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:
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.
Verse 2. - Who can have compassion on the ignorant and erring; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. It is not easy to find a satisfactory English equivalent for μετριοπαθεῖν, translated as above in the A.V.; by Alford, "be compassionate towards;" in the margin of the A.V., "reasonably bear with;" by the recent Revisers, "bear gently with;" by Bengel, "moderate affici." The compound had its origin, doubtless, in the peripatetic school, denoting the right mean between passionateness and Stoic apathy, being the application of Aristotle's μεσότης to the sphere of the passions. Thus Diog. Laert. says of Aristotle, Αφη δε τον σοφον μη ειναι μεν απαθη μετριοπαθῆ δὲ. In this sense Philo uses μετριοπαθὴς to express Abraham's sober grief after the death of Sarah (2:37) and Jacob's patience under his afflictions (2:45). The verb, followed, as here, by a dative of persons, may be taken, therefore, to denote moderation of feeling towards the persons indicated, such moderation being especially opposed in the case before us, where the persons are the ignorant and erring, to excess of severe or indignant feeling. Moderation, indeed, in this regard seems to have been the idea generally attached to the compound (cf. Plut., 'De Ira Cohib.' p. 453, Ἀναστὴσαι καὶ σῶσαι καὶ φεισάσθαι καὶ καρτερῆσαι πραότητος ἐστὶ καὶ συγγνώμης καὶ μετριοπαθείας). Josephus also speaks of the emperors Vespasian and Titus as μετριοπαθησάντων in their attitude towards the Jews after long hostility ('Ant.,' 12:3 2). This, then, being the meaning of μετριοπαθεία, it is obvious how the capacity of it is essential to the idea of a high priest as being one who is resorted to as a mediator by a people laden with infirmities, to represent them and to plead for them. It is not of necessity implied that every high priest was personally νετριοπάθης: it is the ideal of his office that is spoken cf. And, in the case of human high priests, this ideal was fulfilled by their being themselves human, encompassed themselves with the infirmity of those for whom they mediated. Christ also, so far, evidently fulfils the condition. For, though he is afterwards distinguished (Hebrews 7:28) from priests having themselves infirmity, yet he had, in his human nature, experienced what it was: "He was crucified ἐξ ἀσθενείας (2 Corinthians 13:4); "Himself took our infirmities (ἀσθενείας), and bare our sicknesses" (Matthew 8:17; Isaiah 53:4); the agony in the garden (whatever its mysterious import, of which more below)expressed personal experience of human ἀσθενεία. Alford denies that ἀσθενεία, in the sense supposed by him to be here intended, can be attributed to Christ, and hence that περίκειται ἀσθένειαις can apply to him (but see above on Hebrews 4:15, and below on vers. 3, 7).
And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.
Verse 3. - And by reason hereof he ought (or, is bound, ὀφείλει), as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. This obligation is evident in the case of the high priests of the Law. Consequently, their sin offering for themselves, in the first place, was a prominent part of the ceremonial of the Day of Atonement, which the writer may be supposed to have especially in view (Leviticus 16.). But can we suppose any corresponding necessity in the case of Christ? The argument does not absolutely require that we should, since the obligation of the Levitical high priest may be adduced only in proof of his own experience of ἀσθενεία. Christ, though under no such obligation, might still fulfill the requisites of a high priest, expressed in the case of sinful high priests by the obligation to offer for themselves; and we may (as Ebrard says) leave it to the writer to show hew he does fulfill them. Whether, however, there was in Christ's own experience anything corresponding to the high priest's offering for himself will be considered under vers. 7, 8.
And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
Verse 4. - And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but being called of God (the 5 of Textus Receptus before καλούμενος ( "he that is called," as in A.V. - has very slight authority), even as was Aaron. This verse expresses the second essential of a high priest, Divine appointment, for assurance of the efficacy of his mediation. Of course Aaron's successors derived their Divine commission from his original one (cf. Numbers 21:26; Numbers 26:10-14).
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.
