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The doctrine of the high-priesthood of Christ.
The Hebrew Christians were not familiar with Christ under the aspect of a high priest. They did not understand the application of the title and office to him. They could not infer it from his early life, since he was not of the lineage of Aaron, nor from his ministry, since he claimed no special privilege of access to the temple, performed no priestly functions, and contradicted the whole Jewish conception of the priesthood.
Is ordained (kaqistatai). Constituted priest. See on Tit. i. 5.
That he may offer (ina prosferh).Prosferein, lit. to bring to (the altar). Comp. Matt. v. 23. o P., who, however, has the kindred noun prosfora offering. Very often in LXX; nineteen times in Hebrews, and always, with one exception (ch. xii. 7), in the technical sense, as here. Gifts - sacrifices (dwra-qusiav). Dwra offerings generally:qusiav bloody sacrifices. The distinction, however, is not constantly observed. Thus, qusiai, of unbloody offerings, Gen. iv. 3, 5; Lev. ii. 1; Num. v. 15: dwra, of bloody offerings, Gen. iv. 4; Lev. i. 2, 3, 10.
2. Have compassion (metiopaqein). N.T.o . o LXX. o Class. Originally of the rational regulation of the natural passions, as opposed to the Stoic ajpaqeia, which involved the crushing out of the passions. Often, in later Greek, of moderating anger. It is not identical with sunpaqhsai(ch. iv. 5), but signifies to be moderate or tender in judgment toward another's errors. Here it denotes a state of feeling toward the ignorant and erring which is neither too severe nor too tolerant. The high priest must not be betrayed into irritation at sin and ignorance, neither must he be weakly indulgent. The ignorant (toiv agnoousi). Comp. ajgnohmatwn ignorances, ch. ix. 7, and Num. xv. 22-31, where the distinction is drawn between sins of ignorance and sins of presumption. Atonement for sins of ignorance was required by the Levitical law as a means of educating the moral perception, and of showing that sin and defilement might exist unsuspected: that God saw evil where men did not, and that his test of purity was stricter than theirs.
For that he himself also is compassed with infirmity (epei kai autov perikeitai asqeneian). Sympathy belongs to the high-priestly office, and grows out of the sense of personal infirmity. The verb is graphic: has infirmity lying round him. Comp. ch. xii. 1, of the encompassing (perikeimenon) cloud of witnesses. jAsqeneian the moral weakness which makes men capable of sin. This is denied in the case of Christ. See ch. vii. 28.
3. He ought (ofeilei). It is his duty, growing out of the fact of his own infirmity.
4. The high priest must be divinely called. One thus compassed with infirmity would shrink from such an office unless called to it by God. He that is called (kaloumenov). The A.V. follows T.R.,oJ kaloumenov. The article should be omitted. Rend. but being called by God (he taketh it), as did Aaron.
But he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, etc. Supply glorified him. He did not glorify himself, but God who styled him "son" glorified him. Thou art my Son is introduced thus in close connection with the call to the priesthood, in recognition of the fact that the priesthood of Christ had its basis in his sonship. "Christ's priestly vocation ceases to be an accident in his history, and becomes an essential characteristic of his position as Son: sonship, christhood, priestliness, inseparably interwoven" (Bruce).
6. Thou art a priest forever, etc. According to this verse Christ is prophetically pointed out in Psalm 110 as an eternal priest, independent of fleshly descent, a king, and superior in dignity to the Levitical priests. According to the order (kata thn taxin). According to the rank which Melchisedec held. Almost = like. For Melchisedec see ch. 7.
Who (ov). Nominative to emaqen learned, ver. 8, to which all the participles are preparatory.
In the days of his flesh (en taiv hmeraiv thv sarkov autou). During his mortal life.
