Expositor's Greek Testament
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.Hebrews 10:1-18. Finality of Christ’s one sacrifice. The law merely presents a shadow of the essential spiritual blessings and does not perfect those who seek God through it. Its sacrifices therefore must be continually repeated and the consciousness of sins is annually revived, for animal blood cannot take sins away. Accordingly, when Christ comes into the world He says, “Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldst not, I am come to do Thy will”. He proclaims the uselessness of O.T. sacrifices, that He may clear the ground for “the offering of the body of Christ”. This is the great distinction between Christ and all other priests. They stand daily ministering, He by one offering has perfected those who approach God through Him.
Hebrews 10:1-4. The sacrifices of the law inadequate.
Hebrews 10:1. Σκιὰν γὰρ ἔχων … The γὰρ intimates that we have here a further explanation of the finality of Christ’s one sacrifice (Hebrews 9:28) and therefore of its superiority to the sacrifices of the law. The explanation consists in this that the law had only “a shadow of the good things that were to be, not the very image of the things”. Σκιὰν is in the emphatic place, as that characteristic of the law which determines its inadequacy. “A shadow” suggests indefiniteness and unsubstantially; a mere indication that a reality exists. εἰκών suggests what is in itself substantial and also gives a true representation of that which it images. “The εἰκών brings before us under the conditions of space, as we can understand it, that which is spiritual” (Westcott). So Kübel, etc. The contrast is between a bare intimation that good things were to be given, and an actual presentation of these good things in an apprehensible form. It is implied that this latter is given in Christ; but what is asserted is, that the law did not present the coming realities in a form which brought them within the comprehension of the people. [Bleek cites from Cicero, De Off., iii. 17, 69, “nos veri juris germanaeque justitiae solidam et expressam effigiem nullam tenemus, umbra et imaginibus utimur”.]
That the law possessed no more than a shadow of the coming good was exhibited in its constantly renewed sacrifices. κατʼ ἐνιαυτὸν belongs to ταῖς αὐταῖς θυσίαις, “with the same annually repeated sacrifices,” further explained and emphasised by the relative clause, ἃς προσφέρουσιν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς, “which they perpetually offer”. οὐδέποτε δύναται … the law can never with these perpetually renewed offerings perfect the worshippers”. “No repetition of the shadow can amount to the substance” (Davidson). The proof is given in the following words, Hebrews 10:2 : ἐπεὶ οὐκ ἂν ἐπαύσαντο προσφερόμεναι. The constant renewal of the yearly round of sacrifices proves that they were inefficacious, for had the worshippers once been cleansed they would have had no longer any consciousness of sins and would therefore have sought no renewal of sacrifice. ἐπαὶ, “since,” if the O.T. sacrifices had perfected those who used them. προσφερόμεναι corresponding to προσφέρουσιν, and τοὺς λατρεύοντας to τοὺς προσερχομένους of previous verse. ἅπαξ κεκαθ., that is, once delivered from a sense of guilt, cf. Hebrews 9:14, where συνείδησις is also used in same sense as here, the consciousness of sin as barring approach to God. The sinner once cleansed may, no doubt, be again defiled and experience a renewed consciousness of guilt. But in the writer’s view this consciousness is at once absorbed in the consciousness of his original cleansing. Cf. John 13:10. ἀλλʼ ἐν αὐταῖς.… So far from these O.T. sacrifices once for all cleansing the conscience and thus perfecting the worshippers, “by and in them there is a yearly remembrance of sins,” that is, of sins not yet sufficiently atoned for by any past sacrifice. Cf. Numbers 5:15. θυσία μνημοσύνου ἀναμιμνήσκουσα ἁμαρτίαν, and Philo, De Plantat., 25, αἱ θυσίαι ὑπομιμνήσκουσαι τὰς ἑκάστων ἀγνοίας, κ.τ.λ. This remembrance of sins is κατʼ ἐνιαυτόν, which is most naturally referred to the annual confession of the whole people on the day of Atonement. The remembrance was not of sins previously atoned for but of sins committed since the previous sacrifice; there was no perception that any previous atonement was sufficient for all sin. The underlying ground of this inadequacy being expressed in Hebrews 10:4. ἀδύνατον γὰρ.… “For it is impossible that the blood of oxen and goats should take away sins”. This obvious truth needs no proof. There is no relation between the physical blood of animals and man’s moral offence. Cf. the Choephori of Æschylus, 70, “all waters, joining together to cleanse from blood the polluted hand, may strive in vain”. ἀφαιρεῖν ἁμαρτίας, “to take away sins,” in the sense of removing their guilt as in Numbers 14:18, Leviticus 10:17, Romans 11:27.
