The purpose of David L. Allen’s Lukan Authorship of Hebrews is self-explanatory. While the book includes a “paradigm composed of several hypotheses,” the crux of the argument is that Luke, the physician and companion of the apostle Paul, wrote both Luke-Acts and the epistle to the Hebrews (p. 8).
In chapter one, Allen discusses how the church viewed the authorship of Hebrews from the early fathers to the present. He begins by surveying the many options for Hebrews’ author (pp. 10–21), and then details the history of the Lukan proposal (pp. 22–39). Chapter two discusses the three most common choices for the author of Hebrews: Barnabas, Apollos, and Paul. Due to Allen’s insistence that we choose from authors for whom we have other literature, Barnabas (pp. 40–42) and Apollos (pp. 43–45) receive only brief treatment, while the bulk of the chapter is devoted to Paul (pp. 45–77).
Chapters three through five, by Allen’s own admission, are the “load-bearing walls” of his argument (p. 4). Chapter three presents the linguistic argument for Lukan authorship, discussing vocabulary, syntax, literary devices, prologues, and OT citation formulae (pp. 78–174). Chapter four compares the purposes of Luke-Acts and Hebrews (pp. 175–95), and chapter five compares their respective theologies, particularly in the areas of Christology, eschatology, prophecy and fulfillment, priesthood, the cross, covenant, and material possessions (pp. 196–260).
Chapter six moves from textual to historical analysis and posits, contra what Allen considers the most common argument against Lukan authorship of Hebrews, that Luke was most likely Jewish (pp. 261–323). Chapter seven combines several threads related to Lukan authorship, including the identity of Theophilus as a deposed Jewish high priest, Luke as the amanuensis for the pastorals, Hebrews as written from Rome, and a group of converted former priests as the recipients of Hebrews (pp. 324–75).
Allen’s argument is strong in several areas. First, the introductory chapter on the history of the issue is likely the best available resource on the topic, particularly the section on the history of the Lukan hypothesis. Second, the semantic parallels between Luke-Acts and Hebrews detailed in the “linguistic argument” are hard to overlook and should set the stage for future conversations about the authorship of Hebrews. Third, while one may not be inclined to accept Allen’s entire reconstruction regarding Luke’s life and work, he makes a strong case for Luke’s Jewishness.
My criticisms focus on the two main pillars upon which Allen’s arguments are built: elements that are unique to Luke-Acts and Hebrews, and elements that are common to Luke-Acts and Hebrews. Allen’s claims regarding elements unique to Luke-Acts and Hebrews, while initially strong, have three particular weaknesses.
First, Allen frequently argues for Lukan authorship specifically because Luke is a better candidate than Paul (e.g., pp. 96, 133, 171, 236). In these cases, “unique” means “not in Paul.” While his insistence on limiting the candidates to those for whom we have comparative literature does simplify the conversation (pp. 3, 41–45), Allen offers no compelling reason why the author of Hebrews must have authored other canonical works. Second, at no point does Allen discuss vocabulary and syntax as it was used outside of the NT; much of the vocabulary “unique” to Luke-Acts and Hebrews is found in either the LXX or in non-canonical literature. This does not necessarily weaken Allen’s case, but discussing vocabulary usage outside the NT would have been helpful.
Third, to put it simply, Allen’s lists of features supposedly unique to Luke-Acts and Hebrews contain far too many errors. To name a few: Allen suggests that “Peipastheis, ‘suffering,’” is found only in Heb 2:18 and Luke 22:28; in fact, Heb 2:18 uses πειρασθείς and Luke 22:28 has πειρασμοῖς; the former is a participial form of πειράζω and the latter a dative noun from πειρασμός (p. 99). Allen states that the exact phrase “our Lord Jesus” is found only in Acts 20:21 and Heb 13:20 (p. 100), when Eph 6:24 also uses the phrase. Allen states that the infinitive περίκειται occurs only in Heb 5:2 and Acts 28:20, but Acts 28:20 has an indicative form while Luke 17:2 and Mark 9:42 have the infinitive (p. 117). Allen claims that “the preposition dia with pneumatos occurs only in Heb 9:14; Acts 1:2; 11:28; 21:4” (p. 118), but it also occurs in Rom 5:5, 2 Thess 2:2, and 2 Tim 1:14.
Allen’s presentation of common elements also reveals numerous weaknesses. First, Allen argues that both Luke-Acts and Hebrews rely heavily on chiastic structures (pp. 151–71), but his discussion of Hebrews is out of date. One is particularly surprised to find no reference to George Guthrie’s work, considered by most today to be the standard work on the topic. Second, Allen suggests, “Luke wrote to motivate his readers to follow Jesus with unwavering loyalty. Is this not the tenor of Hebrews as well?” (180). Certainly, he is correct on this point, but could not this description be applied to every book in the NT? Third, Allen argues that Heb 1:1–2 makes Jesus’ role as prophet a key point in Hebrews (thus paralleling Luke), but one does not find at any other point in Hebrews a reference to Jesus having a prophetic ministry (p. 250). The quest for the author of Hebrews is unlikely to end here. But while David Allen has not given us the final word on the issue, he has certainly laid the groundwork for a new phase of the discussion. Any attempt to move forward on the question of authorship will need to deal with Allen’s argument on Luke’s behalf.