Verses 5, 6. - So also Christ glorified not himself to be made a High Priest. Here begins the proof that Christ fulfils the two requirements, that mentioned second in the previous statement being taken first in the proof - chiastically, as is usual in this Epistle. The expression, ἑαυτὸν ἐδόξασε, rather than τὴν τιμὴν ἔλαβε, may have reference to the glory wherewith Christ is crowned in his exalted position as Priest-King (cf. Hebrews 2:9). But he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. These two texts (Psalm 2:7; Psalm 110:4) must be taken together for the proof required. The first (commented on under Hebrews 1:5) shows the Lord's appointment of Christ to his kingly office as Son; the second shows that this kingly office carries with it, also by Divine appointment, an eternal priesthood. Christ's entry into this kingly priesthood is best conceived as inaugurated by his resurrection, after accomplishment of human obedience, whereby he fitted himself for priesthood. Before this he was the destined High Priest, but not the "perfected" High Priest, "ever living to make intercession for us." It is not during his life on earth, but after his exaltation, that he is spoken of as the High Priest of mankind. In his sufferings and death he was consecrated to his eternal office. This appears from vers. 9, 10, and also from Psalm 110, quoted in this verse, where the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek and the exaltation to the right hand of God are regarded together. See also what was said under Hebrews 1:5, of the application to Christ of the other text quoted, "This day have I begotten thee." The Messianic reference and general drift of Psalm 110. has been considered under Hebrews 1:13. It was there seen to be more than a typical prophecy, David having in it a distinct view of One far greater than himself - of the Son to come, whom he calls his LORD. But even had it, like other Messianic psalms, a primary reference to some theocratic king, the remarkable import of ver. 4 would in itself point beyond one. For, though David organized and controlled the priesthood and the services of the sanctuary, though both he and Solomon took a prominent part in solemn acts of worship, yet neither they nor any other king assumed the priestly office, which, in its essential functions, was scrupulously confined to the sons of Aaron. The judgment on Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:16-22) is a notable evidence of the importance attached to this principle. Yet the verse before us assigns a true priesthood to the future King. For Melchizedek, as he appears in Genesis, is evidently a true priest, though prior to the Aaronic priesthood, uniting in himself, according to the system of the patriarchal age, the royalty and the priesthood of his race: as a true priest, he blessed Abraham, and received tithes from him. But of him, historically and symbolically regarded, the consideration must be reserved for Hebrews 7, where the subject is taken up. Enough here to observe that in Psalm 110. a true and everlasting priesthood is assigned to the SON in union with his exalted royalty at the LORD'S right hand, and this by Divine appointment, by the "voice" or "oracle" of the Load (ver. 1), confirmed by the LORD'S oath (ver. 4).
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;
Verses 7, 8. - Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up (rather, when he offered up) prayers and supplications to 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. Here (according to the view taken above of the chiastic structure of the passage) we have the account of how Christ fulfilled the human requirements of a High Priest, referred to in vers. 2, 3. This main intention of vers. 7, 8 must be kept in mind for a proper understanding of them. Christ is in them regarded, not as executing his priestly office, but as being prepared and consecrated for it. His eternal priesthood is conceived as entered on after the human experience which is the subject of these verses (cf. καὶ τελειώθεις ἐγένετο (ver. 9), and what was said under ver. 5). With regard to the participial aorists, προσενέγκας αἰσακουσθείς, it is a misapprehension of their proper force to regard them as denoting a time previous to that of ἔμαθεν in ver. 8; as if the meaning were - having in Gethsemane "offered," etc., and "been heard," he afterwards "learnt obedience" on the cross. All they express is that in offering, etc., and being heard, he learned obedience. The idea of subsequent time does not come in till ver. 9; "and being perfected," after thus learning obedience, "he became," etc. Thus the only question with regard to time in vers. 7, 8 is whether they have reference to the agony in the garden only, or both to the agony and the cross. That they refer mainly, if not exclusively, to the agony is evident from the expressions used, corresponding so closely with the Gospel history. The view presented is, as in the Gospels, of some intense inward struggle, outwardly manifested, and expressing itself in repeated prayers (observe the plural, δεήσεις καὶ ἱκετηρίας) aloud for deliverance. It is true that the Gospels, as we have them now, do not mention tears; but these too are quite in keeping with the bloody sweat specified by St. Luke, and Epiphanius states that the original copies of Luke 22:43, 44 contained the verb ἔκλαυσε. Some interpreters would identify the κραυγή ἰσχυρά of ver. 7 with the "loud voice (φωνή μεγάλη)" from the cross (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; Luke 23:46). But there is nothing to suggest this; the "strong crying and tears" evidently denote the manner of the "prayers and supplications;" and the thrice-repeated prayer in the garden recorded by the evangelists may be well conceived to have been thus loudly uttered, so as to be heard by the three disciples, a stone's cast distant, before sleep overcame them. "In cruce clamasse dicitur; lachrymasse non dicitur. Utrum horum respicit locum Gethsemane" (Bengel). What, then, as seen in the light of these verses, was the meaning of the "prayer and supplications" in the garden of Gethsemane? The expression, τὸν δυνάμενον σώζειν αὐτὸν ἐκ θανάτου, corresponding with πάντα δυνατά σοι of Mark 14:36, confirms the view that the "cup" which he prayed might pass from him, was the death before him, and that the purport of his prayer was, not to be raised from death after undergoing it, but to be saved from undergoing it. Such is the ordinary meaning of σώζειν ἐκ θανάτου in reference to one still alive (cf. Psalm 33:19; James 5:20). It does not indeed positively follow that, because he prayed to One who was able in this sense to save him, his prayer was that he might be in this sense saved. It is, however, the natural inference. But, if so, two difficulties present themselves.
