Hebrews 5
ICC New Testament Commentary
For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
He now (5:1-10) for the first time begins to explain the qualifications of the true ἀρχιερεύς.

(a) First, he must be humane as well as human:

1 Every highpriest who is selected from men and appointed to act on behalf of men in things divine, offering gifts and sacrifices for sin, 2 can deal gently with those who err through ignorance, since he himself is beset with weakness—3 which obliges him to present offerings for his own sins as well as for those of the People.

(b) Second, he must not be self-appointed.

4 Also, it is an office which no one elects to take for himself; he is called to it by God, just as Aaron was.

The writer now proceeds to apply these two conditions to Jesus, but he takes them in reverse order, beginning with (b).

5 Similarly Christ was not raised to the glory of the priesthood by himself, but by Him who declared to him,

“Thou art my son,

to-day have I become thy father.”

6 Just as elsewhere (ἐν ἑτέρῳ, sc. τόπῳ) he says,

“Thou art a priest for ever, with the rank of Melchizedek.”

He then goes back to (a):

7 In the days of his flesh, with bitter cries and tears, he offered prayers and supplications to Him who was able to save him from death; and he was heard, because of his godly fear. 8 Thus, Son though he was, he learned by (ἀφʼ ὧν = ἀπὸ τούτων ἅ) all he suffered how to obey, 9 and by being thus perfected he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10 being designated by God highpriest “with the rank of Melchizedek.”

Πὰς γὰρ ἀρχιερεύς (dealing only with Hebrew highpriests, and only with what is said of them in the LXX) ἐξ ἀνθρώπων λαμβανόμενος (Numbers 8:6 λάβε τοὺς Λευείτας ἐκ μέσου υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ) καθίσταται—passive, in the light of 7:28 (ὁ νόμος γὰρ ἀνθρώπους καθίστησιν ἀρχιερεῖς ἔχοντας ἀσθένειαν) and of the Philonic usage (e.g. de vit. Mosis ii., II, τῷ μέλλοντι ἀρχιερεῖ καθίστασθαι). The middle may indeed be used transitively, as, e.g., in Eurip. Supplic. 522 (πόλεμον δὲ τοῦτον οὐκ ἐγὼ καθίσταμαι), and is so taken here by some (e.g. Calvin, Kypke). But τὰ πρὸς τὸν θεόν is an adverbial accusative as in 2:17, not the object of καθίσταται in an active sense. In δωρά τε καὶ θυσίας, here as in 8:3 and 9:9, the writer goes back to the LXX (A) rendering of 1 K 8:64 (καὶ τὸ δώρον καὶ τὰς θυσίας). The phrase recurs in Ep. Aristeas, 234 (οὐ δώροις οὐδὲ θυσίαις), and is a generic term for sacrifices or offerings, without any distinction. The early omission of τε (B Db K Lat boh pesh) was due to the idea that θυσίας should be closely connected with ἁμαρτιῶν (“ut offerat dona, et sacrificia pro peccatis,” vg). Instead of writing εἰς τὸ προσφέρειν, our author departs from his favourite construction of εἰς with the infinitive and writes ἵνα προσφέρῃ, in order to introduce μετριοπαθεῖν δυνάμενος. This, although a participial clause, contains the leading idea of the sentence. The ἀρχιερεύς is able to deal gently with the erring People whom he represents, since he shares their ἀσθένεια, their common infirmity or liability to temptation.

Μετριοπαθεῖν in v. 2 is a term coined by ethical philosophy. It is used by Philo to describe the mean between extravagant grief and stoic apathy, in the case of Abraham’s sorrow for the death of his wife (τὸ δὲ μέσον πρὸ τῶν ἄκρων ἑλόμενον μετριοπαθεῖν, De Abrah. 44); so Plutarch (Consol. ad Apoll. 22) speaks of τῆς κατὰ φύσιν ἐν τοιούτοις μετριοπαθείας. But here it denotes gentleness and forbearance, the moderation of anger in a person who is provoked and indignant—as in Plut. de Cohib. ira, 10, ἀναστῆσαι δὲ καὶ σῶσαι, καὶ φείσασθαι καὶ καρτερῆσαι, πραότητός ἐστι καὶ συγγνώμης καὶ μετριοπαθείας. Josephus (Ant. xii. 3:2) praises this quality in Vespasian and Titus (μετριοπαθησάντων), who acted magnanimously and generously towards the unruly Jews; Dionysius Halicarnassus accuses Marcius (Ant. 8. 529) of lacking τὸ εὐδιάλλακτον καὶ μετριοπαθές, ὁπότε διʼ ὀργῆς τῷ γένοιτο. And so on. The term is allied to πραότης. The sins of others are apt to irritate us, either because they are repeated or because they are flagrant; they excite emotions of disgust, impatience, and exasperation, and tempt us to be hard and harsh (Galatians 6:1). The thought of excess here is excessive severity rather than excessive leniency. The objects of this μετριοπαθεῖν are τοῖς ἀγνοοῦσιν καὶ πλανωμένοις, i.e., people who sin through yielding to the weaknesses of human nature. For such offenders alone the piacula of atonement-day (which the writer has in mind) availed. Those who sinned ἑκουσίως (10:26), not ἀκουσίως, were without the pale; for such presumptuous sins, which our writer regards specially under the category of deliberate apostasy (3:12, 10:26), there is no pardon possible. The phrase here is practically a hendiadys, for τοῖς ἐξ ἀγνοίας πλανωμένοις: the People err through their ἄγνοια. Thus ἀγνοεῖν becomes an equivalent for ἁμαρτάνειν (Sir 23:2 etc.), just as the noun ἀγνόημα comes to imply sin (cp. 9:7 and Jth 5:20 εἰ μέν ἐστιν ἀγνόημα ἐν τῷ λαῷ τούτῳ καὶ ἁμαρτάνουσι εἰς τὸν θεὸν αὐτῶν, with Tebt. Pap. 124:4 (118 b.c.) and 5:3—a proclamation by king Euergetes and queen Cleopatra declaring “an amnesty to all their subjects for all errors, crimes,” etc., except wilful murder and sacrilege). In the Martyr. Pauli, 4, the apostle addresses his pagan audience as ἄνδρες οἱ ὄντες ἐν τῇ ἀγνωσίᾳ καὶ τῇ πλάνῃ ταύτῃ.

