Hebrews 7
Homilies of Chrysostom
For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;
"For this Melchisedec, King of Salem, Priest of the most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the Kings, and blessed him: to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of Righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of Peace, without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a Priest continually."

[1.] Paul wishing to show the difference between the New and Old [Covenant], scatters it everywhere; and shoots from afar, and noises it abroad, [2925] and prepares beforehand. For at once even from the introduction, he laid down this saying, that "to them indeed He spake by prophets, but to us by the Son" (c. i. 1, 2), and to them "at sundry times and in divers manners," but to us through the Son. Afterwards, having discoursed concerning the Son, who He was and what He had wrought, and given an exhortation to obey Him, lest we should suffer the same things as the Jews; and having said that He is "High Priest after the order of Melchisedec" (c. vi. 20), and having oftentimes wished to enter into [the subject of] this difference, and having used much preparatory management; and having rebuked them as weak, and again soothed and restored them to confidence; then at last he introduces the discussion on the difference [of the two dispensations] to ears in their full vigor. For he who is depressed in spirits would not be a ready hearer. And that you may understand this, hear the Scripture saying, "They hearkened not to Moses for anguish of spirit." [2926] (Exodus 6:9.) Therefore having first cleared away their despondency by many considerations, some fearful, some more gentle, he then from this point enters upon the discussion of the difference [of the dispensations].

[2.] And what does he say? "For this Melchisedec, King of Salem, Priest of the Most High God." And, what is especially noteworthy, he shows the difference to be great by the Type itself. For as I said, he continually confirms the truth from the Type, from things past, on account of the weakness of the hearers. "For" (he says) "this Melchisedec, King of Salem, Priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the Kings, and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all." Having concisely set down the whole narrative, he looked at [2927] it mystically.

And first from the name. "First" (he says) "being by interpretation King of righteousness": for Sedec means "righteousness"; and Melchi, "King": Melchisedec, "King of righteousness." Seest thou his exactness even in the names? But who is "King of righteousness," save our Lord Jesus Christ? "King of righteousness. And after that also King of Salem," from his city, "that is, King of Peace," which again is [characteristic] of Christ. For He has made us righteous, and has "made peace" for "things in Heaven and things on earth." (Colossians 1:20.) What man is "King of Righteousness and of Peace"? None, save only our Lord Jesus Christ.

[3.] He then adds another distinction, "Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a Priest continually." Since then there lay in his way [as an objection] the [words] "Thou art a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec," whereas he [Melchisedec] was dead, and was not "Priest for ever," see how he explained it mystically.

And who can say this concerning a man?' I do not assert this in fact (he says); the meaning is, we do not know when [2928] [or] what father he had, nor what mother, nor when he received his beginning, nor when he died. And what of this (one says)? For does it follow, because we do not know it, that he did not die, [or] had no parents? Thou sayest well: he both died and had parents. How then [was he] "without father, without mother"? How "having neither beginning of days nor end of life"? How? [Why] from its not being expressed. [2929] And what of this? That as this man is so, from his genealogy not being given, so is Christ from the very nature of the reality.

See the "without beginning"; see the "without end." As in case of this man, we know not either "beginning of days," or "end of life," because they have not been written; so we know [them] not in the case of Jesus, not because they have not been written, but because they do not exist. For that indeed is a type, [2930] and therefore [we say] because it is not written,' but this is the reality, [2931] and therefore [we say] because it does not exist.' For as in regard to the names also (for there "King of Righteousness" and "of Peace" are appellations, but here the reality) so these too are appellations in that case, in this the reality. How then hath He a beginning? Thou seest that the Son is "without beginning," [2932] not in respect of His not having a cause; [2933] (for this is impossible: for He has a Father, otherwise how is He Son?) but in respect of His "not having beginning or end of life."

"But made like unto the Son of God." Where is the likeness? That we know not of the one or of the other either the end or the beginning. Of the one because they are not written; of the other, because they do not exist. Here is the likeness. But if the likeness were to exist in all respects, there would no longer be type and reality; but both would be type. [Here] then just as in representations [2934] [by painting or drawing], there is somewhat that is like and somewhat that is unlike. By means of the lines indeed there is a likeness of features, [2935] but when the colors are put on, then the difference is plainly shown, both the likeness and the unlikeness.

[4.] Ver. 4. "Now consider" (saith he) "how great this man is to whom even the Patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils." [2936] Up to this point he has been applying the type: henceforward he boldly shows him [Melchisedec] to be more glorious than the Jewish realities. But if he who bears a type of Christ is so much better not merely than the priests, but even than the forefather himself of the priests, what should one say of the reality? Thou seest how super-abundantly he shows the superiority.

"Now consider" (he says) "how great this man is to whom even the Patriarch Abraham gave a tenth out of the choice portions." Spoils taken in battle are called "choice portions." [2937] And it cannot be said that he gave them to him as having a part in the war, because (he said) he met him "returning from the slaughter of the kings," for he had staid at home (he means), yet [Abraham] gave him the first-fruits of his labors.

To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:
Ver. 5. "And verily they that are of the sons of Levi who receive the office of Priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham." So great (he would say) is the superiority of the priesthood, that they who from their ancestors are of the same dignity, and have the same forefather, are yet far better than the rest. At all events they "receive tithes" from them. When then one is found, who receives tithes from these very persons, are not they indeed in the rank of laymen, and he among the Priests?

