Reflection on Hypotheses

9:16 AM Say, got a minute for some reflection? Today I want to think out loud with you about “hypotheses.” As a proponent of the Pauline authorship of Hebrews, all I can do is offer a hypothesis that I believe is consistent with the facts. This does not, of course, prove my hypothesis. That is a different matter altogether. Just because something is possible or even plausible does not make it probable. How, then, do I deal with this issue? You’ll have to wait for the published book to see. All I can say here is that an author who defends a hypothesis must be prepared to be judged by the evidence. The estimation of probability is left completely to the reader. The one thing readers must not do, however, is prejudge the matter. Snap judgments are never acceptable. It is a correct critical judgment we are after.

This is true even when a scientific test is applied, say, to the Synoptic Problem. In this case, we know two things: 1) There is abundant documentary evidence from the earliest centuries that Matthew is our first canonical Gospel; and 2) a critical examination of it discloses a high probability of truth. It is therefore not sufficient merely to dismiss this evidence as naive. To put it differently, in trying to discredit this “second-hand” knowledge, the skeptic assumes that he or she knows better than, say, an Origen or a Eusebius. Such a conclusion causes the devil’s advocate to point out the utter subjectivity of that position. (See the discussion in my Why Four Gospels? The Historical Origins of the Gospels.) The trouble here is an unexpressed antihistorical bias that vitiates an objective consideration of the data. Who among us has never violated the elementary canon of historiography by neglecting contrary evidence?

In short, I submit that my work on Hebrews is a closely-argued hypothesis. But it remains a hypothesis. At no time should the reader take a vacation from healthy skepticism. The one thing I hope you will not do is prejudge the matter.

(From Dave Black Online, August 17, 2013. Used by permission.)

Misreading the Evidence

10:28 AM And now a word to my students. Hope you all have been enjoying your semester. I’ve been perusing the discussion of Hebrews in several standard introductions to the New Testament. They almost all say the same thing.

1) Paul could not be the author because the language of the book is different from Paul’s in his letters. Question: Did you actually compare the language yourself? I did, and I came away with a completely different conclusion.

2) The author of Hebrews says that he only heard the gospel from those who received it from Christ. Ergo, Paul could not have the author. This objection, of course, is based on 2:3, a verse that is capable other explanations favoring Pauline authorship (explanations that are hardly ever mentioned).

3) In these textbooks Origen is usually misquoted. His words “… who wrote the epistle, in truth God knows” are assumed to mean that he took an agnostic position relative to the question of authorship. This is, of course, the selfsame Origen who consistently cites the letter as Paul’s.

4) Finally, some textbooks argue that the Western church rejected Pauline authorship. Clearly this is a misreading of the external evidence. The epistle was admitted to be Paul’s by the Councils of Hippo (AD 393) and Carthage (AD 397), as well as in the lists of canonical books set forth in their canons. These canons speak of thirteen epistles of Paul, and then add, “[he wrote] another one to the Hebrews.” In addition, Hebrews was received as Paul’s by Hilary (AD 354), Lucifer (AD 354), Victorinus (AD 360), Ambrose (AD 374), Philaster (AD 380), Gaudentius (AD 387), and Rufinus (AD 397). The tradition in the West that there were thirteen epistles of Paul clearly meant thirteen that bear the apostle’s name. In fact the fifth Council of Carthage in AD 419, at which Augustine was present, reckoned fourteen epistles as Paul’s, without any further qualification.

Students, I have no problem with rejecting Pauline authorship, if your conclusions are based on all the evidence as well as on a personal examination of the data. If this is a topic that interests you, I encourage you to read my book The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul when it is released next month.

(From Dave Black Online, September 5, 2013. Used by permission.)

Welcome!

9781938434730mWelcome to The Authorship of Hebrews. This site is provided to support David Alan Black’s new book The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul. But it can do much more than that. We hope it will generate discussion about the authorship of Hebrews, and on various related critical issues. All are welcome to comment and discuss. We only ask that you keep things civil. Vigorous is fine!

Over the next couple of days, expect to see some of Dave’s comments as he was writing the book, crossposted from DaveBlackOnline. We will also provide information on book availability and to other discussion.

Have fun!

Coming Soon in Topical Line Drives

Topical Line Drives
Topical Line Drives

We’re in the middle of a move, both physically (though only about 100 feet on the same property), and to a new catalog web site, so it may be a few days before I can get forthcoming books into the catalog. Nonetheless, there are forthcoming books to talk about in the Topical Line Drives series.

Our current authors have been stepping up to the plate (couldn’t resist yet another baseball metaphor) and submitting ideas and even manuscripts. I’d certainly hoped for a few, but I got more than I expected.

Remember that there are two broad categories of books in this series, related by being short (<44 pages) and making scholarship accessible. The first broad category presents ideas from the scholarly world to a popular audience (The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul). The second presents surveys of a topic for Christians from experts in the field (God the Creator: The Variety of Christian Views on Origins). Many books will not fit neatly into either category, but will fall somewhere between.

Here are some of the books that are far enough along in the process that I can announce them. I hope to get catalog pages up later this week. In all cases, precise titles will be determined later.