(a) Strictly speaking, only such sins could be pardoned (Leviticus 4:2, Leviticus 4:5:21, Leviticus 4:22, Numbers 15:22-31, Deuteronomy 17:12) as were unintentional. Wilful sins were not covered by the ordinary ritual of sacrifice (10:26, cp. Numbers 12:11).

(b) The term περίκειμαι only occurs in the LXX in Ep. Jer. 23:57 and in 4 Mac 12:3 (τὰ δεσμὰ περικείμενον), and in both places in its literal sense (Symm. Isaiah 61:10), as in Acts 28:20. But Seneca says of the body, “hoc quoque natura ut quemdam vestem animo circumdedit” (Epist. 92), and the metaphorical sense is as old as Theocritus (23:13, 14 φεῦγε δʼ ἀπὸ χρὼς ὕβριν τᾶς ὀργᾶς περικείμενος).

The ἀρχιερεύς, therefore (v. 3), requires to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the People, καθὼς περὶ τοῦ λαοῦ οὕτω καὶ περὶ ἑαυτοῦ. This twofold sacrifice is recognized by Philo (de vit. Mosis ii., 1), who notes that the holder of the ἱερωσύνη must ἐπὶ τελείοις ἱεροῖς beseech God for blessing αὑτῷ τε καὶ τῆς ἀρχομένοις. The regulations for atonement-day (Leviticus 16:6-17) provided that the ἀρχιερεύς sacrificed for himself and his household as well as for the People (καὶ προσάξει Ἀαρὼν τὸν μόσχον τὸν περὶ τῆς ἁμαρτίας αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐξιλάσεται περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῦ οἴκου αὐτοῦ … καὶ περὶ πάσης συναγωγῆς υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ). But our author now turns from the idea of the solidarity between priest and People to the idea of the priest’s commission from God. Τὴν τιμήν (in v. 4) means position or office, as often, e.g. ἐπίτροπος λαμβάνει ταύτην τὴν τιμήν (i.e. of supervising the household slaves), Arist. Pol. i. 7, τιμὰς γὰρ λέγομεν εἶναι τὰς ἀρχάς, ib. iii. 10, περὶ τῶν ἀρχιερέων πῶς τʼ ἤρξαντο καὶ τίσιν ἔξεστι τῆς τιμῆς ταύτης μεταλαμβάνειν, Joseph. Ant. xx. 10. 1. Ἀλλὰ (sc. λαμβάνει) καλούμενος, but takes it when (or, as) he is called. The terseness of the phrase led to the alteration (Ce L) of ἀλλά into ἀλλʼ ὁ (as in v. 5). καθώσπερ καὶ Ἀαρών. In Josephus (Ant. iii. 8. 1), Moses tells the Israelites, νῦν δʼ αὐτὸς ὁ θεὸς Ἀαρῶνα τῆς τιμῆς ταύτης ἄξιον ἔκρινε καὶ τοῦτον ᾕρηται ἱερέα.

περὶ (before ἁμαρτιῶν in v. 3) has been changed to ὕπερ in Cc Dc K L etc. (conforming to 5:1). There is no difference in meaning (cp. περί, Matthew 26:28 = ὄπερ, Mk. and Lk.), for περί (see 10:6, 8, 18, 26, 13:11) has taken over the sense of ὕπερ.

For καθώσπερ (א* A B D* 33) in v. 4, אc Dc K L P ψ 6, 1288, 1739 read the more obvious καθάπερ (C? syrhkl Chrys. Cyr. Alex. Procopius: καθώς).

In v. 5 οὐχ ἑαυτὸν ἐδόξασεν, while the term δόξα was specially applicable to the highpriestly office (cf. 2 Mac 14:7 ὅθεν ἀφελόμενος τὴν προγονικὴν δόξαν, λέγω δὴ τὴν ἀρχιερωσύνην), the phrase is quite general, as in the parallel John 8:54. The following γενηθῆναι is an epexegetic infinitive, which recurs in the Lucan writings (Luke 1:54, Luke 1:72, Acts 15:10) and in the earlier Psalter of Solomon (2:28, 40 etc.). After ἀλλʼ we must supply some words like αὐτὸν ἐδόξασεν.

