Of the Penman of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
§ 1. Knowledge of the penman of any part of Scripture not necessary. Some of them utterly concealed. The Word of God gives authority unto them that deliver it, not the contrary. Prophets in things wherein they are not actually inspired, subject to mistake.
§ 2. St. Paul the writer of this Epistle. The hesitation of Origen. Heads of evidence.
§ 3. Uncertainty of them who assign any other author.
§ 4. St. Luke not the writer of it.
§ 5. Nor Barnabas. The Epistle under his name Counterfeit. His writing of this Epistle by sundry reasons disproved.
§ 6. Not Apollos.
§ 7. Nor Clement.
§ 8. Nor Tertullian.
§ 9. Objections against St. Paul’s being the penman. Dissimilitude of style. Admitted by the Ancients.
§ 10. Answer of Origen, rejected. Of Clement, Jerome, etc. rejected likewise.
§ 11. St. Paul in what sense ἰδιώτης τῷ λόγῳ [“rude in speech”].
§ 12. His Eloquence and Skill.
§ 13. causes of the difference in style between this and other Epistles.
§ 14. Coincidence of Expressions in it and them.
§ 15. The Epistle ανεπιγραφος [doesn’t have Paul’s epigraph].
§ 16. Answer of Jerome, rejected.
§ 17. Of Theodoret.
§ 18. Of Chrysostom. Prejudice of the Jews against St. Paul. Not the cause of the Forbearance of his name.
§ 19. The true reason thereof. The Hebrews Church State not Changed. Faith Evangelical educed from Old Testament Principles and testimonies. These pressed on the Hebrews, not mere Apostolic authority.
§ 20. Hesitation of the Latin Church about this Epistle; answered. Other Exceptions from the Epistle itself; removed.
§ 21. Arguments to prove St. Paul to be the writer of it. testimony of St. Peter (2 Peter 3:15-16). considerations upon that testimony. The second Epistle of St. Peter Written to the same persons with the First. The First Written unto the Hebrews in their Dispersion. Διασπορα, what.
§ 22. St. Paul wrote an Epistle unto the same persons to whom St. Peter wrote. That, this Epistle. Not that to the Galatians. Not one lost.
§ 23. The long-suffering of God, how declared to be salvation in this Epistle.
§ 24. The wisdom ascribed unto St. Paul in the writing of this Epistle wherein it appears. The δυσνόητά of it [“hard to be understood” (2 Peter 3:16)]. Weight of this testimony.
§ 25. The suitableness of this Epistle unto those of the same author. Who competent Judges hereof. What required thereunto.
§ 26. Testimony of the first Churches; or Catholic tradition.
§ 27. Evidences from this Epistle itself. The general argument and Scope. Method. Way of Arguing. All the same with St. Paul’s other Epistles. Skill in Judaical Learning, traditions and Customs. Proper to St. Paul. His bonds and Sufferings. His companion Timothy. His Sign and Token subscribed.
§ Appendix: The Gospel “was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Hebrews 2:3).
§ 1. Knowledge of the penman of any part of Scripture not necessary.
§ 1. The divine authority of the Epistle being vindicated, it is of no great moment to inquire scrupulously after its penman. writings that proceed from Divine Inspiration receive no addition of authority from the reputation or esteem of them by whom they were written. And this the Holy Ghost hath sufficiently manifested, by shutting up the names of many of them from the knowledge of the Church in all ages. The close of the Pentateuch hath an uncertain penman, unless we shall suppose with some of the Jews that it was written by Moses after his death. Diverse of the Psalms have their penmen concealed, as also have the whole Books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Ruth, Esther, Job; and the Chronicles are but guessed at. Had any prejudice unto their authority ensued, this had not been. For those whose authors are known, they were not esteemed to be given by Prophesy, because they were Prophets; but they were known to be Prophets by the Word which they delivered. For if the Word delivered or written by any of the Prophets, was to be esteemed Sacred or Divine, because delivered or written by such persons as were known to be Prophets, then it must be because they were some other way known so to be, and Divinely Inspired, as by working of miracles, or that they were in their days received, and testified unto as such by the Church. But neither of these can be asserted. For as it is not known that any one penman of the Old Testament, Moses only excepted, ever wrought any miracles, so it is certain that the most and chiefest of them (as the Prophets) were rejected and condemned by the Church of the days wherein they lived. The only way therefore whereby they were proved to be Prophets was by the Word itself which they delivered and wrote; and thereon depended the evidence and certainty of their being Divinely inspired. See Amos 7:14-16; Jer. 23:25-31. And setting aside that actual Inspiration by the Holy Ghost, which they had for the declaration and writing of that Word of God which came unto them in particular, and the Prophets themselves were subject to mistakes. So was Samuel when he thought Eliab should have been the Lord’s Anointed (1 Sam. 16:6), and Nathan when he approved the purpose of David to build the Temple (1 Chron. 17:2), and the great Elijah, Clement. Origen. Eusebius. Hieronym. Theodoret. Chrysostom. Cajetan. Erasmus. Camero. Grotius, et omnes fere commentators when he supposed none left in Israel that worshiped God aright but himself (1 Kings 19:14, 18). It was then, as we said, the Word of Prophesy that gave the writers of it the reputation and authority of Prophets; and their being Prophets gave not authority to the Word they declared or wrote as a Word of Prophesy. Hence an anxious inquiry after the penman of any part of the Scripture is not necessary.
But whereas there want not evidences sufficient to discover who was the writer of this Epistle, whereby also the exceptions made unto its Divine Original may be finally obviated, they also shall be taken into consideration. A subject this is, wherein many learned men of old, and of late, have exercised themselves until this single argument is grown up into entire and large treatises, and I shall only take care that the truth which hath been already strenuously asserted and vindicated, may not again by this review be rendered dubious and questionable.
§ 2. St. Paul the writer of this Epistle.
§ 2. St. Paul is whom we affirm this Epistle to be written by. It is acknowledged that this was so highly questioned of old, that Origen after the examination of it concludes, “What is the very truth in this matter God only knows”. However, he acknowledgeth that “the Ancients” owned it to be written by Paul, and that he says not without good reason, whereas the ascription of it unto any other, he assigns unto a bare report. It may not then be expected that now, after so long a season, the truth of our assertion should be so manifestly evinced, as to give absolute satisfaction unto all (which is a vain thing for any man to aim at in a subject wherein men suppose that they have a liberty of thinking what they please). Yet I doubt not but that it will appear not only highly probable, but so full of evidence in comparison of any other opinion that is, or hath been promoted in competition with it, as that some kind of blamable pertinaciousness may be made to appear in its refusal.
Now the whole of what I shall offer in the proof of it may be reduced unto these six heads.
(1.) The manifest failure of all them who have endeavored to assign it unto any other penman.
(2.) The insufficiency of the arguments insisted on to disprove our assertion.
(3.) testimony given unto it in other Scriptures.
(4.) considerations taken from the writing itself, compared with other acknowledged writings of the same author.
(5.) The general suffrage of antiquity, or ecclesiastical tradition.
(6.) reasons taken from sundry circumstances relating unto the Epistle itself.
Now as all these evidences are not of the same nature, nor of equal force, so some of them will be found very cogent, and all of them together very sufficient to free our assertion from just question or exception.
§ 3. Uncertainty of them who assign any other author.
§ 3. First, the uncertainty of them who question whether Paul were the writer of this Epistle, and their want of probable grounds in assigning it unto any other, hath some inducement in it to leave it unto him whose of Old it was esteemed to be. For when once men began to take to themselves a liberty of conjecture in this matter, they could neither make an end themselves, nor fix any bounds unto the imagination of others. Having once lost its true author no other could be asserted with any such evidence, or indeed probability, but that instantly twenty more with as good grounds and reasons might be entitled unto it. Accordingly, sundry persons have been named, all upon the same account that some thought good to name them; and why should not one man’s authority in this matter be as good as another’s?
§ 4. St. Luke not the writer of it.
