authorship

Authorship Thoughts

Over the years both in undergraduate and graduate studies I have been exposed to a host of New Testament authorship issues. I have been bombarded with alternative authorship theories on every New Testament book. From Mark to Paul, everything has been questioned. Yet the more I ponder this issue the more confidence I have in the historical designation of these books. It may perhaps be my naive trust in the labors of our forefathers, but when I consider the 18th and 19th century motives of scholars on books like Philippians, it seems clear that their motives are not shaped by divine authorship as much as the latest critical consensus.

My thoughts on Hebrews are pretty clear, and I am willing to concede some healthy debate on the matter, but to begin to deny the authorship of Paul on what has long been considered Pauline authorship books is rather futile.

Beyond that, we believe that the Spirit of God inspired these men to write. Though their humanity is not absent in their writings, though their personalities show forth, yet they are being led by the Third Person of the Trinity. The Spirit of God can re-direct certain authors to alter their style of writing to fit particular circumstances and to minister to particular groups of people.

It also appears that in order to maintain so called objectivity and scholarship, some thinkers direct their attention away from the obvious author in order to scrutinize the book through the lens of critical scholarship. This tactic seems unhelpful and only adds confusion to the authorship question. Questions like: “Would Paul really write like this,” only accentuate the problem. The real question should be: “Our forefathers have largely accepted Pauline authorship, and if this is the case, though this language may not appear to be as consistent with other Pauline writings, could the Spirit direct this genius named Paul to write in such a way?” When such questions are asked, I believe the answer will be clearer. I am not asserting that there has always consensus in the past (Hebrews as an example), but that the majority position was generally clear (with minor exceptions).

The principle seems clear: when in doubt stick with the most obvious answer and that which has been historically prevalent.

Hebrews and Authorship

A couple of years ago I tried to offer a case for a Pauline authorship of Hebrews. I think I was somewhat successful. I will be preaching through Hebrews 1 on Christmas Day, which drew my attention once more to some research on Hebrews. In an introductory article for the Review and Expositor’s, Gerald L. Borchert offers an irenic look at the debate over authorship. He posits various theories. He speaks of the historical position of the Reformers: of Luther’s hatred of the theology of Hebrews in 6:4ff. and the idea of “the impossibility of repentance.” This, led Luther to relegate Hebrews (along with James and others) to a lesser authoritative section of the canon. Interestingly the Eastern Church “viewed the book as distinctly Pauline.” It was not only until after the Reformation that the Council of Trent “declared Paul’s authorship of Hebrews fixed.” Though I argue for Pauline authorship, Luther’s “Apollos theory” is relatively appealing since “Apollos’ reported eloquence suits the magnificent style in Hebrews.” Yet, there is little support before the Reformation for this theory. In the end, we could all take Origen’s conclusion as legitimate when he said: “Who wrote Hebrews, God knows for sure.” I’d like to think God made it clear.