Page images


A re

persons to whom it was sent were at no loss to know who he was. For in three passages of the epistle, as well as by the messenger who carried it, he made himself known to the Hebrews to be the apostle Paul. The first is, chap. x. 34. Ye suffered with me in my bonds ; alluding to some assistance which the Hebrews had given to Paul, during his imprisonments in Jerusalem and Cæ

See however, chap. x. 34. note 1.-—The second passage is, chap. xiii. 18: Pray for us.—19. And I the more earnestly beseech you to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner. quest of this kind, from an unknown person, would have been perfectly ridiculous. The third passage is, chap. xiii. 23. Know that our brother Timothy is sent away, with whom, if he come soon, I will see you. For, as Timothy was often called by Paul, his brother, (2 Cor. i. 1. Col. i. 1.) and was known, not only in the Gentile countries but in Judea, to be Paul's constant companion, by telling the Hebrews that his brother Timothy was sent away on some errand, and by promising, if he returned soon, to bring him with him when he visited them, this writer clearly discovered himself to be the apostle Paul. But if the Hebrews knew that the letter which they received was written by Paul, we may very well suppose, with Hallet, that as often as they had occasion to speak of their letter, they would speak also of its author ; and, that the persons to whom they spake of him, would in like manner hand down his name to those who came after them.

Since therefore, the writer of this epistle, from the time it was delivered to the Hebrews, must have been known by tradition to be Paul, it is reasonable to expect that it would have been quoted as his by some of the authors of the first age. Nevertheless, in the most ancient Christian writings now remaining, this epistle is not quoted at all, till the end of the second century ; at which time it began to be mentioned by some, whilst it was overlooked by others. This silence of the ancients was in a great measure owing, I imagine, to the Hebrews themselves, who were at no pains to make their letter known to the Gentiles, supposing that it had little or no relation to them.If the reader desires to know who of the ancients have quoted this epistle, and who have neglected to mention it, he will find a full account of both in Hallet's introduction to this epistle, and in Lardner on the Canon, vol. ii. p. 331.–To his account Lardner subjoins the following historical remark : “It is evi. “dent that this epistle was generally received, in ancient times, “ by those Christians who used the Greek language, and lived « in the Eastern parts of the Roman Empire.-In particular, « Clement of Alexandria, before the end of the second century, « received this epistle as Paul's, and quoted it as his frequently, « and without any doubt or hesitation.” Concerning the Latins Lardner saith, “ This epistle is not expressly quoted as “ Paul's by any of them in the first three centuries. However “ it was known to Irenæus and Tertullian, as we have seen, and “ possibly to others also.” Tertullian ascribed it to Barnabas ; . in which opinion he was singular. Lardner adds, “ It is mani“ fest that it was received as an epistle of St. Paul, by many La“ tin writers in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries.”

We are informed by the ancients themselves, that they were led to doubt the authenticity of the epistle to the Hebrews by three circumstances. 1. The want of the writer's name at the beginning of it, and throughout the whole epistle. 2. The elegance of the style in which it is written. 3. Some expressions in the epistle itself, which they thought unsuitable to the character of an apostle. Nevertheless, as the most ancient, and by far the most general tradition of the church, ascribed this epistle to the apostle Paul, the fathers, to remove these objections, supposed that it was originally written by Paul in the Syro-chaldaic language, commonly at that time called the Hebrew : But that Luke, or some other person, translated it into Greek. Accordingly, Eusebius in his Eccles. Hist. b. vi. c. 14. saith, Clement of Alexandria, “affirmed that the epistle to the He“ brews was Paul's, and that it was written to the Hebrews in “ the Hebrew language ; but that Luke studiously translated it “ into Greek, and published it to the Greeks.” The same Eusebius, Eccles. Hist. b. vi. c. 25. cites Origen as saying in his Homilies on the Hebrews, “ If I were to shew my opinion, I “ should say, that the thoughts are the apostle's, but the lan“ guage and composition are another's, who committed to writ6 ing the apostle's sentiments, and who, as it were, reduced • into commentaries the things spoken by his master. Where“ fore if any church holds this epistle to be Paul's, it is to be “ commended for so doing. For the ancients (Ag xal01 avdees) “ did not (toxn) rashly hand it down as Paul's. But who ac“ tually wrote it, (Origen means, wrote the language), I think is « known only to God. But an account hath reached to us,

from some who say that Clement, who was bishop of Rome, 6 wrote this epistle ; but from others, that it was Luke, the “ writer of the Gospel and the Acts."-Jerome likewise, who was born in the year 342, in his book of illustrious men, Art. Paul, saith, “ The epistle, called to the Hebrews, is not thought “ to be his, because of the difference of the argument and “ style : But either Barnabas's, as Tertullian thought; or the

Evangelist Luke's, according to others'; or Clement's bishop “ of Rome, who, as some think, being much with him, clothed « and adorned Paul's sense in his own language. Moreover, “ he wrote as an Hebrew to the Hebrews, in pure Hebrew, it “ being his own language. Whence it came to pass, that being “ translated, it hath more elegance in the Greek than his other epistles."