§ 4. Origen in Eusebius affirms that some supposed Luke to have been the author of this Epistle. But neither doth he approve their opinion, nor mention what reasons they pretend for it. He adds also that some esteemed it to be written by Clement of Rome. Clement of Alexandria allows St. Paul to be the author of it, but supposeth it might be translated by Luke, because as he saith, the style of it is not unlike that of his in the Acts of the Apostles. Grotius of late contends for Luke to be the author of it on the same account , but the instances which he gives, rather argue a coincidence of some words and phrases, than a similitude of style, which things are very different. Jerome also tells us that juxta quosdam videtur esse Lucae Evangelistae, “by some it was thought to be written by Luke the Evangelist”, which he took from Clement, Origen, and Eusebius; only he mentions nothing of the similitude of style with that of St. Luke, but afterwards informs us that in his judgment there is a great conformity in style, between this Epistle and that of Clement of Rome. None of them acquaint us who were the authors or approvers of this conjecture nor do they give any credit themselves unto it. Neither is there any reason of this opinion reported by them, but only that intimated by Clement of the agreement of the style with that of the Acts of the Apostles (which yet is not allowed by Jerome), whereon he doth not ascribe the writing, but only the translation of it unto Luke. Grotius alone contends for him to be the author of it, and that with this only argument, that sundry words are used in the same sense by St. Luke and the writer of this Epistle. But that this observation is of no moment shall afterwards be declared.
This opinion then may be well rejected as a groundless guess of an obscure unknown original, and not tolerably confirmed either by testimony or circumstances of things. If we will forego a persuasion established on so many important considerations, as we shall manifest this of St. Paul’s being the author of this Epistle to be, and confirmed by so many testimonies, upon every arbitrary ungrounded conjecture, we may be sure never to find rest in anything that we are rightly persuaded of. But I shall add one consideration that will cast this opinion of Grotius quite out of the limits of probability. By general consent this Epistle was written whilst James was yet alive and presided in the Church of the Hebrews at Jerusalem; and I shall afterwards prove it so to have been. What was his authority as an Apostle, what his reputation in that Church, is both known in general from the nature of his office, and in particular is intimated in the Scripture (Acts 15:13; Gal. 2:9). These were the Hebrews whose instruction in this Epistle is principally intended, and by their means, that of their brethren in the eastern dispersion of them. Now is it reason to imagine, that anyone who was not an Apostle, but only a scholar and follower of them, should be used to write unto that Church, wherein so great an Apostle, a pillar among them, had his especial residence, and did actually preside; and that in an argument of such huge importance, with reasons against a practice wherein they were all engaged; yea, that Apostle himself as appears in Galatians 2:12. Were anyone then alive of more esteem and reputation in the Church than others, certainly he was the fittest to be used in this employment; and how well all things of this nature agree unto St. Paul we shall see afterwards.
§ 5. Barnabas not the author.
§ 5. Some have assigned the writing of this Epistle unto Barnabas. Clement, Origen, Eusebius make no mention of him. Tertullian was the author of this opinion and it is reported as his by Jerome. Philastrius also remembers the report of it. And it is of late defended by Camero, (as the former concerning Luke by Grotius) whose reasons for his conjecture are confuted with some sharpness by Spanhemius, mindful as it seems of his father’s controversy with some of his scholars. The authority of Tertullian is the sole foundation of this opinion; But as the book wherein he mentions it was written in his paroxysm, when he uttered not that only unadvisedly, so he seems not to lay much weight on the Epistle itself, only preferring it unto the Apocryphal Hermes: Receptior saith he, apud Ecclesias Epistola Barnabae illo Apocrypho pastore Maechorum. And we have shewed that the Latin Church was for a time somewhat unacquainted with this Epistle, so that it is no marvel if one of them should mistake its author. Grotius would disprove this opinion from the dissimilitude of its style, and that which goes under the name of Barnabas, which is corrupt and barbarous. But there is little weight in that observation; that Epistle being certainly spurious, no way savoring the wisdom or spirit of him on whom it hath been vulgarly imposed. But yet that it was that Epistle which is cited by some of the Ancients under the name of Barnabas, and not this unto the Hebrews, is well proved by Baronius from the names that Jerome mentions out of that Epistle, which are nowhere to be found in this to the Hebrews. But that Epistle of Barnabas is an open fruit of that vanity which prevailed in many about the third and fourth ages of the Church, of personating in their writings some Apostolic persons, wherein they seldom or never kept any good decorum, as might easily be manifested in this particular instance. As to our present case, the reason before mentioned, is of the same validity against this, as the other opinion concerning Luke, whereunto others of an equal evidence may be added. Barnabas was not an Apostle, properly and strictly so called, nor had Apostolic mission or authority, but rather seems to have been one of the seventy disciples, as Epiphanius affirms. And Eusebius, a person less credulous than he, acknowledging that a just and true catalog of them could not be given, yet placeth Barnabas as the first of them concerning whom all agreed. Much weight indeed I shall not lay hereon, seeing it is evident that the catalogs given us by the Ancients of those disciples, are nothing but a rude collection of such names as they found in the Books of the New Testament, applied without reason or testimony; but Apostle he was none.
Many circumstances also concur to the removal of this conjecture. The Epistle was written in Italy (Heb. 13:24), where it doth not appear that Barnabas ever was. The fabulous author, I confess, of the rhapsody called the “Recognitions of Clement,” tells us that Barnabas went to Rome, taking along Clement with him, and returning into Judea, found St. Peter at Caesarea. But St. Luke in the Acts gives us another account, both where Barnabas was, and how he was employed, at the time intimated by him who knew nothing of those things. For whilst St. Peter was at Caesarea (Acts 10:1), Barnabas was at Jerusalem (Acts 9:27), being a little while after sent to Antioch by the Apostles (Acts 11:22). Again, Timothy was the companion of the writer of this Epistle (Heb. 13:23), a person as far as appears unknown unto Barnabas, being taken into St. Paul’s society after their difference and separation, (Acts 15:39; 16:1). He had also been in bonds or imprisonment (Acts 10:34), whereof we cannot at that time learn anything concerning Barnabas, those of St. Paul being known unto all. And lastly, not long before the writing of this Epistle, Barnabas was so far from that light into, and apprehension of the nature, use, and expiration of Judaical Rites herein expressed, that he was easily mislead into a practical miscarriage in the observation of them (Gal. 2:13), wherein although some (after Jerome’s fancy, that the difference between St. Peter and St. Paul was only in pretense) have labored to free St. Peter and his companions on other grounds from any sinful failing, as it should seem in a direct opposition unto the testimony of St. Paul affirming that κατεγνωσμένος ἦν in that particular he was to be blamed or condemned (Gal. 2:11), not unlike him who hath written a justification of Aaron in his making the golden calf; yet that Barnabas was not come up unto any constancy in his practice about Mosaic Institutions is evident from the Text. And shall we suppose that he who but a little before upon the coming of some few brethren of the Church of Jerusalem from St. James, durst not avouch and abide by his own personal liberty, but deserted the use of it not without some blamable dissimulation (Gal. 2:13), should now with so much authority write an Epistle unto that Church with St. James, and all the Hebrews in the world concurring with them in judgment and practice, about that very thing, wherein himself out of respect unto them had particularly miscarried? This certainly was rather the work of St. Paul, whose light and constancy in the doctrine delivered in this Epistle, with his engagements in the defense of it, above all the rest of the Apostles, is known from the story of the Acts, and his own other writings.
§ 6. Apollos not the author.
§ 6. Apollos hath been thought by some to be the penman of this Epistle; and that because it answers the character given of him. For it is said that he was an eloquent man, mighty in the Scripture, fervent in spirit, and one that mightily convinced the Jews out of the Scripture itself (Acts 18:24, 28), all which things appear throughout this whole discourse. But this conjecture hath no countenance from Antiquity, no mention being made of any Epistle written by Apollos, or of anything else, so that he is not reckoned by Jerome amongst the Ecclesiastical writers, nor by those who interpolated that work with some fragments out of Sophronius. Nor is he reported by Clement, Origen, or Eusebius, to have been by any esteemed the author of this Epistle. However, I confess somewhat of moment might have been apprehended in the observation mentioned, if the excellencies ascribed unto Apollos had been peculiar unto him; yea, had they not all of them been found in St. Paul, and that in a manner and degree more eminent than in the other. But this being so, the ground of this conjecture is taken from under it.
§ 7. Clement not the author.
