Book Review: Priscilla's Letter | CBE International

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Book Review: Priscilla's Letter

Priscilla's Letter

Ruth Hoppin has spent decades researching Adolf Harnack's hypothesis that Priscilla wrote the biblical Epistle to the Hebrews. A first book, Priscilla, Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, was published in the late 1960s. Since that time additional relevant material has been published, some of it related to the Dead Sea Scrolls. This book is an update which takes such material into account.

Hoppin begins by calling attention to the mysterious anonymity of the author of Hebrews, who is obviously a highly competent biblical scholar, a widely respected leader of the early church, colleague of Timothy and probably of Paul. How could such a person be unknown and unnamed, yet have written a work so widely known and revered?

Hoppin then examines clues in the text of Hebrews itself: in the title, the use of pronouns, and in the postscript (Heb 13:22-25) with its references to Timothy and other leaders, mention of "they of Italy," and the strange apology of 13:22. Next, Hoppin constructs a psychological profile of the author and explores the questions: Is the author feminine? Does the author identify with women? Hoppin reviews the centuries-old speculation regarding authorship of Hebrews, concluding that of the available candidates, only Priscilla meets all the qualifications. Acknowledging the historical ties of this Epistle to Rome and noting its textual connections with Timothy, Hoppin concludes that Priscilla wrote from Rome to the church in Ephesus where she was an acknowledged and respected pastoral leader.

This book indicates extensive and up-to-date acquaintance with the literature and commentaries, and presents a convincing argument for Priscilla's authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Hoppin's thesis is based on the hypothesis of Harnack, which was further elaborated by other scholars. She has also tied together information from the narratives of Acts, archaeological discoveries, inscriptions in the catacombs of Rome, historical mention of probable contacts with Peter and Philo, and Priscilla's relationship to Paul as identified in the New Testament.

I recommend this book to any scholar who is concerned with the message, author and setting of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Hoppin's work might also be of interest to feminist biblical scholars who try to analyze, identify, and understand the role of women in leadership of the early church.

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