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Some difficulty attaches to the first three verses, because the writer combines two thoughts: his own intention to proceed from elementary to more advanced teachings, and his readers' advance to that higher grade of spiritual receptiveness on which the effectiveness of his teaching must depend. The mistake in interpretation has been in insisting that the three verses treat only the one or the other thought. Observe that dio wherefore is connected with the rebuke in ch. v. 11, 12; and that that rebuke is directly connected with the announcement of the doctrine of the Melchisedec priesthood of Christ. The course of thought is as follows: Christ is a priest after the order of Melchisedec (ch. v. 10). There is much to be said on this subject, and it is hard to explain, because you have become dull, and need elementary teaching, whereas, by reason of your long Christian standing, you ought to be teachers yourselves (ch. v. 11, 12). For you all recognize the principle that baby-food is for babes, and solid food only for men, whose powers have been trained by habitual exercise (ch. v. 13, 14). Wherefore, in order that you may be aroused from your sluggishness and have your perceptions brought up to the matured condition which befits men in Christ, and in order that I may, at the same time, complete the development of my theme, I propose that we together move forward to completion: I to the full exposition of the subject of Christ's high-priesthood, and you to that maturity of discernment which becomes you. This will require us both to leave the rudimentary stage of teaching concerning Christ.
1. Leaving the principles of the doctrines of Christ (afentev ton thv archv tou Cristou logon). Lit. leaving the word of the beginning concerning Christ. jAfentev leaving or dismissing does not imply ceasing to believe in elementary truths or to regard them as important, but leaving them "as a builder leaves his foundation in erecting his building" (Bruce). The word of the beginning of Christ is practically = the rudiments of the beginning, ch. v. 12; that rudimentary view of Christ's person and office which unfolds into the doctrine of his priesthood. Up to this point the writer has shown only that the permanent elements of the old covenant remain and are exalted in Christ. The more difficult point, which it will require matured perception to grasp, is that Christ's priesthood involves the entire abolition of the old covenant.
Let us go on unto perfection (epi thn teleiothta ferwmeqa). Lit. let us be born on to completeness. The participial clause, leaving, etc., is related to the verbal clause as expressing a necessary accompaniment or consequence of the latter. Let us be born on to completeness, and, because of this, leave, etc. This sense is not given by the Rev. Teleiothv only here and Col. iii. 14. Rend. completeness. The completeness is viewed as pertaining to both the writer and the readers. He proposes to fully develop his theme: they are exhorted to strive for that full Christian manhood which will fit them to receive the fully-developed discussion. Not laying again the foundation (mh palin qemelion kataballomenoi). Not explanatory of leaving, etc. The following words, describing the elements of the foundation, - repentance, baptisms, etc., - simply illustrate in a general way the proposal to proceed to the exposition of the doctrine of Christ's priesthood. The illustrative proposition is that a building is not completed by lingering at the foundation; and so Christian maturity is not to be attained by going back to subjects which belong to the earliest stage of Christian instruction. He purposely selects for his illustration things which belong to the very initiation of Christian life.
Dead works (nekrwn ergwn). The phrase only in Hebrews. Comp. ch. ix. 14. Not sinful works in the ordinary sense of the term, but works without the element of life which comes through faith in the living God. There is a sharp opposition, therefore, between dead works and faith. They are contraries. This truth must be one of the very first things expounded to a Jew embracing Christianity.
2. Doctrine of baptisms (baptismwn didachn). 192 Not laying again as a foundation the teaching (didachn) of baptisms. baptismov only here, ch. ix. 10, and Mark vii. 4. The common form is baptisma. Neither word in LXX or Class. The meaning here is lustral rites in general, and may include the baptism of John and Christian baptism. The teaching would cover all such rites, their relations and comparative significance, and it would be necessary in the case of a Jewish convert to Christianity who might not perceive, for example, any difference between Jewish lustrations and Christian baptism.
