Saturday, March 12, 2011

Henry Louis Laharpe on the Authenticity of Hebrews

Laharpe, Henry Louis. Essai critique sur l’authenticité de l’épitre aux Hébreux. 1832.

Laharpe sets out to demonstrate the authenticity of the epistle to the Hebrews by arguing for the probability of Pauline authorship.  Part 1 examines the internal evidence. 

First, he examines the doctrine which Hebrews and Paul contain: 1) Christianity possesses a superiority over Judaism: a) The Gospel gives to humanity more light and religious knowledge than the Law; b) The Gospel is superior to the Law in that it offers more powerful motives and greater encouragement for the practice of piety and virtue; c) The Gospel has a superior efficacy to advance and assure the real and constant happiness of the human race; d) The Jewish dispensation is only a type or shadow of the Christian dispensation; e) The Mosaic dispensation is abolished because of its imperfection, but the Christian dispensation exists perpetually.  2) The doctrine of the person and expiatory mediation of Jesus: a) The doctrine of the mediator is presented in the same manner by Paul and Hebrews; b) the death of Christ is an expiatory sacrifice for sins by which sinners are reconciled to God.

Second, he argues that the didactic and hortatory method Hebrews uses is analogous to that of Paul’s: 1) The general disposition of Hebrews is similar to that ordinarily employed by Paul; 2) There is a similarity in the citation and application of the OT; 3) There is an analogy between Hebrews and Paul with respect to the manner in which certain reasons are in turn suspended and reprised.

Third, he compares the style and diction of Hebrews and Paul under the following headings: 1) Concordance of style and ideas: a) Concordance of ideas presented in the same manner, although with a slightly different style; b) Concordance of ideas with a more striking relation in diction; c) Concordance of passages in which there is only a slight difference in expression; d) Concordance of passages which present the same expressions; 2) Words which are found only in Paul and Hebrews, or which are employed by other authors of the NT in an entirely different sense; 3) Remarkable particularities in grammatical construction.

Fourth, he examines several statements in Hebrews which seems to throw proper light on the question of authorship: 1) The particular way Timothy is mentioned in 13:23; 2) The author was a prisoner for a short time (13:18-19); 3) The statement regarding bonds in 10:34 is naturally applied to Paul; 4) The salutation in 13:24 forms another probability in favor of Pauline authorship; 5) There is no reason to doubt that Paul could have written the statements in 2:3.

In part 2 Laharpe examines the external evidence on the question of authorship.  In section 1 he examines the Alexandrian evidence of Pantaenus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and others.  Section two examines the witnesses of the Eastern Church, such as Justin Martyr, Eusebius of Caesarea, and others.  Section three looks at witnesses of the Western Church: Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Caius, Tertullian, Cyprian, Novatian, Lactantius, Jerome, Augustine, and the Council of Carthage.  Pauline authorship found opposition only in the Western Church, but eventually the tide of opinion turned in favor of Pauline authorship.

In part 3 Laharpe examines two particular questions regarding Hebrews: 1) What was the original language of the epistle?  2) Who were the addressees?  He concludes that Hebrews was originally written in Greek (not Hebrew).  It is likely that Paul would have used Greek even when writing to Hebrew Christians in Palestine, the OT quotations appear to have been drawn primarily from the LXX, and the Greek style all point to this conclusion.  Laharpe then argues that Hebrews was written to the Church in Caesarea.

In part 4 the author draws together his conclusions.  Hebrews’ doctrine is apostolic and shows remarkable similarities to the writings of Paul.  The internal and external evidence points favorably towards Pauline authorship. The authenticity of Hebrews leads to the conclusion that this epistle possesses a full and complete canonical authority and that it is decisive in all matters that it treats: the divinity of Christ, the superiority of Christianity over Judaism, the necessity of expiation for sins by the blood of Christ, and the necessity of a more perfect sacrifice than that offered in the Law.

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