And not only this; but neither was he of the same dignity with them, but of another race: so that he would not have given tithes to a stranger unless his dignity had been great. Astonishing! What has he accomplished? He has made quite clear a greater point than those relating to faith which he treated in the Epistle to the Romans. For there indeed he declares Abraham to be the forefather both of our polity and also of the Jewish. But here he is exceeding bold against him, and shows that the uncircumcised person is far superior. How then did he show that Levi paid tithes? Abraham (he says) paid them. And how does this concern us?' It especially concerns you: for you will not contend that the Levites are superior to Abraham. (Ver. 6) "But he whose descent is not counted from them, received tithes of Abraham."

And after that he did not simply pass on, but added, "and blessed him that had the promises." Inasmuch as throughout, this was regarded with reverence, he shows that [Melchisedec] was to be reverenced more than Abraham, from the common judgment of all men. (Ver. 7) "And without all contradiction," he says, "the less is blessed of the better," i. e. in the opinion of all men it is the inferior that is blessed by the superior. So then the type of Christ is superior even to "him that had the promises."

(Ver. 8) "And here men that die receive tithes: but there he of whom it is testified that he liveth." But lest we should say, Tell us, why goest thou so far back? He says, (ver. 9) "And as I may so say" (and he did well in softening it) "Levi also who receiveth tithes payed tithes in Abraham." How? (Ver. 10) "For he was yet in his loins when Melchisedec met him," i. e. Levi was in him, although he was not yet born. And he said not the Levites but Levi.

Hast thou seen the superiority? Hast thou seen how great is the interval between Abraham and Melchisedec, who bears the type of our High Priest? And he shows that the superiority had been caused by authority, not necessity. For the one paid the tithe, which indicates the priest: the other gave the blessing, which indicates the superior. This superiority passes on also to the descendants.

In a marvelous and triumphant way he cast out the Jewish [system]. On this account he said, "Ye are become dull," (c. v. 12), because he wished to lay these foundations, that they might not start away. Such is the wisdom of Paul, first preparing them well, he so leads [2938] them into what he wishes. For the human race is hard to persuade, and needs much attention, even more than plants. Since in that case there is [only] the nature of material bodies, and earth, which yields to the hands of the husbandmen: but in this there is will, which is liable to many alterations, and now prefers this, now that. For it quickly turns to evil.

[5.] Wherefore we ought always to "guard" ourselves, lest at any time we should fall asleep. For "Lo" (it is said) "he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:4), and "Do not suffer [2939] thy foot to be moved." (Psalm 121:3.) He did not say, be not moved' but "do not thou suffer," &c. The suffering depends then on ourselves, and not on any other. For if we will stand "steadfast and unmoveable" (1 Corinthians 15:58), we shall not be shaken.

What then? Does nothing depend on God? All indeed depends on God, but not so that our free-will is hindered. If then it depend on God,' (one says), why does He blame us?' On this account I said, so that our free-will is not hindered.' It depends then on us, and on Him. For we must first choose the good; and then He leads us to His own. [2940] He does not anticipate our choice, [2941] lest our free-will should be outraged. But when we have chosen, then great is the assistance he brings to us.

How is it then that Paul says, "not of him that willeth," if it depend on ourselves also "nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." (Romans 9:16.)

In the first place, he did not introduce it as his own opinion, but inferred it from what was before him and from what had been put forward [2942] [in the discussion]. For after saying, "It is written, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" (Romans 9:15), he says, "It follows then [2943] that it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." "Thou wilt say then unto me, why doth He yet find fault?" (Romans 9:16, 19.)

And secondly the other explanation may be given, that he speaks of all as His, whose the greater part is. For it is ours to choose [2944] and to wish; but God's to complete and to bring to an end. Since therefore the greater part is of Him, he says all is of Him, speaking according to the custom of men. For so we ourselves also do. I mean for instance: we see a house well built, and we say the whole is the Architect's [doing], and yet certainly it is not all his, but the workmen's also, and the owner's, who supplies the materials, and many others', but nevertheless since he contributed the greatest share, we call the whole his. So then [it is] in this case also. Again, with respect to a number of people, where the many are, we say All are: where few, nobody. So also Paul says, "not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy."

And herein he establishes two great truths: one, that we should not be lifted up: [2945] even shouldst thou run (he would say), even shouldst thou be very earnest, do not consider that the well doing [2946] is thine own. For if thou obtain not the impulse [2947] that is from above, all is to no purpose. Nevertheless that thou wilt attain that which thou earnestly strivest after is very evident; so long as thou runnest, so long as thou willest.

He did not then assert this, that we run in vain, but that, if we think the whole to be our own, if we do not assign the greater part to God, we run in vain. For neither hath God willed that the whole should be His, lest He should appear to be crowning us without cause: nor again our's, lest we should fall away to pride. For if when we have the smaller [share], we think much of ourselves, what should we do if the whole depended on us?

[6.] Indeed God hath done away many things for the purpose of cutting away our boastfulness, and still there is the [2948] high hand. With how many afflictions hath He encompassed us, so as to cut away our proud spirit! With how many wild beasts hath He encircled us! For indeed when some say, why is this?' Of what use is this?' They utter these things against the will of God. He hath placed thee in the midst of so great fear, and yet not even so art thou lowly-minded; but if thou ever attain a little success, thou reachest to Heaven itself in pride.

