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

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 21, 2016

This post includes Fr. MacEvilly’s brief summary analysis of chapter 5, followed by his comments on today’s reading. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.


Having introduced the subject of Christ’s priesthood rather abruptly in verse 14 of the preceding chapter, the Apostle undertakes in this to show, from the distinguishing marks and qualities which characterised the Aaronic priesthood (for, it is to the Levitical priests, he refers in instituting this comparison), that Christ too was a priest, as possessing in a more excellent degree the qualities of the Aaronic priests. He first points out what these distinguishing qualities are (1–4), and next applies them to Christ. The first note or quality of a priest, viz., that he be a man, he forbears from applying to Christ, as requiring no application, it was a thing known to all. The second, viz., his offering gifts, &c., he defers for a fuller exposition, in a subsequent part of the Epistle. He treats of the two remaining notes, and applies them to Christ, commencing with the last He shows that Christ had as divine a call to the priesthood, as had Aaron or his sons (5, 6).

He then applies to him the third mark, viz., his capability of compassionating sinners, and referring to his infirmities and sufferings during his mortal life, he shows that he had an experimental knowledge of the arduous nature of obedience, and of the difficult of avoiding sin (7, 8). And having attained consummate glory by suffering, he became to all his true followers, the cause of eternal glory, by the merits of his passion, which, as High Priest, he offered up in sacrifice for us, having been declared by his Father, a pontiff, according to the order of Melchisedech (9, 10).

Although he has much to say concerning this priesthood of Melchisedech, and its relation to Christ, he defers treating of it, until he first gives them further instruction in the principles of faith, which, notwithstanding the length of time they had been professing Christianity, they very much needed.

Heb 5:1 For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins:

(In order to establish the assertion made 4:14, &c.—viz., that Christ is our high priest, whom we should approach with confidence, it is merely required to show that he has the qualities and marks of a high priest, such as we know to be necessary for a high priest of the Levitical order). Every high priest, then (of the Levitical order), is taken from among men, and is also constituted by his office in behalf of men, to manage their affairs with God, and to act as their mediator with him. This duty he principally discharges by offering up in sacrifice the gifts voluntarily presented, as also those prescribed by law.

The first quality of a priest is to “be taken from among men,” i.e., to possess human nature. The second is derived from his office, which is to manage the affairs of men, which regard God. And the duty of this office is principally discharged in offering up sacrifice for men. “Gifts,” voluntary oblations, presented by the people. “Sacrifices,” those enjoined by law.

Heb 5:2 Who can have compassion on them that are ignorant and that err: because he himself also is compassed with infirmity.

He should also be possessed of a merciful, kind disposition to sympathize with and compassionate sinners of every description, bearing in mind that he himself is surrounded with the infirmities of our sinful nature.

The third, is to have a merciful, kind disposition to sympathize with sinners The Greek for “have compassion,” μετριοπαθειν, means, to be possessed of a capability of sympathizing with a degree of moderation, which would enable him to observe a dignified mean between harsh severity on the one hand, and misplaced clemency on the other. The latter defect is frequently abused by the perverse, in the further commission of sin. “Ignorant and err,” extend to all sinners, even those who commit sins that are not the result of ignorance; for, they too are fit objects of compassion. “Because he himself is surrounded with infirmities.” The Apostle refers to the infirmities of sin, as appears from the following verse. This note applies to Christ only as far as the sanctity and perfection of his nature will permit. Hence, it will apply to him, so far as regards the common infirmities and possibility of human nature, which he felt, but not so far as sin is concerned; nor is this required, because the liability to sin is a defect in a priest; and hence, follows the perfection of Christ’s priesthood; since, he possesses all the good qualities, without any of the defects of other priests.

Heb 5:3 And therefore he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.

And it is because of this sinful infirmity with which every priest is surrounded, that the Levitical priest is bound by the Law of Moses (Leviticus, 4:3) to offer up sacrifice for his own sins, as well as for those of the people.

And it is on account of this sinful infirmity to which every priest is subject, that the Mosaic Law (Leviticus, 4:3) prescribes, &c.

Heb 5:4 Neither doth any man take the honour to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was.

Again, no legitimate priest ever arrogates to himself, unauthorized, the honour of the priesthood; he alone is a true and legitimate priest who is called by God, as was Aaron.

The fourth mark or character is a divine vocation, like that of Aaron and his successors. Aaron was called by God, and ordered to be consecrated (Levit. 8) with the sacerdotal succession, secured to his family. Hence, the necessity of a vocation for the ecclesiastical state, as well as of ordination in the Church. Hence, schismatics and heretics cannot, without sin, perform ecclesiastical functions, not being deputed by God or his Church. Their call is the rebellious usurpation of Core, Dathan, and Abiron, to whom, as they are likened in ministering, so shall they be also in punishment, rather than the divine call of Aaron and his successors transferred to and perpetuated in the holy, Catholic Church.

