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CHURCH QUARTERLY REVIEW.
NO LXIII. APRIL 1891.
ART. I.-BISHOP WESTCOTT ON THE HEBREWS.
I The Epistle to the Hebrews: the Greek Text with Notes and Essays. By BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, D.D., D.C.L., Lord Bishop of Durham. (London, 1889.)
2 ПIPOΣ EBРAIOTE. The Epistle to the Hebrews, with Notes. By C. J. VAUGHAN, D.D., Dean of Llandaff. (London, 1890.)
A GREAT interest has recently been awakened in the Epistle to the Hebrews. We have received the finished and elaborate work of one of our greatest scholars, the Bishop of Durham; and along with it the careful performance of the Dean of Llandaff; somewhat later also-too late for detailed notice -the more popular and eminently useful work of Prebendary Sadler. Nor is this awakened interest without good and just ground. Viewed on its human side there is no book in the Canon which is more full of life, personality, and interest; none which is so replete with far-reaching views, as is the Epistle to the Hebrews. There is also none which is of more momentous interest to the theologian. Nor is the Epistle less important to the historian. Here we have a picture of the inner life and deepest thought; of the doubts, difficulties, dangers, and shipwrecks, of a portion of the Church at the close of the first apostolic period. We have the principles laid down and expounded, which shaped the course of the subsequent Church, especially in the matter of worship, and made it to be what it subsequently became. There is also something eminently fascinating in the purely historical problem connected with the authorship. Was there, or was there not, a second intellect, great and commanding as that of St. Paul, all along enriching the development of the apo
1 For a fuller account of Vaughan and Sadler see the 'Short Notices' in the present Number.
VOL. XXXII.-NO. LXIII.
stolic Church, and only here, as if by accident, breaking forth into the light?
Bishop Westcott inclines to the idea of an unknown, or not otherwise known, author, an apostle of the circumcision. For reasons which we shall subsequently give, we are disposed to adhere to the traditional view of the authorship, probably indirect, of St. Paul. We think the difficulties connected with the denial of the Pauline authorship are greater than those that beset its affirmation. Nevertheless it may be admitted that the point cannot be determined with certainty; and there seems a disposition to leave it as it stands, vague and undefined, a kind of fascinating enigma. The Epistle, as Delitzsch elegantly expresses it, ' resembles in these respects the great Melchizedek of sacred story of whom its central portion treats. Like him it marches forth in lonely royal and sacerdotal dignity; and like him it is ȧyeveaλóynTOS.' And we may add, like a Greater than him it abideth for ever. For this is the remarkable thing about it. It has forced its way to an undisputed place in the Canon. Received, at first, undoubtingly in the East, it was disputed in the West; chiefly on the ground of its wanting clear apostolic authority. But the force of its inspiration by degrees overcame all opposition; and it ended by receiving in the West the same undoubting acceptance which it always had in the East.
Bishop Westcott's treatise is, and will doubtless finally take its place as, a classical work. This it deserves, not only from the fulness and completeness of the materials he has assembled, and the refined and scholarly judgment with which they are handled, but from the clear, the just, and the measured views which he takes on all the difficult problems connected with the Epistle. There is a wonderful charm too in his wider views, regarding the deep subjects treated of in the Epistle. Many of his observations are striking and original; many, too, are eminently suggestive, opening up, as they do, fine reaches of thought. And yet, looking at the matter from a dogmatic point of view, there is in this, as in his other writings, as a general result, vagueness. The argumentation and the ideas of the Epistle are singularly cleancut and far-reaching, nor do they altogether escape the observation of such a careful student; and yet somehow as an ultimate result they melt away and disappear. In reading through his work we have again and again had suggested to us the apostolic injunction, μή ποτε παραρυῶμεν. Things of
1 Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, vol. i. p. 4, Clark's translation.
deep moment, which it is of the utmost importance we should grasp and hold fast, glide away, or we glide away from them.
His introduction to the Epistle is especially admirable. In it we have a well-assorted collection of almost everything a student requires. It is in work of this kind that the eminent author is particularly distinguished. We have only to look at the headings of this part to see how thoroughly the work has been done. He deals first of all with the text; and here in brief space we have all the apparatus pointed out. Then follow discussions ont he title, and the position of the Epistle in New Testament collections. Next we come to the consideration of the destination, date, and place of writing; and these points are followed by discussions on the style and language, the plan and characteristics of the Epistle. Very interesting is the part devoted to the question of the original language. The student will remember that St. Clement of Alexandria mentions that the Epistle was written by St. Paul in Hebrew, and that St. Luke translated it and published it to the Greeks. The idea of a Hebrew original has been from time to time maintained, and has been in our day warmly advocated by Biesenthal and others. Bishop Westcott decides against the Hebrew original. On this point we shall have more to say presently. In the meanwhile, to complete the enumeration of the particulars of the introduction, we have the important section on the history and authorship; and a comparison of the Epistle with that of St. Barnabas. No one will deny that the treatment of all these points by the author is a model of elegant and refined scholarship.
By far the most important of these questions is the one regarding the authorship; and on this we should like to make a few observations. It is seen that, as bearing on this point, the questions of the destination of the Epistle and the place from which it was written have importance. And we may first enquire whether anything can certainly be concluded on these two points.
We believe the first of these preliminary points can be determined with tolerable certainty. It is clear from the Epistle that it was written to a localized community, which had been visited by the author and which he hopes to visit again. This at once disposes of the idea that it might be addressed to Hebrews generally; or to Hebrews scattered over a wide extent, as, for instance, the Hebrews resident in Asia Minor. Another thing is clear from the Epistle. It was a community composed exclusively of Hebrews; for there is not the slightest trace of the presence of Gentile
This further narrows the question. In fact there is only one community, the Church of Jerusalem, to which this applies; of which Eusebius says that up to the time of Hadrian it was composed of Hebrews only. Another thing which points to the Church of Jerusalem is, that the Epistle supposes the temple worship going on in the midst of the Church which is addressed. Putting all these things together it is tolerably certain that the Epistle was written to the Church of Jerusalem.
More doubts have been raised in regard to the place whence the Epistle was written. It is true that it lies on the surface to conclude that it was written from Italy, and probably from Rome. This we gather from the expression 'They of Italy salute you.' But it has been pointed out that the words οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς Ἰταλίας might also mean the Italian brethren (who are here), that is, in the place where the author was. writing; so that it is left in doubt whether it was really written from Italy or from some other place. Nevertheless, we are quite certain that the meaning which lies on the surface is the true one. It is the natural inference from the words as they stand, and as such, is to be preferred. Critics too often forget that the documents they are criticizing are not legal instruments; or documents written with a view to the ingenuity of critics of a far distant age. They are popular documents; and, being so, their surface meaning is always to be taken, unless some strong reason can be alleged against it. How easily we might discredit the best ascertained statements of modern documents, if we were to subject the language to minute philological analysis, and raise to the status of a positive doubt every defect of statement, every gap in the information, or every logical flaw. In the present case, if the writer was at some other place, we might naturally expect that the presence of the Italian brethren at that place would have been mentioned. The sentence would probably have run, 'There are brethren here from Italy who salute you.' The only circumstance in which the presence of Italian brethren could have been taken for granted would be that he was writing in their midst. We therefore conclude that the Epistle was written from Italy, and probably from Rome.
The place of writing is not without its importance, because it is one in a chain of circumstances which all point to the circle of St. Paul as that from which the Epistle emanated. If it were written from Rome it was probably written by St. Paul, because it is difficult to suppose that any other apostle, qualified to write it, was then in Rome. But before going on