It’s time to return to my series on the Bible Dictionary. The Book of Hebrews has generally been attributed as written by Paul. I was surprised to read that the Bible Dictionary is ambivalent on this point.
There was at least 10 years after the conference at Jerusalem had determined that certain ordinances of the law of Moses were not necessary for salvation of gentile Christians but had not settled the matter for Jewish Christians. It appears that soon thereafter, Paul wrote the epistle to the Hebrews to show them by their scripture and by sound reason why they should no longer practice the law of Moses. The epistle is built on a carefully worked-out plan. Some have felt that the literary style is different from that of Paul’s other letters. However, the ideas are certainly Paul’s.
Do you believe this letter was written by Paul? What are the implications if it wasn’t?
I’m not an expert on the subject, so I would defer to the consensus of the experts, which is that Paul didn’t write Hebrews. It is not worth rejecting worldly wisdom for “God’s foolishness,” like Golden Plates, because it really doesn’t seem to be something we are challenged to believe as an act of faith.
The LDS church has a tradition of Pauline attribution, starting from Joseph Smith, and if the church were to admit ambivalence, it might be seen as casting doubt upon the expertise of Joseph Smith, Bruce R. McKonkie and others. However, this little issue provides the perfect opportunity for the church to concede a bit of minor fallibility of their prophets, without risking faith. I think they should update the Bible Dictionary to reflect expert consensus.
I had fun making the argument that the complex midrash that is Hebrews is the only book consistent with Paul’s background.
Much better would be to fix the entry on B’al.
I think it is an interesting question. Is something scripture because of who said it, or because of what it says? Whether one believes Paul wrote it or not, the messages there are worthy to be called scripture. If Hebrews is an ancient forgery of Paul’s writings, is the message still good enough to be counted as scripture? It’s in the Christian canon, so many would say yes. The fact is that we don’t know who many of the scriptures were written by, but we still consider them scripture.
For those who are critics of the BoM and are Christian, I think there is a double standard being applied. We really don’t know who any of the ancient scribes were, or if books like Hebrews are actually forged in Paul’s name (or Moses, or James, or anybody else.)
Hebrews wasn’t forged in Paul’s name, it doesn’t claim anywhere in the text to have been written by Paul. Which is one of the many reasons why even Conservative Christians don’t claim Pauline authorship. If it wasn’t for a reference from Joseph Smith and some dogmatic words from Bruce R. McConkie we Mormons could let got of things that aren’t true too.