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

Archive for the ‘Notes on Hebrews’ Category

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Hebrews 13:7-17

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 23, 2019

This post opens with fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of all of chapter 13, followed by his commentary on the reading. Text in purple indicates his paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on.


In this concluding chapter, the Apostle inculcates certain duties of morality, and exhorts the Hebrews to the practice of several virtues, both as regards their neighbour and themselves. With regard to the virtues to be exercised towards their neighbour, the Apostle exhorts them to persevere in fraternal charity, to exercise hospitality, and manifest a practical sympathy for those who were suffering for the faith (1–3). He exhorts them to guard strictly conjugal chastity, and shunning avarice, to exhibit their confidence in God (4–6).

He exhorts them to be mindful of their deceased prelates, the consideration of whose edifying lives and holy death should be an encouragement to persevere in the same faith which they professed—a faith as unchangeable as Jesus Christ himself (7, 8). Hence, they should not be led away by fluctuating and contrary doctrines, particularly in reference to the useless distinction of food, and the legal victims. The Christians, although deprived of Jewish victims, have a still more excellent one, whereof those cannot partake who adhere to Judaism; for, in order to be able to partake of it, they must relinquish the synagogue, and the profession of the Jewish religion (9–13).

He recommends liberality towards the poor, and obedience to their prelates (16, 17). He begs the assistance of their prayers (18-19), and finally concludes with a prayer and salutation (20-25).


Heb 13:7  Remember your prelates who have spoken the word of God to you: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation,

7. Remember your former deceased prelates, who preached to you the word of God, and confirmed you in the faith; looking to their edifying lives and holy death, imitate their faith—the source of their sanctity in life, and happiness in death.

“The end of their conversation” means their death, in justice and sanctity. The words of this verse clearly show that the Apostle refers to their deceased prelates and religious guides, viz., James, Stephen, &c., who trampled under foot, and undervalued all earthly things: the example of these they should follow, and to their faith they should firmly adhere; for, this faith was the source of their sanctity in life, and of their happiness in death.

From this passage we can clearly perceive the advantage of perusing the lives of the saints, who have gone before us. Their lives are to us a practical illustration of the gospel; they point out the means, and serve as an incentive, to labour for heaven, Nonne potes tu, quod isti et istæ.—St. Augustine. It is to the pious reading of the lives of the saints, that the Church is, to a certain degree, indebted for the illustrious Society of Jesus, whose equals the world has never seen; the first, whom the enemies of God and man are sure to assail, as being the leading and the most powerful defenders of religion and social order; their persecution, in any particular country, as the annals of modern rebellions against the altar and the throne too clearly attest, is a sure sign of national reprobation; the certain forerunner of terrible religious and social disasters.

Heb 13:8  Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today: and the same for ever. 

8. (Their faith and yours must be the same), since Jesus Christ—the principal object of their faith and yours—is the same, yesterday, to-day, and for ever.

As Jesus Christ—the principal object of faith—is always the same; therefore, the faith in him must always be the same; and hence, the faith of the Hebrews, and of their predecessors in the faith, must be identical. These words, most probably, refer to Jesus Christ, as God-man. “Yesterday” refers to the time of his Incarnation. This verse connects the preceding with the following verses. The words, “the same,” are, according to the Greek punctuation, joined to “to-day.”

Heb 13:9  Be not led away with various and strange doctrines. For it is best that the heart be established with grace, not with meats: which have not profited those that walk in them. 

9. Be not carried about by the varying and strange doctrines (of heretics), an example of which is found in the choice of legal, or, rather, in the effects attributed to, sacrificial meats; it is much better to strengthen your hearts by the grace of the New Law, which faith in Christ brings with it, than trust in the efficacy of the observances referred to, which never had the effect of sanctifying those who followed them, and spent their lives in them.

As faith must be, therefore, always one and indivisible, be not carried about by doctrines “various,” i.e., varying in themselves, and from the truth; “and strange,” foreign to the deposit left by God to his Church. “For, it is best to establish the heart with grace.” He gives a particular instance of the false doctrines, to which he has been referring in a general way, in the words, “various … doctrines.” He, most likely, refers to the doctrine regarding the distinction of meats, some of which were forbidden, and others allowed by the law; or rather to the doctrine regarding the effects of meats offered in sacrifice, to which the Judaizers attributed the power and efficacy of sanctifying men. This latter interpretation is rendered probable by the following verse. The Apostle says, it is better to establish and render the heart firm by the grace of Christianity, than by recurring to the use of such meats, which never conferred true sanctity on the worshippers (9:10).

“To walk in,” is a Hebraism for principles of action followed out in practice.—Kenrick, in hunc locum.

Heb 13:10  We have an altar whereof they have no power to eat who serve the tabernacle. 

10. (Let it not, however, be supposed, that by giving up the legal offerings, we are without victims, or sacrifice); for, in Christianity, we have on our altars, a victim, that supplies us with the grace which strengthens the heart, whereof they cannot partake who serve the tabernacle and still adhere to the Jewish religion.

“We have an altar,” &c. This altar, which is understood of the victim offered on it, refers, according to some, to the adorable Eucharist, the first step to obtain which must be, to go forth from the synagogue; and, that in order to partake of it, they must first leave the synagogue, or Jewish religion, he proves (verse 11), from the rite observed in the great sacrifice of expiation, a type of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, of which the Eucharistic sacrifice is a continuation, and a real unbloody commemoration. The word “eat,” greatly serves to confirm this opinion. “Serve” (λατευοντες) has reference directly to the priests; it also embraces, in a general way, all who approach the Jewish altar, as worshippers.

Heb 13:11  For the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the holies by the high priest for sin are burned without the camp. 

11. This exclusion of the ministers and followers of the Jewish tabernacle, from a participation of the victim of our “altar,” was typified by the ordinance of the law respecting the great sacrifice of expiation. For, the bodies of the animals, viz., the goat and the heifer, whose blood was carried by the high priest into the sanctum sanctorum, in the great sacrifice of expiation, were burnt outside the camp (wherein dwelt the Jews, at this time, sojourning in the desert).

“Are burned without the camp.” The Jews, at the time of this ordinance dwelt in the desert, in a moveable camp, outside which were burned the bodies of the heifer and the goat, whereof neither the priests nor the people could partake.

Heb 13:12  Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people by his own blood, suffered without the gate. 

12. For which cause, Jesus also, the reality typified, in order to fulfil this figure, suffered outside the gate of Jerusalem, sanctifying the people, with his blood.

On this account it was that Jesus, in order to correspond with his type (for, of his sacrifice, the great sacrifice of expiation was a mere type and figure) suffered outside the gates of Jerusalem.

Heb 13:13  Let us go forth therefore to him without the camp, bearing his reproach. 

13. We, therefore, and all who wish to be partakers of the Christian sacrifice, must go forth to him, outside the camp of the synagogue. In other words, we must desert the synagogue, and join the Church; bearing the reproach attached to the name of Christian.

Hence, we should go forth to him outside the camp, and leaving the synagogue, submit to the reproach of Christ, before we can be partakers of the victim of the Christian “altar,” that is to say, of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, where he is offered up daily, in an unbloody manner, and partaken of by the faithful. Whether the opinion which refers “altar” to the Eucharist, be true or false, matters but little in regard to the faith of the Church, on the subject of the Eucharist, which is clearly demonstrated from other passages; and such of the Fathers as understand this passage of it, show their faith regarding the Eucharist to have been the same as ours. Others make “altar” refer directly to the altar of the cross; because it was of the sacrifice of the cross that the sacrifice of expiation, to which he alludes (verse 11), was typical. The Hebrews were attaching great importance to the sacrifices of the Mosaic law. Now, he says, it would be far better for them to have recourse to grace (verse 9), which they cannot receive, since it is purchased by a sacrifice wherein they can have no share, without first going forth from the synagogue (verse 10); for, the bodies of the victims, &c., were burned outside the camp (verse 11). Hence, Jesus suffered outside the gate of Jerusalem (verse 12); and hence, to become partakers of the merits of his sacrince, “to eat of the altar,” according to these interpreters, we must go forth from the synagogue, and join the Church, “bearing his reproach;” for, the name of Christian was counted a reproach. Should this passage refer directly to the sacrifice of the cross, in it must be indirectly included the sacrifice of the Eucharist; inasmuch as it is the same sacrifice with that of the cross, from which it differs, only as to the mode of offering.

Some Expositors say, that in this verse is conveyed an exhortation to bear our cross patiently, after the example of Christ. “Bearing his reproach” will then mean: bearing his cross after him, which is a reproach and folly.

Heb 13:14  For, we have not here a lasting city: but we seek one that is to come. 

14. And this voluntary exile, and departure from the synagogue and Jerusalem, should not disturb or frighten us, for we, Christians, have not on this earth any permanent city; as exiles and pilgrims, we are in search of one to come, that is, the heavenly Jerusalem.

In this verse is contained a reason why we should not hesitate to leave the synagogue; because, we are in search of our heavenly Jerusalem; according to others, in it is contained a reason why we should be prepared to suffer for Christ’s sake; because, no matter what may befall us, whether exile, death, &c., it will not deprive us of our country, but rather hasten our approach to it.

Commentators remark that the Apostle explains, in the foregoing passage, the sacrifice of expiation, according to the four-fold sense attached to SS. Scripture—viz., the literal, the allegorical, the tropological (or moral), and the anagogical. (Litera gesta docet; quid credas, Allegoria; Moralis, quid agas; quo tendas, Anagogia). According to the literal sense, the victim in the sacrifice of expiation was carried out of the camp and burned, and the blood was carried by the high priest into the sanctuary, as an expiation for sin—litera gesta docet—verse 11. According to the allegorical sense, this victim was a figure of Christ ignominiously driven outside the city, to suffer death, as an atonement for sin—quid credas, Allegoria—verse 12. According to the tropological or moral sense, those who wish to partake of the sacrifice of Christ, must go outside the precincts of the synagogue, and abandon the Jewish religion; thus bearing their share in the ignominy which he was pleased to undergo—Moralis, quid agas—verse 13. And according to the anagogical meaning of the ceremony, they are not to regret this temporary exile, since neither Jerusalem nor the synagogue is our true country or lasting home; we are in search of our heavenly and everlasting dwelling-place above—quo tendas, anagogia—verse 14. Rutter, in hunc locum.

Heb 13:15  By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise always to God, that is to say, the fruit of lips confessing to his name. 

15. Having, therefore, been united to Christ, let us continually present through him to God a sacrifice of praise, that is to say, the fruit of lips confessing his name.

Having given up the legal sacrifices prescribed by law, let us offer up to God, through Christ, to whom we are united, after deserting the synagogue, “a sacrifice of praise,” according to some, the sacrifice of the Eucharist. This is the opinion of those who refer “altar” (verse 10) to the Eucharist. The explanation, however, given by the Apostle himself, of what this sacrifice is, “that is the fruit of lips,” &c., shows that it refers to the spiritual offering of thanksgiving to God, in every shape and form. These acts of thanksgiving are called “the fruit of lips, confessing his name;” because, it is by the lips his praises are sounded, and his benefits deserving thanks, together with his eternal attributes, proclaimed. No doubt, among the most acceptable channels of thanksgiving and praise, the sacrifice of the Eucharist holds the first place; but, it is only in this general respect, as a means of thanksgiving, that the Apostle seems to make any reference to it in this verse.

Heb 13:16  And do not forget to do good and to impart: for by such sacrifices God’s favour is obtained. 

16. And to this piety towards God, neglect not to add charity towards your neighbour. Forget not liberality, nor omit to impart your goods to the poor, by relieving them according to your ability; for, by such sacrifices the favour of God is obtained, with them he is well pleased.

In this verse is prescribed another offering most pleasing to God, the offering of charity and beneficence to our neighbour; “for by such sacrifices,” viz., praise of God, and charity towards our neighbour, “God’s favour is obtained.” The Greek, ευαρεστειται ὀ Θεος, means, God receives delight; or, in them he is well pleased; unlike the sacrifices of the Old Law, which were unpleasing to him.

Heb 13:17  Obey your prelates and be subject to them. For they watch as being to render an account of your souls: that they may do this with joy and not with grief. For this is not expedient for you. 

17. Obey your prelates, and reverence them; for, you are to regard them as watching over your souls (as they are bound to do in virtue of their office), since, in the day of judgment they must render an account of you. Obey them, therefore, from the heart, that they may discharge this responsible duty of watching over you with joy and not with pain. This would not be expedient for you; for, the groans of the pastor would provoke against you the heavy vengeance of God.

To the two-fold sacrifice of praise (verse 15), and of charity (verse 16), he wishes them to add, the sacrifice of their own will, by obedience to their prelates and pastors. “For they watch” (for your souls, ὑπερ τῶν ψυχῶν ὑμων, is added here in the Greek; the Vulgate construction, which places these words not here but after the words “render an account”—rationem pro animabus vestris reddituri—is preferable)—this merely expresses the duty of the pastors; and the light in which the faithful are bound to regard them. What a heavy responsibility, those charged with the care of souls have incurred! they must account for each and every one of them, at God’s judgment-seat; for each and every one, Jesus Christ shed his blood, with the dispensation of which the pastor is charged. Woe to him if it shall have flowed in vain for immortal souls, through any fault of his! “That they may do this,” i.e., watch over your souls, “with joy, and not with grief,” seeing your disobedience, and the absence of progress made by you, “for this is not expedient for you.” The groans of the prelates, whose words you slight, will provoke God’s wrath, which he shall manifest in his own time. He who shall disobey or despise ecclesiastical authority shall be overtaken, sooner or later, by the justice of God, whom he despises.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Extraordinary Form, Latin Mass Notes, Notes on Hebrews, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Hebrews 6:10-20

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 21, 2019

This post contains an excerpt from St Chrysostom’s 10th homily on Hebrews, followed by his 11th homily.


Ver. 10. “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work, and1 the love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered unto the saints and do minister.” O how did he here restore their spirit, and give them fresh strength, by reminding them of former things, and bringing them to the necessity of not supposing that God had forgotten. (For he cannot but sin who is not fully assured concerning his hope, and says that God is unrighteous. Accordingly he obliged them by all means to look forward to those future things. For one who despairs of present things, and has given up exerting himself, may be restored by [the prospect of] things future.) As he himself also said in writing to the Galatians, “Ye did run well” (Gal. 5:7): and again, “Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.” (Gal. 3:4.)

And as in this place he puts the praise with the reproof, saying, “When for the time ye ought to be teachers” (c. 5:12), so also there, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed.” (Gal. 1:6.) With the reproof is the praise. For respecting great things we marvel, when they fail. Thou seest that praise is concealed under the accusation and the blame. Nor does he say this concerning himself only, but also concerning all. For he said not, I am persuaded, but “we are persuaded better things of you,” even good things (he means). He says this either in regard to matters of conduct, or to the recompense.

In the next place, having said above, that it is “rejected and nigh unto a curse,” and that it “shall be for burning,” he says, we do not by any means speak this of you. “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work, and love.” (Ver. 10.)

[5.] Why then did we say these things? (Ver. 11, 12) “But we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end; that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

“We desire,” he says, and we do not therefore merely labor for, or even so far as words go, wish this. But what? “We desire” that ye should hold fast to virtue, not as condemning your former conduct (he means), but fearing for the future. And he did not say, ‘not as condemning your former conduct, but your present; for ye have fainted, ye are become too indolent’; but see how gently he indicated it, and did not wound them.

For what does he say? “But we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence unto the end.” For this is the admirable part of Paul’s wisdom, that he does not expressly show that they “had” given in, that they “had” become negligent. For when he says, “We desire that every one of you”—it is as if one should say, I wish thee to be always in earnest; and such as thou wert before, such to be now also, and for the time to come. For this made his reproof more gentle and easy to be received.

And he did not say, “I will,” which would have been expressive of the authority of a teacher, but what is expressive of the affection of a father, and what is more than “willing,” “we desire.” All but saying, Pardon us, even if we say what is distasteful.

“We desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of your hope unto the end.” Hope (he means) carries us through: it recovers us again. Be not wearied out, do not despair, lest your hope be in vain. For he that worketh good hopeth also good, and never despairs of himself.

“That ye may not become dull.”2 Still3 “become”; and yet he said above, “seeing ye are become dull4 of hearing.” (c. 5:11.) Observe however how he limited the dullness to the hearing. And here he hints the very same thing; instead of ‘that ye may not continue in it,’ he says [this]. But again he leads on to that future time for which they were not yet responsible; saying in effect “that ye may not become too slothful”: since for that which is not yet come we could not be responsible. For he who in regard to the present time is exhorted to be in earnest, as being remiss, will perhaps become even more slothful, but he who is exhorted with reference to the future, not so.

“We desire” (he says) “that every one of you.” Great is his affection for them: he cares equally for great and small; moreover he knows all, and overlooks no one, but shows the same tender care for each, and equal value for all: from which cause also he the rather persuaded them to receive what was distasteful in his words.

“That ye be not slothful,” he says. For as inactivity hurts the body, so also inactivity as to what is good renders the soul more supine and feeble.

[6.] “But followers” (he says) “of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” And who they are, he tells afterwards. He said before, “Imitate your own former well-doings.” Then, lest they should say, What? He leads them back to the Patriarch: bringing before them examples of well-doing indeed from their own history,1 but of the thought of being forsaken, from the Patriarch; that they might not suppose that they were disregarded and forsaken as worthy of no account, but might know that it is [the portion] of the very noblest men to make the journey of life through trials; and that God has thus dealt with great and admirable men.

Now we ought (he says) to bear all things with patience: for this also is believing: whereas if He say that He gives and thou immediately receivest, how hast thou also believed? Since in that case this is no longer of thy faith, but of Me, the Giver. But if I say that I give, and give after an hundred years, and thou hast not despaired; then hast thou accounted Me worthy to be believed, then thou hast the right opinion concerning Me. Thou seest that oftentimes unbelief arises not from want of hope only, but also from faintheartedness, and want of patience, not from condemning him who made the promise.

“For God” (he says) “is not unrighteous to forget your love” and the zeal “which ye have showed toward His Name, in that ye have ministered unto the saints, and do minister.” He testifies great things of them, not deeds only, but deeds done with alacrity, which he says also in another place, “and not only so, but they gave themselves also to the Lord and to us.” (2 Cor. 8:5.)

“Which” (he says) “ye have showed toward His Name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” See how again he soothes them, by adding “and do minister.” Still even at this time (he says) ye are ministering, and he raises them up by showing that they had done [what they did] not to them [the saints], but to God. “Which ye have showed” (he says); and he said not “unto the saints,” but “towards God,” for this is “toward His Name.” It is for His Name’s sake (he means) that ye have done all. He therefore who has the enjoyment from you of2 so great zeal and love, will never despise you nor forget you.

[7.] Hearing these things, let us, I beseech you, “minister to the saints.” For every believer is a saint in that he is a believer. Though he be a person living in the world, he is a saint. “For” (he says) “the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife by the husband.” (1 Cor. 7:14.) See how the faith makes the saintship. If then we see even a secular person in misfortune, let us stretch out a hand [to him]. Let us not be zealous for those only who dwell in the mountains; they are indeed saints both in manner of life and in faith; these others however are saints by their faith, and many of them also in manner of life. Let us not, if we see a monk [cast] into prison, in that case go in; but if it be a secular person, refuse to go in. He also is a saint and a brother.

What then (you say) if he be unclean and polluted? Listen to Christ saying, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” (Matt. 7:1.) Do thou act for God’s sake. Nay, what am I saying? Even if we see a heathen in misfortune, we ought to show kindness to him, and to every man without exception who is in misfortunes, and much more to a believer who is in the world. Listen to Paul, saying, “Do good unto all men, but especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal. 6:10.)

