21 Aug St. Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews
Although Sabidius has followed the Authorised Version of the Bible in attributing the ‘Epistle to the Hebrews’ to Paul in the above title, there is widespread recognition among biblical scholars that he himself was not the author of this letter, the vocabulary and style of which are markedly uncharacteristic of Paul, nor does the author identify himself, contrary to Paul’s usual practice. The most likely alternative author is the Alexandrian Jew Apollos, although Barnabas has been considered by some as another. However, while Paul may not have written the letter himself, the views it expresses are entirely compatible with his own beliefs, and, as he is likely to have been the principal influence on its contents, it is not unreasonable to include ‘To the Hebrews’ in the ‘corpus Paulinum’.
As to the date of the epistle, it must have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by the Romans in 70 A.D., since, if it had been written after that date, the author would most certainly have mentioned this destruction and the consequent termination of the temple’s sacrificial functions. At the same time, the constant use of the Greek present tense when describing the temple, and the priestly activities connected with it, clearly indicates that the temple was still functioning when the epistle was written. As to a more specific date, we just do not know: the epistle was probably written in the late 50’s or early 60’s A.D. Nor do we know where the epistle was written, and, although its final greeting, “Those who are from Italy send you their greetings” (Bk. 13. v. 24) is sometimes taken to mean that it was written in Italy, this is not necessarily the case, and, indeed the use of the preposition “ἀπό” (from) in this context does not assist such a conclusion.
While the title “To the Hebrews” was not actually adopted until some time in the Second Century A.D., it is certainly well chosen, as the epistle clearly assumes a very thorough knowledge of the Old Testament and the practices of the old covenant. The letter is evidently addressed to Jewish Christians, and possibly even Jewish priests in view of its emphasis on public worship and ceremonial. It is also possible that their faith was not strong and that they were contemplating reverting to Judaism and its traditional practices, and that the purpose of the epistle was to avoid this happening.
The central theme or message of “To the Hebrews” is the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ as the mediator of God’s grace to mankind, and to demonstrate how the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in the new covenant. Christ is shown to be far superior to the angels, to the ancient prophets, to Moses, the mediator of the old covenant, and to his brother Aaron and the succession of priests deriving from him. Readers are firmly told that there can be no going back to the ways of the old Jewish covenant, now superseded by the unique priesthood of Jesus, whose atoning death, resurrection, ascension, and imminent coming again have revealed the way into the true heavenly sanctuary where God is present. The epistle provides an excellent example of how the earliest Christians conceived the harmony of the Old and New Testaments, and the full significance of the redemptive work of Jesus in respect of God’s whole plan of salvation for mankind, and, for this reason, it is surely one of the cornerstones of the New Testament. The centrality of faith for a Christian is constantly stressed throughout the work, as indeed are the disastrous consequences for those individual Christians who may fall away. While it is clearly addressed specifically to the needs and mindset of Jewish Christian converts, it is still essential reading for any Christians who want to clarify the substance of their faith.
God speaks by means of his Son (vv. 1-4).
(1) God, having spoken to our forefathers in the past on several occasions and in various ways by means of the prophets, (2) has spoken to us at the end of these days through his Son, “whom he appointed heir of all (things)” (vid. Psalms 2. 8), (and) through whom he also made the universe; when he, being the reflection of his glory and the (exact) representation of his being, and sustaining all things by the word of his power, had undertaken a purification of our sins (i.e. by means of his crucifixion), “he sat down at the right (hand) of the Majesty on high” (i.e. God in heaven) (vid. Psalms 110. 1), having become so much better than the angels, in that he has inherited a name more outstanding than theirs.
The Son is greater than the angels (vv. 5-14).
(5) For to which of the angels did he ever say, “You are my son, (and) today I have begotten you,” (Psalms 2. 7) and again, “I shall be a father to him, and he, himself, will be a son to me?” (2 Samuel 7. 18; Chronicles 17. 13) (6) And again, when he brings his firstborn into the inhabited earth, he says, “And let all God’s angels bow the knee to him in worship.” (Deuteronomy 32. 43 lxx; Psalms 97. 7.)
(7) And, with regard to the angels, he says: “He makes his angels spirits and his servants a flame of fire;” (Psalms 104. 4) (8) But, with reference to the Son, (he says), “God (is) your throne forever and ever, and the sceptre of your kingdom is the sceptre of righteousness. You loved righteousness and you hated iniquity; therefore, your God has anointed you with the oil of exultation more than your companions” (Psalms 45. 6-7); (10) And “you, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; (11) they will perish but you will continue to remain; and they will all grow old like an outer garment, (12) and, as if (they were) a cloak, you will roll them up like an outer garment, and they will be changed; but you are the same, and your years will not come to an end” (Psalms 102. 25-27.)
(13) But to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right (hand) until I place your enemies (as) a footstool under your feet” (Psalms 110. 1)? (14) Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to (do) service for those who are about to inherit salvation?
The great salvation (vv. 1-4).
(1) For this reason, we ought to pay greater attention to the (things) that were heard, lest we should ever drift away. (2) For, if the word spoken through angels (i.e. the Law given to Moses at Sinai) proved (to be) true, and every transgression and (act of) disobedience received the punishment it deserved, (3) how shall we ever escape, if we disregard so great a salvation, which was proclaimed in the first place by the Lord, and was (then) confirmed to us by those who heard (him), (4) while God joined them in bearing witness by signs, and wonders, and miracles of all kinds, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to his will?
All things are subjected to Jesus (vv. 5-9).
