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 Boylan’s Commentary on Hebrews 5:1-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 14, 2017

Jesus as a true High Priest possessing all the qualities demanded of the Aaronite High Priest
Hebrews 5:1-10

Heb 5:1 For every High Priest, being taken from among men, is appointed as a representative of men in the things that i;efer to God, that he may offer gifts and sacrifices for sins
Heb 5:2 as one who can be mild with’ the ignorant and erring, since he himself is encompassed with weakness,
Heb 5:3 and because lOf it must make offerings for sin on behalf of the people and on his own behalf.
Heb 5:4 And none taketh the honour but . one who has been called by God, just as Aaron

1 — 4. The first quality required in a true High priest is -similarity in nature with those for whom he acts as priest. Hence if Jesus were God and not also man, He would be inferior as a Mediator to the Jewish High Priests. To be a High Priest it was, therefore, necessary that He should become Man. In the second place, a High Priest should be capable of understanding and sympathizing with human frailties, and of distinguishing the different kinds of sins in regard to their malice and deliberation [1]. Thirdly a High Priest must have received a call to act as Priest. The author will proceed in the verses that follow (5 — 10) to show that all those qualities are fully present in Jesus.

[1] The Levitical theology distinguished carefully between sins of ignorance and sins which were committed ‘with raised-up hand’ (conscious opposition to the Law); for sins committed in ignorance (the agnomaton of Heb 9:7) atonement had to be made. (Cf. Leviticus 4:13ff and Lev 16).

A High Priest must be taken from among men, for only a man can be representative of men. The ‘gifts’ and ‘sacrifices’ cover the whole class of sacrificial offerings. As a rule the Jewish High Priest offered sacrifice only on Sabbaths and feast-days: but the author has here in view chiefly the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. (Cf. Leviticus ch. 1 6.)

The Greek word metrlopathein suggests the mean between apathy and unbridled passion: it implies calm understanding of, and kindness towards the erring.

The Jewish High Priest was clad with frailty as with a garment, and therefore, had to offer for himself, as well as for. others, on Atonement Day.

Since all men are sinful no man, as such, can have the right of mediating between -men and God. Even Aaron, the first High Priest, had to be called. Christ was sinless, and yet He did not of himself assume the rank of High Priest, but waited to be called or appointed; for as one standing between God’ and man the priest must be capable of representing mart, and must be also established by God as official mediator.

Heb 5:5  So, too, Christ hath not taken to Himself the honour of becoming High Priest, but He who said to Him: ‘Thou art my Son; this day I have begotten Thee.’
Heb 5:6  As He elsewhere saith: ‘Thou art Priest forever according; to the order of Melchisedech’.

No man can appoint himself a priest, or officialmediator, between God and men. Neither can men appoint a man to this office. The appointment, or call, must come from God. So, it was even with the Son of God. Jesus was necessarily made a Priest when He became man, for by His incarnation He became of necessity ‘ a Mediator between’ God and men. Though Jesus was Son of God from all eternity,  the words of Psalm 2 here addressed to Him by the Father: ‘Thou art my Son; this day I have begotten Thee,’ are taken as’ spoken to Him at the moment of the Incarnation. This declaration of the Father is, then, practically equivalent to a declaration of the Priesthood of Christ. The appointment of Jesus as Priest is clearer still in the text of Psalm 110:4: ‘Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.’ Though Jesus is here declared to be a Priest, not a High Priest, yet His Priesthood, as the Priesthood of the Son of God, could not be other than a High Priesthood. Though the following verses 9 and 10 seem to imply that it was not until after the Resurrection that the Priesthood of Jesus was made complete, the teaching of this Epistle is that the offering on Calvary was a genuinely priestly offering, and that therefore, Jesus performed priestly functions on, earth. Verse 10 may be taken as meaning that, though Jesus performed priestly functions on earth, yet the official seal was not set on His Priesthood, as it were, until after the Ascension. Christ is the Priest secundum ordinem Melchisedech, kata ten taxin melchisedek (Heb 7:17)

