Hebrews OU Both eyes

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CHAPTER 1. Hebrews 1,1-4

The natural place to begin a study of Hebrews is the beginning
assigned by the author, 1,1.
1.1. Delimitation of the Text
The first four verses of Hebrews are commonly accepted as forming a
unit. This seems to be a view justified by both the form and content of
the verses.1 Further, v. 4 seems to be a transitional verse linking what
precedes with the section which follows.2
1.2. The Greek Text
1,1 Polumerw'~ kai; polutrovpw~ pavlai oJ qeo;~ lalhvsa~ toi'~
patravsin ejn toi'~ profhvtai~ 1,2 ejp j ejscavtou tw'n hJmerw'n
touvtwn ejlavlhsen hJmi'n ejn uiJw'/ o}n e[qhken klhronovmon pavntwn, di j
ou| kai; ejpoivhsen tou;~ aijw'na~: 1,3 o}~ w]n ajpauvgasma th'~ dovxh~
kai; carakth;r th'~ uJpostavsew~ aujtou, fevrwn te ta; pavnta tw/'
rJhvmati th'~ dunavmew~ aujtou', kaqarismo;n tw'n aJmartiw'n
poihsavmeno~ ejkavqisen ejn dexia/' th'~ megalwsuvnh~ ejn uJyhloi'~,
1,4 tosouvtw/ kreivttwn genovmeno~ tw'n ajggevlwn, o{sw/
diaforwvteron par j aujtou' keklhronovmhken o[noma.3
1.3. An English Translation
1,1 Having spoken in many and varied ways in the past to the fathers
in the prophets, God 1,2 in these end days has spoken to us in one who
is a son,4 whom he placed as heir of all things, through whom he also
made the ages; 1,3 who, being a radiance of his glory and an imprint
of his underlying reality, and bearing all things in the word of his
power, having made purification of sins, sat at the right of the majesty

    Cf. Attridge (1989), p. 36, and p. 36, nn. 11-12.

    This point will be discussed in Chapter 3.
 Text after A. Merk – I. O’Callaghan (edd.), Novum Testamentum graece et latine
(Romae: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 199211).
 “In one who is a son”—translation after Ellingworth (1993), p. 93. The emphasis is
on the son precisely as son. This in turn would seem to give to “God” (oJ qeov~) the
implicit nuance of “father”.
on high, 1,4 having become as much better than the angels as the
name which he has inherited is superior to them.5
1.4. A Suggested Structure
The text would seem to be structured as follows:
God as subject:
A) Polumerw'~ kai; polutrovpw~ pavlai oJ qeo;~ lalhvsa~ toi'~
       patravsin ejn toi'~ profhvtai~
B) ejp j ejscavtou tw'n hJmerw'n touvtwn ejlavlhsen hJmi'n ejn uiJw'/
C) o}n e[qhken klhronovmon pavntwn
D) di j ou| kai; ejpoivhsen tou;~ aijw'na~

Son as subject:
E) o}~ w]n ajpauvgasma th'~ dovxh~
F) kai; carakth;r th'~ uJpostavsew~ aujtou
G) fevrwn te ta; pavnta tw/' rJhvmati th'~ dunavmew~ aujtou'
H) kaqarismo;n tw'n aJmartiw'n poihsavmeno~
I) ejkavqisen ejn dexia/' th'~ megalwsuvnh~ ejn uJyhloi'~
J) tosouvtw/ kreivttwn genovmeno~ tw'n ajggevlwn o{sw/
  diaforwvteron par j aujtou' keklhronovmhken o[noma
1.5. A Suggested Interpretation
An initial reading, besides noting the obvious contrast between God as
subject of the action and the son as subject, also notes the initial
contrasts in A and B between the revelation made in the prophets and
the revelation made in one who is a son.6 In addition to this theme of
revelation there are other themes import in the epistle which are
introduced in the prologue: the theme of “inheritance” (C)7, the theme

  Translation here and elsewhere by the present writer unless otherwise noted. The
punctuation will be modified from that of the Greek to fit with the English
  “The temporal idioms qualify the central affirmation that God has spoken. The
conviction that God cares for people and relates to them through his spoken word is
developed as a major motif by the writer” (Lane [1991a], p. 11). The emphasis on
the spoken word should be noted, both in Lane’s observation and in the text of
Hebrews itself. The author of Hebrews was well aware that this spoken word
became fixed in writing, but in his presentation that follows the spoken word of
Christ in contrast to the written word of Scripture will have crucial importance. It is
in this spoken word of Christ (lalevw) that the spoken word of God (lalevw)
                           8                                9
of “creation” (D, G) , the theme of “glory” (E) , the theme of
“underlying reality” (F)10, the theme of “purification from sin” (H)11,
the theme of “exaltation” (I)12, and, finally, the theme of the son’s
“name” and his superiority to the angels (J)13. Of course, these themes
appear in the prologue as part of a summary introduction; only as the
epistle goes on are they developed. But it can be presumed that the
tradition in which the addressees lived their Christian commitment
made the mere mention of such topics significant in the opening
verses of such a carefully-written epistle, where every word seems to
have been selected with care. Thus, it does not seem rash to infer that
at the end of v. 4 the addressees would think that they had not heard
the last of these topics.
But a re-reading of the prologue points to an additional set of
emphases in the intention of the author. Along with the studied major
contrast between “God” as subject of the verbs (vv. 1-2) and “son” as
subject of the verbs (vv. 3-4) there is a studied minor contrast between
the subject “God” and the non-subject “son” in vv. 1-2 (cf. ejn uiJw/'
and di j ou| which refer to the son), and the subject “son” and the non-
subject “God” in v. 3 (cf. the first aujtou' and th'~ megalwsuvnh~ with
reference to God). Further, there is a dual reference to creation (o}n
e[qhken klhronovmon pavntwn in v. 2c; fevrwn te ta; pavnta tw/'
rJhvmati th'~ dunavmew~ aujtou' in v. 3b) flanking references to God’s
“glory” (dovxa) and “underlying reality” (uJpostavsi~) in v. 3a. These
symmetrical indicators have been taken by more than one

    Heb 1,4; 6,11.17; 11,7.8; 12,17; Ellingworth (1993), pp. 94-95.

    Heb 4,13; 9,11; 11,3; Ellingworth (1993), p. 96.

    Heb,; 3,3; 5,5; 9,5; 13,21; Ellingworth (1993), p. 99.
  Heb 3,14; 11,1; Ellingworth (1993), pp. 564-565. The word uJpovstasi~ in the
epistle seems to be used as an indication of three major divisions.

     Heb 9,14.22.23; 10,2; Ellingworth (1993), pp. 101-102.

     Heb 1,13; 8,1; 10,112; 12,2; Ellingworth (1993), pp. 96-98.

  With regard to “name” cf.: Heb 2,12; 6,10; 13,15 (texts which speak of the
“name” of God), and Heb 1,5.8; 2,6.10; 3,6; 4,14; 5,5.8; 6,6; 7,3.28; 10,29 (texts
which speak of the name of Jesus as “son”); Ellingworth (1993), pp. 105-106;
Swetnam (1989), pp. 78-79. With regard to angels cf.: Heb 1,; 2,2.5; 7,9.16;
12,22; 13,2; Ellingworth (1993), pp. 103-104.
commentator as indications of chiasm. But it does not seem
necessary to burden the verses with this formal tag; it is sufficient to
point out the chiasm-like (or, perhaps better, concentric) pattern.
A coherent interpretation of these various elements would seem to be
the follow: Clause A serves as an introduction. Clauses B, C, and D.
culminate in clause E. Clause E. refers to God’s “glory”, i.e.,
something which can be considered as “exterior” to God insofar as it
can be seen as the result of his acts as revealer (A, B), donor (C)15, and
creator (D) through the son. Clause F refers to God’s “underlying
reality”, i.e., something which can be considered as “interior” to God
in contrast to his external glory. But clauses E and F also refer to the
son as one who “reproduces” the external glory of God as its “ray”
and God’s “underlying reality” as his “imprint”. Thus the descriptions
in E and F interplay: the son is portrayed both as “other” and as being
intimately “non-other” both as regards what is God’s “exterior” and as
regards what is God’s “interior”.16 Clauses E and F have as their
grammatical subject the son, but they can be considered as flowing
from what precedes by reason of the intimate connection between
what is said of the son in relation to God (>). But with clause G this
intimate connection with God ceases to be portrayed, so that clause F
can be considered as opening on to what follows (<). Clause G begins

   On suggested chiastic arrangements of the prologue cf. Ellingworth (1993), pp.
   “Here, as generally in biblical Greek, klhronovmo~ does not … imply the
transmission of property by a testator, but more generally the idea of taking
permanent possession … especially of something given by God. The paradigmatic
event which determines the biblical uses of klhronovmo~ and cognates is Israel’s
taking possession of the land which God had promised them …” (Ellingworth
[1993], pp. 94-95).

   The Semitic world was not as well equipped philosophically and hence
linguistically to cope with ontology as the Greek world was, as is confirmed by the
fact that it was the Greek world which set the norms for ontology in the early
Christian Church. Whether the author of Hebrews would have been willing—and
able—to try to express Christian reality in terms of Greek philosophy is an
interesting question. In his epistle, at any rate, he wrote as a Semite for persons with
a Semitic background. His presentation of Christian reality is firmly rooted in the
Old Testament thought world and in Old Testament imagery and language. It is not
lacking in ontological ambition. But ontology viewed in a Semitic context. From the
way the prologue is worded it is clear that in attempting to describe the relation of
son to God he is wrestling with realities for which he has no precedent to go by.
the next series of clauses, this time with the son figuring in his own
right as creator (G), redeemer (H), and exalted one (I).
Clause A and clause J are marked by aorist participles indicating the
terminated nature of God’s act of revealing (lalhvsa~) and of the
son’s act of becoming (genovmeno~), in relation to the finite verbs in
the passage. God’s acts are presented as finite verbs (e[qhken,
ejpoivhsen), whereas the son is described by participles (w[n, fevrwn,
poihsavmeno~) until the finite verb ejkavqisen. This finite verb,
because of the contrast with the preceding participles, assumes the
role of a climax for the whole passage. God’s activity in the past and
the son’s activity as well, culminates in the son’s exaltation. It is at
this moment, with the son exalted, that all that follows in the epistle is
pictured as being situated.
No listener/reader of the prologue could possibly have been able to
take explicit cognizance of all of the above analysis of the text at a
first contact. Unless, of course, the author was rehearsing material
already known to them, albeit perhaps in different guises. One may
well surmise that this was the case, since they seem to have formed a
community of worship (cf. the passage Heb 10,19-25) of which the
author played some kind of role (cf. Heb 13,18-25).
The purpose of the prologue is to introduce the reader to the intimate
relation which exists between God and his son, a relation in which
“other” is not fully “other”. This relation is clarified less inadequately
in what follows by a further explanation of the son’s “name”, i.e.,
nature, which sets him apart from the angels.17 Clause J serves as the
transition between the first three verses of the exordium and what
follows in Heb 1,5-13.
Thus the prologue at the level of the implied relation between God
and son can be expressed schematically as follows:
A) Having spoken in many and varied ways in the past to the fathers
      in the prophets, God
   B) in these end days has spoken to us in one who is a son,
   C) whom he placed as heir of all things,
   D) through whom he also made the ages;

  “The motif of the acquisition of a new name and exaltation above the angels is
found elsewhere in confessional material (cf. Phil 2:9; Eph 1:20; 1 Pet 3:22) and
appears to be a common element in early tradition …” (Lane [1991a], p. 17).
       > E) who, being a radiance of his glory
       F) < and an imprint of his underlying reality,
   G) and bearing all things in the word of his power,
   H) having made purification of sins,
   I) sat at the right of the majesty on high,
J) having become as much better than the angels as the name which
       he has inherited is superior to them.
In this reading, the prologue at the level of the implied relation of God
and son is seen as introducing what immediately follows (Heb 1,5-14,
because this latter section presents the son in relation to God. In
contrast, the prologue at the level of incipient themes is seen as
introducing the entire epistle. The transition verse (1,4) sums up the
prologue by an allusion to the “name” which the son has inherited,
which name is properly “son”. It is crucial to note that Heb 1,5-14 is
not therefore an exercise in tautology, for, as its introductory citations
indicate, the “son” being spoken of in the passage is the “son” of
David who, at the moment of exaltation/resurrection “becomes” the
“son” spoken of in the prologue.
But before the profound implications of Heb 1,4 can be explored as
they are set forth in Heb 1,5-14, it is advisable to turn to Chapter 13 to
note how the author presents the climax of the entire epistle.

