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

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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).


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Father Boylan’s Commentary on Hebrews 5:1-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Hebrews 11:1-7

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 31, 2016

This post includes Fr. MacEvilly’s brief introductory analysis of Hebrews 11 followed by his comments on today’s reading. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the text he is commenting on.


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, might 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 of faith, 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 it, 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 11:1 Now, faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.

(As, then, the just man lives by faith, [10:38] it is of importance for us to know the nature of this virtue, which is the spiritual life of our souls). Faith is the foundation of the blessings we hope for; or, the subsistence in our intellect of the things we hope for; it is the fullest convincing argument of the existence of these things, which are neither the immediate object of our sight nor perceived by reason, but which we still more firmly believe than if we saw them.

“Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for.” In order to render more clear the application of faith to the examples he is about adducing, the Apostle commences with a description of faith, and he describes it, by two of its leading qualities, First—“It is the substance of things to be hoped for,” to which words, some, with St. Augustine give this construction, “it is the substance of those who hope.” These attach an active signification to the middle verb in the Greek, ελπιζομενων ὑπόστασις, corresponding to the words in our version, “to be hoped for.” Ours is the more probable construction. “The substance,” i.e., the basis and foundation, on which rest the blessings of salvation we hope for. For, it is, “the root and foundation of all justification.” (Council of Trent, SS. 6, c. viii.) Without faith we could no more obtain justification than we could build a house without a foundation, or have an accident, ordinarily speaking, without a substance. Or, the word “substance” (in Greek, ὑπόστασις) more probably means, subsistence, of the things to be hoped for; inasmuch as, faith makes the future goods of the life to come, so to exist in our apprehension, as if we actually possessed them. It gives these things, we hope for, a new and anticipated existence in our minds.

Secondly—It is “the evidence of things that appear not” (οὐβλεπομένων), i.e., of things that are neither visible to the senses, nor perceived by reason. This by no means appears to be an adequate or reciprocal definition of faith; for, things to be dreaded form subjects of faith no less than “things to be hoped for” (v.g.) hell’s torments; so did Noe’s deluge (verse 7). Neither does it appear that obscurity essentially belongs to subjects of faith; for, if so, how could the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Apostles have faith in many of the miraculous works of our Divine Redeemer, which they witnessed? Do we not believe in death, although sensibly taking place, and its universality confirmed by experience? Do we not believe in God, as Creator of heaven and earth, an evident natural truth? This definition, cannot exclude the application of faith to things clear; because, although such things be naturally evident, we can abstract from their natural evidence, and believe them like every point of faith, on the authority of God, whose revelation is necessary in order that they should become subjects of faith. Moreover, in the present obscured state of the human intellect, there are but few things so evident as not to be susceptible of confirmation, and of greater subjective certainty, from the authority of God, upon which all faith must be based. The opinion, therefore, of the Thomists requiring obscurity in an object to be necessary, in order to become a point of faith, appears improbable; because, the principal ground of this opinion, viz., that the Apostle here gives a reciprocal definition of faith, is unfounded. The Apostle only describes faith by two of its qualities, the most praiseworthy, viz., its giving the things to be hoped for, an anticipated existence in our minds; and its making certain for us, things that are obscure and inevident—two qualities best accommodated to the circumstances of those whom he addresses, who possessed not, and could, therefore, only “hope for” the invisible blessings of the life to come; neither did they clearly see them, because they “appear not.” These men were to be animated to patient suffering, with the prospect of the same blessings in hope.

Heb 11:2 For by this the ancients obtained a testimony.

For, it was by this faith in God’s promises, holding out distant and, humanly speaking, unattainable goods, that the ancient fathers were distinguished, and obtained from God an illustrious testimony of their sanctity.

Some interpreters connect this verse immediately with verse 38 of last chapter, “the just man liveth by faith, … for by this the ancients obtained,” &c. Others, with preceding verse, as in the Paraphrase.

It is not undeserving of remark, that the faith commended by the Apostle in this chapter, is not the special faith of Protestants, in reference to each man’s justification and salvation; but, as is clear from the entire chapter, a firm belief in the things revealed by God, which all the examples quoted clearly demonstrate.

Heb 11:3 By faith we understand that the world was framed by the word of God: that from invisible things visible things might be made.

Such a faith is as necessary for us, as for them, for understanding the very first principles of revealed religion; for, by faith we learn that creation was moulded into its present harmonious and perfect form, by the command of God, so that from being an invisible shapeless mass or chaos, it assumed its present visible perfect appearance.

