By Charles H. Welch
(A) Its author.
Paul wrote at least one epistle to the "Dispersion", for Peter says so (2 Pet. 3:15), but that of course does not prove that the epistle to the Hebrews is referred to by Peter, nor does it prove that Paul wrote it. It only assures us that even though he was the Apostle to the Gentiles, he did write at least one epistle to believers of the Jewish race. His own vehement love manifested in Romans 9:1-5 would also make it very likely that he would write to them as well as pray for them as he did. It has been objected that the style and the vocabulary of Hebrews is unlike that of Paul's other epistles, but that can be accounted for both from the nature of the subject, and the great amount of the O.T. that is quoted and referred to. There are one or two features that link Hebrews with Paul's other epistles which we will set out before going on to the study of the epistle itself.
If Hebrews be written by Paul then he is the only writer in the N.T. to quote from Habakkuk two "The just shall live by his faith". In Romans the stress is laid upon the word "just" (Rom. 1:16,17). In Galatians the stress is laid upon "faith" (Gal. 3:11). In Hebrews the stress is laid upon "live" (Heb. 10:38). No other writer in the N.T. uses Psalm eight in the way that Paul and the author of the Hebrews does. Notice the peculiar way in which Paul seizes upon the universality of the subjection when the end comes, "It is manifest that He is excepted, which did put all things under Him" (1 Cor. 15:27), and with this compare the peculiar argument of Hebrews two, "For in that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him" (Heb. 2:8). Surely the same mind is revealed at work in both of these references to Psalm eight. The only other reference is that of Ephesians 1 :22, where the theme is the ascended and seated Christ, Head over all things to the church. Here there are two O.T. passages, handled in a way that suggests a common author.
The way in which a writer quotes Scripture will often prove a guide, and there is one passage, Deuteronomy 32:35, that will link the epistle to the Hebrews with the epistles of Paul, by its very peculiar mode of quoting the words "to Me belongeth vengeance and recompense" (Deut. 32:35). Had Romans 12:19 and Hebrews 10:30 contained a literal quotation of the LXX, it would have proved nothing as to common authorship, but if both passages depart from the LXX, and in the same particulars, a very strong case is made out. Here is the LXX of Deuteronomy 32:35:
En hemera ekdikeseos
Here are the two quotations:
The reader may demur, and object that the two passages are not exactly the same. In this way they are cheated by the English translators. Here is the Greek of Romans 12:19:
Emoi ekdikesis, ego antapodsoo, legei kurios.
It would be waste of print to repeat this line again as of Hebrews 10:30, for the wording in both places is the same to the letter. If this is not pro of of common authorship, what is? We now drawattention to the way in which certain words are used by Paul and which are used in the same connexions in Hebrews.
The reader will find other examples, but we pass on to other "proofs".
The writer of Hebrew speaks of our brother Timothy (Heb. 13:23). In the opening of 2 Corinthians and of Colossians, Timothy is called "our brother", while the idea that Timothy would "come" and that "shortly" is found in 1 Corinthians 16:10, 1 Thessalonians 3:6 and Philippians 2:19,24. Timothy, by reason of his parentage, had been circumcised and would be accepted by the Hebrew Christians. These are but a few, selected from a mass of parallels accumulated, tabulated, analysed, and commented on in a book of 670 pages, by Forster, on Hebrews, a book literally crammed full of evidence for the Pauline authorship of Hebrews. Our space however is exceedingly limited and so we pass on to another proof of the Pauline authorship of Hebrews. It is often said that Paul's name does not occur in the epistle. That is so, but his sign manual is there for all to see.
Owing to a deception that had been practised upon the church by someone sending an epistle purporting to have come from Paul, he drew attention to the fact that he wrote "like this" where not only the handwriting itself is referred to, a proof in itself, and one accepted today in banks, wills, leases, contracts, judgments, marriages, births and deaths, but also that he adopted a certain phrase, which added to the proof of his identity. "The salutation of Paul WITH MINE OWN HAND." In the article entitled GALATlANS we have discussed this particular matter, and this article should be referred to.
"Which is the TOKEN in EVERY epistle: so I write." Something therefore Paul assured the reader he would write, and that he would write it in every epistle. This of necessity would also demand Divine supervision to prevent anyone else using the same terms at the close of an epistle-otherwise the object would be defeated. "So I write" (2 Thess. 3:17). Then follows, in the handwriting of Paul himself, the words "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen" (2 Thess. 3:18). Now if each of the thirteen epistles that bear the name ofPaul be examined, it will be found that each has a benediction which uses the phrase "Grace . . . with you" in a variety of ways.