But I know not whence this [notion] has been introduced, or whence this custom hath prevailed. For he that only seeks after the solitaries, and is willing to do good to them alone, and with regard to others on the contrary is over-curious in his enquiries, and says, ‘unless he be worthy,3 unless he be righteous, unless he work miracles, I stretch out no hand’; [such an one] has taken away the greater part of charity,4 yea and in time he will in turn destroy the very thing itself. And yet that is charity,5 [which is shown] towards sinners, towards the guilty. For this is charity,1 not the pitying those who have done well, but those who have done wrong.

[8.] And that thou mayest understand this, listen to the Parable: “A certain man” (it is said) “went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves” (Luke 10:30, &c.); and when they had beaten him, they left him by the way-side, having badly bruised him. A certain Levite came, and when he saw him, he passed by; A priest came, and when he saw him, he hastened past; a certain Samaritan came, and bestowed great care upon him. For he “bound up his wounds” (Luke 10:34), dropped oil on them, set him upon his ass, “brought him to the inn, said to the host, Take care of him” (Luke 10:35); and (observe his great liberality), “and I,” he says, “will give thee whatsoever thou shalt expend.” Who then is his neighbor? “He,” it is said, “that showed mercy on him. Go thou then also,” He says, “and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37.) And see what a parable He spake. He said not that a Jew did [so and so] to a Samaritan, but that a Samaritan showed all that liberality. Having then heard these things, let us not care only for “those that are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10), and neglect others. So then also thou, if thou see any one in affliction, be not curious to enquire further. His being in affliction involves a just claim on thy aid.2 For if when thou seest an ass choking thou raisest him up, and dost not curiously enquire whose he is, much more about a man one ought not to be over-curious in enquiring whose he is. He is God’s, be he heathen or be he Jew; since even if he is an unbeliever, still he needs help. For if indeed it had been committed to thee to enquire and to judge, thou wouldst have well said thus, but, as it is, his misfortune does not suffer thee to search out these things. For if even about men in good health it is not right to be over-curious, nor to be a busybody in other men’s matters, much less about those that are in affliction.

[9.] But on another view what [shall we say]? Didst thou see him in prosperity, in high esteem, that thou shouldst say that he is wicked and worthless? But if thou seest him in affliction, do not say that he is wicked. For when a man is in high credit, we fairly say these things; but when he is in calamity, and needs help, it is not right to say that he is wicked. For this is cruelty, inhumanity, and arrogance. Tell me what was ever more iniquitous than the Jews. But nevertheless while God punished them, and that justly, yea, very justly, yet He approved of those who had compassion on them, and those who rejoiced over them He punished. (Amos 5:6.) For “they were not grieved,” it is said, “at the affliction of Joseph.”

And again it is said “Redeem [Ransom] those who are ready to be slain: spare not.” (Prov. 24:11.) (He said not, enquire curiously, and learn who he is; and yet, for the most part, they who are led away to execution are wicked,) for this especially is charity. For he that doeth good to a friend, doeth it not altogether for God’s sake: but he that [doeth good] to one unknown, this man acts purely for God’s sake. “Do not spare” thy money, even if it be necessary to spend all, yet give.

But we, when we see persons in extreme distress,3 bewailing themselves, suffering things more grievous than ten thousand deaths, and oftentimes unjustly, we[I say] are sparing of our money, and unsparing of our brethren; we are careful of lifeless things, but neglect the living soul. And yet Paul says, “in meekness instruct those that oppose themselves, if peradventure God should give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil who are taken captive by him, at His will.” (2 Tim. 2:25, 26.) “If peradventure,” he says; thou seest of how great long-suffering the word is full.

Let us also imitate Him, and despair of no one. For the fishermen too, when they have cast many times [suppose it], have not succeeded; but afterwards having cast again, have gained all. So we also expect that ye will all at once show to us ripe fruit. For the husbandman too, after he has sown, waits one day or two days, and is a long while in expectation: and all at once he sees the fruits springing up on every side. This we expect will take place in your case also by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and also to the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.


[1.] Having boldly reflected on the faults of the Hebrews, and sufficiently alarmed them, he consoles them, first, by praises, and secondly (which also is the stronger ground), by the [thought] that they would certainly attain the object of their hope. Moreover he draws his consolation, not from things future, but again from the past, which indeed would the rather persuade them. For as in the case of punishment, he alarms them rather by those [viz. things future], so also in the case of the prizes [set before them], he encourages them by these [viz. by things past], showing [herein] God’s way of dealing. And that is, not to bring in what has been promised immediately, but after a long time. And this He does, both to present the greatest proof of His power, and also to lead us to Faith, that they who are living in tribulation without having received the promises, or the rewards, may not faint under their troubles.

And omitting all [the rest], though he had many whom he might have mentioned, he brought forward Abraham both on account of the dignity of his person, and because this had occurred in a special way in his case.

And yet at the end of the Epistle he says, that “all these, having seen the promises afar off, and having embraced them, received them not, that they without us should not be made perfect.” (c. 11:13.) “For when God made promise to Abraham” (he says) “because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” (c. 11:39, 40.) How then does he say at the end [of the Epistle] that “he received not the promises,” and here, that “after he had patiently endured he obtained the promise”? How did he not receive? How did he obtain? He is not speaking of the same things in this place and in the other, but makes the consolation twofold. God made promises to Abraham, and after a long space of time He gave the things [spoken of] in this place, but those others not yet.

“And so after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” Seest thou that the promise alone did not effect the whole, but the patient waiting as well? Here he alarms them, showing that oftentimes a promise is thwarted through faintheartedness.1 And this he had indeed shown through [the instance of] the [Jewish] people: for since they were faint-hearted, therefore they obtained not the promise. But now he shows the contrary by means of Abraham. Afterwards near the end [of the Epistle] he proves something more also: [viz.] that even though they had patiently endured, they did not obtain; and yet not even so are they grieved.

[2.] “For men verily swear by the greater, and an Oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. But God because He could swear by no greater, sware by Himself.” Well, who then is He that sware unto Abraham? Is it not the Son? No, one says. Certainly indeed it was He: however, I shall not dispute [thereon]. So when He [the Son] sweareth the same oath, “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” is it not plain that it was because He could not swear by any greater? For as the Father sware, so also the Son sweareth by Himself, saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” He here reminds them also of the oaths of Christ, which He was constantly uttering. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, he that believeth on Me shall never die.” (John 11:26.)

What is, “And an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife”? it is instead of, “by this every doubtful question is solved”: not this, or this, but every one.

God, however, ought to have been believed even without an oath: (ver. 17) “wherein” (he says) “God willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it [lit. “mediated”2 ] by an oath.” In these words he comprehends also the believers, and therefore mentions this “promise” which was made to us in common [with them]. “He mediated” (he says) “by an oath.” Here again he says that the Son was mediator between men and God.

Ver. 18. “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible that God should lie.” What are these two? The speaking and promising; and the adding an oath to the promise. For since among men that which is [confirmed] by an oath is thought more worthy of credit, on this account He added that also.

Seest thou that He regardeth not His own dignity, but how He may persuade men, and endures to have unworthy things said concerning Himself. That is He wishes to impart full assurance. And in the case of Abraham indeed [the Apostle] shows that the whole was of God, not of his patient endurance, since He was even willing to add an oath, for He by whom men swear, by Him also God “sware,” that is “by Himself.” They indeed as by one greater, but He not as by one greater. And yet He did it. For it is not the same thing for man to swear by himself, as for God. For man has no power over himself. Thou seest then that this is said not more for Abraham than for ourselves: “that we” (he says) “might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us.” Here too again,1 “after he had patiently endured he obtained the promise.”

“Now” he means, and he did not say “when2 He swore.” But what the oath is, he showed, by speaking of swearing by a greater. But since the race of men is hard of belief, He condescends to the same [things] with ourselves. As then for our sake He swears, although it be unworthy of Him that He should not be believed, so also did [the Apostle] make that other statement: “He learned from the things which He suffered” (c. 5:8), because men think the going through experience more worthy of reliance.

What is “the hope set before us”? From these [past events] (he says) we conjecture the future. For if these came to pass after so long a time, so certainly the others will. So that the things which happened in regard to Abraham give us confidence also concerning the things to come.

[3.] (Ver. 19, 20) “Which [hope] we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil: whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made High Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.” He shows, that while we are still in the world, and not yet departed from [this] life, we are already among the promises. For through hope we are already in heaven. He said, “Wait; for it shall surely be.” Afterwards giving them full assurance, he says, “nay rather by hope.”3 And he said not, “We are within,” but ‘It hath entered within,’ which was more true and more persuasive. For as the anchor, dropped from the vessel, does not allow it to be carried about, even if ten thousand winds agitate it, but being depended upon makes it steady, so also does hope.

And see how very suitable an image he has discovered: For he said not, Foundation; which was not suitable; but, “Anchor.” For that which is on the tossing sea, and seems not to be very firmly fixed, stands on the water as upon land, and is shaken and yet is not shaken. For in regard to those who are very firm, and philosophic, Christ with good reason made that statement, saying, “Whosoever hath built his house on a rock.” (Matt. 7:24.) But in respect of those who are giving way, and who ought to be carried through by hope, Paul hath suitably set down this. For the surge and the great storm toss the boat; but hope suffers it not to be carried hither and thither, although winds innumerable agitate it: so that, unless we had this [hope] we should long ago have been sunk. Nor is it only in things spiritual, but also in the affairs of this life, that one may find the power of hope great. Whatever it may be, in merchandise, in husbandry, in a military expedition, unless one sets this before him, he would not even touch the work. But he said not simply “Anchor,” but “sure and steadfast” [i.e.] not shaken. “Which entereth into that within the veil”; instead of ‘which reacheth through even to heaven.’

[4.] Then after this he led on to Faith also, that there might not only be hope, but a very true [hope]. For after the oath he lays down another thing too, even proof by facts, because “the forerunner is for us entered in, even Jesus.” But a forerunner is a forerunner of some one, as John was of Christ.

Now he did not simply say, “He is entered in,” but “where He is entered in a forerunner for us,” as though we also ought to attain. For there is no great interval between the forerunner and those who follow: otherwise he would not be a forerunner; for the forerunner and those who follow ought to be in the same road, and to arrive after [each other].

“Being made an High Priest forever after the order,” he says, “of Melchisedec.” Here is also another consolation, if our High Priest is on high, and far better than those among the Jews, not in the kind [of Priesthood] only, but also in the place, and the tabernacle, and the covenant, and the person. And this also is spoken according to the flesh.

[5.] Those then, whose High Priest He is, ought to be greatly superior. And as great as the difference is between Aaron and Christ, so great should it be between us and the Jews. For see, we have our victim4 on high, our priest on high, our sacrifice1 on high: let us bring such sacrifices as can be offered on that altar, no longer sheep and oxen, no longer blood and fat. All these things have been done away; and there has been brought in in their stead “the reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1.) But what is “the reasonable service”? The [offerings made] through the soul; those made through the spirit. (“God,” it is said, “is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth”—John 4:24); things which have no need of a body, no need of instruments, nor of special places, whereof each one is himself the Priest, such as, moderation, temperance, mercifulness, enduring ill-treatment, long-suffering, humbleness of mind.

These sacrifices one may see in the Old [Testament] also, shadowed out beforehand. “Offer to God,” it is said, “a sacrifice of righteousness” (Ps. 4:5); “Offer a sacrifice of praise” (Ps. 50:14); and, “a sacrifice of praise shall glorify Me” (Ps. 50:23), and, “the sacrifice of God is a broken spirit” (Ps. 51:17); and “what doth the Lord require of thee but” to hearken to Him? (Mic. 6:8.) “Burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure in: then I said, Lo I come to do Thy will, O God!” (Ps. 40:6, 7), and again, “To what purpose do ye bring the incense from Sheba?” (Jer. 6:20.) “Take thou away from Me the noise of thy songs, for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.” (Amos 5:23.) But instead of these “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” (Hosea 6:6.) Thou seest with what kind of “sacrifices God is well pleased.” (c. 13:16.) Thou seest also that already from the first the one class have given place, and these have come in their stead.

These therefore let us bring, for the other indeed are [the offerings] of wealth and of persons who have [possessions], but these of virtue: those from without, these from within: those any chance person even might perform; these only a few. And as much as a man is superior to a sheep, so much is this sacrifice superior to that; for here thou offerest thy soul as a victim.

[6.] And other sacrifices also there are, which are indeed whole burnt-offerings, the bodies of the martyrs: there both soul and body [are offered]. These have a great savor of a sweet smell. Thou also art able, if thou wilt, to bring such a sacrifice.

For what, if thou dost not burn thy body in the fire? Yet in a different fire thou canst; for instance, in that of voluntary poverty, in that of affliction. For to have it in one’s power to spend one’s days in luxury and expense, and yet to take up a life of toil and bitterness, and to mortify the body, is not this a whole burnt-offering? Mortify thy body, and crucify it, and thou shalt thyself also receive the crown of this martyrdom. For what in the other case the sword accomplishes, that in this case let a willing mind effect. Let not the love of wealth burn, or possess you, but let this unreasonable appetite itself be consumed and quenched by the fire of the Spirit; let it be cut in pieces by the sword of the Spirit.

This is an excellent sacrifice, needing no priest but him who brings it. This is an excellent sacrifice, performed indeed below but forthwith taken up on high. Do we not wonder that of old time fire came down and consumed all? It is possible now also that fire may come down far more wonderful than that, and consume all the presented offerings:2 nay rather, not consume, but bear them up to heaven. For it does not reduce them to ashes, but offers them as gifts to God.

[7.] Such were the offerings of Cornelius. For (it is said) “thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.” (Acts 10:4.) Thou seest a most excellent union. Then are we heard, when we ourselves also hear the poor who come to us. “He” (it is said) “that stoppeth his ears that he may not hear the poor” (Prov. 21:13), his prayer God will not hearken to. “Blessed is he that considereth the poor and needy: the Lord will deliver him in the evil day.” (Ps. 40:1.) But what day is evil except that one which is evil to sinners?

What is meant by “he that considereth”? He that understandeth what it is to be a poor man, that has thoroughly learned his affliction. For he that has learned his affliction, will certainly and immediately have compassion on him. When thou seest a poor man, do not hurry by, but immediately reflect what thou wouldest have been, hadst thou been he. What wouldest thou not have wished that all should do for thee? “He that considereth” (he says). Reflect that he is a free-man like thyself, and shares the same noble birth with thee, and possesses all things in common with thee; and yet oftentimes he is not on a level even with thy dogs. On the contrary, while they are satiated, he oftentimes lies, sleeps, hungry, and the free-man is become less honorable than thy slaves.

But they perform needful services for thee. What are these? Do they serve thee well? Suppose then I show that this [poor man] too performs needful services for thee far greater than they do. For he will stand by thee in the Day of judgment, and will deliver thee from the fire. What do all thy slaves do like this? When Tabitha died, who raised her up? The slaves who stood around or the poor? But thou art not even willing to put the free-man on an equality with thy slaves. The frost is hard, and the poor man is cast out in rags, well-nigh dead, with his teeth chattering, both by his looks and his air fitted to move thee: and thou passeth by, warm and full of drink; and how dost thou expect that God should deliver thee when in misfortune?

And oftentimes thou sayest this too: ‘If it had been myself, and I had found one that had done many wrong things, I would have forgiven him; and does not God forgive?’ Say not this. Him that has done thee no wrong, whom thou art able to deliver, him thou neglectest. How shall He forgive thee, who art sinning against Him? Is not this deserving of hell?

And how amazing! Oftentimes thou adornest with vestments innumerable, of varied colors and wrought with gold, a dead body, insensible, no longer perceiving the honor; whilst that which is in pain, and lamenting, and tormented, and racked by hunger and frost, thou neglectest; and givest more to vainglory, than to the fear of God.

[8.] And would that it stopped here; but immediately accusations are brought against the applicant. For why does he not work (you say)? And why is he to be maintained in idleness? But (tell me) is it by working that thou hast what thou hast, didst thou not receive it as an inheritance from thy fathers? And even if thou dost work, is this a reason why thou shouldest reproach another? Hearest thou not what Paul saith? For after saying, “He that worketh not, neither let him eat” (2 Thess. 3:10), he says, “But ye be not weary in well doing.” (2 Thess. 3:13.)

But what say they? He is an impostor.1 What sayest thou, O man? Callest thou him an impostor, for the sake of a single loaf or of a garment? But (you say) he will sell it immediately. And dost thou manage all thy affairs well? But what? Are all poor through idleness? Is no one so from shipwreck? None from lawsuits? None from being robbed? None from dangers? None from illness? None from any other difficulties? If however we hear any one bewailing such evils, and crying out aloud, and looking up naked toward heaven, and with long hair, and clad in rags, at once we call him, The impostor! The deceiver! The swindler! Art thou not ashamed? Whom dost thou call impostor? Give nothing, and do not accuse the man.

But (you say) he has means, and pretends. This is a charge against thyself, not against him. He knows that he has to deal with the cruel, with wild beasts rather than with men, and that, even if he utter a pitiable story, he attracts no one’s attention: and on this account he is forced to assume also a more miserable guise, that he may melt thy soul. If we see a person coming to beg in a respectable dress, This is an impostor (you say), and he comes in this way that he may be supposed to be of good birth. If we see one in the contrary guise, him too we reproach. What then are they to do? O the cruelty, O the inhumanity!

And why (you say) do they expose their maimed limbs? Because of thee. If we were compassionate, they would have no need of these artifices: if they persuaded us at the first application, they would not have contrived these devices. Who is there so wretched, as to be willing to cry out so much, as to be willing to behave in an unseemly way, as to be willing to make public lamentations, with his wife destitute of clothing, with his children, to sprinkle ashes on [himself]. How much worse than poverty are these things? Yet on account of them not only are they not pitied, but are even accused by us.

[9.] Shall we then still be indignant, because when we pray to God, we are not heard? Shall we then still be vexed, because when we entreat we do not persuade? Do we not tremble for fear, my beloved?

But (you say) I have often given. But dost thou not always eat? And dost thou drive away thy children often begging of thee? O the shamelessness! Dost thou call a poor man shameless? And thou indeed art not shameless when plundering, but he is shameless when begging for bread! Considerest thou not how great are the necessities of the belly? Dost not thou do all things for this? Dost thou not for this neglect things spiritual? Is not heaven set before thee and the kingdom of heaven? And thou fearing the tyranny of that [appetite] endurest all things, and thinkest lightly of that [kingdom]. This is shamelessness.

Seest thou not old men maimed? But O what trifling! ‘Such an one’ (you say) ‘lends out so many pieces of gold, and such an one so many, and yet begs.’ You repeat the stories and trifles of children; for they too are always hearing such stories from their nurses. I am not persuaded of it. I do not believe this. Far from it. Does a man lend money, and beg when he has abundance? For what purpose, tell me? And what is more disgraceful than begging? It were better to die than to beg. Where does our in inhumanity stop? What then? Do all lend money? Are all impostors? Is there no one really poor? “Yea” (you say) “and many.” Why then dost thou not assist those persons, seeing thou art a strict enquirer into their lives? This is an excuse and a pretense.

“Give to every one2 that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” (Matt. 5:42.) Stretch out thy hand, let it not be closed up. We have not been constituted examiners into men’s lives, since so we should have compassion on no one. When thou callest upon God why dost thou say, Remember not my sins? So then, if that person even be a great sinner, make this allowance in his case also, and do not remember his sins. It is the season of kindness, not of strict enquiry; of mercy, not of account. He wishes to be maintained: if thou art willing, give; but if not willing, send him away without raising doubts.1 Why art thou wretched and miserable? Why dost thou not even thyself pity him, and also turnest away those who would? For when such an one hears from thee, This [fellow] is a cheat; that a hypocrite; and the other lends out money; he neither gives to the one nor to the other; for he suspects all to be such. For you know that we easily suspect evil, but good, not [so easily].