Heb 5:5 So Christ also did not glorify himself, that he might be made a high priest: but he that said unto him: Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten thee.

Hence it was, that Christ did not take to himself the glorious quality of high priest; it was bestowed on him by his heavenly Father; for, it was the same who addressed him (Psalm 2) as his natural son—“Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee;”
Heb 5:6 As he saith also in another place: Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech. That addressed to him also, as we find in another passage (Psalm, 109), these words—“Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech;” and thus conferred on him the sacerdotal dignity.

He now applies these marks to Christ. He passes over the first altogether, it being evident that Christ was a man, and, therefore, needed no application. The application of the second he reserves for chapters 7, 8, 9, of this Epistle; the other two he here applies, commencing with the fourth. Christ did not arrogate to himself, unauthorized and uncommissioned, the glory of the priesthood. He was called to it by his Father. For, it was the same who said to him, “Thou art my Son,” &c., that also said, as we find it in another place, “Thou art a priest,” &c., and by the very fact of saying it, constituted him such. Christ, then, had the fourth mark of a true priest, viz., a vocation from God. And instead of saying, God the Father, said to him, “Thou art a priest,” &c., the Apostle says, “He who said to him, thou art my son,” &c., also said, “Thou art a priest,” &c., to insinuate the superiority of Christ, as priest and Son of God at the same time, over Aaron or any other.

Heb 5:7 Who in the days of his flesh, with a strong cry and tears, offering up prayers and supplications to him that was able to save him from death, was heard for his reverence.

Who, when living here on earth, clad in weak, mortal flesh, but more especially while suspended on the cross, having offered up earnest prayers and suppliant entreaties to his Father with a strong cry and tears, to rescue him from the corruption of the tomb, was heard on account of the great reverence he had for his Father; or, on account of the great reverence in which the Father held this venerable high priest, his own beloved Son.

He now applies the third mark, viz., his capability of compassionating sinners. “Who in the days,” &c.… “with strong cry and tears,” &c. This most probably refers to his prayers on the cross, and his cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” i.e., do not forsake me. “To save him from death,” i.e., from remaining in death. It means, that he begged to be rescued from the grave; and so he was, three days after. “For his reverence.” In Greek, απο της ευλαβειας, may be taken either actively, to denote the reverence which Christ had for the Father; or passively, to denote the Father’s reverence for him. Calvin understands by the Greek word, ευλαβείας, not reverence, but fear of damnation. Christ had fallen into despair, according to the shocking blasphemous notions of this Arch Heretic.

Heb 5:8 And whereas indeed he was the Son of God, he learned obedience by the things which he suffered.

Nay, although he was the Son of God, he still vouchsafed to learn experimentally the difficulty of obedience from the sufferings which he underwent, in compliance with the will of his heavenly Father.

“And whereas he was the Son of God.” The Greek omits the words, “of God.” “Whereas,” in Greek, καιπερ, although. Having experienced the miseries of sinners (except sin), and knowing from experience the sacrifice of obedience, and the difficulty of avoiding sin, Christ is, then, perfectly capable of sympathizing with sinners.

Heb 5:9 And being consummated, he became, to all that obey him, the cause of eternal salvation:

And having attained consummate glory by sufferings, he is become to all those who obey his precepts, the cause of eternal glory;

“And being consummated” by suffering (2:10). “He became to all who obey him,” i.e., who observe his precepts, among which faith in him is reckoned “the cause of eternal salvation.” And to show us how this was effected, viz.:—by his death on the cross—the Apostle refers to his sacerdotal character, in the following verse.

Heb 5:10 Called by God a high priest, according to the order of Melchisedech.

Being declared by God, a high priest according to the order of Melchisedech,

The sacrifice of the cross was not offered after the rite of Melchisedech; but the Apostle refers to his priesthood, merely for the purpose of showing that it was as priest he redeemed us, or became for us “the cause of eternal salvation.” The sacrifice of the cross was offered after a new and extraordinary rite, different from that of Aaron and Melchisedech, holding a middle place between the cessation of the one, and the succession of the other.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Hebrews 6:10-20

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 19, 2015

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of Hebrews chapter 6 followed by his comments on the reading (Heb 6:10-20). Text in purple indicates McEvilly’s paraphrasing of the verses he is commenting on.


Having said, in the preceding chapter, that the Hebrews, considering the length of time they had professed the faith, should be teachers of Christianity, the Apostle expresses his resolve in this, to pass over, in consequence, these points of Christian doctrine, which formed the subject of instruction for adults, before their admission to baptism. The baptism, to which these matters subserve as a preparation, cannot be again repeated; and hence, the inutility of treating of them (Heb 6:1–6).

He endeavours to terrify the Hebrews, against apostatizing from the faith, by the example of the accursed land (Heb 6:7-8). He disclaims, however, the idea of applying to them the example, in its full extent (Heb 6:9), and he assigns a reason of congruity for hoping, in their behalf, for the gift of perseverance (Heb 6:10).