2 Corinthians concludes with the longest and fullest of these benedictions, and Titus ends with one of the shortest, "Grace be with you all. Amen" (Tit. 3:15). It is with these identical words that the epistle to the Hebrews closes. Shall we not therefore be compelled to accept this "sign-manual" of the Apostle, and maintain that Paul was the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews? This is the one anonymous epistle of the twenty-one that are found in the N.T. Why should the writer of any epistle suppress his identity? When we remember the deep prejudice of the Jew, and of the Jewish Christians, and Paul's sensitiveness concerning them, and that he should give none offence, neither to Jew, Gentile nor church of God, and that he was not sent as an Apostle to them, can we supply any adequate reason to account for the withholding of the writer's name. Sufficient, we trust, has been said on this head. Those who are not convinced will probably remain unconvinced though we wrote a volume.
We turn now to another feature, the result of a comparison made between
the distinctive teaching of Hebrews with that of Ephesians.
(B) Hebrews and Ephesians compared.
In The Berean Expositor, Volumes xxxiv and xxxv, will be found a series entitled "Comparing spiritual things with spiritual". A series of comparisons between the epistles to the Hebrews and to the Ephesians in relation to their respective spheres and callings. We cannot afford the space to reprint this series, but following the lead given by the Apostle in Hebrews 8:1, we do give the "sum" of the things we discovered and set out in those articles.
(C) Hebrews and Philippians compared.
The preceding comparison is negative in character, but the present reveals
that the purpose with which Hebrews was written is similar to the purpose
of Philippians. The dispensation in which the two epistles work are different,
but their teaching is parallel. Both urge the believer to '',go on unto
perfection" whatever that perfection may mean in either case, and both
warn about drawing back "unto perdition" whatever that perdition may prove
to be. In both a race and a prize is in view, even though the prize be
different and the sphere of enjoyment different.
(D) The epistle to the Hebrews as a whole.
(E) A special feature of Hebrews eleven exhibited.
The witnesses cited by the Apostle in this chapter fall into two groups of seven, the whole fourteen making a series of seven pairs, related to each other by a common theme. Shorn of all detail, it can be set out thus:
Even the names brought together, when Paul says "the time would fail me to tell", are seven, and their exploits are given as follows:
The historical background of this epistle is the period of temptation in the wilderness (Heb. 3 and 4), and it must be remembered that "Jesus" of Hebrews 4:8 is not the Lord, but the Greek spelling of Joshua.
As Hebrews 6: 1,2 is of importance dispensationally, we give the following somewhat extended analysis. Whatever view we may entertain as to what constitutes "the principles of the doctrine of Christ", one thing is certain and beyond controversy that Hebrews 6:1 bids us LEAVE THEM:
Whatever view we may entertain as to these "principles", this verse not only says "leave them", but sets over against them "perfection" .
Yet again, whatever place in the doctrine of Christ we may give
the same verse says "not laying again the foundation". Leaving for the moment the question of the exactness of this translation, we feel that no system of sound exegesis can ignore the obvious relation established in this verse between the commands "Leave . . . go on . . . not lay again". "Leave" is echoed by "not lay again", and by parity of reasoning and structural correspondence "the principles of the doctrine of Christ" are echoed by the six items of doctrine mentioned in verses land 2. It must strike the ordinary reader as somewhat strange to be urged by Scripture itself to leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ, and therefore it becomes us patiently to search the Scriptures to find the mind of God on the subject.
Casting our eye back to chapter five we find that these Hebrews who for the time ought to have been teachers were so dull of hearing that they needed to be taught again certain rudiments of the beginning of the oracles of God. The word "principles" in Hebrews 6:1 is this same word "beginning" . The word "doctrine" is the ordinary logos, very like logion ("oracles") in 5:12. So that the theme of Hebrews 5:12 is resumed in 6:1: "Therefore leaving the word of the beginning of the Christ, let us go on unto perfection." Let us return to Hebrews five. These believers who needed re-instruction in the rudiments were "babes", and are set in direct contrast with "full grown" or "perfect" (teleios); this is parallel with the thought of Hebrews 6:1, which says "let us go on unto teleiotes". We are told not to forsake PRINCIPLES, but leave rudiments, babyhood, beginnings.