CHAPTER 2. Hebrews 13,1-21

The reason for proceeding to the end of the epistle after a
consideration of the prologue is the peculiar nature of the ending.
According to what will be advanced here, Chapter 13 seems to point
to a fixed liturgical practice of the addressees and hence to a fixed
tradition of which the liturgical practice is a manifestation.18 In an
epistle in which the priesthood of Christ is so explicitly a part of the
discourse, this is an important consideration.19
2.1. Delimitation of the Text
For purposes of the present study, the relevant material to be
examined in Chapter 13 consists of verses 1-21. The way the chapter
begins, with a decided change from exposition to admonition,
indicates the beginning of the material to be considered. The solemn
blessing/doxology in vv. 20-21 is the obvious point of closure. All the
more so, since by common if not universal agreement, the final four
verses of the chapter, vv. 22-25, are thought to be a brief series of
personal remarks by the author of the letter and a valediction. They
are not unimportant in themselves, but do not enter in any significant
way in a determination of the main purpose of the chapter.20
2.2. The Greek Text
13,1 JH filadelfiva menevtw. 13,2 th'~ filoxeniva~ mh;
ejpilanqavnesqe: dia; tauvth~ gavr e[laqovn tine~ xenivsante~
ajggevlou~. 13,3 mimnh/vskesqe tw'n desmivwn wJ~ sundedemevnoi,
tw'n kakoucoumevnwn wJ~ kai; aujtoi; o[nte~ ejn swvmati. 13,4 Tivmio~
oJ gavmo~ ejn pa'sin kai; hJ koivth ajmivanto~: povrnou~ ga;r kaiv
moicou;~ krinei' oJ qeov~. 13,5 jAfilavrguro~ oJ trovpo~,
arjkouvmenoi toi'~ parou'sin: aujto;~ ga;r ei[rhken: ouj mhv se ajnw'
oujd j ouj mhv se ejgkatalivpw, 13,6 w{ste qarrou'nta~ hJma`~ levgein
Kuvrio~ ejmoi; bohqov~, kai; ouj fobhqhvsomai: tiv poihvsei moi
a[nqrwpo~; 13,7 Mnhmoneuvete tw`n hJgoumevnwn uJmw`n, oi{tine~

  Cf., for example, Heb 10,19-25 in the light of a suggested tradition involving a
fixed liturgical practice.
     Cf.: Swetnam (2006a), pp. 159-173; Swetnam (2006b), pp. 3-17.
     Cf. Attridge (1989), pp. 408-409.
ejlavlhsan uJmi`n tovn lovgon tou` qeou`, w|n ajnaqewrou`nte~ th;n
e[kbasin th`~ ajnastrofh`~ mimei`sqe th;n pivstin. 13,8 jIhsou`~
Cristo;~ ejcqe;~ kai; shvmeron oJ aujtov~ kai; eij~ tou;~ aijw`na~. 13,9
Didacai`~ kai; xevnai~ mh; parafevresqe: kalo;n gavr cavriti
bebaiou`sqai th;n kardivan, ouj brwvmasin ejn oi|~ oujk wjfelhvqhsan
oiJ peripathvsonte~. 13,10 [Ecomen qusiasthvrion ejx ou{ fagei`n
oujk e[cousin ejxousivan oiJ th`/ skhnh`/ latreuvonte~. 13,11 w|n gavr
eijsfevretai zw/vwn to; ai|ma peri; aJmartiva~ eij~ ta; a{gia dia; tou`
ajrcierevw~, touvtwn ta; swvmata katakaivetai e[xw th`~
parembolh`~. 13,12 Dio; kai; jIhsou`~, i{na aJgiavsh/ dia; ijdivou
ai{mato~ to;n laovn, e[xw th`~ puvlh~ e[paqen. 13,13 toivnun
ejxercwvmeqa pro;~ aujto;n e[xw th`~ parembolh`~ to;n ojneidismo;n
aujtou` fevronte~: 13,14 ouj ga;r e[comen w|de mevnousan povlin
ajlla; th;n mevllousan ejjpizhtou`men. 13,15 di jaujtou` ou\n
ajnafevrwmen qusivan aijnevsew~ dia; panto;~ tw`/ qew/`, tou`t j e[stin
karpo;n xeilevwn oJmologouvntwn tw`/ ojnovmati aujtou`. 13,16 th`~ de;
eujpoii?a~ kai; koinwniva~ mh; ejpilanqavnesqe: toiauvtai~ ga;r
qusivai~ eujarestei`tai oJ qeov~. 13,17 Peivqesqe toi`~ hJgoumevnoi~
uJmw`n kai; uJpeivkete: aujtoi; ga;r ajgrupnou`sin uJpe;r tw`n yucw`n wJ~
lovgon ajpodwvsonte~ i{na meta; cara`~ tou`to poiw`sin kai; mh;
stenavzonte~: ajlusitele;~ ga;r uJmi`n tou`to. 13,18 Proseuvcesqe
peri; hJmw`n: peiqovmeqa ga;r o{ti kalh;n suneivdhsin e[comen, ejn
pa`sin kalw`~ qevlonte~ ajnastrevfesqai. 13,19 perissotevrw~ de;
parakalw` tou`to poih`sai, i{na tavcion ajjpokatastaqw` uJmi`n.
13,20 JO de qeo;~ th`~ eijrhvnh~, oJ ajnagagw;n ejk nekrw`n to;n
poimevna tw`n probavtwn to;n mevgan ejn ai{mati diaqhvkh~ aijwnivou ,
to;n kuvrion hJmw`n jIhsou`n, 13,21 katartivsai uJma`~ ejn panti;
ajgaqw/` eij~ to; poih`sai to; qevlhma aujtou`, poiw`n ejn hJmi`n to;
eujavreston ejnwvpion aujtou` dia; jIhsou` Cristou`, w| hJ dovxa eij~
tou;~ aijw`na~ tw`n aijwvnwn: ajmhvn.
2.3. An English Translation
13,1 Let love of the brethren remain. 13,2 Hospitality do not forget,
for through this some have played host to angels unawares. 13,3
Remember those who are in chains as chained with them, those who
are ill-treated as being yourselves in a body. 13,4 Let marriage be
honored by all and let the marital bed be undefiled, for God will judge
fornicators and adulterers. 13,5 Do not be a money-lover, be content
with what you have; for he himself has said, “I shall not desert you
and I shall not abandon you”. 13,6 Hence we should take courage and
say, “The Lord is my helper and I shall not fear. What can man do to
me?” 13,7 Remember your leaders, who spoke to you the word of
God; in reflecting on the outcome of their conduct imitate their faith.
13,8 Jesus Christ yesterday and today the same, and forever. 13,9 Do
not be led astray by a variety of strange teachings, for it is good that
the heart be sustained by grace, not by foods in which those who live
by them are not helped. 13,10 We have an altar from which those
serving the tent have no right to eat. 13,11 For while the blood of
animals is brought as a sin offering into the holy of holies by the high
priest, their bodies are burned outside the camp. 13,12 For this reason
Jesus also, so that he might sanctify the people through his own blood,
suffered outside the gate. 13,13 Let us go to him then outside the
camp taking on his shame. 13,14 For we have here not a city which
remains, but one which is to come. 13,15 Through him therefore let us
offer up a sacrifice of praise regularly to God, that is, fruit of lips
which confess his name; 13,16 the doing of good and fellowship do
not forget, for with such sacrifices as these God is pleased. 13,17
Obey your leaders and be subject to them, for they are vigilant over
your souls as ones having to give an account, that they may do this
with joy and not sighing, for this would not be of any help to you.
13,18 Pray for us, for we are persuaded that we have a clear
conscience, desiring to behave well in all matters. 13,19 I in particular
urge you to do this so that I may be restored to you all the sooner.
13,20 Now may the God of peace, the one who led up from the dead
the great shepherd of the sheep in the blood of the eternal covenant,
our Lord Jesus, 13,21 provide you with every good thing to do his
will, as he brings about in you that which is pleasing before him
through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
2.4. Hebrews 13,1-21 as Problem
Heb 13,1-21 is notorious as an unintelligible collection of verses. It
seems to be composed of such heterogeneous elements as to defy any
attempt to ascertain a unifying principle. As such it stands in apparent
contrast to the carefully-crafted argumentation of the previous
2.5. Hebrews 13,1-21 as Solution
The following considerations are an attempt to come to a solution of
Heb 13,1-21 as problem. In order to avoid the appearance of
presenting a contrived solution imposed on the text, a three-step
procedure will be employed, each of which generates a perspective
based on the text itself. The result converges on a unified
interpretation of the passage. The three perspectives generated by the
three-step procedure are as follows: 1) Perspective #1: A Surface

  “A formless collection of … ethical precepts and theological reflections scarcely
seems congruous with the careful development of argument in chaps. 1–12” (Lane
[1991b], p. 496).
Determination of the Structure; 2) Perspective #2: The “Sacrifice of
Praise” and Hebrews 13,7-17; 3) Perspective #3: Hebrews 13,1-21 in
the Light of Perspectives #1 and #2.
2.5.1. Perspective #1: A Surface Determination of the Structure
The following preliminary determination of the structure of 13,1-21 is
offered on the basis of a surface reading of the passage with
consideration of form and content.22
   1) vv. 1-5a form a section composed of a series of admonitions
concerning conduct;
   2) vv. 5b-6 form a section composed of two citations from
   3) vv. 7-17 form a section composed of a series of statements
framed by the words “leaders” (hJgouvmenoi) in the introductory and
concluding verses;23
   4) vv. 18-19 form a section composed of a personal appeal for
prayer by the author of the epistle;
   5) vv. 20-21 form a section composed of a blessing and a
The resulting structure commends itself by reason of its symmetry:
two brief sections and two other brief sections flank a long central
section. But it is important to understand the content of this
symmetrical structure if a non-contrived basis is to be provided for
Perspective #2. Vv. 1-5a
The moral admonitions of this section follow from what immediately
precedes, 12,29, with its reminder that the addressees stand under
God’s judgmental fire. This sobering thought would seem to follow
hard on the previous verse, 12,28, which is of a liturgical cast. The
Christians are to “have gratitude” (e[cwmen cavrin) in which spirit they
are to “worship God in a way pleasing to him with reverence and
awe” (latreuvwmen eujarevstw~ tw`/ qew`/ meta; eujlabeiva~ kai;
devou~). Thus the section 13,1-5a and presumably, the entire chapter if
it is a unified whole, are introduced in a way which suggests that they
involve worship.

  For a listing of how some authors have divided Chapter 13 cf. Attridge (1989), pp.
     This inclusion has been noted before. Cf. Attridge (1989), p. 391.

13,1-5a would seem to consist of four couplets, which combine direct
admonitions with explanatory elements. First couplet: “Let love of
the brethren remain. Hospitality do not forget, for through this some
have played host to angels unawares.” Second couplet: “Remember
those who are in chains as chained with them, those who are ill-treated
as being yourselves in a body24.” Third couplet: “Let marriage be
honored by all and let the marital bed be undefiled, for God will judge
fornicators and adulterers.” Fourth couplet: “Do not be a money-lover,
be content with what you have.”25 In the light of 12,28-29, these moral
admonitions are designed to remind the Christians that they should
worship with reverence and awe because they are subject to God’s
judgmental fire. Vv. 5b-6
After the admonitions of 1-5a the author introduces two citations from
Scripture: “For he himself has said, ‘I shall not desert you and I shall
not abandon you’. Hence we should take courage and say, ‘The Lord
is my helper and I shall not fear. What can man do to me?’” The use
of the word “for” (gavr) together with ‘he himself’ (aujtov~), seems to
refer implicitly to what is understood in the final couplet of the
admonitions: one should be content with what one has because, as
expressed in v. 5b, each one is under God’s providential care.
The source of the citation in v. 5b is not clear. One view traces it back
to Gen 28,15 as modified by Deut 31,6.9; another traces it back to Jos
1,5 as modified by Deut 31,8.26 In the context of a writing by and for
persons who were deeply versed in the language of the Greek Old
Testament such fine distinctions are possibly misleading and, in any
event, unnecessary. For it seems that the author of Hebrews is using
well-known wording in a new context, i.e., he is looking not forward
from the Old Testament to his present context, but backward from his
present context to the Old Testament, and evokes past familiar phrases
to illustrate a present familiar context—the context is of a liturgical
practice apparently well-known to the addressees.

