A new episode of Jeopardy! launched a social media debate over the authorship of Hebrews and, apparently, flubbed both the clue and the answer.
The controversy occurred during the Jeopardy “Tournament of Champions” and involved a Bible-centric clue for participants Amy Schneider, Andrew He and Sam Buttrey during “Final Jeopardy,” which is the game’s final round:
“Paul’s letter to them is the New Testament epistle with the most Old Testament quotations.”
Buttrey guessed “Romans.” Andrew guessed “Philippiaes,” a likely reference to Philippians, according to CNN.
Both answers were deemed incorrect.
Schneider guessed “Hebrews” and was deemed correct.
The problem? Unlike other books of the New Testament, the authorship of Hebrews is not explicitly revealed. The book of Hebrews begins simply, “In the past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways.”
Additionally, Romans includes more Old Testament citations than Hebrews. (Buttrey would have won if his response was considered correct.)
“Dear Jeopardy: BUT PAUL DIDN’T WRITE HEBREWS!!!!!!!” one person wrote on Twitter.
BUT PAUL DIDN’T WRITE HEBREWS!!!!!!!
— Diana Butler Bass (@dianabutlerbass) November 17, 2022
“Massive error on Final @Jeopardy today for the Tournament of Champions. … NT scholars believe that the writer of Hebrews is unknown,” another person wrote.
Massive error on Final @Jeopardy today for the Tournament of Champions. Category was “The New Testament.” The Jeopardy experts claim that the answer to “This Pauline epistle has the most OT quotes” is “Hebrews.” Wrong. NT scholars believe that the writer of Hebrews is unknown.
— Greg Salazar (@GregASalazar) November 17, 2022
One person sarcastically tweeted, “Now that Jeopardy settled the issue of authorship of Hebrews, I hope they will tell us who was young man that fled from the garden leaving the linen cloth.”
Now that Jeopardy settled the issue of authorship of Hebrews, I hope they will tell us who was young man that fled from the garden leaving the linen cloth.
— Sujit Thomas (@ThomasSujit) November 17, 2022
Scholars have suggested different authors for Hebrews, including Paul, Clement, Luke, Timothy, Barnabas and Apollos.
“The writer of this letter does not identify himself, but he was obviously well known to the original recipients,” according to BibleStudyTools.com. “Though for some 1,200 years (from c. a.d. 400 to 1600) the book was commonly called ‘The Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews,’ there was no agreement in the earliest centuries regarding its authorship. Since the Reformation, it has been widely recognized that Paul could not have been the writer. There is no disharmony between the teaching of Hebrews and that of Paul’s letters, but the specific emphases and writing styles are markedly different.”
The third-century church father Origen wrote of the issue, “Who wrote the epistle of Hebrews? In truth, only God knows!”
Photo courtesy: Tim Wildsmith/Unsplash
Video courtesy: ©Guidezoid/Jeopardy!
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.