(1) How was such a prayer consistent with his distinct knowledge that death must be undergone, and his late strong rebuke to Peter for venturing to dissuade him from it?
(2) How can he be said to have been heard (εἰσακουσθείς), since he was not saved from death in the sense intended? To the first of these questions the answer is that the prayer expressed, not the deliberate desire of his Divine will, but only the inevitable shrinking of the human will from such an ordeal as was before him. As man, he experienced this shrinking to the full, and as man he craved deliverance, though with entire submission to the will of the Father. His human will did not oppose itself to the Divine will: it conformed itself in the end entirely to it; but this according to the necessary conditions of humanity, through the power of prayer. Had it not been so with him, his participation in human nature would have been incomplete; he would not have been such as to be "touched with a feeling of our infirmities, being in all things tempted like as we are;" nor would he have stood forth for ever as the great Example to mankind. St. John, who so deeply enters into and interprets the mind of Christ, records an utterance before the agony which anticipates its meaning (John 12): "The hour is come" (ver. 23); and then (ver. 27), "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour [cf. σώζειν ἐκ θανάτου]; but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy Name." The "hour" was that of the drinking of the cup (cf. Mark 14:35, "And prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him"). "Father, save me from this hour" was the human craving of the agony; but still, "Father, glorify thy Name" was the essence of the prayer; and perfect submission to the Divine will was the outcome of it, after this troubling of his human soul. The mystery surrounding the whole subject of the Divine and human in Christ remains still. What was said with regard to it about the temptation in the wilderness (Hebrews 4:15) is applicable also here. If it be further asked how it was that Christ, in his humanity, so shrank from the "cup" before him, seeing that mere men have been found to face death calmly in its most appalling forms, the answer may be found in the consideration of what this cup implied. It was more than physical death, more than physical pain, more than any sorrow that falls to the lot of man. Such expressions as Ἤρξατο λυπεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδημονεῖν... περίλυπος ἐστὶν ἡ ψυχή μου ἕως θανάτου (Matthew 26:37, 38); Ἤρξατο ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδημονεῖν (Mark 14:33); Γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωυίᾳ ἐκτενεστερον προσηύχετο (Luke 22:44); the bloody sweat, and the cry of "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" - convey in themselves the impression of a mysterious ordeal, beyond what we can fathom, undergone by the atoning Savior in that "hour" of the "power of darkness." Of the second difficulty mentioned above, as to how Christ was "heard," not having been saved "from death" in the apparent sense of his prayer, the solution may be that the prayer, conditioned as it was by εἰ δυνατὸν, was most truly answered by the angel sent to strengthen him, and the power thenceforth given him to "endure the cross, despising the shame." "Mortem ex qua Pater cum liberare posset, ne moreretur, tamen subiit, voluntati Patris obediens: ab horrore plane liberatus est per exauditionem Exauditus est, non ut ne biberet calicem, sed ut jam sine ullo horrore biberet: unde etiam per angelum corroboratus est" (Bengel). The example to us thus becomes the more apparent. For we, too, praying legitimately for release from excessive trial, may have our prayer best answered by grace given to endure the trial, and by "a happy issue" out of it; as was the case with Christ. For his bitter passion was made the path to eternal glory; and thus in the Resurrection too his prayer was answered. The exact meaning of εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας is not easy to determine. It is taken by a large proportion of commentators to mean "deliverance from his fear;" εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ being supposed to be a constructio praegnans in the sense of "heard so as to be delivered," and εὐλαβεία to denote the dread experienced in Gethsemane. So the old Italian Versions, and Ambrose, "exauditus a metu;" so Bengel, "ab hrr-rore liberatus per exauditlonem." This interpretation is upheld by Beza, Grotius, Tholuck, Hofmann, Ebrard, and many others; some of whom, less tenably (as Calvin, Hammond, Jackson), understand εὐλαβεία as meaning, not the fear felt, but the thing feted: "ab eo quod timebat" (Calvin). The objections to this view are