The argument runs thus: We have a great ἀρχιερεύς, Jesus the Son of God (4:14), and it is as he is Son that he carries out the vocation of ἀρχιερεύς. There is something vital, for the writer’s mind, in the connexion of ἀρχιερεύς and Υἱός. Hence he quotes (v. 5) his favourite text from Psalm 2:7 before the more apposite one (in v. 6) from Psalm 110:4, implying that the position of divine Son carried with it, in some sense, the rôle of ἀρχιερεύς. This had been already suggested in 1:2, 3 where the activities of the Son include the purification of men from their sins. Here the second quotation only mentions ἱερεύς, it is true; but the writer drew no sharp distinction between ἱερεύς and ἀρχιερεύς. In κατὰ τὴς τάξιν Μελχισεδέκ, τάξις for the writer, as 7:15 proves (κατὰ τὴν ὁμοιότητα Μελχισεδέκ), has a general meaning;1 Jesus has the rank of a Melchizedek, he is a priest of the Melchizedek sort or order, though in the strict sense of the term there was no τάξις or succession of Melchizedek priests.

Τάξις in the papyri is often a list or register; in OP 1266:24 (a.d. 98) ἐν τάξει means “in the class” (of people). It had acquired a sacerdotal nuance, e.g. Michel 735:125f. (the regulations of Antiochus 1.), ὅστις τε ἃν ὑστέρωι χρόνωι τάξιν λάβῃ ταύτην, and occasionally denoted a post or office (e.g. Tebt. P 297:8, a.d. 123).

Ὅς κτλ. Some editors (e.g. A. B. Davidson, Lünemann, Peake, Hollmann) take vv. 7-10 as a further proof of (b). But the writer is here casting back to (a), not hinting that the trying experiences of Jesus on earth proved that his vocation was not self-sought, but using these to illustrate the thoroughness with which he had identified himself with men. He does this, although the parallel naturally broke down at one point. Indeed his conception of Christ was too large for the categories he had been employing, and this accounts for the tone and language of the passage. (a) Jesus being χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας did not require to offer any sacrifices on his own behalf; and (b) the case of Melchizedek offered no suggestion of suffering as a vital element in the vocation of an ἀρχιερεύς. As for the former point, while the writer uses προσενέγκας in speaking of the prayers of Jesus, this is at most a subconscious echo of προσφέρειν in vv. 1-3; there is no equivalent in Jesus to the sacrifice offered by the OT ἀρχιερεύς, περὶ ἑαυτοῦ … περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν. The writer starts with his parallel, for ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ corresponds to περικεῖται ἀσθένειαν (v. 2); but instead of developing the idea of sympathy in an official (μετριοπαθεῖν δυνάμενος κτλ.), he passes to the deeper idea that Jesus qualified himself by a moral discipline to be ἀρχιερεύς in a pre-eminent sense. He mentions the prayers and tears of Jesus here, as the faith of Jesus in 2:12f., for the express purpose of showing how truly he shared the lot of man on earth, using δεήσεις τε καὶ ἱκετηρίας, a phrase which the writer may have found in his text (A) of Job 40:22 (27) δεήσεις καὶ ἱκετηρίας, but which was classical (e.g. Isokrates, de Pace, 46, πολλας ἱκετηρίας καὶ δεήσεις ποιούμενοι). Ἱκετηρία had become an equivalent for ἱκεσία, which is actually the reading here in 1 (δεήσεις τε καὶ ἱκεισίας). The phrase recurs in a Ptolemaic papyrus (Brunet de Presle et E. Egger’s Papyrus Grecs du Musée du Louvre, 27:22), χαίρειν σε ἀξιῶ μετὰ δεήσεως καὶ ἱκετείας, though in a weakened sense. The addition of μετὰ κραυγῆς (here a cry of anguish) ἰσχυρᾶς καὶ δακρύων may be a touch of pathos, due to his own imagination,1 or suggested by the phraseology of the 22nd psalm, which was a messianic prediction for him (cp. above, 2:12) as for the early church; the words of v. 3 in that psalm would hardly suit (κεκράξομαι ἡμέρας πρὸς σὲ καὶ οὐκ εἰσακούσῃ), but phrases like that of v. 6; (πρὸς σὲ ἐκέκραξαν καὶ ἐσώθησαν) and v. 25 (ἐν τῷ κεκραγέναι με πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐπήκουσέν μου) might have been in his mind. Tears were added before long to the Lucan account of the passion, at 22:44 (Epiph. Ancor. 31, ἀλλὰ “καὶ ἔκλαυσεν” κεῖται ἐν τῷ κατὰ Λουκᾶν εὐαγγελίῳ ἐν τοῖς ἀδιορθώτοις ἀντιγράφοις). It is one of the passages which prove how deeply the writer was impressed by the historical Jesus; the intense faith and courage and pitifulness of Jesus must have deeply moved his mind. He seeks to bring out the full significance of this for the saving work of Jesus as Son. His methods of proof may be remote and artificial, to our taste, but the religious interest which prompted them is fundamental. No theoretical reflection on the qualification of priests or upon the dogma of messiah’s sinlessness could have produced such passages as this.

Later Rabbinic piety laid stress on tears, e.g. in Sohar Exod. fol. 5:19, “Rabbi Jehuda said, all things of this world depend on penitence and prayers, which men offer to God (Blessed be He!), especially if one sheds tears along with his prayers”; and in Synopsis Sohar, p. 33, n. 2, “There are three kinds of prayers, entreaty, crying, and tears. Entreaty is offered in a quiet voice, crying with a raised voice, but tears are higher than all.”

In ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας, the sense of εὐλαβεία in 12:28 and of εὐλαβεῖσθαι in 11:7 shows that ἀπό here means “on account of” (as is common in Hellenistic Greek), and that ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας must be taken, as the Greek fathers took it, “on account of his reverent fear of God,” pro sua reverentia (vg), “because he had God in reverence” (Tyndale; “in honoure,” Coverdale). The writer is thinking of the moving tradition about Jesus in Gethsemane, which is now preserved in the synoptic gospels, where Jesus entreats God to be spared death: Ἀββᾶ ὁ πατήρ, πάντα δυνατά σοι· παρένεγκε τὸ ποτήριον ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ τοῦτο (Mark 14:36). This repeated supplication corresponds to the “bitter tears and cries.” Then Jesus adds, ἀλλʼ οὐ τί ἐγὼ θέλω, ἀλλὰ τί σύ. This is his εὐλάβεια, the godly fear which leaves everything to the will of God. Such is the discipline which issues in ὑπακοή. Compare Psalm 6:8 καὶ κύριος εἰσήκουσε προσευχὴν παντὸς ἐν φόβῳ θεοῦ.

(a) The alternative sense of “fear” appears as early as the Old Latin version (d = exauditus a metu). This meaning of εὐλαβεία (Beza: “liberatus ex metu”) occurs in Joseph. Ant. xi. 6. 9, εὐλαβείας αὐτὴν (Esther) ἀπολύων. Indeed εὐλαβεία (cp. Anz, 359) and its verb εὐλαβεῖσθαι are common in this sense; cp. e.g. 2 Mac 8:16 μὴ καταπλαγῆναι τοῖς δεσμίοις μηδὲ εὐλαβεῖσθαι τὴν … πολυπληθείαν: Sir 41:3 μὴ εὐλαβοῦ κρῖμα δανάτου: Wis 17:8 οὗτοι καταγέλαστον εὐλάβειαν ἐνόσουν. But here the deeper, religious sense is more relevant to the context. “In any case the answer consisted … in courage given to face death … The point to be emphasized is, not so much that the prayer of Jesus was heard, as that it needed to be heard” (A. B. Bruce, p. 186).

(b) Some (e.g. Linden in Studien und Kritiken, 1860, 753 f., and Blass, § 211) take ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας with what follows; this was the interpretation of the Peshitto (“and, although he was a son, he learned obedience from fear and the sufferings which he bore”). But the separation of ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας from ἀφʼ ὦν and the necessity of introducing a καί before the latter phrase point to the artificiality of this construction.

In v. 8 καίπερ ὢν υἱός (καίπερ being used with a participle as in 7:5, 12:17) means, “Son though he was,” not “son though he was.” The writer knows that painful discipline is to be expected by all who are sons of God the Father; he points out, in 12:5f., that every son, because he is a son, has to suffer. Here the remarkable thing is that Jesus had to suffer, not because but although he was υἱός, which shows that Jesus is Son in a unique sense; as applied to Jesus υἱός means something special. As divine υἱός in the sense of 1:1f., it might have been expected that he would be exempt from such a discipline. Ὃς … ἔμαθεν … ὑπακοήν is the main thread of the sentence, but καίπερ ὤν υἱός attaches itself to ἔμαθεν κτλ. rather than to the preceding participles προσενέγκας and εἰσακουσθείς (Chrys. Theophyl.). With a daring stroke the author adds, ἔμαθεν ἀφʼ ὣν ἔπαθε τὴν ὑπακοήν. The paronomasia goes back to a common Greek phrase which is as old as Aeschylus (Agam. 177 f.), who describes Zeus as τὸν πάθει μάθος θέντα κυρίως ἔχειν, and tells how (W. Headlam)—

“The heart in time of sleep renews

Aching remembrance of her bruise,

And chastening wisdom enters wills that most refuse”—

which, the poet adds, is a sort of χάρις βίαιος from the gods. This moral doctrine, that πάθος brings μάθος, is echoed by Pindar (Isthm. i. 40, ὁ πονήσαις δὲ νόῳ καὶ προμάθεισν φέρει) and other writers, notably by Philo (de vit. Mos. iii. 38, τούτους οὐ λόγος ἀλλʼ ἔργα παιδεύει· παθόντες εἴσονται τὸ ἐμὸν ἀψευδὲς, ἐπεὶ μαθόντες οὐκ ἔγνωσαν: de spec. leg. III. 6, ἵνʼ ἐκ τοῦ παθεῖν μάθῃ κτλ.: de somn. ii. 15, ὃ παθὼν ἀκριβῶς ἔμαθεν, ὅτι τοῦ θεοῦ (Genesis 50:19) ἐστιν). But in the Greek authors and in Philo it is almost invariably applied to “the thoughtless or stupid, and to open and deliberate offenders” (Abbott, Diat. 3208a), to people who can only be taught by suffering. Our writer ventures, therefore, to apply to the sinless Jesus an idea which mainly referred to young or wilful or undisciplined natures. The term ὑπακοή only occurs once in the LXX, at 2 S 22:36 (καὶ ὑπακοή σου ἐπλήθυνέν με, A), where it translates עֲנָוָה. The general idea corresponds to that of 10:5-9 below, where Jesus enters the world submissively to do the will of God, a vocation which involved suffering and self-sacrifice. But the closest parallel is the argument of Paul in Php 2:6-8, that Jesus, born in human form, ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν γενόμενος ὑπήκοος (sc. τῷ θεῷ) μέχρι θανάτου, and the conception of the ὑπακοή of Jesus (Romans 5:18, Romans 5:19) in contrast to the παρακοή of Adam. What our writer means to bring out here, as in 2:10f., is the practical initiation of Jesus into his vocation for God and men. “Wherever there is a vocation, growth and process are inevitable. … Personal relations are of necessity relations into which one grows; the relation can be fully and practically constituted only in the practical exercise of the calling in which it is involved. So it was with Christ. He had, so to speak, to work Himself into His place in the plan of salvation, to go down among the brethren whom He was to lead to glory and fully to identify Himself with them, not of course by sharing their individual vocation, but in the practice of obedience in the far harder vocation given to Him. That obedience had to be learned, not because His will was not at every moment perfect … but simply because it was a concrete, many-sided obedience” (W. Robertson Smith, Expositor2, ii. pp. 425, 426). Τελειωθείς in v. 9 recalls and expands the remark of 2:10, that God “perfected” Jesus by suffering as τὸν ἀρχηγὸν τῆς σωτηρίας αὐτῶν, and the argument of 2:17, 18. The writer avoids the technical Stoic terms προκόπτειν and προκοπή. He prefers τελειοῦν and τελείωσις, not on account of their associations with the sacerdotal consecration of the OT ritual, but in order to suggest the moral ripening which enabled Jesus to offer a perfect self-sacrifice, and also perhaps with a side-allusion here to the death-association of these terms.

