Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Did Priscilla Write The Epistle to the Hebrews?

Henry Neufeld reviews a book advocating that position:

I’m of the opinion that there is no solution to the authorship of Hebrews. All possible hypotheses have some problems, and none is likely to command the respect of a consensus of Biblical scholars, nor does any deserve to.


It is not that it is a bad book. It’s actually rather good. It’s not that it displays sloppy scholarship. In general, it is well-researched and painstakingly footnoted. The problem is that the author claims: “The scale tells us that the Epistle to the Hebrews should be ascribed to Priscilla.” After reading the same evidence as presented in this book, I would say that what has been demonstrated is simply that Priscilla should not be excluded as a possible author of Hebrews.

There is an interesting rhetorical approach in this book which I find fairly common in books of critical Biblical scholarship. After some substantial speculation, the author will make a very positive statement about what has gone before. Her “charge to the jury” approach provides an interesting framework for this rhetorical certainty, as we are repeatedly reminded of the accumulating evidence in favor of Priscilla. But if we look more carefully, each element of this case is very speculative.

Henry goes on to examine each of the major arguments in the text, and argues that author Ruth Hoppin vastly overstates evidence to support her thesis. In short, we know nothing of Priscilla, and so attaching Hebrews to her is sheer agenda-driven speculation. Hoppin states "Recognition of Priscilla’s claim will advance the social and religious status of all women." Indeed it would. But that does not justify recognizing a groundless claim.

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