A close-up shot of an ancient, weathered parchment with delicate Hebrew script, illuminated by a single beam of light, evoking mystery and the enigmatic authorship of the book of Hebrews.

Who Wrote The Book Of Hebrews? Examining The Evidence

The authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews has been a matter of debate and speculation since the earliest days of Christianity. This richly theological work, with its masterful Greek prose and extensive knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures, remains one of the few anonymous books of the New Testament.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: most modern scholars believe Hebrews was written between 60-95 AD by an unknown author, possibly Paul, Barnabas, or Apollos. In this article, we will examine the textual clues, theological themes, and historical context that shed light on the mysterious figure behind this influential book.

We will survey the leading theories about who penned Hebrews and look at the evidence supporting each view. This in-depth exploration of Hebrews’ authorship will equip you with the knowledge to weigh the different perspectives and hopefully get closer to solving this centuries-old riddle.

The Question of Authorship in Antiquity

Early References to Pauline Authorship

In the early centuries of Christianity, the Epistle to the Hebrews was widely considered to have been written by the Apostle Paul. There are references attributing Hebrews to Paul in several late first and early second century Christian writings.

For example, the First Epistle of Clement, written around 95-96 AD, echoes language and theology similar to Hebrews, suggesting the author’s knowledge of either the epistle itself or a common Pauline tradition.

Furthermore, other early church fathers like Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Origen all credited Hebrews to Paul early on.

There was not universal consensus on Pauline authorship even early on, however. Authors in the West were more hesitant, with scholars suggesting the ideas were Paul’s but the diction and language were that of another.

Some explain this through amanuenses (secretaries), theorizing that while Paul was the source, another penned the actual letter. Nevertheless, Paul’s name dominated discussion on the authorship question in the first two centuries.

Doubts Emerge in the Third Century

In the East, Pauline authorship continued to be affirmed into the fourth century and beyond, but doubts began emerging around the late second and third centuries. Scholars noted differences in style and theology compared to Paul’s undisputed letters.

For example, Paul typically opens his letters with an introduction of himself as the author, which is lacking in Hebrews. Additionally, the Greek of Hebrews features a more refined style than the occasionally rough, dynamic Greek of Paul’s other writings.

Theologically, some note an emphasis on Jesus’ humanity over his divinity that contrasts with Pauline thought.

Such differences led to suggestions of other possible authors in the third century, including Barnabas, Luke, and Clement of Rome. However, there was no consensus replacement settled on. As doubts mounted, the reaction of the Western church, particularly in North Africa and Rome, was to argue strongly for its non-Pauline nature and reject apostolic authorship altogether.

Their inclination was to exclude it from the canon of authoritative Scripture. Nevertheless, Christian leaders in both east and west generally continued to recognize its authority through the late fourth century.

Clues about the Author from the Text

The Highly-Educated Greek Writer

The author of Hebrews demonstrates an extremely high level of education and mastery of the Greek language. The letter contains some of the most eloquent Greek in the New Testament, leading many scholars to conclude the author must have been highly trained in rhetoric.

The author’s knowledge of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) also points to someone steeped in Hellenistic Judaism. Statistical analysis of word usage further confirms the highly sophisticated Greek of this text.

The Author’s Knowledge of Hebrew Traditions

Throughout Hebrews, the author displays an intimate familiarity with Jewish customs, rituals, and beliefs. He makes numerous allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures, demonstrating detailed knowledge of the Torah, the sacrificial system, the priesthood, and the Tabernacle.

The author is also well-versed in traditional methods of Jewish biblical interpretation such as typology. This deep understanding of Hebrew traditions strongly suggests the author was Jewish.

Indications the Author was a Second Generation Christian

Though well-acquainted with Judaism, the author of Hebrews writes as one standing on the other side of the cross. Several clues in the text point to the author being a second generation believer who did not know Jesus personally.

For example, in chapter 2 verse 3 he distinguishes between the message “spoken by the Lord” and the message “confirmed to us by those who heard him.” Statements like this suggest the author learned of Jesus from eyewitnesses rather than firsthand experience.

