Page images



§1. Knowledge of the penman not absolutely necessary, yet of some use. §2-4. That St. Paul was the author of this epistle appears, (I.) from the uncertainty of other suppositions. $5. (II.) From the insufficiency of the argument insisted on to the contrary, (I.) Dissimilitude of style. §6, 7. (II.) Its being unsubscribed. §8, 9. (III.) From the testimony given it in other scriptures. $10. (IV.) From considerations taken from the writing itself, compared with St. Paul's writings. §11. (V.) From the testimony of the first churches. $12. (VI.) From reasons and circumstances relating to the epistle itself.

§1. THE Divine authority of the epistle having been 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. Had any prejudice to their authority ensued, this had not been. Nor were any esteemed to be given by prophecy, because their authors were prophets; but they were known to be prophets by the word which they delivered. If not, they were some other way known to be divinely inspired, as by the working of miracles; or that they were in their days received 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 most of them were rejected and condemned by the church in their days. The only

way, therefore, whereby they were proved to be prophels, was by the word itself which they delivered and wrought; and thereon depended the evidence and certainty of their being divinely inspired. See Amos vii, 14, 16; Jer. xxiii, 25–31.

But whereas there are not wanting evidences sufficient to discover who was the writer of this epistle, whereby also the remaining exceptions made to its Divine original may be finally obviated, they also shall be taken into consideration. We affirm, then, that the epistle was written by St. Paul. And what I shall offer in proof of the position may be reduced to these heads: The manifest failure of all of them who have endeavored to assign it to any other penman; the insufficiency of the arguments insisted on to disprove our assertion; the testimony given it in other scriptures; considerations taken from the writing itself, compared with other acknowledged writings of Paul; the general suffrage of antiquity, or ecclesiastical tradition; and, finally, reasons taken from sundry circumstances relating to the epistle itself.

§2. I. The uncertainty of them who question whether Paul was the writer of this epistle, and their want of probable grounds in assigning it to any other, hath some inducement, or presumptive reason, why we should ascribe it to him, whose of old it was esteemed to be.

Origen, in Eusebius,* affirms, that some supposed Luke to have been the author of it. 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 Clemens of Rome. Clemens of Alexandria allows St. Paul to be its author; but supposes it might be translated by Luke, because, as he *Hist. Eccles. lib. vi, cap. xxvi.

saith, the style of it is not unlike his in the Acts of the Apostles. Grotius, of late, contends for Luke to be the author, on the same account;* but the instance he gives rather argues a coincidence of some words and phrases, than a similitude of style, which things are very different. Jerome also tells us, "that it was supposed by "some to be written by Luke;"t which he undoubtedly took from Clemens, Origen, and Eusebius. But none of them acquaint us who were the authors or approvers of this conjecture, nor do they give any credit to it themselves. 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. Grotius alone, in reality, contends for Luke; and with this only argument, that sundry words are used in the same sense, by St. Luke and the writer of this epistle. But I shall add one consideration, that will cast this opinion quite out of the limits of probability, viz.

By the general consent this epistle was written, whilst James was yet alive, and presided in the church of Jerusalem. These were the Hebrews, whose instruction in this epistle is principally intended, and, by their means, that of their brethren in the eastern dispersion. Now is it reasonable to imagine, that any one, who was not an apostle, but only a scholar and follower of them, should be employed to write to that church, wherein so great an apostle, a pillar among them, Gal. ii, 9, had his special residence, and did actually preside; and that in an argument of such importance, which reasons against a practice wherein they were all engaged? Incredible.

*Pref. in Annot. ad Epist. ad Heb.
+Scrip. Eccles. in Paul.

§3. Some have assigned the writing of the epistle to Barnabas. Tertullian was the author of this opinion; and it is reported as his by Jerome.* But Clemens, Origen, and Eusebius, make no mention of him. It is of late defended by Camero, (as the former concering Luke by Grotius,) whose conjectural reasons are confuted by Spanhemius. We add, the reason before mentioned is of the same validity against this opinion as the other concerning Luke; for Barnabas was not an apostle, properly and strictly so called, nor had he an apostolical mission or authority.‡

Many circumstances also concur to the removal of this conjecture. The epistle now written in Italy, chap. xiii, 24, where it doth not appear that Barnabas ever was. Again, Timothy was the companion of the writer of this epistle, chap. xiii, 23, a person, as far as appears, unknown to Barnabas; being taken into St. Paul's company after their difference and separation, Acts xv, 39; xvi, 1. This writer had also been in bonds or imprisonment, Heb. x, 34, whereof we cannot learn any thing concerning Barnabas, at that time; but those of Paul are well known. And lastly, not long before the writing of this epistle, Barnabas was so far from that light into the nature, use, and expiration of Judaical rites, that he was easily misled into a practical miscarriage in the observance of them, Gal. ii, 13, and shall we suppose that he, who but a little before, upon the coming of some few brethren of the church of Jerusalem, from James, durst not avouch and abide by his own personal liberty, without

*Tertull. de Pudicit. chap. xx. Hiron. Cat. Scrip. in Paul et Barnab.

+Camer. Quæs. in Epist. ad Heb. Spanhem. de Auth. Epist. ad Heb.

Vid. Epiphan. Hær. lib. i. cap. x. Euseb. Eccles. Hist. lib. i. cap. xiii.

some blameable dissimulation; Gal. ii, 13; that he, I say, should now with so much authority write an epistle to that church (with St. James at the head of it) and all the Hebrews in the world concurring with them in judgment and practice, about that very thing in which himself, out of respect to them, had particularly miscarried? This, certainly, was rather the office of St. Paul; whose light and constancy in the doctrine delivered in this epistle, with his engagements in the defence of it, above all the rest of the apostles, is well known from the History of the Acts and his other invaluable writings.

§4. Apollos hath been thought by some to be the penman; because it answers the character given of him, 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 xviii, 24, 28; all which things appear throughout this epistle. But this conjecture hath no countenance from antiquity; no mention being made of any epistle written by Apollos, or indeed any other literary production, so that he is not reckoned by Jerome amongst the ecclesiastical writers; nor is he reported by Clemens, Origen, or Eusebius, to have been by any esteemed the author of it. However, were not these qualifications found in St. Paul in a more eminent manner and degree than in the other? And therefore this conjecture is groundless.

Erasmus, after some others, hath taken up a report, concerning some who ascribed it to Clemens Romanus; but he hath not advanced any thing of reason or testimony to confirm it; and no ancient writer of any learning or judgment ever laid any weight on this conjecture. For what had he, who was a convert from among the Gentiles, to do with the churches of



« PreviousContinue »