He introduces the example referred to, solely with the view of animating them to fervent faith and to patient endurance, by which means alone, they could arrive at the inheritance, promised to the faithful and patient Abraham (Heb 6:11-14). He shows, that faith and patient endurance are necessary, in order to gain the promises of eternal life; for, it was by means of these, Abraham, the model of true believers, obtained them (Heb 6:15). And, from the absolute, unconditional nature of the promises made to Abraham, confirmed by the solemn sanction of an oath, on the part of God, he shows that these promises cannot be rescinded, and are to extend to his faithful followers (Heb 6:13, 14).

He next assigns a reason why God swore by himself, and why he swore at all, in the case of Abraham; he swore by himself, because he had no greater to swear by (Heb 6:16-17); and the reason of his swearing at all was, to mark more strongly the absolute, unchangeable nature of his decree, regarding the transmission of Abraham’s inheritance to his children and thus to confirm our hope—to which we fly in our afflictions—of entering the true Holy of Holies in heaven, whither our great Hight Priest, according to the order of Melchisedech, has preceded us (Heb 6:18-20).

Heb 6:10 For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work and the  (labour of) love which you have shewn in his name, you who have ministered and do minister to the saints. ‎

This hope and confidence is grounded on the justice of God. For, God is not unjust that he should forget your good works, and especially the charity which you have shown in his name to the saints, to whose wants you have heretofore ministered, and do minister even to the present day.

This confidence he grounds on the divine justice, which requires that God would reward their works of merit. He particularizes that of charity, towards the faithful poor in distress.

OBJECTION.—According to the Catholic doctrine of merit (Council of Trent, SS. vi. Can. 32), there are only three things which fall under strict merit, or, which a man can merit, as they say, de condigno, viz., an increase of sanctifying grace, eternal life, and the attainment of eternal life, if he die in grace; and although eternal life may, hic et nunc, be merited, it may still be lost, for want of final perseverance—for, although Catholics hold that if a man were to die instantly after performing a work meritorious of eternal life, he would have a right to eternal life, in virtue of the gracious promise and goodness of God; still, they admit, that it is no way against the justice of God, that a man, hic et nunc, meriting eternal life, would afterwards fall away and not obtain it is the end; because without any injustice whatever on his part, God can withhold the great and singular gift of final perseverance, which, strictly speaking, cannot be merited. Since, therefore, a man, who merited eternal life at some particular moment, can afterwards fall away, and be damned for want of final perseverance, which no man can strictly merit, and which, without injustice, God can withhold; how can the Apostle say that, in the present instance, God would be unjust, if the Hebrews were not partakers of salvation?

ANSWER.—In reply to the foregoing objection, it may be said, that St. Paul does not assert that God would be unjust if the Hebrews were not saved. He only expresses a firm hope and confidence (verse 9) that the case of the Hebrews is unlike that of the accursed land; and this hope he grounds on the rewards which God, in his justice, is bound to bestow on their charity (verse 10). Now, among the things which God, in justice, is bound to give, is an increase of sanctifying grace, by which they can the more easily persevere, and thus obtain de congruo, i.e., by persevering prayer, the great gift of final perseverance; hence, the ground of the Apostle’s confidence (verse 9); which is founded ultimately (verse 1), on God’s justice, in bestowing an increase of sanctifying grace. If the Apostle were to argue directly (verse 10), from the strict justice of God, he would not only say, “we trust better,” &c., but we are altogether certain (verse 9). “And the love,” the Greek has, καὶ τοῦ κόπου τῆς ἀγάπης, and the labour of love; but the word, labour, is now generally rejected by critics; it was probably introduced from 1 Thess. 1:3.

Heb 6:11 And we desire that every one of you shew forth the same carefulness to the accomplishing of hope unto the end: ‎

But, in order that you may securely avoid the fate of the accursed land, we anxiously desire that you exhibit the same fervour of charity unto the end of your lives, until hope is filled up and is succeeded by its term, fruition.

The Apostle in this verse points out the condition, upon which they may have a claim on the strict justice of God, viz., perseverance to the end, in the performance of the same good works of charity.

Heb 6:12 That you become not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience shall inherit the promises. ‎

And that you become not remiss nor indolent, but imitators of those who, by faith and patient long-suffering, and endurance, inherit the promises of eternal life.

He anxiously desires and wishes that they would not become remiss, but rather, by faith in the promises of God, and the patient endurance of adversity (the Greek for “patience,” μακροθυμιας, means, long suffering), become faithful imitators of the saints of old—as well as of those to whose wants they were ministering—who, by these very same means, i.e., faith and patience, were heirs of the promises of eternal life.