§ 7. Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome in the places fore-cited, mention a report concerning some who ascribed this Epistle unto Clement of Rome. None of them give any countenance unto it, or intimate any grounds of that supposition; only Jerome affirms that there is some similitude between the style of this Epistle, and that of Clement, which occasioned the suspicion of his translating of it, whereof afterwards. Erasmus hath since taken up that report and seems to give credit unto it, but hath not contributed anything of reason or testimony unto its confirmation. This Clement was a worthy holy man, no doubt, and Bishop of the Church at Rome. But none of the Ancients of any learning or judgment ever laid weight on this conjecture. For what had he who was a convert from among the Gentiles to do with the Churches of the Hebrews, what authority had he to interpose himself in that which was their peculiar concernment? Whence may it appear, that he had that skill in the nature, use, and end of Mosaic rites and institutions, which the writer of this Epistle discovers in himself? Neither doth that Epistle of his to the Church of Corinth which is yet extant, though excellent in its kind, permit us to think that he wrote by Divine Inspiration. Besides the author of this Epistle had a desire and purpose to go to the Hebrews (Heb. 13:22). Yea, he desired to be restored unto them as one that had been with them before. But as it doth not appear that this Clement was ever in Palestine, so what reason he should have to leave his own charge now to go thither, no man can imagine. And to end this needless debate, in that Epistle which was truly his own, he makes use of the words and authority of this, as Eusebius long since observed.
§ 8. Tertullian not the author.
§ 8. Sixtus Sinensis affirms that the work whose author we inquire after was by some assigned unto Tertullian. A fond and impious imagination, and such as no man of judgment or sobriety could ever fall into. This Epistle was famous in the Churches before Tertullian was born: is ascribed by himself unto Barnabas, and some passages in it are said by him to be corrupted by one Theodotus long before his time.
From the uncertainty of these conjectures, with the evidence of reason and circumstances whereby they are disproved, two things we seem to have obtained. First, that no objection on their account can arise against our assertion. And secondly, that if St. Paul be not acknowledged to be the writer of this Epistle, the whole Church of God is, and ever was at a total loss whom to ascribe it unto. And it may reasonably be expected that the weakness of these conjectures, should, if not add unto, yet set of the credibility of the reasons and testimonies, which shall be produced in the assignment of it unto him.
§ 9. Objections against Pauline authorship.
§ 9. The objections that are laid by some against our assignation of this Epistle unto St. Paul according unto the order proposed, are next to be considered. These I shall pass through with what briefness I can, so as not to be wanting unto the defense designed.
Dissimilitude of style and manner of writing from that used by St. Paul in his other Epistles, is pressed in the first place, and principally insisted on. And indeed, it is the whole of what with any colour of reason is made use of in this cause. This the Ancients admitted. The elegancy, propriety of speech, and sometimes loftiness, that occur in this Epistle, difference it, as they say, from those of St. Paul’s writings. “It seems not to be St. Paul’s, because of the style or character of speech,” saith Oecumenius. For this cause, Clement of Alexandria supposed it to be written in Hebrew, and to be translated into Greek by St. Luke the Evangelist. The style of it, as he says, being like unto that which is used in the Acts of the Apostles. And yet that is acknowledged by all to be purely Greek, whereas this is accused to be full of Hebraisms, so little weight is to be laid on these critical censures, wherein learned men perpetually contradict one another.
Origen also confesseth, that it hath not in its character the idiotism, or propriety of the language of St. Paul, who acknowledgeth himself to be ἰδιώτης τῷ λόγῳ, rude in speech (2 Cor. 11:6); and this Epistle is, saith he, “in the composition of its speech elegantly Greek,” in comparison of his, which if we may believe him, anyone will discern who can judge between the difference of styles. And Jerome, Scripserat autem ad Hebraeos Hebraice, id est suo eloquio disertissimè; ut eo quae eloquuntur scripta fuerant in Hebraeo aliquatenus verterentur in Graecum; & hanc causam esse quod a coeteris Pauli Epistolis discrepare videatur: “It seems to differ from the rest of St. Paul’s Epistles, because of its translation out of Hebrew, wherein he speaks not with his wonted confidence.” And elsewhere he says, that the style of this Epistle seems to be like that of Clement. Erasmus presseth this objection; saith he, Jam argumentum illud quo non aliud certius; stylus ipse et orationis character, qui nihil habet affinitatis cum Phrasi Paulina: “The style and character of speech have no affinity with the phrase of St. Paul.” This consideration also drew Calvin into the same opinion; and it is insisted on by Camero and Grotius to the same purpose. The sum of this objection is that St. Paul was rude in speech which is manifest in his other Epistles, but the style of this is pure, elegant, florid, such as hath no affinity with his, so that he cannot be esteemed the penman of it.
§ 10. Objections answered.
§ 10. As this objection was taken notice of by them of old, and the matter of it admitted as true, so because they constantly adhered to the assignation of it unto St. Paul, they gave sundry answers unto it. Origen gives us his judgment, that the sense or subject matter of this Epistle was from St. Paul, which are excellent, and no way inferior to those of the same Apostle in any other Epistles, as everyone exercised in the reading of his Epistles will grant; but the structure and phrase of it, he supposeth to have been the work of some other, who taking the dictates of his master, from thence composed this Epistle. But this answer can by no means be admitted of, nor accommodated unto any writing given by Divine Inspiration. For not only the matter, but the very words of their writings were suggested unto his penmen by the Holy Ghost (that the whole might have no influence from human frailty or fallibility), which alone renders the authority of their writings sacred and divine. But this intimation would resolve the truth in this Epistle, into the care and diligence of him that took the sense of St. Paul, and thence composed it; wherein he was liable to mistakes, unless we shall vainly suppose that he also was inspired. Wherefore generally they who admitted of this objection, gave the answer unto it before intimated; namely, that the Epistle was originally written in Hebrew by St. Paul, and Translated by some other into the Greek Language. So Oecumenius: “The cause of the alteration or difference of style in this Epistle is manifest, for it is said to be written unto the Hebrews in their own Language, and to be afterwards translated.” Jerome and Clement also incline to this opinion and answer. And Theophylact, though following Theodoret, he egregiously confutes them who deny St. Paul to be the author of this Epistle, from the excellency, efficacy, and irrefragable power and authority wherewith it is accompanied, yet admits of this objection, and answers with others, that it was translated by St. Luke or Clement. Only Chrysostom, who indeed is πολλων ανταξιος αλλων, without taking notice of the pretended dissimilitude of style ascribes it directly to St. Paul. But to this answer incline generally the divines of the Roman Church, as Catharinus, Bellarminus, Baronius, Cornelius à Lapide, Canus, Mathus Galenus, Ludovicus Tena, and others without number; though it be rejected by Estius and some others among themselves. What is to be thought of it, we shall afterwards consider in a dissertation designed unto that purpose. For the present, we affirm that it is no way needful as an answer unto the objection insisted on, as we shall now farther particularly manifest.
§ 11. In what sense Paul was “rude in speech” (2 Cor. 11:6).
§ 11. The foundation of this objection lies in St. Paul’s acknowledgement that he was “rude in speech”, 2 Cor. 11:6. This Origen presseth, and Jerome takes occasion hence to censure his skill in his mother tongue; for so was the Greek unto them that were born at Tarsus in Cilicia; and this was the place of St. Paul’s nativity, though the same Jerome from I know not what tradition, affirms that he was born at Ghiscalis, a town of Galilee, from whence he went afterwards with his parents to Tarsus, contrary to his own express testimony, “I verily was born in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia” (Acts 22:3).
But this seems an infirm foundation of the objection insisted on. Paul in that place is dealing with the Corinthians about the false teachers, who seduced them from the simplicity of the Gospel. The course which they took to ensnare them, was vain affected eloquence, and strains of rhetoric unbecoming the work they pretended to be engaged in. Puffed up with this singularity they contemned St. Paul as a rude unskillful person no way able to match them in their fine declamations. In answer hereunto, he first tells them that it became not him to use σοφίᾳ λόγου (1 Cor. 1:17) that wisdom of words or speech which orators flourished withal; or διδακτοῖς ἀνθρωπίνης σοφίας λόγοις (1 Cor. 2:13), the words that man’s wisdom teacheth, or an artificial composition of words to entice thereby, which he calls ὑπεροχὴν λόγου (1 Cor. 2:1). And many reasons he gives why it became him not to make use of those things, so as to make them his design, as the seducers and false Apostles did. Again, he answers by concession in this place, εἰ δὲ καὶ ἰδιώτης τῷ λόγῳ, suppose I be, or were, rude or unskillful in speech, doth this matter depend thereon? Is it not manifest unto you that I am not so in the knowledge of the mystery of the Gospel? He doth not confess that he is so, saith Augustine, but grants it for their conviction. And in this sense concur Oecumenius, Aquinas, Lyra, Catharinus, Clarius, and Capellus, with many others on the place. If then by λογος here, that seducing enticing rhetoric wherewith the false teachers entangled the affections of their unskillful hearers be intended, as we grant that St. Paul it may be was unskillful in it, and are sure that he would make no use of it, so it is denied that any footsteps of it appear in this Epistle; and if anything of solid, convincing, unpainted eloquence be intended in it, it is evident that St. Paul neither did, nor justly could confess himself unacquainted with it, only he made a concession of the objection made against him by the false teachers to manifest how they could obtain no manner of advantage thereby.