For this cause [come] rapid changes and reverses; and yet not even so are we instructed. For this cause are there continual and untimely deaths, but are minded as if we were immortal, as if we should never die. We plunder, we over-reach, as though we were never to give account. We build as if we were to abide here always. And not even the word of God daily sounded into our ears, nor the events themselves instruct us. Not a day, not an hour can be mentioned, in which we may not see continual funerals. But all in vain: and nothing reaches our hardness [of heart]: nor are we even able to become better by the calamities of others; or rather, we are not willing. When we ourselves only are afflicted, then we are subdued, and yet if God take off His hand, we again lift up our hand: no one considers what is proper for man, [2949] no one despises the things on earth; no one looks to Heaven. But as swine turn their heads downwards, stooping towards their belly, wallowing in the mire; so too the great body of mankind defile themselves with the most intolerable filth, without being conscious of it.

[7.] For better were it to be defiled with unclean mud than with sins; for he who is defiled with the one, washes it off in a little time, and becomes like one who had never from the first fallen into that slough; but he who has fallen into the deep pit of sin has contracted a defilement that is not cleansed by water, but needs long time, and strict repentance, and tears and lamentations, and more wailing, and that more fervent, than we show over the dearest friends. For this defilement attaches to us from without, wherefore we also speedily put it away; but the other is generated from within, wherefore also we wash it off with difficulty, and cleanse ourselves from it. "For from the heart" (it is said) "proceed evil thoughts, fornications, adulteries, thefts, false witnesses." (Matthew 15:19.) Wherefore also the Prophet said, "Create in me a clean heart, O God." (Psalm 51:10.) And another, "Wash thine heart from wickedness, O Jerusalem." (Jeremiah 4:14.) (Thou seest that it is both our [work] and God's.) And again, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8.)

Let us become clean to the utmost of our power. Let us wipe away our sins. And how to wipe them away, the prophet teaches, saying, "Wash you, make you clean, put away your wickedness from your souls, before Mine eyes." (Isaiah 1:16.) What is "before Mine eyes"? Because some seem to be free from wickedness, but only to men, while to God they are manifest as being "whited sepulchers." Therefore He says, so put them away as I see. "Learn to do well, seek judgment, do justice for the poor and lowly." "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: and though your sins be as scarlet, I will make you white as snow, and if they be as crimson, I will make you white as wool." (Isaiah 1:17, 18.) Thou seest that we must first cleanse ourselves, and then God cleanses us. For having said first, "Wash you, make you clean," He then added "I will make you white."

Let no one then, [even] of those who are come to the extremest wickedness, despair of himself. For (He says) even if thou hast passed into the habit, yea and almost into the nature of wickedness itself, be not afraid. Therefore taking [the instance of] colors that are not superficial but almost of the substance of the materials, He said that He would bring them into the opposite state. For He did not simply say that He would "wash" us, but that He would "make" us "white, as snow and as wool," in order to hold out good hopes before us. Great then is the power of repentance, at least if it makes us as snow, and whitens us as wool, even if sin have first got possession and dyed our souls.

Let us labor earnestly then to become clean; He has enjoined nothing burdensome. "Judge the fatherless, and do justice for the widow." (Isaiah 1:17.) Thou seest everywhere how great account God makes of mercy, and of standing forward in behalf of those that are wronged. These good deeds let us pursue after, and we shall be able also, by the grace of God, to attain to the blessings to come: which may we all be counted worthy of, 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.


[2925] diakodonizei

[2926] o ligopsuchian, "faint-heartedness."

[2927] e theorese, "drew out the mystical senses."

[2928] Mr. Field reads pote, making a double question. The other editions have pote, "at all."

[2929] e mpheresthai

[2930] tupos

[2931] a letheia

[2932] a narchon

[2933] aition

[2934] eikosin. The comparison is not between the living object and the picture, but between representations in drawing and in painting; the word eikon, as our "likeness," being applicable to both. The passage is considerably altered in the common editions so as to avoid an apparent difficulty.

[2935] charakteron

[2936] "choice portions."

[2937] a krothinia

[2938] e mballei

[2939] In Psalm 121:3 (cxx. 3, LXX.) where we have "He shall not suffer," &c., the LXX. have, me does eis salon ton poda son, mede nustaxe (Vat.) ho phulasson se, "Lest thou suffer," &c., and "lest he that keepeth thee slumber." St. Chrys. substitutes dos for does, making the sense, "Do not suffer," &c., "and let not him that keepeth thee slumber." This he applies to the Christian keeping guard over himself (his words are chre pantote phulattein heautous, mepote aponustaxomen): and so he seems to have understood ver. 4 , of the Christian: that a watchman of Israel ought not to slumber or sleep. The Alex. ms. has nustaxei in the third verse.

[2940] eisagei ta par heautou, His part.

[2941] bouleseis. Those acts of the soul whereby we desire and aim at what is good.

[2942] prokeimenou ... problethentos. The former word is used by St. Chrys. to express the portion of Scripture on which he is treating: the latter is a received term in the dialectical method of the Greeks to express a proposition put forward to be argued from, to see what consequences follow from it, with a view of showing it to be untrue, or determining the sense in which it is true. St. Chrys. means to say that this proposition was only thus argumentatively inferred by St. Paul.

[2943] Ara oun

[2944] or, "purpose and will," proelesthai kai boulethenai

[2945] In the genuine text here as in some other places, there is no mention of the second point. The longer text has "one that we should not be lifted up by what we do well: the other that when we do well, we should attribute to God the cause of our well-doing. Therefore," &c. Mr. Field thinks that either the thread of the discourse is broken, and the second point not mentioned, or (which seems more probable) that it is contained in the words "Nevertheless," &c.

[2946] katorthoma

[2947] rh ope : "The inclining of the balance" ; or, "the weight which makes it turn."

