Jesus and Anti-Imperialism

When the Gospels are read we read about Jesus healing the sick, showing mercy, forgiving sins, and caring for the poor.  These are all great things, and they should be emulated.  However, within the confines of our western way of thinking we may miss things in the Gospel accounts that will help us get a better understanding.  In 2005, Warren Carter wrote an article in the World & World Journal that shows the teachings of Jesus on relation to the Roman Empire in a new light.  The title of the article is Proclaiming (in/against) Empire Then and Now, and it examines the relationship of the early Christians among the imperialism of the Roman world.

One of the passages that Carter discusses in Matthew 5:38-42, but for purposes of this essay verses 39 and 40 will be discussed.  Matthew 5:39-40 state, “But I say to you, Do not resist an evil doer.  But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well” (NRSV).  We read this passage and a couple of things come to mind.  One may conclude that Jesus was a passive individual who just wanted peace and would go to any length to achieve that end.  Others may read this as a lesson of forgiveness, and come to the conclusion that no matter what evil is done against us that we should forgive and move on with our lives.  The latter is the conclusion that most Christians would hold to, and it isn’t wrong.  There is more to its meaning than meets the eye.

It is important to remember that when Jesus spoke these words Israel was a province of the Roman Empire.  The empire was imperialist in nature, and was conquering new lands whenever it had the chance.  The judicial system of the empire protected the elite, and punishments, often times, did not fit the crime.  In describing this Carter writes, “Roman justice protected elite members but took harsh action against threat to structures.  Punishments often fitted not the crime but the offender’s social status” (Carter 154).

History tells us that the Jewish people were not happy with Roman occupation, and this came to fruition in 70 A.D. when a full-blown revolt occurred.  Now consider the scripture given within the context of a revolt.  It seems out of place.  However, peasant societies (such as ancient Israel) often expressed their discontent in a series of ways that the locals would understand but the occupiers would not.  They may not greet a Roman soldier as they walk by, not pay their taxes, carry Roman military gear further than ordered, or sing songs against the occupying force (Carter 154).  Another way, and one more applicable to the scripture being discussed is to “hand over an under garment as well as an outer garment” (Carter 154).  At face value this seems like a kind gesture, but it is also a way of exposing the harshness of the occupying nation.

When seen in this perspective Matthew 5:38-42 is more than a passage about forgiving those who do wrong against you.  In its historical context, Christ is calling out the unjust nature of the Roman occupation.  An occupation where crucifixion was given to only non-citizens and those of low status who were a threat to the sovereignty of the state.  When seen in this light, Matthew 5:38-42 shows another reason as to why Jesus was crucified.

WORKS CITED

Carter, Warren. “Proclaiming (in/against) Empire Then and Now,” Word & World 25/2 (2005) 149-158.

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

O’ Collins, Gerald. Jesus: A Portrait. New York: Maryknoll, 2013

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Jewishness of Christ

Within theology there are many different topics.  One such topic is known as Christology, and it deals with who Jesus is.  It deals with his nature, divinity, and how it is portrayed within the New Testament.  There are many views of Christology that have been debunked over the years, and some are still taught today.  Who was Jesus, and how does his Jewish heritage affect our understanding of the New Testament?

When we read the New Testament, we tend to read it through modern eyes.  We read the Gospel accounts and see the divinity of Christ, but we often overlook key aspects that assist us in understanding him in a deeper way.  We may have a good understanding of the doctrines that Christ preached, but pay little attention to his relationships and social interactions (Carter 150).  In fact, understanding the Jewishness of Christ will have a big impact on our exegesis of the New Testament.  By viewing the Jewishness of Christ, we are removing the presuppositions of western culture, and placing the New Testament back into its cultural and societal context.

One thing that many see Jesus as doing is abolishing the law, but is this really accurate?  Certainly, there are some things a that are no longer applicable under the New Covenant, but Jesus tells us himself that he came to fulfill the law in Matthew 5:17.  This seems to indicate that He recognized his Jewishness and embraced it.  Regarding this Gerald Collins writes, “We throw away any right to comment on the way Jesus perceived reality, if we ignore the earthly particularity of his language’ (Collins 47).

Jesus spoke in a manner in which his Jewish audience would understand.  Like other Rabbis of the time, he taught lessons by telling a story.  One example is His example of putting new wine into old wineskins in Luke 5:36. A surface reading of the text suggests a disagreement between Jesus and the Pharisees in regard to Jewish dietary laws.  These parables give us peeks into Jewish culture, and a proper understanding of them assists us in understanding the New Testament in a fuller way.

As previously stated, we tend to read these parables within the context of our western culture, but to do so is to miss the point.  By reading scripture in this manner we run the risk of coming to a conclusion that in totally foreign to the intention of the text.  That has ramifications for how we engage the rest of the New Testament.