(1) the doubtfulness of the constructio praegnans (the instances adduced - ἐπήκουσέ μου εἰς πλατυσμόν, Psalm 118:5; ἐρραντισμένοι... ἀπὸ συνειδήσεας πονηρᾶς, Hebrews 10:22 - are not parallel); and
(2) the sense assigned to εὐλαβεία, since εὐλαβεῖσθαι and its derivatives, when used to express fear, denote usually, not a shrinking, but a wary or cautious fear, and commonly carry with them (in this Epistle and St. Luke especially) the idea of piety. Thus in Hebrews 11:7, of Noah, εὐλαβηθεὶς κατεσκεύασε κιβωτὸν: Hebrews 12:28, μετ αἰδοῦς καὶ εὐλαβεαίς: and in Luke 2:25; Acts 2:5; Acts 8:2; Acts 22:12, εὐλαβής is synonymous with εὐσεβής. The rendering hence preferred by many, having the authority of Chrysostom, and among moderns of Lunemann, Bleek, Delitzsch, Alford, and others, is that of the Vulgate, "exauditus pro sua reverentia." So Vigilius, "propter timorem;" the A.V.," heard in that he feared," or, as in the margin, "heard for his piety;" and in the recent revision, "for his godly fear;" which is the A.V.'s rendering of εὐλαβεία in Hebrews 12:28. The objection to the use of ἀπὸ to express the cause of his being heard is met by reference to the frequent usage of St. Luke, whose language most resembles that of our Epistle. Thus: ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου (Luke 19:3); ἀπὸ τῆς χαρᾶς (Luke 24:41 and Acts 12:14); ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕπνου (Acts 20:9); ἀπὸ τῆς δόξης (Acts 22:11). The phrase, thus understood, brings out the more markedly the thoroughly human conditions to which Christ was subjected. It was not in right of his sonship that he was heard. He won his hearing by his human piety; though he was SON, and as such knew that his Father heard him always (John 11:42), he learnt humanly his lesson of obedience. In the expression, καίπερ ὤν υἱὸς, Son is surely meant in the peculiar sense in which it has all along been applied to Christ, expressing more than that his relation to God was that of any son to a father, and thus we perceive the full force of καίπερ. It is true that it was not till after the Resurrection that he attained his exalted position as SON (see under Hebrews 1:5 and Hebrews 5:5); but still he was all along the Son, in virtue of his origin as well as of his destiny. Cf. ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ (Hebrews 1:9). Ων υἱὸς does not indeed, in itself, express that he was the Second Person of the Trinity (this application of the word υἱὸς being nowhere found in the Epistle); but it implies that, even in his state of humiliation, he was more than man; for there would be nothing very extraordinary, so as to justify καίπερ, in the case of an ordinary son learning obedience to his father through suffering. Recurring now to the question raised under ver. 3, whether the high priest's obligation to offer in the first place for himself had any counterpart in the case of Christ, we may perceive such a counterpart in the agony, as above regarded. For, although for himself Christ needed no atonement, yet the "prayers and supplications" were offered in his own behalf, being due to his own entire participation in the conditions of humanity; the whole "agony and bloody sweat" were part of his own preparation and consecration for executing the office of a High Priest for others, and, like the Aaronic priest's offering for himself, they were the sign and evidence of his being one μετριοπαθεῖν δυνάμενος. Thus (χωρὶς ἀμαρτίας being all along understood) they answered truly to the preparatory part of Aaron's original consecration (Leviticus 8:14 - 9:15), or to the high priest's own offering, before his offering for the people and entering behind the veil, on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 14:6). It may be (though not necessarily so) that the word προσενέγκας in ver. 7, corresponding with προσφέρειν in ver. 3, is intended to suggest this analogy.
