Silas, Aquila,
Philip, Timothy, Clement of Rome, and Pauls co-worker, Priscilla, could have been responsible
for this homily.3
Nonetheless, it is our belief that within the time period to which these writings were
ascribed, it would have been difficult for a woman bearing the social constraints of this era to
obtain the type of influence that the writer had within the congregation or audience. In addition it
would have been challenging for her to acquire the educational archived knowledge in deep
Greek tradition to articulate this homily in the fashion that it was stated. So, we assert that a
male figure wrote Hebrews, . However, we agree with the early church leader Origen that only
God knows 4 who wrote Hebrews, and of course the person(s) who wrote it also know.
William L. Lane asserts that the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews was a profound
theologian who appeared to have received his theological and spiritual formation within the
3

James E. Massey, True to our Native Land: an African American New Testament Commentary, (Minneapolis:
Fortress Press, 2007), 444-445.
4
Luke T. Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999), 460.

Hellenistic wing of the church.5 Indeed the writer was trained in the exposition of the LXX, and
was familiar with the adapted style, language, and theological conceptions of Hellenistic
Judaism. Evidence of this assertion is supported by the many references to Jewish traditions and
the Torah; especially in its frequent use of aligning two texts to create a parallel for assumptive
interpretation. The mysteries of Hebrews are vast yet its contribution to the New Testament
cannot be denied. This homily was written with strong conviction and has deep roots in regaining
the foundational lesson acquired when tradition meets cultural values.
It is our belief that Hebrews serves as a great teaching tool for inspiring our
congregations to accept the autonomous authority of God, endure the sufferings that the faithful
encounter, and maintain a positive mindset in a negative world. This letter spends a great deal of
time spelling out the authority Christ is ascribed to Christ and the reasons for it. Accordingly,
Hebrews spends the entire first chapter reaffirming Christs being as higher than the prophets and
angels. In addition, chapter 2, verse 6, eloquently insists: What are human beings that you are
mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them?
In sum, we contend that if properly taught in our congregation, Hebrews serves as an
inspirational agitator propelling Gods people to reframe that which attempts to subjugate or
marginalize them; whether it be individuals or social constraints or even the church itself because
they are validated and protected by one who is greater than any one circumstance. Essentially,
the Letter to the Hebrews is about encouragement, that is encouragement for oneself and
encouragement for one another in the faith community.

William L. Lane, Word Biblical Commentary, (Dallas: Word Books, 1991), 147.

Bibliography
Desilva, David A. The New Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abbingdon Press,
2007.
Holladay, Carl R. A Critical Introduction to the New Testament. Nashville: Abbingdon Press,
2005.
Johnson, Luke T. The Writings of the New Testament. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999.
Lane, William L. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word Books, 1991.
Massey, James E. True to Our Native Land: an African American New Testament Commentary.
Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.

GROUP POSITION PAPER RUBRIC


General Editors, please attach a copy of this to the paper for which you are responsible.

Substance: 60% of your grade


Topic
Paper opens with a clear, strong, thesis.
Argument of the paper supports its thesis
Authors position on the topic is clear
Authors have accurately presented the
information requested
Authors present considered denominational
implications
Authors present considered theological
implications

Exceptional
(96)
x
x
x
x

Commendable
(87)

Acceptable
(78)

Unsatisfactory
(69)

x
x

Grade for substance: 90


Style: 20% of your grade
Topic
Font, spacing, and headings correctly used
Margins correct
Paper conforms to the word limit
Paper edited for grammatical errors and/or
inconsistencies
Paper edited for spelling errors
Paper edited for style and flow
Paper edited to read as though written by one
author
Title Page correct

Exceptional
(96)
x

Commendable
(87)

Acceptable
(78)

Unsatisfactory
(69)

x
x
x
x
x
x

Grade for style: 92

Academic Integrity: 20% of your grade


Topic
Paper contains footnotes, bibliography
Footnotes are accurate in form
Footnotes are accurate in content
Bibliography is accurate in form
Bibliography is accurate in content
All paraphrases and quotations are cited

Exceptional
(96)
x

Commendable
(87)

Acceptable
(78)

x
x
x
x
x

Grade for academic integrity; 86


Grade for paper: 90
Good work gentlemen. You need to strengthen your discussion about the
implications of your findings for the denominations.

Unsatisfactory
(69)