Jesus was Jewish, and the first Christians were Jewish.  They worshipped in the synagogue, kept kosher dietary laws, and strove to keep other aspects of the law.  Most Christians are gentiles, and as a result it becomes hard to imagine Jesus as a Jewish man.  We say it, but it is something that comes from our mouth with little understanding of the ramifications.  This means that the Gospels should be seen as a conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders of his day, particularly in regard to the interpretation of the law.  It also means that we measure what Jesus said with the understanding that he was a Jewish Rabbi in 1st century Palestine.  These two things may be difficult for us to grasp, but when we do so we see the New Testament in its proper context, and the message of scripture become more fully alive.

 

WORKS CITED

Carter, Warren. “Proclaiming (in/against) Empire Then and Now,” Word & World 25/2 (2005) 149-158

O’ Collins, Gerald. Jesus: A Portrait. New York: Maryknoll, 2013

 

Sources of Old Testament Interpretation

According to Collins there are seven methods to interpreting the Bible:  source criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, archaeology, new criticism, new historicism, and sociological methods.  All of these are developments that help us understand the Bible in a deeper way.  Source criticism is seen as “the separation of sources especially in the Pentateuch (Collins, page 16).”  It relies on reading the text and gathering ideas from it, but falls short in that it expects the text to relate to modern times.

Form criticism attempts to delve deeper and look at individual stories in the text instead of the text as a whole.  This form is important because it recognizes the importance of location of the author.  It also emphasizes the reason for the work being written.  Was it written to people during a celebration or time of sorrow?  One method that is closely related to the previous two is redaction criticism.  In redaction criticism there is a focus on the way units are combined by the author of the text.  There is a tendency among editors to want to impose their own theological ideas and redaction criticism seeks to limit that.

In recent years Archaeology has been a way to help interpret scripture.  It is important because we get to see material with our eyes instead of trying to imagine it while reading.  It gives insight to how biblical characters lived, their landscape, and traditions.  A problem may arise if a reader is looking for the Bible to be historically accurate as archaeology may show something different.

Those that want to look to the text itself for meaning instead of social, archaeological, and geographical factors will fit in with New criticism.  It was a formal movement that looked at the text alone for meaning.  This form is limited by eliminating the factors that help interpret the text.  A response to this was new historicism.  New historicism focuses on the text while keeping things in context.

Lastly sociological methods are used in interpreting the Bible.  Collins explains that “interpretation is not objective and neutral but serves human interests and is shaped by them (Collins, Page 19).”  The way scripture in interpreted may vary from country to country and in some cases church to church.  Every method has some valuable qualities in interpretation and it is best to have a basic knowledge of all to get various interpretations.

WORKS CITED

Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.

Theories of Creation Part One: The Gap Theory

Within the scope of creation account interpretations, the Gap Theory is a fairly new idea.  Though there may have been adherents to it previously, it was made popular by a Presbyterian minister by the name of Thomas Chalmers.  He preached a series of sermons in 1804 in which he promoted the theory. The theory peaked in popularity when it was included in the Scofield Study Bible.

The Gap Theory holds that there was a gap perhaps as long as five billion years between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2[1].  Genesis 1:1 states, “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth[2].”  According the theory, this is when God created a perfect world[3].  To understand the scope of the theory a look at Genesis 1:2 in vital.  Genesis 1:2 states, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters[4].

It is at this point that this interpretation gets interesting.  What happened between verse one and verse two?  Those that adhere to the Gap Theory hold that there is a mistranslation in most English versions.  The word that is translated as “was” in Genesis 1:2 should be “became”.  This one word describes a whole new meaning in Genesis 1:2. If the world became void it means that it had already existed.  The theory proposes that the time period between verses one and two was marked by Satan’s rebellion against the creator.  Satan lead the original creation in total rebellion[5].

Thus, the original creation that God had created was destroyed.  Included in this original creation were prehistoric men, and prehistoric animals such as the dinosaurs[6].  Following this rebellion, the world was covered with a cataclysmic flood, which proponents say can be evidenced in Genesis 1:2[7].  The undisclosed time period between verses one and two allows for the various layers of sediment and rock to form. This interpretation continued with God hovering over the waters and deciding to create what we have today.  The creation following the rebellion was done in six literal days, but still allows the earth to be billions of years old because of the gap between verses one and two[8].

The view was very popular for a time, but there are some concerns for it.  Among these concerns are that the Hebrew grammar in verses one and two go against it[9].  From an exegetical standpoint time is not inserted between verses one and two, because verse two does not follow in that manner.  This can be seen by using a grammatical device in Hebrew called a waw-disjunctive.  The Hebrew word waw, which means “and”, is connected with a noun.  In this case the noun is the earth, and this literary device links up to the previous verse.  It does so that it may describe verse one more fully, and thus time is not permittable to be inserted.