Heb 6:13 For God making promises to Abraham, because he had no one greater by whom he might swear, swore by himself,

And as a proof that it is by faith and patience the promises are to be obtained, I will instance the case of Abraham, the father of all believers who had faith, as all know, and who by patience obtained the promise. And that this promise made to Abraham was absolute and unconditional, is clear, from the fact of God swearing by himself—he had no greater by whom to swear—

He adduces the example of Abraham, to prove that it is by faith and patience, the promises of God regarding eternal life, to which he refers, were to be obtained. That Abraham had faith, was a matter so well known to the Hebrews, that the Apostle supposes it here, and merely asserts (verse 15), that he obtained the promises by patient endurance and long suffering. Hence, as Abraham is our model, we must obtain the promises on the same conditions on which he obtained them, viz., by faith and patience. The Apostle, in this reasoning, supposes that the promises to which he refers were of such an absolute nature, as that they were to be transmitted to us, and not merely conditional, liable to be rescinded. Hence it is that he refers to the mode in which God made this promise, viz., by interposing the solemn sanction of an oath, swearing by himself for want of a greater by whom to swear.

‎Heb 6:14 Saying: Unless blessing I shall bless thee and multiplying I shall multiply thee. ‎

That he would surely bestow on him the abundance of his benediction, and would multiply his seed exceedingly.

Saying (Genesis, 22:16): “By myself have I sworn … I will bless and multiply thy seed—and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” “Unless blessing I will bless thee,” i.e., certainly, “blessing I will bless thee,” he repeats the words “blessing” and “multiplying” to express the abundance of his benedictions—or, “unless I bless thee,” &c., may I not be God, or the like, and then the imprecation is suppressed from reverence for the name of God. However, the former meaning of “unless” is more conformable to the Greek, ἡ μην, and to the Septuagint version of Genesis; and it is from the Septuagint version of the Old Testament that St. Paul takes his quotations in this Epistle.

Heb 6:15 And so patiently enduring he obtained the promise. ‎

The sense of the passage may, perhaps, be more clearly conveyed by transposing this verse and placing it a little in advance, in immediate connexion with the first words of verse 13 (as in Paraphrase). The Apostle adduces the example of Abraham to prove that it is by faith and patience we are to inherit the promises; and before he asserted that it was by faith and patience (6:15), Abraham obtained them, he anticipates a difficulty which might at once be started, viz.:—What has the promise made to Abraham, or his mode of obtaining it, to do with us? The Apostle refers to the oath of God to prove that it has reference to us. For, the promise itself regards the multiplication of his posterity (Gen. 22), and the benediction of all the tribes of the earth in his seed, which the Apostle interprets (Gal. 3), to refer to Christ. It, therefore, regards us, and the oath on the part of God proves it to be absolute and not liable to be rescinded.

“And so patiently enduring he obtained the promise;” he obtained it in himself and in his carnal descendants, but especially the spiritual part of it is fulfilled now in the blessings bestowed on his spiritual children; and, in order to obtain this blessing, Abraham had to endure patiently many hardships.

Heb 5:16 For men swear by one greater than themselves: and an oath for confirmation is the end of all their controversy. ‎

God swore by himself, because he had no greater to swear by, as men have, when they invoke God as a witness, and the reason why he swore at all, was to accommodate himself to the ways of men, among whom an oath is used to confirm the truth and terminate every controversy.

The Apostle, in this verse, assigns a reason why God swore by himself, and secondly, why he swore at all. Properly speaking, it could not be called an oath on the part of God. For, an oath supposes the calling to witness of a greater, and God having no greater to call to witness, could not, therefore, strictly speaking, be said to swear.

Heb 6:17 Wherein God, meaning more abundantly to shew to the heirs of the promise the immutability of his counsel, interposed an oath: ‎

Therefore, wishing to mark more strongly the absolute and unchangeable nature of the decree in question, regarding the transmission of the promise to the sons of Abraham, who were to be its inheritors, God interposed, and added to the promise the solemn sanction of an oath.

Some decrees of God have a conditional object; and may, therefore, be rescinded and may never come to pass. But the promise in the present case is absolute, which the Apostle is showing all along from verse 13, by pointing to the solemn sanction of an oath on the part of God confirming it, and therefore, it will be fulfilled and obtained by those in whose favour it was made i.e., by “the heirs of the promise.”

Heb 6:18 That by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have the strongest comfort, we who have fled for refuge to hold fast the hope set before us. ‎

This he did in order that by two immovable things, viz., his absolute promise and oath, neither of which is it possible for God to belie, neither one nor the other of which he can fail to fulfil, we would feel the greatest consolation and encouragement when (knowing that the promise is not rescinded) we fly from the difficulties and crosses of life, to grasp and lay hold on the hope of future blessings, in store for us.

To his promise God added the sanction of an oath, which proves it to be of a nature absolute and unconditional, “that by two immovable things,” &c. (vide Paraphrase). If the promise were only conditional and not absolute, it might be rescinded for want of compliance with the required conditions on the part of men; and we would, therefore, have no such consolation in our hope.

