First is asked, for what reason after the Gospels, which are a supplement of the Law and in which are collected for us examples and precepts of living abundantly, the Apostle wanted to send these letters to individual churches. And it was seen to have been for this reason, that, as is known, he strengthened the firstborn of the Church from new arising heresies, so that he cut off present and arising errors and also afterward excluded future questions by the example of the Prophets, who after the publishing of the Law of Moses, in which were collected all the commandments of God, nevertheless still by its revived teaching the people always restrained their sins, and because of the example in the books they indeed also left a memorial for us.

Then is asked, for what reason did he not write more than ten letters to churches. For there are ten with that one which is called “To the Hebrews,” for the remaining four are directed particularly to disciples. So that he showed the New not to differ from the Old Testament, and himself not to do anything against the Law of Moses, he arranged his letters according to the number of the first Ten Words1 of the commandments, as many precepts as that one ordered those freed from Pharaoh, the same number this one taught those purchased from servitude of the devil and idolatry. And also the most learned men have handed down the tradition of2 the two stone tablets to have been a figure of the two Testaments.

Truly, some have contended the letter which is written to the Hebrews not to be of Paul because it is not titled with his name, and because of the distance of language and style, but rather either of Barnabas according to Tertullian, or of Luke according to some others, or in fact of Clement the disciple of the Apostles and ordained Bishop of the Roman Church after the apostles. To which one should respond: if, accordingly, it cannot be of Paul because it does not have his name, therefore it cannot be of anyone because it is titled with no name. But if that is absurd, it is better to be believing it of him who shines with such eloquence of his teaching. But because among the churches of the Hebrews he was considered, with a false suspicion, as a destroyer of the Law, he was willing, with name unspoken, to render account of the figures of the Law and the truth of Christ, so hatred of his boldly displayed name would not exclude the usefulness of the reading. It is truly not a wonder, if he is seen more eloquent in his own language, that is in Hebrew, rather than in a foreign one, that is in Greek, in which language the other letters are written.

It certainly disturbs some that for some reason the letter to the Romans is placed first, when reason reveals it not written first. For this is shown by him to have written while travelling to Jerusalem,3 when he was exhorting the Corinthians and others before now by letters, as they collected the ministry which was carried with him.4 For which reason some want all the epistles to be understood arranged thus: that the first is set down which was sent later, and that through each letter by steps he came to the more perfect. For the majority of the Romans were so ignorant, that they did not understand themselves to be saved by the grace of God and not by their merits, and on account of this duo, the people struggled among themselves. Therefore, he asserted them to need to be strengthened,5 recalling the former vices of the gentiles.6 And now he says the gift of knowledge to be granted to the Corinthians,7 for he does not so much rebuke all, as he censures how they did not rebuke the sinners, as he says, “It is heard that there is fornication among you,”8 and again, “You are gathered together with my spirit to deliver such a one to Satan.”9 In the second letter they are truly praised and are admonished to advance more and more. Now the Galatians are accused of no other crimes except they had most fervently believed in false apostles. The Ephesians are truly worthy of no rebuke but much praise, because they kept the Apostolic Faith. And the Philippians are much more greatly praised, who were not willing even to hear false apostles. And the Colossians were of such a kind that, when they had not been bodily seen by the Apostle, they were considered worthy of this praise: “And if in the body I am absent, I am with you in the Spirit, rejoicing and seeing your order.”10 The Thessalonians were yet honored in two letters with all praise, to the extent that not only did they keep the unshaken faith of the Truth, but were indeed found standing together in the persecution of members. Truly something must be said of the Hebrews, of whom the Thessalonians, who are so highly praised, are said to have been imitators, as he says: “And you, brothers, have become imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea, for you have also suffered the same from your own countrymen as they have from the Judeans.”11 Among them he also recalls the same Hebrews, saying, “For you both had compassion for the prisoners and you also received with joy the plundering of your goods, knowing yourselves to have a greater and lasting substance.”12


1 decalogi
2 tradiderit
3 Romans 15.25
4 2 Corinthians 9.1, 12
5 Romans 1.11
6 gentilitatis
7 1 Corinthians 1.5
8 1 Corinthians 5.1
9 see 1 Corinthians 5.4-5
10 Colossians 2.5
11 1 Thessalonians 2.14
12 Hebrews 10.34

We thank Kevin Edgecombe for permission to publish his translation on our page.

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