[2948] Sav. and Ben. add autou, "His hand is high" ; but the reference is to our sinning "with a high hand," as appears from what follows in the next paragraph.

[2949] oudeis anthropina phronei. This is the reading also of Savile and Morell. It is supported by one ms. and the pr. m. of another: which had been corrected to oud. ourania ph., the reading of the Verona edition. Mutianus has nemo divina sapit ; and the later translator c?lestia. The other mss. have a nthropina periphronei. tapeina phronei, tapeinophronei. Montfaucon conjectured ta ano phronei

But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.
And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.
And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.
And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.
For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.
If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?
"If therefore perfection were by [2950] the Levitical priesthood; (for under it the people have received the law' [2951]) what further need was there that another priest should arise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is [2952] made of necessity a change also of the law. For He of whom these things are spoken, pertained to another tribe, of [2953] which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests." [2954]

[1.] "If therefore" (he says) "perfection were by the Levitical priesthood." Having spoken concerning Melchisedec, and shown how much superior he was to Abraham, and having set forth the great difference between them, he begins from this point forward to prove the wide difference as to the covenant itself, and how the one is imperfect and the other perfect. However he does not even yet enter on the matters themselves, but first contends on the ground of the priesthood, and the tabernacle. For these things would be more easily received by the unbelieving, when the proof was derived from things already allowed, and believed.

He had shown that Melchisedec was greatly superior both to Levi and to Abraham, being to them in the rank of the priests. Again he argues from a different point. What then is this? Why (he says) did he not say, "after the order of Aaron"? And observe, I pray you, the great superiority [of his argument]. For from the very circumstance which naturally excluded His priesthood, viz. that He was not "after the order of Aaron," from that he establishes Him, and excludes the others. For this is the very thing that I say (he declares); why has He "not been made after the order of Aaron"?

And the [saying] "what further need" has much emphasis. For if Christ had been "after the order of Melchisedec" according to the flesh, and then afterwards the law had been introduced, and all that pertained to Aaron, one might reasonably say that the latter as being more perfect, annulled the former, seeing that it had come in after it. But if Christ comes later, and takes a different type, as that of His priesthood, it is evident that it is because those were imperfect. For (he would say) let us suppose for argument's sake, that all has been fulfilled, and that there is nothing imperfect in the priesthood. "What need" was there in that case that He should be called "after the order of Melchisedec and not after the order of Aaron"? Why did He set aside Aaron, and introduce a different priesthood, that of Melchisedec? "If then perfection," that is the perfection of the things themselves, of the doctrines, of life, [2955] "had been by the Levitical priesthood."

And observe how he goes forward on his path. He had said that [He was] "after the order of Melchisedec," implying that the [priesthood] "after the order of Melchisedec" is superior: for [he was] [2956] far superior. Afterwards he shows this from the time also, in that He was after Aaron; evidently as being better.

[2.] And what is the meaning of what follows? "For" (he says) "under [or "upon"] it the people have received the Law [or "have been legislated for"]." [2957] What is "under it" [&c.]? Ordereth itself [2958] by it; through it does all things. You cannot say that it was given to others, "the people under it have received the law," that is, have used it, and did use it. You cannot say indeed that it was perfect, it did not govern the people; "they have been legislated for upon it," that is, they used it.

What need was there then of another priesthood? "For the priesthood being changed, there is of necessity a change of the law also." But if there must be another priest, or rather another priesthood, there must needs be also another law. This is for those who say, What need was there of a new Covenant? For he could indeed have alleged a testimony from prophecy also. "This is the covenant which I made with your fathers" [&c.]. (c. viii. 10.) But for the present he contends on the ground of the priesthood. And observe, how he says this from the first. He said, "According to the order of Melchisedec." By this he excluded the order of Aaron. For he would not have said "After the order of Melchisedec," if the other had been better. If therefore another priesthood has been brought in, there must be also [another] Covenant; for neither is it possible that there should be a priest, without a covenant and laws and ordinances, nor that having received a different priesthood He should use the former [covenant].

In the next place, as to the ground of objection: "How could He be a priest if He were not a Levite?" Having overthrown this by what had been said above, he does not even think it worth answering, but introduces it in passing. I said (he means) that the priesthood was changed, therefore also the Covenant is. And it was changed not only in its character, [2959] or in its ordinances, but also in its tribe. For of necessity [it must be changed] in its tribe also. How? "For the priesthood being changed [or "transferred"]," from tribe to tribe, from the sacerdotal to the regal [tribe], that the same might be both regal and sacerdotal.

And observe the mystery. First it was royal, and then it is become sacerdotal: so therefore also in regard to Christ: for King indeed He always was, but has become Priest from the time that He assumed the Flesh, that He offered the sacrifice. Thou seest the change, and the very things which were ground of objection these he introduces, as though the natural order of things required them. "For" (he says) "He of whom these things are spoken pertained to another tribe." I myself also say it, I know that this tribe [of Judah] had nothing of priesthood. For there is a transferring.

[3.] Yea and I am showing another difference also (he would say): not only from the tribe, nor yet only from the Person, nor from the character [of the Priesthood], nor from the covenant, but also from the type itself. (Ver. 16) "Who was made ["became" so], not according to the law of a carnal commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. He became" (he says) "a priest not according to the law of a carnal commandment": for that law was in many respects unlawful. [2960]

What is, "of a carnal commandment"? Circumcise the flesh, it says; anoint the flesh; wash the flesh; purify the flesh; shave the flesh; bind upon the flesh; [2961] cherish the flesh; rest as to the flesh. And again its blessings, what are they? Long life for the flesh; milk and honey for the flesh; peace for the flesh; luxury for the flesh. From this law Aaron received the priesthood; Melchisedec however not so.

