By George Salmon
THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS.
In the controversies concerning the books which I have already discussed, we had usually the deniers of the super natural ranged on one side, and those who acknowledge a Divine revelation on the other. There is no such division of parties in the controversies concerning the Epistle to the Hebrews, which may be described as being more important from a literary than from an evidential point of view. On the main point in dispute, whether or not St. Paul was the author, there was, as we shall presently see, difference of opinion in the early Church. At the time of the Reformation, Erasmus, Luther, and Calvin, agreed in holding that St. Paul was not the author; and at the present day this is the opinion of a number of divines whose orthodoxy cannot be impeached. On the other hand, critics of the sceptical school do not dispute the antiquity of this Epistle, nor the consideration it has always enjoyed in the Church. The general opinion is that it was written while the Temple was still standing, that is to say, before the destruction of Jerusalem. In Hilgenfeld's Introduction it is placed immediately after the Epistle to the Philippians, and before any of the Gospels, or the Acts, before the Apocalypse, and before 2 Thess., Colossians, and Ephesians, which he does not own as Paul s, as also before the First Epistle of Peter. Davidson agrees with him in this arrangement. We have indisputable evidence to the antiquity of the Epistle in the fact that it is quoted copiously perhaps more frequently than any other New Testament book in one of the earliest of uninspired Christian writings, the Epistle of Clement of Rome. Eusebius (iii. 37) takes notice of the attestation thus given by Clement to the Epistle to the Hebrews. Clement's quotations indeed are, as usual with him, without any formal marks of citation, so that we are not in a position to say whether or not he believed the Epistle to have been written by St. Paul; but we can at least see that he knew and valued it. One specimen out of many is enough to exhibit the unmistakeable use he makes of it: Who being the brightness of his majesty, is so much greater than the angels, as he has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For it is written, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But of his Son thus saith the Lord, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession. And again he saith to him, Sit on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool (Clement, c. 36; Heb. i. 3, 4, 7, 13). Of other early traces of the use of the Epistle, I only mention that Polycarp, both in his Epistle (c. 12) and in his last prayer at his martyrdom (Euseb. iv. 15), gives our Lord the title of Eternal high priest, which I look on as derived from this Epistle, wherein so much is said of our Lord's priesthood; and that Justin Martyr (Apol. i. 63), besides other coincidences, gives our Lord the name of our Apostle, an expression peculiar to the Epistle to the Hebrews (iii. 1).
The Epistle to the Hebrews was accepted as canonical by the whole Eastern Church, with no exception that I know of; and that it was St. Paul's was also the received tradition and popular belief of the East. Clement of Alexandria unhesitatingly quotes the Epistle as Paul s: Paul, writing to the Hebrews, says so and so; writing to the Colossians, says so and so (Strom, vi. 8; see also Strom, ii. 22). Elsewhere in a passage referred to by Eusebius (vi. 14) he accounts for the absence of Paul's name from the commencement, by the suggestion that Paul designedly suppressed his name on account of the prejudice and suspicion which the Hebrews entertained towards him. He quotes another reason given by the blessed presbyter, by whom, there is no doubt, is meant Pantaenus, Clement's predecessor as head of the Alexandrian Catechetical School, viz. that since our Lord had been sent as Apostle to the Hebrews, Paul, whose mission was to the Gentiles, through modesty suppressed his name when doing this work of supererogation in writing to the Hebrews. Clement also gives his opinion that Paul wrote the Epistle in Hebrew, and that it had been translated by Luke, from which has resulted a similarity of style between this Epistle and the Acts. We need not scruple to reject the notion that a document is a translation from the Hebrew, which has the strongest possible marks of being an original Greek composition; and we cannot attribute much value to the reasons suggested for the omission of Paul's name; but it is plain that it occurred neither to Pantaenus nor Clement to doubt that Paul was the author of the Epistle.
In the next generation the traditional belief of Pauline authorship was still the popular one at Alexandria. Origen repeatedly cites the Epistle as Paul's (De Oral. § 27, where it is coupled with the Epistle to the Ephesians; in Joann. t. 2 three times, citing as Paul's the passages Heb. i. 2, ii. 9, § 6, and vi. 16, § 11; in Numer., Hom. iii. 3; in Ep. ad Rom. vii. § 1, ix. § 36). In one place he refers to the fact that some denied the Epistle to be Paul s, and promises to give else where a confutation of their opinion (Epist. ad Africanum, 9). But in his homilies on the Epistle, of which extracts have been preserved by Eusebius (vi. 25), he shows himself to have become deeply impressed by the difference of style between this and the Pauline Epistles; and he starts a theory that though the thoughts were Paul s, he might have employed someone else to put them into words. He says, The style of the Epistle has not that rudeness of speech which belongs to the Apostle, who confesses himself rude in speech, that is in diction. But the Epistle is purer Greek in the texture of its style, as everyone will allow who is able to discern differences of diction. On the other hand, the ideas of the Epistle are admirable, and not inferior to the acknowledged writings of the Apostle. Everyone will confess the truth of this who attentively reads the Apostle's writings. Again he says, I should give as my judgment that the sentiments are the Apostle s, but the language and composition be long to someone who repeated from memory the Apostle's teaching, and, as it were, expounded the things spoken by his master. If then any Church receives this Epistle as Paul s, let it be commended for this; for it is not without reason that the ancients have handed it down as Paul's. Who wrote the Epistle, God only knows certainly. But the account that has come down to us is that some say that Clement, who was afterwards Bishop of Rome, wrote it; others that it was Luke, who wrote the Gospel and the Acts. Notwithstanding this criticism of Origen s, the belief in the Pauline authorship was little affected. Dionysius of Alexandria refers to the Epistle as Paul's without any expression of doubt (Euseb. vi. 41), and at a later period Athanasius counts fourteen Epistles as Paul's (Festal Epistle, 39).