Resurrection - eternal judgment. Both resurrection and future judgment were Jewish tenets requiring exposition to Jewish converts as regarded their relations to the same doctrines as taught by Christianity. The resurrection of Christ as involving the resurrection of believers would, of itself, change the whole aspect of the doctrine of resurrection as held by a Few. jAiwniou eternal certainly cannot here signify everlasting. It expresses rather a judgment which shall transcend all temporal judgments; which shall be conducted on principles different from those of earthly tribunals, and the decisions of which shall be according to the standards of the economy of a world beyond time. See additional note on 2 Thessalonians i. 9. The phrase eternal judgment N.T.o . Comp. krima to mellon the judgment to come, Acts xxiv. 25.
3. If God permit (eanper epitreph o qeov). The exact formula N.T.o . Comp. 1 Cor. xvi. 7; Acts xviii. 21. Pagan parallels are twn qewn qelontwn if the gods will; qewn ejpitrepontwn the gods permitting, and qewn boulomenwn if the gods desire. An ominous hint is conveyed that the spiritual dullness of the readers may prevent the writer from developing his theme and them from receiving his higher instruction. The issue is dependent on the power which God may impart to his teaching, but his efforts may be thwarted by the impossibility of repentance on their part. No such impossibility is imposed by God, but it may reside in a moral condition which precludes the efficient action of the agencies which work for repentance, so that God cannot permit the desired consequence to follow the word of teaching.
4. Impossible (adunaton). It is impossible to dilute this word into difficult.
Those who were once enlightened (touv apax fwtisqentav). Rend. "once for all enlightened." %Apax is frequent in the Epistle. Comp. ch. ix. 7, 26, 27, 28; x. 2; xii. 26, 27. Indicating that the enlightenment ought to have sufficed to prevent them from falling away; not that it does not admit of repetition. Enlightened, through the revelation of God in Christ, the true light, and through the power of the Spirit. Fwtizein in LXX usually to teach or instruct; see Psalm cviii. 130; 2 Kings xii. 2; xvii. 27. Comp. in N.T. John i. 9; Eph. i. 18; iii. 9; Heb. x. 32. Erasmus gives the correct explanation: "Who once for all have left the darkness of their former life, having been enlightened by the gospel teaching." There is no ground for explaining the word here of baptism, although the fathers from the time of Justin Martyr used fwtizein and fwtosmov in that sense, and this usage continued down to the Reformation. See Just. Mart. Apol. 1. 62. Chrysostom entitled his 59th Homily, addressed to candidates for baptism, prov touv mellontav fwtizesqai to those who are about to be enlightened; and justified this name for baptism by this passage and x. 32. The Peshitto translates this passage, "who have once (for all) descended to baptism." The N.T. gives no example of this usage. 193 Tasted of the heavenly gift (geusamenouv thv dwreav thv epouraniou) For geusamenouv tasted, comp. ch. ii. 9. The meaning is, have consciously partaken of. Comp. 1 Pet. ii. 3, and trwgwn eateth, John vi. 56. The heavenly gift is the Holy Spirit. It is true that this is distinctly specified in the next clause, but the two clauses belong together. Partakers of the Holy Ghost (metocouv pneumatov agiou). "Heavenly gift" emphasizes the heavenly quality of the gift. The Holy Ghost is the gift itself which possesses the heavenly quality.
5. The good word of God (kalon qeou rhma). The gospel of Christ as preached. Comp. ch. ii. 3. To the word are attached life (Acts v. 20); spirit and life (John vi. 63); salvation (Acts xi. 14); cleansing (Eph. v. 26); especially the impartation of the Spirit (John 3;34; Acts v. 32; x. 44; Eph. vi. 17; Heb. ii. 4).
Powers of the world to come (dunameiv mellontov aiwnov). Not foretastes of heavenly bliss. The world to come is the world of men under the new order which is to enter with the fulfillment of Christ's work. See on these last days, ch. i. 2. These powers are characteristic of that period, and in so far as that dispensation is inaugurated here and now, they assert and manifest themselves.