 

[1] Dan Story, Defending Your Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1997), 147.

[2] Genesis 1:1 (New International Version).

[3] Robert J Utley, How It All Began:  Genesis 1-11 (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2001), 24.

[4] Genesis 1:2 (New International Version).

[5] James M. Boice, Genesis:  An Expositional Commentary, vol. 1, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982), 50-52.

[6] James E. Smith, The Pentateuch (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1993), 50.

[7] C.I. Scofield, The Scofield Reference Bible (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1909), 3.

[8] Carl F.H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1999), 144.

[9] Paul S. Carleen, The Handbook to Bible Study (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1987), 328.

 

Three Law Codes

When we read through the books of the Pentateuch something extraordinary happens.  To one who is just getting started in Biblical study it would be logical to think that there would only be one set of laws.  However this is not the case and we, in fact, find three different codes of the law.  There is the Covenant code which contains laws that are appropriate for a rural economy.  There is a separate Holiness code that was set aside for priests.  Lastly there was the Deuteronomy code which revolved around an urban kingship or monarchy.

The Covenant code not only contained the Ten Commandments, but the Book of the Covenant.  The laws are designated for a rural settlement or community.  As Collins puts it “these laws were formulated in a settled, agrarian, community; they are not the laws of nomads wandering in the wilderness (Collins, page 130).”  The deal with consequences of violence against ones neighbor.  This is where the phrase an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” originates.

The next law code is the Holiness code found in the book of Leviticus.  This code is specialized in that it is for priests alone.  Though these laws are interwoven with the Decalogue they deal in specifics in regard to the ritual laws of the priests.  It lays out specific ways to slaughter and sacrifice an animal.  It also goes into detail about relations with other nations.  In we find that the Israelites are not to be like other nations.  Though not all activity of others is forbidden the way they acted sexually certainly was.  These are important because “these abominations are said to defile the land (Collins, page 149).

Lastly we have the third code which is the Deuteronomy code.  This code was in effect in an urban based monarchy.  Though the Decalogue is important there seems to be somewhat of an emphasis on the “laws of sabbatical release (Collins, page 165).”  Humanitarian care for the poor and the widow are emphasized, as well as the forgiveness of debts every seven years.  Another prominent feature is the release of slaves.  In Deuteronomy we also find the centralization of worship in Jerusalem.  People would now have to make a pilgrimage to offer sacrifice instead of going to the local shrine.  This was significant in the growth of Judaism as the rural people were still persuaded to worship other gods such as Baal .

 

 

References

Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.

 

Book Summary: Genesis-History, Fiction, or Neither?

Introduction

The introduction to Genesis:  History, Fiction, or Neither? is written by the editor, Charles Halton.  Dr. Halton has a Ph.D from Hebrew Union College and is a professor at Houston Baptist University[1].  He begins with a recap of the controversy between Galileo and the authorities in the Catholic Church.  To recap, Galileo believed that the Earth revolved around the sun, and this was a view that contradicted many biblical texts, and the established teaching of the church.  These biblical texts were interpreted very literally, and Galileo saw that scripture used many literary devices to communicate truth.

In 1633 Galileo was threatened with torture if he did not recant his views.  He held firm and remained under house arrest the rest of his life[2].  The Catholic church would come to see that Galileo was not wrong in his interpretation, and 350 years later John Paul II publicly spoke of the error that the theologians made.

Dr, Halton tells this story from history to drive home a very important point regarding biblical interpretation.  To interpret properly one must look at the genre that is being read.  The focus of the book is on Genesis chapters 1-11.  Our society has advanced by leaps and bounds since Genesis was penned.  Our culture has little in common with a culture that was fighting hunger and was always looking for safety[3].  The seeks to discover what genre Genesis falls into, and this is done by providing three views from three well respected biblical scholars.

 

View 1:  Genesis 1-11 as History and Theology

The first view is written by Dr, James Hoffmeier who earned his Ph.D from the University of Toronto.  Dr. Hoffmeier is currently a professor of Old Testament and Near Eastern archaeology at Trinity International University Divinity School[4].  In this view the theology of Genesis is often overlooked, and is a story about the fall of humanity and subsequent restoration in the New Testament.  To describe this Dr. Hoffmeier references John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost to describe what happened in the beginning chapters of Genesis.

He argues that over the centuries scholars have delved into a scientific approach to Genesis.  This approach has yielded many negative opinions such as the denial of Mosaic authorship.  Dr. Hoffmeier gives an overview of Genesis 1-11 and starts to determine what genre it fits into.  A brief discussion about Genesis being legend is discussed, and quickly discarded as incorrect.  An explanation of myth is then explored.  Myth is a literary type that is accepted within scripture.  In our culture, myth is something that is fictional.  In biblical literature, it has to do with ultimate realities and not fiction[5].  Many scriptural examples are given from the books of Isaiah, Job, Psalm, and Ezekiel.