I’ll leave you to judge which category each of these leans toward, but we’re getting examples in each, and from some great authors.

Watch this space for more news!

Cross-posted from Energion Publications

New Series: Topical Line Drives

pss_logo_new300x299I’m pleased to announce that Energion Publications will be offering a new series of books called Topical Line Drives. This is a branch of our existing Participatory Study Series, and will continue the mission of inviting all church members to participate in the story of God’s action in the world by becoming better informed and putting their knowledge into action.

What is a Topical Line Drive? When I married my wife Jody, I found that I needed to learn baseball. Our oldest son, John Webb, was an MLB pitcher. Amongst the various things I learned to recognize was a line drive. In a line drive the ball is hit and flies fast and straight to its destination. It’s direct and to the point.

In the Participatory Study Series the Topical Line Drive books are designed to demonstrate a point of scholarship directly, clearly, and quickly. They are theological and biblical line drives. This is the efficient way to learn the basics of a topic and how you can come to understand it.

Each of these books will be short (less than 44 pages, around 12,000 words), and will either cover a single topic that will help demonstrate the nuts and bolts of biblical and theological scholarship, or will survey a topic of interest in the Christian community, providing a summary of views and resources for further study.

While they will be short, they are designed for people who want to dig deeper, but need something to get them started.

9781938434730mTo open this series, we have chosen a manuscript by Dr. David Alan Black on the authorship of Hebrews, titled The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul. As you can tell from the title, Dave defends Pauline authorship of the book, a view which is well out of the mainstream of Hebrews scholarship. “Almost all scholars today agree that Paul was not the author of Hebrews” says the NLT Study Bible (p. 2082), for example. The Oxford Study Bible (REB) is even more dismissive, saying “There have been many attempts to name the person who wrote this tract (some early Christians even assigned it to Paul), but the author remains anonymous” (p. 1521).

Why choose something that is not within the current scholarly consensus for the first volume? We chose this particular manuscript precisely because it is outside the consensus. What Dave does here is demonstrate how one argues against a consensus. In doing so, he also demonstrates the type of data and logic that goes into making a decision about authorship. We are publishing this book in this series for that purpose.

I do not concern myself on a day to day basis with what various people think about who wrote the book of Hebrews. It just isn’t essential. It’s very interesting, and I enjoy reading about it. It’s just not a key topic. But what does concern me is the number of Christians who simply accept what is said about authorship in their study Bibles or Bible handbooks. This is especially true when they don’t compare this information with what can be found in study Bibles or handbooks written from a different perspective. But just working from my own book shelf, I will get different answers with regard to authorship and dating if I read the introductions in my Oxford Study Bible (REB) or my NLT Study Bible, or any one of a number of other Bibles. Which should I believe? The answer for too many Christians will be to believe the one that is closest to their own faith tradition, or the one they are used to, even if there is disagreement within that tradition.

So Dave has adapted a scholarly article to provide readers the opportunity to learn just how this sort of issue is argued amongst scholars. I’m not suggesting that a layperson will overcome the need to consult competent scholarship. What I hope is that more and more laypeople will make the effort to evaluate the scholarship they read, and to compare it to the works of others.

9781938434747mThe second book in the series will be somewhat different, God the Creator: The Variety of Christian Views on Origins. As a joint effort of several contributors, it will survey Christian views of origins. The purpose is not to persuade anyone of any particular view, but rather to show how Christians have responded to Scripture and Science on this important topic. Many Christians are unaware of the differences. I have personally encountered people who were unaware that anyone believed the earth (or universe) is about 6,000 years old, and also those who believe that no Christian could possibly accept the theory of evolution. Some are also not aware that there are a number of mediating views, such as Old Earth creationism, ruin and restoration, and other ideas.

There are substantial numbers of Christians in those different camps. What do they believe? Where can you find more information from advocates of those positions so that you can make an informed decision? Our second volume, God the Creator, will point the way.

We are working on additional volumes on what Protestants need to know about Catholics (and vice-versa), salvation, prayer, and a number of others.

Pricing

All volumes in this series will be priced at $4.99 retail. With our quantity discount schedule, they can be purchased for as little as $3.24 each in quantities of 50 or more. Ebook editions will be just 99¢, and will be available either simultaneously with or just a few days after the print release.

Contributors

If you are interested in contributing a volume to this series, check our submission standards.

There are a couple of additional considerations:

  1. There is no flexibility on the upper limit of the length of manuscript. If you are over 13,000 words, your manuscript is not right for this series.
  2. If you use complex or specialized terminology, it must be explained, and those explanations are part of the 13,000 word limit.
  3. If you want to write a survey of a topic, make sure that you can represent all of the viewpoints involved reasonably and generously.
  4. This is not the place to propose new scholarly ideas. Publish in the peer-reviewed literature first. Adaptations of scholarly articles are good, provided they reach our audience, but for anything outside the mainstream we will be looking for prior scholarly publication. This is not to prevent new ideas from getting a hearing. Rather, it is to make sure that we are demonstrating good scholarship for series readers.
  5. This series is not the place to make money. We are pricing these books for accessibility with limited margins. We will be paying royalties, but they will be a percentage of a very small margin.

— Henry Neufeld

Cross-posted from Energion Publications.