The Epistle is included in the Peshitto Syriac translation; but placed as in our Bible; and it has been doubted, I do not know whether or not with good reason, if this part is of the same antiquity as the rest.
Such was the Eastern opinion; but in the West quite a different one prevailed. I have already given proof that at the end of the first century Clement of Rome valued the Epistle. It would be natural to guess that he accepted it as Paul s; but on that point we have no evidence, and doubts are suggested by the subsequent history of Western opinion. There are no authorities whom we can cite until the end of the second century, or the beginning of the third; but at that time none of the Western writers whose opinion we know regarded the Epistle as Paul's. I have already mentioned (p. 51) that Eusebius was struck by the fact that in a list of canonical books given by the Roman presbyter Caius, at the very beginning of the third century, only thirteen Epistles of Paul's were counted, and that to the Hebrews was left out. And I mentioned in the same place that the Muratorian Fragment agrees in not counting this among Paul's Epistles. It does not mention it either among canonical books; and there is a question whether it does not even put on it a note of censure. For (see the passage quoted, p. 50) it rejects an Epistle to the Alexandrians, feigned under the name of Paul, and favouring the heresy of Marcion; and many critics have thought that under this description we are to recognize the Epistle to the Hebrews. But this seems to me more than doubtful. We have no other evidence that this was ever known as an Epistle to the Alexandrians; it is not under the name of Paul, and it does not favour the heresy of Marcion. That heretic did not include the Epistle in his Canon. If I were to indulge in conjecture, I should say that the Epistle which goes under the name of Barnabas better answers the description; but it is quite possible that forged documents, now lost, may have been put forward in heretical circles at Rome. We have other evidence that at the epoch of which I speak the Epistle was not recognized at Paul's. Photius (see p. 363) has preserved a statement of Stephen Gobar, a writer of the sixth century, that Irenaeus and Hippolytus asserted that the Epistle was not Paul's. In point of fact we find very little use of the Epistle made in the great work of Irenaeus against heresies. There are a few coincidences, but we cannot positively pronounce them to be quotations, and certainly the Epistle is never referred to as Paul's. Eusebius, however, tells us (v. 26) that in a book now lost Irenaeus does quote the Epistle; but this still leaves the statement uncontradicted that he did not regard it as Paul's. The same thing may be said about Hippolytus, in the remaining fragments of whose works there are distinct echoes of this Epistle; but there is no proof that he regarded it as Paul's. But we have in Tertullian a decisive witness to Western opinion. The controversy as to the possibility of forgiveness of post-baptismal sin was one which much disturbed the Roman Church at the beginning of the third century. The suspicion then arises that opposition to this Epistle may have been prompted solely by the support afforded to the rigorist side on this question by the well-known passage in the sixth chapter, which seems to deny, in some cases, the possibility of repentance and forgiveness. But what is remarkable is that Tertullian quotes this passage in support of his Montanist views; yet though his interest would be to set the authority of the Epistle as high as possible, he seems never to have heard of the Epistle as Paul s, and quotes it as Barnabas s; and not as canonical, but only as above the level of the Shepherd of Hermas. There is extant, he says, an Epistle of Barnabas addressed to the Hebrews, written by a man of such authority that Paul has ranked him with him self: "I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?" And certainly this Epistle of Barnabas is more received than that apocryphal Shepherd of the adulterers (De Pudic. 20). This is the language of a man to whom the idea that the Epistle was Paul's does not seem to have occurred; and the proof appears to be conclusive that in Tertullian's time the Pauline authorship was not acknowledged in the Western Church.