Ver. 15. "And it is yet far more evident, if after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest." What is evident? The interval between the two priesthoods, the difference; how much superior He is "who was made not according to the law of a carnal commandment." (Who? Melchisedec? Nay; but Christ.) "But according to the power of an endless [2962] life. For He testifieth, Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec"; that is, not for a time, nor having any limit, "but according to the power of an endless life," that is, by means of power, by means of "endless life."

And yet this does not follow after, "who was made not according to the law of a carnal commandment": for what would follow would be to say, "but according to that of a spiritual one." However by "carnal," he implied temporary. As he says also in another place, carnal ordinances imposed until the time of reformation." (c. ix. 10.)

"According to the power of life," that is, because He lives by His own power.

[4.] He had said, that there is also a change of law, and up to this point he has shown it; henceforward he enquires into the cause, that which above all gives full assurance to men's minds, [I mean] the knowing the cause thoroughly; and it leads us more to faith [2963] when we have learned also the cause, and the principle according to which [the thing] comes to pass.

Ver. 18. "For there is verily" (he says) "a disannulling of the commandment going before, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof." Here the Heretics [2964] press on. But listen attentively. He did not say "for the evil," nor, "for the viciousness," but "for the weakness and unprofitableness [thereof]," yea and in other places also he shows the weakness; as when he says "In that it was weak through the flesh." (Romans 8:3.) [The law] itself then is not weak, but we.

Ver. 19. "For the Law made nothing perfect." What is, "make nothing perfect"? Made no man perfect, being disobeyed. And besides, even if it had been listened to, it would not have made one perfect and virtuous. But as yet he does not say this here, but that it had no strength: and with good reason. For written precepts were there set down, Do this and Do not that, being enjoined only, and not giving power within. [2965] But "the Hope" is not such.

What is "a disannulling"? A casting out. A "disannulling" is a disannulling of things which are of force. So that he implied, that it [once] was of force, but henceforward was of no account, since it accomplished nothing. Was the Law then of no use? It was indeed of use; and of great use: but to make men perfect it was of no use. For in this respect he says, "The Law made nothing perfect." All were figures, all shadows; circumcision, sacrifice, sabbath. There fore they could not reach through the soul, wherefore they pass away and gradually withdraw. "But the bringing in of a better hope did, by which we draw nigh unto God."

[5.] (Ver. 20) "And forasmuch as not without the taking of an oath." [2966] Thou seest that the matter of the oath becomes necessary for him here. Accordingly for this reason he previously treated much [hereon], how that God swore; and swore for the sake of [our] fuller assurance.

"But the bringing in of a better hope." For that system also had a hope, but not such as this. For they hoped that, if they were well pleasing [to God], they should possess the land, that they should suffer nothing fearful. But in this [dispensation] we hope that, if we are well pleasing [to God], we shall possess not earth, but heaven; or rather (which is far better than this) we hope to stand near to God, to come unto the very throne of the Father, to minister unto Him with the Angels. And see how he introduces these things by little and little. For above he says "which entereth into that within the veil", (c. vi. 19), but here, "by which we draw nigh unto God."

"And inasmuch as not without an oath." What is "And inasmuch as not without an oath"? That is, Behold another difference also. And these things were not merely promised (he says). "For those priests were made without an oath," (ver. 21, 22) "but This with an oath, by Him that said unto Him, The Lord swore and will not repent, Thou art Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. [2967] By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better covenant." [2968] He lays down two points of difference, that it hath no end as the [covenant] of the Law had; [2969] and this he proves from [its being] Christ who exercises [the priesthood]; for he says "according to the power of an endless life." And he proves it also from the oath, because "He swore," &c., and from the fact; for if the other was cast out, because it was weak, this stands firm, because it is powerful. He proves it also from the priest. How? Because He is One [only]; and there would not have been One [only], unless He had been immortal. For as there were many priests, because they were mortal, so [here is] The One, because He is immortal. "By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better covenant," inasmuch as He sware to Him that He should always be [Priest]; which He would not have done, if He were not living.

[6.] (Ver. 25) "Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." Thou seest that he says this in respect of that which is according to the flesh. For when He [appears] as Priest, then He also intercedes. Wherefore also when Paul says, "who also maketh intercession for us" (Romans 8:34), he hints the same thing; the High Priest maketh intercession. For He "that raiseth the dead as He will, and quickeneth them," (John 5:21), and that "even as the Father" [doth], how [is it that] when there is need to save, He "maketh intercession"? (John 5:22.) He that hath "all judgment," how [is it that] He "maketh intercession"? He that "sendeth His angels" (Matthew 13:41, 42), that they may "cast" some into "the furnace," and save others, how [is it that] He "maketh intercession"? Wherefore (he says) "He is able also to save." For this cause then He saves, because He dies not. Inasmuch as "He ever liveth," He hath (he means) no successor: And if He have no successor, He is able to aid all men. For there [under the Law] indeed, the High Priest although he were worthy of admiration during the time in which he was [High Priest] (as Samuel for instance, and any other such), but, after this, no longer; for they were dead. But here it is not so, but "He" saves "to the uttermost." [2970]

What is "to the uttermost"? He hints at some mystery. Not here [2971] only (he says) but there [2972] also He saves them that "come unto God by Him." How does He save? "In that He ever liveth" (he says) "to make intercession for them." Thou seest the humiliation? Thou seest the manhood? For he says not, that He obtained this, by making intercession once for all, but continually, and whensoever it may be needful to intercede for them.

