Hebrews 9:15
And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
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(15) And for this cause.—Or, And because of this. This verse looks back to the great truth of Hebrews 9:11-12, which the last two verses have served to confirm and place in bolder relief. “Christ through His own blood entered once for all into the Holy Place, having won eternal redemption; and by reason of this He is the Mediator of a covenant, a new covenant, in order that they who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” For “the new testament” we must certainly read a new covenant: whatever may be thought of the following group of verses, the rendering testament has no place here. The leading thought of Hebrews 8 is the establishment of a new covenant, and the former covenant has been referred to three times in this very chapter (Hebrews 9:1; Hebrews 9:4).

That by means of death.—Rather, that, death having taken place for redemption from the transgressions, &c. The first covenant had been broken by “transgressions:” unless there be redemption from these—that is, from the bondage of penalty which has resulted from these—there can be no promise and no new covenant. In respect of this bondage, this penalty, the death of Christ was a ransom—an offering to God looked at in the light of a payment in the place of debt, service, or penalty due. When debt and payment are changed into the corresponding ideas of sin and punishment, the ransom gives place to the sin-offering, of which the principle was the acknowledgment of death deserved, and the vicarious suffering of death. So far our thought has rested on the removal of the results of the past. The covenant and the promise relate to the establishment of the better future. Death was necessary alike for both. The offering of Christ’s life (Matthew 20:28) was a ransom or an offering for sin; it was also a sacrifice inaugurating a new covenant, which contained the promise of the eternal inheritance. See Hebrews 9:16-18; also Galatians 3:13-14, where the thought is very similar.

They which are called.—More clearly, they that have been called. (See Acts 2:39; Romans 1:6-7; 2Thessalonians 2:13-14.) In Hebrews 3:1 we have a similar expression, “partakers of a heavenly calling:” there also the idea of sonship (Hebrews 2:10), with its right of “inheritance,” is certainly present.

Hebrews 9:15. And for this cause Δια τουτο, on this account, that Christ’s blood is so efficacious; or for this end, that he might die and thereby procure redemption, and an eternal inheritance for us; he is the mediator — Between God and man, making peace between them; of the new testament — Or covenant rather, as the word διαθηκη is generally rendered in the New Testament, answering to the Hebrew word berith, which all the translators of the Jewish Scriptures have understood to signify a covenant. It is, however, such a covenant, as, having been procured for us, and confirmed by his death, is thereby become a testament. For through it we receive the blessings which Christ, by his will, designed for, and declared should be conferred upon believers through faith in his blood. “Thus when he said, for their sakes I sanctify myself, John 17:19; that is, I offer up myself as a piacular victim, that they might be sanctified, or truly purged from their sins; he adds, as his last will and testament, Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me be with me where I am. So here he is become a high-priest of good things to come, purchasing eternal redemption for us by his blood: and the mediator of that new covenant, in which God promises to be merciful to our transgressions, and to remember our sins no more, Hebrews 8:12; procuring the remission of them by the intervention of his death, that they who believe in him might receive the promise of an eternal inheritance — Which he died to entitle them to, and confer upon them; whence it is styled the purchased possession, Ephesians 1:14. This therefore was his will and testament, that they, for whom he died, should live through him. And this testament could not be confirmed but by his death: he, therefore, was at once the mediator in whom the new covenant, promising to us remission of sins, was made, and the testator by whose death the testament, that they who believed in him should have eternal life, was ratified.” So Dr. Whitby, who, however, observes, that the paragraph, to the end of Hebrews 9:20, will admit of a fair interpretation without supposing that any thing is said in it either of a testament or testator. See on the next verse. That by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions — That is, for the redemption of transgressors from the guilt and punishment of those sins which were committed under the first covenant. In other words, He suffered for this end, that he might procure deliverance, not only from the condemnation due to the sins which have been committed since his death, but from that due to those which were committed during the former dispensation and state of the church, which could not be fully expiated by any of those sacrifices which belonged to the first covenant. They which are called — And obey the call, or are made partakers of the grace of the gospel; might receive the promise of eternal inheritance — The things promised in the new covenant, namely, not a temporary, earthly inheritance, such as the land of Canaan, promised in the first covenant, but that eternal glory which is promised in the new covenant.9:15-22 The solemn transactions between God and man, are sometimes called a covenant, here a testament, which is a willing deed of a person, bestowing legacies on such persons as are described, and it only takes effect upon his death. Thus Christ died, not only to obtain the blessings of salvation for us, but to give power to the disposal of them. All, by sin, were become guilty before God, had forfeited every thing that is good; but God, willing to show the greatness of his mercy, proclaimed a covenant of grace. Nothing could be clean to a sinner, not even his religious duties; except as his guilt was done away by the death of a sacrifice, of value sufficient for that end, and unless he continually depended upon it. May we ascribe all real good works to the same all-procuring cause, and offer our spiritual sacrifices as sprinkled with Christ's blood, and so purified from their defilement.And for this cause - With this view; that is, to make an effectual atonement for sin, and to provide a way by which the troubled conscience may have peace.

