Ruth Hoppin provides a compelling and convincing case that Priscilla is the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is an engaging read. She presents the evidence as an attorney would in front of a jury, the readers functioning as the jury.
Ruth brings in evidence from within the letter, from related writings in the Bible, from other literature of the time, archaeology (in particular the Dead Sea Scrolls, Qumran, and the Essene sect), politics, sociology, history, anthropology, psychology, religious practices, literary analysis, and early church traditions. She argues persuasively, discussing and then countering arguments that might be made against Priscilla as the author.
When all the evidence is laid out, the only author that fits the profile is Priscilla.
Why was the identity of the author "lost"? The author was "lost accidentally on purpose."
We don't have to go far in Christian history to understand why it was better, for the sake of broad acceptance of the letter, to hide the identity of the author.
I truly enjoyed reading this book. I happen to accept Ms. Hoppin's arguments, but even if you ultimately do not, there is much in here in regards to the society and history around the latter half of the first century AD that I did not know before and should prove useful in reading and interpreting other New Testament texts. --Rev. Mark Kubo, Petersburg, Alaska
A welcome challenge to accepted thought regarding the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Hoppin proposes that Priscilla wrote Hebrews. She supports her thesis with literary criticism, circumstantial evidence, and archeological finds. Her argument is both scholarly and persuasive. The book would appeal to feminists and to anyone researching the early church. I loved it! --Christine Winter, reviewer, amazon.co.uk
Is it possible that a particular identifiable woman wrote one of the epistles of the Christian scriptures? Ruth Hoppin demonstrates that it is not only possible but entirely probable that Priscilla, a prominent leader and teacher in the Pauline communities, wrote the letter to the Hebrews. With painstaking care Hoppin sifts through the details of the case, working through early Christian history and literature, linguistic puzzles, biblical scholarship, and psychological profile to unwind the mystery behind the authorship of Hebrews. One is drawn through the layers of her thought in a well-constructed discussion of the evidence that supports her hypothesis that Priscilla authored Hebrews.
Hoppin lays the groundwork by establishing the slate of possible authors, the psychology and gender identity of the author, details of the language disputed over the course of centuries, details about the community and times for which the letter was written, evidence of the author's relationship to Paul and other New Testament figures, and a detailed life history of her proposed author, Priscilla. Hoppin weaves the theology and literary sophistication of the letter throughout her analysis, and masterfully demonstrates how these aspects of the letter match well to Priscilla.
Hoppin's sleuthing begins with an analysis of the author's femininity and identification with women. The author's writing demonstrates aspects of traditional feminine expectations emblematic of the times. Hoppin finds that diplomacy is a hallmark of the epistle. The author remains deferent to the particularities of the community throughout. She or he manages smooth transitions between theological discourse and the personal expression of nurturing and concern for the community. It is also clear that the author identifies with women in a way that a male author would not. Hoppin notes the list of Israelite heroes, naming two women and implying several others who, she hypothesizes, would be invisible to a male writer.
Thus establishing the high possibility that the author was feminine, Hoppin goes on to eliminate the other candidates that have accumulated over centuries of scholarship. None, according to Hoppin's detailed and well-documented analysis is revealed to be as qualified as Priscilla. Finally Hoppin introduces us to Priscilla herself, a woman related to a noble family and highly educated as would befit her standing; a woman who was clearly a friend to Paul and possessed a deep understanding of his theology. Hoppin demonstrates Priscilla's proximity historically and geographically to the time and place where Hebrews, per the scholarship of many others, was written.
If Priscilla indeed did write Hebrews, this opens a window into the high level of women's involvement in the early church and strengthens the position of many that women were equitably involved on all levels of leadership and development. As the church struggles for its identity in modern times, scholars reach back to its origins seeking the authentic tradition to which the church seeks to trace its roots. Priscilla s authorship of Hebrews, clearly validated by Hoppin's exquisite scholarship, and made accessible as a result of her cogent writing, provides a clear rebuttal to those traditionalists who assert that women were, from the Church's inception, relegated to subordinate positions.
An accessible and engaging read, Pricilla s Letter
is the book to purchase if one wants to round out his/her library of Christian scripture scholarship. It is available in Spanish under the title La carta de Priscilla: encontrando el autor de la epístola a los hebreos
. Anyone seeking truth about women's original role in the Church, academic and lay leader alike, should read this book. --Christine Fahrenbach, Deacon, Roman Catholic Womenpriests for Feminstas Unidas
newsletter, spring 2014