The Apostle, before applying the faith now described to the saints of old, shows that even in reference to the Hebrews whom he addresses, it is “the evidence of things that appear not;” because, creation, the first truth proposed to the Jews in Genesis, was not known from any other source than faith; for, the ancient philosophers, one of whose favourite axioms was, ex nihilo nihil fit, derided it. “That the world was framed by the word of God,” this some understand of the first creation or education out of nothing; others, more probably of the arrangement into its present form, of the matter of creation already educed from nothing into existence; “that from invisible things,” i.e., from the pre-existent dark, confused or shapeless mass of matter, this the word “invisible” means in Genesis; (for, instead of the words, “the earth was void and empty”—Genesis 1:2.—the Septuagint version, followed all through, by St. Paul in this Epistle, has, Ἡ δὲ γῆ ἦν αορατος και ακατασκευαστος, the earth was invisible and confused) it would become visible in its present perfect form. Of course, the creation of matter from nothing is supposed in this arrangement or last finish given to it, referred to here by the Apostle.

Heb 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a sacrifice exceeding that of Cain, by which he obtained a testimony that he was just, God giving testimony to his gifts. And by it he being dead yet speaketh.

It was owing to his being animated with a lively faith that Abel offered a more choice and more excellent sacrifice than did Cain (who made no selection in the gifts offered), by means of which sacrifice offered through faith he obtained the testimony of being just, God himself testifying the acceptance of his gifts by some external sign; and even after his death, he sends forth a cry for redress, which God listened to in consideration of his faith and justice.

It was his faith that made Abel select the choicest portions of his flock to offer them in sacrifice, while Cain heeded not to make any selection: he is not commended in Genesis for making any choice in the fruits of the earth which he offered—“by which” faith or sacrifice, or perhaps both; that is to say, his sacrifice offered through faith, “God giving testimony to his gifts” by some sensible sign, commonly said to be his sending fire from heaven to consume them, while no such sign was exhibited in the case of Cain. “And by it being dead he still speaketh,” which some understand of his blood crying to God (vide Paraphrase). Others say, he speaks by the force of his good example.

Heb 11:5 By faith Henoch was translated that he should not see death: and he was not found because God had translated him. For before his translation he had testimony that he pleased God.

It was by faith Henoch was translated into some place of rest, to escape death, and he was not found, because God had translated him (Genesis, 5:24). That his translation was owing to his faith is clear; for, before his translation, the Scripture bears testimony, that he pleased God.

“Was translated” into some seat of rest, or, as in Ecclesiasticus (chap. 40:4), “into paradise,” in order to escape death. The common opinion of the Holy Fathers is, that he still lives in some place of rest expressed by the general term of “paradise,” whence he and Elias will come at the end of the world to war with Antichrist, “and he was not found, because God had translated him.” These are the words of Genesis (chap. 5:24), according to the Septuagint, from which the Apostle proves Henoch’s translation. In the Vulgate version of Genesis, by St. Jerome, the words are, “he was seen no more, because God took him.” And that it was owing to faith he was translated, the Apostle proves thus—for, before his translation, the Scriptures testify that he pleased God, “he walked with God,” (Gen. 5:22), and, therefore, pleased Him.

Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please God. For he that cometh to God must believe that he is: and is a rewarder to them that seek him.

Now, without faith it is impossible to please God; for, in order to come to God, i.e., to worship and please him, one must believe that he exists, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek and serve him (in which it is implied that he punishes those who offend, and disobey him).

But, without faith no one can please God; it was, therefore, through the merits of faith, Henoch pleased him. The Apostle proves that without faith no one can please God; for, in order to please God, a man must approach him, “must come to him,” but no one can approach or come to him, without first believing “that he exists, and that he is a rewarder to them that seek him.” In these latter words, it is implied, that he punishes those who disobey him; the words, “come to God,” mean, to pay him due worship. The Greek for “rewarder,” μισθαποδοτης, means, that God gives a reward due to merit; hence, an argument in favour of the Catholic doctrine of merit, it is a point of faith, that a reward is strictly due to merit. The two articles now referred to were of indispensable necessity for salvation at all times and under every dispensation, the explicit faith in them being a necessary means of salvation. This is clear, from the universal assertion made regarding them by the Apostle without limitation either as to time or place—“it is impossible;” and also from his asserting it in reference to Henoch, who lived long before the written law was given to Moses. In addition to these two articles, the explicit faith in the Trinity and Incarnation, also, is now commonly considered by Divines to be necessary, as they term it, necessitate medii, that is to say, necessary as a means of salvation, after the promulgation of the gospel, so that be the ignorance of them vincible, or invincible, there can be no justification for the sinner; and consequently, no salvation without them; they are necessary means for the justification of a sinner; without them, the end of salvation can, in no case, be secured by adults, requiring justification. From the very creation, God communicated his supernatural knowledge to man by revelation, without which, in the present order of things, the supernatural end cannot be attained. The Gentiles could have the necessary faith, through the primitive revelations made to Adam, which were transmitted among them from father to son. In the above, there is question of responsible beings, attaining the use of reason.