He is the Mediator - see notes on Galatians 3:19-20. He is the Mediator between God and man in respect to that new covenant which he has made, or that new dispensation by which people are to be saved. He stands between God and man - the parties at variance - and undertakes the work of mediation and reconciliation.

Of the New Testament - Not "testament" - for a "testament," or "will," needs no mediator; but of the "new covenant," or the new "arrangement" or "disposition" of things under which he proposes to pardon and save the guilty; see notes on Hebrews 9:16-17.

That by means of death - His own death as a sacrifice for sin. The "old" covenant or arrangement also contemplated "death" - but it was the death of an "animal." The purposes of this were to be effected by the death of the Mediator himself; or this covenant was to be ratified in his blood.

For the redemption of the transgression that were "under the first testament - The covenant or arrangement under Moses. The general idea here is, that these were offences for which no expiation could be made by the sacrifices under that dispensation, or from which the blood then shed could not redeem. This general idea may include two particulars.

(1) that they who had committed transgressions under that covenant, and who could not be fully pardoned by the imperfect sacrifices then made, would receive a full forgiveness of all their sins in the great day of account through the blood of Christ. Though the blood of bulls and goats could not expiate, yet they offered that blood in faith; they relied on the promised mercy of God; they looked forward to a perfect sacrifice - and now the blood of the great atonement offered as a "full" expiation for all their sins, would be the ground of their acquittal in the last day.

(2) that the blood of Christ would now avail for the remission of all those sins which could not be expiated by the sacrifices offered under the Law. It not only contemplated the remission of all the offences committed by the truly pious under that Law, but would now avail to put away sin entirely. No sacrifice which people could offer would avail, but the blood of Christ would remove all that guilt.

That they which are called - Alike under the old covenant and the new.

Might receive the promise of eternal inheritance - That is, the fulfillment of the promise; or that they might be made partakers of eternal blessings. That blood is effectual alike to save those under the ancient covenant and the new - so that they will be saved in the same manner, and unite in the same song of redeeming love.

15. for this cause—Because of the all-cleansing power of His blood, this fits Him to be Mediator (Heb 8:6, ensuring to both parties, God and us, the ratification) of the new covenant, which secures both forgiveness for the sins not covered by the former imperfect covenant or testament, and also an eternal inheritance to the called.

by means of death—rather, as Greek, "death having taken place." At the moment that His death took place, the necessary effect is, "the called receive the (fulfilment of the) promise" (so Lu 24:49 uses "promise"; Heb 6:15; Ac 1:4); that moment divides the Old from the New Testament. The "called" are the elect "heirs," "partakers of the heavenly calling" (Heb 3:1).

redemption of … transgressions … under … first testament—the transgressions of all men from Adam to Christ, first against the primitive revelation, then against the revelations to the patriarchs, then against the law given to Israel, the representative people of the world. The "first testament" thus includes the whole period from Adam to Christ, and not merely that of the covenant with Israel, which was a concentrated representation of the covenant made with (or the first testament given to) mankind by sacrifice, down from the fall to redemption. Before the inheritance by the New Testament (for here the idea of the "INHERITANCE," following as the result of Christ's "death," being introduced, requires the Greek to be translated "testament," as it was before covenant) could come in, there must be redemption of (that is, deliverance from the penalties incurred by) the transgressions committed under the first testament, for the propitiatory sacrifices under the first testament reached only as far as removing outward ceremonial defilement. But in order to obtain the inheritance which is a reality, there must be a real propitiation, since God could not enter into covenant relation with us so long as past sins were unexpiated; Ro 3:24, 25, "a propitiation … His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past."

might—Greek, "may receive," which previously they could not (Heb 11:39, 40).

the promise—to Abraham.