(5) For he did not subject the world to come, about which we are speaking, to angels; (6) but someone has somewhere (i.e. Psalms 8. 4-6) borne witness (to him), saying, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or that you take care of him? (7) You made him a little lower than the angels, you crowned him with glory and honour, and put him in charge of the work of your hands. (8) You have all (things) in subjection under his feet” (Psalms 8. 5-7 lxx); for by subjecting all things to him, he (i.e. God) left nothing (that is) not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all the things that are subjected to him; (9) but we do see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels on account of the suffering of death, crowned with honour and glory, so that by the grace of God he might have the taste of death on behalf of (us) all.
Jesus and his brothers (vv. 10-18).
(10) For it befitted him, for whom all things and through whom all things (exist), (when) bringing many sons to glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (11) For both he who is consecrating and those who are being consecrated all (stem) from one (stock); (and) for this reason he is not ashamed to call them brothers, (12) saying, “I will declare your name to my brothers, and in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise” (Psalms 22. 22). (13) And again, “I will put my trust in him.” (Isaiah 8. 17 lxx; vid. 2 Samuel 22. 3 lxx; vid. Isaiah 12. 2). And again, “Behold, I and the children, whom God gave me” (Isaiah 8. 18).
(14) So, since the children have shared in flesh and blood, he also similarly participated in the same (things), so that by his death he might invalidate the one who had the power of death, that is the devil, (15) and might set free (i.e. by his resurrection, which guarantees that dead believers will rise) all those who through fear of death were subject to bondage through all of their lives. (16) For, assuredly, he is not helping angels, but “he is assisting the seed of Abraham” (vid. Isaiah 41. 8-9). (17) Therefore, he was obliged to become like his brothers in all (things), that he might become a compassionate and faithful high-priest of things relating to God in order to make atonement for the sins of the people; (18) for in that he himself has suffered, when being put to the test, he is able to come to the assistance of those who are being tested.
Jesus is greater than Moses (vv. 1-6).
(1) Therefore, holy brothers, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus (to be) the apostle and the high priest of our confession, (2) as he was faithful to the one who appointed him, as also (was) “Moses in all his household” (vid. Numbers 12.7). (3) For the latter has been deemed worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as the one who constructs it has more glory than the house (itself); (4) for every house is built by someone, but he who has built everything (is) God. (5) Now, Moses (was) faithful as an attendant in all of his household as a witness of things which were (yet) to be reported. (6) But Christ (was faithful) as a son over his household; we are of his household, if we firmly retain our confidence and our pride in our expectations right to the end.
A rest for the people of God (vv. 7-19).
(7) Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you will hear his voice, (8) harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, according to the day of temptation in the wilderness, (9) when your fathers tempted me in the course of their scrutiny and saw my works (10) for forty years; therefore I was grieved with this generation and said, ‘They always err in their hearts; but they have not known my ways;’ (11) So I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter into my rest’ ” (Psalms 95. 7-9).
(12) Beware, brothers, lest there should ever be in anyone of you a wicked heart lacking in faith, amounting to a withdrawal from the living God, (13) but keep on exhorting one another day by day, so long as it may be called ‘Today’, lest anyone of you should be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin; (14) for we have become partakers of Christ, if only we firmly retain our original confidence right to the end. (15) Whereby it is said, “Today, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as if (you were) in a (state of) rebellion” (Psalms 95, 7-8).
(16) For who rebelled when they heard? But did not all of those who went out of Egypt with Moses? (17) But with whom was he angry for forty years? (Was it) not with those who sinned, whose dead bodies fell in the wilderness? (18) But to whom “did he swear that they should not enter into his rest” (vid. Numbers 14. 22-23; Psalms 95.11), but those who were disobedient? (19) And we see that they were not able to enter in because of their lack of faith (see Numbers 14, 21-35, where God excludes a whole generation of Israelites from the promised land of Canaan).
The danger of not entering into God’s rest (vv. 1-10).
(1) Therefore, (since) the promise of entering into his rest (i.e. a rest that is spiritual and eternal) ever remains, let us be on our guard, lest anyone of you should seem to have fallen short (of it); (2) for we have also had the good news preached (to us), just as they had, but the word they heard did not benefit them, because it was not accompanied by faith in the (things) they heard. (3) For we who have believed do enter into that (place of) rest, just as he has said, “So I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest’ ” (Psalms 95. 11), although the works were finished at the time of the foundation of the world, (4) for he said as follows somewhere around the seventh (day), “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works” (Genesis 2.2), (5) and again in this (above passage), “They shall not enter into my rest” (Psalms 95. 11).
(6) So, since it remains that some should enter into it, and those to whom the good news was first announced did not enter in on account of their disobedience, (7) again he designates a certain day (as) “Today”, saying, just as it has been said before after such a long time in David’s (psalm), “Today, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Psalms 95. 7-8); (8) “for if Joshua had led them into a place of rest” (vid. Deuteronomy 31. 7; Joshua 22. 4), he would not have spoken after that of another day. (9) So, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God; (10) for he who has entered into his rest has himself also rested from his works, “just as God (rested) from his own” (vid. Genesis 2.2).
Exhortation to enter into God’s rest (vv. 11-13).
(11) So, let us hasten to enter into that rest, lest anyone should fall through the same example of disobedience. (12) For “the word of God (is) alive and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (vid. Isaiah 49. 2), and penetrates even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and (is) able to discern the thoughts and insights of the heart; (13) and there is no creature (that is) hidden from his sight, but all (things) are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.
Jesus, the great high-priest (vv. 14-16).
(14) So, since we have a great high-priest who has passed through the heavens, (that is,) Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. (15) For we do not have a high-priest who cannot sympathise with our weaknesses, but (one) who has been tested in all (respects) in the same way (as us, but is) without sin. (16) Let us, therefore, draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the right time.
