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The Melchisedec-priesthood of Christ. - Christ can be a priest without Aaronic descent, and his priesthood is of a higher and older type than the Levitical.
1. For this Melchisedec, etc. See Gen. xiv. 18-20; Psalm 110.
2. First being by interpretation King of righteousness (prwton men ermhneuomenov basileuv dikaiosunhv). The first designation is the literal interpretation of the Hebrew name. Being interpreted belongs only to this designation. So Joseph Ant. i., x., ii. shmainei de touto basileuv dikaiov "and this (the name Melchisedec) signifies righteous king." And after that also (epeita de kai). Then follows a designation derived from his character, king of peace. Supply being; not being interpreted. Salem. Commonly regarded as the site of Jerusalem. It has also been supposed to represent Saleim Salim, mentioned in John iii. 23. Jerome says that the place retained that name in his day, and that the ruins of Melchisedec's palace were shown there. 200 The ancient name of Jerusalem was Jebus. Others, again, suppose that Salem is not the name of a place, but is merely the appellation of Melchisedec. The passage in Genesis, however, points to a place, and the writer might naturally have desired to indicate the typical meaning of the city over which Melchisedec reigned.
3. Without father, without mother, without descent (ajpatwr, ajmhtwr, ajgenealoghtov). The three adjectives N.T.o , o LXX. The meaning is that there is no record concerning his parentage. This is significant as indicating a different type of priesthood from the Levitical, in which genealogy was of prime importance. No man might exercise priestly functions who was not of the lineage of Aaron.
But made like unto the Son of God (afwmoiwmenov de tw uiw tou qeou). The verb N.T.o . Made like or likened, not like. "The resemblance lies in the Biblical representation, and not primarily in Melchisedec himself" (Westcott). Son of God, not Son of man, for the likeness to Jesus as Son of man would not hold; Jesus, as man, having had both birth and death. The words likened unto the Son of God stand independently. Not to be connected with the following sentence, so as to read abideth a priest continually like the Son of God; for, as a priest, Melchisedec, chronologically, was prior to Christ; and, therefore, it is not likeness with respect to priesthood that is asserted. The likeness is in respect to the things just predicated of Melchisedec. Christ as Son of God was without father, mother, beginning or end of days; and, in these points, Melchisedec is likened in Scripture to him.
Abideth a priest continually (menei iereuv eiv to dihnekev). Dihnekhv from diaferein to bear through; born on through ages, continuous. Only in Hebrews. There is no historical account of the termination of Melchisedec's priesthood. The tenure of his office is uninterrupted. The emphasis is on the eternal duration of the ideal priesthood, and the writer explains the Psalm as asserting eternal duration as the mark of the Melchisedec order. Accordingly, he presents the following characteristics of the ideal priesthood: royal, righteous, peace-promoting, personal and not inherited, eternal. Comp. Isa. ix. 6, 7; iv. 10; xxxii. 17; liii. 7. It is, of course, evident to the most superficial reader that such exposition of O.T. scripture is entirely artificial, and that it amounts to nothing as proof of the writer's position. Melchisedec is not shown to be an eternal high priest because his death-record is lost; nor to be properly likened unto the Son of God because there is no notice of his birth and parentage.
4. The superiority of the Melchisedec priesthood to the Levitical. Consider (qewreite). Only here in Hebrews and o P. Except this passage, confined to the Synoptic Gospels, Acts, and Johannine writings. See on Luke x. 18; John i. 18.
How great (phlikov). Only here and Gal. vi. 11.
The patriarch (o patriarchv). Only here and in Acts.
The tenth (dekathn). Properly an adjective, but used as a noun for tithe. Only in Hebrews, as is the kindred verb dekatoun to impose or take tithes. jApodekatoin to exact tithes, Heb. vii. 5. Comp. Matt. xxiii. 23; Luke xi. 42.
Of the spoils (ek twn akroqiniwn). The noun N.T.o , from arkon topmost point, and qiv a heap. The top of the pile: the "pick" of the spoil.
5. If Melchisedec was greater than Abraham, he was greater than Abraham's descendants, including the tribe of Levi.
They that are of the sons of Levi who receive, etc. (oi ek twn uiwn Leuei lambanontev). Those out of the sons of Levi who become priests. Not those who receive the priesthood from the sons of Levi. Not all Levites were priests, but only those of the house of Aaron.
To take tithes (apodekatoin). See on ver. 4.
That is of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham. The people, the brethren of the Levites, are descended from their common ancestor, Abraham, yet the Levites exact tithes from them.