Dr. Hoffmeier suggests that Genesis is history that utilizes myth.  He explains that Genesis 1 and 2 were written for polemical reasons against similar views of Egypt and Mesopotamia.  Genesis 1-11 is analogical in nature, and uses analogies to communicate thinking about history.  To further his point about historicity, Dr, Hoffmeier looks to the genealogies.  This leads to one of the central ideas in the essay which is that of the toledot. 

To do this Dr. Hoffmeier says it is critical to look at the book of Genesis as a complete work.  This term is used eleven times in the book, but is found sparsely in the rest of the Old Testament.  It is used to describe the lineages of Adam to Jacob, but also spans the history of creation and ends with Joseph in Egypt[6].  These are real people in history, and they are described in Genesis.

Another central theme in the essay is that of other creation accounts in the near east.  He looks at flood and creation accounts from Mesopotamia.  The Epic of Gilgamesh has an account of a worldwide flood very similar to that of Noah.  It was discovered in a library in Nineveh in 1872.  It has over seventy counterparts, and tablets have been unearthed about the epic that date back to the 14th century B.C.

Dr. Hoffmeier then explores the similarities between Genesis 1-11 and the Mesopotamian account of Athrahasis.  The similarities include creation, creation of mankind, narrative, alienation, flood, and a new start.  The one difference is that there is a genealogy in the Hebrew account.  The Hebrew account seems to combat the worldview of the other, and this is seen most in its explanation of deity.  The Babylonian gods are afraid, but the Hebrew God is in charge and sovereign.

There is much more to Dr. Hoffmeier’s essay, but concedes that the events in Genesis are historical.  He further says that there is enough evidence to support this that the Christian should see that it is okay to believe such a thing.

 

View 2 Genesis 1-11 as Protohistory

The second view in the book is written by Dr. Gordon Wenham.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of London, and is currently a tutor in Old Testament at Trinity College in Bristol, England.  He is also professor emeritus of Old Testament at the University of Gloucestershire[7].  Dr. Wenham begins his essay with a discussion of literary types.  Classifying the literary types in Genesis is difficult, especially when it comes to the genealogies.

He believes that curtain parts of Genesis may be classified as poetry.  He believes this be the case when God curses Adam and Eve, and also the account with the serpent in 3:14-19.  In Genesis 2:23 Adam meets Eve, and he is not sure if this is poetry although it is poetic[8].  The issue of Genre is not of the utmost concern, but that of an application to readers today is.  In Dr. Wenham’s view the opening chapters of Genesis speak of the immense character of God and his relationship with creation, specifically his relationship with man.

To see this Dr. Wenham stresses that we must have an idea of what the author’s presuppositions are.  He starts discussing this by looking at genealogies.  The genealogies in Genesis act as a bridge that help connect the generations represented.  In Genesis are the following two types of genealogies are represented:  linear and segmented.  Linear genealogies occur in the beginning of the book, such as Adam to Cain for example.  The segmented versions make a claim to territory, and the Table of Nations in chapter 10 is great example of this.  In this regard a genealogy is used as a type of proof for and ownership.  This was a common practice in the ancient near east.

He moves on to a discussion about the genre of Genesis being myth.  Dr. Wenham understands how scholars can come to this conclusion, but he thinks it is misleading.  A myth is a style of writing that uses many different methods to present truth.  A myth is also something used to help the reader understand social rituals[9].  Genesis 1-11 falls more closely into the genre of an expanded genealogy that includes stories of ancient man from creation to Abraham.

In his essay Dr, Wenham looks closely at genealogy, the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden, and other Near East materials to arrive at his conclusion.  He comes to the conclusion that Genesis 1-11 falls into the genre of protohistory.  It does not fit wholeheartedly into myth because there are many historical events contained therein.  It does not fall into the genre of history because there is some poetry intermingled, especially in chapters one and two.  Therefore, a designation of protohistory is best per Dr. Wenham.

 

View 3:  Genesis 1-11 as Fiction

The third essay is written by Dr. Kenton Sparks who received his Ph.D from the University of North Carolina.  He is currently a professor of biblical studies, and vice president of enrollment management at Eastern University.  He proposes that the book of Genesis is fiction.

At the start of his essay Dr. Sparks quotes the great early church father Augustine, and the great scholastic Thomas Aquinas.  He states that these two theological heavyweights believed that Christians should adhere to one interpretation of scripture, and they should be ready to abandon it if it proves to be false.  He states that the two prominent individuals in church history said such a thing in regards to the book of Genesis[10].

Dr. Sparks says that time has widened the gap between science and the events described in Genesis.  He is very blunt to write, “There was no Edenic garden, nor trees of life and knowledge, nor a serpent who spoke, nor a worldwide flood[11].”  Dr. Sparks is quick to defend this by saying that he does believe that Genesis is the Word of God, but we must understand the narrative in a different way than Christians who came before us.