Philo (de Abrah. 11) observes that nature, instruction, and practice are the three things essential πρὸς τελειότητα τοῦ βιοῦ, οὔτε γὰρ διδασκαλίαν ἄνευ φύσεως ἢ ἀσκἡσεως τελειωθῆναι δυνατὸν οὔτε φύσις ἐπὶ πέρας ἐστὶν ἐλθεῖν ἱκανὴ δίχα τοῦ μαθεῖν.

Αἴτιος σωτηρίας was a common Greek phrase. Thus Philo speaks of the brazen serpent as αἴτιος σωτηρίας γενόμενος παντελοῦς τοῖς θεασαμένοις (de Agric. 22), Aeschines (in Ctesiph. 57) has τὴς μὲν σωτηρίαν τῇ πόλει τοὺς θεοὺς αἰτίους γεγενήμενους, and in the de Mundo, 398b, the writer declares that it is fitting for God αἴτιον τε γίνεσθαι τοῖς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς σωτηρίας. Σωτηρία αἰωνίος is a LXX phrase (Isaiah 45:17), but not in the sense intended here (cp. 2:3). The collocation of Jesus learning how to obey God and of thus proving a saviour τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ is remarkable. At first sight there is a clue to the sense in Philo, who declares that “the man who is morally earnest,” receiving God’s kingdom, “does not prove a source of evil to anyone (αἴτιος γίνεται), but proves a source of the acquisition and use of good things for all who obey him” (πᾶσι τοῖς ὑπηκόοις, de Abrah. 45). This refers to Abraham, but to the incident of Genesis 23:6, not to that of Melchizedek; Philo is spiritualizing the idea of the good man as king, and the ὑπηκόοι are the members of his household under his authority. The parallel is merely verbal. Here by πᾶσιν τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ the writer means οἱ πιστεύσαντες (4:3), but with a special reference to their loyalty to Christ. Disobedience to Christ or to God (3:18, 4:6, 11) is the practical expression of disbelief. It is a refusal to take Christ for what he is, as God’s appointed ἀρχιερεύς. The writer then adds (v. 10) προσαγορευθεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀρχιερεὺς κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισεδέκ, in order to explain how, thus commissioned, he brought the σωτηρία αἰωνίος. The paragraph is thus rounded off, like that of vv. 5, 6, with a reference to the Melchizedek priesthood, which the writer regards as of profound importance, and to which he now proposes to advance. Though προσαγορεύω is not used in this sense (“hail,” “designate”) in the LXX, the usage is common in Hellenistic writings like 2 Maccabees (1:36, 4:7, 10:9) and Josephus (e.g. c. Apion. i. 311). But the Melchizedek type of priesthood is not discussed till 6:20, 7:1f. The interlude between 5:10 and 6:20 is devoted to a stirring exhortation; for this interpretation of the Son as priest is a piece of γνῶσις which can only be imparted to those who have mastered the elementary truths of the Christian religion, and the writer feels and fears that his readers are still so immature that they may be unable or unwilling to grasp the higher and fuller teaching about Christ. The admonition has three movements of thought, 5:11-14, 6:1-8, and 6:9-19.

11 On this point I (ἡμῖν, plural of authorship, as 2:5) have a great deal to say, which it is hard to make intelligible to you. For (καὶ γάρ = etenim) you have grown dull of hearing. 12 Though by this time you should be teaching other people, you still need someone to teach you once more the rudimentary principles of the divine revelation. You are in need of milk, not of solid food. 13 (For anyone who is fed on milk is unskilled in moral truth; he is1 a mere babe. 14 Whereas solid food is for the nature, for those who have their faculties trained by exercise to distinguish good and evil.) 6:1 Let us pass on then to what is mature, leaving elementary Christian doctrine behind, instead of laying the foundation over again with repentance from dead works, with faith in God, 2 with instruction about ablutions and the laying on of hands, about the resurrection of the dead and eternal punishment. 3 With God’s permission we will take this step.