6. But he whose descent is not counted from them (o de mh genealogoumenov ex autwn). Lit. he who is not genealogically derived from them: Melchisedec. The verb N.T.o .
Received tithes of Abraham. Melchisedec, who has no part in the Levitical genealogy, and therefore no legal right to exact tithes, took tithes from the patriarch himself. Hence he was greater than Abraham. The right of the Levitical priest to receive tithes was only a legal right, conferred by special statute, and therefore implied no intrinsic superiority to his brethren; but Melchisedec, though having no legal right, received tithes from Abraham as a voluntary gift, which implied Abraham's recognition of his personal greatness.
And hath blessed him that had the promises. Melchisedec accepted the position accorded to him by Abraham's gift of tithes by bestowing on Abraham his blessing, and Abraham recognized his superiority by accepting his blessing. He who had received the divine promises might have been supposed to be above being blessed by any man. The significance of this acceptance is brought out in the next verse.
7. Without all contradiction (cwriv pashv antilogiav). Asserting a principle which no one thinks of questioning: it is the less who is blessed, and the greater who blesses.
8. Here (wde). In the Levitical economy.
But there (ekei de). In the case of Melchisedec.
(He receiveth them of whom) it is witnessed that he liveth (marturoumenov oti zh). The Greek is very condensed: being attested that he liveth. The A.V. fills it out correctly. Melchisedec does not appear in Scripture as one who dies, and whose office passes to another. See on abideth continually, ver. 3.
9. Levi himself, in the person of Abraham, was tithed by Melchisedec. As I may say (wv epov eipein). = so to speak. N.T.o . o LXX. Introducing an unusual statement, or one which may appear paradoxical or startling to the reader, as this statement certainly is, to a modern reader at least. In Abraham (di Abraam). Lit. through Abraham.
10. In the loins of his father (en th osfui tou patrov). His own father; not of Abraham.
When Melchisedec met him. In the person of Abraham. The whole Jewish law, its ordinances and priesthood, are regarded as potentially in Abraham. When Abraham paid tithes, Levi paid tithes. When Abraham was blessed, Israel was blessed. It is a kind of reasoning which would appeal to Hebrews, who so strongly emphasized the solidarity of their race. Comp. Rom. ix. 4, 5.
11. In Christ, as the Melchisedec-priest, the ideal of the priesthood is realized.
Perfection (teleiwsiv). Only here and Luke i. 45. The act or process of consummating. By this word is signified the establishment of a perfect fellowship between God and the worshipper. See ch. ix. 9; x. 1.
What further need (tiv eti creia). Eti after that, assuming that there was perfection through the Levitical priesthood.
Another priest (eteron ierea). Not merely another, but a different kind of priest. See on Matt. vi. 24.
Should rise (anistasqai). In Hebrews only here and ver. 15, both times in connection with priest.
12. Being changed (metatiqemenhv). Or transferred to another order. See on Gal. i. 6.
A change (metaqesiv). A transfer to a new basis. Only in Hebrews. See ch. xi. 5; xii. 27. The inferiority of the Levitical priesthood is inferred from the fact that another priesthood was promised. If perfection was possible at all under the Mosaic economy, it must come through the Levitical priesthood, since that priesthood was, in a sense, the basis of the law. The whole legal system centered in it. The fundamental idea of the law was that of a people united with God. Sin, the obstacle to this ideal union, was dealt with through the priesthood. If the law failed to effect complete fellowship with God, the priesthood was shown to be a failure, and must be abolished; and the change of the priesthood involved the abolition of the entire legal system.
13. As the law prescribed that the priesthood should be of the order of Aaron, a new priesthood, not of that order, must set aside the law. Pertaineth to another tribe (fulhv eterav meteschken). Lit. hath partaken of another tribe. Not only another, but a different tribe; one not specially set apart to sacerdotal service.
Of which no man gave attendance at the altar (af hv oudeiv proseschken tw qusiasthriw). Prosecein originally to bring to; bring the mind to; attend to. See on ch. ii. 1. qusiasthrion altar, o Class. Strictly an altar for the sacrifice of victims; but used of the altar of incense, Luke i. 11; Apoc. viii. 3; comp. Exod. xxx. 1. See on Acts xvii. 23. It was also used of the enclosure in which the altar stood. See Ignat. Eph. v; Trall. vii. See Lightfoot's interesting note, Ignatius and Polycarp, Vol. ii., p. 43.