[10.] Let us “be merciful,” not simply so, but “as our heavenly Father is.” (Luke 6:36.) He feeds even adulterers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and what shall I say? Those having every kind of wickedness. For in so large a world there must needs be many such. But nevertheless He feeds all; He clothes all. No one ever perished of hunger, unless one did so of his own choice. So let us be merciful. If one be in want and in necessity, help him.

But now we are come to such a degree of unreasonableness, as to act thus not only in regard to the poor who walk up and down the alleys, but even in the case of men that live in [religious] solitude.2 Such an one is an impostor, you say. Did I not say this at first, that if we give to all indiscriminately, we shall always be compassionate; but if we begin to make over-curious enquiries, we shall never be compassionate? What dost thou mean? Is a man an impostor in order to get a loaf? If indeed he asks for talents of gold and silver, or costly clothes, or slaves, or anything else of this sort, one might with good reason call him a swindler. But if he ask none of these things, but only food and shelter, things which are suited to a philosophic life,3 tell me, is this the part of a swindler? Cease we from this unseasonable fondness for meddling, which is Satanic, which is destructive.

For indeed, if a man say that he is on the list of the Clergy, or calls himself a priest, then busy thyself [to enquire], make much ado: since in that case the communicating4 without enquiry is not without danger. For the danger is about matters of importance, for thou dost not give but receivest. But if he want food, make no enquiry.

Enquire, if thou wilt, how Abraham showed hospitality towards all who came to him. If he had been over-curious about those who fled to him for refuge, he would not have “entertained angels.” (c. 13:2.) For perhaps not thinking them to be angels, he would have thrust them too away with the rest. But since he used to receive all, he received even angels.

What? Is it from the life of those that receive [thy bounty] that God grants thee thy reward? Nay [it is] from thine own purpose, from thy abundant liberality; from thy loving kindness; from thy goodness. Let this be [found], and thou shalt attain all good things, which may we all attain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.


Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Christ, fathers of the church, Notes on Hebrews, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture, SERMONS, St John Chrysostom | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Hebrews 5:1-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 21, 2019

[1.] The blessed Paul wishes to show in the next place that this covenant is far better than the old. This then he does by first laying down remote considerations. For inasmuch as there was nothing bodily or that made a show,2 no temple for instance, nor Holy of Holies, nor Priest with so great apparel, no legal observances, but all things higher and more perfect, and there was nothing of bodily things, but all was in things spiritual, and things spiritual did not attract the weak, as things bodily; he thoroughly sifts this whole matter.

And observe his wisdom: he makes his beginning from the priest first, and continually calls Him an High Priest, and from this first [point] shows the difference [of the two Dispensations]. On this account he first of all defines what a Priest is, and shows whether He has any things proper to a Priest, and whether there are any signs of priesthood. It was however an objection in his way that He [Christ] was not even well-born, nor was He of the sacerdotal tribe, nor a priest on earth. How then was He a Priest? some one may say.

And just as in the Epistle to the Romans, having taken up an argument of which they were not easily persuaded, that Faith effects that which the labor of the Law could not, nor the sweat of the daily life, he betook himself to the Patriarch and referred the whole to that time: so now here also he opens out the other path of the Priesthood, showing its superiority from the things which happened before. And as, in [the matter of] punishment, he brings before them not Hell alone, but also what happened to their fathers,3 so now here also, he first establishes this position from things present. For it were right indeed that earthly things should be proved from heavenly, but when the hearers are weak, the opposite course is taken.

[2.] Up to a certain point he lays down first the things which are common [to Christ and their High Priests], and then shows that He is superior. For comparative4 excellence arises thus, when in some respects there is community, in others superiority; otherwise it is no longer comparative.

“For every High Priest taken from among men,” this is common to Christ; “is ordained for men in things pertaining to God,” and this also; “that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for the people,” and this too, [yet] not entirely: what follows however is no longer so: “who can have compassion5 on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way,” from this point forward is the superiority, “inasmuch as himself also is encompassed with infirmity; and by reason hereof he ought as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.”

Then also [there are] other [points]: He is made [Priest] (he says) by Another and does not of Himself intrude into [the office]. This too is common (ver. 4), “And no man taketh this honor to himself, but he that is called of God as was Aaron.”

Here again he conciliates6 them in another point, because He was sent from God: which Christ was wont to say throughout to the Jews. “He that sent Me is greater than I,” and, “I came not of Myself.” (John 12:49; 14:28; 8:42.)

He appears to me in these words also to hint at the priests of the Jews, as being no longer priests, [but] intruders and corrupters of the law of the priesthood; (ver. 5) “So Christ also glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest.”

How then was He appointed (one says)? For Aaron was many times appointed as by the Rod, and when the fire came down and destroyed those who wished to intrude into the priesthood. But in this instance, on the contrary, they [the Jewish Priests] not only suffered nothing, but even are in high esteem. Whence then [His appointment]? He shows it from the prophecy. He has nothing [to allege] perceptible by sense, nothing visible. For this cause he affirms it from prophecy, from things future; “But He that said unto Him Thou art My Son, to-day have I begotten Thee.” What has this to do with the Son? Yea (he says) it is a preparation for His being appointed by God.

Ver. 6. “As He saith also in another place, Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedech.” Unto whom now was this spoken?

Who is “after the order of Melchisedech”? No other [than He]. For they all were under the Law, they all kept sabbaths, they all were circumcised; one could not point out any other [than Him].

[3.] Ver. 7, 8. “Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, to Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” Seest thou that he sets forth nothing else than His care and the exceeding greatness of His love? For what means the [expression] “with strong crying”? The Gospel nowhere says this, nor that He wept when He prayed, nor yet that He uttered a cry. Seest thou that it was a condescension? For he could not [merely] say that He prayed, but also “with strong crying.”

“And was heard,” (he says), “in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” (Ver. 9, 10), “And being made perfect He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him: called of God an High Priest after the order of Melchisedech.”

Be it with “crying,” why also “strong [crying] and tears”?

“Having offered,” (he says), “and having been heard in that He feared.” What sayest thou? Let the Heretics1 be ashamed. The Son of God “was heard in that He feared.” And what more could any man say concerning the prophets? And what sort of connection is there, in saying, “He was heard in that He feared, though He were Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered”? Would any man say these things concerning God? Why, who was ever so mad? And who, even if he were beside himself, would have uttered these things? “Having been heard,” (he says), “in that He feared, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” What obedience? He that before this had been obedient even unto death, as a Son to His Father, how did He afterwards learn? Seest thou that this is spoken concerning the Incarnation?

Tell me now, did He pray the Father that He might be saved from death? And was it for this cause that He was “exceeding sorrowful, and said, If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me”? (Matt. 26:38, 39.) Yet He nowhere prayed the Father concerning His resurrection, but on the contrary He openly declares, “Destroy this temple and within three days I will raise it up.” (John. 2:19.) And, “I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again. No man taketh it from Me, I lay it down of Myself.” (John 10:18.) What then is it; why did He pray? (And again He said, “Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death. And they shall deliver Him to the Gentiles, to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him; and the third day He shall rise again” (Matt. 20:18, 19), and said not, “My Father shall raise Me up again.”) How then did He pray concerning this? But for whom did He pray? For those who believed on Him.

And what he means is this, ‘He is readily listened to.’ For since they had not yet the right opinion concerning Him, he said that He was heard. Just as He Himself also when consoling His disciples said, “If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice, because I go to My Father” (John 14:28), and “My Father is greater than I.” But how did He not glorify Himself, He who “made Himself of no reputation” (Phil. 2:7), He who gave Himself up? For, it is said, “He gave Himself” up “for our sins.” (See Gal. 1:4.) And again, “Who gave Himself a ransom for us all.” (1 Tim. 2:6.) What is it then? Thou seest that it is in reference to the flesh that lowly things are spoken concerning Himself: So also here, “Although He were Son, He was heard in that He feared,” it is said. He wishes to show, that the success was of Himself, rather than of God’s favor. So great (he says) was His reverence, that even on account thereof God had respect unto Him.

“He learned,” he saith, to obey God. Here again he shows how great is the gain of sufferings. “And having been made perfect,” he says, “He became the Author of salvation to them that obey Him.” (Cf. supra, pp. 384, 391.) But if He, being the Son, gained obedience from His sufferings, much more shall we. Dost thou see how many things he discourses about obedience, that they might be persuaded to it? For it seems to me that they would not be restrained. “From the things,” he says, “which He suffered He” continually “learned” to obey God. And being “made perfect” through sufferings. This then is perfection, and by this means must we arrive at perfection. For not only was He Himself saved, but became to others also an abundant supply of salvation. For “being made perfect He became the Author of salvation to them that obey Him.”

[4.] “Being called,” he says, “of God an High Priest after the order of Melchisedech”: (ver. 11) “Of whom we have many things to say and hard to be uttered [or explained].” When he was about to proceed to the difference of the Priesthood, he first reproves them, pointing out both that such great condescension was “milk,” and that it was because they were children that he dwelt longer on the lowly subject, relating to the flesh, and speaks [about Him] as about any righteous man. And see, he neither kept silence as to the doctrine altogether, nor did he utter it; that on the one hand, he might raise their thoughts, and persuade them to be perfect, and that they might not be deprived of the great doctrines; and on the other, that he might not overwhelm their minds.

“Of whom,” he says, “we have many things to say and hard to be explained, seeing ye are dull of hearing.” Because they do not hear, the doctrine is “hard to be explained.” For when one has to do with men who do not go along with him nor mind the things that are spoken, he cannot well explain the subject to them.

But perhaps some one of you that stand here, is puzzled, and thinks it a hard case, that owing to the Hebrews, he himself is hindered from hearing the more perfect doctrines. Nay rather, I think that perhaps here also except a few, there are many such [as they], so that this may be said concerning yourselves also: but for the sake of those few I will speak.

Did he then keep entire silence, or did he resume the subject again in what follows; and do the same as in the Epistle to the Romans? For there too, when he had first stopped the mouths of the gainsayers, and said, “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” (Rom. 9:20), he then subjoined the solution. And for my own part I think that he was not even altogether silent, and yet did not speak it out, in order to lead the hearers to a longing [for the knowledge]. For having mentioned [the subject], and said that certain great things were stored up in the doctrine, see how he frames his reproof in combination with panegyric.

For this is ever a part of Paul’s wisdom, to mix painful things with kind ones. Which he also does in the Epistle to the Galatians, saying, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you?” (Gal. 5:7.) And, “Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain” (Gal. 3:4), and, “I have confidence in you in the Lord.” (Gal. 5:10.) Which he says also to these [Hebrews], “But we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation.” (c. 6:9.) For these two things he effects, he does not overstrain them, nor suffer them to fall back; for if the examples of others are sufficient to arouse the hearer, and to lead him to emulation; when a man has himself for an example and is bidden to emulate himself, the possibility follows at the same time. He therefore shows this also, and does not suffer them to fall back as men utterly condemned, nor as being alway evil, but [says] that they were once even good; (ver. 12) for “when for the time ye ought to be teachers,” he says. Here he shows that they had been believers a long while, and he shows also that they ought to instruct others.

[5.] At all events observe him continually travailing to introduce the discourse concerning the High Priest, and still putting it off. For hear how he began: “Having a great High Priest that is passed into the heavens” (c. 4:14); and omitting to say how He was great, he says again, “For every High Priest taken from among men, is appointed for men in things pertaining to God.” (c. 5:1.) And again, “So Christ also glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest.” (c. 5:5.) And again after saying, “Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedech” (c. 5:6), he again puts off [the subject], saying, “Who in the days of His Flesh offered prayers and supplications.” (c. 5:7.) When therefore he had been so many times repulsed, he says, as if excusing himself, The blame is with you. Alas! how great a difference! When they ought to be teaching others, they are not even simply learners, but the last of learners. (Ver. 12), “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one1 teach you again which be the first principles2 of the oracles of God.” Here he means the Human Nature [of Christ]. For as in external literature it is necessary to learn the elements first, so also here they were first taught concerning the human nature.

Thou seest what is the cause of his uttering lowly things. So Paul did to the Athenians also, discoursing and saying, “The times of this ignorance God winked at: but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, because He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained, whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30, 31.) Therefore, if he says anything lofty, he expresses it briefly, while the lowly statements are scattered about in many parts of the Epistle. And thus too he shows the lofty; since the very lowliness [of what is said] forbids the suspicion that these things relate to the Divine Nature. So here also the safe ground was kept.3

But what produces this dullness? This he pointed out especially in the Epistle to the Corinthians, saying, “For whereas there is among you envy and strife and divisions, are ye not carnal?” (1 Cor. 3:3.) But observe, I beseech you, his great wisdom, how he always deals according to the distempers before him. For there the weakness arose more from ignorance, or rather from sin; but here not from sins only, but also from continual afflictions. Wherefore he also uses expressions calculated to show the difference, not saying, “ye are become carnal,” but “dull”: in that case “carnal,” but in this the pain is greater. For they [the Corinthians] indeed were not able to endure [his reproof], because they were carnal: but these were able. For in saying, “Seeing ye are become dull of hearing” (c. 5:11), he shows that formerly they were sound in health, and were strong, fervent in zeal, which he also afterwards testifies respecting them.

[6.] “And are become such as have need of milk, not of strong meat.” He always calls the lowly doctrine “milk,” both in this place and in the other. “When,” he says, “for [i.e. “because of”] the time ye ought to be teachers”: because of that very thing, namely the time, for which ye ought especially to be strong, for this especially ye are become backsliding. Now he calls it “milk,” on account of its being suited to the more simple. But to the more perfect it is injurious, and the dwelling on these things is hurtful. So that it is not fitting that matters of the Law should be introduced1 now or the comparison made from them, [such as] that He was an High Priest, and offered sacrifice, and needed crying and supplication. Wherefore see how these things are unhealthful2 to “us”; but at that time they nourished them being by no means unhealthful to them.

So then the oracles of God are true nourishment. “For I will give unto them,” he saith, “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but a famine of hearing the word of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11.)

“I gave you milk to drink, and not meat” (1 Cor. 3:2); He did not say, I fed you, showing that such [nourishment] as this is not food, but that [the case is] like that of little children who cannot be fed with bread. For such have not drink given them, but their food is to them instead of drink.

Moreover he did not say, “ye have need,” but “ye are become such as have need of milk and not of strong meat.” That is, ye willed [it]; ye have reduced yourselves to this, to this need.

Ver. 13. “For every one that partaketh of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.” What is “the Word [doctrine] of righteousness”? He seems to me here to hint at conduct also. That which Christ also said, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees” (Matt. 5:20), this he says likewise, “unskilled in the word of righteousness,” that is, he that is unskilled in the philosophy that is above, is unable to embrace a perfect and exact life.3 Or else by “righteousness” he here means Christ, and the high doctrine concerning Him.

That they then were “become dull,” he said; but from what cause, he did not add, leaving it to themselves to know it, and not wishing to make his discourse hard to bear. But in the case of the Galatians he both “marveled” (Gal. 1:6) and “stood in doubt” (Gal. 4:20), which tends much more to encourage, as [it is the language] of one who would never have expected that this should happen. For this is [what] the doubting [implies].

Thou seest that there is another infancy. Thou seest that there is another full age.4 Let us become of “full age” in this sense: It is in the power even of those who are children, and the young to come to that “full age”: for it is not of nature, but of virtue.

[7.] Ver. 14. “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age [perfect], even them who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Those had not “their senses exercised,” nor did they “know good and evil.” He is not speaking now concerning life [conduct], when he says “to discern good and evil,” for this is possible and easy for every man to know, but concerning doctrines that are wholesome and sublime, and those that are corrupted and low. The babe knows not how to distinguish bad and good food. Oftentimes at least it even puts dirt into its mouth, and takes what is hurtful; and it does all things without judgment; but not [so] the full grown man. Such [babes] are they who lightly listen to everything, and give up their ears indiscriminately: which seems to me to blame these [Hebrews] also, as being lightly “carried about,” and now giving themselves to these, now to those. Which he also hinted near the end [of the Epistle], saying, “Be not carried aside by divers and strange doctrines.” (c. 13:9.) This is the meaning of “to discern good and evil.” “For the mouth tasteth meat, but the soul trieth words.” (Job 34:3.)

[8.] Let us then learn this lesson. Do not, when thou hearest that a man is not a Heathen nor a Jew, straightway believe him to be a Christian; but examine also into all the other points; for even Manichæans, and all the heresies, have put on this mask, in order thus to deceive the more simple. But if we “have the senses” of the soul “exercised to discern both good and evil,” we are able to discern such [teachers].

But how do our “senses” become “exercised”? By continual hearing; by experience of the Scriptures. For when we set forth the error of those [Heretics], and thou hearest to-day and to-morrow; and provest that it is not right, thou hast learnt the whole, thou hast known the whole: and even if thou shouldest not comprehend to-day, thou wilt comprehend to-morrow.

“That have,” he says, their “senses exercised.” Thou seest that it is needful to exercise our hearing by divine studies, so that they may not sound strangely. “Exercised,” saith he, “for discerning,” that is, to be skilled.

One man says, that there is no Resurrection; and another looks for none of the things to come; another says there is a different God; another that He has His beginning from Mary. And see at once how they have all fallen away from want of moderation,1 some by excess, others by defect. As for instance, the first Heresy of all was that of Marcion; this introduced another different God, who has no existence.2 See the excess. After this that of Sabellius, saying that the Son and the Spirit and the Father are One.3 Next that of Marcellus and Photinus, setting forth the same things. Moreover that of Paul of Samosata, saying that He had His beginning from Mary. Afterwards that of the Manichæans; for this is the most modern of all. After these the heresy of Arius. And there are others too.

And on this account have we received the Faith, that we might not be compelled to attack innumerable heresies, and to deal with them, but whatever any man might have endeavored either to add or take away, that we might consider spurious. For as those who give the standards do not oblige [people] to busy themselves about measures innumerable, but bid them keep to what is given them; so also in the case of doctrines.

[9.] But no man is willing to give heed to the Scriptures. For if we did give heed, not only should we not be ourselves entangled by deceit, but we should also set others free who are deceived, and should draw them out of dangers. For the strong soldier is not only able to help himself, but also to protect his comrade, and to free him from the malice of the enemy. But as it is, some do not even know that there are any Scriptures. Yet the Holy Spirit indeed made so many wise provisions in order that they might be safely kept.

And look at it from the first, that ye may learn the unspeakable love of God. He inspired the blessed Moses; He engraved the tables, He detained him on the mount forty days; and again as many [more] to give the Law. And after this He sent prophets who suffered woes innumerable. War came on; they slew them all, they cut them to pieces, the books were burned. Again, He inspired another admirable man to publish them, Ezra I mean, and caused them to be put together from the remains. And after this He arranged that they should be translated by the seventy. They did translate them. Christ came, He receives them; the Apostles disperse them among men. Christ wrought signs and wonders.

What then after so great painstaking? The Apostles also wrote, even as Paul likewise said, “they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (1 Cor. 10:11.) And again Christ said, “Ye do err not knowing the Scriptures” (Matt. 22:29): and again Paul said, “That through patience and comfort of the Scriptures we may have hope.” (Rom. 15:4.) And again, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable.” (2 Tim. 3:16.) And “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” (Col. 3:16.) And the prophet, “he shall meditate in His Law day and night” (Ps. 1:2), and again in another place, “Let all thy communication be in the law of the Most High.” (Ecclus. 9:15.) And again, “How sweet are Thy words unto my throat.” (He said not to my hearing, but to my “throat”); “more than honey and the honeycomb to my mouth.” (Ps. 119:103.) And Moses says, “Thou shalt meditate in them continually, when thou risest up, when thou sittest, when thou liest down.” (Deut. 6:7.) “Be in them” (1 Tim. 4:15), saith he. And innumerable things one might say concerning them. But notwithstanding, after so many things there are some who do not even know that there are Scriptures at all. For this cause, believe me, nothing sound, nothing profitable comes from us.

