Hebrews 8:4
For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:
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(4) For if he were . . .—The oldest Greek MSS. and two important versions read, “If then He were”; and two other changes in the text of this verse also rest on high authority. In its correct form the verse will stand thus: If then He were on earth, He would not even be a priest (that is, He would not be a priest at all), seeing there are those who according to law offer the gifts. The argument somewhat resembles that of Hebrews 7:13-14; there, however, the impediment is that of tribe; here the thought is that the place is preoccupied by men who by express command are bringing the gifts unto God.

8:1-6 The substance, or summary, of what had been declared was, that Christians had such a High Priest as they needed. He took upon himself human nature, appeared on earth, and there gave himself as a sacrifice to God for the sins of his people. We must not dare to approach God, or to present any thing to him, but in and through Christ, depending upon his merits and mediation; for we are accepted only in the Beloved. In all obedience and worship, we should keep close to God's word, which is the only and perfect standard. Christ is the substance and end of the law of righteousness. But the covenant here referred to, was that made with Israel as a nation, securing temporal benefits to them. The promises of all spiritual blessings, and of eternal life, revealed in the gospel, and made sure through Christ, are of infinitely greater value. Let us bless God that we have a High Priest that suits our helpless condition.For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest - He could not perform that office. The design of this is, to show a reason why he was removed to heaven. The reason was, that on earth there were those who were set apart to that office, and that he, not being of the same tribe with them, could not officiate as priest. There was an order of people here on earth consecrated already to that office, and hence, it was necessary that the Lord Jesus, in performing the functions of the office, should be removed to another sphere. 4. Implying that Christ's priestly office is exercised in heaven, not in earth; in the power of His resurrection life, not of His earthly life.

For—The oldest manuscripts read, "accordingly then."

if, &c.—"if He were on earth, He would not even (so the Greek) be a priest" (compare Heb 7:13, 14); therefore, certainly, He could not exercise the high priestly function in the earthly Holy of Holies.

seeing that, &c.—"since there are" already, and exist now (the temple service not yet being set aside, as it was on the destruction of Jerusalem), "those (the oldest manuscripts omit 'priests') who offer the (appointed) gifts according to (the) law." Therefore, His sacerdotal "ministry" must be "in the heavens," not on earth (Heb 8:1). "If His priesthood terminated on the earth, He would not even be a priest at all" [Bengel]. I conceive that the denial here of Christ's priesthood on earth does not extend to the sacrifice on the cross which He offered as a priest on earth; but applies only to the crowning work of His priesthood, the bringing of the blood into the Holy of Holies, which He could not have done in the earthly Holy of Holies, as not being an Aaronic priest. The place (the heavenly Holy of Holies) was as essential to the atonement being made as the oblation (the blood). The body was burnt without the gate; but the sanctification was effected by the presentation of the blood within the sanctuary by the high priest. If on earth, He would not be a priest in the sense of the law of Moses ("according to the law" is emphatic).

For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest: this gives the reason why the Levitical gifts and offerings were inconsistent with Christ’s priesthood: for if he were earthly for person or office, or was existing on earth, or in an earthly sanctuary or tabernacle proper to the law, he could not by Divine ordination be an offering priest, being not of Aaron’s family, nor of the tribe of Levi, nor such a priest as he was made by God’s oath after Melchisedec’s order, if he were for temper, office, or place of ministry earthly.

Seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: this earthly office, state, and work, was by the law settled on Aaron’s family, and none could legally offer sacrifices or gifts in God’s earthly tabernacle or temple, but his sons alone. Christ, as he was not of that tribe, so he never was either in the court of the priests, or in the holy place in the temple, neither did minister in them as a priest at all; this was proper and peculiar only to his types. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest,.... The Socinians from hence attempt to prove that Christ was not a priest, and did not offer sacrifice on earth; whereas his coming into the world, and his appearance in human nature, was in the character of a priest, and to qualify himself for one; his death was his sacrifice, which was on earth; and he never offered but one sacrifice; and it was after he had offered himself that he went to heaven; so the sacrifices under the law were first offered, before their blood was carried within: but the meaning is, either if "that" was on earth, namely, what it was necessary he should have to offer; if his human nature had been earthly, had been of men, had come by ordinary generation, he had not been properly, only typically a priest, at most; and had been no better than the typical ones; yea, he would have been needless, nay, might not have offered, not being of Levi's tribe, and could not have existed as a priest with the sons of Aaron; but he had his human nature in another way, through the power of the Holy Ghost from above, and therefore is said to come from above, from heaven, and to be the Lord from heaven: or the sense is, if he was on earth, and had not died, he had not been a priest; and if he had died and remained under the power of death, he had been a priest of no account and use; and had he rose again and remained on earth, without going to heaven, with his blood and sacrifice, he had not been a perfect priest; if Christ had remained on earth, the Levitical priesthood had remained, and so he would have been no priest, since two priesthoods could not have subsisted together. The Levitical priesthood was in force while Christ was on earth; Christ's priesthood was not perfected on earth; the Levitical priesthood remaining while he was on earth, proves he was not then a perfect priest, or had not completed his priesthood; had he been so, that would not have subsisted; it was necessary therefore that Christ should enter into the holy place, to put an end to the Levitical priesthood: moreover, if he had remained on earth, he had been needless;

seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law; there were priests when Christ was upon earth; their work was to offer gifts the people brought, and sacrifices for sin, and that according to the law of Moses, which till the death of Christ was in full force.

{5} For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:

(5) He gives a reason why he said that our High Priest is in the heavenly sanctuary, and not in the earthly: because, says he, if he were now on the earth, he could not minister in the earthly sanctuary, seeing there are still Levitical priests who are appointed for him, that is to say, to be patterns of that perfect example. To what purpose should the patterns serve, when the true and original example is present?