For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:Hebrews 10:5-10. The adequacy of Christ’s sacrifice as fulfilling God’s will. διὸ “wherefore,” “such being the ineffectiveness of the sacrifices of the law and the condition of conscience of those under them,” “when He—that is ὁ Χριστός Hebrews 9:28 to whom alone εἰσερχόμ. is applicable—comes into the world,” referring generally to His incarnate state, not to His entrance on his public ministry. λέγει, the words are quoted from Psalm 40:6-8 and put in the mouth of Christ although the whole Psalm cannot be considered Messianic, cf. Hebrews 10:12. In what sense can λέγει be used of Christ? It is not meant that He was present in the psalmist and so uttered what is here here referred to Him. This idea is negatived by εἰσερχόμ. It was when incarnate he used the words. Neither is it merely meant that by his conduct Christ showed that these words were a true expression of his mind. Rather, the words are considered prophetic, depicting beforehand the mind of Christ regarding O.T. sacrifice, and His own mission. In several O.T. passages God’s preference for obedience is affirmed (1 Samuel 15:22, Psalm 50:8, Micah, Isaiah 1:11, Hosea 6:6) but this psalm is here selected because the phrase “a body hast thou prepared for me” lends itself to the writer’s purpose. In the Psalm, indeed, sacrifice is contrasted with obedience to the will of God. A body is prepared for Christ that in it He may obey God. But it is the offering of this body as a sacrifice in contrast to the animal sacrifices of the law, which this writer emphasises (Hebrews 10:10). “The contrast is between animal offerings and the offering of Himself by the Son. And what is said is that God did not will the former, but willed the other, and that the former are thereby abolished, and the other is established in their room, and as the will of God is effectual. The passage in the epistle is far from saying that the essence or worth of Christ’s offering of Himself lies simply in obedience to the will of God. It does not refer to the point wherein lies the intrinsic worth of the Son’s offering, or whether it may be resolved into obedience unto God. Its point is quite different. It argues that the Son’s offering of Himself is the true and final offering for sin, because it is the sacrifice, which, according to prophecy, God desired to be made” (Davidson).
The writer, in citing Psalms 40, follows the LXX, slightly altering the construction of the last clause by omitting ἠβουλήθην, and thus making τοῦ ποιῆσαι depend upon ἥκω, “I am come to do thy will”. Cf. Hebrews 10:9.
θυσίαν καὶ προσφοράν representing זֶבַח וּמִנְחָה of the Psalm, animal sacrifice and meal offering. Cf. Ephesians 5:2. οὐκ ἠθέλησας “thou didst not will,” a contrast is intended between this clause and τὸ θέλημά σου of the last clause of Hebrews 10:7. σῶμα δὲ κατηρτίσω μοι “but a body didst Thou prepare for me,” implying that in this body God’s will would be accomplished. Cf. Hebrews 10:10. The words are the LXX rendering of אָזְנַים כָּרִיתָ לּי, “ears didst Thou dig [or open] for me”. The meaning is the same. The opened ear as the medium through which the will of God was received, and the body by which it was accomplished, alike signify obedience to the will of God. ὁλοκαυτώματα καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας representing עוֹלָה וַחֲטָאָה of the psalm, whole burnt offering and sin-offering. περὶ ἁμαρτ. occurs frequently in Leviticus to denote sin offering, θυσία being omitted. οὐκ ηὐδόκησας “thou didst not take pleasure in”. τότε εἶπον. “Then,” that is, when it was apparent that not by animal sacrifices or material offerings could God be propitiated, “I said, Lo! I am come to do Thy will, O God,” to accomplish that purpose of Thine which the sacrifices of the O.T. could not accomplish. That this is the correct construction is shown by Hebrews 10:9. For construction, cf. Burton, M. and T., 397; and Prof. Votaw, Use of Infin. in N. T. ἐν κεφαλίδι βιβλίου γέγραπται περὶ ἐμοῦ “in a book [lit. in a roll of a book] it has been written concerning me”. κεφαλίς denoting “a little head” was first applied to the end of the stick on which the parchment was rolled, and from which in artistically finished books two cornua proceeded. [See Bleek, Rich’s Dict. of Antiq., and Hatch’s Concordance] In the Psalm the phrase is joined with the previous words and might be read, “Lo! I am come, with a roll of a book written for me,” in other words, with written instructions regarding the divine will as affecting me. The words can hardly mean that in Scripture predictions have been recorded regarding the writer of the Psalm. This, however, may be the meaning attached to the words as cited in the epistle, although it is quite as natural and legitimate to retain the original meaning and understand the words as a parenthetical explanation that Christ acknowledged as binding on Him all that had been written for the instruction of others in the will of God. But the likelihood is that if the writer was not merely transcribing the words as part of his quotation without attaching a definite meaning to them, he meant that the coming of the Messiah to do God’s will had been written in the book of God’s purpose. (Cf. Psalm 56:9.)
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;Hebrews 10:8. The significance of the quotation is now explained. “He takes the first away, that he may establish the second.” He declares the incompetence of the O.T. sacrifices to satisfy the will of God, in order that he may make room for that sacrifice which is permanently to satisfy God. Ἀνώτερον, “Higher up,” here meaning “in the former part of the quotation,” corresponding to and contrasted with τότε in Hebrews 10:9. λέγων, i.e., Christ, the subject of εἴρηκεν and ἀναιρεῖ. This is necessitated by λέγει in Hebrews 10:3. Yet it is not Christ directly, but the mind of Christ uttered by God in Scripture. εἴρηκεν, perfect, as expressing that which permanently fulfils the will of God. ἀναιρεῖν is used in classic Greek of the destruction or abolition or repeal of laws, governments, customs, etc.
Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.Hebrews 10:10. ἐν ᾧ θελήματι … “in which will,” that is, in the will which Christ came to do (Hebrews 10:9), “we have been made fit for God’s presence and fellowship by means of the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”. The will of God which the O.T. sacrifices could not accomplish was the “sanctification” of men, that is, the bringing of men into true fellowship with God. This will has been accomplished, we have been cleansed and introduced into God’s fellowship through the offering of the body of Christ. By the use of the word προσφορᾶς the writer shows that it was not a mere general obedience to the will of God he had in view, but the fulfilment of God’s will in the particular form of yielding Himself to a sacrificial death. His obedience in order to become an atoning sacrifice took a particular form, the form of “tasting death for every man”. [For a different view see Bruce in loc. and Gould’s N.T. Theol., p. 169. On the other hand see Riehm and Macdonell’s Donellan Lectures, p. 49–59.] τοῦ σώματος Ἰ. Χριστοῦ ἐφάπαξ, the offering of the body must of course be taken in connection with Hebrews 9:14, διὰ πνεύματος αἰωνίου and also with the defining words Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. ἐφάπαξ is added in contrast to the note of inferiority attaching to the O.T. sacrifices, as given in Hebrews 10:1, their need of continual renewal.
And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:Hebrews 10:11-14. That Christ’s one sacrifice has accomplished its end of bringing men to God is illustrated by His sitting down at God’s right hand.
Hebrews 10:11. καὶ introduces a new aspect of the finality of Christ’s sacrifice, to wit, that “whereas every priest stands daily ministering and often offering the same sacrifices,—inasmuch as they are such as never can take sins away—this man having offered one sacrifice for sins for ever sat down on God’s right hand, henceforth waiting till his enemies be set as a footstool for his feet. For by one offering He hath perfected for ever the sanctified.” The argument is in this statement advanced a step. For although the three points urged in Hebrews 10:1-4 are here still in view, viz., that “the Levitical service consists of repeated acts (καθʼ ἡμέραν, κατʼ ἐνιαυτόν) and these the same (αἱ αὐταὶ θυσίαι) and essentially ineffective (οὐδέποτε δύνανται, κ.τ.λ), yet it is now the action of the priest rather than the nature of the sacrifice that comes to the front, and the finality of Christ’s offering is argued from the historical fact that He was not any longer standing ministering but had sat down as one who had quite finished His work. Therefore in Hebrews 10:14 τετελείωκεν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς τοὺς ἁγιαζομένους takes the place of ἡγιασμένοι ἐσμὲν of Hebrews 10:10. Nothing further requires to be done to secure in perpetuity the fellowship of man with God. In the one sacrifice of Christ there is cleansing which fits men to draw near to God, to enter into covenant with Him, and there is also ground laid for their continuance in that fellowship. The future (εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς) is provided for as well as the past. Limborch quoted by Bleek says “perficit, i.e., perfecte et plene a peccatorum reatu liberavit, ita ut in perpetuum sanctificati sint et ulteriore aut nova oblatione non indigeant”. “His one offering gathers up into itself both the sacrifice that inaugurates the covenant, and all the many sacrifices offered year by year to maintain it and to realise it; it reaches the idea which they strove towards in vain, and by reaching it for ever sets them aside” (Davidson).
In Hebrews 10:11 the more expressive περιελεῖν replaces ἀφαιρεῖν of Hebrews 10:4. It means “to take away something that is all round” as δέρματα σωμάτων, a garment, the covering of a letter. In Genesis 41:42 it is used of Pharaoh taking off his ring. The phrase therefore suggests that man is enwrapped in sin; or if this is to press too hard the etymological meaning, it at least suggests complete deliverance. οὗτος cf. Hebrews 3:3 and Hebrews 8:3. εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς cannot be construed with προσενέγκας but must be taken with ἐκάθισεν. “To say of the Levitical priests that they προσφέρουσιν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς (Hebrews 10:1) is appropriate; to say of Christ that He προσήνεγκεν εἰς τὸ διην. is almost a self-contradiction” (Vaughan). εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς ἐκάθισεν balances ἕστηκεν καθʼ ἡμέραν, and cf. especially Hebrews 1:3. No doubt the usual position of εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς is after the word it qualifies, Hebrews 10:1-14 and Hebrews 7:3. τοὺς ἁγιαζ. has no time reference, cf. Hebrews 2:11.
But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,Hebrews 10:15-18. Proof from Scripture that the one sacrifice of Christ, the mediator of the new covenant is final.
Hebrews 10:15. μαρτυρεῖ δὲ ἡμῖν … “And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us,” that is, that the one offering of the Son is final, for under the new covenant there is no further remembrance of sins. ἡμῖν is more naturally construed as a dativus commodi than as the object of μαρτυρεῖ. μετὰ γὰρ τὸ εἰρηκέναι. “For after saying …” we expect the apodosis to begin and the sentence to be concluded by an introductory ἔπειτα λέγει or τότε (cf. Hebrews 10:9), but Hebrews 10:17 is not so introduced. The sense, however, is unmistakable. After defining the covenant in its inwardness and spirituality (v. c. Hebrews 8:10), the writer introduces that feature of it which specially serves his present purpose καὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν … οὐ μὴ μνησθήσομαι ἔτι, “And I will never any more remember their sins and their transgressions”. The conclusion is obvious, “But where there is remission of these, there is no longer offering for sin”. For the terms of the new covenant see Hebrews 8:8-12. μνησθήσομαι is here used instead of μνησθῶ of LXX and of Hebrews 8:12, because the writer emphasises the extension of the forgetting to all futurity.
CHAPS. Hebrews 10:19 to Hebrews 12:29. Exhortation to use the access to God opened by Christ and to maintain faith in Him in spite of all temptation to fall away.
CHAP. Hebrews 10:19-25. Exhortation to draw near to God, to hold fast the Christian hope, and to encourage one another.