[10.] Yet, if any one wished to learn military affairs, of necessity he must learn the military laws. And if any one sought to learn navigation or carpentry or anything else, of necessity he must learn the [principles] of the art. But in this case they will not do anything of the kind, although this is a science which needs much wakeful attention. For that it too is an art which needs teaching, hear the prophet saying, “Come, ye children, hearken unto me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” (Ps. 34:11.) It follows therefore certainly that the fear of God needs teaching. Then he says, “What man is he that desireth life?” (Ps. 34:12.) He means the life yonder; and again, “Keep thy tongue from evil and thy lips from speaking guile; depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.” (Ps. 34:13, 14.)

Do you know indeed who said these things, a prophet or a historian, or an apostle, or an evangelist? For my own part I do not think you do, except a few. Yea and these themselves again, if we bring forward a testimony from some other place, will be in the same case as the rest of you. For see, I repeat the same statement expressed in other words. “Wash ye, make you clean, put away your wickedness from your souls before Mine eyes, learn to do well, seek out judgment. Keep thy tongue from evil, and do good: learn to do well.” (Isa. 1:16, 17.) Thou seest that virtue needs to be taught? For this one says, “I will teach you the fear of the Lord,” and the other, “Learn to do well.”

Now then do you know where these words are? For myself I do not think you do, except a few. And yet every week these things are read to you twice or even three times: and the reader when he goes up [to the desk] first says whose the book is, [the book] of such a prophet, and then says what he says, so that it shall be more intelligible to you and you may not only know the contents of the Book, but also the reason of the writings, and who spake these things. But all in vain; all to no purpose. For your zeal is spent on things of this life, and of things spiritual no account is made. Therefore not even those matters turn out according to your wishes, but there also are many difficulties. For Christ says, “Seek ye the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33.) These things He said, shall also be given in the way of addition: but we have inverted the order and seek the earth and the good things which are in the earth, as if those other [heavenly] things were to be given us in addition. Therefore we have neither the one nor the other. Let us then at last wake up and become coveters of the things which shall be hereafter; for so these also will follow. For it is not possible that he who seeks the things that relate to God, should not also attain human [blessings]. It is the declaration of the Truth itself which says this. Let us not then act otherwise, but let us hold fast to the counsel of Christ, lest we fail of all. But God is able to give you compunction and to make you better, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost be glory, power, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, fathers of the church, Notes on Hebrews, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture, SERMONS, St John Chrysostom | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Hebrews 3:7-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 16, 2019

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on.

Heb 3:7 Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith: To-day if you shall hear his voice,
Wherefore, since in order to profit ultimately by your present privileges in belonging to the family of God, you must persevere in the faith; let me address you in the moving words, addressed by the Holy Ghost through the mouth of David, to your fathers: “To-day if you shall hear his voice,” either through the preaching of the prophets, or by interior inspiration.
Heb 3:8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the desert,
Render not your hearts hard, insensible, and callous to the impressions of divine grace, as happened your fathers in the place called “provocation or contradiction,” on the day of temptation in the desert; therefore, called, temptation.

Some Commentators suspend the sense from, “wherefore,” to “take heed” (verse 12), enclosing the prophetic oracle within a parenthesis. The connexion in the Paraphrase seems more simple and natural. “To-day, if you hear his voice,” &c.; these words are taken from Psalm 95 and are the words of David (see Heb 4:7). This Psalm was composed by David, in all likelihood, on the occasion of some great festival in Jerusalem; it was recited during divine worship, and written for all times; hence, it is employed in the canonical hours at the commencement of the divine office, as an Invitatory, calling on us to adore God and sing his praises with greater fervour of soul. “If you shall hear his voice,” through what medium soever, be it internal, by inspiration, or external, by preaching, “harden not,” &c. “As in the provocation,” &c. These words are commonly supposed to refer to the occasion recorded (Exodus 17), when the people at Raphidim murmured against Moses for want of water, the place was, therefore, called “Meriba,” i.e., contention or contradiction, and “Massa,” “temptation,” two words, which are repeated in the Hebrew of this Psalm. Others say, there is reference to the 14th chapter of Exodus, when, on the return of the spies, the people having rebelled against Moses, God swore the oath referred to in the Psalm.

Heb 3:9 Where your fathers tempted me, proved and saw my works,

In which desert, says the Lord, they tempted me, proved and saw my wonderful works.

Where,” (in Greek, οὖ, when), viz., in the desert, “tempted me.” The Psalmist adds greater force to his words by abruptly introducing God as speaking. One tempts God, when he unlawfully wishes for an extraordinary manifestation of his attributes, either in the order of nature or grace (v.g.), when he expects God to perform a miracle, in the order of nature or grace, to save him corporally or spiritually from the imminent peril to soul or body, to which he voluntarily and unnecessarily exposes himself. “Proved” (me, is added in the Greek). Some understand this word to mean the same as “tempted” so as merely to express a more minute degree of tempting God;—others refer it to the following, thus: they tempted me, although, after examining my stupendous miracles, (“proved”) they “saw,” that no exception could be taken to them.

Heb 3:10 Forty years: for which cause I was offended with this generation, and I said: They always err in heart. And they have not known my ways.

Wherefore, in consequence of these and other similar instances of incredulity and distrust, I was for the space of forty years offended with this generation, and I said within myself, these are always erring in heart, madly following the bent of their passions, and blind in intellect, not knowing or attending to the ways of my commandments, or of my miracles:

Some connect “forty years” with the preceding, “they saw my works forty years.” “For which cause I was angry,” &c. It is better, however, connect it with the following (as in Paraphrase), because at the time of this oath on the part of God, they were not forty years out of Egypt. Moreover, in the 17th verse St. Paul joins it with “offended.” “For which cause,” i.e., therefore, “forty years I was offended.” For “offended” we read in the Roman Psaltery, “I was very near to,” but it will come to the same with the preceding; he “was very near to them,” to be an eye-witness of their infidelities and to punish them for the same. The Greek word, προσωχθισα, may be rendered in both ways; it literally means, to loathe, to be weary of. There is a difference between the Vulgate and the Roman Psaltery, which arose from this: the Council of Trent left the correction of the Missal and Breviary to the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff; and when the correction of the Breviary took place under Pius V., it was deemed right to retain the reading of the old Roman Psaltery in this Psalm, which was regarded as a hymn of Matins. This correction of the Breviary took place before the corrected edition of the Vulgate by Clement VIII.; therefore, no change was made in the words of the Breviary.

Heb 3:11 As I have sworn in my wrath: If they shall enter into my rest.

And, on this account, I have sworn in my wrath that they shall never enter the land in which I promised them rest.

As I have sworn,” &c. Some readings have, “to whom I swore;” both readings are good; the Hebrew word “asher” means “as” and “to whom”—“if they shall enter,” “if” in such cases has often the meaning of “not,” as in the oath of the people to save Jonathan, “if a hair of his head shall fall,” i.e., a hair, &c., shall not fall. And this, it would seem, was a familiar form of oath among the Jews: should, if, however, retain its ordinary meaning, then the imprecation, “may I not be God, may I be a liar,” or the like, is understood, and not expressed, through reverence for the person of God. The Apostle applies this Psalm to the faithful of his day; and in his reasoning, it regards the whole term of this life. These words of David are not confined to his own day. The man who at any time hardens his heart and becomes incredulous, will never enter into God’s rest. In the Psalm “my rest” immediately referred to the land of Chanaan.

Heb 3:12 Take heed, brethren, lest perhaps there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, to depart from the living God.

Do you, therefore, brethren, take care, lest the heart of any of you be infected with the dreadful evil of infidelity, by which you would renounce, through apostacy, the living God.

“Take heed, brethren,” &c. From this salutary warning, it appears, that many among the Hebrews, yielding to the force of persecution and the errors of false teachers, were on the point of apostatizing from the faith. “The living God,” designates the true God, opposed to false gods, who have no life or existence.

Heb 3:13 But exhort one another every day, whilst it is called to day, that none of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

But rather exhort and encourage one another to perseverance every day, whilst the term of time expressed by “to-day,” lasts, i.e., during this life (in which alone you can work); so that none of you become obdurate, owing to the false allurements of sin.

“The deceitfulness,” i.e., the false allurements of sin, which, by withdrawing you from the true and substantial goods, and promising blessings and pleasures never to be realized, deceive you, and cause you to harden your hearts against the calls and impressions of divine grace. Hence, hardness and insensibility of heart are, oftentimes, the punishment of continuance in sin.

Heb 3:14 For we are made partakers of Christ: yet so, if we hold the beginning of his substance firm unto the end.

For, although we have been, by our incorporation with Christ in baptism, made partakers of his grace, and rightful heirs of his glory, having become a part of the mystical body of which he is head, we must still bear in mind, that all these privileges will avail us finally, only on condition of our perseverance to the end in the steady profession of faith, which is the basis and foundation of our new spiritual existence.

Let us encourage each other to perseverance, for our present advantages, our incorporation with Christ, will avail us only on condition of our perseverance. By “the beginning of his substance,” or (as the Greek word, υποστασεως, means) of his subsistence, is meant, faith; which is the root and foundation of all justification—Council of Trent—and the source from which we acquire a new spiritual existence, as it were, a new subsistence and personality, having become “a new creature.”—(Gal. 6:15).


Posted in Bible, Catholic, Notes on Hebrews, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentaries on Hebrews 1:3-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 9, 2018

This post St John Chrysostom’s second and third homilies on Hebrews. The first on Heb 1:3-5; the second is on Heb 1:6-8.


Hebrews 1:3.

“Who being the brightness of His Glory and the express Image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins.”

[1.] Everywhere indeed a reverential mind is requisite, but especially when we say or hear anything of God: Since neither can tongue speak nor thought1 hear anything suitable to our God. And why speak I of tongue or thought?2 For not even the understanding3 which far excels these, will be able to comprehend anything accurately, when we desire to utter aught concerning God. For if “the peace of God surpasseth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7), and “the things which are prepared for them that love Him have not entered into the heart of man” (1 Cor. 2:9); much more He Himself, the God of peace, the Creator of all things, doth by a wide measure exceed our reasoning. We ought therefore to receive all things with faith and reverence, and when our discourse4 fails through weakness, and is not able to set forth accurately the things which are spoken, then especially to glorify God, for that we have such a God, surpassing both our thought and our conception.5 For many of our conceptions6 about God, we are unable to express, as also many things we express, but have not strength to conceive of them. As for instance:—That God is everywhere, we know; but how, we no longer understand.7 That there is a certain incorporeal power the cause of all our good things, we know: but how it is, or what it is, we know not. Lo! we speak, and do not understand. I said, That He is everywhere, but I do not understand it. I said, That He is without beginning, but I do not understand it. I said, That He begat from Himself, and again I know not how I shall understand it. And some things there are which we may not even speak—as for instance, thought conceives8 but cannot utter.

And to show thee that even Paul is weak and doth not put out his illustrations with exactness; and to make thee tremble and refrain from searching too far, hear what he says, having called Him Son and named Him Creator, “Who being the brightness of His Glory, and the express image of His person.”

This we must receive with reverence and clear of all incongruities. “The brightness of His glory,” saith he. But observe in what reference he understands this, and so do thou receive it:—that He is of Him:9 without passion: that He is neither greater, nor less; since there are some, who derive certain strange things from the illustration. For, say they, “the brightness” is not substantial,10 but hath its being in another. Now do not thou, O man, so receive it, neither be thou sick of the disease of Marcellus11 and Photinus.12 For he hath a remedy for thee close at hand, that thou fall not into that imagination, nor doth he leave thee to be hurried down into that fatal malady. And what saith he? “And the express image of His person” [or “subsistence”13 ]: that is, just as He [the Father] is personally subsisting, being in need of nothing,14 so also the Son. For he saith this here, showing the undeviating similitude15 and the peculiar image of the Prototype, that He [the Son] is in subsistence by Himself.

For he who said above, that “by Him He made all things” here assigns to Him absolute authority. For what doth he add? “And upholding all things by the word of His power”; that we might hence infer not merely His being the express image of His Person, but also His governing all things with absolute authority.

See then, how he applies to the Son that which is proper to the Father. For on this account he did not say simply, “and upholding all things,” nor did he say, “by His power,” but, “by the word of His power.” For much as just now we saw him gradually ascend and descend; so also now, as by steps, he goes up on high, then again descends, and saith, “by whom also He made the worlds.”

Behold how here also he goes on two paths, by the one leading us away from Sabellius, by the other from Arius, yea and on another, that He [Christ] should not be accounted un-originated, 1 which he does also throughout, nor yet alien from God. For if, even after so much, there are some who assert that He is alien, and assign to Him another father, and say that He is at variance with Him;—had [Paul] not declared these things, what would they not have uttered?

How then does he this? When he is compelled to heal, then is he compelled also to utter lowly things: as for instance, “He appointed Him” (saith he) “heir of all things,” and “by Him He made the worlds.” (Supra, ver. 2.) But that He might not be in another way dishonored, he brings Him up again to absolute authority and declares Him to be of equal honor with the Father, yea, so equal, that many thought Him to be the Father.

And observe thou his great wisdom. First he lays down the former point and makes it sure accurately. And when this is shown, that He is the Son of God, and not alien from Him, he thereafter speaks out safely all the high sayings, as many as he will. Since any high speech concerning Him, led many into the notion just mentioned, he first sets down what is humiliating and then safely mounts up as high as he pleases. And having said, “whom He appointed heir of all things,” and that “by Him He made the worlds,” he then adds, “and upholding all things by the word of His power.” For He that by a word only governs all things, could not be in need of any one, for the producing all things.

[2.] And to prove this, mark how again going forward, and laying aside the “by whom,” he assigns to Him absolute power. For after he had effected what he wished by the use of it, thenceforward leaving it, what saith he? “Thou Lord in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thine hands.” (Infra, ver. 10.) Nowhere is there the saying “by whom,” or that “by Him He made the worlds.” What then? Were they not made by Him? Yes, but not, as thou sayest or imaginest, “as by an instrument”: nor as though He would not have made them unless the Father had reached out a hand to Him. For as He “judgeth no man” (John 5:22), and is said to judge by the Son, in that He begat Him a judge; so also, to create by Him, in that He begat Him a Creator. And if the Father be the original cause of Him, in that He is Father, much more of the things which have been made by Him. When therefore he would show that He is of Him, he speaks of necessity lowly things. But when he would utter high things, Marcellus takes a handle, and Sabellius; avoiding however the excess of both, he holds a middle [way]. For neither does he dwell on the humiliation, lest Paul of Samosata should obtain a standing place, nor yet does he for ever abide in the high sayings; but shows on the contrary His abundant nearness, lest Sabellius rush in upon him. He names Him “Son,” and immediately Paul of Samosata comes on him, saying that He is a son, as the many are. But he gives him a fatal wound, calling Him “Heir.” But yet, with Arius, he is shameless. For the saying, “He appointed Him heir,” they both hold: the former one saying, it comes of weakness; the other still presses objections, endeavoring to support himself by the clause which follows. For by saying, “by whom also He made the worlds,” he strikes backwards the impudent Samosatene: while Arius still seems to be strong. Nevertheless see how he smites him likewise, saying again, “who being the brightness of His glory.” But behold! Sabellius again springs on us, with Marcellus, and Photinus: but on all these also he inflicts one blow, saying, “and the express image of His person and upholding all things by the word of His power.” Here again he wounds Marcion too;2 not very severely, but however he doth wound him. For through the whole of this Epistle he is fighting against them.

But the very thing which he said, “the brightness of the glory,” hear also Christ Himself saying, “I am the Light of the world.” (John 8:12.) Therefore he [the Apostle] uses the word “brightness,” showing that this was said in the sense of “Light of Light.” Nor is it this alone which he shows, but also that He hath enlightened our souls; and He hath Himself manifested the Father, and by “the brightness” he has indicated the nearness of the Being [of the Father and the Son3 ]. Observe the subtlety of his expressions. He hath taken one essence and subsistence to indicate two subsistences. Which he also doth in regard to the knowledge of the Spirit4; for as he saith that the knowledge of the Father is one with that of the Spirit, as being indeed one, and in nought varying from itself (1 Cor. 2:10–12): so also here he hath taken hold of one certain [thing] whereby to express the subsistence of the Two.5

And he adds that He is “the express Image.” For the “express Image” is something other1 than its Prototype: yet not Another in all respects, but as to having real subsistence. Since here also the term, “express image,” indicates there is no variation from that whereof it is the “express image”: its similarity in all respects. When therefore he calls Him both Form,2 and express Image, what can they say? “Yea,” saith he, “man is also called an Image of God.”3 What then! is he so [an image of Him] as the Son is? No (saith he) but because the term, image, doth not show resemblance. And yet, in that man is called an Image, it showeth resemblance, as in man. For what God is in Heaven, that man is on earth, I mean as to dominion. And as he hath power over all things on earth, so also hath God power over all things which are in heaven and which are on earth. But otherwise, man is not called “Express image,” he is not called Form: which phrase declares the substance, or rather both substance and similarity in substance. Therefore just as “the form of a slave” (Phil. 2:6, 7) expresses no other thing than a man without variation4 [from human nature], so also “the form of God” expresses no other thing than God.

“Who being” (saith he) “the brightness of His glory.” See what Paul is doing. Having said, “Who being the brightness of His glory,” he added again, “He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty”: what names he hath used, nowhere finding a name for the Substance. For neither “the Majesty,” nor “the Glory” setteth forth the Name, which he wishes to say, but is not able to find a name. For this is what I said at the beginning, that oftentimes we think something, and are not able to express [it]: since not even the word God is a name of substance, nor is it at all possible to find a name of that Substance.

And what marvel, if it be so in respect of God, since not even in respect of an Angel, could one find a name expressive of his substance? Perhaps too, neither in respect of the soul. For this name [soul] doth not seem to me to be significative of the substance thereof, but of breathing. For one may see that the same [thing] is called both Soul and Heart and Mind: for, saith he, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps. 51:10), and one may often see that it [the soul] is called spirit.

“And upholding all things by the word of His power.” Tell me, “God said” (it is written), “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3): “the Father, saith one,5 commanded, and the Son obeyed”? But behold here He also [the Son] acts by word. For (saith he), “And upholding all things”—that is, governing; He holds together what would fall to pieces; For, to hold the world together, is no less than to make it, but even greater (if one must say a strange thing). For the one is to bring forward something out of things which are not: but the other, when things which have been made are about to fall back into non-existence, to hold and fasten them together, utterly at variance as they are with each other: this is indeed great and wonderful, and a certain proof of exceeding power.

Then showing the easiness, he said, “upholding”: (he did not say, governing,6 from the figure of those who simply with their finger move anything, and cause it to go round.) Here he shows both the mass of the creation to be great, and that this greatness is nothing to Him. Then again he shows the freedom from the labor, saying, “By the word of His power.” Well said he, “By the word.” For since, with us, a word is accounted to be a bare thing, he shows that it is not bare with God. But, how “He upholdeth by the word,” he hath not further added: for neither is it possible to know. Then he added concerning His majesty: for thus John also did: having said that “He is God” (John 1:1), he brought in the handiwork of the Creation. For the same thing which the one indirectly expressed, saying, “In the beginning was the Word,” and “All things were made by Him” (John 1:3), this did the other also openly declare by “the Word,” and by saying “by whom also He made the worlds.” For thus he shows Him to be both a Creator, and before all ages. What then? when the prophet saith, concerning the Father, “Thou art from everlasting and to everlasting” (Ps. 90:2), and concerning the Son, that He is before all ages, and the maker of all things—what can they say? Nay rather, when the very thing which was spoken of the Father,—“He which was before the worlds,”—this one may see spoken of the Son also? And that which one saith, “He was life” (John 1:4), pointing out the preservation of the creation, that Himself is the Life of all things,—so also saith this other, “and upholding all things by the word of His power”: not as the Greeks who defraud Him, as much as in them lies, both of Creation itself, and of Providence, shutting up His power, to reach only as far as to the Moon.

