Wednesday, Aug. 10
The N.T. canon was established over several centuries with some very specific “ground rules.” The church was extremely careful in choosing which writings were to be classified as divinely inspired. The one core standard was common acceptance throughout Christendom. Writings by the Apostles were generally accepted, although some of them were not, and some were accepted only after decades of consideration. A writing also had to have an undisputedly known author. Official church councils made the final official decisions. The first list of canonical N.T. books that includes all 27 “books” of our N.T. was the Athanasius list of 367 A.D. Hebrews is an interesting anomaly. It’s authorship is still in dispute. Much research has been done on this, including a fascinating computer study comparing the style of writing with that of Paul’s writings. There was a significant correlation between Paul’s writings and the book of Hebrews, but evidently not enough to be absolutely certain that Paul wrote it. The authorship of Hebrews is still not settled. All this to introduce my ruminations. If Paul was the author, why is this book so different from his other writings? Paul’s ministry focused on the Gentile world. Churches that came about through his ministry were mixtures of Jewish and Gentile Christians. All his letters reflect that. From the very beginning. Paul’s teaching concerning freedom from the bondage of the Law prompted opposition from the Jews. The Judaizers wanted Christians, even Gentile Christians, to live by the Law, a standard that Paul insisted was impossible. This doctrine nullifies grace. It is critical. Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross would be abrogated by it. The issue was paramount, and came to a crucial decision in the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). So, although Paul dealt with this issue in most of his letters, it could be that he needed to convince all Jewish Christians of how disastrous it was to go back to living under the Law. So maybe he wanted to address the Jewish Christian community directly. The message of the epistle would fit that perfectly. I may be wrong here. Remember that I’m just ruminating.