This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,Hebrews 10:19. Ἔχοντες οὖν, ἀδελφοί.… “Having then, brethren, confidence for the entrance into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, a way which He inaugurated for us fresh and living, through the veil, that is, His flesh.” For the form of the sentence cf. Hebrews 4:14. παρρησίαν εἰς τὴν εἴσοδον, cf. Hebrews 3:6 and Hebrews 4:16 προσερχώμεθα μετὰ παρρησίας, also Ephesians 3:12. ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν παρρησίαν καὶ τὴν προσαγωγὴν. εἴσοδος may either mean an entrance objectively considered, or the act of entering. Weiss adopts the former meaning, compelled as he supposes by the ὁδὸν which follows in apposition and referring to Judges 1:24 and Ezekiel 27:3. He would therefore translate “boldness as regards the entrance”. The objection to this interpretation is the meaning put upon εἰς which more naturally expresses the object or end towards which the παρρησία is directed, the entering in, not merely the object about which the παρρησία is exercised. Cf. 2 Corinthians 7:10, μετάνοιαν εἰς σωτηρίαν. But cf. Winer on εἰς. The expression in Hebrews 9:8, τὴν τῶν ἁγίων ὁδὸν, also favours Weiss’s interpretation. τῶν ἁγίων as the Greek commentators remark, here means “heaven”. ἐν τ. αἵματι Ἰησοῦ, on the whole, it is better to join these words not with παρρησίαν but with εἴσοδον. Bleek sees a reference to Hebrews 9:25, ὁ ἀρχιερεὺς εἰσέρχεται εἰς τὰ ἅγια ἐν αἵματι ἀλλοτρίῳ. ἣν ἐνεκαίνισεν ἡμῖν ὁδὸν … “The new and living way which He inaugurated [or dedicated] for us.” The antecedent of the clause is εἴσοδον, and this way into the holiest is here further described as first used by Christ that it might be used by us. For ἐγκαινίζειν means to handsel, to take the first use of a new thing. See Deuteronomy 20:5. He has entered within the veil as our πρόδρομος (Hebrews 6:19-20) and has thus opened a way for us. It is πρόσφατον, recent, fresh. The lexicographers are agreed that, originally meaning fresh-slain and applied to νεκρός, πρόσφατος came to be used of flowers, oil, snow, misfortune, benefits, in Sirac. Hebrews 9:10, of a friend; in Ecclesiastes 1:9 οὐκ ἔστι πᾶν πρόσφατον ὑπὸ τὸν ἥλιον. It was a way recently opened. Christ was the first who trod that way. Wetstein, who gives many examples of the use of the word, cites also from Floras, i. 15, 3, an interesting analogy: “Alter [Decius Mus] quasi monitu deorum, capite velato, primam ante aciem diis manibus se devoverit, ut in confertissima se hostium tela jaculatus, novum ad victoriam iter sanguinis sui semita aperiret”. καὶ ζῶσαν, not as a way that abides (Chrys., etc.) nor as leading to life eternal (Grotius, etc.), nor as a way which consists in fellowship with a Person (Westcott), but as effective, actually bringing its followers to their goal. Cf. Hebrews 4:12. So Davidson and Weiss. διὰ τοῦ καταπετάσματος, a further characteristic of the way, it passed through the veil, that is, His flesh, which must first be rent before Christ could pass into the holiest. “This beautiful allegorizing of the veil cannot, of course, be made part of a consistent and complete typology. It is not meant for this. But as the veil stood locally before the holiest in the Mosaic Tabernacle, the way into which lay through it, so Christ’s life in the flesh stood between Him and His entrance before God, and His flesh had to be rent ere He could enter” (Davidson).
By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
And having an high priest over the house of God;Hebrews 10:21. καὶ ἱερέα μέγαν. The opened way into the holiest is not the only advantage possessed by the Christian, he has also “a great priest,” cf. Hebrews 4:14 ἔρχοντες οὖν ἀρχιερέα μέγαν … προσερχώμεθα. Philo (Leg. ad Gai., p. 1035) calls the High Priest ὁ μἐγας ἱερεύς, and so Leviticus 21:10, Numbers 35:25. But it is not to the fact that He is High Priest that this designation here points, but to His greatness as Son of God and as one who has passed into the Holy Presence. Especially is His greatness manifested in His administration ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον τοῦ θεοῦ, over God’s house (cf. Hebrews 3:6) that is, over those heavenly realities which replace the house of God on earth, and necessarily over those for whom the priest is appointed to minister τὰ πρὸς τὸν θεόν (Hebrews 5:1).
