The identity of the unnamed author of Hebrews has been discussed for centuries. In discussions like these, it can be helpful (as long as it’s not overdone) to identify likely characteristics of the author based on writing, context, theology, intercanonical connections, and other legitimate categories. Long-time New Testament professor Robert Thomas provided these eleven “facts” on a handout in my New Testament Introduction course in seminary (NTI had the infamous and accurate reputation as the hardest course in the M.Div. program). Whether you agree with the points or with his semi-conclusion (#11), these observations get the juices flowing for those interested in revisiting the issue.
Characteristics of the Author of Hebrews (by Robert Thomas)
- He was a second-generation Christian (Heb 2:3).
- He had a good rapport with Jewish Christians (Heb 13:24).
- He was well-known and trusted by the original recipients (Heb 5:11-12).
- His educational background was of the Alexandrian type (Heb 4:1 ff.).
- He had a background in classical Greek (the whole book of Hebrews).
- He was very familiar with the OT (Heb 7:1 ff.).
- He was on a par with James the Just as a respected leader of Jewish Christians (Heb 10:6 ff.).
- He was aware of Pauline doctrine (Heb 1:4 with Phil 2:9).
- He was an associate of the Pauline team, including Timothy (Heb 13:23).
- He was in Rome in the late 60’s (Heb 13:24).
- He is unnamed in the NT, otherwise his name would not have been lost.
2 thoughts on “11 Characteristics of the Author of Hebrews by Robert Thomas”
Gunner, I appreciate your post on the characteristics of the author of Hebrews. I would like to add one point to your post, if I may. The author of Hebrews has a keen insight and deep familiarity with the levitical cult and their sacrifices (cf. Heb 7-10). While the author does in fact have an amazing grasp of the OT (especially the LXX), this knowledge of the OT sometimes drowns out his knowledge of the levitical cult. Some would argue (alla David Allen in his monograph “Lukan Authorship of Hebrews”) that instead of the author writing from Rome, which is based on the use of the preposition ἀπὸ in 13.24 (as you mention in point #10 above), the author may be a former priest writing from Antioch, this priest being Luke. While one may debate Allen’s conclusion, it is clear that the author knows, and knows very well the levitical cult and their daily sacrifices. Just my two cents to add to this whole discussion.
Thanks for mentioning this important point, Cliff. I completely agree that the specific and intimate knowledge of the levitical sacrifices is a distinct point worth mentioning alongside of the more general point made about OT knowledge in general.
Notice, too, that these points are from a handout by Robert Thomas; they are not original to me, nor do they represent any settled views of mine.
Why does Allen suggest Antioch (I haven’t read the book)? The preposition itself doesn’t seem to suggest that so I’m assuming he gets the idea from something else in the context. Hope you’re doing well!