Jesus is superior to human high-priests (vv. 1-10).
(1) For every high-priest selected from (among) men is appointed, on man’s behalf, to take charge of the things relating to God, so that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices in order to atone for our sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and have gone astray, since he himself is also beset with weakness, (3) “and for this reason he must make offerings as much for himself as for the people” (vid. Leviticus 9. 7; 16. 6).
(4) Also no man takes this honour upon himself, but he is called by God, just like Aaron also (was). (5) So too, Christ did not glorify himself by becoming a high-priest, but he (i.e. God) said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father” (Psalms 2.7); (6) as also in another (place) he says, “You (are) a priest forever, just like Melchizedek” (Psalms 110.4).
(7) In the days of his flesh (i.e. when he was alive), he (i.e. Jesus) offered up prayers and supplications, with loud crying and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death. (8) Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered, (9) and, having been made perfect, he became to all those who obey him the “source of eternal salvation” (vid. Isaiah 45. 17), (10) because he had been designated a high-priest “just like Melchizedek” (vid. Genesis 14. 18; Psalms 110. 4).
Warning against immaturity (vv. 11-14).
(11) About him we have many words to say, and (they are) difficult to explain, since you have become (so) hard of hearing. (12) For, indeed, although you ought by this time to be teachers, you again have need of someone to teach you from the beginning the fundamental principles of God’s sayings, and you have gone back to having a need for milk, not solid food. (13) For everyone who lives on milk (is) unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is a baby. (14) But solid food is for mature (people), (those) whose senses have been trained through practice to distinguish both right and wrong.
The author explains his intention (v. 1-3).
(1) Therefore, leaving aside the doctrine of the first principles of Christ, let us press on to its completion, not laying a foundation again, (namely) a repentance from dead works, and faith in God, (2) the teaching on baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and everlasting judgment. (3) And this we shall do, if only as God permits.
Apostates are nailing the Son of God to the stake once again (vv. 4-8).
(4) For as regards those who were once enlightened, and who have tasted the heavenly free gift and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit (5) and who have tasted the fine word of God and the powers of the age to come, (6) but who have (now) fallen away, (it is) impossible to revive (them) again to repentance, seeing that they are themselves crucifying the son of God and exposing (him) to public shame. (7) For land, which has drunk the rain which often falls upon it, and (then) produces vegetation which is fit for those for whose sake it has also been cultivated, receives blessings from God; (8) “but, if it bears thorns and thistles, (it is) worthless and (comes) close to being cursed” (vid. Genesis 3. 17-18), and its end is to be burned.
Words of hope and encouragement (vv. 9-20).
(9) But, concerning you, beloved, we are persuaded of better things and (things) that bring about salvation, even though we are speaking in this way; (10) for God (is) not (so) unjust as to forget your work and the love which you have showed for his name, in that you have ministered, and are continuing to minister, to the holy (ones). (11) But we desire each (one) of you to show the same eagerness towards the fulfilment of hope right up to the end, (12) so that you may not become sluggish, but (be) imitators of those who, through faith and steadfastness, inherit the promises.
(13) For, when God made his promise to Abraham, since he was not able to swear by anyone greater, “he swore by himself” (Genesis 22. 16), (14) saying, “Assuredly, (in) blessing, I shall bless you, and (in) multiplying, I shall multiply your (offspring)” (Genesis 22. 17); (15) and thus, having shown great steadfastness, he (i.e. Abraham) obtained the promise. (16) For men swear by a greater one, and “in every dispute of theirs their oath (is) final for the purpose of confirmation” (vid. Exodus 22. 11); (17) in this (way), when God decided to demonstrate more abundantly to the heirs of the promise the immutability of his purpose, he guaranteed (it) with an oath, (18) so that through two immutable things (i.e. God’s promise and the oath joined to it), in which (it is) “impossible for God to lie” (vid. Numbers 23. 19; 2 Samuel 15. 29), we, who have fled for refuge, may have a great encouragement to take hold of the hope set before (us); (19) we have this (hope) as an anchor for the soul, both sure and firm, and “it enters into the inside of the curtain” (vid. Leviticus 16. 2-3, 12, 15), (20) where a certain forerunner has entered on our behalf, (namely) Jesus, who has become a high-priest “forever just like Melchizedek” (vid. Psalms 110. 4).
Melchizedek (vv. 1-3).
(1) “For this Melchizedek, King of Salem, (and) priest of the Most High God, (was) the (one) who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, (2) and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth (part) of everything. His name is translated, in the first place, (as) King of Righteousness, and then also King of Salem, that is King of Peace” (Genesis 14, 17-20); (3) without father, without mother, without ancestry, having neither a beginning of days nor an end of life, but, having been made like the Son of God, “he remains a priest for all time” (vid. Psalms 110.4).
Melchizedek accepted tithes from Abraham (vv. 4-10).
(4) Now see how great this (man was,) to whom the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils (i.e. the tithe paid to levitical priests). Indeed, those of the sons of Levi (i.e. the second son of Abraham’s grandson, Jacob), who receive their priestly office, have a requirement to collect tithes from the people in accordance with the law, that is from their brothers, though these have come from the loins of Abraham; (6) but he who was not descended from them took his tithes from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. (7) Now, beyond all dispute, the lesser (one) is blessed by the greater. (8) And in the one case (it is) men who are dying who receive tithes, but in the other case (it is someone about whom) it is witnessed that he lives. (9) Now, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who receives tithes, has paid tithes, (10) for he was still in the loins of his forefather, when Melchizedek met him.
From Levitical priesthood to the the priesthood of Melchizedek (vv. 11-14).