And for this cause he is the Mediator of the new testament: as Christ’s priesthood and service, his sacrifice and purifying, so the testamental covenant, and his administration of it, did incomparably exceed all those of Aaron’s; so that for what was spoken, Hebrews 9:14, even the effects of his sacrifice, the justification and sanctification of sinners, is he the great gospel High Priest, the mediating person between God and sinners, confirming and making effectual by his death God’s testamental covenant to them, which is for the administration of it the very best and last, in which God bequeatheth pardon, reconciliation, righteousness, holiness, adoption, and heirship to an eternal inheritance to penitent, believing sinners.

That by means of death; the death of Christ himself, God-man, the most excellent sacrifice, without which there could be no remission, Hebrews 9:22, nor the testament of God about it put in force; for which cause he was the Mediator of it, that they should value him so much the more for his death, fulfilling therein all his types, and reach that which was unattainable by these, both for their fathers and themselves.

For the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament; for the satisfying the justice of God for the wrong their sins had done it, paying that price without which they could not be expiated, by which they were remissible, and to the duty qualified, actually forgiven, even the sins of those who were under the Mosaical administration of the covenant. Aaron, Samuel, David, and the saints, believers in that time, had their transgressions pardoned by virtue of the death of Christ to come, shadowed by these sacrifices typifying him and his death in their own times. What the death of beasts or birds could do for them, his did, delivering them from the guilt and punishment of their transgressions, under which otherwise they must have perished for ever: this Peter publisheth, Acts 15:11. This virtue of Christ’s death is not mentioned exclusive of New Testament sins being remitted by it; but if it did expiate those old ones, reaching so much backward, even to Aaron, it will much more expiate those under the New Testament to penitent, believing, praying sinners for it, as those Old Testament transgressors were.

They which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance: such as on God’s call repent and believe on the Lord Jesus, that Angel of the covenant then revealed to them, and enter into covenant with him, Exodus 23:20-23; compare 1 Corinthians 10:3,4,9 Joh 5:45-47; such as by it have sins expiated, consciences purged, so as to have a title to and fitness by the work of the Spirit for the heavenly Canaan, Romans 4:16,24,25; may be put into the possession of that eternal inheritance made over to them by promise, and which the Spirit gave them an earnest of here, Hebrews 12:10,14,16; compare Ephesians 1:13,14 1 Peter 1:3,4. All this is confirmed to these by Christ’s death. And for this cause he is the Mediator of the New Testament,.... See Gill on Hebrews 7:22, See Gill on Hebrews 8:6, See Gill on Hebrews 8:8. This may refer both to what goes before, and what follows after; for Christ, that he might offer himself to God, and by his blood purge the consciences of his people from dead works, that so they might serve the living God, became the Mediator of the New Testament, or covenant; and also he took upon him this character and office,

