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In the West it was, as we have noted, altogether different. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons
(from circa 130A.D.) was among the first to cite the N.T. books by their titles,
apparently, but rarely mentions the letter to the Hebrews and never declares it to be
Pauline. Victorinus (303A.D.), the Muratorian Canon, and Gaius (circa 190) count only
13 epistles of Paul. Cyprian says that Paul wrote to seven churches: Rome, Corinth,
Ephesus, Colossae, Philippi, Thessalonica and Galatia. There is no room here for an
epistle to the Hebrews. Tertullian, with great decision, names Barnabas as its author. It
can be said that, from the second to the fourth century, in Italy and Africa, the Hebrews
epistle was held not be an epistle of the Apostle Paul. It came to the Western church but
late and slowly. Paul is not named in the introduction, and it was therefore, from this and
its un-Pauline Greek, not reckoned to be an epistle of his.
Thus we find two traditions weighing against each other, but that of the East is the
heavier in the scale. The latter bears a positive character, whereas the West is negative.
Apparently there was no doubt in Alexandria as to who was the real author, but, owing to
its style, the amanuensis and translator who had worked it out was questioned. Those
who come to a conclusion of authorship solely on internal grounds, should give an
adequate explanation as to how the Eastern church so early arrived at the idea that this
epistle was one sent from the Apostle Paul, even though he may not have been the actual
Was Clement of Rome right in saying that the Hebrews epistle was a translation from
an Aramaic original? There are grave doubts that it could have been a literal translation.
The epistle has a good number of paronomasias or play on words, such as we find in the
Greek of 2: 8; 7: 3, 19, 22-24; 10: 29 etc. These and other genuinely Greek
constructions would have no corresponding Aramaic equivalents and the development of
thought would not lend itself either to Aramaic. The most that can be said is, that if there
was such an Aramaic original, the Greek letter is a free reproduction of it, using it only as
a basis, and is in no sense a translation.
From the earliest times many scholars have found difficulty in accepting the Pauline
authorship of Hebrews, the chief difficulties being (1) the style of the Greek, (2) the
statement of Heb. 2: 3, which apparently militates against the independent apostleship
of Paul. As regards (1) it must be conceded that the Greek of the epistle to the Hebrews
is generally unlike that of the Apostle. It shows everywhere traces of effort and care, and
polish, very unlike the impetuous, almost rough Greek at times of the Apostle Paul. We
must be careful here however. No one can say with certainty that Paul could not have
written such elegant Greek had he desired to do so. On the other hand we may ask why
he should have so altered his style when writing to Hebrew Christians? And there seems
to be no definite answer. Coming to (2) which has often been put forward by expositors
as making the Pauline authorship impossible, we will first quote the verse in full:
"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" (Heb. 2: 3).