“By Himself” (saith he) “having purged our sins.” Having spoken concerning those marvelous and great matters, which are most above us, he proceeds to speak also afterwards concerning His care for men. For indeed the former expression, “and upholding all things,” also was universal: nevertheless this is far greater, for it also is universal: for, for His part, “all” men believed.1 As John also, having said, “He was life,” and so pointed out His providence, saith again, and “He was light.”

“By Himself,” saith he, “having purged our sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” He here setteth down two very great proofs of His care: first the “purifying us from our sins,” then the doing it “by Himself.” And in many places, thou seest him making very much of this,—not only of our reconciliation with God, but also of this being accomplished through the Son. For the gift being truly great, was made even greater by the fact that it was through the Son.

For2 in saying, “He sat on the right hand,” and, “having by Himself purged our sins,”—though he had put us in mind of the Cross, he quickly added the mention of the resurrection and ascension. And see his unspeakable wisdom: he said not, “He was commanded to sit down,” but “He sat down.” Then again, lest thou shouldest think that He standeth, he subjoins, “For to which of the angels said He at any time, Sit thou on My right hand.”

“He sat” (saith he) “on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” What is this “on high”? Doth he enclose God in place? Away with such a thought! but just as, when he saith, “on the right hand,” he did not describe Him as having figure, but showed His equal dignity with the Father; so, in saying “on high,” he did not enclose Him there, but expressed the being higher than all things, and having ascended up above all things. That is, He attained even unto the very throne of the Father: as therefore the Father is on high, so also is He. For the “sitting together” implies nothing else than equal dignity. But if they say, that He said, “Sit Thou,” we may ask them, What then? did He speak to Him standing? Moreover, he said not that He commanded, not that He enjoined, but that “He said”: for no other reason, than that thou mightest not think Him without origin and without cause. For that this is why he said it, is evident from the place of His sitting. For had he intended to signify inferiority, he would not have said, “on the right hand,” but on the left hand.

Ver. 4. “Being made,” saith he, “so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” The “being made,” here, is instead of “being shown forth,” as one may say. Then also from what does he reason confidently? From the Name. Seest thou that the name Son is wont to declare true relationship? And indeed if He were not a true Son (and “true” is nothing else than “of Him”), how does he reason confidently from this? For if He be Son only by grace, He not only is not “more excellent than the angels,” but is even less than they. How? Because righteous men too were called sons; and the name son, if it be not a genuine son, doth not avail to show the “excellency.” When too he would point out that there is a certain difference between creatures and their maker, hear what he saith:

Ver. 5. “For to which of the Angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee. And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son”? For these things indeed are spoken with reference also to the flesh: “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son”—while this,3 “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee,” expresses nothing else than “from [the time] that God is.” For as He is said to be,4 from the time present (for this befits Him more than any other), so also the [word] “To-day” seems to me to be spoken here with reference to the flesh. For when He hath taken hold of it, thenceforth he speaks out all boldly. For indeed the flesh partakes of the high things, just as the Godhead of the lowly. For He who disdained not to become man, and did not decline the reality, how should He have declined the expressions?

Seeing then that we know these things, let us be ashamed of nothing, nor have any high thoughts. For if He Himself being God and Lord and Son of God, did not decline to take the form of a slave, much more ought we to do all things, though they be lowly. For tell me, O man, whence hast thou high thoughts? from things of this life? but these or ever they appear, run by. Or, from things spiritual? nay, this is itself one spiritual excellency,—to have no high thoughts.

Wherefore then dost thou cherish high thoughts? because thou goest on aright? hear Christ saying, “When ye have done all things, say, we are unprofitable servants, for we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10.)

Or because of thy wealth hast thou high thoughts? Dost thou not see those before thee, how they departed naked and desolate? did we not come naked into life, and naked also shall depart? who hath high thoughts on having what is another’s? for they who will use it to their own enjoyment alone, are deprived of it however unwillingly, often before death, and at death certainly. But (saith one) while we live we use them as we will. First of all, one doth not lightly see any man using what he hath as he will. Next, if a man do even use things as he will, neither is this a great matter: for the present time is short compared with the ages without end. Art thou high-minded, O man, because thou art rich? on what account? for what cause? for this befalleth also robbers, and thieves, and man-slayers, and effeminate, and whoremongers, and all sorts of wicked men. Wherefore then art thou high-minded? Since if thou hast made meet use of it, thou must not be high-minded, lest thou profane the commandment: but if unmeet, by this indeed [it has come to pass that] thou art become a slave of money, and goods, and art overcome by them. For tell me, if any man sick of a fever should drink much water, which for a short space indeed quencheth his thirst, but afterwards kindleth the flame, ought he to be high-minded? And what, if any man have many cares without cause, ought he therefore to be high-minded? tell me, wherefore? because thou hast many masters? because thou hast ten thousand cares? because many will flatter thee? [Surely not.] For thou art even their slave. And to prove that to thee, hear plainly. The other affections which are within us, are in some cases useful. For instance, Anger is often useful. For (saith he) “unjust wrath shall not be innocent” (Ecclus. 1:22): wherefore it is possible for one to be justly in wrath. And again, “He that is angry with his brother without cause,1 shall be in danger of hell.” (Matt. 5:22.) Again for instance, emulation, desire, [are useful]: the one when it hath reference to the procreation of children, the other when he directs his emulation to excellent things. As Paul also saith, “It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing” (Gal. 4:18) and, “Covet earnestly the best gifts.” (1 Cor. 12:31.) Both therefore are useful: but an insolent spirit is in no case good, but is always unprofitable and hurtful.

However, if a man must be proud, [let it be] for poverty, not for wealth. Wherefore? Because he who can live upon a little, is far greater and better than he who cannot. For tell me, supposing certain persons called to the Imperial City, if some of them should need neither beasts, nor slaves, nor umbrellas, nor lodging-places, nor sandals, nor vessels, but it should suffice them to have bread, and to take water from the wells,—while others of them should say, “unless ye give us conveyances, and a soft bed, we cannot come; unless also we have many followers, unless we may be allowed continually to rest ourselves, we cannot come, nor unless we have the use of beasts, unless too we may travel but a small portion of the day—and we have need of many other things also”: whom should we admire? those or these? plainly, these who require nothing. So also here: some need many things for the journey through this life; others, nothing. So that it would be more fitting to be proud, for poverty if it were fitting at all.

“But the poor man,” they say, “is contemptible.” Not he, but those who despise him. For why do not I despise those who know not how to admire what they ought? Why, if a person be a painter, he will laugh to scorn all who jeer at him, so long as they are uninstructed; nor cloth he regard the things which they say, but is content with his own testimony. And shall we depend on the opinion of the many? Therefore, we are worthy of contempt when men despise us for our poverty, and we do not despise them nor call them miserable.

And I say not how many sins are produced by wealth, and how many good things by poverty. But rather, neither wealth nor poverty is excellent in itself, but through those who use it. The Christian shines out in poverty rather than in riches. How? He will be less arrogant, more sober-minded, graver, more equitable, more considerate: but he that is in wealth, hath many impediments to these things. Let us see then what the rich man does, or rather, he who useth his wealth amiss. Such an one practiceth rapine, fraud, violence. Men’s unseemly loves, unholy unions, witchcrafts, poisonings, all their other horrors,—wilt thou not find them produced by wealth? Seest thou, that in poverty rather than in wealth the pursuit of virtue is less laborious? For do not, I beseech thee, think that because rich men do not suffer punishment here, neither do they sin. Since if it were easy for a rich man to suffer punishment, thou wouldest surely have found the prisons filled with them. But among its other evils, wealth hath this also, that he who possesseth it, transgressing in evil with impunity, will never be stayed from doing so, but will receive wounds without remedies, and no man will put a bridle on him.

And if a man choose, he will find that poverty affords us more resources even for pleasure. How? Because it is freed from cares, hatred, fighting, contention, strife, from evils out of number.

Therefore let us not follow after wealth, nor be forever envying those who possess much. But let those of us who have wealth, use it aright; and those who have not, let us not grieve for this, but give thanks for all things unto God, because He enableth us to receive with little labor the same reward with the rich, or even (if we will) a greater: and from small means we shall have great gains. For so he that brought the two talents, was admired and honored equally with him who brought the five. Now why? Because he was entrusted with [but] two talents, yet he accomplished all that in him lay, and brought in what was entrusted to him, doubled. Why then are we eager to have much entrusted to us, when we may by a little reap the same fruits, or even greater? when the labor indeed is less, but the reward much more? For more easily will a poor man part with his own, than a rich man who hath many and great possessions. What, know ye not, that the more things a man hath, the more he setteth his love upon? Therefore, lest this befall us, let us not seek after wealth, nor let us be impatient of poverty, nor make haste to be rich: and let those of us who have [riches] so use them as Paul commanded. (“They that have,” saith he, “as though they had not, and they that use this world as not abusing it”—1 Cor. 7:29, 31): that we may obtain the good things promised. And may it be granted to us all to obtain them, by the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now, and for ever, and world without end. Amen.


Hebrews 1:6–8.

“And again when He bringeth in the First-Begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him. And of the Angels He saith, Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.”

[1.] Our Lord Jesus Christ calls His coming in the flesh an exodus [or going out]: as when He saith, “The sower went out to sow.” (Matt. 13:3.) And again, “I went out from the Father, and am come.” (John 16:28.) And in many places one may see this. But Paul calls it an [eisodus or] coming in, saying, “And when again He bringeth in the First-Begotten into the world,” meaning by this Bringing in, His taking on Him flesh.

Now why has he so used the expression? The things signified [thereby] are manifest, and in what respect it is [thus] said. For Christ indeed calls it a Going out, justly; for we were out from God. For as in royal palaces, prisoners and those who have offended the king, stand without, and he who desires to reconcile them, does not bring them in, but himself going out discourses with them, until having made them meet for the king’s presence, he may bring them in, so also Christ hath done. Having gone out to us, that is, having taken flesh, and having discoursed to us of the King’s matters, so He brought us in, having purged the sins, and made reconciliation. Therefore he calls it a Going out.

But Paul names it a Coming in, from the metaphor of those who come to an inheritance and receive any portion or possession. For the saying, “and when again He bringeth in the First-Begotten into the world,” means this, “when he putteth the world into His hand.” For when He was made known, then also He obtained possession of the whole thereof, He saith not these things concerning God The Word, but concerning that which is according to the flesh. For if according to John, “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him” (John 1:10): how is He “brought in,” otherwise than in the flesh?

“And,” saith he, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” Whereas he is about to say something great and lofty, he prepares it before hand, and makes it acceptable, in that he represents the Father as “bringing in” the Son. He had said above, that “He spake to us not by prophets but by His Son”; that the Son is superior to angels; yea and he establishes this from the name [Son]. And here, in what follows, from another fact also. What then may this be? From worship. And he shows how much greater He is, as much as a Master is than a slave; just as any one introducing another into a house straightway commands those having the care thereof to do him reverence; [so] saying in regard to the Flesh, “And let all the Angels of God worship Him.”

Is it then Angels only? No; for hear what follows: “And of His Angels He saith, Which maketh His Angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire: but unto the Son, Thy Throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” Behold, the greatest difference! that they are created, but He uncreated. While of His angels He saith, who “maketh”; wherefore of the Son did He not say “Who maketh”? Although he might have expressed the difference as follows: “Of His Angels He saith, Who maketh His Angels spirits, but of the Son, ‘The Lord created Me’: ‘God hath made Him Lord and Christ.’ ” (Prov. 8:22; Acts 2:36.) But neither was the one spoken concerning the Son, nor the other concerning God The Word, but concerning the flesh. For when he desired to express the true difference, he no longer included angels only, but the whole ministering power above. Seest thou how he distinguishes, and with how great clearness, between creatures and Creator, ministers and Lord, the Heir and true Son, and slaves?

[2.] “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” Behold a symbol of Kingly Office. “A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom.” Behold again another symbol of Royalty.

Then again with respect to the flesh (ver. 9) “Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee.”

What is, “Thy God”? Why, after that he hath uttered a great word, he again qualifieth it. Here he hits both Jews, and the followers of Paul of Samosata, and the Arians, and Marcellus, and Sabellius, and Marcion. How? The Jews, by his indicating two Persons, both God and Man;1 the other Jews,2 I mean the followers of Paul of Samosata, by thus discoursing concerning His eternal existence, and uncreated essence: for by way of distinction, against the word, “He made,” he put, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” Against the Arians there is both this same again, and also that He is not a slave; but if a creature, He is a slave. And against Marcellus and the others, that these are two Persons, distinguished in reference to their subsistence.3 And against the Marcionites, that the Godhead is not anointed, but the Manhood.

Next he saith, “Above Thy fellows.” But who are these His “fellows” other than men? that is Christ received “not the Spirit by measure.” (John 3:34.) Seest thou how with the doctrine concerning His uncreated nature he always joins also that of the “Economy”? what can be clearer than this? Didst thou see how what is created and what is begotten are not the same? For otherwise he would not have made the distinction, nor in contrast to the word, “He made” [&c.], have added, “But unto the Son He said, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” Nor would he have called the name, “Son, a more excellent Name,” if it is a sign of the same thing. For what is the excellence? For if that which is created, and that which is begotten be the same, and they [the Angels] were made, what is there [in Him] “more excellent”? Lo! again ὁ Θεὸς, “God,” with the Article.4

[3.] And again he saith (ver. 10–12): “Thou Lord in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thine hands. They shall perish, but Thou remainest, and they shall all wax old as a garment, and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same and Thy years shall not fail.”

Lest hearing the words, “and when He bringeth in the First-Begotten into the world”; thou shouldest think it as it were a Gift afterwards super-added to Him; above, he both corrected this beforehand, and again further corrects, saying, “in the beginning”: not now, but from the first. See again he strikes both Paul of Samosata and also Arius a mortal blow, applying to the Son the things which relate to the Father. And withal he has also intimated another thing by the way, greater even than this. For surely he hath incidentally pointed out also the transfiguration of the world, saying, “they shall wax old as a garment, and as a vesture Thou shalt fold them up, and they shall be changed.” Which also he saith in the Epistle to the Romans, that he shall transfigure the world. (See Rom. 8:21.) And showing the facility thereof, he adds, as if a man should fold up a garment so shall He both fold up and change it. But if He with so much ease works the transfiguration and the creation to what is better and more perfect, needed He another for the inferior creation? How far doth your shamelessness go? At the same time too this is a very great consolation, to know that things will not be as they are, but they all shall receive change, and all shall be altered, but He Himself remaineth ever existing, and living without end: “and Thy years,” he saith, “shall not fail.”

[4.] Ver. 13. “But to which of the Angels said He at any time, Sit thou on My right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool?” Behold, again he encourages them, inasmuch as their enemies were to be worsted, and their enemies are the same also with Christ’s.

This again belongs to Sovereignty, to Equal Dignity, to Honor and not weakness, that the Father should be angry for the things done to the Son. This belongs to His great Love and honor towards the Son, as of a father towards a son. For He that is angry in His behalf how is He a stranger to Him? Which also he saith in the second Psalm, “He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn, and the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure.” (Ps. 2:4, 5.) And again He Himself saith, “Those that would not that I should reign over them, bring hither before Me, and slay them.” (Luke 19:27.) For that they are His own words, hear also what He saith in another place, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left desolate.” (Luke 13:34, 35.) And again, “The kingdom shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” (Matt. 21:43.) And again, “He that falleth upon that stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever It shall fall, It will grind him to powder.” (Matt. 21:44.) And besides, He who is to be their Judge in that world, much more did He Himself repay them in this. So that the words “Till I make thine enemies thy footstool” are expressive of honor only towards the Son.

Ver. 14. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” What marvel (saith he) if they minister to the Son, when they minister even to our salvation? See how he lifts up their minds, and shows the great honor which God has for us, since He has assigned to Angels who are above us this ministration on our behalf. As if one should say, for this purpose (saith he) He employs them; this is the office of Angels, to minister to God for our salvation. So that it is an angelical work, to do all for the salvation of the brethren: or rather it is the work of Christ Himself, for He indeed saves as Lord, but they as servants. And we, though servants, are yet Angels’ fellow-servants. Why gaze ye so earnestly on the Angels (saith he)? They are servants of the Son of God, and are sent many ways for our sakes, and minister to our salvation. And so they are partners in service with us.

Consider ye how he ascribes no great difference to the kinds of creatures. And yet the space between angels and men is great; nevertheless he brings them down near to us, all but saying, For us they labor, for our sake they run to and fro: on us, as one might say, they wait. This is their ministry, for our sake to be sent every way.

And of these examples both the Old [Testament] is full, and the New. For when Angels bring glad tidings to the shepherds, or to Mary, or to Joseph; when they sit at the sepulcher, when they are sent to say to the disciples, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?” (Acts 1:11), when they release Peter out of the prison, when they discourse with Philip, consider how great the honor is; when God sends His Angels for ministers as to friends; when to Cornelius [an Angel] appears, when [an Angel] brings forth all the apostles from the prison, and says, “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people the words of this life” (Acts 5:20); and to Paul himself also an Angel appears. Dost thou see that they minister to us on God’s behalf, and that they minister to us in the greatest matters? wherefore Paul saith, “All things are yours, whether life or death, or the world, or things present, or things to come.” (1 Cor. 3:22.)

Well then the Son also was sent, but not as a servant, nor as a minister, but as a Son, and Only-Begotten, and desiring the same things with the Father. Rather indeed, He was not “sent”: for He did not pass from place to place, but took on Him flesh: whereas these change their places, and leaving those in which they were before, so come to others in which they were not.

And by this again he incidentally encourages them, saying, What fear ye? Angels are ministering to us.

[5.] And having spoken concerning the Son, both what related to the Economy, and what related to the Creation, and to His sovereignty, and having shown His co-equal dignity, and that as absolute Master He ruleth not men only but also the powers above, he next exhorts them, having made out his argument, that we ought to give heed to the things which have been heard. (c. 2:1.) “Wherefore we ought to give more earnest heed” (saith he) “to the things which we have heard.” Why “more earnest”? Here he meant “more earnest” than to the Law: but he suppressed the actual expression of it, and yet makes it plain in the course of reasoning, not in the way of counsel, nor of exhortation. For so it was better.

Ver. 2, 3. “For if the word spoken by Angels” (saith he) “was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken to us by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him?”

Why ought we to “give more earnest heed to the things which we have heard”? were not those former things of God, as well as these? Either then he meaneth “more earnest” than [to] the Law, or “very earnest”; not making comparison, God forbid. For since, on account of the long space of time, they had a great opinion of the Old Covenant, but these things had been despised as vet new, he proves (more than his argument required) that we ought rather to give heed to these. How? By saying in effect, Both these and those are of God, but not in a like manner. And this he shows us afterwards: but for the present he treats it somewhat superficially, but afterwards more clearly, saying; “For if that first covenant had been faultless” (c. 8:7), and many other such things: “for that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” (c. 8:13.) But as yet he ventures not to say any such thing in the beginning of his discourse, nor until he shall have first occupied and possessed his hearer by his fuller [arguments].