From there Dr. Sparks goes into the use and definition of genre.  He defines it in different terms than the other two individuals in this book.  In his terms, genre is a function of human interpretation by which we interpret things by comparing them to other things.  Genres are not fixed categories, but the fixed point of interpretation is what is being interpreted.  Humans have a history of conflating things after the fact[12].

Dr Sparks looks at genealogies and other near east accounts to arrive at his consensus.  One thing he does that the others do not is use quotations throughout history.  At the beginning of his essay he quotes Augustine and Thomas Aquinas as rendering warning against interpreting Genesis in a literal way.  He also references Origen who says that those who interpret Genesis literally are blind.  In his analysis, he sought to ask three question:  1.  Did the Biblical authors intend at every point to write historically reliable narratives?  2.  Did the authors believe that history stood behind their narratives?  3.  Did the authors accept as history anything which cannot in fact be historical?  In regards to the first question the answer is a firm no.  In regards to the second Dr. Sparks believe in some cases this was the case.  This was also the case with the third question.

It is because of these reasons that Genesis, in Dr, Sparks view, is fiction.

 

We Disagree.  What now?

The concluding chapter of the book belongs to its editor, Dr. Halton.  The three contributors disagree with another, and on some points much more than others.  Per Dr, Halton, it is this lack of consensus that can teach us much about the Christian life.  The three contributors disagree on the genre of Genesis 1-11, but they all agree it is the word of God.  When we read Genesis today we do not read it in the same fashion as the early church did.  The early church read it in a symbolic manner, and did not see it overly historical.  Though these issues were debated centuries ago there is nothing wrong with doing the same now.  We have more information at our disposal to assist us in interpretation than they had, and it makes sense that we would get more questions.

Each of the contributors had a big task in front of them, and they performed admirably.  Though they ended in disagreement the disagreements were charitable.  They dissected the argument and respectfully submitted a counterthought when appropriate.  It today’s world this is not the norm, but it gives us an example of how we should treat each other as Christians.  Disagreements will happen, but we should seek to discuss them rationally and respectfully so the we do not fracture the body of Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Halton, Charles, ed. Genesis:  History, Fiction, or Neither?. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015.

 

 

[1] Charles Halton, ed., Genesis:  History, Fiction, or Neither? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 9.

[2] Ibid, 14.

[3] Charles Halton, ed., Genesis:  History, Fiction, or Neither? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 19.

[4] Ibid, 9.

[5] Charles Halton, ed., Genesis:  History, Fiction, or Neither? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 27.

[6] Ibid, 29.

[7] Charles Halton, ed., Genesis:  History, Fiction, or Neither? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 9.

[8] Ibid, 73.

[9] Charles Halton, ed., Genesis:  History, Fiction, or Neither? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 83.

[10] Charles Halton, ed., Genesis:  History, Fiction, or Neither? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 111.

[11] Ibid, 111.

[12] Charles Halton, ed., Genesis:  History, Fiction, or Neither? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 138.

Authorship of Hebrews

The Epistle to the Hebrews is one that has perplexed Christians for generations.  The letter is unlike anything seen in the rest of the New Testament, and uses typology and symbolism to communicate the precious truth of Christ.  In regards to this theologian N.T. Wright states, “The letter to the Hebrews is one of the most bracing and challenging writings in the New Testament.  People often find it a bit difficult, because it uses ideas that are strange to us[1].”

One of the way in which it perplexes us is because there is not a consensus on who wrote such a beautiful piece of scripture.  If one were to get a group of Biblical Scholars to together there will be varying opinions on this issue.  Is the issue of authorship vital to prove its canonicity?  Not at all, but it could serve to give us further insight into what the author was conveying.  There have been many names presented as author such as Paul, Barnabas, Clement, Apollos, Luke, Priscilla, Jude, Apollos, Philip, and Silvanus[2].  In this paper a look at internal evidence, and testimony from the Church Fathers will show that Apollos is the most likely candidate for authorship.

 

HISTORY OF AUTHORSHIP IN THE EAST AND WEST

If one is to research who the author of the epistle is it would be wise to consider the tradition of the eastern and western churches.  This is a most interesting practice as it yields two results that could not be any more different.  Looking at the patristic evidence is important to understand why it was placed in the canon[3].