   There seems to be no reference to Christ’s mystical body. See Ellingworth (1993),
p. 696. But there may be other implications in the context of Hebrews. See Thurén
(1973), pp. 210-211, n. 721.
     Cf. Attridge (1989), p. 385.
     Cf. Attridge (1989), pp. 388-389.
The content of v. 5b is intriguing. God is portrayed as speaking to an
individual (se). In v. 6 the individual responds, but he seems to do so
as a spokesman: the citation of the response is in the singular (ejmoiv ...
fobhvsomai ... moi), but the addressees are called on to take courage
along with the individual responding (w{ste qarrou`nta~ hJma`~). The
response contains a citation from Ps 118,6. The words of the psalm,
cited as they are in response to the particularized context of the
citation in v. 5b, have the effect of generalizing and radicalizing the
attitude of the Christians so that they are without fear in any context.27 Vv. 7-17
Following the moral admonitions and the scripture citations comes the
portion of the chapter which is central to the author’s concerns, as is
indicated by its placement and size. The section is framed by the
mention of the “leaders” (hJgouvmenoi) in vv. 7 and 17.28 Further, the
phrase “outside the camp” (e[xw th`~ parembolh`~) in vv. 11-13
seems to act as a frame for v. 12 with its mention of the “bloody”, i.e.,
sacrificial, death of Jesus. This is the only mention of this central
message of the epistle in this section of the chapter framed by
“leaders”. Further, the phrase “outside the gate” (e[xw th`~ puvlh~)
seems to occupy a central position with regard to the two occurrences
of “outside the camp”. That is to say, it is not simply the death of
Jesus which is of concern to the author of Hebrews in chapter 13, but
also the fact that Jesus died outside the walls of Jerusalem. The result
of this analysis is a symmetrical structure:
     v. 7: primary framing verse (“leaders”)
      v. 11: secondary framing verse (“outside the camp”)
        v. 12: central verse: the death of Jesus (“outside the camp”)
      v. 13: secondary framing verse (“outside the camp”)
     v. 17: primary framing verse (“leaders”)
A translation of the passage which reflects the arrangement presented
above and which incorporates vv. 9-10, v. 13, and vv. 15-16 in the

 See Lane (1991b), p. 520: “The Christian is to be free both from the love of
money and from the fear of death (see 2:14-15)”.

  See Attridge (1989), pp. 390-391: “The central section of chap. 13 concludes the
thematic development of Hebrews and provides a climactic exhortation. The
boundaries of the section, which have been analyzed in a variety of ways, are
indicated by an inclusion formed by the references to leaders past (v. 7) and present
(v. 17).”
places which would seem to be appropriate in the symmetrical
structure, is as follows:29
13,7 Remember your leaders, who spoke to you the word of God; in
reflecting on the outcome of their conduct imitate their faith. 13,8
Jesus Christ yesterday and today the same, and forever.
     13,9 Do not be led astray by a variety of strange teachings, for it is
     good that the heart be sustained by grace, not by foods in which
     those who live by them are not helped. 13,10 We have an altar
     from which those serving the tent have no right to eat.
        13,11 For while the blood of animals is brought as a sin offering
        into the holy of holies by the high priest, their bodies are burned
        outside the camp.
            13,12 For this reason Jesus also, so that he might sanctify
            the people through his own blood, suffered outside the gate.
        13,13 Let us go to him then outside the camp taking on his
        shame. 13,14 For we have here not a city which remains, but
        one which is to come.
     13,15 Through him therefore let us offer up a sacrifice of praise
     regularly to God, that is, fruit of lips which confess his name; 13,16
     the doing of good and fellowship do not forget, for with such
     sacrifices as these God is pleased.
13,17 Obey your leaders and be subject to them, for they are vigilant
over your souls as ones having to give an account, that they may do
this with joy and not sighing, for this would not be of any help to you.
Given that the above structure seems to represent a plausible form of
the chapter, it remains to understand something of the content of the
passage with reference to the form. Perhaps an approach through the
cruces in the passage (for which these verses are notorious) would be

  Whenever a schematic outline of a particular passage in scripture is presented in
such neat detail it is important to remember the obvious: the original readers/hearers
did not have such a schematic presentation given them. The had to rely on the
repetition of key words and the sense of the quantity of words to grasp the
underlying pattern, always with reference to the dominant element of meaning as
conveyed in a faith tradition.
   V. 7: The precise nature of the “word” (lovgo~) spoken by the
leaders is not clear in the context.30
   V. 8: The mention of Jesus Christ seems gratuitous; the precise
import of the time reference is not clear.31
   V. 9: The mention of “strange teachings” and “foods” has provided
bases for endless discussions, some of which touch on the Eucharist.32
   V. 10: The nature of the “altar” has been the cause of much
controversy as well; again, some of it touches on the Eucharist.33
   V. 13: The point the author wishes to make with his emphasis on
the need to go “outside the camp” is much debated.34
   V. 15: The precise nature of the “sacrifice of praise” has been
assessed as referring to the Eucharist in some cases, but this is hardly
the common view, which looks on the phrase as referring to a
“spiritualized” reality.35
   V. 16: The “doing of good” and “fellowship” would seem to
indicate that the author is thinking of a “spiritualized” “sacrifice of
praise”.36 But if this is the case, the use of the plural “sacrifices”
(qusivai) is odd, given the stress made in the epistle on the unicity of
Christ’s sacrifice of himself (cf. Heb 9,26.28).
Any theory about the unified nature of Chapter 13 would seem to
imply a new background for approaching these problem texts. They
will accordingly be discussed after the second and third perspectives
for viewing the chapter have been presented. Vv. 18-19
These two verses contain a request for prayer.

  Reference is frequently made to the “word” of God as preached in the Acts of the
Apostles, and it is presumed that this refers to preaching. Cf. Attridge (1989), p.

     Attridge (1989), p. 393.

     Attridge (1989), pp. 393-396.

     Attridge (1989), pp. 396-397.

     Attridge (1989), pp. 398-399.

     Attridge (1989), pp. 399-400.

     Attridge (1989), p. 401.
     Pray for us, for we are persuaded that we have a clear conscience,
     desiring to behave well in all matters. I in particular urge you to do
     this so that I may be restored to you all the sooner.
The plural in this request for prayer has been interpreted as
“authorial”, that is, the author is speaking for himself alone, as he
often does elsewhere in the epistle.37 But in view of the apparent
references in v. 23 to Timothy’s return to the company of the
addressees, it seems more appropriate to view the plural as referring to
more than one person. This gives to the verses a justifiable tone,
avoiding connotations of self-pitying pleading. The author thinks that
not only he but his fellow Christians separated from the addressees as
well are being treated unjustly. In v. 19 he personally hopes that as a
result of their prayers he may visit the addressees sooner than he
otherwise foresees. Vv. 20-21
This passage contains a benediction (vv. 20-21a) and a doxology (v.
     Now may the God of peace, the one who led up from the dead the
     great shepherd of the sheep in the blood of the eternal covenant,
     our Lord Jesus, provide you with every good thing to do his will, as
     he brings about in you that which is pleasing before him through
     Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
In view of the structure of Chapter 13 being elaborated here, the
present writer opts for the view which sees the verses as being an
integral part of Chapter 13. The death of Jesus is the center of the
chapter. It is the center of the central section vv. 7-17 which is
preceded by two shorter sections, vv. 1-5a and vv. 15b-6, and
followed by another shorter section at vv. 18-19. Thus, as is explained
above, vv. 20-21 constitute the final shorter section which balances
vv. 18-19 and forms with it two symmetrical concluding sections to
follow the two symmetrical introduction sections, as explained above.
Hence the “Amen” serves as a conclusion to the main body of the
chapter. But inasmuch as the remaining four verses in the epistle are
of a personal nature and seem to be addenda to the final, substantive
part of the chapter, the “Amen” at the end of v. 21 can rightly be

  For example, at Heb 5,11 and 6,9. In 4,13 the author of the epistle seems to be
speaking for himself and for all Christians. See Attridge (1989), pp 402-403.
viewed as the final word both of Chapter 13 and of the entire epistle
as well.
The concluding doxology has been interpreted as an attribution of
glory to God. But it seems more appropriate in the context of the
entire epistle to view it as attributing glory to Jesus Christ. The epistle
takes for granted the attribution of glory to God; such an attribution is
made matter-of-factly in 1,3. But a major point of the epistle is that
the man Jesus becomes the Christ by being invested with God’s glory
(2,7.9.10; 3,3).38 The position of “Jesus Christ” immediately before
the attribution in 13,21 would seem to support this interpretation.
2.5.2. Perspective #2: Hebrews 13,7-17 and the “Sacrifice of
Once a preliminary assessment of the surface structure of Heb 13,1-21
has been made, the section vv. 7-17 deserves particular attention. Both
by reason of its dominating central place in the structure and by its
length in relation to the sections which precede and follow, it seems to
be of special concern to the author. In v. 15 the expression “sacrifice
of praise” (qusiva aijnevsew~) is used by the author. Since the author
calls on the addressees to “offer up a sacrifice of praise regularly to
God”, and since the introductory verse 12,28 indicates that Chapter 13
is about worship, this expression seems worth investigating more in
detail. The “Sacrifice of Praise”
The Old Testament cult included a ceremony called the “sacrifice of
praise”. Tracing this ceremony, even in a relatively superficial way, in
the Hebrew of the Old Testament and in the Greek of the Old
Testament and the New Testament is illuminating with regard to Heb
13,7-17. The “Sacrifice of Praise” in the Hebrew
The Old Testament hdwt jbz in the Hebrew text is one of the more
moving cultic practices in the Old Testament.39 The hdwt jbz (zebach

  As will be indicated in Chapter 3 of this study, Jesus “becoming” the Christ in the
context of the epistle is not to be understood in any Adoptionist sense: at the
resurrection/exaltation the Messianic son who is Jesus stands revealed as the son of
the prologue who is the imprint of God’s inner being (Heb 1,5).

  The pioneer work in the rediscovery of the hdwt jbz and its relevance to biblical
worship both in the old and new dispensations was done by H. Gese (Gese [1989]),
pp. 107-127)..
tôdâ or simply tôdâ) is a bloody sacrifice proper to the worship of the
temple but which is also intrinsically connected with ceremonies that
in themselves are not bloody. These non-bloody ceremonies consist of
a ritual offering and consumption of bread accompanied by a hymn or
hymns of praise/thanksgiving accompanied by verbal prayers.
Together with the bloody temple sacrifice or holocaust (which has to
be offered by the Levitical priests) these ceremonies constitute an
integral public ceremony. The tôdâ is offered by a Jewish male, priest
or layman, as a public testimony in order to acknowledge with his
friends a signal act of salvation (for example, preservation from death
in war or famine) performed by God in his favor. This signal act of
salvation can be of the past or of the future. In the latter instance, of
course, such testimony is a sign of special trust in God’s saving
designs on the offerer’s behalf.
The words zebach tôdâ or simply tôdâ occur a number of times in the
Hebrew text of the Old Testament.40 The basic texts are found in Lev
7. There are also several important occurrences in the psalms.
Arguments have been advanced to show that the use of the expression
tôdâ in the psalms reflects a “spiritualization” of the ceremony.41 That
is, the physical ceremonies in the course of time have been abandoned
in favor of an evocation of what they signified. But a detailed
examination of this interpretation seems to indicate that such
argumentation is not conclusive.42
The word tôdâ is untranslatable in English. It conveys three basic
ideas which are normally separable in that language: 1)
thanksgiving;43 2) praise; 3) public act. In the Semitic way of looking
on one’s relations to God, to “praise” God in certain contexts is to
“thank him”. Thus, in Lk 17,15-18 one of the ten lepers healed by

  For a fuller discussion of what is here presented in summary form about the tôdâ
cf. Swetnam (2002). But much more work is needed for a detailed understanding of
the tôdâ than is given in this article. For example, the use on the tôdâ in the psalms.
  This view of the “spiritualization” of the tôdâ ceremony in the Old Testament is
not the common view of Old Testament scholars on the psalms. Cf. the Excursus at
the end of this chapter.

     Cf. the article referred to in the previous note.