Why then ought we “to give more earnest heed”? “Lest at any time,” saith he, “we should let them slip”—that is, lest at any time we should perish, lest we should fall away. And here he shows the grievousness of this falling away, in that it is a difficult thing for that which hath fallen away to return again, inasmuch as it hath happened through wilful negligence. And he took this form of speech from the Proverbs. For, saith he, “my son [take heed] lest thou fall away” (Prov. 3:21, LXX.), showing both the easiness of the fall, and the grievousness of the ruin. That is, our disobedience is not without danger. And while by his mode of reasoning he shows that the chastisement is greater, yet again he leaves it in the form of a question, and not in the conclusion. For indeed this is to make one’s discourse inoffensive, when one does not in every case of one’s self infer the judgment, but leaves it in the power of the hearer himself to give sentence: and this would render them more open to conviction. And both the prophet Nathan doth the same in the Old [Testament], and in Matthew Christ, saying, “What will He do to the husbandmen” (Matt. 21:40) of that vineyard? so compelling them to give sentence themselves: for this is the greatest victory.

Next, when he had said, “For if the word which was spoken by Angels was steadfast”—he did not add, much more that by Christ: but letting this pass, he said what is less, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” And see how he makes the comparison. “For if the word which was spoken by Angels,” saith he. There, “by Angels,” here, “by the Lord”—and there “a word,” but here, “salvation.”

Then lest any man should say, Thy sayings, O Paul, are they Christ’s? he proves their trustworthiness both from his having heard these things of Him, and from their being now spoken by God; since not merely a voice is wafted, as in the case of Moses, but signs are done, and facts bear witness.

[6.] But what is this, “For if the word spoken by Angels was steadfast”? For in the Epistle to the Galatians also he saith to this effect, “Being ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator.” (Gal. 3:19.) And again, “Ye received a law by the disposition of Angels, and have not kept it.” (Acts 7:53.) And everywhere he saith it was given by angels. Some indeed say that Moses is signified; but without reason. For here he says Angels in the plural: and the Angels too which he here speaks of, are those in Heaven. What then is it? Either he means the Decalogue only (for there Moses spake, and God answered him—Ex. 19:19),—or that angels were present, God disposing them in order,—or that he speaks thus in regard of all things said and done in the old Covenant, as if Angels had part in them. But how is it said in another place, “The Law was given by Moses” (John 1:17), and here “by Angels”? For it is said, “And God came down in thick darkness.”1 (Ex. 19:16, 20.)

“For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast.” What is “was steadfast”? True, as one may say; and faithful in its proper season; and all the things which had been spoken came to pass. Either this is his meaning, or that they prevailed, and the threatenings were coming to be accomplished. Or by “the word” he means injunctions. For apart from the Law, Angels sent from God enjoined many things: for instance at Bochim, in the Judges, in [the history of] Samson. (Judg. 2:1; 13:3.) For this is the cause why he said not “the Law” but “the word.” And he seems to me haply rather to mean this, viz., those things which are committed to the management of angels. What shall we say then? The angels who were entrusted with the charge of the nation were then present, and they themselves made the trumpets, and the other things, the fire, the thick darkness. (Ex. 19:16.)

“And every transgression and disobedience,” saith he. Not this one and that one, but “every” one. Nothing, he saith, remained unavenged, but “received a just recompense of reward,” instead of [saying] punishment. Why now spake he thus? Such is the manner of Paul, not to make much account of his phrases, but indifferently to put down words of evil sound, even in matters of good meaning. As also in another place he saith, “Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”2 (2 Cor. 10:5.) And again he hath put “the recompense” for punishment,3 as here he calleth punishment “reward.” “If it be a righteous thing,” he saith, “with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you, and to you who are troubled rest.” (2 Thess. 1:6, 7.) That is, justice was not violated, but God went forth against them, and caused the penalty to come round on the sinners, though not all their sins are made manifest, but only where the express ordinances were transgressed.

“How then shall we,” he saith, “escape if we neglect so great salvation?” Hereby he signified, that that other salvation was no great thing. Well too did he add the “So great.” For not from wars (he saith) will He now rescue us, nor bestow on us the earth and the good things that are in the earth, but it will be the dissolution of death, the destruction of the devil, the kingdom of Heaven, everlasting life. For all these things he hath briefly expressed, by saying, “if we neglect so great salvation.”

[7.] Then he subjoins what makes this worthy of belief. “Which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord”: that is, had its beginning from the fountain itself. It was not a man who brought it over1 into the earth, nor any created power, but the Only-Begotten Himself.

“And was confirmed unto us by them that heard [Him].” What is “confirmed”? It was believed,2 or, it came to pass. For (he saith) we have the earnest;3 that is, it hath not been extinguished, it hath not ceased, but it is strong and prevaileth. And the cause is, the Divine power works therein. It means they who heard from the Lord, themselves confirmed us. This is a great thing and trustworthy: which also Luke saith in the beginning of his Gospel, “As they delivered unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word.” (Luke 1:2.)

How then was it confirmed? What if those that heard were forgers? saith some one. This objection then he overthrows, and shows that the grace was not human. If they had gone astray, God would not have borne witness to them; for he subjoined (ver. 4), “God also bearing witness with them.” Both they indeed bear witness, and God beareth witness too. How doth He bear witness? not by word or by voice, (though this also would have been worthy of belief): but how? “By signs, and wonders, and divers miracles.” (Well said he, “divers miracles,” declaring the abundance of the gifts: which was not so in the former dispensation, neither so great signs and so various.) That is, we did not believe them simply, but through signs and wonders: wherefore we believe not them, but God Himself.

“And by gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will.”

What then, if wizards also do signs, and the Jews said that He “cast out devils through Beelzebub”? (Luke 11:15.) But they do not such kind of signs: therefore said he “divers miracles”: for those others were not miracles, [or powers,4] but weakness and fancy, and things altogether vain. Wherefore he said, “by gifts of the Holy Ghost according to His own will.”

[8.] Here he seems to me to intimate something further. For it is not likely there were many there who had gifts, but that these had failed, upon their becoming more slothful. In order then that even in this he might comfort them, and not leave them to fall away, he referred all to the will of God. He knows (he says) what is expedient, and for whom, and apportions His grace accordingly. Which also he [Paul] does in the Epistle to the Corinthians, saying, “God hath set every one of us, as it pleased Him.” (1 Cor. 12:18.) And again, “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” (1 Cor. 12:7.)

“According to His will.” He shows that the gift is according to the will of the Father. But oftentimes on account of their unclean and slothful life many have not received a gift, and sometimes also those whose life is good and pure have not received one. Why, I pray you? Lest they might be made haughty, that they might not be puffed up, that they might not grow more negligent, that they might not be more excited. For if even without a gift, the mere consciousness of a pure life be sufficient to lift a man up, much more when the grace is added also. Wherefore to the humble, to the simple, it was rather given, and especially to the simple: for it is said, “in singleness and gladness of heart.” (Acts 2:46.) Yea, and hereby also he rather urged them on, and if they were growing negligent gave them a spur. For the humble, and he who imagines no great things concerning himself, becomes more earnest when he has received a gift, in that he has obtained what is beyond his deserts, and thinks that he is not worthy thereof. But he who thinks he hath done well, reckoning it to be his due, is puffed up. Wherefore God dispenseth this profitably: which one may see taking place also in the Church: for one hath the word of teaching, another hath not power to open his mouth. Let not this man (he says) be grieved because of this. For “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” (1 Cor. 12:7.) For if a man that is an householder knoweth to whom he should entrust anything, much more God, who understands the mind of men, “who knoweth all things or ever they come into being.”1 One thing only is worthy of grief, Sin: there is nothing else.

Say not, Wherefore have I not riches? or, If I had, I would give to the poor. Thou knowest not, if thou hadst them, whether thou wouldest not the rather be covetous. For now indeed thou sayest these things, but being put to the trial thou wouldest be different. Since also when we are satisfied, we think that we are able to fast; but when we have gone without a little space, other thoughts come into us. Again, when we are out of the way of strong drink, we think ourselves able to master our appetite, but no longer so, when we are caught by it.

Say not, Wherefore had I not the gift of teaching? or, If I had had it, I should have edified innumerable souls. Thou knowest not, if thou hadst it, whether it would not be to thy condemnation,—whether envy, whether sloth, would not have disposed thee to hide thy talent. Now, indeed, thou art now free from all these, and though thou give not “the portion of meat” (Luke 12:42), thou art not called to account: but then, thou wouldest have been responsible for many.

[9.] And besides, neither now art thou without the gift. Show in the little, what thou wouldst have been, if thou hadst had the other. “For if” (he says) “ye are not faithful in that which is little, how shalt any one give you that which is great?” (Luke 16:11.) Give such proof as did the widow; she had two farthings,2 and she cast in all, whatsoever she possessed.

Dost thou seek riches? Prove that thou thinkest lightly of the few things, that I may trust thee also concerning the many things. But if thou dost not think lightly even of these, much less wilt thou do so of the other.

Again, in speech, prove that thou canst use fitly exhortation and counsel. Hast thou not external eloquence? hast thou not store of thoughts? But nevertheless thou knowest these common things. Thou hast a child, thou hast a neighbor, thou hast a friend, thou hast a brother, thou hast kinsmen. And though publicly before the Church, thou art not able to draw out a long discourse, these thou canst exhort in private. Here, there is no need of rhetoric, nor of elaborate discourse: prove in these, that if thou hadst skill of speech, thou wouldest not have neglected it. But if in the small matter thou art not in earnest, how shall I trust thee concerning the great?

For, that every man can do this, hear what Paul saith, how he charged even lay people; “Edify,” he says, “one another, as also ye do.” (1 Thess. 5:11.) And, “Comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thess. 4:18.) God knoweth how He should distribute to every man. Art thou better than Moses? hear how he shrinks from the hardship. “Am I,” saith he, “able to bear them? for Thou saidst to me, Bear them up, as a nursing-father would bear up the sucking-child.” (Num. 11:12.) What then did God? He took of his spirit and gave unto the others, showing that neither when he bare them was the gift his own, but of the Spirit. If thou hadst had the gift, thou wouldst perchance3 have been lifted up, perchance wouldst thou have been turned out of the way. Thou knowest not thyself as God knoweth thee. Let us not say, To what end is that? on what account is this? When God dispenseth, let us not demand an account of Him: for this [is] of the uttermost impiety and folly. We are slaves, and slaves far apart from our Master, knowing not even the things which are before us.

[10.] Let us not then busy ourselves about the counsel of God, but whatsoever He hath given, this let us guard, though it be small, though it be the lowest, and we shall be altogether approved. Or rather, none of the gifts of God is small: art thou grieved because thou hast not the gift of teaching? Then tell me, which seems to you the greater, to have the gift of teaching, or the gift of driving away diseases? Doubtless the latter. But what? Tell me; doth it not seem to thee greater to give eyes to the blind than even to drive away diseases? But what? Tell me; doth it not seem to thee greater to raise the dead than to give eyes to the blind? What again, tell me; doth it not seem to thee greater to do this by shadows and napkins, than by a word? Tell me then, which wouldst thou? Raise the dead with shadows and napkins, or have the gift of teaching? Doubtless thou wilt say the former, to raise the dead with shadows and napkins. If then I should show to thee, that there is another gift far greater than this, and that thou dost not receive it when it is in thy power to receive it, art not thou justly deprived of those others? And this gift not one or two, but all may have. I know that ye open wide your mouths and are amazed, at being to hear that it is in your power to have a greater gift than raising the dead, and giving eyes to the blind, doing the same things which were done in the time of the Apostles. And it seems to you past belief.

What then is this gift? charity. Nay, believe me; for the word is not mine, but Christ’s, speaking by Paul. For what saith he? “Covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.” (1 Cor. 12:31.) What is this, “yet more excellent”? What he means is this. The Corinthians were proud over their gifts, and those having tongues, the least gift, were puffed up against the rest. He saith therefore, Do ye by all means desire gifts? I show unto you a way of gifts not merely excelling but far more excellent. Then he saith, “Though I speak with the tongues of Angels, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I have faith so as to remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:1, 2.)

Hast thou seen the gift? Covet earnestly this gift. This is greater than raising the dead. This is far better than all the rest. And that it is so, hear what Christ Himself saith, discoursing with His disciples, “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples.” (John 13:35.) And showing how, He mentioned not the miracles, but what? “If ye have love one with another.” And again He saith to the Father, “Hereby shall they know that Thou hast sent Me, if they be one.” (John 17:21.) And He said to His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that ye love one another.” (John 13:34.) Such an one therefore is more venerable and glorious than those who raise the dead; with reason. For that indeed is wholly of God’s grace, but this, of thine own earnestness also. This is of one who is a Christian indeed: this shows the disciple of Christ, the crucified, the man that hath nothing common with earth. Without this, not even martyrdom can profit.

And as a proof, see this plainly. The blessed Paul took two of the highest virtues, or rather three; namely, those which consist in miracles, in knowledge, in life. And without this the others, he said, are nothing. And I will say how these are nothing. “Though I give my goods to feed the poor,” he says, “and have not charity, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:3.) For it is possible not to be charitable even when one feeds the poor and exhausts one’s means.

[11.] And indeed these things have been sufficiently declared by us, in the place concerning Charity:1 and thither we refer the readers. Meanwhile, as I was saying, let us covet earnestly the Gift, let us love one another; and we shall need nothing else for the perfect acquisition of virtue, but all will be easy to us without toils and we shall do all perfectly with much diligence.

But see, even now, it is said, we love one another. For one man hath two friends, and another three. But this is not to love for God’s sake, but for the sake of being beloved. But to love for God’s sake hath not this as its principle of Love; but such an one will be disposed towards all men as towards brethren; loving those that are of the same faith as being true brothers; heretics and Heathen and Jews, brothers indeed by nature, but vile and unprofitable,—pitying and wearing himself out and weeping for them. Herein we shall be like God if we love all men, even our enemies; not, if we work miracles. For we regard even God with admiration when He worketh wonders, yet much more, when He showeth love towards man, when He is long-suffering. If then even in God this is worthy of much admiration, much more in men is it evident that this rendereth us admirable.

This then let us zealously seek after: and we shall be no way inferior to Paul and Peter and those who have raised innumerable dead, though we may not be able to drive away a fever. But without this [Love], though we should work greater miracles even than the Apostles themselves, though we should expose ourselves to innumerable dangers for the faith: there will be to us no profit from any. And these things it is not I that say, but he, the very nourisher of Charity, knoweth these things. To him then let us be obedient; for thus we shall be able to attain to the good things promised, of which may we all be made partakers, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father with the Holy Ghost, be the glory, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Christ, Daily Catholic Lectionary, fathers of the church, Notes on Hebrews, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture, SERMONS, St John Chrysostom | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Hebrews 1:1-2

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 9, 2018


Hebrews 1:1, 2.

“God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the Prophets, hath at the end of the days1 spoken unto us by His Son: whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds.”

[1.] Truly, “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (Rom. 5:20.) This at least the blessed Paul intimates here also, in the very beginning of his Epistle to the Hebrews. For since as it was likely that afflicted, worn out by evils, and judging of things thereby, they would think themselves worse off than all other men,—he shows that herein they had rather been made partakers of greater, even very exceeding, grace; arousing the hearer at the very opening of his discourse. Wherefore he says, “God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the Prophets, hath at the end of the days spoken unto us by His Son.”

Why did he [Paul] not oppose “himself” to “the prophets”? Certainly, he was much greater than they, inasmuch as a greater trust was committed to him. Yet he doth not so. Why? First, to avoid speaking great things concerning himself. Secondly, because his hearers were not yet perfect. And thirdly, because he rather wished to exalt them, and to show that their superiority was great. As if he had said, What so great matter is it that He sent prophets to our fathers? For to us [He has sent] His own only-begotten Son Himself.

And well did he begin thus, “At sundry times and in divers manners,” for he points out that not even the prophets themselves saw God; nevertheless, the Son saw Him. For the expressions, “at sundry times and in divers manners” are the same as “in different ways.” “For I” (saith He) “have multiplied visions, and used similitudes by the ministry of the Prophets.” (Hos. 12:10.) Wherefore the excellency consists not in this alone, that to them indeed prophets were sent, but to us the Son; but that none of them saw God, but the Only-begotten Son saw Him. He doth not indeed at once assert this, but by what he says afterwards he establishes it, when he speaks concerning His human nature; “For to which of the Angels said He, Thou art My Son,” (ver. 5), and, “Sit thou on My right hand”? (Ver. 13.)

And look on his great wisdom. First he shows the superiority from the prophets. Then having established this as acknowledged, he declares that to them indeed He spake by the prophets, but to us by the Only-begotten. Then [He spake] to them by Angels, and this again he establishes, with good reason (for angels also held converse with the Jews): yet even herein we have the superiority, inasmuch as the Master [spake] to us, but to them servants, and prophets, fellow-servants.

[2.] Well also said he, “at the end of the days,” for by this he both stirs them up and encourages them desponding of the future. For as he says also in another place, “The Lord is at hand, be careful for nothing” (Phil. 4:5, 6), and again, “For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Rom. 13:11): so also here. What then is it which he says? That whoever is spent in the conflict, when he hears of the end thereof, recovers his breath a little, knowing that it is the end indeed of his labors, but the beginning of his rest.

“Hath in the end of the days spoken unto us in [His] Son.” Behold again he uses the saying, “in [His] Son,”2 for “through the Son,”3 against those who assert that this phrase is proper to the Spirit.4 Dost thou see that the [word] “in” is “through”?5

And the expression, “In times past,” and this, “In the end of the days,” shadows forth some other meaning:—that when a long time had intervened, when we were on the edge of punishment, when the Gifts had failed, when there was no expectation of deliverance, when we were expecting to have less than all—then we have had more.

And see how considerately he hath spoken it. For he said not, “Christ spake” (albeit it was He who did speak), but inasmuch as their souls were weak, and they were not yet able to hear the things concerning Christ, he says, “God hath spoken by Him.” What meanest thou? did God speak through the Son? Yes. What then? Is it thus thou showest the superiority? for here thou hast but pointed out that both the New and the Old [Covenants] are of One and the same: and that this superiority is not great. Wherefore he henceforth follows on upon this argument, saying, “He spake unto us by [His] Son.”

(Note, how Paul makes common cause, and puts himself on a level with the disciples, saying, He spake “to us”: and yet He did not speak to him, but to the Apostles, and through them to the many. But he lifts them [the Hebrews] up, and declares that He spake also to them. And as yet he doth not at all reflect on the Jews. For almost all to whom the prophets spake, were a kind of evil and polluted persons. But as yet the discourse is not of these: but hitherto of the gifts derived from God.)

“Whom He appointed,” saith he, “heir of all.” What is “whom He appointed heir of all”? He speaks here of the flesh [the human nature]. As He also says in the second Psalm, “Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance.” (Ps. 2:8.) For no longer is “Jacob the portion of the Lord” nor “Israel His inheritance” (Deut. 32:9), but all men: that is to say, He hath made Him Lord of all: which Peter also said in the Acts, “God hath made Him both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36.) But he has used the name “Heir,” declaring two things: His proper sonship1 and His indefeasible sovereignty. “Heir of all,” that is, of all the world.

[3.] Then again he brings back his discourse to its former point. “By whom also He made the worlds [the ages].”2 Where are those who say, There was [a time] when He was not?

Then, using degrees of ascent, he uttered that which is far greater than all this, saying,

Ver. 3, 4. “Who, (being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power,) when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made3 so much better than the Angels as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”

O! the wisdom of the Apostle! or rather, not the wisdom of Paul, but the grace of the Spirit is the thing to wonder at. For surely he uttered not these things of his own mind, nor in that way did he find his wisdom. (For whence could it be? From the knife, and the skins, or the workshop?) But it was from the working of God. For his own understanding did not give birth to these thoughts, which was then so mean and slender as in nowise to surpass the baser sort; (for how could it, seeing it spent itself wholly on bargains and skins?) but the grace of the Spirit shows forth its strength by whomsoever it will.