St. Jerome and St. Augustine, at the end of the fourth century, seem to have been the main agents in effecting a revolution of Western opinion. Jerome, though a Western, resided for a long time in the East, and was well versed in Greek Christian literature. He therefore could not be in sensible to the fact of the general acceptance of this Epistle in the Eastern Church. He quotes it repeatedly, and more often than not without any note of doubt; but sometimes with some such phrase as Paul, or whoever wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews, Paul, if anyone, admits the Epistle to the Hebrews. But his most distinct utterance on the subject is in his Epistle to Dardanus (Ep. 129, vol. i., p. 965). There he says that this Epistle is received as Paul s, not only by the Churches of the East, but by all previous Church writers in the Greek language, though many think it to be the work of Barnabas or Clement; and that it is no matter who wrote it, since it is the work of an orthodox member of the Church, and is daily commended by public reading in the Churches. The Latins certainly do not receive it among Canonical Scriptures; but then neither do the Greeks receive the Apocalypse of St. John; and in both cases Jerome thinks that he is bound, instead of following the usage of his own time, to regard the authority of ancient writers who frequently quote both books; and that not in the way that they cite apocryphal books (for heathen books they hardly cite at all), but as canonical. Augustine also was influenced by the authority of Eastern opinion to accept the book; and it was accepted in Synods in which he took part Hippo (393); Carthage, iv. (397);1 Carthage, v. (419); yet it is remarkable how often he cites the Epistle merely as that to the Hebrews, apparently studiously avoiding to call it Paul's.
The place of the Epistle in our Bible testifies to the late ness of the recognition of the Epistle as Paul's in the West. First, we have Paul's Epistles to Churches, arranged chiefly in respect of their length, the longer ones coming first. Then we have Paul's letters to individuals. Then comes this Epistle to the Hebrews; and this order, after Paul's acknowledged letters, is that which prevails in later, and especially in Western MSS. But the earliest order of all, concerning which we have information, is that of the archetype from which the Vatican MS. was copied. In the Vatican MS. itself, and in other Eastern MSS. this Epistle comes after that to the Thessalonians, and before the letters to individuals; but the numbering of the sections shows that the Vatican MS. was copied from one in which the Hebrews stood still higher in the rank of Pauline Epistles, and came next after that to the Galatians. The Thebaic version placed it even a step higher, viz. immediately before the Epistle to the Galatians.
In this conflict between early Eastern and Western opinion, if the question be only one as to the canonical authority of the Epistle, we need not doubt that the West did right in ultimately deferring to Eastern authority. It is only natural that an anonymous Epistle should be received with hesitation in places where the author's name was not known; but since the oldest and most venerable of the Western witnesses, Clement of Rome, agrees with the Easterns in accepting the Epistle, and since dissent is not heard of in the West till the beginning of the third century, we have good grounds for acknowledging its canonical authority. But the tradition of Pauline authorship is not so decisively affirmed as to preclude us from re-opening the question, and comparing this tradition with internal evidence.
I have already said that Clement of Alexandria took notice of one point in which this differs from all St. Paul's letters, namely, the suppression of his name; and Clement's mode of accounting for this peculiarity is not satisfactory. In fact, through all the early part of the work, we should think that we were reading a treatise, not a letter. It is only when we come to the end that we find a personal reference that to Timothy, and a salutation.
That salutation, however, They of Italy salute you, suggests a remark. This vague greeting is only intelligible on the supposition that the letter was written either from or to Italy. Either the writer is sending home salutations to Italians from their fellow-countrymen in a foreign land, or he is sending his correspondents a friendly message from the natives of the country in which he writes. In either case some connexion is established between Italy and the Epistle; and therefore we are disposed to consider the Italian tradition as to the authorship with more respect than we should do if the Epistle had been despatched from one Eastern city to another.
There is another passage which very much weighed with Luther and Calvin in leading them to reject the Pauline authorship, viz. * How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him? (ii. 3). This sounds like the language of one of the second generation of Christians, who made no pretensions to have been himself an original witness of Christ; and it contrasts strongly with the language in which St. Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians disclaims having learned his Gospel from men. I will not say that the argument is absolutely decisive, because I believe that, during the interval between the two Epistles, opposition to Paul had so died out that there was no longer the same need for self-assertion; and it was no doubt true that he had not been a personal attendant of our Lord during His earthly ministry. It has been said, moreover, that when the writer says us he is thinking rather of his readers than of himself. We may grant, therefore, that this verse is not by itself sufficient to disprove Pauline authorship; but it must be counted among the considerations which are unfavourable to that supposition.
On the other hand, there is one passage which used to be quoted in confirmation of the Pauline authorship: Ye had compassion on me in my bonds (x. 34), words which agree with references made by Paul to his imprisonment in uncontested Epistles. But the best critics now are agreed that the reading δεσμοῖς μου probably owes its origin to the persuasion of scribes that this was a Pauline Epistle, and that the true reading is δεσίοισ, which has been adopted by the revisers of the received version. This reading makes better sense with the context. The writer is referring to a time of persecution, not extending to taking of life (for he says they had not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin ), but reaching to fines and imprisonment. And he notes how cheerfully in this persecution the Christians bore pecuniary loss and other sufferings, and how those that were free exhibited their sympathy with the prisoners. Ye endured a great fight of affliction, partly whilst ye were made a gazing-stock both by reproaches and afflictions, and partly whilst ye became companions of those that were so used. In every subsequent history of early Christian martyrdoms, a striking feature is the interest shown in the confessors during their imprisonment by their brethren still free interest shown both by gifts to them and to their jailors while they were confined, and by support and countenance given to cheer them at the hearing before the magistrates. St. Paul (2 Tim. iv. 16) notes it as one of the discouraging incidents of his first defence before the Roman tribunal, that no man had stood with him. A century later Lucian, in his tale about Peregrinus, scoff's at the contributions levied on their brethren by those under imprisonment.