that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance; Christ became the Mediator of the New Testament, and assumed human nature that he might die, and by dying might obtain redemption for his people; not only for those that were then in the world, or should be in it, but also for all those that had been in it. "The first testament" is the first dispensation of the covenant of grace, reaching from the first promulgation of it to Adam after the fall, to the death of Christ; "the transgressions" that were under it are the sins of the saints who lived under that dispensation, froth Adam to Moses, and from Moses to Christ, and takes in all their iniquities of every kind: and the "redemption" of these, or from these, by Christ, at and through his death, does not suppose that there was no remission of sins, or justification from them, under that dispensation; or that the Old Testament saints did not go to heaven, but were detained in a prison, till redeemed by the death of Christ; or that their sins were only redeemed, not their persons; for transgressions may stand for transgressors; and so the Syriac version renders it, "that by his death he might be a redemption for them who transgressed the first testament"; so the Jews say, that the Messiah must die "to redeem the fathers" (b): but the sense is, that though legal sacrifices could not atone for sin, nor ceremonial ablutions cleanse from them; yet the sins of Old Testament saints were expiated, their iniquities pardoned, and they justified and saved, through the blood of Christ, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; whose death is a redemption from transgressions past, present, and to come; whose blood is the ransom price for them, and was shed for the remission of them, even of sins that are past through the forbearance of God; who took the surety's word for the performance of all this, which in the fulness of time he strictly fulfilled, to the satisfaction of law and justice; see Romans 3:25 and the ultimate end of Christ's being a Mediator, and dying for such purposes, was, that called ones might receive the promised inheritance: by the "eternal inheritance", is meant heaven, which is by gift and bequest, belongs to children only, and comes through the death of Christ; and is a very substantial, plentiful, and glorious one; it is incorruptible and undefiled, and that fades not away, and as here, "eternal"; it was prepared from the foundation of the world, and will continue for ever; and it may be so called, to distinguish it from the inheritance of the land of Canaan, or any temporal one: "the promise" of this was made before the world began, and was put into the hands of Christ, the surety of the better testament, by whose death the heirs of it come to enjoy both the promise, and the thing promised; and they are such who are "called", not merely externally, but internally and effectually; by whom were meant, not Abraham and his natural seed, nor the Old Testament saints only, but all that are called with an holy calling, whether Jews or Gentiles, and who will enjoy both the promise of the inheritance, and that itself, in a way of "receiving": every word shows this affair to be all of grace; it is an "inheritance", and therefore the Father's gift; it is by "promise", and so of grace; and it is "received", and so freely given, and not merited; and only such who are "called" by grace possess it; and yet it is through the death of Christ, that so it might be received in a way consistent with the justice of God.

(b) R. Moses Haddarsan apud Galatin. l. 8. c. 20.

{10} And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

(10) The conclusion of the former argument: therefore seeing the blood of beasts did not purge sins, the new Testament which was promised before, to which those outward things had respect, is now indeed established by the power by which all transgressions might be taken away, and heaven indeed opened to us. It follows that Christ shed his blood also for the fathers, for he was foreshadowed by these old ceremonies, otherwise, unless they served to represent him, they were not at all profitable. Therefore this Testament is called the latter, not concerning the power of it, (that is to say, remission of sins) but in respect of that time in which the thing itself was finished, that is to say, in which Christ was exhibited to the world, and fulfilled all things necessary for our salvation.

Hebrews 9:15. Καὶ διὰ τοῦτο διαθήκης καινῆς μεσίτης ἐστίν] and just for this cause is He the Mediator of a New Covenant. By means of καί, Hebrews 9:15 attaches itself closely to the preceding context, and διὰ τοῦτο points back to the main thought contained in Hebrews 9:9-14; just for this reason, that the sacrifice of Christ accomplishes that which the Levitical sacrifices are unable to accomplish; namely, that, presented by virtue of eternal spirit, brings in an eternal redemption, these, on the other hand, as ordinances of the flesh, are able to effect only purity of the flesh. Not specially to τὸ αἱμα, Hebrews 9:14 (Sykes, Chr. Fr. Schmid, Maier), does διὰ τοῦτο glance back. For in this case διʼ αὐτό, or rather διὰ τοῦ αἵματος, would more naturally have been written. Nor is διὰ τοῦτο to be taken together with ὅπως, as a mere preparation thereto (so Schlichting, Schulz, Böhme, Bleek, Stengel, Ebrard, and many). For thereby Hebrews 9:15 would be torn from its connection with that which precedes.

Upon καινῆς there does not rest an emphasis, as is supposed by Bleek and Delitzsch. For otherwise the adjectives must have been prefixed to the substantive. On the contrary, what is to be specially emphasized is διαθήκης. For just the inner nexus of the N. T. διαθήκης, with the redemptive death of Christ as its mediating cause, is to be brought out; whereas the adjective καινῆς could be presupposed as familiar from the disquisition Hebrews 8:8 ff., in that there the perfect covenant promised by God was sufficiently characterized as a new one.