     The word hdwt in modern Hebrew means “thank you”, of course.
Jesus returns “glorifying God” and Jesus asks why the other nine have
not returned to “give glory to God” in thanksgiving for being healed. The “Sacrifice of Praise” in the Greek The Septuagint
rendering of hdwt jbz is normally qusiva aijnevsew~. The word ai[nesi~
seems to be a word devised by the translators from the root aine-,
“praise”, to sum up in one word in the Greek the untranslatable word
hdwt in the Hebrew. Greek culture could easily handle jbz with the
Greek qusiva, for which its religion had ample examples. But hdwt was
unique and hence needed a sui generis rendering.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews the full expression qusiva aijnevsew~ is
found at 13,15 in a context which implies that the tôdâ was in use
among the Christians who constitute the addressees as well as the
author of the epistle: “Through him therefore let us offer up a sacrifice
of praise [qusiva aijnevsew~] regularly to God, that is, fruit of lips
which confess his name.” On the basis of the author’s own indication
that he and his addressees are in a position to offer up a qusiva
aijnevsew~ it would seem justified to look to the “sacrifice of praise”
for the liturgical practice which seems to underlie Heb 13,1-21.
In a writing which is as clearly Christian in its entire orientation as
Hebrews it is immediately evident that a “sacrifice of praise” would
have to be an adaptation of the Jewish “sacrifice of praise”, for
Christ’s sacrifice of himself is presented in the epistle in contrast to
the offerings of the Old Testament priests (cf. Heb 5,1-10). Thus one
would seem warranted in inferring as well that Heb 13,12, which
depicts Christ’s expiatory death, takes the place of a temple sacrifice.
This leaves two other elements to be accounted for in a Christian
adaptation of the tôdâ. Vv. 9-10 involve ritual food of some sort. Vv.
15-16 involve “fruit of the lips” which are explicitly related to the
qusiva aijnevsew~. Hence all three aspects of the “sacrifice of praise”
seem to be involved in Heb 13,1-21, but in a Christian adaptation, for
the center is no longer a temple sacrifice but the bloody sacrifice of
If this inference is plausible it would lead to several important
conclusions, all of them, of course, plausible and not “proved”. The
first is that the Christian sacrifice of praise is probably not a purely
“spiritual” act of worship, for it involves the bloody sacrifice of Christ
which, as the epistle repeatedly makes clear and Heb 13,12
emphasizes, is eminently physical. But if the Christian “sacrifice of
praise” is an act of worship with physical components, then the odds
are that the contemporary Jewish “sacrifice of praise” was an act of
worship with physical components as well. That is, unless the author
of Hebrews was indulging in a bit of archaizing.
The view that the “sacrifice of praise” in Heb 13,15 plausibly refers to
a Christian act of worship involving physical acts offers a radically
new perspective for examining the problem texts in Heb 13,7-17. But
such an examination would probably best be done after the third and
final perspective of the entire chapter is presented.
2.5.3. Perspective #3: Hebrews 13,1-21 in the Light of Perspectives
          #1 and #2.
Once it has been plausibly established that Heb 13,7-17 presents a
Christian “sacrifice of praise” it would seem to follow that one
legitimate route to follow in trying to come to grips with the entire
chapter is to look at Heb 13,1-21 in the light of the Christian “sacrifice
of praise”.
The translation history of hdwt jbz and qusiva aijnevsew~ can be carried
forward to the Latin versions of the New Testament for Heb 13,15.44
The Old Latin versions have laudes hostias, hostias laudis and
sacrificium laudis. A study of the phrase in the Latin tradition would
not be complete without noting that the phrase “sacrificium laudis” is
found in the Roman Canon of the Latin Rite Mass. It occurs in the
remembrance of the living:
      Memento, Domine, famulorum famularumque tuarum
          et omnium circumstantium,
      quorum tibi fides cognita est et nota devotio,
      qui tibi offerunt hoc sacrificium laudis
          pro se suisque omnibus,
          pro redemptione animarum suarum,
          pro spe salutis et incolumitatis suae,
      tibi reddunt vota sua aeterna Deo vivo et vero.45
      Remember, Lord, your people, especially those for whom we now
        pray, N. and N.
      Remember all of us gathered here before you.

  Cf. Swetnam (2002), pp. 83-85, for a fuller discussion. Much more work needs to
be done in the matter, however.

     Text and arrangement after Giraudo (1981), pp. 345-346.
      You know how firmly we believe in you and dedicate ourselves to
      We offer you this sacrifice of praise for ourselves and those who
        are dear to us.
      We pray to you, our living and true God, for our well-being and

    The use of the demonstrative pronoun “this” with “sacrifice of
praise” (“hoc sacrificium laudis”) would seem to indicate that the
Mass was considered as such a sacrifice. Here is a specific witness to
the existence of a Christian tôdâ. But the phrase “sacrifice of praise”
in the heart of the Roman Latin Rite Mass also gives a helpful clue as
to the structure of Heb 13,1-21. For the structure of Chapter 13 as
outlined above seems to mirror the basic structure of the Roman Latin
Rite Mass:
   1) vv. 1-5a parallel the examination of conscience which is part of
the beginning of every Latin Rite Mass.47
   2) vv. 5b-6 parallel the second main part of the Mass—the readings
from Scripture.48
   3) vv. 7-17 parallel the central, sacrificial part of the Mass. 49
   4) vv. 18-19 parallel the “remembrance of the living” in which the
phrase sacrificium laudis occurs, as cited above.50

     English version after The Sunday Missal, p. 33.
   Cf. Jungmann (1949a), pp. 370-385 (“Confiteor”). Jungmann’s treatment is
largely centered on the Mass as it existed in medieval times. Much would need to be
done to verify (if, indeed, such verification is possible) a relationship between
Chapter 13 of Hebrews and the Mass of the Latin Rite in the first centuries of the
Church, or of a predecessor of such a rite. But the coincidences between the
structure of Hebrews 13 and the structure of the Latin Rite Mass are too striking to
ignore, given the mention of “hoc sacrificium laudis” in the Latin Rite Mass itself.
   Jungmann (1949a), pp. 483-562 (“Der Lesegottesdienst”). Other elements are
treated by Jungmann under this heading on pp. 563-610.

     Jungmann (1949b), pp. 123-332 (“Der Canon actionis”).

  Jungmann (1949b), pp. 194-207 (“Der Memento für die Lebenden”). In the
perspective of the interpretation being advanced here, this part of the Latin Rite
Mass occurs within the Canon, but in Hebrews is placed outside the section devoted
to the Canon because of the need of the author of Hebrews to find a short passage to
go with the final passage (vv. 20-21) as a symmetrical balancing of the first two
short passages, vv. 1-5a and vv. 5b-6. No other part of the Roman Rite Mass which
  5) vv. 20-21 parallel the final blessing given by the priest at each
Thus Chapter 13 appears to be structured according to a liturgical
pattern parallel to the Roman Latin Rite Mass. This need not imply
that at the time Hebrews was probably written, before 70 A.D., the
Latin Rite Mass was being celebrated in Rome. Rather, that Chapter
13 of Hebrews, in paralleling the structure of the medieval Latin
Mass, seems to have paralleled in some way the antecedents of this
Mass in Rome (celebrated in Greek?). Little if anything is known of
liturgical practice in Rome in the first century A.D., the place and date
of the writing of Hebrews which are presumed here as being the most
plausible. The suggestion being made here is that some relation
existed between Hebrews 13 and a contemporary celebration of the
Eucharist in Rome, and that this contemporary celebration later
developed into the Latin Rite Mass as it is now understood. An
allusion to an existing liturgical practice by the author of Hebrews
seems indicated by the public, ceremonial nature of the Christian
Eucharist. That the addressees participated in community worship
seems indicated by Heb 10,19-25 as was mentioned above. There is
certainly nothing untoward in assuming, based on the evidence given
above, that this community worship was the Eucharist.
If the community worship of the addressees was the Eucharist, and the
Eucharist—the Christian “sacrifice of praise”—is presented in Heb 13
as the culmination of the entire epistle, the case for the Eucharist
relevance of certain passages in the chapter would seem to be
reinforced considerably.
2.5.4. The Christian “Sacrifice of Praise” and the Problem Texts
          of Hebrews 13
A detailed study, impossible here, would be necessary to probe
sufficiently deeply to make a plausible case for the Eucharistic

follows the Canon seems to have met his criterion as well as the remembrance for
the living, which had the added advantage of coinciding, apparently, with the
possibility of mentioning his urgent desire for prayers for himself and the other
Christians in confinement. The use of the word proseuvcomai in a request for
prayers from addressees is not unusual in Paul, where it is used in connection with a
plea for freedom from danger (cf.: Rom 15,30-31; 2 Thes 2,1-2). It is also found in
connection with lovgo~ (cf. 2 Thess 3,1-2; Col 3,2-4).

     Jungmann (1949b), pp. 532-541 (“Der priesterliche Schlußsegen”).
relevance of many of the problem texts advanced with reference to
Heb 13, but an initial presentation seems desirable. V. 7
As regards 13,7, where the precise force of “word” (lovgo~) is not
clear, the following suggestion, made in the light of the Christian tôdâ
hypothesis outlined above, may prove helpful. V. 7 states that the
leaders of the community “spoke to us the word of God” (ejlavlhsen
uJmi`n to;n lovgon tou` qeou`). The use of the verb lalevw ties in with the
use of the same verb in Heb 2,3. There the author of Hebrews says a
“great salvation” was first “spoken” through the Lord, was confirmed
by those who heard it (that is, the first generation of Christians, who
had direct auditory contact with the Lord), and is now presumably
“heard” by those addressed in the epistle. The leaders of the
community spoken of in Heb 13,7 are the leaders of the first
generation, and their speaking the “word” (lovgo~) to “us” is simply
another way of saying what 2,3 says. In 2,3 the “salvation” spoken by
the Lord is parallel to the “word” (lovgo~) which was spoken through
the angels. That is to say, the “salvation” of 2,3 replaces the “word”
(lovgo~) of the Mosaic law, and in 13,7 this “salvation” is portrayed as
the “word” of the new covenant, the lovgo~ himself. Christ himself is
the new covenant. This is a particularly graphic, but entirely
appropriate, way of looking at what later generations would call the
“real presence” of Christ in the Eucharist, but in language proper to
Hebrews. V. 8
In v. 8, where the mention of Jesus Christ seems gratuitous and the
precise force of the time references is not clear, the following
suggestions in the light of what was said about v. 7 are offered. V. 8
follows immediately from v. 7, where the “word” spoken would seem
to be Jesus Christ himself. The two verses are mutually illuminating:
v. 7 explains why the explicit mention of Jesus Christ in v. 8 is not
gratuitous, and v. 8 confirms why the “word” of the leaders is Jesus
Christ himself. This would be a circular argument were it not also
dependent on the hypothesis of the tôdâ and all that the Christian tôdâ
implies. The temporal sequences could be explained by thinking of the
Jesus Christ of “yesterday” (ejcqev~) as being the Eucharistic Christ
spoken by the first generation leaders, referred to in v. 7. The Jesus
Christ of “today” (shvmeron) is the Eucharistic Christ spoken by the
second generation of leaders, referred to in v. 17. But each Eucharistic
Jesus Christ is “the same” (oJ aujtov~) forever, no matter when the
Christian tôdâ is celebrated.52 V. 9
The mention of “strange teachings” and “foods” becomes clearer in
the light of the Christian tôdâ. Physical eating is in question. The
distinction is between Jewish physical food and Christian physical
food, not between physical food and spiritual food. Thus the
punctuation in the Greek text of Merk–O’Callaghan is correct, for this
text places no comma after brwvmasin, i.e., the relative clause “in
which those who live by them are not helped” (ejn oi|~ oujk
wjfelhvqhsan oiJ peripatou`nte~) is restrictive. Certain types of
(physical) food are helpful, certain types of (physical) food are not. V. 10
In the context of the hypothesis of a Christian tôdâ Paul’s use of
qusiasthvrion, “altar”, in a Eucharistic context at 1 Cor 10,18 takes
on added relevance. There the Jewish altar is associated with the
“sacrifices” (qusivai) partaken of by Israel “according to the flesh”. In
Heb 13,10 the allusion is to the relation between the Christian altar
and the sacrifices partaken of by the Christians. But the same
underlying relation of parallelism and thus mutual relevance (mutatis
mutandis!) is presumed. V. 13
The point which the author of Hebrews wishes to make with his
mention of “outside the camp” in vv. 11 and 13 and “outside the gate”
in v. 12 is much discussed. And there is doubtless more than one
reason involved.53 But one fundamental consideration is that Jesus’
death is not to be viewed entirely within the framework of Jewish cult
centered on the temple. His is a sacrificial death intelligible in the
light of the temple sacrifices, but fundamentally different from them,
just as the Christian tôdâ is a ritual intelligible in the light of the
Jewish tôdâ, but fundamentally different from it. V. 15
The inadequacy of a “spiritualizing” interpretation of the Jewish tôdâ