One other passage remains to be noticed: Know ye that our brother Timothy has been set at liberty or, as some translate the words, has been sent away from us with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you. The passage shows that the writer was not in bondage at the time the letter was written; and also that he was either Paul or one of his circle. It does not prove that he was necessarily Paul himself; but neither does it disprove it, even though we cannot fix any time in Paul's history for this imprisonment of Timothy.
On a comparison of the substance and language of the Epistle with those of Paul's acknowledged writings, it appears, I think, with certainty that the doctrine of the Epistle is altogether Pauline. Some critics, who have surrendered themselves to Baur's theories, have referred the document to the conciliatory school of which they take Luke to be a representative; and some have even asserted for it a more pronounced Judaic character; but as I quite disbelieve that at the date of the Epistle the Christian Church was divided into two parties of rancorously hostile Paulinists and anti-Paulinists, I see nothing in the letter which Paul or a disciple of his might not have written; and it certainly has strong traces of Paul's influence. In fact this very letter may be looked on as furnishing one of the very numerous proofs how little truth there is in Baur's theory of a persistent schism in the early Church. We have here a document earlier than the destruction of Jerusalem; and, for the writer, the controversy between Paulinists and anti-Paulinists absolutely does not exist. The great distinction for him is between unconverted Jews and Christian Jews; but that there were two classes of Christian Jews he seems not to have the slightest knowledge. He is himself a Paulinist: the only person he mentions by name is Paul's favourite disciple; yet he addresses Jews in a tone of authority and rebuke, without any apparent fear that his interference will be resented, or that he will be an object of dislike or suspicion to them.
As for the language, a number of parallelisms are adduced between the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Pauline letters. Thus, to give one specimen, Jesus is described in the 2nd Epistle to Timothy (i. 10) as having abolished death (καταργήσαντος μὲν τὸν θανατον), the use of καταργέω in this sense being peculiar to Paul; and again, in 1 Cor. xv. 26, the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος). Now we have in Hebrews (ii. 14), that through death he might destroy (καταργήσῃ) him that had the power of death. So again Paley has noticed it as a habit of Paul's style to ring changes on a word, or to use in the same sentence several times the same word or different forms of it. An example will make plain what I mean. It is that in 1 Cor. xv. 27, in which the Apostle argues from the words, He hath put all things under his feet, and the changes are rung on the word Πάντα ὑπέταξεν ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. Ὅταν δε εἴπῃ ὅτι πάντα ὑποτέτακται, δῆλον ὅτι ἐκτὸς τοῦ ὑποτάξαντος αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα. Ὅταν δε ὑποταγῇ αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα τότε καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ υἱὸς ὑποταγήσεται τῷ ὑποτάξαντι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα Here we have ὑποτάσσω six times in five lines. Now compare with this the commentary in Hebrews ii. 8, on the same verse of Psalm viii., in which changes are rung on the same word. Πάντα ὑπέταξας ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν αὐτοῦ. Ἐν γὰρ τῷ ὑποτάξαι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, οὐδὲν ἀφῆκεν αὐτῷ ἀνυπότακτον. Νῦν δὲ οὔπω ὁρῶμεν αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα ὑποτετγμένα. Further, examples are adduced of similarity of construction with that used by St. Paul. Thus, the change of construction from the third person singular to the first nominative plural in the sentence (He brews xiii. 5), Let your conversation be without covetousness: being content with such things as ye have (ἀφιλάργυρος ο ̔τρόπος· ἀρκούμενοι τοῖς παροῦσιν), is noted by Bishop Words worth as exactly paralleled by a verse in Romans xii., Let love be without dissimulation, abhorring that which is evil (ἡ ἀγάπη ἀνυπόκριτος· ἀποστυγοῦντες τὸ πονηρόν). Lastly, the quotation, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord does not agree with the Septuagint, but is in verbal agreement with the citation of the same verse in Romans xii. 19.
These, and other coincidences with Paul, are more than can be attributed to accident: if the writer is not Paul, he must have read some of Paul's Epistles in particular those to the Romans and Corinthians.2 On the other hand, all the other O. T. citations are from the Septuagint, even where it differs from the Hebrew, which is contrary to St. Paul's usage. The writer seems habitually to have used a Greek not a Hebrew Bible. A notable case is his adoption of the LXX. version, A body hast thou prepared me (x. 5), instead of the Hebrew, Mine ears hast thou opened (see also i. 6). His formulae of Old Testament citation are also different from those generally used by Paul. He has λέγει, μαρτυρεῖ, or φησί, sometimes alone, sometimes with θεός or τὸπνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον, while St. Paul commonly has γέγραπται, or η ̔γραφὴ λέγει; but there are exceptions which prevents us from pressing this argument confidently (Eph. iv. 8, v. 14; Rom. xv. 10; 2 Cor. vi. 2; Gal. iii. 16).