Περὶ οὗ (i.e. on ἀρχιερεὺς κατὰ τὴν τάξιν M.) πολύς κτλ. (v. 11). The entire paragraph (vv. 11-14) is full of ideas and terms current in the ethical and especially the Stoic philosophy of the day. Thus, to begin with, πολύς (sc. ἔστι) ὁ λόγος is a common literary phrase for “there is much to say”; e.g. Dion. Hal. ad Amm. i. 3, πολὺς γὰρ ὁ περὶ αὐτῶν λόγος, and Lysias in Pancleonem, 11, ὅσα μὲν οὖν αὐτόθι ἐρρήθη, πολὺς ἂν εἴη μοι λόγος δεηγεῖσθαι. Πολύς and δυσερμήνευτος are separated, as elsewhere adjectives are (e.g. 2:17). For the general sense of δυσερμήνευτος λέγειν, see Philo, de migrat. Abrah. 18, ἧς τὰ μὲν ἄλλα μακροτέρων ἢ κατὰ τὸν παρόντα καιρὸν δεῖται λόγων καὶ ὑπερθετέον, and Dion. Halic. de Comp. viii. περὶ ὧν καὶ πολὺς ὁ λόγος καὶ βαθεῖα ἡ θεωρία. Δυσερμήνευτος occurs in an obscure and interpolated passage of Philo’s de Somniis i. (32, ἀλέκτῳ τινι καὶ δυσερμηνεύτῳ θέᾳ), and Artemidorus (Oneirocr. iii. 67, οἱ ὄνειροι … ποικίλοι καὶ πολλοῖς δυσερμήνευτοι) uses it of dreams. Ἐπεί κτλ. (explaining δυσερμήνευτοι) for the fault lies with you, not with the subject. Νωθρός only occurs once in the LXX, and not in this sense (Proverbs 22:29 ἀνδράσι νωθροῖς, tr. חָשֹׁךְ); even in Sir 4:29, 11:12 it means no more than slack or backward (as below in 6:12). It is a common Greek ethical term for sluggishness, used with the accusative or the (locative) dative. With ἀκοή it denotes dulness. The literal sense occurs in Heliodorus (v. 10: ἐγὼ μὲν οὖν ᾖσθόμην … τάχα μέν που καὶ διʼ ἡλικίαν νωθρότερος ὢν τὴν ἀκοήν· νόσος γὰρ ἄλλων τε καὶ ὠτῶν τὸ γῆρας), and the metaphorical sense of ἀκοαί is illustrated by Philo’s remark in quis rer. div. haer. 3: ἐν ἀψύχοις ἀνδριᾶσιν, οἷς ὦτα μὲν ἐστιν, ἀκοαὶ δ͵ οὐκ ἔνεισιν.