ὅπως] in order that. False the interpretation of Heinrichs: “unde sequitur.” The final clause ὅπως κ.τ.λ. is not designed to develop more nearly the διὰ τοῦτο; it depends upon διαθήκης καινῆς μεσίτης ἐστίν, and indicates the goal to which, in accordance with the decree of God, the διαθήκη καινή should lead, and at the same time the way and means by which the attainment of this goal should be accomplished.

θανάτου γενομένου] a death having ensued. The death of Christ is that which is meant. The author, however, expresses himself generically, because he has already in mind that which is to be observed, Hebrews 9:16-17.

Εἰς ἀπολύτρωσιν τῶν ἐπὶ τῇ πρώτῃ διαθήκῃ παραβάσεων] for redemption from the transgressions (or sins) committed under the first covenant (or at the time of the first covenant). Note of design to θανάτου γενομένου, not to λάβωσιν.

τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν] the promise, i.e. the promised blessing itself. With τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν we have to combine τῆς αἰωνίου κληρονομίας, as a declaration wherein the promised blessing consists (genitive of apposition). By the separation of the two closely connected words, τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν is brought out more emphatically, and the discourse gains in point of rhythm. Less suitably, although free from objection on linguistic grounds, did the Peshito, Faber Stapulensis, Braun, Chr. Fr. Schmid, Stein, Stengel, Tholuck, Ebrard, Riehm (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 594), Moll, Ewald, and others take τῆς αἰωνίου κληρονομίας with οἱ κεκλημένοι: those who are called to the eternal inheritance.

οἱ κεκλημένοι] Comp. κλήσεως ἐπουρανίου μέτοχοι, Hebrews 3:1. The expression is here used absolutely, and is not to be referred exclusively to the Christians. For, according to Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 11:39-40, the power of the redemptive death of Christ extends retroactively likewise to the generations of the past. And just for this reason the participle perfect is written, and not the participle aorist. For not to the historic act of the temporal vocation, but to the being called, as a fact in the decree of God already completed and extending into the present, is attention to be drawn.

Hebrews 9:15-28. In order, however, that Christ might become the mediator of the New Covenant, it was matter of necessity that He should suffer death. This follows from the very notion of a διαθήκη, since the same is only ratified after the death of the διαθέμενος has been proved; as accordingly the first or O. T. διαθήκη was not inaugurated without blood. For the inauguration of the earthly sanctuary the blood of slain animals sufficed; for the consecration of the heavenly sanctuary, on the other hand, there was need of a more excellent sacrifice. This Christ has presented once for all in the end of the world, by His sin-cancelling sacrificial death.Hebrews 9:15. καὶ διὰ τοῦτο, “And on this account,” that is to say, because, as stated in Hebrews 9:14, Christ’s blood cleanses the conscience from dead works and thus fits men to draw near to God, διαθήκης καινῆς μεσίτης ἐστίν, “He is mediator of a new covenant”. The old covenant with sacrifices which could only cleanse the flesh allowed sins to accumulate. But Christ, as above stated, obtained cleansing from sins, and so laid the essential foundation of a new covenant, Hebrews 8:12. ὅπως θανάτου γενομένου … “that a death having taken place for deliverance from the transgressions [committed] under the first covenant, those who have been called might receive the promised eternal inheritance”. Even under the old covenant this inheritance had been promised. A gospel had been preached to them, and they had been invited, Hebrews 4:2. God being during that period the covenant God of the people, this involved eternal good. But until their transgressions were atoned for they could not receive the inheritance. The sacrifices under the old covenant could not atone for sin, therefore a new covenant with a death which could atone was necessary; in order that such a death having taken place and their sins being removed they might receive fulfilment of the promise. The retrospective reference of the death of Christ is here affirmed; as in Hebrews 11:40 it is stated that without us, i.e., without the Christian dispensation, the O.T. believers could not be perfected, The words οἱ κεκλημένοι, therefore, include not only the Hebrews addressed but all who had lived under the O.T. dispensation. ἀπολύτρωοινπαραβάσεων, the genitive is of the object from which redemption is achieved, and ἐπὶ is scarcely “against” as in Vaughan, but rather “in the time of,” as in Hebrews 9:26, Php 1:3.15–28. The indispensableness and efficacy of the death of Christ