Taxin can mean ‘position’, ‘post’, ‘rank’, ‘prescript, ‘ordinance’ (Cf. 7:11. 15, 17); in the Psalm-text cited it, represents the Hebrew dibhrah which in the context of the Psalm, means ‘fashion’, ‘manner’. In ch. 7:15 of this Epistle the phrase is rendered in the Greek kata ten hoholoteta Melchisedek, ‘according to the likeness of Melchisedech’. In ch. 7:11 the taxin of Melchisedech is contrasted with the taxin; of Aaron, and seems to mean there a norm, or rule, governing the priesthood.

The Melchisedech-priesthood given to Jesus is peculiar in several ways(a) it is given to Jesus alone; (b) it is eternal; (c) it is associated with kingship. All, these things follow from an analysis of the Scripture references to Melchisedech (cf. ch. 7). Patristic writers have usually seen in the bread and wine offered by Melchisedech a type of the Eucharistic sacrifice, and a further point of resemblance  between the priesthoods of Christ and Melchisedech;, but the author does not make any use of this, point of comparison in this Epistle.

Heb 5:7 Who (i. e. Christ) in the ,days of His’ flesh offered up prayer and supplications to Him who could save Him from death, with a loud cry and tears, and was heard because of (His) reverential fear
Heb 5:8 and though He was Son, He learned obedience from that which He suffered:
Heb 5:9 and, Himself made perfect. He became for all who obey Him the author of eternal salvation,
Heb 5:10designated by God as High Priest ‘according to the order of Melchisedech’.

The expressions in verse 7 refer more naturally to the Agony in the Garden than to the Crucifixion. The verse is connected with the preceding by the thought that the urgency of Christ’s prayer in the Agony proves that He did not assume the rank of High Priest out of any spirit of overweening pride. In the Agony He was deeply humiliated. This verse and the following should be carefully, compared with the celebrated passage in Philippians 2:5 ff.

The ‘who’ obviously refers back to the chief subject of vv. 5—6. ‘Who could save Him from death ‘ suggests the object of Jesus’ petition: the resignation of Jesus to the Father’s will is also, probably, conveyed in the description of the
latter as dynamenon sozein auton (literally, able to save him).

apo tes eulabelas (translated above as because of his reverential fear) has been interpreted in two ways: (a) He was rescued from fear = away from fear, i. e. He was heard, and was rescued from the fear of death: (b) Fear =. reverential fear, i.e., He was heard because of the reverential fear through which He submitted Himself fully to the divine will. It was not so much for rescue from death as for perfect union with the divine will, that Jesus prayed in His Agony. Hence apo tes eulabelas states the reason why He was heard. He was heard inasmuch as the perfect union with the Father’s will which He sought was attained. The second interpretation is accepted-here in

Christ as man surrendered Himself absolutely to God, and thus did He, though He was the Creator of the world, learn obedience through, suffering. The perfect self-surrender of Christ made Him perfect, as Man, and His sacrifice of obedience became a source of grace and perfection -for His followers. The biblical designation of Christ’ as High Priest confirms all this. , As a High Priest He can atone for the sins of His people, and thus become the author or altios (source, cause, author) of their soterias (salvation)— their rescue from sin, and’ their investiture with grace. Notice how archiereus, ‘High Priest’, is here substituted for ‘priest’ in the Psalm-passage.

The prosagoreutheis (designated) of verse 1o is probably to be thought of as following the Resurrection. See above on verse 5.  Prosagoreutheis (designated) means not merely ‘named’, or ‘called’, but ‘recognized as’.

Telelotheis (made perfect) of verse 9 does not imply that Jesus as a person possessed originally no more than a relative moral perfection. Some commentators take the word as making a contrast with ‘the days of the flesh’ and as expressing, therefore, the heavenly glory of the Risen Christ; The word  does not necessarily imply a progress from a less perfect state: it may simply express the condition of one who has arrived at a goal, or of one who is mature.


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