Why (καὶ γάρ, v. 12), the writer continues, instead of being teachers you still need a teacher. For χρεία with the article and infinitive (τοῦ διδάσκειν2 κτλ.), cp. the similar use of χρέων in OP 1488:25. In what follows, τινά, the masculine singular, gives a better sense than τίνα, the neuter plural. “Ye again have need of (one) to teach you what are the elements” (sah boh); but it is the elementary truths themselves, not what they are, that need to be taught. Τὰ στοιχεῖα here means the ABC or elementary principles (see Burton’s Galatians, pp. 510f.), such as he mentions in 6:1, 2. He defines them further as τῆς ἀρχῆς τῶν λογίων θεοῦ, where τὰ λογία θεοῦ means not the OT but the divine revelation in general, so that τὰ ς. τ. ἀρχῆς corresponds to the Latin phrase “prima elementa.” The words ὀφείλοντες εἶναι διδάσκαλοι simply charge the readers with backwardness. “The expression, ‘to be teachers,’ affirms no more than that the readers ought to be ripe in Christian knowledge. Once a man is ripe or mature, the qualification for teaching is present” (Wrede, p. 32). The use of the phrase in Greek proves that it is a general expression for stirring people up to acquaint themselves with what should be familiar. See Epict. Enchir. 51, ποῖον οὖν ἔτι διδάσκαλον προσδοκᾷς; … οὐκ ἔτι εἶ μειράκιον, ἀλλὰ ἀνὴρ ἤδη τέλειος. It was quite a favourite ethical maxim in antiquity. Thus Cyrus tells the Persian chiefs that he would be ashamed to give them advice on the eve of battle: οἶδα γὰρ ὑμᾶς ταῦτα ἐπισταμένους καὶ μεμελετηκότας καὶ ἀσκοῦντας διὰ τέλους οἷάπερ ἐγώ, ὥστε κἂν ἄλλους εἰκότως ἂν διδάσκοιτε (Cyrop. iii. 3. 35). Similarly we have the remark of Aristophanes in Plato, Sympos. 189d, ἐγὼ οὖν πειράσομαι ὑμῖν εἰσηγήσασθαι τὴν δύναμιν αὐτοῦ, ὑμεῖς δὲ τῶν ἄλλων διδάσκαλοι ἔσεσθε, and the reply given by Apollonius of Tyana to a person who asked why he never put questions to anybody: ὅτι μειράκιον ὢν ἐζήτησα, νῦν δὲ οὐ χρὴ ζητεῖν ἀλλὰ διδάσκειν ἃ εὕρηκα (Philostratus, Vita Apoll. i. 17). Seneca tells Lucilius the same truth: “quousque disces? iam et praecipe (Ep. 33:9). Thus the phrase here offers no support whatever to any theories about the readers of Πρὸς Ἑβραίους being a group of teachers, or a small, specially cultured community. The author, himself a διδάσκαλος, as he is in possession of this mature γνῶσις, is trying to shame his friends out of their imperfect grasp of their religion. That is all. Γεγόνατε χρείαν ἔχοντες is a rhetorical variant for χρείαν ἔχετε, due to the writer’s fondness for γεγόνα. If there is any special meaning in the larger phrase, it is that detected by Chrysostom, who argues that the writer chose it deliberately: τουτέστιν, ὑμεῖς ἠθελήσατε, ὑμεῖς ἑαυτοὺς εἰς τοῦτο κατεστήσατε, εἰς ταύτην τὴν χρείαν. They are responsible for this second childhood of theirs. The comparison1 of milk and solid food is one of the most common in Greek ethical philosophy, as in Epictetus, e.g. ii. 16. 39, οὐ θέλεις ἤδη ὡς τὰ παιδία ἀπογαλακτισθῆναι καὶ ἅπτεσθαι τροφῆς στερεωτέρας, and iii. 24. 9, οὐκ ἀπογαλακτίσομεν ἤδη ποθʼ ἑαυτούς, and particularly in Philo. A characteristic passage from the latter writer is the sentence in de agric. 2: ἐπεὶ δὲ νηπίοις μὲν ἐστι γάλα τροφή, τελείοις δὲ τὰ ἐκ πυρῶν πέμματα, καὶ ψυχῆς γαλακτώδεις μὲν ἂν εἶεν τροφαὶ κατὰ τὴν παιδικὴν ἡλικίαν τὰ τῆς ἐγκυκλίου μουσικῆς προπαιδεύματα, τέλειαι δὲ καὶ ἀνδράσιν ἐμπρεπεῖς αἱ διὰ φρονήσεως καὶ σωφροσύνης καὶ ἁπάσης ἀρετῆς ὑφηγήσεις. Our writer adopts the metaphor, as Paul had done (1 Corinthians 3:1, 1 Corinthians 3:2), and adds a general aside (vv. 13, 14) in order to enforce his remonstrance. He does not use the term γνῶσις, and the plight of his friends is not due to the same causes as operated in the Corinthian church, but he evidently regards his interpretation of the priesthood of Christ as mature instruction, στερεὰ τροφή. Ὁ μετέχων γάλακτος is one whose only food (μετέχειν as in 1 Corinthians 10:17 etc.) is milk; ἄπειρος is “inexperienced,” and therefore “unskilled,” in λόγου δικαιοσύνης—an ethical phrase for what moderns would call “moral truth,” almost as in Xen. Cyrop. i.6. 31, ἀνὴρ διδάσκαλος τῶν παίδων, ὃς ἐδίδασκεν ἄρα τοὺς παῖδας τὴν δικαιοσύνην κτλ., or in M. Aurelius xi:10, xii:1. Thus, while δικαιοσύνη here is not a religious term, the phrase means more than (a) “incapable of talking correctly” (Delitzsch, B. Weiss, von Soden), which is, no doubt, the mark of a νήπιος, but irrelevant in this connexion; or (b) “incapable of understanding normal speech,” such as grown-up people use (Riggenbach). Τελείων δέ κτλ. (v. 14). The clearest statement of what contemporary ethical teachers meant by τέλειος as mature, is (cp. p. 70) in Epict. Enchirid. 51, “how long (εἰς ποῖον ἔτι χρόνον) will you defer thinking of yourself as worthy of the very best …? You have received the precepts you ought to accept, and have accepted them. Why then do you still wait for a teacher (διδάσκαλον προσδοκᾷς), that you may put off amending yourself till he comes? You are a lad no longer, you are a full-grown man now (οὐκ ἔτι εἶ μειράκιον, ἀλλὰ ἀνὴρ ἤδη τέλειος). … Make up your mind, ere it is too late, to live ὡς τέλειον καὶ προκόπτοντα.” Then he adds, in words that recall Hebrews 12:1f.: “and when you meet anything stiff or sweet, glorious or inglorious, remember that νῦν ὁ ἀγὼν καὶ ἤδη πάρεστι τὰ Ὀλύμπια.” As Pythagoras divided his pupils into νήπιοι and τέλειοι, so our author distinguishes between the immature and the mature (cp. 1 Corinthians 2:6 ἐν τοῖς τελείοις, 3:1 νηπίοις). In διὰ τὴν ἕξιν (vg. “pro consuetudine”) he uses ἕξις much as does the writer of the prologue to Sirach (ἱκανὴν ἕξιν περιποιησάμενος), for facility or practice.1 It is not an equivalent for mental faculties here, but for the exercise of our powers. These powers or faculties are called τὰ αἰσθητήρια. Αἰσθητήριον was a Stoic term for an organ of the senses, and, like its English equivalent “sense,” easily acquired an ethical significance, as in Jeremiah 4:19 τὰ αἰσθητήρια τῆς καρδίας μου. The phrase γεγυμνασμένα αἰσθητήρια may be illustrated from Galen (de dign. puls. iii:2, ὃς μὲν γὰρ ἂν εὐαισθητότατον φύσιν τε καὶ τὸ αἰσθητήριον ἔχῃ γεγυμνασμένον ἱκανῶς … οὗτος ἂν ἄριστος εἴη γνώμων τῶν ἐντὸς ὑποκειμένων, and de complexu, ii.: λελογισμένου μὲν ἐστιν ἀνδρὸς τοὺς λογισμοὺς οὓς εἴρηκα καὶ γεγυμνασμένα τὴν αἴσθησιν ἐν πολλῇ τῇ κατὰ μέρος ἐμπειρίᾳ κτλ.), γεγυμνασμένα being a perfect participle used predicatively, like πεφυτευμένην in Luke 13:6, and γεγυμνασμένον above. Compare what Marcus Aurelius (iii:1) says about old age; it may come upon us, bringing not physical failure, but a premature decay of the mental and moral faculties, e.g., of self-control, of the sense of duty, καὶ ὅσα τοιαῦτα λογισμοῦ συγγεγυμνασμένου πάνυ χρῄζει. Elsewhere (ii:13) he declares that ignorance of moral distinctions (ἄγνοια ἀγαθῶν καὶ κακῶν) is a blindness as serious as any inability to distinguish black and white. The power of moral discrimination (πρὸς διάκρισιν καλοῦ τε καὶ κακοῦ) is the mark of maturity, in contrast to childhood (cp. e.g. Deuteronomy 1:39 πᾶν παιδίον νέον ὅστις οὐκ οἶδεν σήμερον ἀγαθὸν ἢ κακόν). Compare the definition of τὸ ἠθικόν in Sextus Empiricus (Hyp. Pyrrh. 3:168): ὅπερ δοκεῖ περὶ τὴν διάκρισιν τῶν τε καλῶν καὶ κακῶν καὶ ἀδιαφόρων καταγίγνεσθαι.

