The Authorship of Hebrews



            The writer of the book of Hebrews does not identify himself within the pages of the book.  There has been much controversy through the years as to who the actual author might have been.  There have been several men of the first century identified by critics as possible authors of the writing.  Among those mentioned are Luke, Silvanus, Clement of Rome, Aquilla, Mark, Apollos, Barnabas, and the apostle Paul.  The most convincing arguments can be made for Apollos, Barnabas, and Paul.  In questioning the authorship of this very eloquent book, we must not forget the most important in all of the skepticism; we will not know the actual author in this lifetime.  That being said, I wish to show who I think the author might very well have been. I will concentrate on the three most likely of all who were considered possibilities.

            Apollos is described by Luke in the book of Acts as one born in Alexandria, an eloquent man, and one mighty in the scriptures (Acts 18:24).  Throughout the book of First Corinthians, Paul speaks of Apollos as a very influential minister of the gospel in the early church.  Critics have used this information to create the assumption that Apollos could have authored the book.  They begin by noting a similarity of terms used in the book and in the writings of an ancient Jewish theologian named Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, who is said to have lived from 20 B.C. to 50 A.D.  The problems with this theory are two-fold.  First of all, being from Alexandria just as Philo Judaeus was does not mean that Apollos would have used the same phraseology in his writing.  Secondly, we have no confirmed writings of Apollos to compare with the Hebrew letter.  It would appear if Apollos had been the author, Clement of Alexander would have mentioned it in his writings around 200 A.D.  Instead, he concluded Paul to be the author.

            There is a little more historical documentation regarding Barnabas as the author than that of Apollos.  Tertullian, who died around 200 A.D., credited the authorship to Barnabas.  The Hebrew writer deals a lot in the comparison between the Levitical priesthood and how much better we have it in Christ.  Barnabas would have been very familiar with the priesthood because he was of the tribe of Levi.  Barnabas also had a very close and personal relationship with the church in Jerusalem which could lead us to believe in the possibility of him being the author.  The one thing lacking is the same as with Apollos, we have no writings with which to compare with. 

            Modern day critics deny the possibility of Paul’s authorship of the book which is in distinct contradiction with the ancient historians for the most part.  I believe more weight should be given to their opinions.  There are several very good reasons to consider Paul as the author.  I will examine some of the more convincing arguments in favor of his being the author. 

            In his commentary on Hebrews, Milligan says the fact the epistle is anonymous is presumptive evidence that it was written by Paul.  There must have been a valid reason for allowing the epistle to remain anonymous.[1]  There existed a prejudice against Paul not only from the Jewish Christians to whom the epistle was written but also by those unconverted Jews of that day.  Perhaps Paul did not want to turn those who would read the letter away before they had the chance read what he had to say.  Had they seen Paul’s name either at the beginning or the end, the readers might have turned a deaf ear to the message of the epistle. I believe this is probably the strongest argument for the Pauline authorship of the letter. 

            In the Hebrew letter we see the word “covenant” used frequently which is typical of the way Paul wrote in his letters to the churches in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, and Ephesus.  Paul often uses the word testament, will, and covenant to convey the promise made to Christians through the Gospel. 

            One theory is that Paul dictated the letter to someone, perhaps Luke, who polished it up with the language which would explain the style and dignity of the text.  I would like to point out that Paul was a highly educated man.  Even though he said he was “rude in speech” (2 Corinthians 11:6), this does not mean he was not able to write eloquently. 

            Burton Coffman points out in his commentary on the epistle that the author of 1 Corinthians 13 and many other passages in Romans and Ephesians must be hailed as one of the great literary lights in all of history.[2]  He goes on to point out there was a different theme from those recognized Pauline epistles and the theme of Hebrews.  How can one deny that Paul wrote the epistle?  There was no one of his day more qualified to portray the blessings in Christ as compared to the Levitical priesthood.  He had been taught at the feet of Gamaliel.  He had been a persecutor of the early church and once converted brought the same fervor in what he believed to the cause of Christ.  When reading the Hebrew letter, he paints pictures with words describing the tabernacle and the worship that took place there and then compares this with the church.  The reader comes away with a new appreciation of the blessings in Christ.

            The final bit of evidence to the fact that Paul was indeed the author is the words of noted church fathers concerning the writer of Hebrews.  Clement of Alexander (A.D. 150-.215), viewed the book as being written by Paul in the Hebrew language and translated into the Greek language by Luke.  Origen (A.D. 185-254), who is viewed as perhaps the greatest theologian and biblical scholar of the early church, considered the message of the letter to be Paul’s.  He also believed that perhaps another served as a redactor for Paul.  Jerome (A. D. 347-420),  translator of the Latin Vulgate, was said to have been aware of certain doubts about Paul being the writer yet still held the position that Paul was the writer. 

            It is my position that Paul was most likely the writer of the Hebrew letter based upon the facts that I have presented.  Just as I pointed out in the beginning, we will not know the answer to the question of who the author is in this lifetime nor will differing with me affect the eternal destiny of one’s soul.  It is however an intriguing study to try to determine who in fact wrote this great piece of biblical literature.


















Barmby, J. “The Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews” in The Pulpit Commentary, Volume 21,

         Grand Rapids, I: Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950.


Coffman, James Burton. Commentary on Hebrews. Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 1971.

Holladay, Carl R.  A Critical Introduction to the New Testament.  Nashville, TN: 2005.


Milligan, Robert. A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Reprint Edition.

         Nashville, TN, 1981.


Pace, Martel. Truth for Today Commentary: Hebrews.  Searcy, AR: Resource

         Publications, 2007.




[1][1] Milligan, Robert. A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Reprint Edition (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company, 1981), 17.

[2]Coffman, Burton. Commentary on Hebrews (Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 1971), 4.