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 MacEvilly’s Commentary on Hebrews 2:5-12

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 13, 2013

This post begins with the Bishop’s summary of chapter 2, followed by his notes on verses 5-12. I’ve included (in purple) the Bishop’s paraphrasing of the verses.

A Summary of Hebrews 2~In this chapter, the Apostle infers, from the superior excellence of Christ above the angels, which he demonstrated in the preceding, that the New Law, of which he was the promulgator, was to be observed with greater diligence than was required in the observance of the Old (Heb 2:1-4). Then, reverting to the question of the superiority of Christ over the angels, he shows, that to him, and not to them, was subjected the world to come; and although we do not see all things subjected to him; still, the prophecy of David regarding him, a part of which is already fulfilled, shall ultimately receive its full accomplishment (Heb 2:4-9).

As the passion of Christ was a source of scandal to the Jews, on this account, the Apostle points out from several reasons, the congruity of his suffering, and vindicates the economy of redemption (Heb 2:10-15). Finally, he shows how perfectly our blessed Saviour possessed the qualities required in one, who was to undertake the redemption of mankind (Heb 2:17-18).

Heb 2:5  For God hath not subjected unto angels the world to come, whereof we speak.

It is not, however, to be supposed, because the angels were the promulgators of the Mosaic law, and were intrusted, in a subordinate capacity, with the government of this world, that they are the rulers of the future world, of which we speak; for, not to them, but to Christ, as father of the world to come, and pontiff of future blessings, had God confided the future world.

Some Expositors include all from the words, “which have begun,” &c. (verse 3), inclusively, to this verse, within a parenthesis, and connect this with verse 3, thus:—”How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” which salvation does not take its rise from the angels, who are not appointed the rulers of the future world, wherein salvation is obtained. Others (as in Paraphrase), say, that in this verse, the Apostle answers, by anticipation, an objection which might arise in the minds of the Jews, in consequence of the power assigned to angels in many parts of Scripture, of ruling this world (v.g.), Daniel 10:13-20. And he says, that although the angels may have been entrusted with the government of this present world, it is not so with “the future world,” by which some understand the Church, wherein alone salvation is found. But others, more probably, understand by it, the world after the resurrection, when the words adduced next verse in proof, that it is on Christ the government of the future world is conferred, “thou hast subjected all,” &c., will be fully verified.

Heb 2:6  But one in a certain place hath testified, saying: What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Heb 2:7  Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels: thou hast crowned him with glory and honour and hast set him over the works of thy hands.

6. That it was to Christ he subjected the future world, of which we speak, we have the authority of David (Ps 8), when addressing God in words, the mystical, if not the literal, sense of which refers to Christ, he says: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou visitest him,” by assuming him to a union with the Divine Person at his Incarnation?
7. Thou hast made him, for a short time, during his passion, appear lower than the angels; but thou hast, after his passion, crowned him with honor and glory, and placed him over all the works of thy power.

He proves that it was to Christ this future world, of which he speaks, (Heb 1:6-12), is to be subjected. “But one in a certain place,” &c.—(David, Psalm 8) The Apostle omits mentioning the passage from which the words are taken, because addressing the Jews, so accurately versed in the Scriptures. Some Commentators understand Psalm 8 to refer, in its literal sense, to the benefits conferred on Adam and his posterity. The Psalmist is supposed by them, while in his youth tending his flocks at night, “oves et boves universas,” &c, and gazing on the heavens, “the moon and the stars which thou hast founded,” (Ps 8:3), resplendently reflecting the attributes of the Creator, to have burst forth into the praises of God—”Domine, dominus noster,” &c., admiring, at the same time, his concern for man, to whose use and benefit all creation was made subservient. He was specially “mindful” of frail, weak man, and “visited” him by conferring on him so many signal favours. He set him over the rest of creation, and made him “a little lower than the angels.” The Hebrew for “little” (מעט), as also the Greek,  βραχυ τι, may signify, either for a short time, during his mortal life—for, in heaven all “shall be as the angels of God,”—or, a little, in dignity, below the angels, the angelic being superior to human nature. The Hebrew for “angels” (elohim), is frequently applied to creatures, and is rendered “angels” by the Septuagint, both here and in other places, (v.g.) adorent eum angeli (elohim) Dei (Heb 1:6). He “subjected all things under his feet,” by giving him dominion over all earthly creatures. Therefore, it is added in the Psalm,”all sheep and oxen,” &c. Taken in their mystical sense, on which the reasoning of the Apostle, applying them to Christ is founded, the words mean, what is human nature (“man and the son of man,”) that God should specially visit it by becoming personally united to it at his incarnation. “For a little,” during his mortal life, and especially his passion, Christ in his human nature appeared lower than the angels; or, in dignity, the human nature of Christ was lower than the angels (for many hold that of itself the angelic nature is superior to the human nature of Christ). “Thou hast subjected” &c. These words are taken in their widest extent, and from his saying that he “subjected all things,” the Apostle infers that nothing, not excepting the angels, was left unsubjected. It is not unusual with the Apostle to ground an argument quite conclusively on the mystical meaning of the Scriptures of the Old Testament (see Heb 1:5).