Seeing they crucify to themselves - afresh (anastaurountav eautoiv). In the Roman classical use of the word, ajna has only the meaning up: to nail up on the cross. Here in the sense of anew, an idea for which classical writers had no occasion in connection with crucifying. 195 Eautoiv for themselves. So that Christ is no more available for them. They declare that Christ's crucifixion has not the meaning or the virtue which they formerly attached to it.
The Son of God. Marking the enormity of the offense.
Put him to an open shame (paradeigmatizontav). N.T.o . Rarely in LXX. Comp. Num. xxv. 4, hang them up. From para beside, deiknunai to show or point out. To put something alongside of a thing by way of commending it to imitation or avoidance. To make an example of; thence to expose to public disgrace. Deigma example, only Jude 7. Deigmatizein to make a public show or example, Matt. i. 19; Col. ii. 15. See additional note at the end of this chapter.
7. The inevitableness of the punishment illustrated by a familiar fact of nature.
Herbs (botanhn). Grass, fodder. N.T.o .
Meet for them by whom it is dressed (euqeton ekeinoiv di ouv kai gewrgeitai). For euqeton, lit. well placed, thence fit or appropriate, see Luke ix. 62; xiv. 85. Gewrgein to till the ground, N.T.o . Rend. tilled. Dress is properly to trim. The natural result of the ground's receiving and absorbing the rains is fruitfulness, which redounds to the benefit of those who cultivate it.
8. But that which beareth thorns and briers (ekferousa de akanqav kai tribolouv). Wrong. As given in A.V. the illustration throws no light on the subject. It puts the contrast as between two kinds of soil, the one well-watered and fertile, the other unwatered and sterile. This would illustrate the contrast between those who have and those who have not enjoyed gospel privileges. On the contrary the contrast is between two classes of Christians under equally favorable conditions, out of which they develop opposite results. Rend. but if it (the ground that receives the rain) bear thorns and thistles, etc. Akanqai thorns, from ajkh a point. Tribolov, from treiv three and belov a dart; having three darts or points. A ball with sharp iron spikes, on three of which it rested, while the fourth projected upward, was called tribulus or tribolus, or caltrop. These were scattered over the ground by Roman soldiers in order to impede the enemy's cavalry. A kind of thorn or thistle, a land-caltrop, was called tribulus So Virgil,
"Subit aspera silva, Lappaeque tribulique." Georg. i. 153.
Is rejected (adokimov). Lit. unapproved. See on reprobate, Rom. i. 28. Nigh unto cursing (katarav egguv). See on Gal. iii. 10. Enhancing the idea of rejected. It is exposed to the peril of abandonment to perpetual barrenness.
Whose end is to be burned (h=v to telov eijv kausin). ´Hv whose, of which, may be referred to cursing - the end of which cursing: but better to the main subject, gh the land. Telov is consummation rather than termination. jEiv kausin, lit. unto burning. Comp. LXX, Isa. xl. 16. The consummation of the cursed land is burning. Comp. John xv. 6. The field of thorns and thistles is burned over and abandoned to barrenness. 196
We are persuaded (pepeismeqa). We are firmly convinced. The verb indicates a past hesitation overcome.
Better things (ta kreissona). The article gives a collective force, the better state of things, the going on unto perfection (ver. 1). For kreissona better, see on ch. i. 4.
That accompany salvation (ecomena swthriav). Ecesqai with a genitive is a common Greek idiom meaning to hold one's self to a person or thing; hence to be closely joined to it. So in a local sense, Mark i. 38; in a temporal sense, Luke xiii. 33, next. He is persuaded that they will give heed to all things which attend the work of salvation and will enjoy all that attaches to a saved condition.
10. He is encouraged in this confidence by the fact that they are still as formerly engaged in Christian ministries.
Which ye have shewed toward his name (hv enedeixasqe eiv to onoma autou). The verb means, strictly, to show something in one's self; or to show one's self in something. similar praise is bestowed in ch. x. 32. They have shown both love and work toward God's name. That does not look like crucifying Christ. God is not unjust, as he would show himself to be if he were forgetful of this.