15. for this cause] i.e. on account of the grandeur of His offering.

the mediator of the new testament] Rather, “a mediator of a New Covenant.” Moses had been called by Philo “the Mediator” of the Old Covenant, i.e. he who came between God and Israel as the messenger of it. But Christ’s intervention—His coming as One who revealed God to man—was accompanied with a sacrifice so infinitely more efficacious that it involved a New Covenant altogether.

by means of death] This version renders the passage entirely unintelligible. The true rendering and explanation seem to be as follows: “And on this account He is a Mediator of a New Covenant, that—since death” [namely the death of sacrificial victims] “occurred for the redemption of the transgressions which took place under the first covenant—those who have been called [whether Christians, or faithful believers under the Old Dispensation] may [by virtue of Christ’s death, which the death of those victims typified] receive [i.e. actually enjoy the fruition of, Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 6:17, Hebrews 10:36, Hebrews 11:13] the promise of the Eternal Inheritance.” Volumes of various explanations have been written on this verse, but the explanation given above is very simple. The verse is a sort of reason why Christ’s death was necessary. The ultimate, a priori, reason he does not attempt to explain, because it transcends all understanding; but he merely says that since under the Old Covenant death was necessary, and victims had to be slain in order that by their blood men might be purified, and the High Priest might enter the Holiest Place, so, under the New Covenant, a better and more efficacious death was necessary, both to give to those old sacrifices the only real validity which they possessed, and to secure for all of God’s elect an eternal heritage.Hebrews 9:15. Διαθήκης καινῆς, of the new testament) Here the testament is rather urged, than the newness of the testament: comp. Hebrews 9:16.—θανάτου γενομένου, by means of death that took place) that is, at the time when the death had taken place. The moment of this (His) death properly divides the Old Testament from the New.—εἰς ἀπολύτρωσιν τῶν ἐπὶ τῇ πρώτῃ διαθήχῃ παραβάσεων, for the redemption of the transgressions, that were under the first testament) There is a passage of Paul very like this in Romans 3:24-25. The preposition ἐπὶ, under, not merely denotes the time, but intimates that the first testament had no power of redemption, and that the people of old were more on account of it transgressors. Ἀπολύτρωσις, the compound, occurs here: λύτρωσις, the simple word, occurs, Hebrews 9:12.—ἐπαγγελίαν, the promise) given to Abraham.—λάβωσιν, might receive) for formerly they could not.—οἱ κεκλημένοι) those called, named heirs (ch. Hebrews 3:1).—κληρονομίας, of the inheritance) An apposite appellation; for there is an allegory: testament, death, inheritance.Verses 15-17. - And for this cause he is the Mediator of a new testament, that by means of death (literally, death having taken place), for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. Here the view of the gospel as a new διαθήκη (introduced first in Hebrews 7:22, and enlarged on in Hebrews 8:6-13) is again brought in. For the word is still διαθήκη, though here, for reasons that will appear, rendered "testament" in the A.V. The connecting thought here is - It is because of Christ's sacrifice having been such as has been described, that he is the Mediator of that new and better covenant; it qualified him for being so. A sacrifice, a death, was required for giving it validity (vers. 16-23), and the character of his sacrifice implies a better covenant than the old, even such a one as Jeremiah foretold. Further, the purpose of his death is said to be "for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant." For in the passage of Jeremiah the defect of the first covenant was based on the transgression of its conditions by man, while under the new one, such transgressions were to be no more remembered. But this could not be without atonement for them; the whole ceremonial of the Law signified this; and also that such atonement could not be except by death. The death of Christ satisfied this requirement; and so the new covenant could come in. So far the course of thought is clear. Nor is there difficulty in understanding the purport of ver. 18, etc., taken by itself, where the "blood-shedding" that inaugurated the first covenant is regarded as typical of that of Christ in the inauguration of the new one. But there is a difficulty about the intervening verses (16, 17), arising from the apparent use of the word διαθήκη in a new sense, not otherwise suggested - that of testament rather than covenant. The verses are, as given in the A.V., For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be (φέρεσθαι. a word of which the exact meaning is not clear; some interpret "be brought in, or proved," some "be understood, implied ") the death of the testator (τοῦ διαθεμένου, equivalent to "him that made it"). For a testament is of force after men are dead (ἐπὶ νεκροῖς): otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth (or, for doth it ever avail while he theft made it liveth? ἐπεὶ μήποτε: cf. Hebrews 10:2; Romans 3:6; 1 Corinthians 14:16; John 7:26; Luke 3:15). Now, the word διαθήκη itself undoubtedly may bear the sense of "testament." Its general meaning is " disposition," or "settlement;" and it may denote either compact between living persons, or a will to take effect after the testator's death. In the verses before us it appears to be used specifically in the latter sense. For they express general propositions, which are not true of all covenants, but are true (according to their most obvious sense) of all testaments. Further, this sense is distinctly applicable to the new διαθήκη, regarded as the dying Christ's bequest to his Church. Hence, but for the context, we should naturally so understand it in these verses. The difficulties attending this sense are:

(1) The word is not used in this specific sense before or afterwards in this Epistle or in Jeremiah 31, which is the basis of the whole argument, or elsewhere, apparently, either in the Old Testament or the New.

(2) The sense does not suit the case of the old διαθήκη, which was a covenant between the living God and his people; and there is no intimation of two senses being intended in the two cases: indeed, in the passage before us, the same sense seems to be distinctly implied, since the blood-shedding which inaugurated the old is at once (in ver. 17) spoken of as answering to the death which inaugurated the new, as though death inaugurated both in the same sense.

(3) The word, in the sense of covenant (equivalent to the Hebrew berith), is common in the LXX., expressing an idea familiar to Jews and Jewish Christians, while testamentary dispositions were, as far as we know, unfamiliar to the Hebrews; and, though the Roman testamentary law may have come into use when the Epistle was written, it is thought unlikely that the writer, addressing Hebrews, would have referred to it in illustration of a Divine dispensation, or, if he had, have used a word so well known to them in its traditional sense.

(4) Christ is called (here as well as in Hebrews 12:24 and Hebrews 13:20) the Mediator (μεσίτης) of the new διαθήκη: but a testament does not require a Mediator, nor, if it has one, can the same person be both mediator and testator. If, however, the sense of testament should seem inevitable here, we may explain as follows. Though the word has been used so far in a general sense, yet the writer, on the suggestion of θανάτου γενομένου in ver. 15, passes in thought at ver. 16 to the specific sense of testament, as suiting the case of Christ, the language he uses being sufficient for carrying his readers with him in the transition. Further, though the old διαθήκη was not in itself a testament, yet it was typical of that which was; its whole ceremonial foreshadowed the future Testator's death, and so, in a typical sense, it might also itself be called one. Consequently, in ver. 18, the inaugurating sacrifices of the old dispensation are regarded as representing the death of the testator; for they prefigured Christ, through whose death the "eternal inheritance" is bequeathed to man. (In accordance with this view, the Vulgate renders διαθήκη testamentum throughout the Epistle, even when the old dispensation is referred to.) As to ὁ διαθέμενος (translated "the testator"), it is, according to this view, ultimately God the Father in the new διαθήκη, as well as in the old, though, of course, the Godhead could not die. But the Father having placed the whole inheritance destined for mankind in the hands of Christ as Mediator, in his human death the testator died. And thus one of the difficulties above mentioned may be met, viz. that of Christ being regarded both as Testator and Mediator. Christ was, in fact, both - Testator, in that, being one with God, he bequeathed through his death the kingdom appointed unto hint by the Father; Mediator, in that it was through his incarnation only that the "eternal inheritance" willed to us by the Father could be transmitted in the way of testament. So in effect Chrysostom explains. Apposite to this view of the subject are his own words (Luke 22:29), "And I appoint (διατίθεμαι) unto you a kingdom, as my Father appointed (διέθετο) unto me." Here we have the same verb (διατίθεμαι) as is used in the Epistle. And though, in the passage from St. Luke, the idea of a testamentary appointment is not necessarily implied, yet it is naturally suggested where Christ is speaking on the eve of, and with reference to, his death. There is, however, another view taken (decidedly by Whitby, Ebrard, and in the recent 'Speaker's Commentary'), according to which the idea of a testament does not come in at all, the word διαθήκη retaining here, as elsewhere, its usual sense of covenant. The position is that, though the propositions of vers. 16, 17 are not true of all covenants, yet there is a sense in which they are true of any covenant between God and man; which is the only kind of covenant that the writer has in view, or that his readers would be led to think of by the previous reference to Jeremiah 31, or by the associations of the word διαθήκη as used in the