Others maintain that Psalm 8 literally and directly refers to Christ. He frequently styles himself in the Gospel, “Son of Man” to which the words of the Psalmist are, most likely, prophetically allusive. The Psalm is quoted from in three other places of the New Testament (Matthew 21:16; 1 Cor 15:27; Eph 1:22), and in all these it is applied to Christ. To this it might be said in reply, that the Psalm is quoted in its mystical sense, in the passages referred to. The advocates of this opinion also say that, although some passages of the Psalm may literally apply to Adam and mankind in general; still, it is only to Christ the entire Psalm could refer, as there are other passages which could not apply to man (v.g.), that after being lowered beneath the angels, he was crowned with honour and glory, that he was set over the works of God and that “all things,” except God, as the Apostle interprets it (1 Cor 15), were “subjected under his feet.” It might, however, be said in reply, that after being lowered, in dignity, below the angels, man was crowned with honour and glory in the high destiny in store for him hereafter, and the lofty dominion over creatures given to him and continued after his fall; and that, after a short time, he shall be equal to the angels in the fruition of heavenly bliss; with regard to the subjection of all things, it might be said, that the Apostle, in their mystical application, gives the words a greater extension, so that in their mystical sense, as applying to Christ, they are more fully and more perfectly verified.

Heb 2:8  Thou hast subjected all things under his feet. For in that he hath subjected all things to him he left nothing not subject to him. But now we see not as yet all things subject to him.

Thou hast subjected all creatures whatsoever under the feet of thy Christ; and by saying, he subjected all, without exception, the Psalmist leaves it to be inferred, that there is nothing left unsubjected. But this part of the prophecy, regarding the universal subjection of all things to Christ, is not yet fully accomplished; for, we do not yet see all things actually subjected to him.

“Thou hast subjected all things under his feet;” from the Psalmist’s universal assertion that “he subjected all,”the Apostle infers that nothing, of course, not even the angels, was left unsubjected. “  But now we do not see,” &c. The Apostle admits that the portion of the divine oracle, which regards the universal subjection of all things to Christ, is not yet actually fulfilled in execution. But he says, that from the fulfilment of the other part of the promise, which regards the “crowning of Christ with honour,” &c., after his passion, we can calculate on the fulfilment of this also, in due time; and that the other part is fulfilled, is clear from verse 9.

Heb 2:9  But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour: that, through the grace of God he might taste death for all.

But the other part is fulfilled. We see that Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels in his passion, now crowned with honour and glory, in reward for this passion, which he submitted to, so as to die for all, owing to the gratuitous love and bounty of God, sincerely wishing for the redemption of all men.

“But we see Jesus,” &c. Hence, one part of the promise is fulfilled. “For the suffering of death,” may be also connected with the words, “made a little lower than the angels,” as if he said, “he was made a little lower than the angels, on account of the suftering of death.” “That through the grace of God” is an explanation of the words, “suffering of death,” as if he said, when I refer to the suffering of death, I must explain it, as being the result of the gratuitous love of God by which he sincerely wished for the redemption of the entire human race. “For all.” In Greek, υπερ παντος, for every man.

Heb 2:10  For it became him for whom are all things and by whom are all things, who had brought many children into glory, to perfect the author of their salvation, by his passion.

(But as the ignominious death and sufferings of Christ might prove to you a subject of scandal, I shall point out to you the congruity, on the part of God, of fixing on suffering as the means of redeeming man, and glorifying his own Son). For, it became the wisdom of God the Father, the end and author of all things, after having decreed to bring many adopted sons to glory (by means of suffering), to fix also upon suffering, as the means of bringing to perfect glory, the author of their salvation, i.e., to adopt unity and identity of means, in glorifying all his children, both natural and adopted.

The ignominious death of Christ was to the Jews a subject of scandal. Hence, the Apostle here sets about vindicating the economy of redemption. “Who had brought many children unto glory.” The words, by suffering, are understood. Some understand the words, “who had brought,” to mean, “who had decreed to bring,” because no one was brought to heavenly glory, before Christ’s Passion and Ascension. Others, who by “glory,” also understand heavenly glory, take the word “brought,” literally to mean, actually brought, because the patriarchs, and just of old, were sure of heavenly glory, and were immediately to enter on it ; or rather these say, that “glory” means not heavenly glory, but renown, celebrity; and God had rendered many of his sons of old, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, &c., renowned and celebrated, through the ordeal of suffering. Hence, God brought them to glory by suffering, because they performed the works of suffering, to which this glory or renown was attached. “The author of their salvation.” In Greek, αρχηγον, the chief, or captain of their salvation.

Heb 2:11  For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one. For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying:

For the Pontiff, who sanctifies (such as Christ), and they who are sanctified, should be of the same stock, of the same nature. Therefore, it is, that Christ having adopted our nature, is not ashamed to call us brethren, saying-

“He that sanctifieth,” &c. The Apostle more fully explains the preceding verse. The Pontiff who sanctifies, and they who are sanctified, should be of the same nature, or from the same stock. The Pontiffs among the Jews were taken from the Jewish people. Hence, as Christ is constituted by God (verse 19) a Pontiff to redeem men, he ought to be of the same nature, a nature passible and liable to suffering. The reason why Christ, as Pontiff, should assume a passible nature is assigned (Heb 2:17), between which verse and this (verse 11) the closest connexion is clearly traceable. “For which cause he is not ashamed,” &c. Hence, to observe this congruity of being of the same nature with the redeemed, Christ assumed our nature, in virtue of which he is not ashamed to call us brethren, as appears from (Heb 2:12, below).

Heb 2:12  I will declare thy name to my brethren: in the midst of the church will I praise thee.

“I will announce thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the church will I praise thee.”

Psalm 22:22 from which these words are quoted, evidently refers to the Passion of Christ, and the words quoted from it in this verse have reference to the time after his Resurrection, when he frequently calls his Apostles “brethren” (Matt 28; John 20); he then announced to them the name of God during forty days, and afterwards announced it through them to the world, and it was after the promulgation of his law, that the praises of God the Father, and his own, were solemnly proclaimed in the churches.


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