For just as one, wishing to lead up a little child to some lofty place, reaching up even to the top of Heaven, does this gently and by degrees, leading him upwards by the steps from below,—then when he has set him on high, and bidden him to gaze downwards, and sees him turning giddy and confused, and dizzy, taking hold of him, he leads him down to the lower stand, allowing him to take breath; then when he hath recovered it, leads him up again, and again brings him down;—just so did the blessed Paul likewise, both with the Hebrews and everywhere, having learnt it from his Master. For even He also did so; sometimes He led His hearers up on high, and sometimes He brought them down, not allowing them to remain very long.

See him, then, even here—by how many steps he led them up, and placed them near the very summit of religion, and then or ever they grow giddy, and are seized with dizziness, how he leads them again lower down, and allowing them to take breath, says, “He spake unto us by [His] Son,” “whom He appointed Heir of all things.”4 For the name of Son is so far common. For where a true5 [Son] it is understood of, He is above all: but however that may be, for the present he proves that He is from above.

And see how he says it: “Whom He appointed,” saith he, “heir of all things.” The phrase, “He appointed Heir,” is humble. Then he placed them on the higher step, adding, “by whom also He made the worlds.” Then on a higher still, and after which there is no other, “who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person.” Truly he has led them to unapproachable light, to the very brightness itself. And before they are blinded see how he gently leads them down again, saying, “and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty.” He does not simply say, “He sat down,” but “after the purifying, He sat town,” for he hath touched on the Incarnation, and his utterance is again lowly.

Then again having said a little by the way (for he says, “on the right hand of the Majesty on high”), [he turns] again to what is lowly; “being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” Henceforward then he treats here of that which is according to the flesh, since the phrase “being made better” doth not express His essence according to the Spirit,1 (for that was not “made” but “begotten,”) but according to the flesh: for this was “made.” Nevertheless the discourse here is not about being called into2 existence. But just as John says, “He that cometh after me, is preferred before me” (John 1:15, 30), that is, higher in honor and esteem; so also here, “being made so much better than the angels”—that is, higher in esteem and better and more glorious, “by how much He hath obtained by inheritance a more excellent name than they.” Seest thou that he is speaking of that which is according to the flesh? For this Name,3 God the Word ever had; He did not afterwards “obtain it by inheritance”; nor did He afterwards become “better than the Angels, when He had purged our sins”; but He was always “better,” and better without all comparison.4 For this is spoken of Him according to the flesh.

So truly it is our way also, when we talk of man, to speak things both high and low. Thus, when we say, “Man is nothing,” “Man is earth,” “Man is ashes,” we call the whole by the worse part. But when we say, “Man is an immortal animal,” and “Man is rational, and of kin to those on high,” we call again the whole by the better part. So also, in the case of Christ, sometimes Paul discourseth from the less and sometimes from the better; wishing both to establish the economy, and also to teach about the incorruptible nature.

[4.] Since then “He hath purged our sins,” let us continue pure; and let us receive no stain, but preserve the beauty which He hath implanted in us, and His comeliness undefiled and pure, “not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” (Eph. 5:27.) Even little sins are “a spot and a wrinkle,” such a thing, I mean, as Reproach, Insult, Falsehood.

Nay, rather not even are these small, but on the contrary very great: yea so great as to deprive a man even of the kingdom of Heaven. How, and in what manner? “He that calleth his brother fool, is in danger” (He saith) “of hell-fire.” (Matt. 5:22.) But if it be so with him who calls a man “fool,” which seems to be the slightest of all things, and rather mere children’s talk; what sentence of punishment will not he incur, who calleth him malignant and crafty and envious, and casteth at him ten thousand other reproaches? What more fearful than this?

Now suffer, I beseech you, the word [of exhortation].5 For if he that “doeth” [aught] to “one of the least, doeth it to Him” (Matt. 25:40), and he that “doeth it not to one of the least doeth it not to Him” (Matt. 25:45), how is it not the same also in the matter of good or evil speaking? He that reviles his brother, reviles God: and he that honors his brother, honors God. Let us train therefore our tongue to speak good words. For “refrain,” it is said, “thy tongue from evil.” (Ps. 34:13.) For God gave it not that we should speak evil, that we should revile, that we should calumniate one another; but to sing hymns to God withal, to speak those things which “give grace to the hearers” (Eph. 4:29), things for edification, things for profit.

Hast thou spoken evil of a man? What is thy gain, entangling thyself in mischief together with him? For thou hast obtained the reputation of a slanderer. For there is not any, no not any evil, which stops at him that suffers it, but it includes the doer also. As for instance, the envious person seems indeed to plot against another, but himself first reaps the fruit of his sin, wasting and wearing himself away, and being hated of all men. The cheat deprives another of his money; yea and himself too of men’s good will: and causes himself to be evil spoken of by all men. Now reputation is much better than money, for the one it is not easy to wash out, whereas it is easy to gain possession of the other. Or rather, the absence of the one doth no hurt to him that wanteth it; but the absence of the other makes you reproached and ridiculed, and an object of enmity and warfare to all.

The passionate man again first punishes and tears himself in pieces, and then him with whom he is angry.

Just so the evil speaker disgraces first himself and then him who is evil-spoken of: or, it may be, even this hath proved beyond his power, and while he departs with the credit of a foul and detestable kind of person, he causes the other to be loved the more. For when a man hearing a bad name given him, doth not requite the giver in the same kind, but praises and admires, he doth not praise the other, but himself. For I before observed that, as calumnies against our neighbors first touch those who devise the mischief, so also good works done towards our neighbors, gladden first those who do them. The parent either of good, or evil, justly reaps the fruit of it first himself. And just as water, whether it be brackish or sweet, fills the vessels of those who resort to it, but lessens not the fountain which sends it forth; so surely also, both wickedness and virtue, from whatever person they proceed, prove either his joy or his ruin.

So far as to the things of this world; but what speech may recount the things of that world, either the goods or the evils? There is none. For as to the blessings, they surpass all thought, not speech only; for their opposites are expressed indeed in terms familiar to us. For fire, it is said, is there, and darkness, and bonds, and a worm that never dieth. But this represents not only the things which are spoken of, but others more intolerable. And to convince thee, consider at once this first: if it be fire, how is it also darkness? Seest thou how that fire is more intolerable than this? For it hath no light. If it be fire, how is it forever burning? Seest thou how something more intolerable than this happens? For it is not quenched. Yea, therefore it is called unquenchable. Let us then consider how great a misery it must be, to be forever burning, and to be in darkness, and to utter unnumbered groanings, and to gnash the teeth, and not even to be heard. For if here any one of those ingeniously brought up, should he be cast into prison, speaks of the mere ill savor, and the being laid in darkness, and the being bound with murderers, as more intolerable than any death: think what it is when we are burning with the murderers of the whole world, neither seeing nor being seen, but in so vast a multitude thinking that we are alone. For the darkness and gloom doth not allow our distinguishing those who are near to us, but each will burn as if he were thus suffering alone. Moreover, if darkness of itself afflicteth and terrifieth our souls, how then will it be when together with the darkness there are likewise so great pains and burnings?

Wherefore I entreat you to be ever revolving these things with yourselves, and to submit to the pain of the words, that we may not undergo the punishment of the things. For assuredly, all these things shall be, and those whose doings have deserved those chambers of torture no man shall rescue, not father, nor mother, nor brother. “For a brother redeemeth not,” He saith; “shall a man redeem?” (Ps. 49:7, LXX.), though he have much confidence, though he have great power with God. For it is He Himself who rewards every one according to his works, and upon these depends our salvation or punishment.

Let us make then to ourselves “friends of the mammon of unrighteousness” (Luke 16:9), that is: Let us give alms; let us exhaust our possessions upon them, that so we may exhaust that fire: that we may quench it, that we may have boldness there. For there also it is not they who receive us, but our own work: for that it is not simply their being our friends which can save us, learn from what is added. For why did He not say, “Make to yourselves friends, that they may receive you into their everlasting habitations,” but added also the manner? For saying, “of the mammon of unrighteousness,” He points out that we must make friends of them by means of our possessions, showing that mere friendship will not protect us, unless we have good works, unless we spend righteously the wealth unrighteously gathered.

Moreover, this our discourse, of Almsgiving I mean, fits not only the rich, but also the needy. Yea even if there be any person who supporteth himself by begging, even for him is this word. For there is no one, so poverty-stricken, however exceeding poor he may be, as not to be able to provide “two mites.” (Luke 21:2.) It is therefore possible that a person giving a small sum from small means, should surpass those who have large possessions and give more; as that widow did. For not by the measure of what is given, but by the means and willingness of the givers is the extent of the alms-deed estimated. In all cases the will is needed, in all, a right disposition; in all, love towards God. If with this we do all things, though having little we give little, God will not turn away His face, but will receive it as great and admirable: for He regards the will, not the gifts: and if He see that to be great, He assigneth His decrees and judges accordingly, and maketh them partakers of His everlasting benefits.

Which may God grant us all to obtain, by the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Christ, fathers of the church, Notes on Hebrews, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture, SERMONS, St John Chrysostom | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Father Callan’s Commentary on Hebrews 11:8-19

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 23, 2017

Introduction to Hebrews Chapter 11.

Heb 11:1-38. The close of the preceding Chapter has shown that faith is essential to salvation, and hence the author will now describe so important a virtue and illustrate its value and power by citing some of the religious heroes of the past. These examples of what faith has done for so many of those ancient saints whom Jewish history most revered will be especially consoling to the readers of this Epistle, for it will show them that their own Christian faith is not something new and distinct from the religious assurance and conviction which sustained their ancestors, but rather a continuation of the same sustaining virtue, only on a much more elevated plain.

11:8.  By faith he that is called Abraham, obeyed to go out into a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

8. As Abraham was the supreme example of faith among the Jews, the writer now dwells at length on his faith. The great patriarch’s faith is illustrated: (a) by his obedience to the call of God to go forth from his own country in search of the Promised Land and his wanderings in that strange land (ver. 8-10); (b) by the confidence with which he and his wife Sara received God’s promise of offspring (ver. 11-12); (c) by his willingness to sacrifice Isaac (ver. 17-19).

The call of God came to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees, and in obedience to it he left home and kindred, wandering and enduring privations and hardships in search of the land of Canaan which God had promised to give to him and his descendants (Gen 12:1ff.).

He that is called Abraham. Here the author alludes to the fact that God, as a mark of special favor, changed the patriarch’s original name Abram to Abraham (Gen17:5).

11:9. By faith he abode in the land as a stranger, dwelling in cottages, with Isaac and Jacob, the co-heirs of the same promise.

9. Faith not only made Abraham obedient to the call of God, but also gave him patience to wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises, dwelling as a sojourner in a foreign country. His son, Isaac, and his grandson, Jacob, persevered in the same faith, never doubting the promise of God. Cf. Gen 12:8, 13:3, 17:1 ff.

11:10. For he looked for a city that hath foundations; whose builder and maker is God.

10. Abraham was sustained in his faith by the conviction that there was an abiding city awaiting him hereafter in heaven, a city whose architect and master-builder is God. The land of Canaan which God had promised him was but a figure of an eternal inheritance which God would bestow upon him above.

A city that hath foundations means the heavenly Jerusalem (12:22; Gal 4:26; Apoc. 21:2).

11: 11. By faith also Sara herself, being barren, received strength to conceive seed, even past the time of age ; because she believed that he was faithful who had promised.
11:12. For which cause there sprung even from one (and him as good as dead) issue like the stars of heaven in multitude, and like the sand which is by the seashore innumerable

11-12. Though Sara was already ninety years of age when she received the promise of a son, she believed, even if somewhat less promptly than Abraham, and as a result she was given the power to conceive (Gen 17:17). Likewise, though far beyond the age of begetting children, Abraham, as a reward of his faith, became the father of a posterity as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the sea-shore (Gen 21:17; cf, Rom 4:19).

11:13. All these died according to faith, not having received the promises, but beholding them afar off, and saluting them and confessing that they are pilgrims and strangers on the earth.
11:14. For they that say these things do signify that they seek a country.
11:15. And truly if they had been mindful of that from whence they came out, they had doubtless time to return.
11:16. But now they desire a better, that is to say, a heavenly country. There- fore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city

13-16, In these verses the author interrupts his argument to reflect on the great faith of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The vision which faith had disclosed to them was too glorious to find its realization during their lifetime, or on earth.

The fulfillment of the divine promises they saw dimly in the far future; but they were not disappointed, for they sought a city not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Therefore, God recognized their faith and bestowed on them a celestial home. If the “country” they sought had been the earthly one whence they had come, they could have returned to it; but the object of their quest was “a heavenly country.”

11:17. By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered Isaac, and he that had
received the promises offered up his only-begotten son,
11:18. To whom it was said: In Isaac shall thy seed be called:
11:19. Accounting that God is able to raise up even from the dead. Whereupon also he received him for a parable

17-19. The faith of Abraham was sorely tried when God demanded of him the sacrifice of his son Isaac, but the aged patriarch did not waver (Gen 22:1-18). Isaac was indeed the son of promise, who had been born of a freewoman, and on whom the future depended; but at God’s command Abraham made ready to immolate him, feeling sure that He who had given this son in the first instance by a miracle, could restore him if necessary by a second miracle.

Isaac is called “the only-begotten son,” because to him alone were the promises made, Ishmael being excluded from them.

Whereupon also he received him for a parable, i.e., as a reward of his faith Abraham received his son safely back from the jaws of death, and this delivery made Isaac a “parable,” i.e., a figure or type of the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Notes on Hebrews, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Hebrews 11:8-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 23, 2017


The Hebrews, it would appear, were not sufficiently impressed with the importance and necessity of faith; and were, therefore, in danger of losing it by apostasy. They were taught to look upon it as a mode of justifying wholly unknown to the saints of the Old Testament; and to these false notions, with which they were imbued, inight be traced their fatal facility, in deserting it under the pressure of persecution. The Apostle (10:38) takes occasion from the words of the Prophet Habacuc, to confute this pernicious error. Before making the application of it, in this chapter, to the sainted heroes of old, he first gives a description offaith, describing it by two of its qualities best accommodated to the circumstances of those, whom he addresses (verse 1).

In the next place, applying this faith to the saints of old, he shows that it was owing to if, the most distinguished among them obtained justification (2-39).

He, finally shows the great advantage which we, in the New Law, possess over the ancients. We can, at once, enter on the possession of the promised blessings, while they were obliged to wait for our time to enjoy them in common with us; and, surely, we should display no less heroism in the cause of faith, of which the blessings and promise are present, than they did, for whom the fulfilment of the promise was distant.

Heb 11:8  By faith he that is called Abraham obeyed to go out into a place which he was to receive for an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing whither he went.

“He that is called.” The Greek copy, followed by the Vulgate, had, ὅ  καλουμενος. This is also the reading of the Alexandrian Manuscript. In this reading, allusion is made to the change of name in Abraham (Genesis, xvii. 3). The article (ὅ) is omitted in the ordinary Greek copies, and the words are rendered, Abraham, when called, obeyed to go, &c., in which rendering the participle “called,” which in the Greek, is the present tense, receives a past signification. Our reading is, however, the better sustained.

Heb 11:9  By faith he abode in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in cottages, with Isaac and Jacob, the co-heirs of the same promise.

He dwell as a pilgrim in the land of promise where he did not occupy a foot of  ground, as his fixed habitation, “with Isaac and Jacob:” “with” has the meaning of as well as, it denotes parity of circumstances, Though it might be said that he dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob; for, Jacob was fifteen years old at Abraham’s death,the former meaning, viz. : they, as well as Abraham, dwelt successively in tents; is the more probable.

Heb 11:10  For he looked for a city that hath foundations: whose builder and maker is God.

“For, he looked for a city,” &c. In this verse, the Apostle proves that it was owing to faith that Abraham dwelt as a stranger in moveable tents in the land of promise, because he locked forward to the heavenly city of eternal stability, firmly fixed and founded by God himself. What an idea of the condition of man here below is conveyed to us, in the faith of the Patriarch!—like him, we are here but strangers in this foreign land; heaven is our true home, our eternal dwelling-place, on which our thoughts and affections should be fixed. Our conversation should be in heaven, whither we are tending.

Heb 11:11  By faith also Sara herself, being barren, received strength to conceive seed, even past the time of age: because she believed that he was faithful who had promised.

“Being barren.” These words are omitted in the ordinary Greek copies, but they are found in the Alexandrian and other Manuscripts.

Objection.—Was not Sara rebuked by the angel for laughing from incredulity?—(Genesis, xxiii. 15).

Answer.—Although Sara smiled at first, still, on discovering the dignity of him who made the promise, she believed. Some, among whom is Estius, by “faith” understand the faith of Abraham himself, which the Apostle would appear to be specially commending, and in consideration of which, Sara conceived; in the same way, the walls of Jericho are said to have fallen by faith, i.e., the faith of the Jews, and the following verse in some measure favours this opinion. However, the following words, “She believed,” are in favour of the other interpretation. “To conceive seed;” to which the Greek adds, and brought forth.

Heb 11:12  For which cause there sprung even from one (and him as good as dead) as the stars of heaven in multitude and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

“As the stars… as the sand,” &c. These are hyperboles easily understood, signifying a very numerous progeny. They may refer to carnal Israel, in the first place, and to spiritual Israel, or to all Christians, in the second.

Heb 11:13  All these died according to faith, not having received the promises but beholding them afar off and saluting them and confessing that they are pilgrims and strangers on the earth.

“All these,” i.e., the three last mentioned Patriarchs, to whom were made the promises, “died according to faith,” i.e., persevered till death in faith, believing in God’s promises, although they did not receive the promises, nor did they enjoy them immediately themselves. This is true, whether the promises be referred to the occupation of Chanaan by their innumerable offspring, or to heaven, which was closed until after the ascension of Christ; they contessed themse.ves, on aii occasions, to be foreigners and sojourners on earth; “but beholding them from afar, and saluting them,” like sailors, who, after a dangerous and distant voyage, on descrying land for the first time, joyously salute it. After the words, “beholding them afar off,” are added in some Greek copies, being persuaded of them. But, this addition is generally rejected by critics, as unsupported by the authority of the chief Manuscripts. The Apostle refers to the promises, which the Patriarchs themselves did not obtain during life, in order to show the firmness of their faith, and thus to animate the Hebrews, of his own day, to perseverance under affliction, although the promised goods of heaven in store for them, were distant and invisible; for, tiiey had been stih more so, for the Patriarchs.

Heb 11:14  For they that say these things do signify that they seek a country.

Having observed in the preceding verse, that the Patriarchs died without obtaining the promises, the Apostle shows what the promises regarded, at least, so far as they themselves were to enjoy them; surely, not the possession by them or the land of Chanaan; for, by saying they saluted them from afar, there could not be question of the place where they actually dwelt. Moreover, by calling themselves pilgrims, they showed that they were in search of some permanent country, and Cnanaan was not their country.

Heb 11:15  And truly, if they had been mindful of that from whence they came out, they had doubtless, time to return.

Nor was there question of Chaldea; for, if so, they might have returned, as it was not more than fifty leagues distant from Chanaan.

Heb 11:16  But now they desire a better, that is to say, a heavenly country. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Then, it follows, they were in search of a better, that is to say, their heavenly country; hence it is, that God, though God of all mankind, calls hiuiseit their God in particular, as if rendering them equal value with the rest of creation.

Heb 11:17  By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

Some interpreters make the words, “he who had received the promises,” refer to Isaac, thus: he offered up his only begotten son, who had received the promises. The former construction, which refers it to Abraham s receiving the promises, is more probable, as appears from the following verse. “Offered Isaac,” i.e., was aboutoffering him, and would have done so if he were not prevented; he did so in heart and will.

Heb 11:18  (To whom it was said: In Isaac shalt thy seed be called).

The seed promised him was to come only through Isaac. Hence, the heroic firmness of Abraham’s faith in sacrificing him.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Notes on Hebrews, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Notes on Hebrews, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Hebrews 11:1-7

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 31, 2016

Note: The following is excerpted from several homilies.