  Compare the use of oJ aujtov~ at Heb 1,12 with reference to the unchanging identity
of the son. The use of the same words in 13,8 as an allusion to 1,12 is often pointed
out by commentators (e.g., Attridge [1989], p. 392), but not as an indication of the
unchanging nature of the Eucharistic presence of Christ as lovgo~.
     Cf. Attridge (1989), p. 399.
in v. 15 becomes evident in the light of the non-spiritualizing
presentation of food in vv. 9-10 and of the death of Jesus in v. 12.
True, vv. 15-16 are about the hymns and prayers which can be
considered the “fruit of the lips”, i.e., a spiritualized view of the tôdâ
ceremony in a sense. But vv. 15-16 must be understood in their
context, and in the context vv. 15-16 are a part of the tôdâ ceremony,
i.e., the part involving physical prayers and hymns. In addition, the
phrase dia; pantov~ needs careful examination. In the Old Testament
this phrase is used, for among other things, an indication of the
occurrence of the daily sacrifices of the temple, where it is
appropriately translated “regularly” (cf. LXX Num 28,
To translate the phrase automatically as “continually” or “constantly “
on the assumption that it refers to a “spiritualized” reality is
unwarranted, given this Old Testament usage when viewed in the light
of the tôdâ as explained above as applying plausibly to the context.
Rather, a translation “regularly” in imitation of the regularity of the
temple sacrifices of the Old Testament is appropriate. This view is all
the more plausible in the light of the plural “sacrifices” (qusivai~) in v.
16. The word refers to the separate cultic acts of the Christian
“sacrifice of praise”: the Christian Eucharist, like the Old Testament
temple sacrifices, here is portrayed as being celebrated at regular
intervals. V. 16 The apparently minor detail of understanding dia;
pantov~ in v. 15 as referring to the regular repetition of discrete
ceremonies can lead to a major change in the interpretation of v. 16,
for the change indicates that qusiva in v. 15 is implicitly plural. That is
to say, the Christian qusiva aijnevsew~ is to be offered at regular
intervals. The multiplicity which results, viewed in the context,
suggests that the plural qusivai of v. 16 could refer back to the singular
qusiva of v. 15. In the light of the Christian tôdâ this is quite feasible,
for the Christian tôdâ is formally one (one bloody sacrifice is
involved, which gives meaning to the other two parts of the
ceremony), but materially multiple (the consumption of “bread” and
the singing of hymns and reciting of prayers are potentially
innumerable). What seems to stand in the way of this interpretation is
the first part of v. 16 (th`~ de; eujpoi?a~ kai; koinwniva~ mh;
ejpilanqavnesqe—“the doing of good and fellowship do not forget”).
But this seems to be a statement not of the central nature of the
“sacrifices” of v. 16 but of an important condition, and is inserted by

     Cf. Lane (1991b), pp. 559-560.
the author doubtless as a preparation for vv. 18-19 and his request for
an intention in prayer on the part of the addressees in their
participation in their sacrifices of praise.55 It need not negate the basic
relationship between the qusiva of v. 15 and the qusivai of v. 16. The
latter are “pleasing to God” (eujarestei`tai oJ qeov~) because of the

2.6. Conclusion
Instead of being an apparent welter of unrelated material, Chapter 13
of Hebrews thus emerges as an organized literary unity centering on
the physical death of Christ and the participation of the Christians in
this death according to the pattern of the Old Testament tôdâ. As the
concluding climax of the epistle, the chapter would thus also seem
logically to presume previous discussion of the Eucharist in Hebrews.
(Cf. the themes of the epistle present in vv. 20-21 and presented by
way of allusion to what has previously been treated.) This interest of
the author of Hebrews in the Eucharist has been the contention of the
present writer for decades, but progress in his thinking his mind into
the mind of the author of Hebrews has been slow.57
2.7 Excursus #1—The View of J. Ratzinger on the Tôdâ
Joseph Ratzinger has a favorable view of H. Gese and Gese’s view of
the importance of the tôdâ for understanding the Christian Eucharist. I
had heard of this indirectly not long after I myself had come to the
same conclusion, but twenty years or more after Ratzinger published
his views.58 But I assumed that it was a rather perfunctory approval
and so never bothered to check it out. I was wrong. In late 2009 I was
given an offprint of the relevant portion of the English translation of

  The relation “formal”/”material” suggested above makes better sense than
Ellingworth’s rather contrived view that the expression “such sacrifices” of v. 16b
“probably refers, not to beneficence and sharing as distinct entities, but to repeated
acts in which both dispositions are realized” (Ellingworth [1993], p. 722). The
Christian Eucharist is celebrated in the hundreds of thousands each day in the
Catholic and Orthodox worlds.

   A case could be made that the clause th`~ de; eujpoi?a~ kai; koinwniva~ mh;
ejpilanqavnesqe is parenthetical as, for example, the clauses introduced by devat 3,4
and 4,13.

     Cf.: Swetnam (1965), p. 375, n. 8; Swetnam (2000), pp. 163-185.
     Ratzinger (1981), pp. 47-54.
his original German book. As I should have suspected, it was both
penetrating and informative. The entire text of Ratzinger’s
observations are relevant in the perspective of what was said above in
Chapter 2 about the Old Testament tôdâ and the Christian Eucharist
and what will be said subsequently, but the follow particular points
are worth noting:
    1) Ratzinger thinks that the importance of Gese’s views cannot be
    2) Ratzinger judges that Gese’s central insight, sc., that there is a
close connection between the Old Testament tôdâ and the Christian
Eucharist, between tôdâ spirituality and Christology is completely
    3) Ratzinger’s private correspondence with Gese indicates that
German Old Testament research on the psalms shows that the tôdâ
ritual is anchored in the psalms.62 That is to say, it is not a later
“spiritualized” interpretation.
    4) Ratzinger insists that the tôdâ sacrifice can refer to future
salvation and that the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper
must therefore be an “open” form, in need of complementation by
death and resurrection of Jesus.63

     Ratzinger (1986), pp. 51-60.

  “Ich habe den Inhalt von Geses Untersuchung deshalb so ausführlich
wiedergegeben, weil mir scheint, daß ihre Bedeutung gar nicht hoch genug
eingeschätzt werden kann” (Ratzinger [1981], p. 52).

  “Die Diagnose, daß Eucharistia bzw. Eulogia die bestimmende ‘Gestalt’ der
Eucharistie sei, hat hier eine überraschende Bestätigung erfahren, die ihren Gehalt
und ihre Konsrquenzen erst vollends deutlich werden läßt. … Die zentrale Einsicht,
nämlich der enge Zusammenhang zwischen Todaopfer und Eucharistie, zwischen
Todafrömmigkeit und Christologie scheint mir vollkommen gesichert” (Ratzinger
[1981], pp. 53-54).

  “Es handelt sich … ‘um eine communis opinio der alttestamentlichen
Wissenschaft seit des Gunkelschen Gattungsforschung’” (Ratzinger [1981], pp. 53-
54, n. 1. The inference about the relevance of this assertion of Gese and accepted by
Ratzinger is mine, but seems to follow inevitably. It is of crucial importance in
understanding Heb 13,15, but it is a point normally not mentioned in commentaries
on Hebrews who regularly take the “sacrifice of praise” as being long since
“spiritualized” in Israelite interpretation of the psalms and other relevant passages.
  “Die Herleitung der Eucharistie aus der Toda-Institution bedeutet in Wirklichkeit
gerade dies, daß eine Herleitung vom Abendmahl allein unmöglich ist. Der Toda-
  Ratzinger realizes, of course, that more research is needed in the
whole area, but feels confident that Gese’s central insight will stand.64
  I cite Ratzinger not to support my view of Chapter 13 of Hebrews,
obviously, but to show that in taking the tôdâ seriously I am not alone.

Gedanke macht das Abendmahl aus offenen Form, weil die Toda erst im
Hinzutreteten von Kreuz und Aferstehung Wirklichkeit wird” (Ratzinger [1981], pp.
53-54, n. 1).

     Ratzinger (1981), p. 53.

CHAPTER 3. Hebrews 1,5 – 2,4

After a consideration of Chapter 13 it is appropriate to begin a
chapter-by-chapter consideration of the epistle, but presuming as a
basis not only the prologue (1,1-4) which the author of Hebrews has
designed to introduce the addressees to what he is about to say, but
also the end of the epistle (13,1-21) which the author uses as a climax
to his message. This procedure, of going to the climax before
resuming the author’s own order, was adopted to give the modern
reader some sort of orientation about the tradition shared by author
and addressees. That tradition included regular participation in the
Christian tôdâ or Eucharist which presumably was and still is
important for understanding the entire epistle.
3.1. Delimitation of the Text
V. 5 seems a natural place to begin the next section of the epistle,
given that 1,1-4 seems to form a coherent whole. Moreover, v. 4
seems to be a transition verse announcing what is to follow. V. 13
seems to provide a text from scripture which seems to form a climax
for the intervening verses, given the prominent role accorded the son’s
“sitting” in v. 3. Further, v. 14 seems again to provide a transition
verse to what follows. All this seems supported by a marked change of
tone in the text in 2,1 from exposition (1,5-14) to exhortation (2,1-4).
3.2. The Greek Text
1,5 Tivni ga;r ei\pevn pote tw`n a[ggevlwn: uiJov~ mou ei\ suv, ejgw;
shvmeron gegevnnhkav se; kai; pavlin: ejgw; e[somai aujtw`/ eijj~
patevra, kai; aujto;~ e[stai moi ei\~ uiJovn; 1,6 o}tan de; pavlin
eijsagavgh/ to;n prwtovtokon eij~ th;n oijkoumevnhn, levgei: kai;
proskunhsavtwsan aujtw/' pavnte~ a[ggeloi Qeou`. 1,7 kai; pro;~
me;n tou;~ ajggevlou~ levgei: oJ poiw`n tou;~ ajggevlou~ aujtou`
pneuvmata, kai; tou;~ leitourgou;~ aujtou` puro;~ flovga. 1,8 pro;~
de; to;n uiJovn: oJ qrovno~ sou, oJ Qeo;~, eij~ to;n aijw`na tou~ aijw`no~,
kai; hJ rJavbdo~ th`~ eujquvthto~ rjavbdo~ th`~ basileiva~ sou. 1§,9
hjgavphsa~ dikaiosuvnhn kai; ejmivshsa~ ajnomivan dia; tou`to
e[crisevn se, oJ Qeov~, oJ Qeov~ sou e[laion ajgalliavsew~ para; tou;~
metovcou~ sou. 1,10 kaiv: su; kat j ajrcav~, Kuvrie, th;n gh`n
ejqemelivwsa~, kai; e[rga tw`n ceirw`n souv eijsin oiJ oujranoiv. 1,11
aujtoi; ajpolou`ntai, su; de; diamevnei~: kai; pavnte~ wJ~ iJmavtion
palaiwqhvsontai,1,12 kai; wJsei; peribovlaion eJlivxei~ aujtouv~, wJ~
iJmavtion kai; ajllaghvsontai. su; de; oJ aujto;~ ei\ kai; ta; e[th sou
oujk ejkleivyousijn. 1,13 pro;~ tivna de; tw`n ajggevlwn ei[[rhkevn pote:
kavqou ejk dexiw`n mou, e{w~ a]n qw` tou;~ ecqrouv~ sou uJpopovdion
tw`n podw`n sou; 1,14 oujci; pavnte~ eijsi;n leitourgika; pneuvmata
eij~ diakonivan ajjpostellovmena dia; tou;~ mevllonta~ klhronomei`n
swthrivan; 2,1 Dia; tou`to dei` perissotevrw~ prosevcein hJma`~
toi`~ ajkousqei`sin, mhv pote pararuw`men. 2,2 ei\ ga;r oJ di j
ajggevlwn lalhqei;~ lovgo~ ejgevneto bevbaio~, kai; pa`sa paravbasi~
kai; parakoh; e[laben e[ndikon misqapodosivan, 2,3 pw`~ hJmei`~
ejkfeuxovmeqa thlikauvth~ ajmelhvsante~ swthriva~; h{ti~ ajrch;n
labou`sa lalei`sqai di; tou` Kurivou, uJpo; tw`n ajkousavntwn eij~
hJma`~ ejbebaiwvqh, 2,4 sunepimarturou`nto~ tou` Qeou` shmeivoi~
te kai; tevrasin kai; poikivlai~ dunavmesin kai; pneuvmato~ aJgivou
merismoi`~ kata; th;n aujtou` qevlhsin.
3.3. A Suggested Translation
1,5 For to whom of the angels did he ever say, “You are my son, today
I have generated you”? And again: “I shall be a father for him, and
he will be my son”? 1,6 Now when he again introduces the first-born
into the world he says: “And let all the angels of God worship him”.
1,7 And with regard to the angels he says, “The one who makes his
angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire”. 1,8 And with regard
to the son, “Your throne, God, is for ever and ever, and the scepter of
uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. 1,9 You loved justice and
hated lawlessness; on account of this God, your God, has anointed
you with the oil of joyfulness above your companions”. 1,10 And: “At
the beginning, Lord, you established the foundations of the earth, and
the heavens are the works of your hands. 1,11 They will pass away,
but you will remain, and all will grow old as a garment, and you will
roll them up like a cloak, 1,12 and as a garment will they be changed;
but you are the same and your years will not fail”. 1,13 With regard to
whom of the angels then has he ever said: “Sit at my right until I place
your enemies as a footstool under your feet “? 1,14 Are not all
ministering spirits sent out for service on account of those who are
about to inherit salvation? 2,1 This being so, it is necessary that we
pay the more attention to the things which have been heard lest we
drift away. 2,2 For if the word spoken through angels became valid
and every transgression and disloyalty received a fitting reward, 2,3
how shall we escape after neglecting such a salvation, which had its
beginning of being spoken through the Lord and was validated by
those who heard unto us, 2,4 with God witnessing by means of signs
and wonders and acts of power and distributions of a holy spirit.
3.4. A Method of Approaching 1,5 – 2,4
Given the distinction between 1,5-14 (exposition) and 2,1-4
(exhortation), it seems appropriate to consider the two sections
3.5. An Approach to 1,5-14
It would seem that the distinction between structure and meaning can
be usefully applied to the study of 1,5-14.
3.5.1. A Suggested Structure for 1,5-14
Of considerable importance in the structuring of the exposition at 1,5-
14 (2,1-4 will be considered separately), is the exact meaning of the
“name” (o[noma) referred to in 1,4. In that verse it occupies the final,
climactic position, an indication of its importance in what is to follow.
The subject is much canvassed, of course, but a careful consideration
of the scripture citations in v. 5 seems to give a conclusive answer:
Tivni ga;r ei\pevn pote tw`n a[ggevlwn:
   uiJov~ mou ei\ suv, ejgw; shvmeron gegevnnhkav se;
kai; pavlin:
   ejgw; e[somai aujtw`/ eijj~ patevra, kai; aujto;~ e[stai moi ei\~ uiJovn;
The emphatic position of o[noma at the end of 1,4 is matched by the
emphatic positions of uiJov~ at the beginning of the scripture citation
from Ps 2,7 and at the ending of the scripture citation from 2 Sam
7,15. This would seem to indicate that the word “son” is the name in
question. Just how this fits into the section 1,5-14 remains to be seen,
of course.
V. 5 seems to form a frame with v. 13 inasmuch as both verses
involve questions involving the interrogative pronoun tiv~ and the
word a[ggeloi as well as a form of the verb levgw.65 Within this frame
v. 6 is best paired with v. 5. It gives the command of God to worship
the glorified son as the son is introduced into their presence. The
angels are here addressed in the third person, as elsewhere in the
passage, to emphasize their inferiority to the son, who is always
addressed directly. Vv. 7-12 are an exposition with regard first to the
angels (v. 7) and then with regard to the son (vv. 8-12). Thus the
preposition prov~ has the uniform meaning “with regard to” in the
entire section, including v. 13. V. 13 acts as a climax of the section, its
final position mirroring the importance of the son’s sitting enunciated
in v. 3 of the prologue. V. 14 acts as a transition verse.

  This is a rather common observation. Cf.: Bateman (1997), p. 361, n. 39; Gräßer
(1990), p. 73, n. 15.
The tenses of levgw indicate a progression. The introductory ei\pen in
v. 5 situates the passage with regard to the past by conveying the idea
of a terminated action and, by implication given the context, an action
which has no duration. The form exudes finality. This finality serves
as the basis for what follows and shares the anchoring in time of the
act of taking a seat of v. 3.66 The use of levgei in v. 6 situates the
citation which follows to bring it to bear on the present moment for
which the basis was indicated in v. 5 by ei\pen.67 Finally, the use of
ei[rhken in v. 13 situates the passage with regard to the future by
stressing the present continuation of the situation which was
introduced by ei\pen and commented on by the various uses of levgei.
This is in contrast to its use in 1,3, which is neutral as regards the
future. 1,14 already implies both fulfillment and, from the context,
expectation of future developments.68
Thus a plausible structure of 1,5-14 would seem to be as follows:
For to whom of the angels did he ever say,
  “You are my son, today I have generated you”?
And again:
  “I shall be a father for him, and he will be my son”?
Now when he again introduces the first-born into the world he says:
  “And let all the angels of God worship him”.
And with regard to the angels he says,                            “
  The one who makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of
And with regard to the son,
  “Your throne, God, is for ever and ever, and the scepter of
      uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You loved justice
      and hated lawlessness; on account of this God, your God, has
      anointed you with the oil of joyfulness above your

  Cf. Vanhoye (1969), p. 124: “Ici [i.e., in v. 5] le, verb grec est à l’aorist, temps qui
indique un fait historique bien défini, apte à servir de base à l’argumentation”.

  “ … le verb «dire» est mis au present (1,6.7), qui actualize le parole citée”
(Vanhoye [1969], pp. 124-125).

  On the allusion to Ps 110,1 in Heb 1,3 cf. Gräßer (1990), p. 65: “Auf die
Erniedrigung Jesu folgt sofort die Erhöhung. Ihre Umschreibung mit Ps 110,1 ist
auch im Hebr fester Topos (vg. 1,13; 8,1; 10,12f; 12,2)”.
  “At the beginning, Lord, you established the foundations of the
      earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will
      pass away, but you will remain, and all will grow old as a
      garment, and you will roll them up like a cloak, and as a
      garment will they be changed; but you are the same and your
      years will not fail”.
With regard to whom of the angels then has he ever said:
  “Sit at my right until I place your enemies as a footstool under
      your feet “?
Are not all ministering spirits sent out for service on account of those
who are about to inherit salvation?
Thus three parts emerge. To anticipate the results of the analysis
   vv. 5-6: The earthly “son”, i.e., Messiah. stands revealed as the
heavenly Son at the moment of the resurrection/glorification.
   vv. 7-12: The superiority of this heavenly Son over the angels is
definitively absolute, for he is fully divine.
   v. 13-14: The Son takes his place at the right hand of God, thus
indicating by the term of the resurrection/glorification that he is fully
The three parts may be structured according to the pattern s-a-a-s-s-a,
i.e., vv. 5 (about son), v. 6 (about angels), v. 7 (about angels), vv. 8-12
(about son), v. 13 (about son), v. 14 (about angels). The last verse
serves also as a transition verse. Thus from the standpoint of content
the son’s full equality with God is stressed (vv. 8-12), while from the
standpoint of the climax of the passage the son’s session at God’s
right reasserts this full parity (v. 13). Then v. 14 with its comment
about the inferiority of the angels as regards the son introduces 2,1-4,
just as v. 5 with its comment about the superiority of the son as
regards the angels introduces 1,6-14.
3.5.2. A Suggested Meaning for 1,5-14 Vv. 5-6
The verse contains two citations from the Old Testament, the first
from Ps 2,7, and the second from 2 Sam 7,14.69 The author of

     Or, possibly, 1 Chron 17,10. Cf. Ellingworth (1993), p. 114.
Hebrews seems to rely on his own Christian traditions in interpreting
these and other Old Testament texts.70 Further, the author interprets
the relationship between these two citations according to the
exegetical rule of gezera shawa.71 This rule has been defined as
follows: “Verbal analogy from one verse to another; where the same
words are applied to two separate cases, it follows that the same
considerations apply to both”.72 In Heb 1,5, the common occurrence of
the word uiJov~ in the two citations implies that what is considered true
of one citation can be considered true of the other.
Ps 2,7 as it occurs in its original context in the Old Testament alludes
to the protocol of the enthronement of a new king under the imagery
of a birth.73 The verse is cited elsewhere in Heb 5,5 with reference to
the son’s glorification by God, and in Acts 13,33 it is cited to indicate
fulfillment of a promise made to the fathers when God raises the son
from the dead.74 The psalm is not “overtly messianic” in itself. 75 In

   “ … in matters having to do with basic commitments, controlling presuppositions
and outlook, the Letter to the Hebrews evidences that its author marched to a
different beat than did Phil—a beat that originated with Christ and was mediated
through the apostolic tradition. When combined with certain traditional exegetical
procedures and his own individual manner of treatment, such a Christian perspective
produced a distinctive exegesis of the Old Testament” (Longenecker [1975], p. 174).

 Bateman (1997), p. 220. Bateman here follows the pioneering lead of
Longenecker (1975), p. 177.

  Bateman (1997), p. 13. Various definitions have been advanced. Bateman ([1997],
p. 220) brings in another exegetical rule, kayose ’bo bemaqom ’aher, according to
which “a difficulty in one text may be solved by comparing it with another which
has points of general though not necessarily verbal similarity” (Bateman [1997[, p.
18). Resort to this second rule seems unnecessary and perhaps even confusing, given
the appropriateness of gezera shawa based on the common occurrence of “son”.
Bateman suggests that the linking of the two verses highlights the fact that “in the
progress of Jewish history and God’s revelation, Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14 are
exegetically linked, conceptually linked, and fulfilled in the Son”.
   Cf. Hossfeld–Zenger (1993), p. 54: “Der Akt der Inthronisation (»heute«) wird
hier, wie in Ägypten als mythisch-mystiche Neuzeugung bzw. Widergeburt
verstanden, die den (messianischen) König befähigt, wie Gott selbst, aber auch in
Abhängigkeit von ihm Lebens- und Heilsmittler für sein Reich zu sein”.

   The exact relevance of Ps 2,7 as cited in Hebrews is, of course, much discussed.
For a presentation of this discussion cf. Ellingworth (1993), pp. 112-114. The
interpretation which seems to commend itself from the general context of the epistle
Hebrews it does have messianic relevance, not so much from itself as
from its use as part of a gezera shawa in a specific context. In 2 Sam
7,14 God is portrayed as speaking of Solomon as a future member of
the messianic line of David and therefore adopted by God as “son”.76
In the context of the prologue the “son” par excellence “inherits” the
Messianic title of “son” because at the resurrection, when Jesus
becomes fully the Messiah because of his risen, glorified body, this
“son”, the imprint of God’s inner being, “resumes” his full divinity
unencumbered by a mortal body. In this way the resurrection for the
son of David becomes the occasion of the exaltation of the divine son.
All this is made intelligible and communicable by reason of the gezera
shawa working with two Old Testament texts as interpreted in their
Christian understanding. The operative word is “son”, the “name”
“inherited”. Because of the coherent configuration of 1,5 in relation to
1,4, and because of the signal given by the transition verse 1,4, the
five verses 1,1-5 become a sophisticated miniature treatise on
The resurrection is taken in 1,5 not as the occasion of the son’s rising
from the dead (though it is that), but as the occasion of his

(cf. Swetnam [1992], pp. 59-60) is that of Lindars (1961), pp. 140-141: “This use of
Ps 2,7 [sc., at Acts 13,33] is legitimate according to the proper meaning of the
psalm. The verse about God’s ‘begetting’ of his son is equivalent to v. 6, being a
poetic metaphor for the religious significance of the act of enthronement. In later
days, when all such psalms were interpreted eschatologically, this became a truly
messianic psalm in the strict sense, and a grasp of its poetry would suggest that this
verse should be connected with the moment of revelation of the Messiah, rather than
literally with the time of his physical birth (for which the thought of God’s begetting
would be felt to be inappropriate and distasteful, if not blasphemous). To the early
Church the Resurrection, and its special aspect of Heavenly Session, was precisely
the moment of this expected revelation. Granted that Ps 2,7 is a metaphor of
enthronement, then it can be claimed that the expectation embodied in the whole
psalm has been fulfilled in Jesus. The argument is very close to that of Ps. 110,1.”
For the present writer the resurrection should be carefully distinguished (not
separated) from the exaltation or enthronement, being in fact the same reality but
from a different point of view. Cf. Swetnam (1999a), p. 40.