This letter is said to have a much stronger Alexandrian colouring than have the writings of Paul. Several parallels, both as regards the thoughts and the language, have been pointed out in the writings of Philo; and there is a larger use of the apocryphal books of the Old Testament than in St. Paul's Epistles. With the Book of Wisdom, in particular, there are so many coincidences that Dean Plumptre has defended a theory that the two books have the same author, e.g. πολυμερῶς i. 1, Wisdom vii. 22; ἀπαύγασμα i. 2, Wisdom vii. 26; ὑπόστασις i. 3, Wisdom xvi. 21; τόπος μετανοίας xii. 17, Wisdom xii. 10; ἔκβασις xiii. 7, Wisdom ii. 17. Further, it is urged that this letter could not have been written by one who had resided long in Jerusalem, its descriptions of the Temple ritual not being founded on observation, but being entirely drawn from what the Old Testament tells about the Tabernacle.
But the strongest argument against the Pauline author ship is founded on the dissimilarity of style which, as I have already told you, was taken notice of by Origen. There is here none of the ruggedness of St. Paul, who never seems to be solicitous about forms of expression, and whose thoughts come pouring out so fast as to jostle one another in the struggle for utterance. This is a calm composition, exhibiting sonorous words and well-balanced sentences. In explanation of the difference it may be urged that this is a treatise, rather than a letter, and that therefore greater polish of style is natural; but the Epistle to the Romans has as much the air of a treatise as that to the Hebrews. This argument from the style is that which makes the strongest impression on my own mind. I have already shown that I do not ascribe to Paul any rigid uniformity of utterance, and that I am not tempted to deny a letter to be his merely because it contains a number of words or phrases which are not found in his other compositions; but in this case I find myself unable to assert the Pauline authorship in the face of so much unlike- ness, in the structure of the sentences, in the general tone of the Epistle, in the way of presenting doctrine, and in other points that I will not delay to enumerate.
But if the letter be not Paul s, whose then can it be? There are but two names which seem to me worthy of discussion. Luther guessed Apollos; and if we are to trust to conjecture solely, no conjecture could be more happy, for it seems to fulfil every condition. Apollos belonged to the circle of Paul, whose influence on this Epistle is strongly marked; and he would of course also be intimate with Timothy; he was an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures (Acts xviii. 24), a description which admirably suits the writer of this letter; and he was a native of Alexandria, whereby the Alexandrian colouring of the Epistle is at once accounted for. There is only one thing against this conjecture, and that is that Luther should have been the first to make it. I will not urge this objection over strongly, because if one sentence of Tertullian's had not been preserved we should have no external evidence deserving of consideration for any authorship but Paul's. We may dismiss as a mere guess the suggestion thrown out in the Alexandrian schools that Paul might have employed the pen of Luke or of Clement; and the guess is not even a probable one. If dissimilarity of style is a good reason for believing the Epistle not to be Paul s, the same argument proves it not to be Luke's or Clement s, each of whom has left writings very different in style from the Epistle to the Hebrews.
But what Tertullian says cannot be passed by without serious examination. When he speaks of Barnabas as the author he is plainly not making a private guess, but expressing the received opinion of the circle in which he moved. And since Tertullian was not only a leading teacher in the Church of Africa, but had resided for some time at Rome, I do not see how to avoid the conclusion that at the beginning of the third century the received opinion in the Roman and African Church was that Barnabas was the author of the Epistle.
I freely own that if I had been set to conjecture the author, I should never have guessed Barnabas; but it is no reason for rejecting a statement, apparently coming on good authority, that it is not like what conjecture would have prompted. What we must really inquire is, whether there is anything about the statement so improbable as to make us unable to receive it. The Epistle to the Hebrews seems to have been written after Paul's death; and we should not expect Barnabas to have survived Paul as an active worker; for he was not only the older Christian (Acts ix. 27), but apparently the older man; seeming to be of some standing (Acts iv. 36), when Paul is described as a young man (Acts viii. 58). I may add that Barnabas was taken for Jupiter when Paul was taken for Mercurius (Acts xiv. 12); but this point cannot be pressed, since the cause of the latter designation was Paul's powers of speech, and not his personal appearance. In any case, if Barnabas were the older, he might still have survived Paul, who did not die of old age but by martyrdom. Again, the missionary work of Barnabas has been so overshadowed by that of his companion Paul,3 that it is natural to us to think of Barnabas as, though a very good man, not so able a man as the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews must have been. If this be our impression, we ought to bear in mind how very little we really know of the grounds of the prominent position which Barnabas unquestionably held in the early Church. He probably was inferior to Paul as a speaker; but we have no such knowledge as would justify an assertion that he was incapable of writing the letter which has been attributed to him. The reason why we know so little of the missionary work of Barnabas after his separation from Paul is simply that no Luke has recorded it for us. Further, it is pointed out that this Epistle is very unlike that which goes by the name of Barnabas. But if it be admitted that only one of the two Epistles can be the work of Barnabas, we have a better right to claim for him that which Tertullian ascribes to him, than that which almost all critics reject as spurious.