Heb 11:7 By faith Noe, having received an answer concerning those things which as yet were not seen, moved with fear, framed the ark for the saving of his house: by the which he condemned the world and was instituted heir of the justice which is by faith.

It was by faith, that is to say, by his firm reliance on the divine veracity, holding out threats and promises, that Noe, seized with religious awe, after having been admonished by the divine oracle respecting the things still hidden in the womb of futurity, built with great labour, for his own salvation and that of his family, the ark, by which ark built through faith, he sealed the condemnation of an incredulous world, who scoffingly disregarded his preparation against the coming deluge, and was made the abundant participator and inheritor of the justice of faith.

“Concerning those things which as yet were not seen.” This shows that faith is “the evidence of things that appear not,” (verse 1). “Moved with fear,” shows that besides “things to be hoped for,” things to be dreaded also form subjects of faith. “Framed the ark” &c.; the building of the ark, in consequence of its magnitude and the number of its compartments, must have been very laborious; and hence, a great proof of his faith. “By which,” some refer to “faith,” others to “the ark;” it may refer to both; by which ark, built through faith, he condemned by word and work an incredulous world (1 Peter, 3), “and was instituted heir,” i.e., the abundant participator in “the justice of faith,” or, the inheritor of the justice of his fathers, Henoch, Seth, &c., “which is by faith.” This latter interpretation is grounded on the strict signification of the word “heir,” which implies the possession of an inheritance transmitted from father to son. On the last day, those who, with simplicity and with unhesitating faith in God’s promises, work out their salvation in the practice of good works, will condemn the world which scoffs and derides their simplicity. “Nos insensati, vitam illorum estimabamus insaniam,” &c.—(Wisdom, 5:4).

“He that is called.” The Greek copy, followed by the Vulgate, had, ὁ καλουμενος. This is also the reading of the Alexandrian Manuscript. In this reading, allusion is made to the change of name in Abraham (Genesis, 17:3). The article () 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.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Hebrews 7:25-8:6

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 21, 2016

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

Heb 7:25 Whereby he is able also to save for ever them that come to God by him; always living to make intercession for us.

Whence, he can convey perfect salvation, of grace here, and of eternal glory hereafter, on those who, through him, approach to God, because always living and exercising an eternal priesthood, he can always make intercession for us, in quality of high priest.

“Whereby,” i.e., because, “he continueth for ever, and hath an everlasting priesthood” (verse 24), he can save those who have recourse to his intercession, bestowing on them the life of grace here, to be consummated and perfected by a life of glory hereafter. “Always living to make intercession for us.” In Greek, for them. Of course, this intercession is quite different from the intercession of the saints, to which it is no ways opposed. Christ intercedes, as high priest; whereas, the intercession of the saints has no reference to the priestly character, which some of them may have borne on earth.—(See 1 John, 2:2). The Apostle, for reasons already stated (verse 10), forbears referring to the principal exercise of Christ’s priesthood, in the sacrifice of the Mass. In this verse, the Apostle merely refers incidentally to one of the effects, or results of his priesthood, viz., his interceding for us.

Heb 7:26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens:

For, Christ alone is gifted with the qualities and attributes with which it is meet and necessary that the Pontiff who undertakes to make full and adequate reparation for the sins of man, should be gifted, viz., endowed with sanctity, free from malice, exempt from the stain of sin, segregated from sinners, and placed beyond the reach of moral contamination, more exalted than the highest creatures in heaven.