11. We desire (epiqumoumen). Strongly, earnestly. Comp. Matthew xiii. 17; Luke xxii. 15. The manifestations just mentioned make the writer desire that they may exhibit more of the spirit which animates their beneficent works.
Each (ekaston). He is concerned, not only for the body of believers, but for each member.
To the full assurance of hope unto the end (prov thn plhroforian thv elpidov arci telouv). That is, we desire that each of you exhibit the same diligence to develop your hope, which is in danger of failing, into full assurance, unto the end of the present season of trial with its happy consummation. Comp. Rom. viii. 24. For plhroforia see on 1 Thessalonians i. 5, and comp. Rom. iv. 21; xiv. 5. It is practically the same whether we translate full development or full assurance. The two meanings coalesce. Hope develops into full assurance.
12. Slothful (nwqroi). See on ch. v. 11. Or sluggish, as you will become if you lose hope.
Followers (mimhtai). Rend. imitators.
Faith and patience (pistewv kai makroqumiav). For patience rend. long-suffering, and see on Jas. v. 7. Faith and long-suffering go together. Faith does not win its inheritance without persevering endurance; hence long-suffering is not only presented as an independent quality, but is predicated of faith.
Inherit (klhronomountwn). Notice the present participle, are inheriting. Their present faith and perseverance are now making for their final inheritance. Comp. Eph. i. 14.
13. Illustration of the long-suffering of faith by the example of Abraham. The necessity for emphasizing this element of faith lay in the growing discouragement of the Jewish Christians at the long delay of Christ's second coming. Comp. ch. 11. Abraham became a sojourner in the land of the promise, looking for the heavenly city (ch. xi. 9, 10). All the instances cited in that chapter illustrate the long outlook of faith, involving patient waiting and endurance. The example of Abraham shows, first, that the promise of God is sure.
Because he could swear by no greater (epei kat oudenov eicen meizonov omosai). Lit. since he had (the power) to swear by no one greater.
14. Surely blessing I will bless thee (ei mhn eulogwn euloghsw se). Ei mhn as a formula of swearing N.T.o . In LXX, see Num. xiv. 23, 28, 35; Isa. xlv. 23; Ezek. xxxiii. 27; xxxiv. 8. Blessing I will bless is a Hebraism, emphasizing the idea contained in the verb. Comp. LXX, Gen. xxii. 17; Num. xxv. 10; Deut. xv. 4. 197
15. After he had patiently endured (makroqumhsav). Pointing back to makroqumia long-suffering, ver. 12.
He obtained (epetucen). The compounded preposition ejpi has the force of upon: to light or hit upon. The verb indicates that Abraham did not personally receive the entire fulfillment of the promise, but only the germ of its fulfillment. It was partially fulfilled in the birth of Isaac. See Romans iv. 18.
16. And an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife (kai pashv autoiv antilogiavperav eiv bebaiwn o orkov). FOR "an oath," rend. "the oath": generic. Const. for confirmation with end. "The oath is final for confirmation." Perav is the outermost point; the point beyond which one cannot go. With this exception always in N.T. in the plural, of the ends of the earth. See Matt. xii. 42; Rom. x. 18. So often in LXX. jAntilogia, strictly contradiction, only in Hebrews and Jude 11, on which see note.
Confirmed (emestteusen). Rend. interposed or mediated. Comp. mesithv mediator. From mesov midst. Placed himself between himself and the heritors of the promise.
18. Two immutable things (duo pragmatwn ametaqetwn). His word and his oath.
Strong consolation (iscuran paraklhsin). jIscirov strong implies indwelling strength embodied or put forth either aggressively or as an obstacle to resistance; as an army or a fortress. For consolation rend. encouragement, and see on Luke vi. 24; 1 Cor. xiv. 3.