"To the uttermost." What is it? Not for a time only, but there also in the future life. Does He then always need to pray? Yet how can [this] be reasonable? Even righteous men have oftentimes accomplished all by one entreaty, and is He always praying? Why then is He throned with [the Father]?' Thou seest that it is a condescension. The meaning is: Be not afraid, nor say, Yea, He loves us indeed, and He has confidence towards the Father, but He cannot live always. For He doth live alway.

[7.] (Ver. 26) "For such an High Priest also [2973] became us, who is holy, harmless, unde filed, separate from the sinners." Thou seest that the whole is said with reference to the manhood. (But when I say the manhood,' I mean [the manhood] having Godhead; not dividing [one from the other], but leaving [you] to suppose [2974] what is suitable.) Didst thou mark the difference of the High Priest? He has summed up what was said before, "in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin." (c. iv. 15.) "For" (he says) "such an High Priest also became us, who is holy, harmless." "Harmless": what is it? Without wickedness: that which another [2975] Prophet says: "guile was not found in His mouth" (Isaiah 53:9), that is, [He is] not crafty. Could any one say this concerning God? And is one not ashamed to say that God is not crafty, nor deceitful? Concerning Him, however, in respect of the Flesh, it might be reasonable [to say it]. "Holy, undefiled." This too would any one say concerning God? For has He a nature capable of defilement? "Separate from sinners."

[8.] Does then this alone show the difference, or does the sacrifice itself also? How? (Ver. 27) "He needeth not" (he says) "daily, as the High Priest, [2976] to offer up sacrifices for his sins, for this He did once for all, when He offered up Himself." "This," what? Here what follows sounds a prelude concerning the exceeding greatness of the spiritual sacrifice and the interval [between them]. He has mentioned the point of the priest; he has mentioned that of the faith; he has mentioned that of the Covenant; not entirely indeed, still he has mentioned it. In this place what follows is a prelude concerning the sacrifice itself. Do not then, having heard that He is a priest, suppose that He is always executing the priest's office. For He executed it once, and thenceforward "sat down." (c. x. 12.) Lest thou suppose that He is standing on high, and is a minister, he shows that the matter is [part] of a dispensation [or economy]. For as He became a servant, so also [He became] a Priest and a Minister. But as after becoming a servant, He did not continue a servant, so also, having become a Minister, He did not continue a Minister. For it belongs not to a minister to sit, but to stand.

This then he hints at here, and also the greatness of the sacrifice, if being [but] one, and having been offered up once only, it affected that which all [the rest] were unable to do. But he does not yet [treat] of these points.

"For this He did," he says. "This"; what? "For" (he says) "it is of necessity that this [Man] have somewhat also to offer" (c. viii. 3); not for Himself; for how did He offer Himself? But for the people. What sayest thou? And is He able to do this? Yea (he says). "For the Law maketh men high priests, which have infirmity." (c. vii. 28.) And doth He not need to offer for Himself? No, he says. For, that you may not suppose that the [words, "this"] "He did once for all," are said respecting Himself also, hear what he says: "For the law maketh men high priests, which have infirmity." On this account they both offer continually, and for themselves. He however who is mighty, He that hath no sin, why should He offer for Himself, or oftentimes for others?

"But the word of the oath which was since the Law [maketh] the Son who has been consecrated for evermore." "Consecrated": [2977] what is that? Paul does not set down the common terms of contradistinction; [2978] for after saying "having Infirmity," he did not say "the Son" who is mighty, but "consecrated": [2979] i. e. mighty, as one might say. Thou seest that the name Son is used in contradistinction to that of servant. And by "infirmity" he means either sin or death.

What is, "for evermore"? Not now only without sin but always. If then He is perfect, if He never sins, if He lives always, why shall He offer many sacrifices for us? But for the present he does not insist strongly on this point: but what he does strongly insist upon is, His not offering on His own behalf.

[9.] Since then we have such an High Priest, let us imitate Him: let us walk in His footsteps. There is no other sacrifice: one alone has cleansed us, and after this, fire and hell. For indeed on this account he repeats it over and over, saying, "one Priest," "one Sacrifice," lest any one supposing that there are many [sacrifices] should sin without fear. Let us then, as many as have been counted worthy of The Seal, [2980] as many as have enjoyed The Sacrifice, as many as have partaken of the immortal Table, continue to guard our noble birth and our dignity for falling away is not without danger.

And as many as have not yet been counted worthy these [privileges], let not these either be confident on that account. For when a person goes on in sin, with the view of receiving holy baptism at the last gasp, oftentimes he will not obtain it. And, believe me, it is not to terrify you that I say what I am going to say. I have myself known many persons, to whom this has happened, who in expectation indeed of the enlightening [2981] sinned much, and on the day of their death went away empty. For God gave us baptism for this cause, that He might do away our sins, not that He might increase our sins. Whereas if any man have employed it as a security for sinning more, it becomes a cause of negligence. For if there had been no Washing, they would have lived more warily, as not having [the means of] forgiveness. Thou seest that we are the ones who cause it to be said "Let us do evil, that good may come." (Romans 3:8.)