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.Hebrews 10:22. Being thus secure of an acceptable entrance προσερχώμεθα, “let us keep approaching,” that is, to God (Hebrews 7:25, Hebrews 11:6); a semi-technical term. μετὰ ἀληθινῆς καρδίας, “with a true heart” (cf. Isaiah 38:3), not with a merely bodily approach as if all were external and symbolic, but with that genuine engagement of the inner man which constitutes true worship. Chrysostom has χωρὶς ὑποκρίσεως. Davidson has “with fundamental genuineness”; but it is the genuineness which is elicited in presence of realities. καρδία is interpreted in 1 Peter 3:4, ὁ κρυπτὸς τῆς καρδίας ἄνθρωπος. It is the inevitable qualification of one who comes ἐν πληροφορίᾳ πίστεως, “in full assurance of faith,” believing not only that God is (Hebrews 11:6) but that a way to His favour and fellowship is opened by the Great Priest. To engender this full assurance has been the aim of the writer throughout the Epistle. ῥεραντισμένοι … λελουσμένοι. These participles express not conditions of approach to God which are yet to be achieved, but conditions already possessed, “our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our body washed with pure water”. Both participles must be construed with προσερχώμεθα. The obvious connection of “heart” and “body” forbids the attachment of λελουσμένοι to κατέχωμεν. To connect both participles with κατεχ. is equally impossible. “προσέρχεσθαι is a technical liturgical word, and sprinkling and washing are liturgical acts of preparation” (Delitzsch). Possibly the mention of sprinkling and washing is an echo of the injunctions of Exodus 29:4; Exodus 29:21; Exodus 30:20; Exodus 40:30, prescribing similar preparation for the priestly functions. Our heart or inner man by the application of the αἷμα ῥαντισμοῦ (cf. 1 Peter 1:2) is delivered from the consciousness of guilt (Hebrews 9:14); out body by the application of the purifying water of baptism becomes the symbol of complete purity. “Sprinkled with that blood which speaketh evermore in the heavenly sanctuary, and washed with baptismal water sacramentally impregnated with the same, we are at all times privileged to approach by a new and living way the heavenly temple, entering by faith its inner sanctuary, and there presenting ourselves in the presence of God” (Delitzsch). Cf. especially Psalm 51:6-7, and Plutarch, Isis and Osiris, c. 80 (p. 383) where ceremonial purifications are explained on the principle that the Pure and Undefiled must be worshipped by the pure in body and soul.
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)Hebrews 10:23. A second branch of the exhortation is given in the words κατέχωμεν τὴν ὁμολογίαν … “Let us hold fast and unbending the confession of our hope,” as in Hebrews 3:6. Cf. also Hebrews 6:11. For as yet in this life the fulness of blessing which comes of fellowship with God is not experienced, the perfected salvation and the heavenly country (Hebrews 12:22-23) are yet to be reached. But these are the contents of the Christian hope, and this hope is confessed and maintained in presence of a commonplace, scoffing and alluring world. It is to be maintained for the best of all reasons: πιστὸς γὰρ ὁ ἐπαγγειλάμενος. The promises of God are necessarily the ground of hope, v. Hebrews 6:12. These promises cannot fail, because God cannot lie, Hebrews 6:18.
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:Hebrews 10:24. To the exhortation to faith and hope he adds an exhortation to love: καὶ κατανοῶμεν ἀλλήλους, “and let us consider one another,” taking into account and weighing our neighbour’s circumstances and especially his risks, but this with a view not to exasperating criticism but εἰς παροξυσμὸν ἀγάπης, “with a view to incite them to love and good works,” acknowledging honest endeavour and making allowance for imperfection. παροξυσμός is “stimulation” either to good or evil. In Acts 15:39 it is used of angry irritation, as in LXX, Deuteronomy 29:28, Jer. 39:37. So in medical writers of a paroxysm. But frequently in classics the verb is used of stimulating to good as in Plato, Epist. iv. p. 321 and in Xen. Cyrop. 6, 2, 5, τούτους ἐπαινῶν παρώξυνε. Isocrates, ad Demon., etc. The writer, in Hebrews 6:9-10, has set his readers a good example of this considerate incitement. In order to fulfil his injunction they must not neglect meeting together for Christian worship and encouragement μὴ ἐγκαταλείποντες τὴν ἐπισυναγωγὴν ἑαυτῶν. Delitzsch suggests that the compound word is used instead of the simple συναγωγή in order to avoid a word with Judaic associations; but συναγωγή might rather have suggested the building and formal stated meetings, while ἐπισυν. ἑαυτῶν denotes merely the meeting together of Christians. That these meetings were for mutual edification is shown by the ἀλλὰ παρακαλοῦντες. Some made a practice of neglecting these meetings, whether from fear of persecution or from scorn or from business engagements. Cf. Judges 1:18-20, and Moberly’s Minist. Priesthood, p. 14. This good custom of meeting together and mutually exhorting one another was to be all the more punctually and zealously attended to, ὅσῳ βλέπετε ἐγγίζουσαν τὴν ἡμέραν, “in proportion as ye see the day drawing near”. “The day” is of course the day of the Lord’s return (Hebrews 9:28), the day of days. The Epistle being written in all probability a year or two before the destruction of Jerusalem, the signs of the coming day which could be “seen” were probably the restlessness, forebodings of coming disaster, and initial collisions with the Romans which heralded the great war.
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,Hebrews 10:26-39. Dreadful result of falling from faith.