Once more, it is said that the Levite Barnabas would be sure to have a first-hand knowledge of the Temple worship, and would not speak, as this writer does, like one who had derived his knowledge from books; he would have been familiar with Hebrew, and not have used the Septuagint as his Bible; nor can we think of him as so subject to Alexandrian influences as the author of our Epistle appears to have been. When Barnabas is described as a Levite, all I think that we are entitled to infer is that he had preserved his genealogy, and knew that the tribe of Levi was that to which he belonged. I do not think we are bound to suppose that he was a Levite ministering in the Temple service. But the important question is, Was he a Hellenist, or did he reside habitually at Jerusalem? The early part of the Acts would dispose us to form the latter opinion. It is certain that he early gained consideration in the Church at Jerusalem by the gift of the price of his estate; but it is not stated that Jerusalem had been his ordinary dwelling-place. He certainly had a near relation, Mary, the mother of Mark, resident at Jerusalem (Acts xii. 12, Col. iv. 10). But he himself is described as a native of Cyprus, and as keeping up his relations with that island; for it is Cyprus which he first visits when starting with Paul on a missionary journey, and again Cyprus to which he turns when separating from Paul and travelling with Mark. When men of Cyprus made converts among the Hellenists4 of Antioch, Barnabas was judged by the Apostles the most suitable person to take charge of the newly-formed Church. How long he had previously been residing at Jerusalem we cannot tell, but from that time forth we never hear of him as resident in Jerusalem again. And it must be remembered that, even if it were proved that Barnabas had resided for a long time in Jerusalem, it would not follow that he was not a Hellenist, since we know from Acts vi. that there were Hellenists who lived at Jerusalem, and died leaving widows behind them there.
That Barnabas was acquainted with Alexandrian speculation is a thing which we should not have been justified in asserting without evidence; but we have as little ground for contradicting good evidence that he was. And that Alexandrian philosophy should be taught in the schools of Cyprus is in itself probable. I may mention, though without myself attaching much importance to the point, that the Clementine Homilies5 represent Barnabas as teaching in Alexandria immediately after the Ascension; and in this they have been followed in several later legends. On the whole, feeling that the Western tradition in favour of the authorship of Barnabas deserves to be regarded as having some historical value, I do not find myself at liberty to reject it merely because, if I had been dependent on conjecture alone, I should have been tempted to give a different account of the matter. This view is taken also by Renan (L' Antechrist, p. xvii.).
To what Church are we to suppose the Epistle to have been addressed? The inscription, which is of immemorial antiquity, says, to the Hebrews,6 by which we must under stand the Christians of Jerusalem, or at least of Palestine. For the promise (xiii. 23) that the writer would come and see those whom he addresses makes it impossible to suppose that this is a letter to Jewish Christians scattered all over the world, and not to a particular Church. The certain antiquity of the inscription is a strong reason for not lightly rejecting its statement; and there are two considerations which confirm it. One is, that throughout the Epistle no mention is made of Gentile Christians the writer assumes that all whom he addresses are of the seed of Abraham. But no one dates the Epistle much earlier than the year 64; and where, except in Palestine, could we find at that date a Church of which Gen tiles did not form a part, and probably the largest and most influential part? The second consideration is, that no other Church claims the Epistle. If it were sent to Jerusalem, the destruction of that city a very few years afterwards, and the dispersion of its Christian inhabitants, would explain the absence of a more distinct tradition. But there is no reason why any other Church to which the letter had been addressed should not have preserved the tradition, and taken pride in claiming this Epistle as its own. Those who suppose Apollos to have been the author very commonly suppose also that it was addressed to the Church at Alexandria. But if so, how is it that the members of that Church kept no memory of their own connexion with the letter? How is it that they knew less than did Christians in the West of the true account of the authorship? How is it that the general popular belief at Alexandria was that Paul was the author; while their most learned men, who found difficulties in that supposition, were reduced to guess-work in order to get over them? The same argument may be used as concerns Ephesus and other sup posed destinations. There were for many years afterwards flourishing Churches in the places in question, none of which was likely to have forgotten so important an event in its history as the receipt of this letter. And the same thing may be said as to Kenan's theory that the letter was addressed to Rome. If so, why did not the Church of Rome claim it? But there is a still graver objection. For Renan supposes the letter to have been written after the Neronian persecution, of which the imprisonment of Timothy may have been one of the incidents. How could a Church which had just gone through so fiery a trial be addressed in the words (xii. 4), Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin?