Wherefore, I exhort you also who are uninitiated, be sober. Let no man follow after virtue as an hireling, no man as a senseless [2982] person, no man as after a heavy and burdensome thing. Let us pursue it then with a ready mind, and with joy. For if there were no reward laid up, ought we not to be good? But however, at least with a reward, let us become good. And how is this anything else than a disgrace and a very great condemnation? Unless thou give me a reward (says one), I do not become self-controlled. Then am I bold to say something: thou wilt never be self-controlled, no not even when thou livest with self-control, if thou dost it for a reward. Thou esteemest not virtue at all, if thou dost not love it. But on account of our great weakness, God was willing that for a time it should be practiced even for reward, yet not even so do we pursue it.

But let us suppose, if you will, that a man dies, after having done innumerable evil things, having also been counted worthy of baptism (which however I think does not readily happen), tell me, how will he depart thither? Not indeed called to account for the deeds he had done, but yet without confidence; [2983] as is reasonable. For when after living a hundred years, he has no good work to show, [2984] but only that he has not sinned, or rather not even this, but that he was saved by grace [2985] only, and when he sees others crowned, in splendor, and highly approved: even if he fall not into hell, tell me, will he endure his despondency?

[10.] But to make the matter clear by an example, Suppose there are two soldiers, and that one of them steals, injures, overreaches, and that the other does none of these things, but acts the part of a brave man, does important things well, sets up trophies in war, stains his right hand with blood; then when the time arrives, suppose that (from the same rank in which the thief also was) he is at once conducted to the imperial throne and the purple; but suppose that the other remains there where he was, and merely of the royal kindness does not pay the penalty of his deeds, let him however be in the last place, and let him be stationed under the King. Tell me, will he be able to endure his despair when he sees him who was [ranked] with himself ascended even to the very highest dignities, and made thus glorious, and master of the world, while he himself still remains below, and has not even been freed from punishment with honor, but through the grace and kindness of the King? For even should the King forgive him, and release him from the charges against him, still he will live in shame; for surely not even will others admire him: since in such forgiveness, we admire not those who receive the gifts, but those who bestow them. And as much as the gifts are greater, so much the more are they ashamed who receive them, when their transgressions are great.

With what eyes then will such an one be able to look on those who are in the King's courts, when they exhibit their sweatings out of number and their wounds, whilst he has nothing to show, but has his salvation itself of the mere loving-kindness of God? For as if one were to beg off a murderer, a thief, an adulterer, when he was going to be arrested, and were to command him to stay at the porch of the King's palace, he will not afterwards be able to look any man in the face, although he has been set free from punishment: so too surely is this man's case.

For do not, I beseech you, suppose that because it is called a palace, [2986] therefore all attain the same things. For if here in Kings' courts there is the Prefect, and all who are about the King, and also those who are in very inferior stations, and occupy the place of what are called Decani [2987] (though the interval be so great between the Prefect and the Decanus) much more shall this be so in the royal court above.

And this I say not of myself. For Paul layeth down another difference greater even than these. For (he says) as many differences as there are between the sun and the moon and the stars and the very smallest star, so many also between those in the kingdom [of Heaven]. And that the difference between the sun and the smallest star is far greater than that between the Decanus (as he is called) and the Prefect, is evident to all. For while the sun shines upon all the world at once, and makes it bright, and hides the moon and the stars, the other often does not appear, not even in the dark. For there are many of the stars which we do not see. When then we see others become suns, and we have the rank of the very smallest stars, which are not even visible, what comfort shall we have?

Let us not, I beseech you, let us not be so slothful, not so inert, let us not barter away the salvation of God for an easy life, but let us make merchandise of it, and increase it. For even if one be a Catechumen, still he knows Christ, still he understands the Faith, still he is a hearer of the divine oracles, still he is not far from the knowledge; he knows the will of his Lord. Wherefore does he procrastinate? wherefore does he delay and postpone? Nothing is better than a good life whether here or there, whether in case of the Enlightened or of the Catechumens,

[11.] For tell me what burdensome command have we enjoined? Have a wife (it is said) and be chaste. Is this difficult? How? when many, not Christians only but heathens also, live chastely without a wife. That which the heathen surpasses [2988] for vainglory, thou dost not even keep for the fear of God.

Give (He says) to the poor out of what thou hast. Is this burdensome? But in this case also heathen condemn us who for vainglory only have emptied out their whole possessions.

Use not filthy communication. Is this difficult? For if it had not been enjoined, ought we not to have done right in this, to avoid appearing degraded? For that the contrary conduct is troublesome, I mean the using filthy communication, is manifest from the fact that the soul is ashamed and blushes if it have been led to say any such thing and would not unless perhaps it were drunk. For when sitting in a public place, even if thou doest it at home, why dost thou not do it there? Because of those that are present. Why dost thou not readily do the same thing before thy wife? That thou mayest not insult her. So then thou dost it not, lest thou shouldest insult thy wife; and dost thou not blush at insulting God? For He is everywhere present, and heareth all things.

Be not drunken, He says. For this very thing of itself, is it not a chastisement? He did not say, Put thy body on the rack, but what? Do not give it free rein [2989] so as to take away the authority of the mind: on the contrary "make not provision for the lusts thereof." (Romans 13:14.)

Do not (He says) seize by violence what is not thine own; do not overreach; do not forswear thyself. What labors do these things require! what sweatings!

Speak evil of no man (He says) nor accuse falsely. The contrary indeed is a labor. For when thou hast spoken ill of another, immediately thou art in danger, in suspicion, [saying] Did he of whom I spake, hear? whether he be great or small. For should he be a great man, immediately thou wilt be indeed in danger; but if small, he will requite thee with as much, or rather with what is far more grievous; for he will say evil of thee in a greater degree. We are enjoined nothing difficult, nothing burdensome, if we have the will. And if we have not the will, even the easiest things will appear burdensome to us. What is easier than eating? but from great effeminacy many feel disgust even at this, and I hear many say, that it is weariness even to eat. None of these things is wearisome if thou hast but the will. For everything depends on the will after the grace from above. Let us will good things that we may attain also to the good things eternal, in Christ Jesus our Lord, whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.