(11) So, if perfection occurred through the Levitical priesthood – for the people enacted laws on the basis of it – what further need (was there) for another priest to arise in accordance with the order of Melchizedek, and not in accordance with the order of Aaron? (12) For, since the priesthood is being changed, a change must also happen to the law. (13) For he, of whom these (things) are being said (i.e. Jesus), belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar; (14) for (it is) clear that our Lord has sprung from Judah (i.e. the third son of Jacob), a tribe about which Moses said nothing concerning priests.
The abrogation of the old law (vv. 15-19).
(15) And this becomes yet more clearly evident, should there arise another priest just like Melchizedek, (16) who has become (one), not according to a law of physical requirement (i.e. one concerning his ancestry; for the law restricted the priesthood of Levi to his descendants), but in accordance with the power of an indestructible life, (17) for it is attested that, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psalms 110. 4).
(18) For the setting aside of the foregoing regulation is happening on account of its weakness and ineffectiveness, (19) for the law made nothing perfect, but the introduction of the hope of (something) better (has done), and through this we are drawing near to God.
Christ’s priesthood is unchanging (vv. 20-25).
(20) Also, to the extent that (this was) not (done) without an oath being sworn – for there are indeed those who have become priests without a sworn oath, but there is one with an oath sworn by the one who said respecting him, “The Lord swore and he will not change his mind: you (are) a priest forever” (Psalms 110. 4) – , (22) to that extent also has Jesus become the guarantee of a better covenant. (23) And the former priests (i.e. the Levitical priests) have become numerous, because they are prevented by death from continuing (in post); (24) but he, because he remains (alive) forever, keeps his priesthood unchangeable; (25) therefore, he is able to save completely those who draw near to God, because he is always alive to plead for them.
The priesthood of the heavenly high-priest (vv. 26-28).
(26) For such a high-priest was also fitting for us: holy, guiltless, undefiled, separated from the sinners, and having become higher than the heavens; (27) he has no need on a daily basis, “like those high-priests, to offer up sacrifices, firstly for his own sins, (and) then for those of the people” (vid. Leviticus 9. 7; 16. 6, 15); for he did this once and for all when he offered himself up; (28) for the law appoints (as) high-priests men who have weakness, but the word of the sworn oath that (came) after the law (appoints) a son who has been made perfect forever.
The new priesthood and the new sanctuary (vv. 1-6).
(1) Now, (this is) the main point of the things which we are saying: we do have a high-priest of such a kind as this, who “sat down at the right hand of the Majestic One in the heavens” (vid. Psalms 110.1), (2) a public servant of the holy (places) (i.e. the sanctuary) and “of the true tabernacle (i.e. tent) which God pitched” (vid. Numbers 24.6 lxx), not man. (3) For every high-priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; therefore, (it is) necessary for this (one) to have something which he can also offer. (4) Now, if he were on earth, he would not be a priest, as there are men who offer gifts in accordance with the law; (5) these (men) are offering their service as a model and a shadow of the heavenly (things), just as Moses received this warning when he was about to complete (the construction of) the tabernacle: for he (i.e. God) said, “See that you make everything according to the pattern which was shown to you on the mountain (i.e. Sinai)” (Exodus 25. 40); (6) But now he (i.e. Jesus) has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as he is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been established upon better promises.
Christ is the mediator of a greater covenant (vv. 7-13).
(7) For, if that first (covenant) had been faultless, no one would have sought for a second (one); (8) for, finding fault with them, he says, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, and I shall conclude a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, (9) not in accordance with the covenant that I made with their forefathers on the day when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt, because they did not continue in my covenant and I stopped caring about them, says the Lord. (10) For this (is) the covenant that I shall make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord, (and) I shall put laws into their mind and I shall write them on their hearts, and I will be their God and they will be my people. (11) And each man will by no means teach his fellow-citizen, nor each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know me from the least (of them) to the greatest of them. (12) For I shall be merciful towards their misdeeds and I shall no longer be mindful of their sins” (Jeremiah 31. 31-34).
(13) By his speaking of a new (covenant), he has made the first (one) obsolete, and that which is obsolete and growing old is close to destruction.
Sacred service in the earthly sanctuary (vv. 1-10).
(1) Now, even the first (covenant) used to have legal requirements for a sacred service and its earthly sanctuary. (2) For “there was a tabernacle prepared” (vid. Exodus 26. 1-30), and in its first (compartment were) “both the lampstand” (vid. Exodus 25. 31-40), and “the table, and the presentation of the loaves” (vid. 25. 23-30), and it is called the Holy (Place); (3) “but behind the second curtain (was) the tent (compartment) which is called the Holy of Holies” (vid. Exodus 26. 31-33), (4) “as it had a golden censer” (i.e. an altar bearing incense) (vid. Exodus 30. 1-6), and “the ark of the covenant (i.e. a chest made of acacia wood) overlaid on all sides with gold” (vid. Exodus 25. 10-16), in which (were) a “golden jar holding the manna” (vid. Exodus 16. 33), and “the rod of Aaron that budded” (vid. Numbers 17. 8-10), and “the tablets of the covenant” (vid. Exodus 25. 16; Deuteronomy 10. 3-5), (5) and “up above it (were) the glorious Cherubim (i.e. two winged figures made of gold) overshadowing the mercy-seat”(i.e. an atonement cover, a slab of gold fitting exactly over the ark of the covenant, on which the blood of the sin offering was sprinkled by the high-priest on the Day of Atonement) (vid. Exodus 25. 18-22); (but) now is not (the time) to speak of these (things) in detail.