When he had offered up prayers and supplications (dehseiv te kai ikethriav prosenegkav). Dehseiv special, definite requests:iJkethriav, N.T.o , is properly an adjective, pertaining to or fit for suppliants, with rJabdouv staves or ejlaiav olive-branches understood. The olive-branch bound round with wool was held forth by a suppliant in token of his character as such. The phrase prosfrein N.T.o . 187 Unto him that was able to save him from death (prov ton dunamenon swzein auton ek qanatou). Const. with prayers and supplications, not with offered. To save him from death may mean to deliver him from the fear of death, from the anguish of death, or from remaining a prey to death. In either case, the statement connects itself with the thought of Christ's real humanity. He was under the pressure of a sore human need which required divine help, thus showing that he was like unto his brethren. He appealed to one who could answer his prayer. The purport of the prayer is not stated. It is at least suggested by Matt. xxvi. 39. And was heard in that he feared (kai eisakouseiv apo thv eulabeiav). Rend. was heard on account of his godly fear. jEulabeia only here and ch. xii. 28. The verb eujlabeisqai to act cautiously, beware, fear, only ch. xi. 7. The image in the word is that of a cautious taking hold (lambanein) and careful and respectful handling: hence piety of a devout and circumspect character, as that of Christ, who in his prayer took account of all things, not only his own desire, but his Father's will. Eulabeia is ascribed to Christ as a human trait, see ch. xii. 28. He was heard, for his prayer was answered, whatever it may have been. God was able to save him from death altogether. He did not do this. He was able to sustain him under the anguish of death, and to give him strength to suffer the Father's will: he was also able to deliver him from death by resurrection: both these he did. It is not impossible that both these may be combined in the statement he was heard. 188
8. Though he were a Son (kaiper wn uiov). For were rend. was. His training for the priesthood involved suffering, even though he was a son. Connect with emaqen learned, not with the preceding clause, which would mean that his position as a son did not exempt him from the obligation to godly fear, which is true as a fact (see ver. 7), but is not the point of emphasis here.
Learned he obedience (emaqen thn upakohn). Omit he, since the subject of emaqen learned is ov who, ver. 7. Jesus did not have to learn to obey, see John viii. 29; but he required the special discipline of a severe human experience as a training for his office as a high priest who could be touched with the feeling of human infirmities. He did not need to be disciplined out of any inclination to disobedience; but, as Alford puts it, "the special course of submission by which he became perfected as our high priest was gone through in time, and was a matter of acquirement and practice." This is no more strange than his growth in wisdom, Luke ii. 52. Growth in experience was an essential part of his humanity.
By the things which he suffered (af wn epaqen). Or from the things, etc. Note the word-play, emaqen epaqen. So Croesus, addressing Cyrus, says, ta de moi paqhmata, ejonta ajcarista, maqhmata gegonen, "my sufferings, though painful, have proved to be lessons" (Hdt. i. 207): so Soph. Trach. 142, mht' ejkmaqoiv paqousa "mayst thou not learn by suffering."
9. And being made perfect (kai telewqeiv). Comp. ch. ii. 10. The fundamental idea in teleioun is the bringing of a person or thing to the goal fixed by God. Comp. ch. vii. 11, 19; ix. 9; x. 1, 14; xi. 40; xii. 23. Here of Christ's having reached the end which was contemplated in his divinely-appointed discipline for the priesthood. The consummation was attained in his death, Philip. ii. 8: his obedience extended even unto death.
The author of eternal salvation (aitiov swthriav aiwniou). jAitiov, N.T.o , an adjective, causing. Comp. captain of salvation, Heb. ii. 10. The phrase swthria aojwniov eternal salvation N.T.o , but see LXX, Isa. xv. 17. Not everlasting salvation, but a salvation of which all the conditions, attainments, privileges, and rewards transcend the conditions and limitations of time.
Unto all them that obey him (pasin toiv uJpkouousin aujtw). Obey points to obedience, ver. 8, and salvation to save, ver. 7. If the captain of salvation must learn obedience, so must his followers. Comp. 2 Thessalonians i. 8.
10. Called of God (prosagoreuqeiv). Rend. since he was addressed or saluted by God. God recognized and saluted him as that which he had become by passing through and completing his earthly discipline.
Prosagoeuein to address N.T.o . A few times in LXX.
11. From this point the comparison of Christ with Melchisedec would naturally be developed; but the author digresses into a complaint of the imperfect spiritual attainment of his readers, and a remonstrance and admonition extending to the end of ch. 6.
Of whom (peri ou). Rend. concerning which. Not Melchisedec, but the topic that Christ is a priest after the order of Melchisedec, a topic to which great importance is attached. Can it be imagined that the discussion of such a topic would appeal to a Gentile audience as a reason for not relapsing into paganism?
We have many things to say (poluv hmin o logov). Lit. the discourse is abundant unto us. We refers to the writer himself.
Hard to be uttered (dusermhneutov legein). Lit. hard of interpretation to speak. The A.V. entirely misses the idea of interpretation. Rev. better, hard of interpretation. Dusermhneutov N.T.o . o LXX. o Class.