§ 12. Paul’s eloquence and skill.
§ 12. Neither are the other Epistles of St. Paul written in so low and homely a style as is pretended. Chrysostom speaking of him tells us, υπέρ τον ήλιον ελαμψεν ή τουτου γλωττα; and that for his eloquence he was esteemed Mercury by the Gentiles. Somewhat hath been spoken hereunto before, whereunto I shall now only add the words of a person who was no incompetent judge in things of this nature. “When I well consider the genius and character of the speech and style of this Apostle, I confess I never found that grandeur in Plato himself, as in him, when he thundereth out the mysteries of God; nor that gravity and vehemence in Demosthenes as in him, when he intends to terrify the minds of men, with a dread of the judgments of God, or would warn them, or draw them to the contemplation of his goodness, or the performance of the duties of piety and mercy; nor do I find a more exact method of teaching in those great and excellent masters, Aristotle and Galen, than in him.” So it is plainly, so the Greek fathers almost with one consent do testify, so do most of the Latins also, so the best learned of the later critics, and so may it be defended against any opposition. And Jerome himself, who takes most liberty to censure his style, doth so far in other places forget his own temerity therein, as to cry out against those who dreamed, as he speaks, that St. Paul was not thoroughly acquainted with all propriety of speech. And he who was the first that ever spake word about any defect of this kind, though as able to judge as anyone whatever who hath since passed his censure unto the same purpose, was in an evident mistake in the very instance which he pitched on to confirm his observation. This was Irenaeus, one of the first and most learned of the Greek fathers; for affirming that there were many hyperbata in the style of this Apostle, which render it uneven and difficult, he confirms his assertion with an instance in 2 Cor. 4:4. “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not:” for, saith he, the words should naturally have been thus placed; “In whom God hath blinded the minds of them that in this world believe not.” So to obviate a foolish sophism in the Valentinians, an hyperbaton must be supposed in the Apostle’s style, when indeed there is not the least colour of it. Upon the whole matter then, I shall confidently assert, that there is no manner of defect in any of his writings; and that everything, (consider the matter and nature of it, the person in whose name he spake, and those to whom he wrote) is expressed as it ought to be for the end proposed, and not otherwise. And hence it is, that because of the variety of the subject matter treated of, and difference among the persons to whom he wrote, that there is also variety in his way and manner of expressing himself in sundry of his Epistles: And in many of them, there is such a discovery and manifestation of solid eloquence, and pure elegancy of speech, that the observation of them in any writing, is far from having any weight to prove it none of his.
§ 13. Causes of the difference in style between Hebrews and his other Epistles.
§ 13. It may then be granted, though it be not proved, that there is some dissimilitude of style between this and the rest of the Epistles of St. Paul; and the reasons of it are sufficiently manifest. The argument treated of in this Epistle is diverse from that of most of the other; many circumstances in those to whom he wrote singular, the spring of his reasonings, and way of his arguments, peculiarly suited unto his subject matter, and the condition of those unto whom he wrote. Besides in the writing of this Epistle there was in him an especial frame and incitation of spirit, occasioned by many occurrences relating unto it. His intense love, and near relation in the flesh, unto them to whom he wrote, affectionately remembered by himself, and expressed in a manner inimitable (Rom. 9:1-3), did doubtless exert itself in his treating about their greatest and nearest concernment. The prejudices and enmity of some of them against him, recorded in several places of the Acts, and remembered by himself in some other of his Epistles, lay also under his consideration. Much of the subject that he treated about, was matter of controversy, which was to be debated from the Scripture, and wherein those with whom he dealt, thought they might dissent from him without any prejudice to their faith or obedience. Their condition also must needs greatly affect him. They were now not only under present troubles, dangers, and fears, but positi inter sacrum et saxum, at the very door of ruin, if not delivered from the snare of obstinate adherence unto Mosaic Institutions. Now they who know not what alterations in style, and manner of writing these things will produce, in those who have an ability to express the conceptions of their minds, and the affections wherewith they are attended, know nothing of this matter. And other differences from the rest of Paul’s Epistles, but what may evidently be seen to arise from these and the like causes, none have yet discovered, nor can so do. And notwithstanding the elegancy of the style pretended, that it is as full of Hebraisms, as any other Epistle of the same author, we shall discover in our passage through it; which certainly a person of that ability in the Greek tongue, as the writer of this Epistle discovers himself to be, might have avoided, if he had thought meet so to do.
§ 14. Coincidence of Expressions in it and them.
§ 14. Neither is it to be omitted, that there is such a coincidence in many phrases, use of words and expressions between this Epistle, and the rest of St. Paul’s, as will not allow us to grant such a discrepancy in style as some imagine. They have many of them been gathered by others; and therefore, I shall only point unto the places from whence they are taken:
See Chap. 1:1. compared with 2 Cor. 13:3. Chap. 2:14. with Gal. 1:16. Ephes. 6:12. Chap. 2:2. with Ephes. 5:26. Chap. 3:1. with Phil. 3:14. 2 Tim. 1:9. Chap. 3:6. with Rom. 5:2. Chap. 5:14. with 1 Cor. 11:6. Phil. 3:15. Ephes. 4:13. Chap. 5:13. with 1 Cor. 3:2. Chap. 6:2. with Col. 2:2. 1 Thes. 1:5. Chap. 7:18. with Rom. 8:3. Gal. 4:9. Chap. 8:6, 9. with Gal. 3:19-20. 1 Tim. 2:5. Chap. 10:1. with Col. 2:17. Chap. 10:22. with 2 Cor. 7:1. Chap. 10:23. a phrase peculiar to St. Paul, and common with him, Chap. 10:33. with 1 Cor. 4:9. Chap. 10:36. with Gal. 3:22. Chap. 10:39. 1 Thes. 5:9. 2 Thes. 2:14. Chap. 12:1. with 1 Cor. 9:24. Chap. 13:10. with Ephes. 4:14. 1 Cor. 9:13. 1 Cor. 10:8. Chap. 13:15-16. with Rom. 12:1. Phil. 4:18. Chap. 13:20. with Rom. 15:33. Rom. 16:20. 2 Cor. 13:2. Phil. 4:9. 1 Thes. 5:23. Many of which places, having before been observed by others, they are all of them collected in this order by Spanhemius; and many more of the like nature might be added unto them, but that these are sufficient to outbalance the contrary instances of some words and expressions nowhere else used by St. Paul, which perhaps may be observed of every other Epistle in like manner. And upon all these considerations it appears how little force there is in this objection.
§ 15. Why Paul’s name is not prefixed to the Epistle to the Hebrews.
§ 15. Secondly, it is excepted, that the Epistle is ανεπιγραφος, the name of Paul being not prefixed unto it, as it is say some, unto all the Epistles written by him. And this indeed is the womb wherein all other objections have been conceived. For this being once taken notice of, and admitted as an objection, the rest were but fruits of men’s needless diligence to give countenance unto it. And this exception is ancient, and that which alone some of old took any notice of; for it is considered by Clement, Origen, Eusebius, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Oecumenius, and generally all that have spoken anything about the writer of this Epistle. Nor doth the strength that it hath lie merely in this, that it is without inscription; for so is the Epistle of St. John, concerning which it was never doubted but that he was the author of it. But in the constant usage of Paul, prefixing his name unto all his other Epistles; so that unless a just reason can be given why he should divert from that custom in the writing of this, it may be well supposed to be none of his.
Now, by the title which is wanting, either the mere titular superscription, “the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews,” is intended; or the inscription of his name, with an Apostolic salutation conjoined in the Epistle itself. For the first, it is uncertain of what antiquity the titular superscriptions of any of the Epistles are, but most certain that they did not originally belong unto them, and are therefore destitute of all authority. They are things with which the transcribers, it may be, have at pleasure made bold, as with the subscription also of some of them, as to the place from whence they were sent, and the persons by whom. Though this therefore should be wanting unto this Epistle, as there is some variety both in ancient copies of the original, and translations about it, the most owning and retaining of it; yet it would be of no moment, seeing we know not, whence, or from whom, any of them are. The objection then is taken from the want of the wonted Apostolic salutation; which should be in, and a part of the Epistle. And this is the substance of what on this account is excepted against our assertion.