(6) Now, after these (things) have been prepared in this way, “the priests enter the first (compartment of) the tabernacle at all times in order to perform the sacred services” (vid. Numbers 18. 2-6), (7) “but the high-priest alone (enters) the second (compartment) once a year, not without blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance” (vid. Exodus 30. 10; Leviticus 16. 2, 14, 15); (8) the Holy Spirit makes it clear that the way (into) the holy place has not yet been revealed, while the first tent (compartment) still has its place (i.e. under the ceremonial arrangements of the old covenant the people did not have access to God), (9) and this (is) a parable for the present time, according to which both gifts and sacrifices are offered that (are) not able to make the (man) performing the sacred services perfect with regard to his conscience; (10) (these were) “only to do with food” (vid. Leviticus 11. 2) and drink and “various baptisms” (vid. Leviticus 11. 25, 15.18; Numbers 19. 13), legal requirements relating to the flesh, imposed until a time of reformation.
Christ has entered the heavenly sanctuary (vv. 11-14).
(11) But Christ, having arrived, as a high priest of the good (things) that have come to pass (i.e. he had passed through the earthly compartment of the tabernacle), at the greater and more perfect (compartment of) the tabernacle not made with human hands, that is (it is) not of this creation, (12) nor through the blood of goats and calves but through his own blood, entered once and for all into the sanctuary (i.e. the celestial compartment of the tabernacle), having obtained eternal redemption. (13) “For if the blood of goats and bulls” (vid. Leviticus 16. 3, 14, 15) and “the ashes of a heifer” (vid. Numbers 19. 9, 17-19) sprinkled on those who have been defiled, may sanctify (them) with regard to the purity of the flesh, (14) by how much more will the blood of Christ cleanse our consciences from dead works, so that (we may render) sacred services to the living God.
Christ seals the new covenant with his blood (vv. 15-28).
(15) And for this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that, because a death has occurred for their redemption from the transgressions under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the everlasting inheritance. (16) For where (there is) a covenant, necessity must bring on the death of the covenanter; (17) for a covenant (is) valid where (there are) dead bodies, since it is never in force while the (one) who made (it) lives. (18) Therefore, not even the first (covenant) has been dedicated without blood; (19) for, when every commandment had been declared by Moses to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats together with water and “scarlet wool and hyssop” (vid. Leviticus 14. 4; Numbers 19. 6), and sprinkled the book itself and all the people, (20) saying, “This (is) the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you (to keep)” (Exodus 24. 8); (21) “And he sprinkled the tabernacle and all the vessels of the sacred service with the blood in the same manner” (vid. Leviticus 8. 15, 19). (22) Moreover, according to the law, nearly everything is cleansed with blood, and, “apart from the shedding of blood, no remission takes place” (vid. Leviticus 17. 11).
(23) So (it was) necessary that the tokens of the (things) in the heavens should be cleansed by these means, but the heavenly (things) themselves (must be cleansed) by better sacrifices than these (ones). (24) For Christ has not entered into holy (places) made with hands, representations of true (things that they are), but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf; (25) nor yet (is it right) that he should offer himself again and again, as the high-priest enters into the sanctuary year by year with blood not his own, (26) since (otherwise) he would have had to suffer often from the foundation of the world; but now, once and for all time at the end of the ages, he has been revealed to (effect) the annulment of sins by the sacrifice of himself. (27) And, inasmuch as “it is destined for men to die once” (vid. Genesis 3. 19), and after this (comes) judgment, (28) so also Christ, having been offered, once and for all time, to “bear the sins of many” (vid. Isaiah 53. 12), will appear a second time without sin to those who are eagerly awaiting him in order to (ensure) their salvation (i.e. the ‘Parousia’ or the ‘Second Coming of Christ’).
Animal sacrifices are ineffectual (vv. 1-4).
(1) For, since the law (is but) a reflection of the good (things) that are coming, not the very substance of these things, they can never, by the same sacrifices that they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who come near (to worship); (2) for otherwise would they not have ceased to be offered, because, once they had been cleansed, those worshippers would have had no more consciousness of sins? (3) But in those (sacrifices) there is an annual reminder of sins, (4) for (is is) impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take way sins.
The efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice (vv. 5-18).
(5) Therefore, when he comes into the world, he says, “You did not want sacrifice and offering, but you did prepare a body for me; (6) you did not approve of whole burnt offerings and (sacrifices) for sin. (7) Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come – in the scroll it has been written about me – to do your will, O God’ ” (Psalms 40. 6-8). (8) After previously saying that, “You did not want, nor did you approve of, sacrifices and offerings and (sacrifices) for sin” (Psalms 40. 6) that are offered according to the law, (9) “then” he said,” ‘Behold, I have come to do your will’ “ (Psalms 40. 7); he does away with what (is) first, so that he may establish what (is) second. (10) By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all time.
(11) Also “every priest stands day by day to render sacred services and to offer, on a regular basis, sacrifices” (vid. Exodus 29. 38) which can never take away sins. (12) But he, when he had offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, “sat down at the right (hand) of God” (vid. Psalms 110. 1), (13) from then on waiting “until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (vid. Psalms 110. 1). (14) For (it is) by this one offering that he had made those who are being sanctified perfect for all time.
(15) The Holy Spirit also bears witness to us, for after it has said, (16) ” ‘This (is) the covenant that I shall make with them after those days’, the Lord says, ‘I shall put my laws in their hearts and I shall write them down in their minds’ (Jeremiah 31. 33), (17) and ‘I shall not remember their sins and their iniquities any more’ ” (Jeremiah 31. 34); (18) now, where (there is) remission of these, (there is) no longer an offering for sin.
An exhortation to a new way of entry into the sanctuary (vv. 19-25).
