Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lukan Authorship of Hebrews - First Impressions

Over the weekend I spent some time in David Allen's new book Lukan Authorship of Hebrews.  Early on he writes "[i]t has been fashionable for some time now to dismiss the possibility of the Lukan authorship of Hebrews by parroting previous commentators without so much as a second look at the historical or linguistic evidence.  This is true for both German and English commentators with rare exception."  (22)  I wasn't surprised by this because I recall when Peter O'Brien's commentary in the Pillar series came out I specifically looked at his discussion of authorship and found this statement: "Luke has been proposed as a candidate, but the points of connection between him and Hebrews are too slight to support a theory that he wrote the latter."  (6)  Mmm, sounds familiar.  Here's what D. A. Carson and Douglas Moo say in An Introduction to the New Testament: "Neither Luke nor Clement of Rome draws many votes today.  The points of connection between Luke and Hebrews are too slight to support a theory of common authorship."  (602)  In spite of the fact that Allen's book is a publication of his doctoral thesis (completed in 1987) on the topic and he has published a couple of journal articles on the subject neither O'Brien or Carson and Moo cite any of his works in their bibliographies. 

But let's put Allen aside for a moment.  Are the "points of connection" really "too slight"?  If it is really so small and seemingly hardly worth any consideration then why would such writers as Calvin, Aquinas, B. F. Westcott, Franz Delitzsch, Godet, and G. Campbell Morgan all see some kind of relationship to Luke even if not independent authorship? (Some thought Hebrews was originally written in Hebrew and Luke translated it into Greek.)  F. F. Bruce, who did not hold to Lukan authorship, wrote "Stylistically Hebrews is closer to the writings of Luke than to anything else in the New Testament; but this may be because our author and Luke approximate more closely than other New Testament writers to the models of literary Hellenistic--our author even more so than Luke." (The Epistle to the Hebrews in NICOT, p. xli n. 84).  Henry Alford wrote "The students of the following commentary will very frequently be struck by the verbal and idiomatic coincidences with the style of St. Luke."  (Hebrews, p. 53) 

Now Bruce, Alford and others who did not espouse Lukan authorship had various reasons for denying it but they did see some significant similarities between the two works enough to comment on it and felt a need to offer some sort of explanation.  It would seem that the scholarly world has settled on either agnosticism (understandable as that is) or Apollos.  But Luke is not even worth considering.  So either Allen has just treated us to 379 pages of complete fantasy or there is more to this than meets the eye.  Allen mentions a number of other commentaries (mostly from the 19th century) that support Lukan authorship or influence which makes me wonder if the dismissal of Luke has been rather too casual by some today.  I continue to read Allen's book with great interest.  I'll keep you updated on my progress.


Charles said...

I agree with you that regardless of what one decides, this view deserves to be heard out. I have read a rough draft of this book and Dr. Allen has accumulated significant linguistic and theological evidence for Lukan authorship.

Louis said...


I couldn't agree more. From what I've read already the dismissal of Luke as an author has been too quick.