     The phrase is from Ellingworth (1993), p. 112.

  Cf. Gräßer (1990), pp. 75-76. With regard to 2 Sam 7,14 cf. the note on this text in
The New Jerusalem Bible (1985), p. 405: “A formula of adoption, as in Ps 2:7;
110:3d (Gk), but also the earliest expression of Davidic messianism: each king of
the Davidic dynasty will be an (imperfect) type, see the end of the v., and Ps 89:30-
33, of the ideal king to come. In applying this text to the Messiah, 1 Ch 17:13
suppresses the second part of the v.”.
glorification/exaltation with a heavenly body. This is the ultimate
purpose of the contrast with the angels. Hebrews does not engage in
polemics against the angels. Rather, it implicitly praises them as
valued messengers (cf. 1,14). Their whole function in Hebrews is to
provide a foil for the transcendent reality of the son. V. 6 illustrates
their subordinate role by having God commanding the angels to
worship the son. The citation is probably from Dt 32,43bLXX, a verse
in the climactic conclusion of the “Song of Moses” (Dt 32,1-43).78
Interestingly enough, Dt 32,43b is in a context which speaks of the
vengeance of God on the enemies (ejcqroiv) of his people. The context
squares well with the setting in Hebrews, where the son has taken his
seat at the right hand of God until his enemies (ejcqroiv) are placed
under his feet (v. 13). Because of its context in Hebrews, the citation
assumes a Christian relevance, and states that the angels of God
should prostrate themselves before the exalted son.79
The words in v. 6 about bringing “again” (pavlin) the “first-born”
(prwtovtoko~) into the world refer to the introduction by God of his
son, the first-born from the dead,80 into the “age to come” (cf. Heb
2,5). That is to say, God is introducing the son, exalted at the moment
of the resurrection, again into the inhabited world of men and angels,
but this time as the divine son in an immortal body, not the divine son
in a mortal body as was the case at the time of the flesh-taking of the
son (cf. Heb 2,14) at his first entrance into the world (cf. Heb 10,5).
Thus begins the “age to come”, the age in which the exalted/risen son
is the center of God’s cultic relations to man.

   It should be noted that in Heb 1,1-14 the word “Jesus” is not used of the son, as it
is in Heb 2,5-18 (cf. 2,9). Nor is there any reference to the death of the “son” as
there is in 2,5-18. The one allusion to death, quite indirect, is in 1,3 with its
reference to cleansing from sin. The focus in the whole of 1,5-14 is on the “son” of
1,1-4, who is the ray of God’s glory and the impression of God’s underlying reality.
     Cf. Ellingworth (1993), pp. 118-119.

  Gräßer ([1990], p. 76) regards the title “son” as “honorific”, invoking as
background the Hellenistic world which looked on a plurality of titles as indicating a
high position. But this is to ignore the fact that in vv. 5-14 the principal titles given
to the “son”—“God” and “Lord”—are taken from the scriptures, not from
Hellenistic sources.

  Cf. Heb 12,23 and Ellingworth (1993), p. 117: “the context strongly suggests the
enthronement of Christ.” Cf. also Rom 8,29; Col 1,18; Apoc 1,5.
The author of Hebrews makes the superiority of the embodied son
over the bodiless angels clear by means of a dramatic scene. The son
and the angels are portrayed as being in God’s presence as he
introduces the son. This presentation or “leading in” of the first-born
(v. 6) is portrayed as occurring hard on the son’s resurrection/
exaltation (v. 5). The content of the Old Testament texts cited,
together with their context in Hebrews, leaves no doubt that the
immediate purpose of the passage is the authoritative assertion that in
the age to come, i.e., the post-resurrection age, the son is definitively
superior to the angels. The ultimate purpose is to make an absolute
statement about the son: he is not only superior to the angels, but he is
in himself divine. All this is not only stated, but also conveyed
indirectly by the artful way in which the son and the angels are treated
by God.
In v. 5a God is pictured as speaking to the son with the words of Ps
2,7 which, in the context, make explicit the message that the son at the
moment of resurrection has entered into a new state by being
“generated” by God. The question is “to whom of the angels did he
ever say?” and the implication clearly is, “to none of them”. In v. 5b
an Old Testament quotation is put into the mouth of God. The words
of this quotation, faithfully cited, imply speaking about the son. But
the introductory question in v. 5a makes it clear that God is speaking
to the son in the entire verse. Thus the pattern for the rest of the scene
has been set: God speaks “to” the son but not “to” the angels, even
when the citation in question is only “about” the son. God’s very way
of addressing the two parties indicates the son’s superiority, for only
he merits direct address by God. Vv. 7-12
Vv. 7-12 contains an exposition regarding the angels (a brief notice to
emphasize their inferior status in relation to the son). The citation in v.
7 is from Ps 104[103],4. In the Septuagint version the meaning
probably is that God makes winds his angels and spirits his
messengers.81 In the context of Hebrews the verse is used to stress the
subordinate nature of the a[ggeloi.82

     Cf.: Ellingworth (1993), p. 120; Gräßer (1990), p. 81.

  “The point of the quotation in Hebrews is to show that the angels are (only)
leitourgoiv” (Ellingworth [1993], p. 120).
But the relative superiority of the son over the angels now that he has
an immortal body, impressive as it must have sounded to the first-
century addressees, is only by way of introduction. The real point of
the central section vv. 7-12 is to stress the full divinity of the exalted
son, even with a body. V. 8 opens with the phrase pro;~ to;n uiJovn, in
contrast to the pro;~ tou;~ ajggevlou~ of v. 7. The contrast is
emphasized by the use of mevn … dev. Two lengthy citations follow,
one from Ps 45[44] and the other from Ps 102[101]. In their original
context they are about the marriage of the king (Ps 45) and God as
creator of heaven and earth (Ps 102).83 In Hebrews the two citations
are characterized by complementary terms used to address the son,
qeov~ from Ps 45 and kuvrio~ from Ps 102.84 The placing of the two
terms in parallel is deliberate. The two texts are an example of the
Hebrew exegetical rule kayose ’bo bemaqom ’aher (“as is found in
another place”), i.e., “a difficulty in one text may be solved by
comparing it with another which has points of general, though not
necessarily verbal, similarity”.85
The principal point of the citations is to identify the exalted son as
both “God” (Hebrew µyhla, LXX qeov~) and “Lord” (Hebrew hwhy,
LXX kuvrio~).86 The two passages are cited for mutual clarification,

     Cf. Gräßer (1990), pp. 83-89, for a discussion of the Hebrew and Greek.
  In the Hebrew text the precise interpretation of the word “God” is not clear,
whether it is to be taken as a vocative or as a genitive (cf. Attridge [1989], p. 122;
Vanhoye [1969], pp. 176-177). But in the Greek text of Hebrews the vocative is
clear. Cf.: Ellingworth (1993), p. 122; Vanhoye (1969), pp. 181-184. The studied
parallelism between the qeov~ of Ps 45,6 cited at Heb 1,8, and the kuvrio~ of Ps
102,25, cited at Heb 1,10, eliminates any ambiguity about the function of qeov~ in
Hebrews: it is vocative.

     Bateman (1997), p. 18 and pp. 231-232.
  “This [sc., the citation from Ps 45] and the following quotation (vv. 10-12) [sc.,
the citation from Ps 102] are used to show that the Son is addressed in scripture both
as God and as Lord. The two titles occupy corresponding positions near the
beginning of the quotations. Neither title, however, is emphasized or expounded
here or later in Hebrews. The point of the quotation must therefore be sought
elsewhere” (Ellingworth [1993], p. 122). The point is not that the son is addressed as
“God” and “Lord”, but that he is God and Lord, i.e., he is fully divine even with a
body. This truth undergirds the epistle as an ontological presupposition, necessary
for understanding what will be said (e.g., the heavenly priesthood of the son, his
not only to help eliminate the confusion about the vocative case for
qeov~, but also to help the attribution of divinity to the exalted son. The
principle involved is kayose ’bo bemaqom ’aher, as mentiond above.
In Ps 102 the embodied son, who as God has entered into the
definitive Davidic messiahship through anointing and the possession
of the scepter, is fully divine and his messiahship is eternal; in Ps 45
the embodied son as Lord will remain the same forever, superior to
creation, which perishes. Thus the point of the citations from the two
psalms is the attribution of full divinity to the embodied son,
reinforced by an appeal to his definitive eternity as messiah.87 Thus
the superiority of the son over the angels is only a subsidiary point,
impressive though it must have been to the first Christians. V. 13
V. 13 is a statement of the unique importance of the son as seen in
contrast to the importance of the angels. The combination of the
perfect ei[rhken with the command of God in direct address to the son
to sit at his right until he places the son’s enemies under his feet
creates an opening to the future. In Hebrews this is not intended to be
an indefinite wait, but a wait with a definite terminus, as can be seen
from Heb 10,12 (“ … but he, after offering one sacrifice for sins, took
his seat forever at the right hand of God, and from now on waits until
his enemies may be placed as a footstool for his feet”).88 Thus the
verbs ei\pen, levgei and ei[rhken are part of a temporal framework
that serves to delimit the segments of Heb 1,5-14. At one end they
presume the resurrection/exaltation of the son as a past event, and at
the other they presume a future judgment on the son’s enemies.
But the time frame of vv. 5-13 is secondary to the development of
what the original addressees must have seen as the principal theme:
the full divinity of the son “re-established” at the resurrection/
exaltation and his resulting superiority again over the angels.89 The

timeless redemptive efficacy) even though he is not explicitly addressed with the
titles in question.

     Bateman (1997), pp. 227-232.
  Cf. Ellingworth (1992), p. 131. The mention of the “enemies”, implicitly present
in some way to the exalted son, indicates that the son is to be considered in the same
“world” with them. This is the “world to come”, the post-resurrection world, where
the son continues to be present liturgically as heavenly high priest (cf. Heb 2,12).
purpose of the citation of Ps 110[109],1 is not only to indicate a
temporary culmination in the son’s redemption of mankind, but also
to develop this theme of mortality and all that it implies. It does this
by providing a link with Heb 2,5-8 through the exegetical device of
the gezera shawa.90 Through the phrase uJpopovdion tw`n podw`n the
author establishes a connection of reciprocity with Ps 8,5-7. The
phrase uJpokavtw tw`n podw`n cited at Heb 2,8 provides the verbal link
with Ps 8,7 and the entire passage from Ps 8. The linking between Ps
110[109],1 and Ps 8,7 is found elsewhere in the New Testament, and,
given the occurrence here, can safely be presumed to be a part of a
Christian tradition being drawn on by the author of Hebrews.91 In the
section 2,8b-18, following the citation of Ps 8,5-7 at Heb 2,5-8a, the
author of Hebrews is thinking of the son in the context of death,
speaking about his “glorification” through his sufferings (2,9) and
about the liberating power of his death (2,14-15). In contrast, Heb 1,5-
14 does not mention the death of the son. Reference to the
resurrection, according to the interpretation being given here, is
limited to an allusion at 1,5 which serves to anchor the exaltation of
the son in a moment of time and leads to his enthronement in 1,13.
This pattern of contrast, in which Ps 110,1 is used to indicate the
exaltation of the son, distinguishable (but not separable) from his
resurrection from the dead, is found elsewhere in the New Testament.
In 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 15,25-27, again in a gezera shawa

  It should be stressed that the expression “full divinity” does not mean that the son
was not fully God without a break from all eternity. It is simply a way of adapting to
the conceit of the epistle that for a time the son was “lower” than the angels because
of his taking on of a mortal body (angels have no body and hence cannot die) and
thus of mortal flesh (cf. Heb 2,14).

  Swetnam (1992), pp. 59-60. Given the pairing of two psalm quotations, the use of
the term gezera shawa may be a bit too free. Strictly speaking, a classic gezera
shawa connected a passage from the Law with a passage from another part of
scripture, often a psalm.

