Tuesday, September 20, 2011
"Lukan Authorship of Hebrews"
In the book"Lukan Authorship of Hebrews," scholar David L. Allen suggests (as the title suggests) that the author of Hebrews is not as mysterious as we might think. The author, based on internal, external, historical, and linguistic evidence, believes that Luke wrote independently the book we now call Hebrews.
The book is part of the excellent New American Commentary Series which explores various theological issues. In what I believe is the most thorough book on the subject, Dr. Allen presents a strong case that though is not conclusive does reveal that there is credible evidence to conclude that Luke wrote the mysterious letter to the Hebrews.
The author begins with a survey of the evidence and then discusses some of the more popular options: Paul, Barnabas, and Apollos. Paul has always been the assumed author. So much so that some Bible's have labeled the letter Pauline in spite of the many questions. With clarity and through extensive and honest research, the author presents the evidence for each and why these three popular options (he mentions others like Adolf Harnack's suggestion that Priscilla and Aquila wrote the book) are unlikely.
That leaves us with Luke. But that's not all the evidence. From here, the author walks the reader through the linguistic evidence that the writer of Luke-Acts was likely the writer of Hebrews. Admittedly, this is a difficult and long section of the book. Unless one understands Greek and linguistics, this will be a painful chapter to work through. But the conclusion of the author remains consistent. The evidence suggests that Luke wrote more than just Luke-Acts, he also wrote Hebrews.
The author continues his argument comparing the theology and purpose of Luke-Acts with Hebrews and one finds a lot of similarities. Dr. Allen admits that finding the exact purpose with each book can be problematic and debated among scholars today, we can find some similarities between the Lukan and Hebrew text.
All of this leads to the historical reconstruction of Luke's writing of the letter. Overall, the author makes a compelling case for Lukan authorship of Hebrews. I must admit that Luke is a promising candidate, but like the author, I must still confess that we simply do not know who wrote this letter. I am unaware of a more thorough survey of this important and fascinating question.
The author has done his homework and puts forward an argument that ought to be taken seriously and explored even deeper (if that is possible!). One of the arguments I had not considered regards the identity of Luke as a Gentile. When the author raised the question of his Gentile background I immediately began asking myself on what basis do we believe that he was a Gentile? The author suggests that perhaps Luke was in fact a Jew and the arguments suggesting otherwise are problematic.
But before reading this book, let the reader be aware that this book, and every book in this series, is an academic book meant to be read by scholars and students with background in these issues. One needs to be familiar with Biblical studies, the context and content of the book of Hebrews, theology, history, manuscripts, Greek, patristics, linguistics, etc. These are not easy subjects and yet the author takes the reader into all such areas of study. I have studied all of them and have done research on the authorship of Hebrews and I struggled mightily with some of the arguments. Though the author seeks to help the reader, it is clear that he is not writing to the new believer.
So who wrote Hebrews? Dr. Allen says the Gospel writer/historian/physician Luke and he just might be right. The argument put forth here ought to be taken seriously and maybe Dr. Allen has opened a door that many Christians have refuse to consider.
Reviews - "The Voice of Luke"
Reviews - "Ancient Word, Changing Worlds"
Reviews - "God's Word in Human Words": A Detailed Critique - Part 1
Reviews - "God's Word in Human Words": A Detailed Critique - Part 2
Reviews - "God's Word in Human Words": A Detailed Critique - Part 3
Reviews - "God's Word in Human Words": A Detailed Critique - Part 4
Reviews - "God's Word in Human Words": A Detailed Critique - Part 5
Reviews - "How to Read the Bible as Literature . . . and Get More Out of It"