Ye are dull of hearing (nwqroi gegonate taiv akoaiv). Rend. ye have grown dull in your hearing. For ajkoh hearing see on 2 Tim. iv. 3. The verb implies a deterioration on the hearers' part. Nwqroi only here and ch. vi. 12. From nh not and wjqein to push. Hence slow, sluggish. 189 Mostly in later Greek, although Plato uses it much in the same sense as here. "When they have to face study they are stupid (nwqroi) and cannot remember." Theaet. 144 B. In LXX, Prov. xxii. 29; Sir. iv. 29; xi. 12. Sometimes = low, mean, obscure. So in Proverbs, but in Sirach slack, slow.
12. When for the time ye ought to be teachers (ofeilontev einai didaskaloi dia ton cronon). Rend. for when ye ought to be teachers by reason of the time. A.V. entirely obscures the true meaning, which is that, because of the time during which the readers have been under instruction, they ought to be able to instruct others.
Again (palin). Not with teach you, as A.V., but with ye have need. The position of the word is emphatic. Again ye have need of being taught the very rudiments of divine truth which ye were taught long ago.
Which be (tina). A.V. takes the pronoun as interrogative (tina). Better indefinite as subject of didaskein teach. Rend. "ye have need that some one teach you."
The first principles of the oracles (ta, stoiceia thv ajrchv twn logiwn). Lit. the rudiments of the beginning of the oracles. The phrase stoiceia thv ajrchv N.T.o . It is = primary elements. For stoiceia see on Gal. iv. 3. logion is a diminutive, meaning strictly a brief utterance, and used both in classical and biblical Greek of divine utterances. In Class. of prose oracles. Philo uses it of the O.T. prophecies, and his treatise on the Ten Commandments is entitledperi twn deka logiwn. In LXX often generally - "the word or words of the Lord," see Num. xxiv. 16; Deut. xxxiii. 9; Psalm xi. 6; xvii. 30, etc. It was used of the sayings of Jesus, see Polycarp, Ad Phil. 7. From the time of Philo, of any sacred writing, whether discourse or narrative. Papias and Irenaeus have ta kuriaka logia dominical oracles. 190 The meaning here is the O.T. sayings, especially those pointing to Christ.
Milk (galaktov). Comp. 1 Cor. iii. 2. Answering to rudiments. Strong meat (stereav trofhv). Lit. solid meat. See on steadfast, 1 Peter v. 9. More advanced doctrinal teaching. The explanation of the Melchisedec priesthood to which the writer was about to pass involved the exhibition for the first time of the opposition of the N.T. economy of salvation to that of the old, and of the imperfection and abrogation of the O.T. priesthood. To apprehend this consequence of N.T. revelation required alert and matured minds. This is why he pauses to dwell on the sluggish mental and spiritual condition of his readers.
13. Useth (metecwn). Rend. partakes of. See on ch. i. 9; ii. 14; iii. 1, 14. Unskilful (apeirov). N.T.o . Rend. unskilled or inexperienced.
In the word of righteousness (logou dikaiosunhv). The phrase N.T.o . The genitive dikaiosunhv of righteousness is combined in N.T. with way, God, gift, instruments, servants, law, ministration, fruit and fruits, ministers, hope, breastplate, crown, king, preacher. It is a mistake to attempt to give the phrase here a concrete meaning. It signifies simply a word of normally right character. It is not = the Christian revelation, which would require the article. Probably, however, in the foreground of the writer's thought was the word spoken by the Son (ch. i. 2); the salvation which at first was spoken by the Lord (ch. ii. 3). 191 A babe (nhpiov). See on Rom. ii. 20; 1 Cor. iii. 1; Eph. iv. 14.
14. Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age (teleiwn de estin h sterea trofh). This rendering is clumsy. Rend. solid food is for full-grown men. For teleiwn full-grown, see on 1 Cor. ii. 6. Often by Paul, as here, in contrast with nhpioi immature Christians. See 1 Corinthians ii. 6; iii. 1; xiii. 11; Eph. iv. 4. Paul has the verb nhpiazein to be a child in 1 Cor. xiv. 20.
By reason of use (dia thn exin). For use rend. habitude. N.T.o . It is the condition produced by past exercise. Not the process as A.V., but the result.
Their senses (ta aisqhthria). N.T.o . Organs of perception; perceptive faculties of the mind. In LXX see Jer. iv. 19; 4 Macc. ii. 22. Exercised (gegumnasmena). See on 2 Pet. ii. 14, and 1 Tim. iv. 7. Good and evil. Not moral good and evil, but wholesome and corrupt doctrine. The implication is that the readers' condition is such as to prevent them from making this distinction.