Hebrews 10:26. Ἑκουσίως γὰρ ἁμαρτανόντων ἡμῶν.… “For if we go on sinning wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no more remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain dreadful waiting for judgment and a fury of fire which is to devour the adversaries.” γὰρ, introducing an additional reason for the preceding exhortation. The emphasis is on ἑκουσίως; and the present tense of ἁμαρτ. must not be overlooked. Cf. τῶν ἀκουσίων ἁμαρτημάτων καταφυγὴν εἶναι τοὺς βωμούς, Thuc. 4:98. Wilful sin, continued in, means apostasy, repudiation of the covenant. Cf. Hebrews 6:6, καὶ παραπεσόντας, and Hebrews 5:2, τοῖς ἀγνοοῦσιν, and Hebrews 3:12. Apostasy can only occur μετὰ τὸ λαβεῖν … a condition which is explained in detail in chap. 6. Without this preceding knowledge of the covenant its wilful repudiation is impossible. Those spoken of in Hebrews 10:25, as having abandoned meeting with their fellow Christians, and possibly as having neglected, if not renounced, the confession of their hope, were perhaps alluded to here, as on their way to apostasy. They are warned that they are drifting into an irredeemable condition, for to those who have repudiated and keep repudiating the one sacrifice of Christ, οὐκέτι περὶ ἁμαρτίων ἀπολείπεται θυσία. The only sacrifice has been rejected, and there is no other sacrifice which can atone for the rejection of this sacrifice. “The meaning is not merely that the Jewish sacrifices to which the apostate has returned have in themselves no sin-destroying power, nor even that there is no second sacrifice additional to that of Christ, but further that for a sinner of this kind the very sacrifice of Christ itself has no more atoning or reconciling power” (Delitzsch). That this is the meaning is shown by the positive assertion of what the future does contain, a terrifying prospect of waiting for inevitable judgment. The expression is not equivalent to φοβερᾶς ἐκδοχὴ κρίσεως, which, as Bleek remarks, would not be so impressive. φοβερός means either “causing fear” or “feeling fear”; “scaring” or “affrighted”. Here it is used in the former sense. ἐκδοχὴ occurs elsewhere only in the sense of receiving something or of the acceptation or interpretation of a word; but Hebrews 10:13 and Hebrews 9:28 guide to the meaning given by the Vulg. expectatis. The τις by leaving the expectation indefinite heightens the terror of it. The imagination is allowed scope. κρίσεως is general, but immediately suggests πυρὸς ζῆλος μέλλοντος, the destined fire; for which see 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10. “Fiery indignation” very well renders πυρὸς ζῆλος, an anger which expresses itself in fire. The expression is derived from such O.T. phrases as Psalm 79:5 ἐκκαυθήσεται ὡς πῦρ ὁ ζῆλός σου. Cf. Zephaniah 1:18 and Deuteronomy 4:21. This fiery anger is destined to devour the adversaries, as in Isaiah 26:11 ζῆλος λήψεται λαὸν ἀπαίδευτον, και νῦν πῦρ τοὺς ὑπεναντίους ἔδεται, and Isaiah 64:2 κατακαύσει πῦρ τοὺς ὑπεναντίους. Cf. also Isaiah 30:27 ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θυμοῦ ὡς πῦρ ἔδεται, a natural figure used by Homer and others. ὑπεναντίους, see Lightfoot on Colossians 2:14, who shows that it means “direct, close, persistent opposition”.
But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:Hebrews 10:28. ἀθετήσας τις νόμον.… “Any one who has set aside Moses’ law dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses,” in accordance with the law laid down in Deuteronomy 17:6 regarding apostasy; although capital punishment was not restricted to this sin. For ἀθετεῖν cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:8; and Isaiah 24:16, οὐαὶ τοῖς ἀθετοῦσιν, οἱ ἀθετοῦντες τὸν νόμον, also Ezekiel 22:26. ἀθέτησις is used absolutely in 1 Samuel 24:12. ἐπὶ … μάρτυσιν, cf. Hebrews 9:17; ἀποθνήσκαι, perhaps the tense does not carry with it the inference that the law was still being enforced. It may only mean “he dies” according to the law as it stands. χωρὶς οἰκτιρμῶν, to emphasise the inexorablenesa of the law and the inevitable character of the doom. Cf. Josephus, c. Apion, ii. 30, ὁ νόμος ἀπαραίτητος and Ignatius, ad Eph. c. 16.
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?Hebrews 10:29. πόσῳ δοκεῖτε χείρονος.… “Of how much sorer punishment, think ye, will he be counted worthy, who, etc.” The argument of Hebrews 2:1-4 and Hebrews 12:25. By the parenthetically interjected δοκεῖτε he appeals to their own sense of proportion and fitness; although the judgment alluded to in ἀξιωθήσεται is not theirs but God’s. ὁ … καταπατήσας … The guilt of the apostate which justifies this sorer punishment is detailed in three particulars. He has trampled on the Son of God. The highest of Beings who has deserved best at his hands is spurned with outrageous scorn. καὶ τὸ αἷμα … ἡγιάσθη “and has reckoned the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified, a common thing”. “The blood of the covenant” is the blood of Christ (cf. Hebrews 9:15 ff., Hebrews 13:20); here it is thus designated because repudiation of the covenant is in question. This blood is the purifying agent by which men are fitted for the fellowship and service of God, and so brought within the covenant. Cf. ἡγιάσθη with ἁγιάζει of Hebrews 9:13 and καθαριεῖ of Hebrews 9:14. This sole means of purification, the sanctifying virtue of which the supposed apostate has experienced, he now counts κοινὸν, common or unclean. [The Vulg. has “pollutum,” the Old Latin “communem”. Chrysostom ἀκάθαρτον ἢ τὸ μηδέν πλέον ἔχον τῶν λοιπῶν; and so Kübel, “which has no more worth than the blood of other men”. All these meanings lie close to one another. Cf. Mark 7:2, Acts 10:14. What is “common” is unsanctified, ceremonially unclean.] The third point in the heinousness of the sin of apostasy is τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς χάριτος ἐνυβρίσας, “and has insulted the spirit of grace”. This seems the direct antithesis to “Moses’ law” of Hebrews 10:28. The spirit of grace is the distinctive gift of Christian times, and is not only the Pauline but the universal antithesis to the law. To have blasphemed this gracious Spirit, who brings the assurance of God’s presence and pardon, and gifts suited to each believer, is to renounce all part in things spiritual. Cf. Hebrews 6:4, Hebrews 2:4; Ephesians 4:7.