Hebrews 8:4. A sacrificial priest Christ can only be, either in the earthly or the heavenly sanctuary; for a third, besides these two, there is not. The author now proves, Hebrews 8:4, that He cannot be a priest in the earthly sanctuary, whence it then follows of itself that He must be so in the heavenly one.

εἰ ἦν] not: if He had been (Böhme, Kuinoel), but: if He were. Το εἰ μὲν οὖν ἦν ἐπὶ γῆς we have, moreover, neither, with Grotius, Wolf, and others, to supply μόνον, nor, with Zeger, Bengel, Carpzov, Heinrichs, Böhme, and others, ἀρχιερεύς or ἱερεύς. It signifies nothing more than: if He were now on earth, had His dwelling-place upon earth.

οὐδʼ ἂν ἦν ἱερεύς] He would not even be a priest. Incorrectly Bleek, Bisping, and Ewald: He would not even be a priestnot to say a high priest. For the augmenting οὐδέ can refer only to the whole proposition, not specially to ἱερεύς, since otherwise οὐδʼ ἱερεὺς ἂν ἦν must have been written. ἱερεύς is therefore to be taken as a more general expression for the more definite ἀρχιερεύς. Yet more erroneously Primasius, Seb. Schmidt, Wolf, Rambach, Carpzov, and others: “He would not be that unique, real, or true priest, that everlasting priest after the manner of Melchisedec”—which, without an addition, the words cannot by any means signify.

The reason why Christ, if He were dwelling upon earth, could not at all be a priest, is contained in the ὄντωντὰ δῶρα. For on earth there are, of a truth, the legally appointed priests already present, and with these Jesus, since He belonged not to the tribe of Levi, but to the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:14), has nothing in common.

ὄντων τῶν προσφερόντων κατὰ νόμον τὰ δῶρα] since assuredly there are present (ὄντων has the emphasis), sc. on earth, those who in accordance with law (i.e. according to the norm of the Mosaic law) offer the gifts, namely the Levites, among whom Christ could not be reckoned, ὄντων and προσφερόντων designate that which is still existing at the time of our author. To take the words as participles of the past (Peshito, Vulgate, Grotius,[86] Braun, and others), is already forbidden by the present λατρεύουσιν, Hebrews 8:5.

[86] This writer with the explanation entirely foreign to the subject: “Erant, nempe quum psalmus iste scriberetur.”

Hebrews 8:4-5. Return (οὖν) from the subsidiary remark, Hebrews 8:3, to the main thought in Hebrews 8:2 (τῶν ἁγίων καὶ τῆς σκηνῆς τῆς ἀληθινῆς, ἣν κ.τ.λ.), and proof for the same.Hebrews 8:4. εἰ μὲν οὖν ἐπὶ γῆς … “And indeed if He were on earth He would not even be a priest, since there are those who according to law offer the gifts”. μὲν οὖν = et quidem (Devarius, p. 125) or, it might be rendered “If however,” see Hermann’s Viger, p. 442. Vaughan says: “The οὖν is (as usual) in accordance with the above statement; here, namely, that He must have something to offer”. The apodosis in Hebrews 8:6. νυνι δε. The argument is, given or assumed as already proved that Christ is our High Priest, it must be in Heaven He exercises His ministry, for if He were on earth, He would not even be a priest, not to say, a High Priest. [As Bleek has it, “er würde nicht einmal Priester sein,—geschweige denn Hohe priester”.] He could not be a priest, because the priestly office on earth is already filled. The law [κατὰ νόμον], which can not be interfered with, regulates all that concerns the earthly priesthood (Hebrews 7:12), and by this law He is excluded from priestly office, not being of the tribe of Levi (Hebrews 7:14). τὰ δῶρα “the gifts” further emphasises the rigorous prescriptions of the law. The absence of the article before νόμον does not necessitate though it suggests the translation “according to law”.4. For if he were] Rather, “now if He were still on earth.”

if he were on earth] His sanctuary must be a heavenly one, for in the earthly one He had no standpoint.

he should not be a priest] He would not even be so much as a Priest at all; still less a High Priest; for He was of the Tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:14), and the Law had distinctly ordained that “no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the Lord” (Numbers 16:40).

seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law] Rather (omitting “priests” with the best mss.), since “there are (already) those who offer their gifts according to the Law.” The writer could not possibly have used these present tenses if the Epistle had been written after the Fall of Jerusalem. Jewish institutions are, indeed, spoken of in the present tense, after the fall of Jerusalem, by Barnabas and Clement of Rome; but they are merely using an everyday figure of speech. In case of the Epistle to the Hebrews the argument would have gained such indefinite force and weight in passages like this by appealing to a fact so startling as the annulment of the Mosaic system by God Himself, working by the unmistakeable demonstrations of history, that no writer similarly circumstanced could possibly have passed over such a point in silence.Hebrews 8:4. Γὰρ, for) The reason why he said ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, in the heavens, Hebrews 8:1 : a Chiasmus: comp. Hebrews 8:2-3.—ἐπὶ γῆς) If our Priest were a priest upon the earth, if His priesthood terminated on the earth, He would not even be [in the true sense] a priest at all. Christ, whilst He discharged the duties of the priesthood, entered into heaven.—ὄντων) inasmuch as there were already at the time priests existing.Rend. "Now if he were on earth he would not be a priest at all, seeing that there are those who offer the gifts according to the law." Christ could not be a priest on earth, because there is an order of priests already established by law; and as Christ was not of the tribe of Levi (Hebrews 7:13, Hebrews 7:14) he could have nothing in common with them.
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