Heb 6:19 Which we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, and which entereth in even within the veil: ‎

Which hope is the sure anchor of the soul to keep it fixed and firm amidst the adversities of life; nor will it part with us until it leads us to fruition, in the kingdom of heaven,

“Hope is the sure and firm anchor of the soul,” because it keeps the soul firm and unmoved, and preserves her from being tossed about or sunk into despair, by the storms and tempests of adversity.

“And which entereth in even within the veil;” hope, though retaining the soul unmoved against the influence of adversity, still retards not her progress towards her destined haven of rest, the true Holy of Holies of heaven, of which the Jewish Holy of Holies, divided from the sanctum, or Holy, by a veil, was a mere figure. And the Apostle alludes to this veil of the Holy of Holies, to show us in what capacity Christ entered heaven, viz., as high priest, for the high priest alone could enter the sanctum sanctorum.

OBJECTION.—If hope be a certain anchor, may not all be certain of salvation? Hope is certain, in regard to God, uncertain, in regard to us, because no one, short of a revelation, can be absolutely certain, that he will comply with the required conditions; and this is conformable to the providence of God in the present order of things, according to which, “no one can know whether he is deserving of love or hatred,” and all are commanded to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling.”

Besides, supposing, that hope carried with it the certainty of perseverance, who can be certain that he has that hope?—and, without this certainty, a man is always uncertain of salvation.

Heb 6:20 Where the forerunner Jesus is entered for us, made a high priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech. 

Whither Christ has gone before us as precursor; and this, in quality of eternal High Priest, according to the order of Melchisedech.

Fr. McEvilly offers no comment on this verse which provides a link between subject matter brought up in chapters 5 & 6 and the extended treatment of Melchisedech in chapter 7. The significance of the present verse has been adequately dealt with in the final paragraph of the opening analysis and in the paraphrase.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Hebrews 8:6-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 18, 2015

This post begins with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of Hebrews  chapter 8 followed by his comments on verses 6-13. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the Scripture he is commenting on. Texts in red, if any, are my additions.

In this chapter, the Apostle, raises Christ above Aaron, and thus evidently raises his Priesthood above that of Aaron, and his successors. The superior excellence of Christ, as Priest, is shown from the exalted place he holds in heaven (Heb 8:1), and from the superior excellence of the heavenly tabernacle, of which he is the ministering Pontiff (Heb 8:2). From the very nature of his Priestly office is shown that he is a ministering Pontiff (Heb 8:3), and the superior excellence of the victim which he offers, clearly proves his exalted dignity (Heb 8:4-5). His superiority over Aaron is also shown from the superior excellence of the Testament, of which he is Mediator (Heb 8:6).

The Apostle, finally, proves the translation not only of the Jewish Priesthood, but of the entire ancient Testament. For, this Testament was not faultless; there was room, therefore, for a better (Heb 8:7). The translation of the ancient Testament, on this ground, he proves from the Prophet Jeremias (Heb 8:8–12). The Apostle grounds another argument in proof of the translation and abrogation of the Old Testament, on the word “new”—the epithet, with which Jeremias designates the Second Testament—and from the meaning of this word, he infers that the Old Testament must now have ceased (Heb 8:13). (Or at the time of the writing the Old Testament-here meaning the Old Covenant- was on the verge of ceasing).

‎‎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.

Heb 8:7 For if that former had been faultless, there should not indeed a place have been sought for a second.

But if the former covenant were free from imperfection, so that nothing were wanting to it, there would be no room for a second, nor would a second and better covenant have been sought for

“If that former had been faultless,” i.e., free from all imperfection—it contained nothing positively bad, being “holy, just, and good” (Rom. 7:12); but, it was imperfect, for remitting sin and imparting justification. “There should not, indeed, a place have been sought for a second;” i.e., a second and better covenant would have no place, as there would have been no use or occasion for it; and consequently, it would not have been sought for.

Heb 8:8 For, finding fault with them, he saith: Behold the days shall come, saith the Lord: and I will perfect, unto the house of Israel and unto the house of Juda, a new testament: ‎‎

(Now, there was room and necessity for a second), for, finding fault with the Jews themselves, and indirectly with their testament, God says—(Jeremias, 31:31)—“Behold the days shall come, saith the Lord, and I will perfect unto the house of Israel and unto the house of Juda, a new testament.”

“For, finding fault with them;” as if he said: but, a place for another and better testament was to be found, “for, finding fault with them he saith,” or, “finding fault” (with the covenant), he saith to them, i.e., the Jews. The Greek, μεμφόμενος γὰρ αὐτοῖς λέγει (memphomenos garautos legei), will admit either construction; the former is, however, the more probable. “Finding fault” with the Jews, implies, finding fault with the old testament, which did not of itself supply them with the means of observing its laws, in a manner pleasing to God and meritorious or eternal life; for, all the graces attached to the old testament, and justifying its children, were, properly speaking, derived from the new. The words are taken from the 31st chapter of the Prophet Jeremias, and are quoted by the Apostle from the Septuagint version; the Jews themselves admit that, in its literal sense, this passage refers to the Messiah. The Prophet is speaking of a new testament, which the Lord promises to make “with the house of Israel and the house of Juda,” i.e., with the faithful of the Christian Church.