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;
Verses 9, 10. - And being made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the Author of eternal salvation; called (or rather so addressed) of God a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. Here τελειωθεὶς (translated "being made perfect") refers to the time of his resurrection, when the sufferings were over and the atonement complete (cf. Luke 13:32, τῇ τρίτῃ τελειοῦμαι). The word may be used in its general sense of perfected, i.e. "being made perfectly that which he was intended to become" (Delitzsch). In such sense St. Paul uses the word of himself, Οὐκ ὅτι ἤδη τετελείωμαι (Philippians 3:12). Or the specific sense of priestly consecration may be here, as well as in Hebrews 2:10 and Hebrews 7:28, intended. In Hebrews 7:28 the A.V. renders εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τετελειωμένον by "consecrated for evermore." And this view is supported by passages in the LXX., where the word τελείωσις is used with special reference to the consecration of the high priest. Cf. ἔστι γὰρ τελείωσις αὔτη (Exodus 29:22); τοῦ κριοῦ τῆς τελειώσεως, ὅ ἐστιν Ἀαρών, (vers. 26, 27, 31); τελειῶσαι τὰς χεῖρας αὐτῶν (vers. 29, 33, 35); τῆς θυσίας τῆς τελειώσεως (ver. 34) τὸν δεύτερον κριὸν τῆς τελειώσεωσ (Leviticus 8:22, 29); ἀπὸ τοῦ κανοῦ τῆς τελειώσεως (ver. 26); τὸ ὁλοκαύτωμα τῆς τελειώσεως (ver. 28); ἕως ἡμέρα πληρωθῆ, ἡμέρα τελειώσεως ὑμῶν (ver. 33); also Leviticus 21:10, where the high priest - ὁ ἱερεὺς ὁ μέγας ἀπὸ τῶν ἀδελφῶν αὐτοῦ ( ισ described as τοῦ ἐπικεχυμένου ἐπὶ τῆν κεφαλὴν τοῦ ἐλαίου σοῦ Ξριστοῦ καὶ τετελειωμένου ἐνδύσασθαι τὰ ἱμάτια. See also Gesenius on the Hebrew word מלֻּאים. Hence, and in view of the drift of the passage before us, Jackson very decidedly regards τελειωθεὶς in ver. 9 as a verbum solenne, denoting specifically Christ's consecration to his eternal office of High Priest. So also Hammond and Whitby. Being thus perfected, or consecrated, he became, for ever afterwards, the Author, not of mere ceremonial cleansing or temporary remission of guilt, but of eternal salvation; potentially to all mankind (cf. ὑπὲρ παντὸς, Hebrews 2:9), and effectively to "all them that obey him;" being addressed, in tiffs his consummated position (the reference being to Psalm 110.) as "High Priest for ever," etc. Here again we perceive that it is not till after the Resurrection that the prophetic ideal of the SON at God's right hand, and of the eternal High Priest, are regarded as fully realized. If it be objected that his high priesthood must have begun before the Resurrection for his death upon the cross to be a true atonement, it may be replied that his one oblation of himself upon the cross at once consummated his consecration and effected the atonement. Doubtless, as a true High Priest on earth, he thus "offered one sacrifice for sins for ever" (Hebrews 10:12); all that is meant above is that it was not till after the Resurrection that he entered on his eternal office of mediation in virtue of that one accomplished sacrifice.
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.
Verse 11 - Hebrews 7:1. - This is the long admonitory digression (see under ver. 1) felt by the writer to be necessary before his exposition of κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχιζεδέκ. He is entering on a new theme, higher and less level to the comprehension of his readers than any that has gone before. Even so far, we have seen how their Jewish prejudices had evoked admonitions, frequently interposed in the course of the argument. Much more so now, when it is to be shown how the priesthood of Christ not only fulfils the idea of, but also supersedes, that of the sons of Aaron, being of a different order from theirs. The region of thought to be entered now, being that of "the mystery of Christ," transcends more than any that has been so far entered the ordinary conceptions of traditional Judaism. Hence the writer's shrinking from entering all at once on the subject for fear of not being even understood; hence his earnest warnings to his readers as to the necessity of advancing to the state of full-grown Christians who can discern spiritual things. Verse 11 - Hebrews 6:20. - INTERPOSED EXHORTATION. Verse 11. - Of whom (the most obvious antecedent being Melchizedek, but with regard to his typical significance, as referred to in Psalm 110.) we have many things to say (the subject itself admits a lengthy exposition) and hard of interpretation, seeing ye are become (not, as in A.V., "ye are") dull of hearing, Their dullness is the reason of the λόγος being δυσερμήνευτος. It was not that the subject was in itself inexplicable, or that the writer was incompetent to explain it; his difficulty was in adapting the interpretation to the capacity of his readers: "Non scribentis, sed vestro vitio" (Bengel). It seems from γεγόνατε ("ye are become"), in this and the following verse, that the Hebrew Christians had even retrograded in spiritual perception. This is easily conceivable. As, through the teaching of St. Paul especially, the tie between Christianity and Judaism became more and more broken, there was likely to be a certain reaction among the Hebrew Christians, who, having gone to a certain extent with the tide of thought, became conscious how far it was carrying them. They would be inclined to cling the more fondly to their old associations from the fear of losing them altogether. Such retrogressions have been observable in other times of upheaval of old ideas.