In the expanses of the west the epistle was quoted as early as the writing of 1 Clement around the end of the first century[4].  Traces of the epistle were seen in the works of Gaius, Tertullian, Irenaeus, and much more by Hippolytus in his commentary on Daniel.  However, none saw evidence of Pauline authorship, and thus it was not considered canonical because it was not apostolic in nature[5].  Eventually Pauline authorship became popular, though never fully accepted, in the west around the 4th century when Paul was attributed as being the author in editions of the Latin Vulgate.  This was also the case in early English translation such as the Douay-Rheims and King James Version[6]

            Though Pauline authorship was a matter of contention in the west this was not the case in the East.  Very early the Eastern churches show a strong tradition that displays Pauline authorship.  According to the early church historian Eusebius, Clement of Alexandria followed the view of another church father named Pantaenus[7].  Clement held a view that Paul wrote Hebrews in Hebrew for Hebrews, and that it was translated into Greek by Luke[8].

Pantaenus did recognize the difficulty in such a belief.  He argued very early on that Paul did not introduce himself in the same way as the rest of his letters.  His explanation was simple, but carried much weight.  According to Gareth Cockerill Pantaneus believed, “Paul had not affixed his name because he was only the apostle to the Gentiles[9]”.  Clement of Alexandria, Pantaenus’s successor, added further clarification of this thought.  He believed that Paul wrote the epistle anonymously so he would not offend the Jews in the audience[10].

At any rate the West began to join the east in affirming Pauline authorship in the 4th century.  The view in the west was assisted by theological heavyweights Jerome and Augustine who greatly respected the “prestigious opinion of the Eastern churches[11].”  It should be noted that Jerome did carry reservations about Pauline authorship, but did not see fit to attempt to deny it a place in the canon.  His reason was very simple, and straightforward as the letter was read daily inside the churches.

EVIDENCE FOR PAULINE AUTHORSHIP

To better understand the authorship of Hebrews a look at the first theories must be looked at.  The earliest theories, as already mentioned, were that the Apostle Paul was the most likely author.  It is wise to go through the reasons why this was the case as it will later assist in laying the foundation as to why Pauline authorship is not probate.  This process may seem antithetical, but in looking at other Pauline letters we can see some similarity, but many differences in writing style at tone.

As previously stated the earliest traditions in the East name Paul as the author.  This theory did not come just from anywhere in the East, but from the catechetical school in Alexandria[12].  The great Early Church Father John Chrysostom clearly names Paul as the author.  John writes in his first homily on the Epistle, “Why did he [Paul] not oppose “himself” to “the prophets”? Certainly, he was much greater than they, inasmuch as a greater trust was committed to him. Yet he doth not so[13].”  Origen, at a minimum, affirmed Pauline dictation but was unsure of who wrote everything down[14].  Also, as stated earlier the west was slower to affirm this theory, but at the council of Carthage the fourteen Pauline Epistles were accepted as canon in the New Testament, and this would be the prominent view, with some holdouts until the 16th century[15].

There are similarities between Hebrews and Pauline letters which helped full the case for his authorship.  This is what perhaps led the earliest codices, around 200 A.D., of Pauline books to be fourteen[16].  To illustrate this point, it is helpful to compare two passages of scripture.  The first is Hebrews 1:2 which states, “but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he created all ages[17].”  Compare that passage with Colossians 1:16 which states, “for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities-all things were created through him and for him[18].”  Both verses are similar in tone and emphasize the work of Christ in creation.  This could assist one in concluding that either Paul, or someone closely associated with him was the author[19].

Other similarities between Hebrews and the Pauline epistles is the place of the New Covenant described in Hebrews 8:6 and 2 Corinthians 3:4-11.  The bad example of Israel during the wondering in the wilderness in Hebrews 3:7-11, 4:6-11, and 1 Corinthians 10:1-11.  The work of the Holy Spirit and the distribution of gifts in the church in Hebrews 2:4 and 1 Corinthians 12:11. Another similarity is that of the Christs incarnation and death as mentioned in Hebrews 2:14-17 and Philippians 2:5-8[20].

EVIDENCE AGAINST PAULINE AUTHORSHIP

Early church tradition and a look at Biblical evidence present a reasonable case for Pauline authorship.  However, these are surface level factors as evidence can be derived from the text to show that Paul did not write the letter.  Though the debate over authorship rages on the evidence that will be provided will show that the author must have been someone other than Paul, but may have been an associate or knew him well.

The first piece of evidence to look at is the salutation in Hebrews.  The letters that were written by Paul all had a salutation, but Hebrews does not.  The author starts by writing, “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets[21].  From the onset of the letter there is an aura of anonymity.  In describing this theologian Paul Enns writes, “The author nowhere identifies himself in the book, yet it seems he knows the readers[22].”  One theory to get around this issue is that the name was omitted because it was in the form of a sermon.  Though plausible, it is unlikely that Paul would not use his authority as an Apostle to steer his readers away from apostasy.  Paul does exactly this in his letter to the Galatians.

The appeal to authority in Hebrews 2:3 is problematic as it is not one normally given by an apostle.  For clarification, the verse states, “It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him[23].”  This passage shows that the writer was not a follower of Christ during his earthly ministry, and indicated that the message received was one delivered by the Apostles.  Paul most likely would have referred to apostolic traditions which points to the writer knowing about Christ because of the ministry of the Apostles[24].