Old Testament. The sense in which the propositions are true of such a covenant is thus expressed by Ebrard: "Whenever sinful man will enter into a covenant with the holy God, the man must first die - must first atone for his guilt by death (or must put in a substitute for himself)." This principle is expressed (it is alleged), not only by the sacrifices that inaugurated this covenant of the Law, but also wherever a covenant between God and man is spoken of in the Old Testament; e.g. in the covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:8, etc., and Genesis 22.). In the case of covenants between man and man (as between Abraham and Abimelech, and between Jacob and Laban) there was no need of slain victims, whoso life had to be given for that of one of the contracting parties; but there is always expressed such need in the case of a covenant between God and man. Further, the expression, διαθήκη ἐπὶ νεκροῖς βεβαία, is, according to this view, illustrated by Psalm 50:5, where the LXX. has τοὺς διατιθεμένους τὴν διαθήκην αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ θυσίαις (in the Vulgate, qui ordinant testamentum ejus super sacrificiis). The same preposition ἐπὶ is used in both passages, and ἐπὶ θοσίαις is supposed to express the same idea as ἐπὶ νεκροῖς. This passage from the psalm is certainly much to the point in support of the view before us, serving moreover to meet in some degree one principal objection to it, viz. that it requires ὁ διαθέμενος to be understood of the human party to the covenant, and not of its Divine Author. Such is not the most obvious application of the word, nor the one sanctioned by the quotation from Jeremiah, or by other references to the Divine covenant (see supra, Hebrews 8:10, and also Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 5:2, 3; Luke 12:29; Acts 3:25; as well as Exodus 24:8, quoted below (ver. 20), where διέθετο, not ἐνετείλατο, is the word in the LXX. But such is the application in Psalm 50:5, and may be considered, therefore, not untenable. The writer may, indeed, have had the expression in the psalm in his mind when he wrote the verses before us. It appears from what has been said that difficulties attend both the views that have been above explained. It is not here attempted to decide between them. The efficacy of Christ's sacrifice is bound up with a covenant. His priesthood involves a new and a better covenant. See Hebrews 8:6-13. That covenant involves his death.

For this cause (διὰ τοῦτο)

Indicating the close relation between the cleansing power of Christ's blood and the new covenant.

Mediator of the new testament (διαθήκης καινῆς μεσίτης)

For the new testament rend. a new covenant. See on next verse. For μεσίτης mediator, see on Galatians 3:19, Galatians 3:20.

By means of death (θανάτου γενομένου)

Rend. a death having taken place.

For the redemption of the transgressions (εἰς ἀπολύτρωσιν τῶν παραβάσεων)

The phrase redemption of transgressions (that is, from transgressions) only here. Ἀπολύτρωσις in N.T. mostly absolutely: the redemption, or your redemption, or simply redemption. Twice with genitive of that which is redeemed, Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:14. Only once in lxx, Daniel 4:32. For παράβασις transgression, see on Romans 2:23.

Under the first testament (ἐπὶ)

On the basis of: estimated according to the standard of the provisions of the first covenant, and to be atoned for in the way which it prescribed. By this expression he emphasizes the insufficiency of every other atoning provision, selecting the system which represented the most elaborate and complete atonement for sin prior to Christ. The intimation is in the same direction with that of the phrase through an eternal spirit - that the ideal redemption must be eternal.

They which are called (οἱ κεκλημένοι)

Without regard to nationality. The scope of the new covenant was wider than that of the old. Comp. Acts 2:39. In Hebrews 3:1, the readers are addressed as "partakers of a heavenly calling," which corresponds with "eternal inheritance" here. Those who obtain this inheritance are designated as "called." See Ephesians 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 1 Peter 3:9.

Of eternal inheritance (τῆς αἰωνίου κληρονομίας)


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