Against the claims of Jerusalem it had been objected that the writer's praise of his correspondents beneficence (vi. 10) is not applicable to the Church at Jerusalem, which was rather the object of the beneficence of foreign Churches. But, on the other hand, there was no Church to which the charge, Be not forgetful to entertain strangers (xiii. 2), could be more fitly addressed than that Church which was the object of periodical visits from Christians of Jewish birth throughout the world. And the alacrity with which this duty was fulfilled might well have earned the commendations of ch. vi., even without taking into account the ordinary exercise of liberality from richer to poorer brethren. But the chief reason why some have rejected the claims of Jerusalem is the imagined hostility between the Christians of Palestine and the Pauline party, which is thought to make it inconceivable that a Paul line Christian should write to native Jews, addressing them in a tone of great authority, and expecting to get a friendly and respectful hearing. But I must set aside this objection as arising from a mere prejudice. The last act of Paul before he lost his liberty was to go up to attend a feast at Jerusalem; and for the unprosperous issue of that visit, unbelieving, and not Christian, Jews were responsible. Have we any reason to suppose that those of Paul's company who were of the circumcision were so disgusted by the misfortune of their leader, that they thenceforward ceased to attend the feasts? And in particular, have we any reason to suppose that Barnabas discontinued this practice? or have we any reason to think that he ceased to enjoy that consideration among the heads of the Church at Jerusalem, which the earlier story exhibits him as possessing?
It seems to me a probable account of the origin of the Epistle, that Barnabas if anyone prefer to say Apollos I shall not object, though Barnabas seems to me the more pro bable going up to keep at Jerusalem a feast, subsequent to those recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, found the Church suffering from the pressure put on its members by their un converted brethren, in consequence of which many of them had fallen away from the faith, and returned to Judaism. The visitor might then have spoken strongly of the disgrace and danger incurred by those who gave up the better for the worse. He might have spoken of the superiority of Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, over the highest of those intermediaries, whether human or angelic, through whom the Jews boasted that they had received their Law; and of the High Priesthood of Christ as making an atonement for sin better than any that the Jewish sacrifices could have accomplished. If any such teaching were delivered in the Church of Jerusalem as that expounded in the Epistle to the Hebrews, I can well imagine the heads of that Church expressing a wish to their trusted friend that his doctrine should be embodied in a permanent form. It has been objected, How could one who did not profess to be an original disciple of our Lord (ii. 3) presume on such a tone of rebuke as in v. 12? But if the writer were Barnabas, although he was probably not an original disciple, yet he was a man of such standing and consideration, that he could well take upon him to reproach the members of this, the oldest of the Churches, that they, who ought to be the teachers of others, should themselves need elementary instruction. In fact, if it be once conceded that the letter was addressed to the Church of Jerusalem, the case for the authorship of Barnabas becomes very strong. Though I have refused to accept the Tübingen theory as to the amount of hostility between Pauline and Palestinian Christians, we know from Acts xxi. that there were many in Jerusalem who regarded Paul with prejudice and suspicion, and therefore that an ordinary member of his company would not be counted in Jerusalem a grata persona, whose instructions would be gladly received, and whose rebukes would be deferentially submitted to. Further, the Epistle to the Hebrews is a letter in which one who thought and wrote in Greek, and who seems only to have used a Greek Bible, presumes to instruct Hebrew-speaking Christians. We could understand that such an act might be ventured on by Barnabas, whose early munificence to the Church at Jerusalem, and long acquaintance with its rulers, gave him consideration. But I find it hard to believe that Apollos, or any other of Paul's company, could use the same freedom.
When we regard the letter as not written to Italy, xiii. 24 leads us to think that it was written from Italy: and we have then an explanation why the salutation7 should be in general terms. If the greeting were from definite persons, known to his correspondents, why should not their names be mentioned? But I take this to be merely a general intimation that the Hebrew Christians were held in kindly remembrance by the disciples of the place whence the letter was written.
Concerning the date of the Epistle, it is generally agreed that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. We cannot rely absolutely on the use of the present tense in speaking of the Temple services this way of speaking being employed by Clement of Rome and others who lived after the destruction of Jerusalem. But the whole argument of ch. x., which asserts the superiority of Christ's unique and final sacrifice over those Jewish sacrifices, which betrayed their in sufficiency by their need of constant repetition, can hardly be reconciled with the supposition that the Jewish sacrifices had come to an end before the time of writing, and were then no longer constantly repeated. And, besides, if we are to sup pose the letter written after the destruction of Jerusalem, we could not account for the absence of all reference to an event so terrible to every Jewish mind, unless we were able to push down the date of the Epistle so late that the impression made by the fate of their city might be supposed to have died away.
As the destruction of Jerusalem furnishes a lower limit to the date of the Epistle, so the Neronian persecution has been held to give a superior limit; so that the date would come between 64 and 69: say 66 or 67. I feel by no means sure that the letter may not have been earlier than the time here assigned. If we compare this book with the Apocalypse, its calmness contrasts forcibly with the indignant description in the latter book of the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus (xvii. 6). Renan finds a clear reference to the Neronian persecution in Heb. x. 33, and especially in the word θεατριζόμενοι. But much stress cannot be laid on this word, which has its parallel in 1 Cor. iv. 9; and when the writer speaks of the former days of the Church, he can hardly be supposed to refer to what had taken place only a couple of years before. I look on the reference in the passage just cited to be to the persecution that followed the death of Stephen. The verse implies that the persecution under which the Church addressed was actually suffering was not so severe as that earlier trial. In any case it did not extend to the taking of life. The exhortation at the beginning of ch. xii., and the verse xiii. 3, would lead us to think that the disciples were then liable to suffer from legal penalties of a lesser kind. But their constancy would be severely tried if they had to bear no other penalties than those which, without the sentence of any magistrate, a bigoted people are wont to inflict on a minority who live among them professing an unpopular creed. We can see that some of the disciples were unable to bear the pressure thus put on them, their faith having failed through impatience at the delay of the second coming of their Lord (x. 36, 37). It is quite possible that Jewish Christians in Palestine might have been subjected to the trials here described, before the breaking out of Nero's persecution; and the verse xii. 4 seems to me to oblige us to date the Epistle before A.D. 63, which was probably the year of the martyrdom of James the Just. But since we can in no case assign a very early date to the letter, differences of opinion as to its date are not wide enough to make it worth while to spend more time on the discussion.