(19) So, brothers, since, through the blood of Jesus, we have the confidence to enter the sanctuary (20) which he opened up for us (as) a new and living way through the curtain, that is (to say) his flesh, (21) and, (since we have) a great priest over the house of God, (22) let us draw near with a true heart in the fulness of faith, with our hearts “having been sprinkled (to cleanse us) from a guilty conscience” (vid. Ezekiel 36. 25) and our bodies washed with pure water; (23) let us hold fast to the confession of faith without wavering, for he who promised (is) faithful. (24) And let us consider (how) to incite one another to love and good works, (25) not forsaking our own gathering together, as the custom (is) for some, but exhorting one another, and (all) the more so as you behold the day approaching (i.e. the day of the ‘parousia’).
Warning against sin (vv. 26-31).
(26) For if we sin wilfully, after receiving the knowledge of the truth, (there is) no longer any sacrifice for sins left, (27) but (there is) a certain fearful expectation of judgment and “a fierceness of fire (i.e. fire is the traditional weapon which God uses to express his anger) which is going to consume our adversaries” (vid. Isaiah 26. 11). (28) Any (man) who has disregarded the law of Moses “dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three” (vid. Deuteronomy 17. 6; 19. 15). (29) How much worse a punishment will he be deemed worthy of who has trampled on the Son of God, and who has regarded (as) profane “the blood of the covenant” (vid. Exodus 24. 16) by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace. (30) For we know (the one) who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay” (Deuteronomy 32. 35); and again, “The Lord will judge his people” (Deuteronomy 32. 36; Psalms 135. 14); (31) (It is) a fearful (thing) to fall into the hands of the living God.
Reasons to persevere (vv. 32-39).
(32) But remember those former days, during which, after you were enlightened, you endured a great struggle with (all) its sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed both to reproaches and to abuse as in a theatre, and, at other times, having become sharers with those who were having such an experience; (34) for you both expressed sympathy for those in chains (i.e. in prison), and joyfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you, yourselves, have a better and abiding property (i.e. in the heavens).
(35) So, do not lose your confidence, which brings (so) great a reward, (36) for you have need of perseverance, so that, when you have done the will of God, you may receive (the fulfilment of) the promise; (37) for yet, “in a very little while, he who is coming will have come, and will not tarry; (38) but my righteous one will live by faith, and, if ever he should shrink back, my soul will take no delight in him” (Habbakuk 2. 3-4 lxx). (39) But we are not (one of those) who shrink back to destruction, but (one of those who have) faith in the preservation of (one’s) soul.
Definition of faith (vv. 1-2).
(1) Now, faith is the assured expectation of (things) that are hoped for, the convinced belief in things that are not seen; (2) for by this (means) our elders obtained their testimony.
Examples of faith (vv. 3-40).
(3) By faith, we understand that “the universe has been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen has been made from (things) that are not visible” (vid. Genesis 1.1; Psalms 33. 6, 9).
(4) By faith “Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain” (vid. Genesis 4, 3-10), by which he was confirmed to be righteous, with God testifying (to this) by his gifts, and, though he died, he still speaks through his (faith).
(5) By faith “Enoch was transferred (i.e. he was taken from this life), so that he would not see death, and he was not to be found because God had transferred him” (vid. Genesis 5. 24; Sirach 44. 16; Enoch 70. 1-4; Wisdom 4.10); for before his transference, he received testimony that he was well-pleasing to God. (6) Now, without faith, (it is) impossible to be well-pleasing (to him), for he who comes to God must believe that he exists, and that he becomes the rewarder of those who seek him.
(7) By faith Noah, “having been divinely warned about things not yet seen, became anxious and constructed an ark for the saving of his household” (vid. Genesis 6. 13-22; 7.1), by which (faith) he put the world under sentence, and became heir to the righteousness that goes with faith.
(8) “By faith, Abraham, when called, agreed to go out to a place which he was going to receive as an inheritance, and he went out, not knowing where he was going” (vid. Genesis 12. 1-5). (9) “By faith he migrated to the land of the promise as (one) not his own, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with (him) of the same promise” (vid. Genesis 23. 4; 26.3; 35. 12. 27). (10) For he was expecting the city that had the foundations, of which God (was) the architect and builder.
(11) By faith even “Sarah herself received the power to bear children, even when she was past the appointed age limit” (vid. Genesis 17. 19; 18. 11-14; 21. 2), since she regarded the (one) who made the promise as faithful; (12) because of this also, from one (man) there were born children, and these, (although coming from one) on the verge of death (i.e. because he was a hundred years old) (were) “as innumerable in their multitude as the stars of heaven and the (grains of) sand beside the sea shore” (vid. Genesis 15. 5-6; 22.17; 32. 12; Deuteronomy 1. 10; 10. 22; Daniel 3. 36 lxx; Sirach 44. 22).
(13) All these (people) died in the faith without having received (the fulfilment of) the promises, but they had seen them from afar and welcomed (them), and they publicly declared that “they were strangers and resident aliens in the land” (vid. Genesis 23. 4; 47. 9; 1 Chronicles 29. 15; Psalms 39.12); (14) for those who say such (things) reveal that they are seeking a country of their own. (15) And, if indeed they had in mind that (country) from which they had set out, they would have had time to return; (16) but now they are striving for a better (place), that is a heavenly (one). For this reason, “God is not ashamed to be called their God” (vid. Exodus 3. 6, 15; 4. 5), for he has prepared a city for them.
(17) “By faith Abraham, when put to the test, had offered up Isaac, and (the man) who had received the promises offered up his only-begotten (son)” (vid. Genesis 17. 1-10), (18) (even he) to whom it had been said that ” ‘From Isaac will your offspring be summoned’ ” (Genesis 21. 12), (19) as he reckoned that God (was) even able to raise (him) from the dead; so, figuratively speaking (i.e. when the substitute ram was provided), he also did get him back (from the dead).