Another point of contention is the style used in Hebrews.  Paul used a more relaxed style of Greek in his letters, and Hebrews has a more classical style.  Bible scholar Robert Utley states, “The Style is so different from Paul’s other writings, the vocabulary is different, and there are subtle differences is word and phrase usage and emphasis[25].”  This is not to say that Paul it not capable of an elevated use of Greek.  Many parts of his letters, such as 1 Corinthians 13, display that.  It is unlikely that Paul would write thirteen letters is a very simple Greek dialect and use a higher literary style in the letter to the Hebrews.

The Epistle to the Hebrews puts a great emphasis on Jesus as High priest.  This particular language is absent from the rest of his writings[26].  The author also uses the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, but with a key difference.  The author of Hebrews quotes it differently than Paul did, and Paul did not always quote from the Septuagint[27].

 

FURTHER POTENTIAL AUTHORS

A great deal of time has been spent discussing the case for and against Pauline authorship.  Though Paul would be a good candidate the evidence points towards someone associated with him, but there were other figures in history who were seen as probable authors.

Luke and Clement of Rome were two men who accompanied Paul in his journeys.  Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts while Clement is mentioned in Philippians 4:2 as a fellow worker.  The thought that one of them authored it is ancient in its origins[28].  Though it is ancient there are a couple problems with this theory.  When compared with other writings of Luke there is very little in common with the content of Hebrews.  Clement of Rome must also be removed as a viable candidate because of evidence found in his letter to the Corinthians.  In that letter, he quotes Hebrews several times.  There is a possibility that he is quoting his own writing, but he is quoting it in such a way to negate part of what is said.  He speaks of the ministry of the Church in such a way that parts are opposite of what is said in Hebrews[29].  These two historic figures have early writing that we can compare to Hebrews to see if it was a possible match.  Another possible author, Barnabas, does not since the epistle attributed to him is also anonymous.  Another possible author is Priscilla, but that only came about in the 19th century by Adolph Harnack.  There is little to no evidence to support this theory and she is ruled out because of the author referring to himself with a masculine pronoun in Hebrews 11:32[30].  There are many more names that were put forward, but one name stands out among those.  That name in Apollos, and there is evidence to support that he is the author.

 

APOLLOS AS AUTHOR

A stated previously the author was most likely a companion, or associated with Paul in some way.  He is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 3:5, “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task[31]”.  We further read in Acts 18:24 about Apollos, “Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures[32].”

The two scriptures provided provide many key points about authorship.  The author of Hebrews had a very strong Hellenistic background with training in rhetoric.  These two distinctions are important and have led many since the time of Martin Luther to conclude that the author is Apollos[33].  In Acts 18:24 Luke says that Apollos is a native of Alexandria which was traditionally the Greek center for rhetorical training[34].  It was also the location of the famed catechetical school in the early church.  Though the school may not have been around at the time that does not mean that a strong scriptural catechesis could not have been present.

In Acts 18 we see Apollos describes as someone who is steeped in the word and a great expositor.  The author of Hebrews does much of the same.  The writer draws on great details from the Old Testament to share with his readers.  In regards to this Gareth Cockerill writes, “Apollo’s skill in demonstrating Christ’s messiahship from the Old Testament is in accord with the pastor’s Christological exposition[35].”  Another element to consider is the ability that Apollos has to confound the Jews who did not acknowledge Christ.  This ability fits well with the background of the recipients of the letter[36].

CONCLUSION

The mystery of who wrote Hebrews is one that may never be solved.  Many important named in Church History have been proposed as the author.  A look at the evidence for and against Pauline authorship was looked at, and from that a deduction can be made that Paul was not the author.  The author was most likely associated with Paul in some way.  Thus, a look at the possibility of Luke and Clement as writers was briefly discussed.  In both cases their literary styles do not match that of the writer of Hebrews.  Apollos was also associated with Paul at the church in Corinth.  He was trained in rhetoric, and was a great expositor of the scriptures.  His style of writing is more classical in style and matches that of the author of Hebrews.  It is because of these reasons that Apollos is the most probable author of Hebrews.

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Berry, J.D., ed. The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015.

Brown, Raymond E, Joseph A Fitzmeyer, and Roland E Murphy, eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990.

Brown, Raymond E. Introduction to the New Testament. New Haven, CT: Doubleday, 1997.

Carson, D.A., and Douglas J Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.

Cockerill, Gareth L. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2012.

Ellingworth, Paul. The Epistle to the Hebrews:  A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing, 1993.

Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014.

Guthrie, George H. The NIV Application Commentary:  Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.

Herron, Thomas J. Clement and the Early Church of Rome: Edited by Scott Hahn. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road, 2008.