Not laying again a foundation.-Most readers know that we translate the words "before the foundation of the world" by "before the overthrow of the world". Evidence has been given of the usage of kataballo and katabole in the LXX and the N.T. and the new rendering appears abundantly justified. The word "laying" in Hebrews 6:1 is kataballesthai, and has been translated by Erhard, among others, "not demolishing". Bloomfield's note here is:
While therefore leaving the new translation of Ephesians 1:4 unimpaired, we allow this Middle form of the verb its meaning as in the A.V., "not laying again". Following the word "baptisms" in verse two is the word "of instruction" (doctrine) which is somewhat peculiar. We might have felt that didache could as weIl be prefixed to repentance or faith. There must therefore be some reason not quite visible on the surf ace, and it appears to be this. Before a believer could be accepted for baptism and the laying on of hands, he must have already accepted these four words of the beginning of Christ:
Although this explanation is not devoid of difficulties, no explanation offered is entirely free from them, and an open mind is necessary that we may be ready to follow the light as the Lord shall give it.
Repentance from dead works.-Repentance is a foundation truth. In 1 Thessalonians 1:9 it is suggested in the words, "how ye turned to God from idols." It is manifest that it is not to be contemplated that this act of turning or repentance was to be repeated. Turning from idols and repentance from dead works, alike were marks of a great and vital change. To need a repetition would indicate a most serious lapse. Similarly with the balancing doctrine of -
FAITH TOWARD GOD. - In Acts 20:21 the Apostle sums up his testimony in the words:
Repentance from, and faith toward, are two views of one movement, much in the same way as "turned to God from idols" contains the negative and positive aspects of the same action.
The Doctrine of Baptisms and of Laying on of Hands.- This pair has reference to ordinances and recognition in the church. It will be observed that the word is "baptisms", not "baptism". Reference is made again to these "baptisms" in Hebrews nine. The context of the occurrence is a valuable commentary upon Hebrews 6:2 and we must therefore give it. The chapter opens with a description of the tabernacle and its furniture, going on to distinguish between the daily service of the priests and the annual ministry of the High Priest alone:
Here we see the place of these "baptisms"; they were fleshly or typical ordinances, and while they may have some place in the education of babes, and had a place in the church of the Acts period, they had no place with those who sought to go on unto perfection. See BAPTISM.
The Laying on of Hands was the means used to bestow spiritual gifts. One has only to be familiar with the teaching of 1 Corinthians to understand that the possession of these miraculous gifts was not one of the marks of the "perfect" (see 1 Cor. 12, 13, 14). To rest in them would be to fail. The third pair is eschatological.
The Resurrection of the Dead.-Some things like "baptisms" have to be left behind in the sense of being undispensational, others, like repentance and faith, because they are elemental and do not bear the idea of continual repetition. Others, like resurrection, are fundamental, and to be under the necessity for continual proof and instruction on such a point argued no good for the doubter. The further teaching of Hebrews 11 :35 and 40, where a "BETTER resurrection" is linked with being "made PERFECT", naturally assumes as fundamental the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.
Aionian Judgment (Din Olamim) is the eleventh fundamental of the Jewish creed. The student of Ecclesiastes will the more clearly see the fundamental nature of this truth. It involves both reward and punishment. It is the basis upon which alone the Apostle could urge believers to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, and to follow in the steps of those who obtained a good report, who in this life were losers, but who believed unto the "GAINING OF THE SOUL" (10:39).
Such is the foundation. There was something more needed for the "perfect", however, than a bare foundation. 1 Corinthians three is a commentary upon that fact. To have the foundation beneath one's feet means salvation, but to have nothing more means salvation "so as by fire". The reader has only to glance along to Hebrews 6:8 to see the parallel. None such have gone on unto perfection. Perfection is the goal of the epistle and every item introduced is a factor in the process.
It is manifest that no apostle could urge the believer to leave "the principles of the doctrine of Christ" for alas this would be simple apostasy. The A.V. margin gives the true meaning "The word of the beginning of Christ", referred to in Hebrews 5:12 and likened to the food of babes, and contrasted with the solid food of those who were "full grown" and "perfect". See BABES. Those who would appreciate an exposition of the whole epistle to the Hebrews will find it in the current issues of The Berean Expositor 1955-6.
For the structure of Hebrews twelve, see the article entitled JERUSALEM.