In spite of Resch’s arguments (Texte u. Untersuchungen, xxx:3. 112f.), there is no reason to hear any echo of the well-known saying attributed to Jesus: γίνεσθε δὲ δόκιμοι τραπεζῖται, τὰ μὲν ἀποδοκιμάζοντες, τὸ δὲ καλὸν κατὲχοντες.

LXX The Old Testament in Greek according to the Septuagint Version (ed. H. B. Swete).

522 [δ 602]

B [03: δ 1] cont. 1:1-9:18: for remainder cp. cursive 293.

D [06: α 1026] cont. 1:1-13:20. Codex Claromontanus is a Graeco-Latin MS, whose Greek text is poorly* reproduced in the later (saec. ix.-x.) E = codex Sangermanensis. The Greek text of the latter (1:1-12:8) is therefore of no independent value (cp. Hort in WH, §§ 335-337); for its Latin text, as well as for that of F=codex Augiensis (saec. ix.), whose Greek text of Πρὸς Ἐβραίους has not been preserved, see below, p. lxix.

K [018:1:1].

boh The Coptic Version of the NT in the Northern Dialect (Oxford, 1905), vol. iii. pp. 472-555.

Philo Philonis Alexandriai Opera Quae Supersunt (recognoverunt L. Cohn et P. Wendland).

Josephus Flavii Josephi Opera Omnia post Immanuelem Bekkerum, recognovit S. A. Naber.

L [020: α 5] cont. 1:1-13:10.

C [04: δ 3] cont. 2:4-7:26 9:15-10:24 12:16-13:25.

אԠ[01: δ 2).

A [02: δ 4].

33 [δ 48] Hort’s 17

P [025: α 3] cont. 1:1-12:8 12:11-13:25.

6 [δ 356] cont. 1:1-9:3 10:22-13:25

1288 [α 162]

1739 [α 78]

1 As in 2 Mac 9:18 ἐπιστολὴν ἔχουσαν ἱκετηρίας τάξιν, Ep. Arist. 69, κρηπῖδος ἔχουσα τάξιν.

OP The Oxyrhynchus Papyri (ed. B. P. Grenfell and A. Hunt).

Michel Recueil d’ Inscriptions Grecques (ed. C. Michel, 1900).

1 Like that of Hosea 12:4, where tears are added to the primitive story (Genesis 32:26) of Jacob’s prayer (ἐνίσχυσεν μετὰ ἀγγέλου καὶ ἠδυνάσθη· ἔκλαυσαν καὶ ἐδεήθησάν μου). In 2 Mac 11:6 the Maccabean army μετὰ ὀδυρμῶν καὶ δακρύων ἱκέτευον τὸν κύριον.

d (Latin version of D)

Blass F. Blass, Grammatik des neutestamentlichen Griechisch: vierte, völlig neugearbeitete Auflage, besorgt von Albert Debrunner (1913); also, Brief an die Hebräer, Text mit Angabe der Rhythmen (1903).

177 [α 106]

1 D* inserts ἀκμήν (Matthew 15:16) between γάρ and ἐστιν: “he is still a mere babe.” Blass adopts this, for reasons of rhythm.

2 1912 and origen read (with 462) διδάσκεσθαι, and omit ὑμᾶς.

sah The Coptic Version of the NT in the Southern Dialect (Oxford, 1920), vol. v. pp. 1-131.

1 Origen (Philocalia, xviii. 23) uses this passage neatly to answer Celsus, who had declared that Christians were afraid to appeal to an educated and intelligent audience. He quotes 5:12f. as well as 1 Corinthians 3:2f., arguing that in the light of them it must be admitted ἡμεῖς, ὅση δύναμις, πάντα πράττομεν ὑπὲρ τοῦ φρονίμων ἀνδρῶν γενέσθαι τὸν σύλλογον ἡμῶν· καὶ τὰ ἐν ἡμῖν μάλιστα καλὰ καὶ θεῖα τότε τολμῶμεν ἐν τοῖς πρὸστὸ κοινὸν διαλόγοις φέρειν εἰς μέσον, ὅτʼ εὐποροῦμεν συνετῶν ἀροατῶν.

Weiss B. Weiss, “Textkritik der paulinischen Briefe” (in Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur, vol. xiv. 3), also Der Hebräerbrief in Zeitgeschichtlicher Beleuchtung (1910).

1 “Firma quaedam facilitas quae apud Graecos ἕξις nominatur” (Quint. Instit. Orat. 10:1).

Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.
And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
ICC New Testament commentary on selected books

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