§ 16. Jerome’s argument rejected.
§ 16 Various answers have been given to this objection, some of them of no more validity than itself. Jerome replies, it hath no man’s name prefixed, therefore we may by as good reason say it was written by no man, as not by Paul; which instance though it be approved by Beza with other learned men, and not sufficiently answered by Erasmus with a contrary instance, yet indeed it is of no value; for being written, it must be written by some body, though not perhaps by St. Paul. Some have thought, that it may be the inscription inquired after was at first prefixed, but by some means or other hath been lost. But as there are very many arguments and evidences to evince the weakness of this imagination, so the beginning and entrance of the Epistle is such as is incapable of any contexture with such a salutation, as that used in other Epistles, as is also that of St. John, so that this conjecture can here have no place.
§ 17. Theodoret’s answer.
§ 17. Some of the Ancients, and principally Theodoret insist upon the peculiar allotment of his work unto him among the Gentiles. Paul was the Apostle of the Gentiles, in an especial manner; and if in writing unto the Hebrews he had prefixed his name unto his Epistle, he might have seemed to transgress the line of his allotment. And if it be not certain that the Apostles by common consent cast their work into distinct portions, which they peculiarly attended unto, as the Ancients generally concur that they did (and there was not reason wanting why they should do so), yet it is that there was a special convention and agreement between James, Peter, and John on the one side, and Paul and Barnabas on the other, that they should attend the Ministry of the Circumcision, and these of the Gentiles. Hence Paul finding it necessary for him to write unto the Hebrews, would not prefix his name with an Apostolic salutation unto his Epistle, that he might not seem to have invaded the province of others, or transgressed the line of his allotment.
But I must acknowledge that notwithstanding the weight laid upon it by Theodoret and some others, this reason seems not unto me cogent unto the end for which it is produced. For (1.) The Commission given by the Lord Christ unto his Apostles was Catholic, and had no bounds but that of the whole creation of God capable of instruction (Mat. 28:19; Mark 16:15), and that Commission which was given unto them all in general, was given unto everyone in particular: and made him in solidum [whole] possessor of all the right and authority conveyed by it. Neither could any following arbitrary agreement pitched on for convenience, and the facilitating of their work, abridge any of them from exerting their authority, and exercising their duty towards any of the sons of men, as occasion did require.
And hence it is, that notwithstanding the agreement mentioned, we find St. Peter teaching of the Gentiles, and St. Paul laboring the conversion of the Jews. Secondly, in writing this Epistle, on this supposition St. Paul did indeed, that which is pretended was not meet for him to do; namely, he entered on that which was the charge of another man; only he conceals his name, that he might not appear in doing of a thing unwarrantable and unjustifiable. And whether it be meet to ascribe this unto the Apostle, is easy to determine. As then it is certain that St. Paul in the writing of this Epistle did nothing, but what in duty he ought to do, and what the authority given him by Christ extended itself unto, so the concealing of his name, lest he should be thought to have done anything irregularly, is a thing that without much temerity may not be imputed unto him.
§ 18. Prejudice of the Jews against Paul not the cause of the absence of his name.
§ 18. There is another answer to this objection, which seemeth to be solid and satisfactory, which most of the Ancients rest in. And it is that St. Paul had weighty reasons not to declare his name at the entrance of this Epistle to the Hebrews, taken from the prejudices that many of them had against him. This is insisted on by Clement in Eusebius, “He did wisely,” saith he, “conceal his name, because of the prejudicate opinion that they had against him”, and this is at large insisted on by Chrysostom, who is followed therein by Theophilact, Oecumenius, and others without number. The persecuting party of the nation looked on him as an apostate, a deserter of the cause wherein he was once engaged, and one that taught apostasy from the Law of Moses; yea, as they thought, that set the whole world against them and all that they gloried in (Acts 21:28), and what enmity is usually stirred up on such occasions, all men know, and his example is a sufficient instance of it. And there was added thereunto, which Chrysostom, and that justly, lays great weight upon, that he was no ordinary person, but a man of great and extraordinary abilities, which mightily increased the provocation. Those among them, who with the profession of the Gospel had a mind to continue themselves in, and to impose upon others the observance of Mosaic Institutions, looked on him as the only person that had frustrated their design (Acts 15:2). And this also is usually no small cause of wrath and hatred. The spirit of these men afterwards possessing the Ebonites, they despised St. Paul as a Grecian and deserter of the Law, as Epiphanius testifies. And even the best among them, who either in the use of their liberty, or upon an indulgence given them, continued in the Temple worship, had a jealous eye over him, lest he had not that esteem for Moses which they imagined became them to retain (Acts 21:21).
How great a prejudice against his doctrine and reasonings these thoughts and jealousies might have created, had he at the entrance of his dealing with them, prefixed his name and usual salutation, is not hard to conjecture. This being the state and condition of things in reference unto St. Paul, and not any other known penman of the Holy Ghost, or eminent disciple of Christ in those days, this defect of inscription, as Beza well observes, proves the Epistle rather to be his, than any other persons whatever. And though I know that there may be some reply made unto this answer, both from the discovery which he makes of himself in the end of the Epistle, and from the high probability that there is, that the Hebrews upon the first receipt of it, would diligently examine by whom it was written, yet I judge it very sufficient to frustrate the exception insisted on, though perhaps not containing the true, at least the whole cause of the omission of an Apostolic salutation in the entrance of it.
§ 19. The true reason why Paul’s name is omitted.
§ 19. If then we would know the true and just cause of the omission of the author’s name, and mention of his Apostolic authority in the entrance of this Epistle, we must consider what were the just reasons of prefixing them unto his other Epistles. Chrysostom in his Proem unto the Epistle to the Romans gives this as the only reason of the mentioning the name of the writer of any Epistle, in the frontispiece of it, otherwise than was done by Moses and the Evangelists in their writings; namely, because they wrote unto them that were present, and so had no cause to make mention of their own names, which were well enough known without the premising of them in their writings: whereas those who wrote Epistles dealing with them that were absent, were necessitated to prefix their names unto them, that they might know from whom they came. But yet this reason is not absolutely satisfactory: for as they who prefixed not their names to their writings, wrote, not only for the use and benefit of those that were present and knew them, but of all succeeding Ages, who knew them not. So many of them who did preach and write the Word of the Lord unto those that lived with them and knew them, yet prefixed their names unto their writings, as did the Prophets of Old, and some who did write Epistles to them who were absent, omitted so to do, as St. John, and the author of this Epistle.
The real cause then of prefixing the names of any of the Apostles unto their writings, was merely the introduction thereby of their titles, as Apostles of Jesus Christ, and therein an intimation of that authority, by, and with which they wrote. This then was the true and only reason why the Apostle St. Paul prefixed his name unto his Epistles; sometimes indeed this is omitted when he wrote unto some Churches where he was well known, and his Apostolic power was sufficiently owned, because he joined others with himself in his salutation who were not Apostles, as the Epistle to the Philippians, chap. 1, and the second of the Thessalonians. Unto all others, he still prefixeth this title, declaring himself thereby to be one, so authorized to reveal the mysteries of the Gospel, that they to whom he wrote, were to acquiesce in his authority, and to resolve their faith into the revelation of the will of God, made unto him, and by him, the Church being to be built on the foundation of the Prophets and Apostles. And hence it was, that when something he had taught was called in question, and opposed, writing in the vindication of it, and for their establishment in the truth, whom before he had instructed, he doth in the entrance of his writings, singularly and emphatically mention this his authority. “Paul an Apostle, neither of man, nor by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father that raised him from the dead” (Gal. 1:1), so intimating the absolute obedience that was due unto the doctrine by him revealed. By this title, I say, he directs them to whom he wrote, to resolve their assent into the authority of Christ speaking in him, which he tenders unto them as the proof and foundation of the mysteries wherein they were instructed.
