The Mysterious Author
The person who wrote the book of Hebrews has been a mystery since around 68 A.D. when it was read aloud to its original recipients.
This powerful Christological writing alludes to a close relationship between the writer and the readers in the way he empathizes with their condition. The author also informs them of Timothy’s state in 13:23, and lets them know he will bring him along the next time he visits. Verses such as these drive many scholars to attribute this book to Paul.
But whether it was Paul or some other, no doubt remains that the first readers knew the author, even though his name was forgotten less than 100 years after he wrote the book.From reading the early church fathers, you can see even they were unable to come to a conclusion as to authorship. Shepherd of Hermas, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus – all leaders of the second and third century church – made use of Hebrews, but none ascribed its authorship to anyone, including Paul.
Tertullian, in the third century, said it could have been written by Barnabas. The Muratorian Canon – a list of Scriptural books from the second century – referred to the 13 letters of Paul but did not list Hebrews, thus giving evidence the Roman church did not regard Paul as the author.
It isn’t until the fourth century that anyone begins to refer to Hebrews as having been written by Paul. Athanasius included Hebrews among the Pauline Letters. Jerome and Augustine identified Hebrews as Pauline, but did so tentatively. Hebrews was firmly embedded in the canonical books by the fourth and fifth century but was located at the end of the 13 Pauline letters indicating their uncertainty.
The debate continued on into the twentieth century where Adolf Harnack suggested Priscilla from the book of Acts was the author. Finally, in 1976, David Ford proposed a theory that Mary the mother of Jesus assisted by Luke and John wrote it.
No matter, whether liberal or conservative in theology, it is obvious no one has come to a conclusion, yet it does not make the search fruitless. Over the next few writings, the author of Hebrews will be discussed and this information will help to form a more profound knowledge and understanding of one of the deepest theological books in the Bible.