As a further proof of what was stated (p. 459) concerning the late recognition of this Epistle in the West, it may be mentioned that the Codex Claromontanus, written in the sixth century, the oldest Graeco-Latin MS. of the Pauline Epistles, was copied from one which did not contain the Epistle to the Hebrews. At the end of each book mention is made of that which next succeeds. For example, at the end of Titus, ad Titum explicit, incipit ad Filemona; but at the end of Philemon we have merely ad Filemona explicit. Then follows a stichometrical catalogue of the books both of Old and New Testament, after which comes the Epistle to the Hebrews. The catalogue in question is carelessly written. It does not contain either Philippians or Thessalonians probably from the eye of the scribe having caught Philemon when he ought to have written Philippians. Nor does it include Hebrews; but after Jude, and before the Apocalypse and the Acts, comes the Epistle of Barnabas, for which are set down Vers. 850, this being about the length ascribed to the Hebrews in other catalogues. In this catalogue I Cor. is set down as having 1060 verses, a number bearing to 850 a proportion fairly corresponding to that between the actual lengths of I Cor. and Hebrews: whereas the so-called Epistle of Barnabas is nearly half as long again as Hebrews. Hence it has been conjectured that it is the Epistle to the Hebrews which here goes by the name of Barnabas; and the place in which it comes may strengthen this inference. After the Epistle of Jude comes the Epistle of Barnabas (verses, 850), the Revelation of John (1200), the Acts of the Apostles (2600), the Shepherd (4000), the Acts of Paul (3560), the Revelation of Peter (270). If what we know as the Epistle of Barnabas had been intended, we should expect it to come, not before the Acts of the Apostles, but in company with the last three books, with which it is associated in the νόθα of Eusebius (see p. 475).
Cod. Augiensis, an inter-columnar Graeco-Latin MS. of the Pauline Epistles of the 9th century, does not contain the Epistle in Greek, but gives a Latin version occupying both columns; whence we may infer that the Greek of this MS. was derived from an archetype which did not contain this Epistle.
1) But the Epistle is not classed with those long recognized as Pauline in the West. The list runs: Epistolae Pauli Apostoli xiii., ejusdem ad Hebrseos una.
2) Other parallels are Heb. xi. 12, νενεκρωμένος, Rom. iv. 19; Heb. xii. 14, εἰρήνην διώκετε, Rom. xiv. 19; μετὰ πάντων, Rom. xii. 18; Heb. i. 6, πρωτότοκος, Rom. viii. 29; Heb. xiii. i, 2; φιλαδελφία, Rom. xii. 10; φιλοξενία, Rom. xii. 13; Heb. x. 38 = Rom. i. 17; Heb. xiii. 20, ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης, Rom. xv. 33; Heb. v. 12, 14 = 1 Cor. iii. 2, ii. 6; Heb. vi. 3 = 1 Cor. xvi. 7; Heb. vi. 10= 2 Cor. viii. 24; Heb. viii. 10 = 2 Cor. vi. 16; Heb. x. 28 = 2 Cor. xiii. 1. There are coincidences, but not so numerous or so clear, with other Pauline letters; for instance, Heb. ii. 2 = Gal. iii. 19.
3) In the early part of his story St. Luke always speaks of Barnabas and Saul (Acts xi. 30, xii. 25, xiii. 2). But when he comes to relate their missionary tour, the order becomes Paul and Barnabas (Acts xiii. 43, 46, 50). In Acts xv. 22, St. Luke, speaking in his own person, says Paul and Barnabas; but (v. 25) faithfully reports the order of the Apostolic letter Barnabas and Paul.
4) See Dr. Hort's note on the various reading of Acts xi. 20.
5) The Recognitions, which I count as the earlier document, make Rome the scene of the preaching of Barnabas. I take the view of Lipsius and Harnack, that the desire of the Church at Rome to claim Peter as their first founder made a story unpopular which represented his preaching at Rome as preceded by that of another Evangelist. Hence, the later version of the legend transferred Barnabas to Alexandria: afterwards, when the labours of Barnabas in Italy were acknowledged, he was handed over to the Church of Milan.
6) The passages in the N. T. where the word Hebrews occurs are Acts vi. i, 2 Cor. xi. 22, Phil. iii. 5.
7) There is some kind of parallel to the vagueness of this salutation in that from the Churches of Asia (1 Cor. xvi. 19).