On September 3, 2009, the following appeared as one of my early posts on DrIBEX Ideas. For two reasons I re-post it now. First, someone today asked if I had any suggestions for who authored Hebrews. Second, I have a lot more readers now than then. So here is my proposal. Please don’t think me daft before you read my suggested scenario and proposals.
1. Jude started to write an epistle about the “salvation” he shared in common with his readers but changed to writing his shorter epistle (Jude 1:3). I propose that he later completed this postponed work and it is the Sermon/Epistle to the Hebrews.
2. I also propose that the epistle that Auctor (my name for the author of Hebrews) wrote (epesteila) in a “few words” is the one attributed to Jude, a very short epistle (Heb. 13:22).
3. Could Auctor really describe his own epistle as “brief” if it is the third longest epistle in the NT, after Romans and 1 Corinthians? The suggestion that Auctor is referring to a different document than that which he is now sending them explains the mysterious kai at the beginning of his statement: kai gar dia braxewn epesteila umin (“For I ALSO wrote to you an epistle with few words”). Translators have usually ignored this conjunction. (The TNIV and NET do have: “for in fact I have written to you quite briefly” - a translation for kai nowhere attested in BDAG or LN). Furthermore, his use of the verb epesteila refers to a specific letter that Auctor wrote. He did not use the word egrapsa, which was the way a letter writer in the NT referred to his present writing: Rom. 15:15; 1 Cor. 5:11; 9:15; Gal. 6:11; Philemon 1:9, 1:21; 1 Pet. 5:12; 1 John 2:14, 21, 26; 5:13; 3 John 1:9. This verb (epesteila) only occurs elsewhere in the NT in reference to the so-called Apostolic Letter coming for the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:20; 21:25). I propose that Auctor used this specific word so that his readers would understand that he was referring to a previous letter that he had sent and not the sermon he was currently sending to them!
4. Jude stated that he wanted to write about our common “salvation.” Hebrews deals much with the theme of “salvation.” The noun soteria appears in Heb. 1:14; 2:3; 2:10; 5:9; 6:9; 9:28; 11:7). The verb sodzo appears in 5:7; 7:25. The word group appears more often in Hebrews than in any other NT book (e.g., only 5 times in Romans).
5. Jude itself is also an “exhortation” (Jude 3 – parakalwn) very similar to the hortatory thrust of Hebrews. The noun paraklesis occurs in Hebrews 6:18; 12:5; 13:22 (where it appears to be a self description of the work). The verb parakalew appears in Heb. 3:13; 10:25; 13:19; 13: 22. Only 2 Corinthians contains a larger number of examples of this word group, but the sense of the word there is more as “encouragement” rather than “exhortation.” The large number of hortatory subjunctives in Hebrews also illustrates its character as an “exhortation.”
6. Scholars view both Jude and Hebrews as examples of an early Christian sermon. A sermon is here defined as a sustained exposition of Scripture (not occasional citations as are found in the Pauline and Petrine letters). This involves not only the citation of a text but a following explanation of the text. This is quite obvious in Jude (5-19) and is characteristic of Hebrews throughout the work (e.g., Heb. 10:5-7; 8-9; 12:26-27).
7. Hebrews focuses on the exposition and application of two primary texts (Psalm 110:1-4 and Hab. 2:4), with a number of secondary texts utilized along the way. Jude deals in the body of his sermon (Jude 1:5-19) with the citation and exposition of four primary “texts” with a few secondary texts along the way. The pesher type of interpretation witnessed at Qumran is present in both books and seems to be peculiar to these two books in the NT writings.
8. In addition to the use of canonical Jewish scripture, both books refer to events recorded in non-canonical writings (Heb. 11:35-38; Jude 1:9; Jude 1:14-15). Bauckham views them both as being in the matrix of “first century Palestinian Apocalyptic Jewish Christianity.”
9. Both books contain an extended benediction (Heb. 13:20-21; Jude 1:24-25). These benedictions include a prayer that God would “equip” their readers and that God would “keep” their readers. These are the only extended benedictions in the NT that include a prayer appropriate to the specific circumstances of the readers. (The textual status of Rom. 16:25-27 is uncertain).
10. Each book shares a more elevated literary style compared to other books of the NT. Although this is a generally observed characteristic, when examined it does not seem to be statistically significant, apart from their more extensive vocabulary. No one, however, mistakes the Greek style and lexis of Hebrews and Jude with that of Paul or John.
11. Only the authors of Hebrews (Heb. 11:5) and Jude (Jude 1:14) refer to Enoch and use him to make their point. Enoch’s name is mentioned in the genealogy of Luke 3:37, which Bauckham argues was preserved by Jude and his brothers – per Julius Africanus/Eusebius.
12. The writer of Hebrews appears to be engaged in an itinerant ministry (Heb. 13:23). This is at least consistent with what we know of the missionary labors of Jude (1 Cor. 9:5; Africanus).
13. One objection to Jude authorship may be that there exists no patristic tradition about Jude’s being the author. But no tradition at all existed about Apollos until Luther suggested it and a large number of writers today seem to lean toward Apollos. The other possible objection is that Jude would not describe himself by the words of Heb. 2:3: “It (salvation) was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard…” I am still working on this since this verse has been one of my strongest arguments against Pauline authorship, and it is the argument that Ellingworth uses against Jude. But Jude (like his brother James) was a non-believer in his older brother until after the resurrection, and he speaks of the “apostles” (“those who heard him”) as a group of which he was not a member (Jude 1:17). Perhaps, therefore, this is not an insuperable problem for Jude being Auctor – the author of the work sometimes called pros hebraious.
NOTE: I know of only two published articles that have advocated Jude’s authorship of Hebrews: A.M. Dubarle (Revue Biblique, 1939), and Edgar Cooper (Lutheran Church Review, 1917). Bauckham and Ellingworth refer to two unpublished papers by a “P.Y. Deshpande” and a “J.L. Gilmore.” I am considering developing this proposal and updating the arguments for an article in a theological journal. I am interested in my readers’ responses to my proposal before I do so.