(20) “By faith also Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning (things) to come” (vid. Genesis. 27. 29: 39-40).
(21) By faith “Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph” (vid. Genesis 48. 15-16), “bowing low in reverence (while leaning) on the top of his staff” (Genesis 47. 31 lxx).
(22) “By faith Joseph, when the end of his life was near, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones” (vid. Genesis 50. 24-25; Exodus 13. 19).
(23) By faith “Moses, after he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents” (vid. Exodus 2.2), because they saw that (he was) a very fine boy and “they did not fear the King’s commandment” (i.e. that all male Israelite children should be drowned in the Nile at birth) (vid. Exodus 1.22). (24) “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter” (vid. Exodus 2. 10-12), (25) choosing to suffer ill-treatment with the people of God rather than to have the transitory enjoyment of sin, (26) because he considered humiliation (for the sake of) the Anointed (i.e. Christ, the future Messiah) (to be) riches greater than the treasures of Egypt, for he had his eyes fixed on the reward. (27) By faith “he left Egypt” (vid. Exodus 2. 15; 12. 51), not fearing the wrath of the king, for he remained steadfast, as if he saw the (one who is) invisible (i.e. God). (28) “By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the destroyer might not touch their firstborn” (vid. Exodus 12. 21-30).
(29) “By faith they passed through the Red Sea, as though (they were) on dry land, but, when the Egyptians made their attempt (at it), they were drowned” (vid. Exodus 14. 21-31).
(30) “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days” (vid. Joshua 6. 12-21). (31) “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she received the spies in a peaceable manner” (vid. Joshua 2. 11-12; 6. 21-25).
(32) And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I go on to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, both David and Samuel, and the prophets, (33) who through faith conquered kingdoms, practised righteousness, obtained promises, and “shut the mouths of lions” (vid. Judges 14. 6-7; 1 Samuel 17. 34-36; Daniel 6. 1-27), (34) “quenched the force of fire” (vid. Daniel 3. 23-25), escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong from (a state of) weakness, became mighty in war, (and) turned armies of foreigners to flight; (35) “women got back their dead by means of resurrection” (vid. 1Kings 17. 17-24; 2 Kings 4. 25-37); but “other (men) were tortured, not accepting their deliverance, so that they might attain a better resurrection” (vid. 2 Maccabees 6. 18 – 7. 42); (36) “and others received their trial by mockery and scourgings, and even by chains and imprisonment” (vid. 1 Kings 22. 26-27; 2 Chronicles 18. 25-26; Jeremiah 20. 2; 37. 15; 38. 6); (37) “they were stoned” (vid. 2 Chronicles 24. 21), they were tried, “they were sawn apart” (vid. Ascension of Isaiah 5. 11-14), they died through the slaughter of the sword, they went about in sheepskins, and in goat-skins, while they were in need, in distress (and) ill-treated, (38) and the world was not worthy of them, wandering (as they were) in deserts, and mountains, and caves, and the openings of the earth.
(39) And (yet) all of these (men), although they had received the testimony through their faith, did not obtain the promise, (40) as God had foreseen something better for us, so that they might not be made perfect apart from us.
Jesus, the perfecter of our faith (vv. 1-3).
(1) So then, because we also have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles (us) and let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, (2) as we look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, scorning (its shame), and has sat down at the right (hand) of the throne of God. (3) For think of the (one) (i.e. Jesus) who has endured such hostility from sinners against their own (interests), so that you may not get tired and lose heart.
Do not disregard the Lord’s discipline (vv. 4-11).
(4) In your struggle against sin, you have not yet taken your resistance to the point of (shedding) your blood, (5) and you have forgotten the exhortation that addressed you as sons: ” ‘My son, do not belittle the Lord’s discipline, nor give up when you are reproved by him; (6) for (the one,) whom the Lord loves, he disciplines, and he chastises every son whom he acknowledges’ ” (Proverbs 3. 11-12).
(7) You persevere for the sake of discipline; “God treats you as sons; for what son (is he) whom a father does not discipline” (vid. Deuteronomy 8.5; 2 Samuel 7. 14)? (8) But, if you are without the discipline of which you have all become partakers, then you are bastards, not sons. (9) Now, we used to have fathers who were of our flesh to chasten (us), and we used to show (them) respect; shall we not submit ourselves much more (readily) “to the father of our spiritual life” (vid. Numbers 16. 22; 27. 16)? For they used to discipline (us) for a few days according to what seemed good to them, but he (does so) for our benefit, so that we may have a share of his holiness. (11) Now, for the present, all discipline seems to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have undergone (it).
Make your crooked paths straight (vv. 12-13).
(12) Therefore, “straighten up your hands that are hanging down and your weakened knees” (vid. Isaiah 35. 3; Sirach 25. 23), (13) and “make straight the paths for your feet” (vid. Proverbs 4. 26 lxx), so that what (is) lame may not be put out of joint, but that it may be healed.
Warning against rejecting God’s grace (vv. 14-17).
(14) “Pursue peace with all (men)” (vid. Psalms 13. 14) and the holiness, without which no one will see the Lord, (15) taking care that no one should be excluded from the grace of God, and “that no root of bitterness should spring up and cause trouble” (vid. Deuteronomy 29. 17 lxx), and that many (people) may (not) be defiled by it, (16) (and that there may be) no fornicator or profane (person), such as “Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal” (vid. Genesis 25. 33-34). (17) “For you know that afterwards, when he wanted to inherit the blessing (i.e. the right of primogeniture), he was rejected, for, although he sought for it with tears (in his eyes), he could find no place for repentance” (i.e. Esau only regretted his loss; he did not repent of his sin) (vid. Genesis 27. 30-40).