[4.] (Heb 11:1-2) “Now faith is the substance  of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report.” O what an expression has he used, in saying, “an evidence of things not seen.” For [we say] there is “evidence,” in the case of things that are very plain. 14 Faith then is the seeing things not plain (he means), and brings what are not seen to the same full assurance with what are seen. So then neither is it possible to disbelieve in things which are seen, nor, on the other hand can there be faith unless a man be more fully assured with respect to things invisible, than he is with respect to things that are most clearly seen. For since the objects of hope seem to be unsubstantial, Faith gives them substantiality, 15 or rather, does not give it, but is itself their substance. 16 For instance, the Resurrection has not come, nor does it exist substantially, but hope makes it substantial in our soul. This is [the meaning of] “the substance of things.”

If therefore it is an “evidence of things not seen,” why forsooth do you wish to see them, so as to fall away from faith, and from being just? 17 Since “the just shall live by faith,” whereas ye, if ye wish to see these things, are no longer faithful. Ye have labored (he says), ye have struggled: I too allow this, nevertheless, wait for this is Faith: do not seek the whole “here.”

2105  [5.] These things were indeed said to the Hebrews, but they are a general exhortation also to many of those who are here assembled. How and in what way? To the faint-hearted; to the mean-spirited. For when they see the wicked prospering, and themselves faring ill, they are troubled, they bear it impatiently: while they long for the chastisement, and the inflicting vengeance on others; while they wait for the rewards of their own sufferings. “For yet a little time, and He that shah come will come.”

Let us then say this to the slothful: Doubtless there will be punishment; doubtless He will come, henceforth the events of the 18 Resurrection are even at the doors.

Whence [does] that [appear] (you say)? I do not say, from the prophets; for neither do I now speak to Christians only; but even if a heathen be here, I am perfectly confident, and bring forward my proofs, and will instruct him. How (you say)?

Christ foretold many things. If those former things did not come to pass, then do not believe them; but if they all came to pass, why doubt concerning those that remain? And indeed, it were very unreasonable, 19 nothing having come to pass, to believe the one, or when all has come to pass, to disbelieve the others.

But I will make the matter more plain by anexample. Christ said, that Jerusalem should be taken, and should be so taken as no city ever was before, and that it should never be raised up: and in fact this prediction came to pass. He said, that there should be “great tribulation” (Mt 24,21), and it came to pass. He said that a grain of mustard seed is sown, so should the preaching [of the Gospel] be extended: and every day we see this running over theworld. He said, that they who left father or mother, or brethren, or sisters, should have both fathers and mothers; And this we see fulfilled by facts. He said, “in the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16,33), that is, no man shall get the better of you. And this we see by the events has come to pass. He said that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church” (Mt 16,18), even though persecuted, and that no one shall quench the preaching [of the Gospel]: and the experience of events bears witness to this prediction also: and yet when He said these things, it was very hard to believe Him. Why? Because all these were words, and He had not as yet given proof of the things spoken. So that they have now become far more credible. He said that “when the Gospel should have been preached among all the nations, then the end shall come” (Mt 24,14); lo! now ye have arrived at the end: for the greater part of the world hath been preached to, therefore the end is now at hand. Let us tremble, beloved.


[1.] Faith3 needs a generous and vigorous soul, and one rising above all things of sense, and passing beyond the weakness of human reasonings. For it is not possible to become a believer, otherwise than by raising one’s self above the common customs [of the world].

Inasmuch then as the souls of the Hebrews were thoroughly weakened, and though they had begun from faith, yet from circumstances, I mean sufferings, afflictions, they had afterwards become faint-hearted, and of little spirit, and were shaken from [their position], he encouraged them first indeed from these very things, saying, “Call to remembrance the former days” (c. 10:32); next from the Scripture saying, “But the just shall live by faith” (c. 10:38); afterwards from arguments, saying, “But Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (c. 11:1.) And now again from their forefathers, those great and admirable men, as much as saying; If where the good things were close at hand, all were saved by faith, much more are we.

For when a soul finds one that shares the same sufferings with itself, it is refreshed and recovers breath. This we may see both in the case of Faith, and in the case of affliction: “that there may be comfort for you4 it is said through our mutual faith.” (Rom. 1:12.) For mankind are very distrustful, and cannot place confidence in themselves, are fearful about whatever things they think they possess, and have great regard for the opinion of the many.

[2.] What then does Paul do? He encourages them by the fathers; and before that by the common notions [of mankind].5 For tell me, he says, since Faith is calumniated6 as being a thing without demonstration7 and rather a matter of deceit, therefore he shows that the greatest things are attained through faith and not through reasonings. And how does he show this, tell me?8 It is manifest, he saith, that God made the things which are, out of things which are not,9 things which appear, out of things which appear not, things which subsist, out of things which subsist not. But whence [is it shown] that He did this even “by a Word”? For reason suggests nothing of this kind; but on the contrary, that the things which appear are [formed] out of things which appear.

Therefore the philosophers expressly say that ‘nothing comes out of things that are not’10 being “sensual” (Jude 19), and trusting nothing to Faith. And yet these same men, when they happen to say anything great and noble, are caught entrusting it to Faith. For instance, that “God is without beginning,11 and unborn”12 for reason does not suggest this, but the contrary. And consider, I beseech you, their great folly. They say13 that God is without beginning; and yet this is far more wonderful than the [creation] out of things that are not. For to say, that He is without beginning, that He is unborn, neither begotten by Himself nor by another is more full of difficulties,14 than to say that God made the things which are, out of things which are not. For here there are many things uncertain: as, that some one made it, that what was made had a beginning, that, in a word, it was made. But in the other case, what? He is self-existing,15 unborn, He neither had beginning nor time; tell me, do not these things require faith? But he did not assert this, which was far greater, but the lesser.

Whence [does it appear], he would say, that God made these things? Reason does not suggest it; no one was present when it was done. Whence is it shown? It is plainly the result of faith. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were made.” Why “through faith”? Because “the things that are seen were not made of things which do appear.” For this is Faith.

[3.] Having thus stated the general [principle ],16 he afterwards tests1 it by individuals. For a man of note is equivalent to the world. This at all events he afterwards hinted. For when he had matched it against one or two hundred persons, and then saw the smallness of the number, he afterwards says, “by whom the world was outweighed in worth.”2 (c. 11:38.)

And observe whom he puts first, him who was ill-treated, and that by a brother. It was their own affliction,3 “For you also” (he says) “have suffered like things of your own countrymen.” (1 Thess. 2:14.) And by a brother who had been nothing wronged, but who envied him on God’s account; showing that they also are looked on with an evil eye and envied. He honored God, and died because he honored Him: and has not yet attained to a resurrection. But his readiness is manifest, and his part4 has been done, but God’s part has not yet been carried out towards him.

And by a “more excellent sacrifice” in this place, he means that which is more honorable, more splendid, more necessary.

And we cannot say (he says) that it was not accepted. He did accept it, and said unto Cain, [“Hast thou] not [sinned], if thou rightly offer, but dost not rightly divide?” (Gen. 4:7, LXX.) So then Abel both rightly offered, and rightly divided. Nevertheless for this, what recompense did he receive? He was slain by his brother’s hand: and that sentence which his father endured on account of sin, this he first received who was upright. And he suffered so much the more grievously because it was from a brother, and he was the first [to suffer].

And he did these things rightly looking to no man. For to whom could he look, when he so honored God? To his father and his mother? But they had outraged Him in return for His benefits. To his brother then? But he also had dishonored [God]. So that by himself he sought out what was good.

And he that is worthy of so great honor, what does he suffer? He is put to death. And how too was he otherwise “testified of that he was righteous”? It is said, that fire came down and consumed the sacrifices. For instead of [“And the Lord] had respect to Abel and to his sacrifices” (Gen. 4:4), the Syriac5 said, “And He set them on fire.” He therefore who both by word and deed bare witness to the righteous man and sees him slain for His sake, did not avenge him, but left him to suffer.

But your case is not such: for how could it be? You who have both prophets and examples, and encouragements innumerable, and signs and miracles accomplished? Hence that was faith indeed. For what miracles did he see, that he might believe he should have any recompense of good things? Did he not choose virtue from Faith alone?

What is, “and by it he being dead yet speaketh”? That he might not cast them into great despondency, he shows that he has in part obtained a recompense. How? ‘The influence coming from him6 is great, he means, “and he yet speaketh”; that is, [Cain] slew him, but he did not with him slay his glory and memory. He is not dead; therefore neither shall ye die. For by how much the more grievous a man’s sufferings are, so much the greater is his glory.’

How does he “yet speak”? This is a sign both of his being alive, and of his being by all celebrated, admired, counted blessed. For he who encourages others to be righteous, speaks. For no speech avails so much, as that man’s suffering. As then heaven by its mere appearance speaks, so also does he by being had in remembrance. Not if he had made proclamation of himself, not if he had ten thousand tongues, and were alive, would he have been so admired as now. That is, these things do not take place with impunity, nor lightly, neither do they pass away.

[4.] (Ver. 5) “By faith Enoch was translated, that he should not see death, and was not found, because God had translated him.” This man displayed greater faith than Abel. How (you ask)? Because, although he came after him, yet what befell [Abel] was sufficient to guide him back.7 How? God foreknew that [Abel] would be killed. For He said to Cain: “Thou hast sinned: do not add thereto.”8 Honored by him, He did not protect him. And yet neither did this throw him [Enoch] into indifference. He said not to himself, ‘What need of toils and dangers? Abel honored God, yet He did not protect him. For what advantage had he that was departed, from the punishment of his brother? And what benefit could he reap therefrom? Let us allow that he suffers severe punishment: what is that to him who has been slain?’ He neither said nor thought anything of this kind, but passing beyond all these things, he knew that if there is a God, certainly there is a Rewarder also: although as yet they knew nothing of a resurrection. But if they who as yet know nothing of a resurrection, and see contradictory things here, thus pleased [God], how much more should we? For they neither knew of a resurrection, nor had they any examples to look to. This same thing then made [Enoch] well-pleasing [to God], namely, that he received nothing. For he knew that [God] “is a rewarder.” Whence [knew he this]? “For He recompensed Abel,” do you say? So that reason suggested other things, but faith the opposite of what was seen. Even then (he would say) if you see that you receive nothing here, be not troubled.

How was it “by faith” that “Enoch was translated”? Because his pleasing [God] was the cause of his translation, and faith [the cause] of his pleasing [Him]. For if he had not known that he should receive a reward, how could he have pleased [Him]? “But without faith it is impossible to please” Him. How? If a man believe that there is a God and a retribution, he will have the reward. Whence then is the well-pleasing?

[5.] It is necessary to “believe that He is,” not ‘what He is.’1 If “that He is” needs Faith, and not reasonings; it is impossible to comprehend by reasoning ‘what He is.’ If that “He is a rewarder” needs Faith and not reasonings, how is it possible by Reasoning to compass His essence?2 For what Reasoning can reach this? For some persons say that the things that exist are self-caused.3 Seest thou that unless we have Faith in regard to all things, not only in regard to retribution, but also in regard to the very being of God, all is lost to us?

But many ask whither Enoch was translated, and why he was translated, and why he did not die, neither he nor Elijah, and, if they are still alive, how they live, and in what form. But to ask these things is superfluous. For that the one was translated, and that the other was taken up, the Scriptures have said; but where they are, and how they are, they have not added: For they say nothing more than is necessary. For this indeed took place, I mean his translation, immediately at the beginning, the human soul [thereby] receiving a hope of the destruction of death, and of the overthrow of the devil’s tyranny, and that death will be done away; for he was translated, not dead, but “that he should not see death.”

Therefore he added, he was translated alive, because he was well-pleasing [unto God]. For just as a Father when he has threatened his son, wishes indeed immediately after he has threatened, to relax his threat, but endures and continues resolute, that for a time he may chasten and correct him, allowing the threat to remain firm; so also God, to speak as it were after the manner of men, did not continue resolute, but immediately showed that death is done away. And first He allows death to happen, wishing to terrify the father through the son: For wishing to show that the sentence is verily fixed, He subjected to this punishment not wicked men at once, but him even who was well-pleasing, I mean, the blessed Abel; and almost immediately after him, He translated Enoch. Moreover, He did not raise the former, lest they should immediately grow bold; but He translated the other being yet alive: having excited fear by Abel, but by this latter giving zeal to be well-pleasing unto Him. Wherefore they who say that all things are ruled and governed of themselves,4 and do not expect a reward, are not well-pleasing; as neither are the heathen. For “He becomes a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” by works and by knowledge.

[6.] Since then we have “a rewarder,” let us do all things that we may not be deprived of the rewards of virtue. For indeed the neglecting such a recompense, the scorning such a reward, is worthy of many tears. For as to “those who diligently seek Him,” He is a rewarder, so to those who seek Him not, the contrary.

“Seek” (He says) “and ye shall find” (Matt. 7:7): but how can we find the Lord? Consider how gold is found; with much labor. [“I sought the Lord] with my hands” (it is said) “by night before Him, and I was not deceived” (Ps. 77:2. See LXX [Ps. 76:3]), that is, just as we seek what is lost, so let us seek God. Do we not concentrate our mind thereon? Do we not enquire of every one? Do we not travel from home? Do we not promise money?

For instance, suppose that any among us has lost his son, what do we not do? What land, what sea do we not make the circuit of? Do we not reckon money, and houses, and everything else as secondary to the finding him? And should we find him, we cling to him, we hold him fast, we do not let him go. And when we are going to seek anything whatever, we busy ourselves in all ways to find what is sought. How much more ought we to do this in regard to God, as seeking what is indispensable; nay rather, not in the same way, but much more! But since we are weak, at least seek God as thou seekest thy money or thy son. Wilt thou not leave thy home for Him? Hast thou never left thy home for money? Dost thou not busy thyself in all ways? When thou hast found [it], art thou not full of confidence?

[7.] “Seek” (He says) “and ye shall find.” For things sought after need much care, especially in regard of God. For many are the hindrances, many the things that darken, many that impede our perception. For as the sun is manifest, and set forth publicly before all, and we have no need to seek it; but if on the other hand we bury ourselves and turn everything upside down, we need much labor to look at the sun; so truly here also, if we bury ourselves in the depth of evil desires, in the darkness of passions and of the affairs of this life, with difficulty do we look up, with difficulty do we raise our heads, with difficulty do we see clearly. He that is buried underground, in whatever degree he sees upwards, in that degree does he come towards the sun. Let us therefore shake off the earth, let us break through the mist which lies upon us. It is thick, and close, and does not allow us to see clearly.

And how, you say, is this cloud broken through? If we draw to ourselves the beams of “the sun of righteousness.” “The lifting up of my hands” (it is said) “is an evening sacrifice.” (Ps. 141:2.) With our hands let us also lift up our mind: ye who have been initiated know what I mean,1 perhaps too ye recognize the expression, and see at a glance what I have hinted at. Let us raise up our thoughts on high.

I myself know many men almost suspended apart from the earth, and beyond measure stretching up their hands, and out of heart because it is not possible to be lifted into the air, and thus praying with earnestness. Thus I would have you always, and if not always, at least very often; and if not very often, at least now and then, at least in the morning, at least in the evening prayers.2 For, tell me, canst thou not stretch forth the hands? Stretch forth the will, stretch forth as far as thou wilt, yea even to heaven itself. Even shouldst thou wish to touch the very summit, even if thou wouldst ascend higher and walk thereon, it is open to thee. For our mind is lighter, and higher than any winged creature. And when it receives grace from the Spirit, O! how swift is it! How quick is it! How does it compass all things! How does it never sink down or fall to the ground! These wings let us provide for ourselves: by means of them shall we be able to fly even across the tempestuous sea of this present life. The swiftest birds fly unhurt over mountains, and woods, and seas, and rocks, in a brief moment of time. Such also is the mind; when it is winged, when it is separated from the things of this life, nothing can lay hold of it, it is higher than all things, even than the fiery darts of the devil.

The devil is not so good a marksman, as to be able to reach this height; he sends forth his darts indeed, for he is void of all shame, yet he does not hit the mark; the dart returns to him without effect, and not without effect only, but it [falls] upon his own head. For what is sent forth by him must of necessity strike [something]. As then, that which has been shot out by men, either strikes the person against whom it is directed, or pierces bird, or fence, or garment, or wood, or the mere air, so does the dart of the devil also. It must of necessity strike; and if it strike not him that is shot at, it necessarily strikes him that shoots it. And we may learn from many instances, that when we are not hit, without doubt he is hit himself. For instance, he plotted against Job: he did not hit him, but was struck himself. He plotted against Paul, he did not hit him, but was struck himself. If we watch, we may see this happening everywhere. For even when he strikes, he is hit; much more then [when he does not hit].

[8.] Let us turn his weapons then against himself, and having armed and fortified ourselves with the shield of faith, let us keep guard with steadfastness, so as to be impregnable. Now the dart of the devil is evil concupiscence. Anger especially is a fire, a flame; it catches, destroys, consumes; let us quench it, by longsuffering, by forbearance. For as red-hot iron dipped into water, loses its fire, so an angry man falling in with a patient one does no harm to the patient man, but rather benefits him, and is himself more thoroughly subdued.

For nothing is equal to longsuffering. Such a man is never insulted; but as bodies of adamant are not wounded, so neither are such souls. For they are above the reach of the darts. The longsuffering man is high, and so high as not to receive a wound from the shot. When one is furious, laugh; but do not laugh openly, lest thou irritate him: but laugh mentally on his account. For in the case of children, when they strike us passionately, as though forsooth they were avenging themselves, we laugh. If then thou laugh, there will be as great difference between thee and him, as between a child and a man: but if thou art furious thou hast made thyself a child. For the angry are more senseless than children. If one look at a furious child, does he not laugh at him? “The poor-spirited” (it is said) “is mightily simple.” (Prov. 14:29.) The simple then is a child: and “he who is longsuffering” (it is said) “is abundant in wisdom.” This “abundant wisdom” then let us follow after, that we may attain to the good things promised us in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.


[1.] “By faith” (he says) “Noah being warned of God.” As the Son of God, speaking of His own coming, said, “In the days of Noah they married and were given in marriage” (Luke 17:26, Luke 17:27), therefore the Apostle also recalled to their mind an appropriate image. For the example of Enoch, was an example only of Faith; that of Noah, on the other hand, of unbelief also. And this is a complete consolation and exhortation, when not only believers are found approved, but also unbelievers suffer the opposite.

For what does he say? “By faith being warned of God.”2 What is “being warned of God”? It is, “It having been foretold to him.” But why is the expression “divine communication”3 (Luke 2:26) used? for in another place also it is said, “and it was communicated4 to him by the Spirit,” and again, “and what saith the divine communication?”5 (Rom. 11:4.) Seest thou the equal dignity of the Spirit? For as God reveals,6 so also does the Holy Spirit. But why did he speak thus? The prophecy is called “a divine communication.”

“Of things not seen as yet,” he says, that is of the rain.

“Moved with fear, prepared an ark.” Reason indeed suggested nothing of this sort; For “they were marrying and being given in marriage”; the air was clear, there were no signs [of change]: but nevertheless he feared: “By faith” (he says) “Noah being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house.”

How is it, “By the which he condemned the world”? He showed them to be worthy of punishment, since they were not brought to their senses even by the preparation.

“And he became” (he says) “heir of the righteousness which is by Faith”: that is, by his believing God he was shown to be righteous. For this is the [part] of a soul sincerely disposed towards Him and judging nothing more reliable than His words, just as Unbelief is the very contrary. Faith, it is manifest, works righteousness. For as we have been warned of God respecting Hell, so was he also: and yet at that time he was laughed at; he was reviled and ridiculed; but he regarded none of these things.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, fathers of the church, Notes on Hebrews, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture, SERMONS | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

%d bloggers like this: