Friday, 22 June 2012

The amazing arrogance of denying St Paul's authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews


It is now apparently routine to regard the 'author' of the Epistle to the Hebrews as unknown. Yet its authorship was known to be St Paul throughout about 3/4 of the duration of Christianity and through the great ages of faith.

So why do people, nowadays, think that the author is unknown?

Not to put too fine a point on it - how do modern people, with their feeble faith - so arrogantly reject the knowledge of generations of better men, including the most elevated of Saints?


The answer is by the application of secular methods of textual analysis - which purport to prove that the author was not Paul, on the basis of stylistic and content differences with other Pauline works where the provenance is more obvious.


But this is utterly irrelevant to the authorship of scripture.

The main thing about scripture is its status as divine revelation - the revelation is given to a person: in this case St Paul.

How that revelation was heard, was (sooner or later) written down, how the first written version was transmitted (by its preservation, by sequences of copyists, etc) is very variable and usually unknowable.

But - for Christians - there is the underpinning belief that whatever the process or sequence, and whatever omissions or elaborations or scribal errors may be present - once scriptural status has emerged and become established, then matters of the kind regarded by secular scholarship are irrelevant.


In choosing to regard the authorship of Hebrews as unknown, moderns may imagine they are displaying humility.

Quite the opposite is the case - moderns are displaying extreme arrogance in imagining that, by their application of techniques of secular scholarship, they have somehow refuted the knowledge of the early church that St Paul was author of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

How could moderns possibly know that the early church was mistaken to regard St Paul as the author of Hebrews? - when the 'author' is properly that person who received the revelations which now we read.


NOTE: I have covered this general topic before, e.g. 

Of course, my point here is that we ought to be shocked at our culture and churches arrogance in rejecting the knowledge of far better people in a far better position than we are to know. Naturally, most most modern Christians simply accept that Biblical criticism is valid, without recognizing the profoundly dangerous implications of this acceptance.

The use of secular techniques of Biblical criticism on sacred scripture in order to reject holy tradition is a major cleavage point in Christian history - comparable to the filioque controversy which was, at root, about whether it was acceptable to change the revealed Christian Creed on the basis of what seemed to be rational-logical considerations.

In both cases, the subordination of tradition to scholarship led to a slippery slope of secularization.