Heb 8:9 Not according to the testament which I made to their fathers, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt: because they continued not in my testament: and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.

“Not like the testament which I made to their fathers, the time I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt.” Because they violated my covenant, I in turn, slighted and neglected them, saith the Lord.

And he says, it will not be like the covenant or testament which he made with their fathers, the Israelites, on the fiftieth day after their deliverance from the Egyptian bondage. They violated his covenant, and on this account, he in turn forsook them, withdrawing his special care and protection from them.

Heb 8:10 For this is the testament which I will make to the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will give my laws into their mind: and in their heart will I write them. And I will be their God: and they shall be my people. ‎‎

“But this is the testament which I shall make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord. I shall give my laws into their minds, and in their hearts will I write them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

And then he declares what this testament shall be, as contrasted with the old:—“I will give my laws unto their minds, and in their hearts will I write them,” which is evidently allusive to the manner in which the Old Law was given; for, God gave his laws (the decalogue) to the Jews, written on the tables of stone. The same laws he gives to the Christians of the new testament, written on their hearts and minds, by grace and love.

Heb 8:11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour and every man his brother, saying: Know the Lord. For all shall know me, from the least to the greatest of them.

Nor will there be any further necessity for each one to teach his neighbour, or his brother, to know the Lord (by a practical knowledge consisting in loving him and keeping his commandments); because all, who, properly speaking, belong to this new testament, will have this knowledge impressed on their minds and written on their hearts by grace.

Another thing peculiar to the new testament, and an effect of the laws being written on their hearts is, that “they shall not teach every man his neighbour, … know the Lord,” &c. It is by no means easy to see how these words are verified in the new testament; hence, the variety of interpretations given, all of which render the passage difficult and perplexing. Whatever may be the true meaning of the words, it can be clearly shown from several passages of the Gospel and the Epistles, particularly Ephesians (chap. 4) that they cannot exclude the external ministry of teaching, in the Church. The same clearly follows from the Apostle’s writing this Epistle. If the external ministry of teaching were excluded, why should the Apostle write this Epistle to instruct the Hebrews? Some Expositors say the Prophet refers to the crime of idolatry, to which the Jews were particularly prone, and against which they required to be constantly cautioned, by proposing the knowledge of the true God. “Know the Lord:” but amongst Christians, no such danger was to be apprehended; and therefore, no necessity for reminding them of the true God. The words are, most probably, to be understood of instruction, not in mere speculative knowledge; but, in the practical knowledge and love of God. In the old testament, each one was obliged to put his neighbour in mind of God, and instruct him in that practical knowledge which consisted in knowing the Jewish law and observing it, not merely externally, so as to avoid the penalties of its infraction, but in observing it through grace, and in a manner, meritorious of eternal life. The reason why this was required in the Old Law arose from its being necessarily imperfect. To the Old Law, as such, the grace referred to here had not been attached, nor could it beget that practical love and knowledge, of which there is question in the words of the Prophet. God had promised the Jewish people temporal blessings—under the figure of which he promised eternal blessings also—and as a condition for securing these, he required the observance of his law; but the greater part of the Jews did not observe the law in a proper way, “they continued not in my testament” (9). In the New Law spiritual blessings, viz., the inheritance of God’s kingdom, are promised to such as observe the gospel.

Another great difference is, that in the Old Law, God left the Jews in a great measure to themselves, to observe the conditions necessary for arriving at the promised goods. Whereas, in the New Law, he not only promises the kingdom of heaven, but as a part of the testament, he gives the graces necessary for fulfilling his law, and for observing the conditions, necessary for arriving at this kingdom. That Jeremias or St. Paul speaks of this practical knowledge or love of God, which consists in fulfilling his law, is confirmed by the following verse.

Heb 8:12 Because I will be merciful to their iniquities: and their sins I will remember no more.

Because I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will no longer remember their sins (and consequently will give them grace to fulfil my law).

Here the prophet assigns the reason why it will not be necessary for every man to be teaching his neighbour; because God will “no longer remember their sins” he will fully pardon them, and give the grace necessary to fulfil his law—a grace peculiar to the new testament; it did not belong to the old testament, as such. But how is it, that in the new testament “all from the least to the greatest of them,” will have this knowledge; surely, all do not love God? The Apostle here refers to such as were, properly speaking, children of the new testament—viz., the just of the Church; for, these have received a portion of the inheritance here below, in the remission of their sins, grace, &c.; and, by persevering, they will obtain the whole hereafter. There are, doubtless, many sinners under the New Law, who might be called children of the Old; as, on the other hand, there were many just under the old, who were sanctified by the graces belonging to the new testament, and could, therefore, be justly called children of the new testament. Such appears to be a probable interpretation of the passage so perplexing to Commentators, and presenting under every view, very grave difficulties.