Another argument of the superiority of Christ’s priesthood over that of Aaron is derived from the superior qualities and attributes, which Christ, as high priest, possesses over the Jewish high priests. Christ alone has the attributes required in every high priest who can make reparation for sin, being, “holy, innocent,” &c. “And made higher than the heavens,” which means, that he has penetrated the highest heavens, and is more exalted than the highest creature therein; for, no creature, however exalted, could redeem us. The implied contrast supposes that the Jewish high priest was not possessed of such qualities.

Heb 7:27 Who needeth not daily (as the other priests) to offer sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, in offering himself.

Who is not bound by the Law (like the Levitical high priests) to offer up daily sacrifice of expiation, in the first place, for his own sins, and in the next place, for those of the people; for, he offered himself once as a sacrifice of expiation, not for his own sins, but for the sins of the world—the value of which bloody oblation of himself being such, as to render any repetition thereof, as a Redemptory sacrifice, and in a bloody manner, quite useless.

Another point in which Christ was superior to the Levitical priest. First, he had no sins to expiate, and therefore, was not bound by the law to offer a sacrifice of expiation for his own sins; this first point is proved next verse, 28; secondly, he was not bound by the law prescribing the offering of daily sacrifice of expiation for the sins of the people; this second point he proves in this verse; for, the meritorious value of the bloody oblation of himself, which he “once” offered, as a redemptory sacrifice for others, on the altar of the cross, are such as to render its repetition useless. It is to be observed, that although Christ once offered himself, in a bloody manner on the cross, he still continues to offer himself, in an unbloody manner. This he does in heaven by presenting his humanity continually to his Father (9:24); but it is on earth, he chiefly performs this function, by offering himself daily, being really, truly, and substantially present under the appearance of bread and wine, in the adorable Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the same with the Sacrifice of the Cross—the victim the same, the principal offerer the same; differing only in manner; the one, bloody, the other, unbloody. This latter part is abundantly proved in the several treatises on Theology. The Eucharistic Sacrifice is, then, a commemoration and continuation of the Sacrifice of the Cross. The principal parts or actions of a sacrifice are, the immolation of the victim, and the oblation of the same, once immolated. Now, the Sacrifice of the Cross ended only as to the bloody immolation; the same victim is immolated mystically by the separate consecration of the bread and wine, and continues, as to the oblation. It is also to be borne in mind, that the oneness of Christ’s sacrifice no more excludes sacrifices applicatory of this one Redemptory Sacrifice, than it excludes the sacraments, which are merely the channels for applying the merits purchased on the Sacrifice of the Cross. The Apostle makes two assertions in this verse, viz., that our High Priest was not under the necessity of offering up sacrifices daily, first, for his own sins, and secondly, for those of his people. In proving these points, he inverts the order, proving the second point in the first place.

Heb 7:28 For the law maketh men priests, who have infirmity: but the word of the oath (which was since the law) the Son who is perfected for evermore.

The law very properly enacted that the priests should offer up sacrifice for their own sins; because it instituted as high priests men liable to sin, which required a sacrifice of expiation. But the oath referred to by David, long after the promulgation of the law and the institution of the Levitical priesthood, has constituted as High Priest, the Son of God, not for a time but for ever, not subject to sin, but wholly perfect; and free from it.

The Apostle explains the words “as the other priests,” or as the Greek has it ἀρχιερεῖς, high priests (verse 27), and proves the first assertion made by him in preceding verse, viz., that our High Priest did not offer up daily sacrifice for his own sins, because he was sinless; the enactment was necessary as regarded the Levitical priests; because, they themselves were subject to sin; but Christ, whom God constituted priest by oath, which was expressed by David long after the law, was the Son of God, free from all sin; in all things perfect and constituted, for evermore.

Heb 8:1 Now of the things which we have spoken, this is the sum: We have such an high priest who is set on the right hand of the throne of majesty in the heavens,

The summary abridgment of all we have said concerning the priesthood of Christ is this: that in him we have a Pontiff, who sits at the right hand of the throne of majesty in heaven,

St. Chrysostom understands by “sum,” κεφάλαιον, the chief, the greatest of all the qualities yet enumerated; others, the recapitulation of the foregoing; but, the interpretation in the Paraphrase is preferable.

Heb 8:2 A minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord hath pitched, and not man.

The ministering pontiff of the celestial Holy of Holies, that is to say, of the true tabernacle (to which the Jewish bore the relation of type), which the Lord hath framed, and not man.