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.
Verse 12. - For when, by reason of the time (i.e. the time that has elapsed since your conversion), ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that some one teach you (or, that one teach you which be) the first principles (literally, the elements of the beginning) of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. Τῆς ἀρχῆς in this verse seems best taken in union with τὰ στοιχεῖα, rather than with τῶν λογίων; the phrase, τὰ στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς, meaning "the initiatory elements" - the A, B, C of Christian teaching. The word λογία ("oracles"), is used elsewhere for the revelations of the Old Testament, as Acts 7:38; Romans 3:2. Here its meaning can hardly be taken as confined to them, since the first principles of the gospel are being spoken cf. Still, a word that includes them in its meaning may be purposely used by way of intimating that the elements intended are those of Judaism as well as Christianity, or of the latter only in its first emergence out of Judaism. And accordingly, vers. 1, 2 of Hebrews 6, where they are enumerated, are (as will be seen) so worded as to imply no more than this; nor are the first principles there mentioned beyond what an enlightened Jew might be expected to understand readily. Be it observed that the Hebrew Church need not be supposed to have actually lost sight of these first principles, so as to require a new indoctrination into them. There may be a vein of delicate irony in what is said, after the manner of St. Paul. All that is of necessity implied is that there had been such a failure in seeing what these principles led to as to suggest the necessity of their being learnt anew. The writer does not, in fact, as he goes on, require them to be learnt anew; for he bids his readers leave them behind, as though already known, and proceed from them to perfection, though still with some misgiving as to their capability for doing so. The figure of milk for babes and solid food for full-grown men, to illustrate the teaching suitable for neophytes and for advanced Christians, is found also in 1 Corinthians 3:1, 2; and that of νήπιος in 1 Corinthians 14:20; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 4:14. This correspondence, though no proof of the Pauline authorship, is among the evidences of the Pauline character of the Epistle.
For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
Verse 13. - For every one that partaketh of milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. Reason for saying that they are such as have need of milk; for milk is the nourishment of infants, and he that is an infant in respect of spiritual growth is ἄπειρος λόγου δικαιοσύνης: not of necessity unacquainted with it altogether, but still not versed in it; he is but a tyro. "Word of righteousness" may be taken as a general term to denote what we might call religious lore; referring here especially to the gospel, which is eminently the revelation of the "righteousness of God" (Romans 1:17; cf. 2 Corinthians 3:9, ἡ διακονία τῆς δικαιοσύνης: and 2 Cor 11:15, διάκονοι δικαιοσύνης); but not excluding a more general conception. There is no need to suppose an exclusive reference to the more perfect doctrine in opposition to the elements, since, of the whole subject of religious knowledge, the νήπιος may be said to be ἄπειρος in the sense of being without the matured skill that experience gives. Hence, too, we are certainly not justified in finding in the phrase a specific allusion to the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith only, which is not suggested by the context or by what follows. Still less may we (with Delitzsch) so ignore the notable significance of δικαιοσύνη as to reduce the expression to a synonym for "rightly framed, that is sound and orthodox discourse."
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.
Verse 14. - But solid food is for them that are of full age (τελείων, equivalent to "perfect;" but in the sense of maturity of age or growth, in contrast with νήπιοι; as in 1 Corinthians 14:20; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6; Ephesians 4:13; Philippians 3:15), those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil. Here the comparison is carried out with peculiar aptness. Τὰ αἰσθητήρια in the illustration are the organs of sense. In the infant the digestive organs, in the first place, exercised in the beginning on milk, acquire through that exercise the power of assimilating more solid and more complex food, while at the same time its sensitive organs generally, also through exercise, become consciously discriminative of "good and evil" (cf. Isaiah 7:15, 16, where "to know to refuse the evil and choose the good" denotes, as if proverbially, the age after early childhood). So, in the spiritual sphere, the mental faculties, exercised at first on simple truths, should acquire by practice the power of apprehending and distinguishing' between higher and more recondite ones. It was because the Hebrew Christians had failed thus to bring out their faculties that they were open to the charge of being still in a state of infancy.