14. Evident (prodhlon). Obvious. See on 1 Tim. v. 24.
Sprang (anatetalken). Rend. hath sprung. In N.T. always of the rising of a heavenly body, sun or star, except Luke xii. 54, of a cloud, and here. See LXX, Gen. xxxii. 31; Exod. xxii. 3; Num. xxiv. 17; Judg. ix. 33; Isaiah xiv. 12; xl. 1; Mal. iv. 2. Also of the springing up of plants, Gen. ii. 5; iii. 18; Deut. xxix. 23; of the growing of the beard, 2 Sam. x. 5.
15. Evident (katadhlon). N.T.o . Thoroughly evident. Not referring to that which is declared to be prodhlon evident in ver. 14, viz., that Christ sprang out of Judah, but to the general proposition - the unsatisfactory character of the Levitical priesthood.
Similitude (omiothta). Better, likeness: answering to made like, ver. 3, and emphasizing the personal resemblance to Melchisedec.
16. The law of a carnal commandment (nomon entolhv sarkinhv). The phrase N.T.o . Nomon the norm or standard, as Rom. vii. 21, 23. Entolhv, the specific precept of the Mosaic law regarding Levitical priests. Comp. Eph. ii. 15. Sarkinhv fleshly, indicates that the conditions of the Levitical priesthood had reference to the body. Fitness for office was determined largely by physical considerations. The priest must be of proper descent, without bodily blemish, ceremonially pure. See ch. ix. 1-5, 10, and comp. Rom. viii. 3. Such a priesthood cannot be eternal. After the power of an endless life (kata duanamin akatalutou). Dunamin inherent virtue. Rend. for endless, indissoluble. Comp. kataluqh loosened down, of a tent, 2 Cor. v. 1; of the stones of the temple, Matt. xxiv. 2. Jesus was high priest in virtue of the energy of indissoluble life which dwelt in him, unlike the priests who die, ver. 8. This truth the writer finds in the Psalm 18, 19. The structure of the passage is as follows: The two verses contain a proposition in two parts. The verb ginetai is or comes to pass is common to both parts. jOuden-oJ nomov is parenthetical. Rend. "for there is a disannulling of a foregoing commandment, because of its weakness and unprofitableness (for the law made nothing perfect), and the bringing in thereupon of a better hope through which we draw nigh unto God."
18. There is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before (aqethsiv men gar ginetai proagoushv entolhv). Verily is superfluous. jAqethsiv only here and ch. ix. 26; a very few times in LXX: The fundamental idea is the doing away of something established (qeton). The verb ajqetein to make void, do away with, is common in N.T. and in LXX, where it represents fifteen different Hebrew words, meaning to deal falsely, to make merchandise of, to abhor, to transgress, to rebel, to break an oath, etc. The noun, in a technical, legal sense, is found in a number of papyri from 98 to 271 A.D., meaning the making void of a document. It appears in the formula eijv ajqithsin kai ajkurwsin for annulling and canceling. Proagoushv ejntolhv rend. of a foregoing commandment. The expression is indefinite, applying to any commandment which might be superseded, although the commandment in ver. 16 is probably in the writer's mind. Foregoing, not emphasizing mere precedence in time, but rather the preliminary character of the commandment as destined to be done away by a later ordinance. With foregoing comp. 1 Tim. i. 18; v. 24.
For the weakness and unprofitableness thereof (dia to authv asqenev kai anwfelev). Rend. "because of its weakness and unprofitableness." It could not bring men into close fellowship with God. See Rom. v. 20; viii. 3; Gal. iii. 21. jAnwfelhv unprofitable, only here and Tit. iii. 9.
19. For the law made nothing perfect (ouden gar eteleiwsen o nomov). Parenthetical. The A.V. overlooks the parenthesis, ignores the connection of bringing in with disannulling, translates de but instead of and, and supplies did; thus making an opposition between the law which made nothing perfect and the bringing in of a better hope, which did make something perfect. What the writer means to say is that, according to the Psalm, there takes place, on the one hand, a disannulling of the preliminary commandment because it was weak and unprofitable, unable to perfect anything, and on the other hand, the introduction of a better hope. The bringing in of a better hope (epeisagwgh kreittonov elpidov). EpeisagwghN.T.o , o LXX, is "a bringing in upon" (epi), upon the ground formerly occupied by the commandment. So Rev., correctly, "a bringing in thereupon." For kpeittwn better, see on ch. i. 4. The comparison is not between the hope conveyed by the commandment, and the better hope introduced by the gospel, but between the commandment which was characteristic of the law (Eph. ii. 15) and the hope which characterized the gospel (Rom. v. 2-5; viii. 24).