The Main Candidates for Authorship

Paul the Apostle

Many scholars have considered Paul the leading candidate for authorship of Hebrews. He was a prominent leader of the early Christian church and wrote 13 books of the New Testament. Paul had close ties to the Jewish community before his conversion and would have been familiar with the arguments and style in Hebrews.

However, the writing style and vocabulary differences have caused most modern scholars to doubt Pauline authorship.


Barnabas was an early Christian missionary companion of Paul. He had knowledge of the Old Testament and close ties to the Jerusalem church mentioned in Hebrews. However, there is limited biographical information available about Barnabas.

While he remains a possibility, there are no strong indicators from early church leaders or the text itself that point to his authorship.


Apollos was a learned Jewish-Christian originally from Alexandria. The Alexandrian characteristics of the letter to the Hebrews have made Apollos a favorite choice of many scholars. However, the lack of any clear external evidence from the early church makes Apollos’ authorship speculative.

The eloquent style of Hebrews also does not match the few descriptions we have of Apollos.

Other Possibilities Considered

Other candidates such as Luke, Clement of Rome, and Priscilla have been suggested but do not have strong supporting evidence. One recent scholar has argued based on statistical analysis that a woman may have written Hebrews, but there is no consensus on a specific female author.

Ultimately, Origen’s statement that “only God knows” the identity of the author of Hebrews remains appropriate.

The Authorship Enigma Endures

Despite centuries of study, the authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews remains one of the great mysteries of the New Testament. This sophisticated theological treatise, with its masterful argument for the superiority of Christ and the New Covenant, continues to perplex scholars eager to pin down its authorship.

The letter itself provides few clues about its writer. The author’s identity is conspicuously absent – a startling omission in an age when writers typically introduced themselves to their readers. There are no personal notes or greetings, no claim of apostleship, only the vaguest of references to Timothy in the closing verses.

The style, language, and theology do not closely resemble any other New Testament documents. Truly, as Origen observed in the 3rd century, “only God knows” who penned this great sermon.

Possible candidates have been proposed, debated, and rejected over the centuries. Paul, Barnabas, Luke, Clement, Apollos, Silas, Philip – all have been put forth as the mysterious author and subsequently dismissed for lack of evidence.

Martin Luther ascribed it to Apollos, but modern scholars find little to commend this view.

One popular theory is that the letter was written by a female author, such as Priscilla. But this novel hypothesis lacks solid grounding in the text or historical sources. Doubtless, Priscilla was an important leader in the early church, but the data is simply too scarce and ambiguous to support definitive claims of female authorship.

Origen’s view that only God knows the answer remains sound. The ecclesiastical consensus affirms the authority and inspiration of Hebrews without definitively settling the authorship question. There are simply too many unknowns – gaps in our knowledge that cannot be bridged at this historical remove.

The identity and particular circumstances of the author remain enveloped in mystery.

Perhaps the anonymity of the work is itself a lesson in humility, reminding us that Scripture ultimately points us to Christ – not to any particular human instrument. Though academically intriguing, the puzzle of authorship does not undermine the theological riches so masterfully expounded in this “word of exhortation” (Heb 13:22).

For that, Christians can be grateful.


The rich theological tapestry of Hebrews will continue to be mined for insights regardless of whether we can put a name to its enigmatic author. While fascinating theories abound, the ultimate mystery around its composition serves as a humbling reminder that divine inspiration transcends human origins.

As we have seen, the content and circumstances of Hebrews paint a portrait of an educated, Greek-speaking writer thoroughly immersed in the Scriptures and early apostolic teaching. Whether Paul, Barnabas, Apollos, or an unknown Christian visionary, the author’s anonymous status does not diminish the revelatory power of this book for people of faith.

The study of Hebrews’ authorship sheds valuable light on its historical context but the text itself points us to timeless truths that echo and illuminate God’s self-revelation across the centuries.

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