In his dealing with the Hebrews the case was far otherwise; they who believed amongst them never changed the old foundation, or Church-state, grounded on the Scriptures, though they had a new addition of privileges by their faith in Christ Jesus, as the Messiah now exhibited. And therefore, he deals not with them, as with those whose faith was built absolutely on Apostolic authority and revelation, but upon the common principles of the Old Testament, on which they still stood, and out of which evangelical faith was educed. Hence the beginning of the Epistle, wherein he appeals to the Scripture as the foundation that he intended to build upon, and the authority which he would press them withal, supplies the room of that intimation of his Apostolic authority, which in other places he maketh use of. And it serves to the very same purpose. For as in those Epistles he proposeth his Apostolic authority as the immediate reason of their assent and obedience; so in this he doth the Scriptures of the Old Testament. And this is the true and proper cause that renders the prefixing of his Apostolic authority, which his name must necessarily accompany, needless, because useless, it being that which he intended not to engage in this business. And for himself, he sufficiently declares in the close of his Epistle who he was; for though some may imagine that he is not so certainly known unto us, from what he there says of himself, yet none can be so fond to doubt whether he were not thereby known to them to whom he wrote; so that neither hath this objection in it anything of real weight or moment.
§ 20. Hesitation of the Latin Church answered.
§ 20. We have spoken before unto the hesitation of the Latin Church, which by some is objected, especially by Erasmus, and given the reasons of it, manifesting that it is of no force to weaken our assertion; unto which I shall now only add, that after it was received amongst them as canonical, it was never questioned by any learned man or Synod of old, whether St. Paul was the author of it or no, but they all with one consent ascribed it unto him, as hath been at large by others declared.
The remaining exceptions which by some are insisted on, are taken from some passages in the Epistle itself; that principally of chapters two and three, where the writer of it seems to reckon himself among the number, not of the Apostles, but of their auditors. But whereas it is certain and evident that the Epistle was written before the destruction of the Temple, yea, the beginning of those wars that ended therein, or the death of James, whilst sundry of the Apostles were yet alive, it cannot be, that the penman of it should really place himself amongst the generation that succeeded them; so that the words must of necessity admit of another interpretation, as shall be manifested in its proper place. For whereas both this and other things of the same nature, must be considered and spoken unto, in the places where they occur, I shall not here anticipate what of necessity must be insisted on in its due season; especially considering of how small importance the objections taken from them are. And this is the sum of what hath as yet by any been objected unto our assignation of this Epistle unto St. Paul; by the consideration whereof the reader will be directed into the judgment he is to make on the arguments and testimonies that we shall produce, in the confirmation of our assertion, and these we now proceed unto under the several heads proposed in the entrance of our discourse.
§ 21. Arguments to prove Pauline authorship. The testimony of St. Peter.
§ 21. Amongst the arguments usually insisted on to prove this Epistle to have been written by St. Paul, the testimony given unto it by St. Peter deserves consideration in the first place, and is indeed of itself sufficient to determine the inquiry about it. His words to this purpose are: “And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation, even as our beloved brother Paul also according unto the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his Epistles speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16). To clear this testimony, some few things must be observed in it, and concerning it. As:
(1.) That St. Peter wrote this second Epistle unto the same persons, that is, the same Churches and people to whom he wrote his first. This (to omit other evidences of it) himself testifies, “This second epistle, beloved I now write unto you” (2 Peter 3:1); it was not only absolutely his second Epistle, but the second which he wrote to the same persons; handling in both the same general argument, as himself in the next words affirms. (2.) That his first Epistle was written unto the Jews or Hebrews in the Asian dispersion, ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς Πόντου, “to the elect strangers of the dispersion of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1), that is the δώδεκα φυλαῖς ταῖς ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ as St. James styles the same persons (James 1:1), the twelve Tribes, or Hebrews of the twelve Tribes of Israel in their dispersion. These παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς, or ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ, are those whom the Jews of Jerusalem called the διασπορὰν τῶν Ἑλλήνων (John 7:35), the Dispersion, or those of their nation that were dispersed among the Gentiles. Those especially they intend in the Greek Empire. These they called תפוצת ישראל the dispersion or scattering of Israel, when they were sifted amongst all nations, like the sifting of a sieve (Amos 9:9; Psal. 147:2), they are called נִדְחֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, which the Septuagint according to the phrase in their days render τὰς διασπορὰς τοῦ Ισραηλ, the dispersions, or those scattered abroad of Israel, as Isaiah calls them הָאֹֽבְדִים בְּאֶרֶץ אַשּׁוּר and וְהַנִּדָּחִים בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם (Isaiah 27:13). So that there is no question but that these were they whom St. Peter calls the diaspora of Pontus, Galatia, etc. As St. James extending his salutation to the same people in all places, the diaspora of the Twelve Tribes.
Besides many things insisted on by St. Peter in these Epistles, were peculiar to the Hebrews, who also were his especial care: See 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2:9, 21; 3:5-6; 4:7, 17; Eph. 2:19-21; Chap. 2:1, 11, etc.; Chap. 3:10-14; and many other particular places of the same nature may be observed in them. To sum up our evidence in this particular: Peter being in an especial manner the Apostle of the circumcision or Hebrews (Gal. 2:7), having by his first sermon converted many of these strangers of Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia (Acts 2:9-10, 41), ascribing that title unto them to whom he wrote, which was the usual and proper appellation of them in all the world, ή διασπορα τοῦ Ισραηλ, (James 1:1: John 7:35) treating with them for the most part about things peculiar to them in a special manner, and that with arguments and from principles peculiarly known unto them, as the places above quoted will manifest, there remains no ground of question, but it was those Hebrews unto whom he wrote. Nor are the exceptions that are made to this evidence of any such importance, as once to deserve a remembrance by them, who design not a protracting of their discourses by insisting on things unnecessary.
§ 22. Peter’s testimony to Pauline authorship of Hebrews, not Galatians.
§ 22. Now it is plain in this testimony asserted, that St. Paul wrote a peculiar Epistle unto them, unto whom St. Peter wrote his, that is to the Hebrews; “he hath written unto you, as also in all his Epistles:” that is, in all his other Epistles. Besides his other Epistles to other Churches and persons, he hath also written one unto you. So that if St. Peter’s testimony may be received, St. Paul undoubtedly wrote an Epistle unto the Hebrews. But this may be, say some, another Epistle, and not this we treat on; particularly that to the Galatians, which treateth about Judaical customs and worship. But this Epistle mentioned by St. Peter, was written particularly unto the Hebrews in distinction from the Gentiles. This to the Galatians is written peculiarly to the Gentiles in opposition to the Jews; so that a more unhappy instance could not possibly have been fixed upon. Besides he treats not in it of the things here mentioned by St. Peter, which are indeed the main subject of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
But, say others, Paul indeed might write an Epistle to the Hebrews, which may be lost, and this that we have might be written by some other. But whence this answer should proceed, but from a resolution θεσιν διαφυλαττειν, against light and conviction, I know not. May we give place to such rash and presumptuous conjectures, we shall quickly have nothing left entire or stable. For why may not another as well say, it is true, Moses wrote five books, but they are lost, and these that we have under his name were written by another? It is not surely one jot less intolerable for any one, without ground, proof, or testimony, to affirm that the Church hath lost an Epistle written to the Hebrews by St. Paul, and taken up one in the room thereof, written by no man knoweth whom. This is not to deal with that holy reverence in the things of God which becomes us.
§ 23. The long suffering of God unto the Jews.
§ 23. St. Peter declares that St. Paul in that Epistle which he wrote unto the Hebrews, had declared the long-suffering of God, whereof he had minded them, to be salvation. We must see what was this long-suffering of God, how it was salvation, and how Paul had manifested it so to be. The long-sufferance, patience, or forbearance of God, is either absolute toward man in general, or special in reference unto some sort of men; or some kind of sins or provocations that are amongst them. The first of these is not that which is here intended; nor was there any reason why St. Peter should direct the Jews to the Epistles of St. Paul in particular to learn the long-suffering of God in general, which is so plentifully revealed in the whole Scripture, both Old and New Testament, and only occasionally at any time mentioned by St. Paul.
There was therefore an especial long-suffering of God which at that time he exercised towards the Jews, waiting for the conversion, and the gathering of his elect unto him, before that total and final destruction, which they had deserved, should come upon that Church and State. This he compares to the long-suffering of God in the days of Noah, whilst he preached repentance unto the world, 1 Peter 3:20. For as those that were obedient unto his preaching which was only his own family, were saved in the Ark, from the general destruction that came upon the world by water; so also they that became obedient upon the preaching of the Gospel, during this new season of God’s special long-suffering, were to be saved by baptism, or separation from the unbelieving Jews by the profession of the Faith, from that destruction that was to come upon them by fire. This long-suffering of God, the unbelieving Jews, not understanding to be particular, scoffed at, and them who threatened them with such an issue or event of it (2 Peter 3:4), which causeth the Apostle to declare the nature and end of this long-suffering which they were ignorant of (verse 9).