Heb 8:13 Now in saying a new, he hath made the former old. And that which decayeth and groweth old is near its end.

Now, in promising a new testament by the mouth of Jeremias, God has represented the former as old and antiquated. But what is grown old and antiquated, is approaching dissolution: consequently, the testament grown old in the days of Jeremias, must, by this time, have perished.

The Apostle, having proved from the prophetic testimony, that the first testament was not faultless, and that there was room for a second and better (7); now, grounds a new argument in proof of the abrogation of the Mosaic law, and of the old testament, on the word “new,” by which the prophet designates this second testament. By calling it “new,” he represents the former testament as antiquated. Now, whatever is grown old and antiquated, and consequently weak and useless (as in the ordinary affairs of nature), is approaching dissolution; and hence, the testament, grown old in the days of Jeremias, must now have altogether ceased.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Hebrews 8:6-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 18, 2015


A Summary of Hebrews 8:6-13. The superiority of the priesthood of Christ to that of the Old Dispensation is again manifest in the greater excellence of the Covenant of which He is the minister and mediator. The New Covenant is superior to the Old because it is based on superior divine promises. That the Old Testament was faulty, God Himself bore witness when through Jeremias He pronounced judgment upon it and promised the new and better one which has been fulfilled in the new relationship established between God and man by Jesus Christ. The Old Law was external, written on tables of
stone; the New Law is inscribed on the heart. The Old Law was given to the nation as a whole; the New Law speaks to the individual, instructing every man in the knowledge of God and leading to the forgiveness of men’s sins. Thus, by speaking of a “new” Covenant God implied the transient character and the ultimate disappearance of the old order, which was to be superseded by a new and better one.

He 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, etc., i.e., as things are actually, the priesthood of Christ is as far superior to that of the Levitical system as the new relationship which He has established between God and man is superior to the one that existed under the Old Law.

A Mediator. Christ is to the New Law what Moses was to the Old, and more; for, like Aaron, He is also a High Priest. Through the revelation He gave to the world, and through His sufferings, oblation on Calvary, and His death, He is both the Mediator and the High Priest of the New Dispensation.

Better promises. The Levitical system was based on material
promises of the Land of Canaan (Deut. 28:1 ff.), whereas the New Covenant rests on spiritual promises, such as grace, the remission of sins, life everlasting, and the like, as described in the quotation that follows from Jeremias.

Heb 8:7. For if that former had been faultless, there should not indeed a place have been sought for a second.

The Old Law did not lead men to perfection and salvation; it was defective, as God’s words to Jeremias clearly prove. Hence it had to be superseded by a new and better one.

Heb 8:8. For finding fault with them, he saith: Behold, the days shall come, saith the Lord, and I will perfect unto the house of Israel, and unto the house of Juda, a new testament;

In verses 8-12 the author now proves by a quotation from Jeremias (Jer. 31:31-34) that on God’s own testimony the Old Covenant established through Moses on Mount Sinai was unsatisfactory, and that it was to be superseded by a new and perfect one. The quotation from the prophet, being according to the LXX, differs slightly from the Hebrew.

Finding fault, etc., i.e., God reproaches the people of Israel for their failure to fulfill their part of the Old Covenant, and promises to establish a new alliance with the nation.

The days shall come refers to the Messianic era.

Heb 8:9. Not according to the testament which I made to their fathers, on the day when I took they by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, because they continued not in my testament, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.

The New Covenant will differ in character from that established on Mount Sinai after the release of the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt, for the latter was set aside because of the failure of the people to fulfill their part of the agreement.

Heb 8:10. For this is the testament which I will make to the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will give my laws into their mind, and in their heart will I write them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people;

The author begins now to describe the positive character of the New Covenant which God promised to establish in Messianic times: it will be internal, written on the hearts of the people, and the relation which it will effect between God and His people will be far more intimate than before ; God will enrich them with His benefits and lead them to salvation, while they will render Him a service worthy of Him.

Heb 8:11. And they shall not teach every man his neighbor and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for all shall know me from the least to the greatest of them,

Under the New Covenant the knowledge of God will become universal, not confined to any one people or class, as was the case under the Old Law. This does not mean that there will be no need of a teaching authority in the Church, for otherwise the teaching of this very letter would be superfluous, and St. Paul could not have so often insisted elsewhere on the necessity of teaching and of sound doctrine (cf. Eph. 4:11 ff.; Gal. 1:18 ff.; 1 Tim. 3:15, 4:11, 13, 16; 2 Tim. 2:2, 4:2, 5; Titus 1. 5, 9, 2:1, etc.). The meaning, therefore, here is that under the New Covenant there will be a much greater outpouring of grace on the teacher and the hearer, that the law will be far simpler to understand, that it will not be confined to the Jews but will be extended to all peoples, etc.