By the which we draw nigh to God (di hv eggizomen tw qew). Giving the reason why the hope is better. Christianity is the religion of good hope because by it men first enter into intimate fellowship with God. The old priesthood could not effect this.
20-24. A third argument to show the inferiority of the old priesthood. It is twofold:
(a) the new priesthood was established with the oath of God;
(b) it is held perpetually by one person, in contrast with the old priesthood which was administered by a succession of priests.
20. Not without an oath (ou cwriv orkwmosiav). The A.V. is, on the whole, better than Rev. by inserting he was made priest. JOrkwmosia only in Hebrews. In LXX see Ezek. xvii. 18; 1 Esdr. ix. 93. For an oath rend. the taking of an oath.
21. For those priests were made (oi men gar-eisin iereiv gegonotev). Rend. for they have been made priests. Lit. are priests, having become such.
But this with an oath (o de meta orkwmosiav). Rend. but he with the taking of an oath. The taking of the oath accompanied (meta) the inauguration into the priesthood.
That said (legontov). Better, saith. Still says, since the promise is realized in Christ's priesthood.
22. Was Jesus made a surety of a better testament (kreittonov diaqhkhv gegonen egguov Ihsouv). Egguov surety, N.T.o . Comp. Sir. xxix. 15, 16; 2 Macc. x. 28. Occasionally in Class., where also occur ejgguan to give as a pledge, ejgguh surety, ejgguhsiv giving in surety, ejgguhthv one who gives security, and ejgghtov plighted, always of a wife. The idea underlying all these words is that of putting something into one's hand (ejn in gualon hollow of the hand) as a pledge. For testament rend. covenant and see on ch. ix. 16. The thought of a covenant is introduced for the first time, and foreshadows ch. viii. 6-13. It adds to the thought of the inferiority of the Levitical priesthood that of the inferiority of the dispensation which it represented.
Because they were not suffered to continue (dia to kwluesqai paramenein). Rend. because they are hindered from continuing. Paramenein "to abide by their ministration."
24. Hath an unchangeable priesthood (aparabaton ecei thn ierwsunhn). Rend. hath his priesthood unchangeable. The A.V. misses the possessive force of the article, his priesthood, and the emphasis is on unchangeable ajparabatov, N.T.o . o LXX. This may be explained either as inviolable, or which does not pass over to another. Comp. Exod. xxxii. 8; Sir. xxiii. 18. Usage is in favor of the former meaning, but the other falls in better with the course of thought.
Come unto God (prosercomenouv tw qew). The verb o P., and in this sense only in Hebrews and 1 Pet. ii. 4. See a peculiar usage in 1 Timothy vi. 3. Comp. ejggizein to draw near, Jas. iv. 8; Heb. vii. 19. To make intercession for them (eiv to entugcanein uper autwn). The verb only here in Hebrews. Comp.uJperentugcanein, Rom. viii. 26, see note. See also on ejnteuxeiv supplications, 1 Tim. ii. 1. The idea is not intercession, but intervention. It includes every form of Christ's identifying himself with human interests. 201 The attempt has been made to trace this idea to Philo, who alludes to the logov iJkethv the supplicant Logos, and the logov paraklhtov the advocate-Logos. But the Logos is not treated by Philo as a divine-human personality intervening for men, but as a poetical personification allegorically considered. In one instance the suppliant Logos is the cry of the oppressed Israelites; in another, Moses, as the allegorical representative of the universal reason of mankind. It represents certain functions of human reason and speech. Again, the suppliant is. the visible Cosmos striving to realize its ideal.
26-28. Sketch of the ideal priest.
Harmless (akakov). Rend. guileless. Free from malice and craft. Only here and Rom. xvi. 18. Undefiled (amiantov), see on 1 Pet. i. 4. Separate (kecwrismenov). Rend. separated: denoting a condition realized in Christ's exaltation. Comp. Rom. vi. 10.
27. Who needeth not daily (kaq' hJmeran). Apparently inconsistent with ch. ix. 7, but the sense is, "who hath no need day by day as the high priest had (year by year) to offer sacrifices," etc. The great point is repetition, whether daily or yearly. 202 Once (efapax). Rend. once for all. Contrasted with daily.
28. Summarizing the contents of vers. 26, 27. - The law constitutes weak men high priests. God's sworn declaration constitutes a son, perfected forevermore. jAnqrwpouv men, many in number as contrasted with one Son. Econtav ajsqeneian having infirmity, stronger than ajsqeneiv weak, which might imply only special exhibitions of weakness, while having infirmity indicates a general characteristic. See on John xvi. 22. A son. Again the high-priesthood is bound up with sonship, as in ch. v. 5, 6.