And thus, secondly, was this particular long-suffering of God towards the Jews, whilst the Gospel was preached unto them before their final desolation, salvation; in that God spared them, and allowed them to abide for a while in the observation of their old worship and ceremonies, granting them in the meantime blessed means of light and instruction to bring them to salvation.
And thirdly, this is declared by St. Paul in this Epistle; not that this is formally and in terms the main doctrine of the Epistle, but that really and effectually he acquaints them with the intention of the Lord in his long-suffering towards them, and peculiarly serves that long-suffering of Christ in his instruction of them. And therefore after he hath taught them the true nature, use, and end of all Mosaic Institutions, which they were as yet permitted to use in the special patience of God intimated by St. Peter, and convinced them of the necessity of faith in Christ, and the profession of his Gospel, he winds up all his reasonings, in minding them of the end which shortly was to be put unto that long-suffering of God which was then exercised towards them (Heb. 12:15-28). So that this note also is eminently characteristic of this Epistle.
§ 24. Paul wrote unto the Jews “things hard to be understood” (2 Peter 3:16).
§ 24. 5. In the writing of the Epistle mentioned by Peter, he seems to ascribe unto Paul an eminency of wisdom; it was written according to the wisdom given unto him. As Paul in all other of his Epistles did exercise that grace of wisdom, so also in that which he wrote unto the Hebrews, there is no doubt but he exerted and put forth his other graces of knowledge, zeal, and love also; but yet Peter here in a way of eminency marketh his wisdom in that Epistle. It is not Paul’s spiritual wisdom in general in the knowledge of the will of God, and mysteries of the Gospel, which Peter here refers unto; but that special holy prudence which he exercised in the composure of this Epistle, and maintaining the truth which he dealt with the Hebrews about. And what an eminent character this also is of this Epistle, we shall endeavour, God assisting to evince in our exposition of it. His special understanding in all the mysteries of the Old Testament, unfolding things hidden from the foundation of the world, his application of them, with various testimonies and arguments that wrapped up the truth in great darkness and obscurity, unto the mystery of God manifested in the flesh, his various intertextures of reasonings and exhortations throughout his Epistle, his condescension to the capacity, prejudices, and affections of them to whom he wrote, urging them constantly with their own principles and concessions, do among many other things manifest the singular wisdom which Peter signifies to have been used in this work.
6. It may also be observed, that whereas Peter affirms that among the things about which Paul wrote, there were τινα δυσνόητά, “some things hard to be understood.” That Paul in a special manner confesseth that some of the things which he was to treat of in that Epistle were δυσερμήνευτος, “hard to be declared”, uttered, or unfolded; and therefore certainly hard to be understood, Hebrews 5:11. which in our progress we shall manifest to be spoken not without great and urgent cause, and that in many instances, especially that directed unto by himself concerning Melchizedek. So that this also gives another characteristic note of the Epistle testified unto by Peter.
I have insisted the longer upon this testimony, because in my judgment it is sufficient of itself to determine this controversy; nothing of any importance being by any that I can meet withal excepted unto it. But because we want no other confirmations of our assertion, and those also every one of them singly out-balancing the conjectures that are advanced against it, we shall subjoin them also in their order.
§ 25. The similarity of Hebrews to the other Epistles of Paul.
§ 25. The comparing of this Epistle with the others of the same Apostle gives farther evidence unto our assertion. I suppose it will be confessed that they only are competent judges of this argument, who are well exercised and conversant in his writings. Unto their judgment therefore alone in it do we appeal. Now the similitude between this and other Epistles of Paul is threefold. (1.) In words, phrases, and manner of expression. Of this sort, many instances may be given, and such a coincidence of phrase manifested in them as is not usually to be observed between the writings that have various or diverse authors.
But this I shall not particularly insist upon: partly because it hath already been done by others at large; and partly because they will all of them be observed in our exposition itself; nor doth it suit our present design to enter into a debate about particular words and expressions. Nor do I assign any more force unto this observation, but only that it is sufficient to manifest the weakness of the exceptions urged by some to prove it none of his, from the use of some few words not elsewhere used by him, or not in that sense which here they are applied unto. For their instances are not in number comparable with the other; and to evidence the vanity of that part of their objection which concerns the peculiar use of some words in this Epistle, it is enough to observe that one word ὑπόστασις [hypostasis] being three times used in this one Epistle, it hath in each place a peculiar and diverse signification.
(2.) There is also a coincidence of matter, or doctrines delivered in this and other Epistles of Paul. Neither shall I much press this consideration. For neither was he in any Epistle restrained unto what he had elsewhere delivered, nor bound to avoid the mentioning of it, if occasion did require; nor were other penmen of the Holy Ghost limited not to treat of what he had taught, no more than the Evangelists were from writing the same story. But yet neither is this observation destitute of all efficacy to contribute strength unto our assertion, considering that there were some doctrines which Paul did in a peculiar manner insist upon; a vein whereof, a diligent observer may find running through this, and all his other Epistles.
But, (3.) That which under this head I would press, is the consideration of the Spirit, genius, παθος and manner of writing proceeding from them, peculiar to this Apostle in all his Epistles. Many things are required to enable any one to judge aright of this intimation. He must, as Bernard speaks, drink of Paul’s spirit, or be made partaker of the same spirit with him, in his measure, who would understand his writings. Without this spirit, and his saving light, they are all obscure, intricate, sapless, unsavory; when unto them in whom it is, they are all sweet, gracious, in some measure open, plain, and powerful. A great and constant exercise unto an acquaintance with his frame of spirit in writing, is also necessary hereunto. Unless a man has contracted as it were a familiarity, by a constant conversation with him, no critical skill in words or phrases will render him a competent judge in this matter. This enabled Caesar to determine aright concerning any writings of Cicero. And he that is so acquainted with this Apostle will be able to discern his spirit, as Augustine says his Mother Monica did divine revelations, nescio quo sapore, by an inexpressible spiritual savour. Experience also of the power and efficacy of his writings, is hereunto required. He whose heart is cast into the mold of the doctrine by him delivered, will receive quick impressions from his spirit exerting itself in any of his writings. He that is thus prepared, will find that Heavenliness and perspicuity in unfolding the deepest evangelical mysteries, that peculiar exaltation of Jesus Christ in his person, office and work, that spiritual persuasiveness, that transcendent manner of arguing and reasoning, that wise insinuation and pathetical pressing of well-grounded exhortations, that love, tenderness, and affection to the souls of men, that zeal for God, and authority in teaching, which enliven and adorn all his other Epistles, to shine in this in an eminent manner, from the beginning to the end of it. And this consideration whatever may be the apprehensions of others concerning it, is that which gives me satisfaction, above all that are pleaded in this cause in ascribing this Epistle to Paul.
§ 26. The testimony of the early church unto Pauline authorship.
§ 26. The testimony of the first Churches, of whose testimony any record is yet remaining, with a successive suffrage of the most knowing persons of following ages, may also be pleaded in this cause. Setting aside that limitation of this testimony, which with the grounds and occasions of it as to some in the Latin Church, we have already granted and declared, and this witness will be acknowledged to be Catholic as to all other Churches in the world. A learned man of late hath reckoned up and reported the words of above thirty of the Greek fathers, and fifty of the Latin reporting this primitive tradition. I shall not trouble the reader with a catalog of their names, nor the repetition of their words, and that because the whole of what in general we assert as to the Eastern Church is acknowledged. Amongst them was this Epistle first made public, as they had far more advantages of discovering the truth in this matter of fact, than any in the Roman Church, or that elsewhere followed them in after ages could have. Neither had they anything, but the conviction and evidence of truth itself to induce them to embrace this Persuasion. And he that shall consider the condition of the first Churches under persecution, and what difficulties they met withal in communicating those Apostolic writings which were delivered unto any of them, with that special obstruction unto the spreading of this unto the Hebrews, of which we have already discoursed, cannot rationally otherwise conceive of it, but as an eminent fruit of the good providence of God, that it should so soon receive so public an attestation from the first Churches, as it evidently appears to have done.
§ 27. Evidences from Hebrews itself to Pauline authorship.
§ 27. The Epistle itself several ways discovers its author. Some of them we shall briefly recount.