[2950] "by means of."

[2951] nenomothetetai is the reading of the best mss. of St. Chrys. here and throughout the Homily. The common editions had nenomotheteto. So while the common editions [ Textus Rec.] of the N.T. read nenomotheteto , the critical editors have nenomothetetai

[2952] "takes place."

[2953] "from."

[2954] hi ereon. The editions had hi erosunes ; so the common text of the New Test. read hi erosunes, the critical editions have hi e reon

[2955] ei men oun teleiosis, toutesti tes ton pragmaton, tes ton dogmaton, tou Biou he teleiosis. It is not clear, as Mr. Field remarks, to what the articles tes, tes are to be referred.

[2956] or ["it is"]. S. B. have e keinos in the text.

[2957] [have been subjected to the law.--F.G.]

[2958] stoichei

[2959] tropo

[2960] a nomos

[2961] See Deuteronomy 6:8

[2962] a katalutou, "indestructible."

[2963] or, "conviction."

[2964] The early Heretics denied the divine character of the Mosaic dispensation.

[2965] e ntithenta

[2966] ho rkomosias

[2967] [The words "after the order of Melchisedec" are in the text of St. Chrys. and in the Textus Rec. They are omitted in recent critical editions, but are implied in the context.--F.G.]

[2968] The common editions add here ver. 23, 24 , "and they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death; but this [man] because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood." St. Chrys. alludes to these words in what follows: but without citing them.

[2969] The common texts add here "and that it is with oath-taking" : this is probably to be understood: as if he had said, He lays down a second point of difference that, &c.

[2970] eis to panteles

[2971] in this world.

[2972] in the other world.

[2973] In Mr. Field's ed. kai is read here, and where the words are cited afterwards, in the common texts it is omitted. So critical editors consider that the sacred text is toioutos gar hemin kai eprepen k. l. [The critical editors are not agreed; some insert the kai, others place it in brackets.--F.G.]

[2974] hu popteuein

[2975] As this passage is cited by Facundus Hermianensis, an African Bishop, writing about the year 547, it may be well to give his words and also the two Greek texts corresponding to them, as an evidence that the text which he had was of the short and simple form now restored in Mr. Field's edition. "In interpretatione quoque Epistol? ad Hebr?os, Sermone xiv, de eo quod scriptum est, Sicut consummatio per Leviticum sacerdotium erat, ita locutus est: Dicit alter propheta, Dolus non est inventus in ore ejus, hoc est nulla calliditas. Hoc forsitan quisquam de Deo dicat, et non erubescit dicens, quia Deus non est callidus, neque dolosus. De eo vero qui secundum carnem est, habebit forsitan rationem." (pro def. trium capp. lib. xi. c. 5, p. 488, ed Sirm.) [Gall. Bibl. Patr. xi. 789.] Mr. Field's text is, ho [ho om. ms. R.) legei heteros prophetes; dolos ouch heurethe en to stomati autou (toutestin, ouch hupoulos; touto an tis peri Theou eipoi ; kai ouk aischunetai legon, hoti ho theos ouk estin hupoulos, oude doleros ; peri mentoi tou kata sakra echoi an logon The text of Savile and the Benedictines ouch hupoulos; kai hoti toioutos, akoue tou prophetou legontos; oude heurethe dolos en to stomati autou, touto oun an tis peri Theou eipoi ; ho de ouk aischunetai legon, hoti ho theos ouk estin hupoulos, oude doleros ; peri men oun tou kata sarka echoi an logon

[2976] This is the reading adopted by Mr. Field. The common texts give the passage as it stands in the text of the Epistle [where there is no var. lect. of importance.--F.G.]. Indeed what is omitted must plainly be intended to be supplied.

[2977] [teteleiomenon. This is the common Levitical term for priestly consecration. It is also used in the Classics in a corresponding sense of initiation into the mysteries. The English edition takes it in the common sense of perfected.--F.G.]

[2978] tas antidiastolas kurias

[2979] [teteleiomenon. This is the common Levitical term for priestly consecration. It is also used in the Classics in a corresponding sense of initiation into the mysteries. The English edition takes it in the common sense of perfected.--F.G.]

[2980] i. e. Baptism.

[2981] Baptism.

[2982] a gnomon

[2983] a parresiastos

[2984] [St. Cyril Alex. speaks too of those who put off baptism till they are old and receive forgiveness through it, but have nought to bring to their Master. Glaph. 273.]

[2985] i. e. mercy [chariti, the common word for "grace." --F.G.]

[2986] basileia, but Sav. basileia, a kingdom.

[2987] "The Dekanoi at Constantinople were lictors, and had the charge of burying the dead: they are otherwise called funerum elatores, lecticarii, vespillones, libitinarii, kopiatai. Corippus, lib. iii. , says Jamque ordine certo Turba decanorum, cursorum, in rebus agentum, Cumque palatinis stans candida turba tribunis." Suicer, Thes. Eccles. p. 835, cited by Mr. Field.

[2988] hu perbainei

[2989] e ktrachelises

For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.
For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.
And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest,
Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.
For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.
For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.
And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest:
(For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)
By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.
And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:
But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;
Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.
The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom
Text Courtesy of Christian Classics Etherial Library.

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