Having thus laid before the reader the opinions of some of the ancients concerning the epistle to the Hebrews, I judge it proper now to transcribe, from the 8th page of Hallet's Introduction to Peirce's paraphrase and notes on the Hebrews, the remarks which he hath made on Origen's testimony above recited; because they may be applied to all the ancients who have given their opinion concerning the epistle to the Hebrews. “ The traditions, which Origen mentions, are more to be re“ garded than his private opinion and reasonings. And as he “ positively says the ancients did in fact hand it down as Paul's “ epistle, so it is plain he laid vast stress on this tradition, since “ he would not give it up as false, though he had strong tempta“tions so to do. For he was very hard put to it to reconcile “ this tradition with the style of the epistle, and with other tra“ ditions which named Clement or Luke as the writer of it. “ But rather than give up the former tradition, viz. that it was “ Paul's epistle, he would frame such an odd hypothesis as that “ just now mentioned.” Hallet ought to have said, adopt such an odd hypothesis : For it was framed before by Clement of Alex. dria, who was Origen's master and predecessor in the Catechetical school of Alexandria. Hallet goes on: “ It is very cer“ tain then, that the churches and writers, who were ancient " with respect to Origen, had one common tradition, that St. • Paul was the author of the epistle to the Hebrews. And their 6 testimony to this matter of fact cannot but be of great “ weight, since those Christians who were ancients with respect “ to Origen, must have conversed with the apostles themselves, it or at least with their immediate successors.” Hallet adds,

“ Since this tradition was ancient in the days of s Clement of Alexandria and Origen, about 130 years after the

page 21:

« epistle was written, it must have had its rise in the days of St. “ Paul himself, and so cannot reasonably be contested.” -Clement of 'Alexandria flourished about the year 192, that is about 130 years after the epistle to the Hebrews was written. Origen flourished in the beginning of the third century, about 150 years after that epistle was written.-See, however, the remarks which Lardner hath made on the above passage from Hallet's Introduction, in the third volume of his Credibility, part ii. page 252.

II. It follows now to be considered, whether the want of Paul's name in the epistle to the Hebrews, the elegance of its style, and the passages in it which are thought unsuitable to the character of an apostle, are sufficient reasons for concluding, either that it was not written originally by St. Paul; or that our present Greek copy is only a translation of an epistle which was written in Hebrew ?

And first, with respect to the want of Paul's name in this epistle, it may, notwithstanding, have actually been written by him. For in our Canon of the New Testament, there are epistles universally acknowledged to be the productions of an inspired apostie, notwithstanding his name is no where inserted in them. I speak of the three epistles of the apostle John, wbo, for some reasons now not known, hath omitted his name in all of them. His first epistle begins exactly like the epistle to the Hebrews. And in his other epistles, he calls himself simply, The Presbyter, or Elder.-It is true, Paul commonly inserted his name in the beginning of his letters. Yet, in this to the Hebrews, he deviated from his usual manner, probably for the following reasons: 1. Bccause, the doctrines which he set forth in it being wholly founded by him on the Jewish scriptures, the faith of the Hebrews in these doctrines was to stand, not on the authority of the writer who taught them, but on the clearness of the testimonies which he produced from the scriptures, the propriety of his application of these testimonies, and the justness of the conclusions which he deduced from them. See this explained in sect. 3.-2. As Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles, in writing to the Hebrews, he did not assume his apostolical character, because it was little respected by the unbelieving Jews and the Judaizing Christians, who traduced him as one who taught the Jews living in foreign countries to forsake Moses, Acts xxi. 21. For which reason, instead of writing to the Hebrews with the authority of an apostle, he in the conclusion of his letter beseeched them 10 suffer the word of exhortation ; chap. xiii. 22. and protested, that in the whole of the doctrine delivered to them, he had maintained a good conscience, ver. 18.-3. This epistle, as shall be shewed bye and bye, sect. 2. being designed, not for the believing Jews alone, but for the unbelieving part of the nation also, especially the learned doctors and scribes at Jerusalem, Paul might think it prudent, not only to avoid assuming his apostolical character, but even to conceal his name; because, being regarded by the zealots as an apostate from the religion of their fathers, his name, instead of adding weight to the things which he was about to write, would have prejudiced the unbelieving part of the nation to such a degree, that in all probability, they would not have read his letter.

2. With respect to the style of the epistle to the Hebrews, though it really were superior to the style of Paul's other writings, he may, notwithstanding, have been the author of it. For, towards the conclusion of his first imprisonment at Rome, when the epistle to the Hebrews was composed, he may be allowed to have improved his style by use. To pass, however, from this, although both the ancients and moderns have praised the style of the epistle to the Hebrews as singularly beautiful ; particularly Lardner, who saith, Can. vol. ii. p. 375. That this epistle to the Hebrews is bright and elegant from the beginning to the end, its superiority to all the other epistles of Paul in point of style, may justly be called in question. At least it may be doubt. ed, that its superiority is so great as to shew, that the person who wrote these, was not capable of writing this. For, not to mention that the sublimest passages in the epistle to the Hebrews are those quoted from the Old Testament, I without hesitation affirm, that the epistles to the Ephesians, to the Colossians, and to Philemon, in respect of sentiment and language, will easily bear to be set in competition with the epistle to the Hebrews ; especially the epistle to the Ephesians ; concerning which Grotius hath said, that it surpasseth all human eloquence. And yet, strange to tell the same Grotius hath given it as his opinion, that the excellency of the style of the epistle to the Hebrews, is “a proof that it was not written by Paul. But, let any one who is a judge of composition and style, examine the examples of elegant and even sublime writing, produced from Paul's epistles and discourses in Prelim. Ess. iv. p. 84. and let him candidly say, whether he thinks the person who wrote these noble passages, particularly the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, was not capable of writing any part of the epis

« PreviousContinue »