(1.) The general argument and scope of it declares it to be Paul’s. Hereof there are two parts: (1.) The exaltation of the person, office, and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, with the excellency of the Gospel and the worship therein commanded, revealed by him. (2.) A discovery of the nature, use, and expiration of Mosaic Institutions, their present unprofitableness, and ceasing of their obligation unto obedience. The first part, we may grant to have been equally the design of all the Apostles, though we find it in a peculiar way insisted on in the writings of Paul. The latter was his special work and business. This partly ex instituto, partly occasionally from the opposition of the Jews, was he engaged in the promotion of, all the world over. The Apostles of the circumcision according to the wisdom given them, and suitable to the nature of their work, did more accommodate themselves to the prejudicate opinion of the Jewish professors; and the rest of the Apostles had little occasion to deal with them, or others on this subject. Paul in an eminent manner in this work bare the burden of that day. Having well settled all other Churches, who were troubled in this controversy by some of the Jews, he at last treats with themselves directly in this Epistle, giving an account of what he had elsewhere preached and taught to this purpose, and the grounds that he proceeded upon; and this not without great success, as the burying of the Judaical controversy not long after doth manifest.
(2.) The method of his procedure is the same with that of his other Epistles, which also was peculiar unto him. Now this in most of them, yea in all of them not regulated by some particular occasions, is first to lay down the doctrinal mysteries of the Gospel, vindicating them from oppositions and exceptions, and then to descend to exhortations unto obedience deduced from them, with an enumeration of such special moral duties, as those unto whom he wrote, stood in need to be minded of. This is the general method of his Epistles, to the Romans, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and the most of the rest. And this also is observed in this Epistle. Only whereas he had a special respect unto the apostasy of some of the Hebrews, occasioned by the persecution which then began to grow high against them, whatever argument or testimony in his passage gave him advantage to press an exhortation unto constancy, and to deter them from back-sliding, he lays hold upon it, and diverts into practical inferences unto that purpose, before he comes to his general exhortations towards the end of the Epistle. Excepting this occasional difference, the method of this is the same with that used in the other Epistles of Paul, and which was peculiarly his own.
(3.) His way of argument in this and his other Epistles is the same. Now this as we shall see, is sublime and mystical, accommodated rather to the spiritual reason of believers, than the artificial rules of Philosophers. That he should more abound with testimonies and quotations out of the Scripture of the Old Testament in this, than other Epistles, as he doth, the matter whereof he treats, and the persons to whom he wrote did necessarily require.
(4.) Many things in this Epistle evidently manifest that he who wrote it, was not only mighty in the Scripture, but also exceedingly well versed and skillful in the customs, practices, opinions, traditions, expositions and applications of Scripture then received in the Judaical Church, as we shall fully manifest in our progress. Now who in those days among the disciples of Christ could this be but Paul? For as he was brought up under one of the best and most famous of their masters in those days, and profited in the knowledge of their then present religion above his equals, so for want of this kind of learning, the Jews esteemed the chief of the other Apostles, Peter and John, to be idiots and unlearned.
(5.) Sundry particulars towards and in the close of the Epistle openly proclaim Paul to have been the writer of it.
1. The mention that he makes of his bonds, and the compassion that the Hebrews shewed towards him in his sufferings, and whilst he was a prisoner (Heb. 10:34). Now as the bonds of Paul were afterwards famous at Rome (Phil. 1:13), so there was not anything of greater notoriety about the Church of God in those days, than those that he suffered in Judea; which he minds them of in this expression. With what earnest endeavors, what rage and tumult, the rulers and body of the people sought his destruction, how publicly and with what solemnity his cause was sundry times heard and debated, with the time of his imprisonment that ensued, are all declared in the Acts at large. Now no man can imagine, but that whilst this great champion of their profession, was so publicly pleading their cause, and exposed to so much danger and hazard thereby, but that all the believers of those parts were exceedingly solicitous about his condition (as they had been about Peter’s in the like case), and gave him all the assistance and encouragement that they were able. This compassion of theirs, and his own bonds, as an evidence of his faith, and their mutual love in the Gospel he now minds them of. Of no other person but Paul have we any ground to conjecture that this might be spoken: and yet the suffering and compassion here mentioned, seem not to have been things done in a corner. So that this one circumstance is able of itself, to enervate all the Exceptions, that are made use of against his being esteemed the author of this Epistle.
2. The mention of Paul’s dear and constant companion Timothy is of the same importance (Heb. 13:23). That Timothy was at Rome with Paul in his bonds is expressly asserted, (Phil. 1:13-14). That he himself was also cast into prison with Paul is here intimated, his release being expressed. Now surely it is scarcely credible, that any other should in Italy where Paul then was, and newly released out of prison, write unto the Churches of the Hebrews, and therein make mention of his own bonds, and the bonds of Timothy, a man unknown unto them but by the means of Paul, and not once intimate anything about his condition. The exceptions of some, as that Paul used to call Timothy his son, whereas the writer of this Epistle calls him brother (when indeed he never terms him son, when he speaks of him, but only when he wrote unto him), or that there might be another Timothy (when he speaks expressly of him, who was so generally known to the Churches of God, as one of the chiefest Evangelists), deserve not to be insisted on. And surely, it is altogether incredible that this Timothy, the son of Paul, as to his begetting of him in the faith, and continued paternal affection, his known constant associate in doing and suffering for the Gospel, his minister in attending of him, and constantly employed by him in the service of Christ and the Churches, known unto them by his means, honored by him with two Epistles written unto him, and the association of his name with his own in the inscription of sundry others, should now be so absent from him as to be adjoined unto another in his travail and ministry.
3. The constant sign and token of Paul’s Epistles which himself had publicly signified to be so (2 Thes. 3:13), is subjoined unto this, “Grace be with you all.” That originally this was written with Paul’s own hand, there is no ground to question, and it appears to be so, because it was written; and he affirms that it was his custom to subjoin that salutation with his own hand. Now this writing of it with his own hand, was an evidence unto them, unto whom the original of the Epistle first came; unto those who had only transcribed copies of it, it could not be so; the salutation itself was their token, being peculiar to Paul, and among the rest annexed to this Epistle. And all these circumstances will yet receive some further enforcement from the consideration of the time wherein this Epistle was written, whereof in the next place we shall treat.
The Gospel “was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Hebrews 2:3).
Sundry holy and learned men from this expression, “Confirmed unto us,” — wherein they say the writer of this epistle placeth himself among the number of those who heard not the word from the Lord himself, but only from the apostles, — conclude that Paul cannot be the penman thereof, who in sundry places denieth that he received the gospel by instruction from men, but by immediate revelation from God. Now, because this is the only pretense which hath any appearance of reason for the adjudging the writing of this epistle from him, I shall briefly show the invalidity of it. And
(1.) It is certain that this term, “us,” comprises and casts the whole under the condition of the generality or major part, and cannot receive a particular distribution unto all individuals; for this epistle being written before the destruction of the temple, as we have demonstrated, it is impossible to apprehend but that some were then living at Jerusalem who attended unto the ministry of the Lord himself in the days of his flesh, and among them was James himself, one of the apostles, as before we have made it probable: so that nothing can hence be concluded to every individual, as though none of them might have heard the Lord himself.
(2.) The apostle hath evidently a respect unto the foundation of the church of the Hebrews at Jerusalem by the preaching of the apostles, immediately after the pouring out of the Holy Ghost upon them, Acts 2:1-5; which, as he was not himself concerned in, so he was to mind it unto them as the beginning of their faith and profession.
(3.) Paul himself did not hear the Lord Christ teaching personally on the earth when he began to reveal the great salvation.
(4.) Nor doth he say that those of whom he speaks were originally instructed by the hearers of Christ, but only that by them the word was confirmed unto them; and so it was unto Paul himself, Galatians 2:1-2. But,
(5.) Yet it is apparent that the apostle useth an ἀνακοίνωσιν, placing himself among those unto whom he wrote, though not personally concerned in every particular spoken, — a thing so usual with him that there is scarce any of his epistles wherein sundry instances of it are not to be found. See 1 Corinthians 10:8-9; 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The like is done by Peter, 1 Peter 4:3. Having therefore, in this place, to take off all suspicion of jealousy in his exhortation to the Hebrews unto integrity and constancy in their profession, entered on his discourse in this chapter in the same way of expression, “Therefore ought we,” as there was no need, so there was no place for the change of the persons, so as to say “you” instead of “us.” So that on many accounts there is no ground for this objection.