The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Commentry on Hebrews 9:11-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 5, 2011

This post includes a brief summary of chapter 9 followed by commentary on reading.

A Summary of Hebrews 9:1-28

In the preceding Chapter the author has shown us how Christ was the ideal High Priest, exercising His functions in the heavenly Sanctuary, and the Mediator of a new and better Covenant. Here in the present Chapter he will show how our Lord offered the ideal sacrifice, excelling by far the sacrifices of the Levitical order. To prove this, he first contrasts the ancient Tabernacle, its furnishings, and defective worship with the greater and more perfect Sanctuary into which Christ has entered, and the perfect and everlasting sacrifice which Christ has offered to God (ver. 1-14). Then he explains the necessity and value of the one and all-sufficient sacrifice which Christ has offered for sin (ver. 15-28).

11. But Christ being come, a high priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hand, that is, not of this creation:
12. Neither by the blood of goats, and of calves, but by his own blood, entered once into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption.

In verses 11-14 the author describes the greater efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ, showing that our Lord offered the ideal sacrifice.

But Christ, being come, i.e., Christ having arrived on the scene.

Of the good things to come, i.e., of the blessings they would enjoy who would belong to His Church. Another equally good reading has: “Of the good things that have come,” i.e., that are already enjoyed by those who have embraced Christianity. The author now gives two reasons to show how the work of Christ surpassed that of the Jewish High Priest: (a) He entered into the ideal Sanctuary in heaven; (b) He offered a perfect sacrifice—His own blood which, being of infinite value, needed not to be repeated, but has wrought an eternal redemption. The Jewish High Priest entered only an earthly Sanctuary which belonged to the world of created things, and the sacrifices which he offered consisted of the blood of animals and had to be repeated continually because imperfect.

In verse 11 of the Vulgate assistens should be apparens and the aut in verse 12 should be et, to agree with the Greek.

It is to be noted that many of the Fathers understood “tabernacle” of verse 11 to refer to our Lord’s body or the sacred humanity, as in Heb 10:20 below; but such an interpretation seems to be out of line with the author’s argument here, where he is contrasting Christ’s entrance with His body into heaven with the entrance of the Jewish High Priest into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement.

13. For if the blood of goats and of oxen, and the ashes of a heifer
being sprinkled, sanctify such as are defiled, to the cleansing of the flesh,
14. How much more shall the blood of Christ, who by his eternal Spirit offered himself unspotted unto God, cleanse our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God?

The author does not deny all value to the ancient sacrifices; but here, by an argument from less to greater, he shows how the blood of Christ has wrought an eternal redemption. Referring to the sacrifices of the Day of Atonement, when a bullock and a goat were slain and their blood used for cleansing and purifying (Lev 16:16, 21), and to the sacrifice of the Red Cow (Num 19:18), whose ashes mixed with water served to cleanse from legal defilement, he says, if these external rites of the Old Law were able to confer a purification, even though it was merely of the flesh and external, how much more will the blood of Christ, who by His eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, purify our conscience from the works of sin and enable us to offer a worthy service to the living God. The author is arguing that the greater the victim, the greater the fruit of its sacrifice. Now, in the sacrifice of Christ we have (a) the life-blood of a Person, not of an animal; (b) that Person is Christ, the anointed of God; (c) Christ’s sacrifice is a self-oblation, and not something external to Him, for He was the victim and priest on the cross and now in the heavenly Sanctuary; (d) He is a victim without blemish, not only in body like the ancient victims, but also in spirit; (e) He offered Himself through His eternal Spirit, or that indwelling power of divinity which enabled Him to rise from the dead and gave Him an “indissoluble life” (Heb 7:16).

Some authorities understand “eternal Spirit” here to mean the Holy Ghost, but this is improbable since there is no definite article in the Greek.

A Summary of Hebrews 9:15-17~In verses 15-22 the author wishes to show his readers, who might otherwise be scandalized at the death of Jesus, how that death was necessary for the redemption of mankind. He bases his argument on the double meaning of the Greek word διαθηκης, which may signify either a covenant or a will and testament. In verses 15-17 he uses the word in both senses, as a covenant and as a will or testament, after first recalling the idea of Heb 8:6-13, where it was shown that Christ is the Mediator of a new and better Covenant; and then in verses 18-22 the same word is employed in the more precise and Hebrew sense of covenant.

In verses 15-17, therefore, the writer shows how the death of Christ was necessary in order that the will and testament which He made might have its effect. A will or testament becomes effective and binding only on the death of the testator, and since the New Testament is Christ’s will, as well as His Covenant, it could not have its effect and force without His death.

15. And therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, that since death has taken place for the redemption of those transgressions which were under the former covenant they that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

And therefore, i.e., because the sacrifice which Christ has offered is of so great value, or because He has redeemed us with His blood and has purified our conscience and reconciled us to God (ver. 14), He has become “the mediator of a new covenant,” as was explained in Heb 8:6-13, in order that what took place under the Old Covenant with regard to men’s sins might occur with greater eflficacy under the New Covenant: under the Old Covenant the death of victims was necessary in order that by their blood men might be purified from their transgressions, and that the High Priest might be able to enter the Holy of Holies ; so in like manner under the New Covenant the death of a more perfect victim, namely, Christ Himself, was necessary in order to give to those ancient sacrifices all the efficacy they possessed and to secure to all who are called to the true faith the means of attaining to eternal beatitude and of entering their heavenly abode. This seems to be the meaning of a very obscure verse on which long treatises have been written.

If we do not connect “and therefore” at the beginning of the verse with what immediately precedes in verse 14, we cannot do better than translate with the Westminster Version as follows: “For this, then, is he the Mediator of a new testament, that whereas a death hath taken place, etc.”

4 Responses to “Father Callan’s Commentry on Hebrews 9:11-15”

  1. […] Father Callan on Heb 9:11-15 for Passion Sunday (Extraordinary Form). […]

  2. […] Father Callan on Heb 9:11-15 for Passion Sunday (Extraordinary Form). *********************************************************** […]

  3. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Hebrews 9:11-15. […]

  4. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Hebrews 9:11-15. […]

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