He was minister of the true tabernacle, of which the Jewish tabernacle—built after the model proposed to Moses on the Mount, verse 5—was a mere type. The Greek for “minister,” λειτουργος, means one who performs publicly religious services; it is a term, which applies to all priests; but particularly to a high priest. “Holies and true tabernacle,” probably refer to the same thing—viz., the Church triumphant in heaven and militant on earth; then, “and” means, that is. He is “minister of the holies and (that is) of the true tabernacle”—or, if they refer to different things; then, “the holies” refer to heaven, and “the true tabernacle,” as distinguished from it (although, in reality, “the holies,” formed a part of the Jewish tabernacle), means the Church militant; and Jesus is minister in both; for, he exercises his priesthood in heaven and on earth. “True” is said, not in opposition to false, it means real, opposed to type and figure.

By an allusion to the duties of the high priest in the old law, the Apostle points out the superior excellence of Christ. The great duty of the Jewish high priest was to enter yearly and minister in the earthly “Holy of Holies,” which might be termed a “throne of majesty” (verse 1), but not “in the heavens.” He did not “sit” there; he rather trembled before it. Our High Priest sits down in the real Holy of Holies, “in the heavens,” next the majesty of God himself.

Heb 8:3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is necessary that he also should have some thing to offer.

(Although sitting at the right hand of God, he still acts as ministering pontiff of the true tabernacle), because every high priest, by the very nature of his office, is constituted to offer gifts and victims in sacrifice to God. Hence, as Christ is priest even in heaven, he must have something to offer.

Christ exercises the office of priest by presenting his humanity and passion to God the Father (9:24); but especially by the ministry of his vicars on earth, in the sacrifice of the Mass. It is the former mode of ministering that the Apostle here principally regards. The question of the Eucharist did not fall within his scope, and he omitted direct reference to it, for reasons already assigned. However, the universal proposition employed by the Apostle, together with the word “gifts,” which refers to unbloody oblations, as well as his frequent allusions to the order of Melchisedech, which is fulfilled only in the Eucharistic sacrifice, renders it very probable, that reference is here made to that sacrifice, at least in such a way, as to be perceived and understood by the faithful.

Heb 8:4 If then he were on earth, he would not be a priest: seeing that there would be others to offer gifts according to the law.

If, then, he were a priest of an earthly tabernacle, and belonged to that department which is opposed to the celestial, or rather, if this “something,” or victim, which, as priest, he must offer, were terrestrial, he would be no priest at all; because, not belonging to the tribe of Levi, he would be disqualified by the law for such offerings, or, rather, because his priesthood would be quite useless, since the established ministry of the Aaronic priests would suffice for that purpose:

“If then.” In the ordinary Greek copies, εἰ μὲν γὰρ, for if. The Vulgate is supported by the Alexandrian and other manuscripts, and is generally preferred by critics.

“On earth,” may refer to the priest, if Christ were priest of an earthly tabernacle, or, more probably, it refers to the victim, “should have something to offer” (verse 3), as if he said, If then thissomething,” or victim, were earthly, Christ would not be priest at all; since “there would be others to offer gifts according to the law,” which law would disqualify him, not being of the tribe of Levi. Moreover, his priesthood would be, in that case, quite useless; as the Aaronic priests would suffice. And since, according to the Psalmist, he is a priest; he is, therefore, a priest of the heavenly tabernacle, of which the Jewish is a mere type. He is, of course, as superior to the Levitical priests, as heaven is to earth; as the reality, to its type and figure.

Heb 8:5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things. As it was answered to Moses, when he was to finish the tabernacle: See (saith he) that thou make all things according to the pattern which was shewn thee on the mount.

Who minister in the tabernacle, which is but the obscure delineation, and mere shadowing representation of the heavenly (of which Christ is ministering pontiff—verse 2), according to the divine response given to Moses, when about to make the tabernacle:—“See (he says), that thou do all things according to the model shown thee on the mount.”

The Aaronic priests “serve.” The Greek word, λατρευουσι, implies worship, in a tabernacle, which is but “the example.” In Greek, ὑποδείγματι, a mere obscure delineation; “and shadow of heavenly things,” i.e., of the heavenly sanctuary and true tabernacle of the Church, militant and triumphant (verse 2). The word “example” is not taken here in its ordinary signification, which is, that of model or pattern, as in the words, “according to the pattern,” κατὰ τον τὺπον. The Greek word already quoted, shows the meaning given in the Paraphrase to be correct. “As it was answered to Moses,” &c. The tabernacle of Moses was, according to the Apostle, only a figure and obscure representation of things done by Christ in the Church militant and triumphant. And this, Moses clearly perceived, from the divine oracle commanding him, when about to frame the tabernacle, to make it according to the pattern, sensibly presented to him on the Mount. He saw that this pattern had a typical relation to the future things to be done by Christ in his Church and in heaven. “See thou make all things,” &c. The words, “all things,” are not found in the text (Exodus, 25:40), they have been added by the Apostle.