Approaching the heavenly Jerusalem (vv. 18-29).
(18) “For you have not come to (a place) that can be touched (i.e. somewhere like Mount Sinai), and which has been set alight with fire, and to darkness and thick gloom and tempest, (19) (and) to the blast of a trumpet, and to the sound of words, and those hearing (it) begged that its message should not be addressed to them” (i.e. they believed that those who heard the voice of God would die) (vid. Exodus 19. 16-22; 20. 18-21; Deuteronomy 4. 11-12; 5. 22-27). (20) for they could not bear the commandment that, ” ‘If even an animal should touch the mountain, it should be stoned’ ” (vid. Exodus 19. 12-13); (21) and the sight was so terrifying that Moses said,” ‘I am full of fear” (Deuteronomy 9. 19) and trembling.’ (22) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and its myriad of angels in their festal gathering, (23) and to the assembly of the firstborn (i.e. the first of the early believers in Jesus to be redeemed), whose names have been written in the heavens, and “to God, the judge of all (men)” (vid. Genesis 18. 25; Psalms 50. 6), and to the spirits of the just who have been made perfect, (24) and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of the sprinkling that speaks better “than that of Abel” (i.e. Abel’s blood cried out for justice and retribution, whereas the blood shed by Jesus called for forgiveness) (vid. Genesis 4. 10).
(25) See that you do not refuse (to listen to) the (one) who is speaking; for if those, who refused (to listen to) the (one) giving divine warning on the earth, did not escape, (how) much more (shall) we (not escape) who turn away from him (who speaks) from the heavens; (26) “Then, his voice shook the earth” (vid. Exodus 19.18; Judges 5. 4: Psalms 68. 8), but now he has promised, saying ” ‘Yet once more will I set not only the earth in motion, but the heavens also.’ ” (vid. Haggai 2. 6) (27) Now, the (expression) ‘Yet once more’ signifies the removal of the (things) being shaken as things that have been created, in order that the (things) not being shaken may remain. (28) Therefore, as we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, may we have grace through which we can render sacred service to God in an acceptable manner with awe and reverence, (29) for “our God is indeed a consuming fire” (vid. Deuteronomy 4. 24; 9. 3; Isaiah 33. 14).
Final recommendations (vv. 1-6).
(1) Let your brotherly love continue. (2) Do not forget (to give) hospitality, for by (doing) this “some unknowingly entertained angels” (vid. Genesis 18. 1-8; 19. 1-3). (3) Remember those who are in prison, as if you have been imprisoned with (them), (and) those who are ill-treated, as you yourselves are also in a body. (4) (Let) marriage (be) held in honour among everyone, and (let) the marriage-bed (be) undefiled, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. (5) (Let your) way of life (be free of) the love of money; be content with your present (possessions); for he (i.e. God) himself has said, ” ‘I shall by no means abandon you, nor forsake you in any way’ ” (vid. Deuteronomy 31. 6); (6) so that we may be full of courage and say, ” ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid; what can man do to me’ ” (Psalms 31. 6)?
Faithfulness (vv. 7-16).
(7) Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you, and, as you consider the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.
(8) Jesus Christ (is) the same yesterday (and) today and forever.
(9) Do not be carried away by various and strange teachings; for (it is) good that the heart may be strengthened by grace, not by (ceremonial) foods, from which those who have so occupied themselves have not benefited.
(10) We have an altar, from which those who render sacred service in the (holy) tabernacle have no right to eat. (11) “For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high-priest (as an offering) for sin, is consumed by fire outside the camp” (vid. Leviticus 16. 27); (12) so, Jesus Christ also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate (i.e, Golgotha was outside the boundary of the city of Jerusalem). (13) Let us, therefore, go forth to him outside the camp (i.e. a call to separate from Judaism), and bear his humiliation, (14) for here we do not have a city that will endure, but we are seeking the (one) which is to come; (15) Through him (i.e. Jesus) let us continually offer up “a sacrifice of praise to God” (vid. 2 Chronicles 39. 31; Psalms 50. 14, 23), that is, the “fruit of lips” (vid. Hosea 14. 2) that confess his name. (16) But do not forget (to do) good deeds and to share (things with others), for God is well-pleased with such sacrifices (as these).
Obedience to religious leaders (vv. 17-19).
(17) Obey those who are leading you and submit (to them), “for they themselves are keeping watch over your souls” (vid. Isaiah 62. 6; Ezekiel 3. 17), as (those) who will render an account (of them), that they may do this with joy, and not with groans, for this (would be) damaging for you.
(18) Pray for us, for we are convinced that we have a good conscience, as we wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all (matters). (19) But I especially urge (you) to do this, so that I may be restored to you more quickly.
News, good wishes, and greetings (vv. 20-25).
(20) Now, may the God of peace “who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep” (vid. Isaiah 63. 11) “with the blood of an everlasting covenant” (vid. Zechariah 9. 11; Isaiah 5. 3, Jeremiah 32. 40; Ezekiel 37. 26), (that is,) our Lord Jesus, (21) equip you with every good (thing) to do his will, working in you what is pleasing in his sight, to whom (be) the glory forever and ever. Amen.
(22) Now, I exhort you, brothers, to pay patient attention to this word of encouragement, for indeed I have written to you briefly. (23) Be aware that our brother Timothy (has been) released, and, if he comes shortly, I shall see you together with him.
(24) Give my greetings to all those who are leading you and all of the holy ones. Those (who are) from Italy send you their greetings.
(25) Grace (be) with you all.