Review: Lukan Authorship of HebrewsPosted: July 5, 2010
Introduction: Lukan Authorship of Hebrews is the newest addition (volume eight) in the New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology published by B&H Publishing, bringing much discussion to whom the authorship of the book of Hebrews should be given. Who wrote The Letter to the Hebrews is a question that will most certainly go unanswered and will continue to cause much debate until the second coming of Jesus Christ. A number of respected theologians have differed in opinion on the authorship of Hebrews since the letter was written. Some have argued for the authorship of Paul—including Pantaenus, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, and Jerome. While others in the early church—such as Terullian—disagreed and fought for the authorship of Barnabus. Other theologians, like the German Reformer Martin Luther, brought a new idea of authorship penned by Apollos; then some years later in the Reformation the great biblical exegete John Calvin would note the stylistic similarities between Luke’s writings and Hebrews. Calvin was persuaded that Luke note only wrote the letter to the Hebrews, but did it with no Pauline influence. Over the past 500-years, more articles and essays have been written on the topic of Hebrews authorship than the previous 1,500 years before the Reformation of the protestant church. Yet still it seems that scholars continue to add something new to the debate of who is was that wrote one of the greatest sermons of all time, The Letter to the Hebrews.
Summary: Although newly published this year, Dr. Allen’s book was started over 25-years ago when he was just a sophomore student. When asked to write a 10-page paper, which was supposedly to show his writing creativity, Dr. Allen chose to write on the authorship of Hebrews. Little did his English professor know that such a paper would intrigue his thought for the rest of his life and his future studies. In 1983 Dr. Allen entered The University of Texas to study under linguist Dr. Robert Longacre to write on “The Authorship of Hebrews.” Although Dr. Allen would graduate just years later, it would take him another 20-years to continue his study on the authorship of Hebrews which finally morphed into this book, Lukan Authorship of Hebrews and the forthcoming title (to be released later this year) Hebrews: The New American Commentary.
The book is broken down into seven chapters. It begins by giving the historical survey of the authorship of Hebrews, as Dr. Allen starts his development of the Lukan theory. In chapter two, Dr. Allen reviews the arguments for Barnabus, Apollos and Paul, as he examines the vocabulary used within the letter to the Hebrews and notes its differences from Pauline writing. Following this, chapter three deals with the linguistic argument. It is here that Dr. Allen moves from arguing against Pauline authorship to making his argument for Lukan authorship. He does this in three ways—that is, by showing the lexical, stylistic and text linguistic evidence that Luke was the author of Hebrews. Moving on into chapters four and five is the heart of the book, as Dr. Allen compares the books of Luke and Acts to Hebrews. Chapter six deals with the identity of Luke, which I found most intriguing, as Dr. Allen argues that Luke has a Jewish—not a Gentile—background. He does so using Luke’s previous writings of his gospel account in the book of Acts. From there, Dr. Allen ends with giving a historical reconstruction of Lukan authorship for the book of Hebrews.
The ramifications of this possibility (Lukan authorship) are done in depth, to the point that Dr. Allen’s theory gives a totally new lens to how Hebrews informs the interpretation of the books of Luke and Acts.
Analysis: In my opinion, the best part of David Allen’s book is his treatment on the writing style similarities between Hebrews, Luke, and Acts. This is best seen in the middle section of Dr. Allen’s book—namely chapters 4-6. Here Dr. Allen deals with what he sees to be the three main comparisons within Luke’s writings—which are, the purpose of Luke’s writings, the theology within Luke’s writings, and the identity in Luke’s writings. It is within these three chapter that Dr. Allen compares Hebrews with what we already know are Luke’s other New Testament writings—his Gospel and the book of Acts.
Conclusion: If you are at all interested in sitting down and reading a book that will take your time and a whole lot of your mind, this is it. I could not see myself wanting to read material like this all the time, however my favorite book of the Bible is Hebrews, so I had a particular interest in this title. After reading Dr. Allen’s Lukan Authorship of Hebrews, I have truly second-guessed my views on who really wrote Hebrews. Since 1976 there has not been one—not one single new theory concerning the provenance of Hebrews combining authorship, recipients, and date. But here Dr. Allen has written an incredibly intriguing book, adding to the theories of authorship to the Letter to the Hebrews.