Heb 8:6 But now he hath obtained a better ministry, by how much also he is a mediator of a better testament which is established on better promises.

But now, in his heavenly sanctuary, Christ has obtained a priestly ministry as far exceeding in superior excellence the priesthood of Aaron, as the covenant, of which he is mediator, surpasses the covenant of Moses and as the promises, with which this new testament is promulgated, exceed the promises of the old.

The Apostle having already clearly proved the translation of the Aaronic priesthood, is preparing, in this verse, while adducing a further argument in favour of the superior excellence of Christ’s priesthood, to show us, that the entire Mosaic law or covenant is to make way for, and to be abolished by, a more excellent one introduced by Christ.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 21, 2016

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of all of chapter 7. His commentary on today’s reading then follows. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.


The mention of Melchisedech in the last verse of the preceding chapter, affords the Apostle an opportunity of reverting to the subject of his priesthood, from which, after merely alluding to it (chap. 5), he digressed with a view of inspiring the Hebrews with a salutary fear of relapsing into sin, particularly into the hateful crime of apostasy (chap. 6). In the first three verses of this chapter, he points out the mystic relation which Melchisedech bore to Christ, in his name, place of residence, office, and genealogy (1–3).

In the next place, he proves the superiority of the priesthood of Christ over that of Aaron, and grounds this superiority on two circumstances: 1st, on the circumstance of Abraham giving Melchisedech, who was a mere type of Christ, tithes out of all his spoils, both for himself and all his descendants, and consequently, for Levi, who was then in Abraham’s loins, thus acknowledging the superiority of Melchisedech, as priest, over Aaron. The Apostle notes one feature of this decimation on the part of Abraham, as still more expressive of his inferiority; viz., its perfect voluntariety, without the requirement of any law to enforce payment, as in the case of the Levitical tithes. 2ndly, he founds the superiority on the circumstance of Melchisedech blessing Abraham, which the Apostle regards as an undoubted proof of this superiority of the former, as as priest, over the latter (4–10).

The Apostle proves, in the next place, the translation and total abrogation of the priesthood of Aaron. His first argument is founded on the difference of tribe to which he belonged, to whom God promised an eternal priesthood (11–14). His next argument in proof of the translation of the Aaronic priesthood is founded on the difference of the chiefs of both orders (15). His next argument is founded on the difference of the ordination and fundamental rules of both orders (16, 17). The Apostle then assigns the causes of the abrogation of the Levitical priesthood, as also of the entire Mosaic Law (18, 19). He adduces another proof of the superiority of Christ’s priesthood over that of Aaron, grounded on the difference of ceremonies employed by God in the institution of both (21, 22). A further proof of the superiority of Christ’s priesthood is derived from its eternal duration, and its incommunicability, by way of succession, to any other (23, 24). Another proof of the same is derived from the superior qualities of Christ, as Pontiff, over the Jewish High Priests.

Heb 7:1 For this Melchisedech was king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him:

This Melchisedech then (according to whose order Christ was High Priest), was king of the city of Salem, and priest of the Most High God, the same who went out to meet Abraham after the slaughter of the hostile kings (Genesis, 14:17, &c.), and, as Priest, blessed him:

One of the chief grounds on which the false teachers mainly relied, and one of the principal motives artfully advanced by them, for seducing the Hebrew converts from the faith, under the pressure of persecution, was the consideration of the efficacy and permanency of the priesthood of Aaron. Faith, it was alleged, might be an easier mode of obtaining justification; but, it was not indispensable; since, the Patriarchs and just of old had been justified without it, through the aids administered by the different parts of the Mosaic law, and among the rest, by the ministrations of the Aaronic priesthood. The Apostle, therefore, employs the four following chapters in showing the inefficacy, the inferiority, the total abrogation of the Aaronic priesthood and its sacrifices, together with the eternal duration and absolute superiority of the priesthood of Christ and his sacrifice. He devotes the 11th chapter to proving, that it was by faith, and not by the Sacrifices of the Old Law, the Patriarchs and just of old were sanctified.

