Did Paul write Hebrews? Engineers have their say!

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We have new insight into the question of the author of Hebrews from an unlikely source; the field of engineering.  Derek Abbott, a friend of mine, together with others, have published this article with a new method for analysing authorship of documents.  They apply their method to the authorship of Hebrews.  Of the authors analysed, Paul comes out as the most likely author, followed by Luke.

I would point out that the strongest argument against Pauline authorship of Hebrews is Hebrews 2:3.   ‘This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him’
The argument is that since Paul heard Jesus personally (on the Damascus Rd), he would not have written this verse.  It is quite a persuasive argument, however there are ways to read this which don’t rule out Pauline authorship.

For example, one of the early claims for authorship is that Paul wrote Hebrews in Hebrew, and that Luke translated it.  Perhaps Luke changed 2:3 to read as it now does.  In my estimation, there is a reasonable probability that Paul had his hand in the writing of the epistle.

On a related subject, I wonder if Derek and his mates would apply their method to the authorship of the disputed Pauline letters?  I’m quite confident they will come out looking strongly Pauline, since I’m very confident that himself wrote them….. But I dare say that would be unlikely to persuade the sceptics.

3 Comments to “Did Paul write Hebrews? Engineers have their say!”

  1. Kevin Rogers says:

    I didn’t read the paper in detial. However, my prejudiced response is that I think it is unlikely that Paul is the author of Hebrews. The author does not identify himself and the style and theology seem to be quite different.

    • Hi Kevin,
      Good to see you here again. Are you going well?
      The paper is written in such a way as to avoid subjective opinions on whether writing ‘seems’ like one author or another.
      So in terms of ‘style’, I’d go with the paper over your gut. The paper works on the Koine Greek, so it is at a level of complexity not available to most.
      On the other hand, the fact that the author does not identify himself is a substantial point against Pauline authorship, especially since he usually identifies himself. There are possible reasons why he doesn’t identify himself. Perhaps it’s a joint Luke/Paul effort, with Luke translating Paul’s Hebrew and editing a little, and Luke wasn’t in the habit of putting his name on his work. Perhaps it’s actually a sermon, rather than a letter. But your point stands.
      But tell me about your point on theology? Do you think Hebrews has a contrary theology to the Pauline epistles? Or a theological emphases that are outside the normal ambit of those epistles? I’d be interested to know what you mean.

      • Kevin Rogers says:

        Thank you for your wishes. I am going well. I am heavily occupied with running Reasonable Faith Adelaide.

        One difference is the strong emphasis on the possibility of a Christian falling away in Hebrews 6 & 10. Paul often emphasises election and “perseverance of the saints”.

        I am an engineer and so I am chuffed that an engineering approach gets recognition. However, I am a little suspicious when a complicated methodology yields a result that feels counter-intuitive. I really like Hebrews. I think many passages are quite stunning such as its opening statement in Hebrews 1. However, to me, it just does not feel like Paul. So I am an analytical engineer, but I am also experienced enough to detect the possibility that an author may be baffling with BS.

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