Lea, Thomas D., and David Alan Black. The New Testament:  Its Background and Message. Nashville, TN: B&h Academic, 2003.

———.. Holman New Testament Commentary:  Hebrews, James. Nashville, TN: B&h Publishers, 1999.

Schaff, Philip, ed. Saint John Chrysostom:  Homilies on the Gospel of John and Epistle to the Hebrews. Vol 14th ed. New York, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1899.

Utley, Robert J. The Superiority of the New Covenant:  Hebrews. Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 1999.

Wright, N.T. Hebrews For Everyone. Louisville, KY: WJK Press, 2004.

 

[1] N.t. Wright, Hebrews For Everyone (Louisville, KY: WJK Press, 2004), x.

[2] George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary:  Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 23.

[3] Gareth L Cockerill, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2012), 3.

[4] Ibid, 3.

[5] Ibid, 3.

[6] Raymond E. Brown, Introduction to the New Testament (New Haven, CT: Doubleday, 1997), 697.

[7] Raymond E Brown, Joseph A Fitzmeyer, and Roland E Murphy, eds., The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990), 920.

[8] Ibid, 920.

[9] Gareth L Cockerill, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2012), 4.

[10] Ibid, 5.

[11] D.A. Carson and Douglas J Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 601.

[12] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament:  Its Background and Message (Nashville, TN: B&h Academic, 2003), 496.

[13] Philip Schaff, ed., Saint John Chrysostom:  Homilies on the Gospel of John and Epistle to the Hebrews, vol 14th ed (New York, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1899), 366.

[14] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament:  Its Background and Message (Nashville, TN: B&h Academic, 2003), 496.

[15] Ibid, 496.

[16] Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews:  A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing, 1993), 6.

[17] Hebrews 1:2 (Revised Standard Version).

[18] Colossians 1:16 (Revised Standard Version).

[19] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament:  Its Background and Message (Nashville, TN: B&h Academic, 2003), 496.

[20] Ibid, 496.

[21] Hebrews 1:1 (Revised Standard Version).

[22] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 121.

[23] Hebrews 2:3b (Revised Standard Version).

[24] J.D. Berry, ed., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 492.

[25] Robert J Utley, The Superiority of the New Covenant:  Hebrews (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 1999), 2.

[26] D.A. Carson and Douglas J Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 602.

[27] Thomas D. Lea, Holman New Testament Commentary:  Hebrews, James (Nashville, TN: B&h Publishers, 1999), 1.

[28] Raymond E. Brown, Introduction to the New Testament (New Haven, CT: Doubleday, 1997), 695.

[29] Thomas J. Herron, Clement and the Early Church of Rome, ed. Scott Hahn (Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road, 2008), 81.

[30] D.A. Carson and Douglas J Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 604.

[31] 1 Corinthians 3:5 (New International Version).

[32] Acts 18:24 (English Standard Version).

[33] Raymond E Brown, Joseph A Fitzmeyer, and Roland E Murphy, eds., The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990), 921.

[34] George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary:  Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 26.

[35] Gareth L Cockerill, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2012), 9.

[36] Ibid, 9.

Different Canons

In Judaism and Christianity it may surprise a new believer that there are different Bibles out there.  Though they may have seen multiple translations they may not have seen different canons.  These canons are the Jewish, Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Bibles.  While there is much content overlapping there are some difference which are still a matter of contention among Christians.

The Jewish Bible is known as the Tanakh.  It contains the writings of the Old Testament, but they are listed as twenty four books.  They are arranged as books of the Law, books of the prophets, and books of writings.  Though many other writings are used by our Jewish Brethren, such as Talmud, these are the ones considered canonical.  Unlike its Orthodox and Catholic counterpart it was written in only Hebrew. It does not include the New Testament.

The Orthodox Bible was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.  It contains the same books as the Hebrew Bible but includes the deuterocanonical books, Psalms 151, Prayer of Manasseh, 1 and 2 Esdras, and 3 and 4 Maccabees.  It also includes the New Testament among which Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants all include in their canon.

The Catholic Bible was also written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  It also includes the deuterocanonical books, or Apocrypha, but does not include Psalms 151, 1 and 2 Esdras, and 3 and 4 Maccabees.  As stated above it also includes the New Testament.  The Old Testament is composed of forty six books.

The Protestant Bible was written in Hebrew and its Old Testament matches that of the Jewish Bible.  It also includes the New Testament as do Catholics, and Orthodox.  However Protestants do not recognize the canonicity of the deuterocanonical books and call the Apocrypha.

There are many similarities among the groups.  Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants all have the Jewish Bible in their canon.  The major difference between the three is that Orthodox and Catholics include the deuterocanonical books.  Our Orthodox brethren also include other books which Catholics do not recognize.  Among the three groups the same books of the New Testament are recognized.

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