“For this Melchisedech;” as if he said, I now revert to the subject of Melchisedech’s priesthood, to which I have briefly adverted already (chap 5) “Salem” most probably refers to Jerusalem, of which Melchisedech was king. “Priest of the most high God,” and not of the idols of the Chanaanites. “Who met Abraham,” &c. The Apostle refers to the history recorded, Genesis, 14:17, 18, &c. He dwells on these two circumstances, viz., the giving of tithes, and the receiving a blessing, as expressive of Abraham’s inferiority.

Heb 7:2 To whom also Abraham divided the tithes of all: who first indeed by interpretation is king of justice: and then also king of Salem, that is, king of peace:

To whom Abraham also paid tithes out of all his spoils; this same Melchisedech, looking to the etymology of the term, signifies “king of justice” (a title admirably suited to Christ, his antitype); the words “king of Salem,” also signify “king of peace” (a title equally applicable to Christ).

“Melchisedech” is compounded of Malak, a king, and Sadek, justice. “Salem,” signifies “peace.”

Heb 7:3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but likened unto the Son of God, continueth a priest for ever.

3. Without father, without mother, i.e., neither his father, nor his mother, nor genealogy, is mentioned in SS. Scripture. (Christ has neither a father on earth, nor mother in heaven, and his “genealogy who shall declare?”) Neither have we any account of his birth, nor of his death; hence, he is said to have neither beginning of days nor end of life. Our Lord neither had a beginning nor will he have an end. In all these things, Melchisedech has been a type of the Son of God; but his resemblance to Christ is particularly marked in the eternal duration of his priesthood—respecting the beginning and end of which the Scriptures are equally silent.

It is not difficult to see how, in the etymology of his name, and of the place over which he ruled; in the omission of his genealogy, which was passed over in Scripture for mystical reasons; in the omission of all mention of his birth and death, designed by the Holy Ghost for the purpose of typifying eternity, as well as in the omission of the beginning and end of the exercise of his priesthood, Melchisedech was a figure of Christ; and, as such, assimilated to him. He bore as near a resemblance to Christ, as the type could bear to the thing typified. But it is in the eternal duration of his priesthood, regarding the beginning and end of which the Scripture is silent, that this resemblance is particularly marked.

Heb 7:15 And it is yet far more evident: if according to the similitude of Melchisedech there ariseth another priest,

And this translation of the Aaronic priesthood will become still more evident, if there arise another priest, after the likeness of Melchisedech,

The Apostle founds another argument in favour of the translation of the Jewish priesthood, on the difference of the chiefs, and the fundamental rules of both orders. (The preceding argument is founded on the difference of tribe, from that of Levi). “If, according to the similitude of Melchisedech.” The Apostle uses “similitude,” in preference to “order” of Melchisedech, to show us, that, although according to the Psalmist, Melchisedech was a type of Christ, and Christ a priest, according to his order; still, this consisted merely in the likeness of Melchisedech’s priesthood to that of Christ, the priesthood of Christ being in reality of a more exalted character.

Heb 7:16 Who is made, not according to the law of a law of a carnal commandment, but according to the power of an indissoluble life.

Who is not regulated in his priestly office or power by the rules or law of the carnal mandate, attaching the priesthood to carnal descent and succession; but who is established in the priestly dignity, by the power or efficacy of an immortal life; which excludes the idea of succession.

“Carnal commandment,” according to which the sons of Aaron, by their descent from him, are made priests, one succeeding the other. “According to the power of an indissoluble life,” i.e., by the divine power, which grants him immortal life, excluding all grounds for succession. In these words, is contained an allusion to Melchisedech’s apparent perpetuity (verse 8).

Heb 7:17 For he testifieth: Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.

Now, that there was to arise another priest, or rather the chief of another priesthood different from Aaron, also admitting of no succession, is clear from Psalm 109, wherein he is said to be “a priest according to the order of Melchisedech,” therefore, distinct from Aaron, and “a priest for ever;” therefore, having no successor.

That the chief of this order is different from Aaron, and that there is no succession of chiefs, one to another—one of the fundamental rules of the order of Aaron being, that one high priest was to succeed another when defunct—are both proved from Psalm 109. (vide Paraphrase). This is all true of Christ. He is a priest according to the order of Melchisedech, in the sense already assigned. Melchisedech’s priesthood was a type of his. Secondly, he has no successor, all other priests are only his vicars and the dispensers of his mysteries.


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