Who have fled for refuge (oi katafugontev). Only here and Acts xiv. 6. The compound verb is well rendered by A.V., since, as distinguished from the simple feugein to flee, it expresses flight to a definite place or person for safety. Hence often used in connection with an altar or a sanctuary. The distinction between the simple and the compound verb is illustrated in Hdt. iv. 23, where, speaking of the barbarous tribe of the Iyrcae, he says, "Whoever flees (feugwn) and betakes himself for refuge (katafugh) to them, receives wrong from no one." So Xen., Hellen. 1, 6, xvi. "Conon fled (efeuge) in swift vessels, and betakes himself for refuge (katafeugei) to Mitylene."
To lay hold upon the hope set before us (krathsai thv prokeimenhv). For krathsai to lay fast hold, see on Mark vii. 3; Acts iii. 11; Col. ii. 19. Prokeimenhv lying before or set before; destined or appointed. Mostly in Hebrews. Comp. 2 Cor. viii. 12; Jude 7. 198
19. An anchor of the soul (agkuran thv yuchv). The same figure is implied 1 Tim. i. 19.
Sure and steadfast (asfalh te kai bebaian). The distinction between the two adjectives expresses the relation of the same object to different tests applied from without. jAsfalh, not, sfallein to make totter, and so to baffle or foil. Hence, secure against all attempts to break the hold. Bebaian sustaining one's steps in going (bainen to go): not breaking down under what steps upon it.
Which entereth into that within the veil (eisercomenhn eiv to eswteron tou katapetasmatov). Const. the participle eijsercomenhn entering with anchor. jEswteron only here and Acts xvi. 24. Comparative, of something farther within. So ejswteran fulakhn "the inner prison," Acts xvi. 24. Katapetasma veil, o Class. Commonly in N.T. of the veil of the temple or tabernacle. See Matt. xxvii. 51; Heb. ix. 3. That within the veil is the unseen, eternal reality of the heavenly world. 199 Two figures are combined:
(b) The present life the forecourt of the temple; the future blessedness the shrine within the veil. The soul, as a tempest-tossed ship, is held by the anchor: the soul in the outer court of the temple is fastened by faith to the blessed reality within the shrine.
20. Whither the forerunner is for us entered (opou prodromov uper hmwn ieshlqen). %Opou, strictly where, instead of opoi whither (not in N.T.), but more significant as indicating an abiding there. Prodromov forerunner, N.T.o . It expresses an entirely new idea, lying completely outside of the Levitical system. The Levitical high priest did not enter the sanctuary as a forerunner, but only as the people's representative. He entered a place into which none might follow him; in the people's stead, and not as their pioneer. The peculiarity of the new economy is that Christ as high priest goes nowhere where his people cannot follow him. He introduces man into full fellowship with God. The A.V. entirely misses this point by rendering "the forerunner," as if the idea of a high priest being a forerunner were perfectly familiar. Rend. whither as a forerunner Jesus entered. Comp. ch. x. 19.
ADDITIONAL NOTE ON VERSES 4-6.
The passage has created much discussion and much distress, as appearing to teach the impossibility of restoration after a moral and spiritual lapse. It is to be observed:
(1) That the case stated is that of persons who once knew, loved, and believed Christian truth, and who experienced the saving, animating, and enlightening energy of the Holy Spirit, and who lapsed into indifference and unbelief.
(2) The questions whether it is possible for those who have once experienced the power of the gospel to fall away and be lost, and whether, supposing a lapse possible, those who fall away can ever be restored by repentance - do not belong here. The possibility of a fall is clearly assumed.
(5) The writer does not touch the question of the possibility of God's renewing such to repentance. He merely puts his own hypothetical case, and says that, in the nature of such a case, the ordinary considerations and means which are applied to induce men to embrace the gospel no longer appeal to the subjects supposed. He contemplates nothing beyond such agencies, and asserts that these are powerless because the man has brought himself into a condition where they can no longer exert any power.
Whether God will ever reclaim by ways of his own is a point which is not even touched. Destruction of the faculty of spiritual discernment is the natural outcome of deliberate and persistent sin, and the instrument of its punishment. Note, "renew unto repentance." God promises pardon on penitence, but not penitence on sin. See a powerful passage in Coleridge's Moral and Religious Aphorisms, Amer. ed., Vol. I., p. 191.