Father Boylan’s Commentary on Hebrews 10:1-11
Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2013
The complete and eternal sufficiency of Christ’s atoning death
(1) For the Law, having only the shadow of thee future good things, not the reality (or, the genuine image) of the things, is never able to perfect those who approach by the annual sacrifices which are constantly offered.
Note the emphatic, position of σκιαν (“shadow” is the first word in the Greek): εχων (“having”) means here either the original as compared with its copy, or the image which really represents a thing as , contrasted with the mere shadow cast by a thing. The “things” (πραγματων) are the same as “the future good things”, — the blessings of the Christian period. The Law merely suggested, or foreshadowed, perfection: it never attained it. No repetition or intensification of a mere shadow can produce the thing itself that casts the shadow. While the author is thus making a general statement about the character of the Mosaic Law, he, is still thinking chiefly of the rites of Atonement Day.
“Those who approach” includes all the, worshippers who gathered together for the celebrafion of the’ ritual of Atonement Day.
(2) For would they not otherwise have ceased to be offered, since the worshippers once purified would no longer have any consciousness of sin.
Verse 2 is best taken as a question–giving a reason for the preceding. If the sacrifices of Atonement Day had produced real purification, they would not have needed to be repeated, for ther people, then, would have had no recurring consciousness of sin. The constantly repeated sacrifices showed an ever-present or ever returning sense of guilt unremoved, of atonement incomplete. Here the thought which is uppermost in the writer’s mind is the completeness of the atonement of Christ — the Author of eternal salvation.
(3) Yet by them is produced annually a reminder of sin.
The Old Testament sacrifices had, however, the positive value that they served to remind inen of their sin, and of the need of atonement. They kept alive in men the consciousness of guilt, and the longing for redemption.
(4) For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin.
This principle the author supposes to be perfectly clear to his readers. Between the offerings, and the result, or effect, in question there is, and can be, no proportion. The death of an irrational creature cannot be regarded as per se a real atonement for man’s sins. Such a victim is unwilling to die, and is incapable of realising in any fashion the purpose of its death when it is offered in sacrifice. Hence the annual sacrifices of the Old Law were nothing more than symbols of a sacrifice which could effect purification, and it was only as such symbols that they could produce any genuine effect, But the writer’s purpose here is not to inquire into the purifying power belonging to the sacrifices of the Old Testament as a divinely established system, but only to point out that there is per se no relation between the shedding of an animal’s blood and the atoning for human sin.
(5) Hence He saith when entering into ttie world:
(6) Sacrifice and offering Thou hast not desired, But a body Thou preparedst for me. In holocausts and sin-offerings Thou hadst no pleasure.
(7) Then I said: Lo, I am come (in the volume it is written of me) To do, o God, Thy will.
The text of Psalm 40:7-9 which is here quoted is not handed down in the same form in the Hebrew and Greek tradition. Yet the general sense of the passage is clear, and is substantially alike in Hebrew, Greek, and Vulgate. It contrasts with the system of Old Testament sacrifices the sacrificial will of Christ — the absolute submission of the will of Jesus to that of the Father in the Messianic work which the Father had given Him to do. The sacrifice of obedience, the unconditional submission of the will of the Messias, was the sacrifice in which the Father really took pleasure.
“When entering into the world” refers not to the entering into public life of Our Lord, nor to any other period during the earthly life of Jesus, but to the Incarnation itself. The words are regarded here as having a sort of dramatic character, as being the expression of Jesus’ abiding attitude of submission and obedience, rather than as a solemn utterance of Our Lord at some particular point of time. The sacrifice which Jesus offered is to take the place not merely of the sacrifice of Atonement Day, but of all Jewish sacrifices — the “holocausts” and “sin offerings”, the “sacrifices” and “offerings”.
The text as quoted teaches that the body of Jesus was fashioned to be, as it were, the instrument by which the sacrificial will of the Messias should express itself. The whole passage proves that the sacrifice of Jesus was well-pleasing to the Father for three reasons: (a) it was worthy of God’s majesty, for it was the sacrifice of the Son of God; (b) it was a fit and proper sacrifice of atonement for man’s sins, since it involved the offering of a human body — of a body specially fashioned for that sacrifice; (c) the sacrifice was an expression of the most absolute submission to the divine will.
In the volunae it is written of me” is to be read as a parenthesis. The roll or volume, is the Old Testament in general as a Book of Prophecy.
The text of the Hebrew reads, “Ears Thou hast digged for me”: the Vulgate has, Aures . . . perfecisti nihi. Both of these text-forms convey the idea of the complete obedience of Christ. (See my Commentary on Psalms). The whole purpose of the coming of the Messias, ‘ according to the Psalm-text, was to carry out the will of the Father. Cf. John 5:19; John 5:28. The highest offering to God is the offering of the will, and Jesus made that offering without reserve. Cf. the celebrated passage Philippians 2:5—9.
(8) While He saith earlier: “Sacrifices and offerings, and holocausts and sin-offerings Thou desiredst not, nor hadst pleasure in,”— which yet are all offered according to the Law,
(9) He saith, in the next place: “Lo, I am come to do Thy will;” He annuleth the first in order to make valid the second.
(10) In virtue of this will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all.
(11) And every priest standeth forth daily to minister, offering often the same sacrifices which can never take away sin.
The Psalm-text proves that the fulfilment of God’s will by Christ has taken the place of the Old Testament sacrifices. By Christ’s sacrifice, fulfilling as it did absolutely the Father’s will, we are sanctified once for all. Verse 10 again emphasizes the thought that the body of Jesus was specially fashioned for His sacrifice. The “will” in v. 10 is the will of the Father: it is the causa prima of our salvation: the sacrifice of the’ cross is the causa secunda of that salvation.