Neighbor is “fellow-citizen” in the Greek.

Heb 8:12. Because I will be merciful to their iniquities, and their sins I will remember no more.

In consequence of this new relationship between God and His people, and of the grace which the New Law will confer, God will remit the sins and blot out the transgressions of His people. The Old Law had no power to forgive sins, because it did not confer grace; and hence it could not remove the principal obstacle to union between God and His people.

Heb 8:13. Now in saying a new, he hath made the former old. And that which decayeth and groweth old is near its end.

When God through Jeremias spoke of the future Covenant as “new,” He indicated that the Old Law was already in decay and near its end. Hence the Old Testament itself contains a prophecy of its supersession by a new and better alliance.

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Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Hebrews 2:14-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 1, 2014

This post includes the bishop’s brief analysis of Hebrews chapter 2 followed by the notes on today’s reading. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on. Text in red, if any, are my additions.


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

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

14 Therefore because the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner hath been partaker of the same: that, through death, he might destroy him who had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil:

Since, then, the children of Christ have partaken of a passible nature, he also assumed the same, in order that, by his death, he might destroy the power of the devil, by depriving him of that empire of death, which he had abased, by inflicting it on Christ himself, who was undeserving of it, being wholly innocent.

Since the children of Christ have a passible nature (which is meant by “flesh” and “blood”), so, in like manner, he assumed the nature of “these children, whom God gave him” (John, 17:15), for the purpose of destroying the power of the devil (see Paraphrase), according to which interpretation, the words have the same meaning as chap. 8:3, to the Romans. They may also mean, that he destroyed the power of the devil, by obtaining for men, through his passion and death, the means of escaping that second and eternal death, in which the empire of the devil principally consisted.

15 And might deliver them, who through the fear of death were all their lifetime subject to servitude.

And might ransom and emancipate those who, owing to the great dread and terror they had of death, were, during their lifetime, kept in servitude, or the servile fear of its approach.

According to the meaning in the Paraphrase, the Apostle says, that by his death and subsequent resurrection, Christ showed men, that death was a mere sleep, and not so formidable, owing to his grace, as they were apt to imagine; for, the terror of its approach kept them in servile fear, during the entire course of their lives. The words may also mean, that he rescued men from the servitude of the Mosaic law, which restrained them within the bounds of duty only by the fear of death, which it proposed in cases of weightier transgressions.

16 For nowhere doth he take hold of the angels: but of the seed of Abraham he taketh hold.

For, in truth, it was not the angels, who were by nature immortal, that he came to rescue, but mortal men of the seed of Abraham, the spiritual Father of the redeemed generation.

According to the interpretation in Paraphrase, this verse is connected with verse 15: he rescued “those who were through fear of death all their lifetime,” &c.; for, it was not the angels, who, being immortal, were not afraid of death, and required not to be ransomed, that he grasped and dragged forth from their servitude, and asserted into liberty. The Greek word for “take hold of,” επιλαμβανεται, means, to seize hold of, and drag back, one flying from us. This is the interpretation of the verse that accords best with the following. Others connect this verse with verse 14, thus: “he also in like manner hath been partaker of the same” … for it was not the angelic nature he assumed to an hypostatic union, but human nature of the seed of Abraham. This is the interpretation more commonly given of this verse. The interpretation adopted in the Paraphrase seems, however, preferable; both because it is the natural meaning of the verb, “take hold of,” and because it accords better with the following verse; moreover, the latter interpretation would appear a useless repetition of the words—verse 15—“he also in like manner hath been partaker of the same,” which clearly express that he assumed human nature, the nature of his “children.”

17 Wherefore, it behoved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest before God, that he might be a propitiation for the sins of the people.

Hence, as Christ came to redeem, not angels, but mankind, and came to sanctify them, as high priest, it was meet he should become like them, who in his assumed nature, were his brethren, in all their infirmities not unbecoming his dignity, infirm, mortal, and passible, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the affairs appertaining to God, his fidelity as a high priest consisting in expiating for our sins, and propitiating God for them.

As Christ, then, came to redeem and sanctify mankind; it was meet that he should become like them in all their infirmities, not unsuited to his dignity and infinite sanctity, i.e., become weak, passible, mortal; this assimilation in these respects being necessary, in order that he might he adorned with the two great qualities of a high priest, viz., fidelity, consisting in his satisfying for sin, of which he would be incapable, if he had not a passible nature;

18 For in that wherein he himself hath suffered and been tempted he is able to succour them also that are tempted.

And his mercy in this, that by suffering and being tempted himself, he becomes more fit and inclined to carry aid, and show compassion to those who are themselves tempted and afflicted.

And mercy, which he is the better fitted to exercise, by having suffered himself; for, the circumstance of his own possibility, and of his experimentally becoming acquainted with the miseries of his people, and of his participation in them, will serve to render the pontiff who sanctifies, more apt to compassionate, and will add energy and force (“he is able”) to his exertions for their relief.

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