For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.Hebrews 10:30. οἴδαμεν γὰρ τὸν εἰπόντα.… “For we know Him who said, vengeance is mine, I will repay.” The certainty of the punishment spoken of is based upon the righteousness of God. “We know who it is that said”; it is the living God (Hebrews 10:31). The quotation is from Deuteronomy 32:35 not as in the LXX but as given in Romans 12:19 where it is used as an argument for the surrender of private vengeance. In Deut. LXX the words are Ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἐκδικήσεως ἀνταποδώσω. The second quotation, κρινεῖ κύριος … is from the following verse where the words intimate God’s protecting care of His people, using κρινεῖ in the sense common in O.T. Delitzsch thinks that sense may be retained here, but this is less relevant and consistent with the passage. Cf. Sir 27:28 ἡ ἐκδίκησις ὡς λέων. and Sir 28:1. φοβερὸν τὸ ἐμπεσεῖν.… “It is dreadful to fall into the hands of the living God”. Where David (2 Samuel 24:14) prefers to do so [ἐμπεσοῦμαι δὴ εἰς χεῖρας κυρίου] it is because he knows his chastisement will be measured and that no unjust advantage will be taken. The dreadfulness of the impenitent’s doom arises from the same certainty that absolute justice will be done. As Judge, God is “the living God,” who sees and has power to execute just judgment, cf. Hebrews 3:12, Hebrews 12:22, cf. Hebrews 12:29.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;Hebrews 10:32. As in the parallel passage in chap. 6, the writer at Hebrews 10:9 suddenly turns from the presentation of the terrifying aspect of apostasy to make appeal to more generous motives, so here he now encourages them to perseverance by reminding them of their praiseworthy past. As Vaughan remarks, the thought is that of Galatians 3:3. ἀναμιμνήσκεσθε δὲ τὰς πρότερον ἡμέρας.… “But recall the former days, in which after being enlightened ye endured much wrestling with sufferings”. ἀναμιμ, “remind yourselves,” as in 2 Corinthians 7:15. See Wetstein’s examples, where the genitive not the accusative follows the verb, and M. Aurelius, Hebrews 10:31. τὰς πρότερον ἡμ. [as in Thucyd., vi. 9 ἐν τῷ πρότερον χρόνῳ.] days separated from the present by some considerable interval, as is implied in Hebrews 5:12. They are further described as ἐν αἷς φωτισθέντες as in Hebrews 6:4; equivalent to “receiving the knowledge of the truth,” Hebrews 10:26. It was the new light in Christ, shed upon their relation to God and on their prospects, which enabled them to endure much wrestling or conflict with sufferings. ἄθλησις in the next generation came to mean “martyrdom,” as in Mart. of S. Ignatius, chap. 4. [For the genitive cf. “certamina divitiarum,” Hor. Epp., i. 5 8.] What these sufferings were is described in two clauses, they were partly in their own persons, partly in their sympathy and voluntary sharing in the suffering of others, τοῦτο μὲν … θεατριζόμενοι, τοῦτο δὲ κοινωνοὶ … For the distributive formula, “partly,” … “partly,” see abundant examples from the classics in Wetstein. See also Plutarch’s Them., Hebrews 10:4. It may be rendered “as well by,” “as by”. θεατριζόμενοι, “made a spectacle,” [ὥσπερ ἐπὶ θεάτρου παραδειγματιζόμενοι, Theophyl., cf. 1 Corinthians 4:9], literally true of the Christians who were expose to wild beasts in the amphitheatre. See Renan’s L’Antéchrist, pp. 162 ff., “A la barbarie des supplices on ajouta la dérision”. But here it was not by lions and leopards and wild bulls they were attacked, but ὀνειδισμοῖς τε καὶ θλίψεσιν, “reproaches and distresses,” “opprobriis et tribulationibus” (Vulg.). ὀνειδισμός is frequent in LXX, and several times in the phrase λόγοι ὀνειδ. In this Epistle it occurs again in Hebrews 11:26 and Hebrews 13:13, and cf. 1 Peter 4:14. Some who have not directly suffered persecution in these forms suffered by sympathy and by identifying themselves with those who were experiencing such usage, τῶν οὕτως ἀναστρεφομένων. Cf. Php 4:14. Farrar renders well, “who lived in this condition of things”. In what sense they became κοινωνοί is immediately explained; they sympathised with those who were imprisoned and welcomed the violent seizure of their possessions. καὶ γὰρ, as always, must here be rendered “For indeed,” “for in point of fact,” proving by more definite instances that they had become partakers with the persecuted. They had felt for the imprisoned, as was possibly alluded to in Hebrews 6:10, and as they are in Hebrews 13:3 exhorted still to do. Cf. Matthew 25:36, which probably formed a large factor in the production of that care for the persecuted which characterised the early Church. They had also suffered the loss of their goods. ἁρπαγὴν, the violent and unjust seizure, as in Matthew 23:25, Luke 11:39. ἁρπαγὴ ὑπαρχόντων occurs in Lucian and Artemidorus. See Stephanus. That which enables them to take joyfully the loss of their possessions is their consciousness that they have a possession which is better and which cannot be taken away. γινώσκοντες ἔχειν ἑαυτοὺς [for ὑμᾶς αὐτοὺς]. If the true reading is ἑαυτοῖς then the meaning is easy “knowing that you have for yourselves”. If we read ἑαυτοὺς, this may mean, as Davidson, Westcott and others suppose, “knowing that you have yourselves a better possession”. But this seems not very congruous with the writer’s usual style. It is more likely that the writer uses the emphatic “you yourselves” in contrast to those who had robbed them and now possessed their goods. So von Soden. Or it may mean “ye yourselves” in contrast to the possession itself of which they have been deprived, ye yourselves however stripped of all earthly goods.
Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.
For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.
Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.Hebrews 10:35. μὴ ἀποβάλητε οὖν τὴν παρρησίαν … “Cast not away, then, your confidence, for it has great recompense of reward”. The exhortation begun in Hebrews 10:19 is resumed, with now the added force springing from their remembrance of what they have already endured and from their consciousness of a great possession in heaven. A reason for holding fast their confidence is now found in the result of so doing. It has great reward. μισθαποδοσία used in Hebrews 2:2 of requital of sin, here and in Hebrews 11:26 of reward. Cf. Clem. ad Cor. 6, γέρας γενναῖον, and Wis 3:5. Therefore, μὴ ἀποβάλητε, do not throw it away as a worthless thing you have no further need of. Retain it, ὑπομονῆς γὰρ ἔχετε χρείαν, “for ye have need of endurance,” of maintaining your hopeful confidence to the end under all circumstances. Without endurance the promise which secures to them the enduring possession cannot be enjoyed, for before entering upon its enjoyment, the whole will of God concerning them must be done and borne. ἵνα τὸ θέλημα τ. θεοῦ ποιήσαντες κομίσησθε τὴς ἐπαγγελίαν, Davidson and Weiss agree in thinking that “the will of God is His will that they should hold fast their confidence”. Rather, that accepting all privation, as they once did (Hebrews 10:32) and recognising all they were called to endure as God’s will concerning them, they should thus endure to the end (cf. Hebrews 3:6) and so receive the promised good (ἐπαγγελία = the thing promised as in Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 6:15). κομίσησθε, the verb properly means to carry off or to recover what is one’s own. See Matthew 25:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:19; Hebrews 11:39. And their entrance on the reward of their endurance will not long be delayed ἔτι γὰρ μικρὸν ὅσον ὅσον.… “For yet a little—a very little—while and He that cometh will have come and will not delay.” [“Es ist noch ein Kleines, wie sehr, wie sehr Klein” (Weiss), “noch eine kleine Zeit, ganz Klein” (Weizsäcker). “Adhuc enim modicum aliquantulum” (Vulg.). “For yet a little—ever so little—while” (Hayman)]. The phrase μικρὸν ὅσον ὅσον is found in Isaiah 26:20, “Go, my people … hide thyself for a very little, till the indignation be overpast”. The double ὅσον is found in Aristoph. Wasps, 213, where however Rogers thinks the duplication due to the drowsiness of the speaker. Literally it means “a little, how very, how very”. The following words from ὁ ἐρχόμενος to ἐν αὐτῷ are from Hebrews 2:3-4, with some slight alterations, the article being inserted before ἐρχόμενος, οὐ μὴ χρονίσῃ instead of the less forcible words in Hebrews, and the two clauses of Hebrews 10:4 being transposed. In Habakkuk the conditions are similar. God’s people are crushed under overwhelming odds. And the question with which Habakkuk opens his prophecy is ἕως τίνος κεκράξομαι και οὐ μὴ εἰσακούσεις; The Lord assures him that deliverance will come and will not delay. By inserting the article, the writer of Hebrews identifies the deliverer as the Messiah, “the coming One”. Cf. Matthew 11:3; Luke 7:19; John 6:14. ὁ δὲ δίκαιος.… “And the just shall live by faith,” i.e., shall survive these troublous times by believing that the Lord is at hand. Cf. Jam 5:7-9. καὶ ἐὰν ὑποστείληται, “and if he withdraw himself” or “shrink”. The verb, as Kypke shows, means to shrink in fear, and it is thus used in Galatians 2:12. It is the very opposite of παρρησία. Accordingly it is thoroughly displeasing to God, whose purpose it is to bring men to Himself in confident hope. But the idea that any of the “Hebrews” can be in so ignominious and dangerous a position is at once repudiated. ἡμεῖς δὲ.… “But as for us we are not of those who shrink (literally of shrinking) to perdition but of faith to the gaining of the soul”. That is, we are not characterised by a timid abandonment of our confession (Hebrews 10:23) and confidence. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:5. What such timidity leads to (εἰς ἀπώλειαν, cf. Acts 8:20; Romans 9:22) is hopeless perdition. Cf. M. Aurelius on the δραπέτης, Hebrews 10:25. ὁ φοβούμενος δραπέτης. But we are of faith whose end is περιποίησις ψυχῆς the acquisition of one’s soul. Very similar is Luke 21:19, “By your endurance win your souls”. See also Jam 5:20, and 1 Thessalonians 5:9. Like our word “acquisition” περιποίησις sometimes means the acquiring as in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 and 2 Thessalonians 2:14; sometimes the thing acquired as in Ephesians 1:14. [In Isocrates, 2nd Ep., occurs the expression διὰ τὸ περιποιῆσαι τὴν αὐτοῦ ψυχήν (Wetstein)].
For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.