   Cf. 1 Cor 15,25-26 and Eph 1,20-22. Cf. Hay (1973), p. 35: “The tandem
appearance of the two psalm passages in 1 Cor 15.25-27; Eph 1.20-22; Heb 1,13 –
2,8 shows that other Christian writers detected a connection between them”. Hay
also notes the apparent conflation in Matthew and Mark of Ps 110,1 and Ps 8,7, a
conflation which seems to indicate a fixed place in tradition: “The quotations [sc., of
Ps 110,1 in Mk 12.36 and Mt 22:44 read uJpokavtw where the O[ld] Gpreek] has
uJpopovdion. This deviation in Mark and Matthew may betoken the use of different
versions, but more probably it reflects conflation of Ps 110.1 and Ps 8.7 (which
concludes: pavnta uJpevtaxa~ uJpokavtw tw`n podw`n aujtou`)”.
construction with Ps 8), in Ephesians (Eph 1,20-22, in an implied
gezera shawa construction with Ps 8), and in the Acts of the Apostles
(Acts 2,25-35, in a gezera shawa construction with Ps 16,1-8). In
these last three passages the citation of Ps 110,1 is presented
consistently as a key element in the following five-fold pattern: 1) as
an indication of a recognized and earthly tradition with regard to
establishing the identity of Jesus; 2) as a citation from the Old
Testament which says something distinctive about the identity of
Jesus; 3) as an elaboration on the relation of Jesus to God through the
imagery of a past subjugation of death ; 4) as a reference to a future
subjugation of enemies in establishing the final relation of Jesus to
God; 5) as a contrast with a text representing Jesus’ past subjection to
Knowledge of the five-fold pattern visible in 1 Corinthians, Ephesians
and Acts helps sharpen the vision with regard to what the author of
Hebrews is doing. He is using Ps 110,1 as part of a recognized
widespread tradition (Aspect 1 of the pattern) in order to say
something distinctive about the son in the imagery of subjugation
(Aspect 3). The imagery of a future subjugation is conveyed through
the citation of Ps 110,1 (Aspect 4) in a stylized contrast with the
imagery of a past subjection to death (Aspect 5). Putting these aspects
together results in the following picture: Jesus is portrayed in early
Christian tradition as having a distinctive identity which involves not
only his past subjugation of death (Ps 8,7 and Ps 16) based on his
resurrection from the dead, but also on a future subjugation of his
enemies (Ps 110,1) with reference to exaltation. Accordingly, death is
outside the purview of Ps 110,1 precisely as such, even though the
death of Jesus is an essential element for the proper understanding of
who Jesus is. In other words, the citation of Ps 110,1 is appropriate in
Heb 1,5-13 as the culminating verse because it is used in early
Christian tradition to refer to Jesus insofar as he is not mortal, i.e.,
insofar as he is God. The Enthronement Ceremony
The three-fold division outlined above makes sense without further
comparisons. But it perhaps corresponds to the three stages of an
“enthronement ceremony” which is occasionally suggested as the

     Swetnam (1999a), pp. 53-54.
model for the passage. This ancient Near Eastern ceremony is
usually presented under labels such as “exaltation”, “presentation”,
“enthronement”.94 If such a ceremony influenced the author of
Hebrews such influence must have been indirect. The above division
based on the text of Hebrews as it stands makes sense independently
of any reference to such a ceremony. V. 14
V. 14 harks back to the words introducing Ps 110[109],1 and alludes
to the angels in a transition verse which leads to the paraenesis of Heb
2,1-4. The angels are portrayed as “ministering spirits” in a liturgical
sense.95 Further, the theme of “inheritance” is touched on, with the
verb klhronomevw being used with reference to Christians who are
presented as “about to inherit salvation” (mellonta~ klhronomei`n
swthrivan). Placed as it is, after the occurrence of klhronovmo~ in 1,1
and klhronomevw in 1,5, it leads to the inference that the inheriting on
the part of the Christians is not unrelated to the son as heir and to what
he has inherited. The word swthriva is nowhere explained in
Hebrews, and this is best taken as another indication of the tradition
which the author presumes and on which he draws.96

     Cf.: Gräßer (1990), p. 71; Swetnam (1981), pp. 142-145.

  Cf. Ellingworth (1993), pp. 108-109: “This formal threefold division, already
noted by some older commentators, has been explained as corresponding to the three
stages of a coronation liturgy for which there is evidence in the OT and other ancient
Near Eastern Texts, especially in Egypt. … The three stages of such a liturgy are
typically (a) a declaration by God that he has adopted the king as his son (cf. v. 5
[sc., of Chapter 1 of Hebrews]); (b) the presentation of the king to his people, and
his proclamation as king (cf. vv. 6-12); (c) the enthronement proper (cf. v. 13). The
influence of any such liturgy on the author of Hebrews is likely to have been via the
Greek OT. The formal parallels are striking, but it is necessary to allow for at least
three phases of reinterpretation, (a) as a foreign liturgy was adapted to Israelite
views of God and of kingship; (b) as statements about a particular king were
generalized and idealized in pre-Christian messianic expectation; (c) as the coming
of Christ stimulated Christians to relate the scriptures to him in new ways.” This
inclusion of v. 6 with the second stage corresponds to the pattern I have proposed
above, in contrast to what I proposed in my book (Swetnam [1981], pp. 142-145).
Ellingworth gives a number of bibliographical references for further study regarding
the possible influence of an enthronement ceremony (Ellingworth [1993], p. 108).

     Ellingworth (1993), pp. 132-133.

 Ellingworth (1993), p. 133: “The term [sc., swthriva] is never explained … and
must be considered traditional”.
3.6. An Approach to 2,1-4
Again, a distinction between structure and meaning seems indicated
for approaching 2,1-4. In the event, the structure will be appropriate to
the genre exhortation.
3.6.1. A Suggested Structure for 2,1-4
With 2,1 the tone of the text changes abruptly. The use of the word
dei` indicates that the author has entered the world of exhortation.
Perhaps the transliteration paraklesis would better serve the situation,
for it is the word used by the author himself (cf. 13,22 as well as 6,18
and 12,5) and is freighted with more than one meaning.97 There is no
progression in the text, but in the static situation being described as
the basis for the author’s exhortation a basic structure may be
discerned. The words toi`~ ajkousqei`sin are the keys to the brief
section. Failure to pay attention to “the things heard”, i.e., things
clearly known to the addressees, will bring a “drifting away”, i.e.,
gradually achieved failure in the addressees call as Christians. A
contrast is set up between the Mosaic Law, the origin of which was
brought about by the “speaking” (lalevw) “through” angels, and an
apparently definitive “salvation” (swthriva) “spoken” (lalevw)
“through” the Lord. This oral message of salvation was transmitted to
the present generation of Christians from those who originally “heard”
(ajkouvw) by a process able to be “validated” (bebaiovw), just as the
Mosaic Law was subject to validation (bevbaio~).98 Particularly
noteworthy is the use of the words shmei`on and tevra~ as the means
of validating what was being transmitted officially, for they are the
standard means of legitimation with regard to God’s presence and
purposes for his people in the Exodus.99 The additional pairing of

  Cf. the comments of Ellingworth ([1993], p. 732) on Heb 13,22: “Despite the
author’s tact, he is conscious of the solemn importance of his message … , so
‘exhortation’ is probably a more adequate translation than ‘encouragement.’ …
Paul’s message in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia, described as lovgo~
paraklhvsew~, doubtless contained encouragement, but the phrase itself refers more
generally to a homily or sermon. That sermon was clearly oral, as Hebrews may
have been originally, but lovgo~ is commonly used of both oral and written texts
(Acts 1:1; cf. Eph 3:3; 1 Pet 5:12)”.

  On the juridical language of the passage (bevbaio~, e[ndiko~, ejbebaiwvqh,
sunepimartourou`nto~) cf. Ellingworth (1993), p. 138.

  “The originally pagan word tevra~, “wonder,” which denoted something unnatural
and monstrous … was brought within the scope of God’s redemptive activity on
dunavmei~ with pneuvmato~ aJgivou mevrismoi seems to be a
specifically Christian addition to the means of legitimization.100 These
means of legitimization, both those taken from the Old Testament and
those specifically Christian, are apparently meant to be included with
the mention of the final words of the passage, “according to his will”
(kata; th;n aujtou` qevlhsin).101 Interesting. For “God” (qeov~) is the
agent for the “signs and wonders”, and “a holy spirit” seems to be the
agent for the “powers” (i.e., miracles) and “sharings”. Together with
the mention of the “Lord” (kuvrio~) in v. 3, one has as clear a
reference to the Christian God as one could want.102
3.6.2. A Suggested Meaning for 2,1-4
What is the author of Hebrews up to in his “word of exhortation”? The
introductory phrase at the beginning of the passage is significant: dia;
tou`to—“because of this”. The exhortation, that is to say, is rooted in
the preceding exposition. The result of the suggested interpretation,
based on the suggested structure as presented above, is that the author
intended to convey the idea that the son was superior in his exalted,
post-resurrection state, to the angels. But the superiority to the angels
was merely a useful contrast to help underline the main point of the
passage: the son was fully divine. Hence the exhortation in 2,1-4
should be built on the truth that the son is fully divine. This explains
why the son is portrayed as “Lord” in 2,1-4 in the context of “God”
and a “Holy Spirit”. Surely it is not far-fetched to say that the

behalf of Israel in the LXX, so that tevrata. “wonders,” became a vehicle for
revelation. The term was frequently joined with shmei`on, “sign,”, so that shmei`a
kai; tevrata became a standard phrase for the events of the Exodus, which served to
identify God’s relationship to his people and his purposes (Exod 7:3; Deut 4:34;
6:22; 7:19; 29:2 … ). These passages provide the biblical background to the
expression in v 4, wile Mark 16:20 (in the Longer Ending) provides the earliest
interpretation of the text … “ (Lane [1991a], p. 40).

      Cf. Lane (1991a), p. 40.

      Cf. Lane (1991a), p. 40.
   The author of Hebrews (not to mention the present writer) need not be charged on
the strength of this interpretation with an anachronism—Nicea I, Constantinople I,
and Chalcedon were still a long way away. But as a follow-up to an exposition in
which Christ was explicitly given the Old Testament titles of qeov~ and kuvrio~ one
can be pardoned for thinking that all three ecumenical councils are linked to Heb
2,1-4 in an intelligible way.
Christian God is here being portrayed: the son’s divinity is being
repeated but in a specific context.
The context of the presentation of the son as “Lord” is the Christian
exodus. For just as the God of Israel was present with his people in the
first Exodus, as was witnessed to by signs and wonders, so the God of
the Christians—the son as Lord—is present to the Christians in their
exodus. The theme of the exodus was presented at the beginning of
the passage with the “speaking” of the Mosaic Law “through” angels.
This giving through angels was contrasted with the “speaking of
salvation” through the Lord. Both events, in other words, involved a
“speaking”, even though the Mosaic Law ended up as a written lovgo~
(cf. Heb 9,19).103 Now the “signs and wonders” which accompanied
the Exodus generation served to authenticate God’s relations and
purposes for his people. Specifically, the Exodus generation was “put
to the test” precisely over the point of God’s presence to his people
(Ex 17,7). It was the failure of the Exodus generation to believe this
and put their trust in their God which led to their being unable to enter
the promised land, a theme which will occupy Hebrews in Chapters 3
and 4. The “speaking” of the Law through the angels was not “heard”
by the Exodus generation. The Christians, then, are warned to pay
attention to the things which were “heard” (v. 1) by the previous
generation and which were passed on by that generation in a way
which was legally authenticated.
It was the “salvation” “spoken” “through the Lord” which constituted
the “things heard”. The identity of this salvation is nowhere specified
in Hebrews, but it obviously has to do with the very heart of the
Christian destiny. Various attempts have been made, usually
superficially, to attempt to come to terms with the meaning of this
“salvation”. Christ’s preaching is much too general a term, for there is
no record of it’s being put to the test of legal authentication from the
first generation to the next.104 In the context of the tradition in

   Given the interpretation given to Heb 13,7 to the word lovgo~ the labeling of the
Mosaic Law in 2,2 as a lovgo~ is suggestive, for it implicitly suggests that Christ
himself is the New Law. This parallelism is precisely what the main point of 2,1-4
seems to be—that the Lord as qeov~/kuvrio~ (cf. 1,8-12) is the real divine presence
for the Christians in their exodus just as the book of the Law was the symbolic
divine presence for the children of Israel in the first Exodus.
   “The Christian tradition confronted the congregation with God’s word and deed.
Like Israel, the Christian community was constituted by an act of revelation. The
evidence in Heb 13,1-21 and for those who continue to live in that
tradition, the “presence of the Lord” in the Christian exodus is not
difficult to see: it is the presence of Christ in the Eucharist as the New
Covenant incarnate. The accounts of the institution of the Eucharist in
the Synoptic gospels, and the account of Paul about his receiving this
tradition from the Lord in terms involving the official handing on of
tradition (cf. 1 Cor 11,23-27) squares neatly with Heb 2,1-4 in the
context of the epistle’s climax in Chapter 13. And squares neatly with
Catholic tradition today, the tradition in which these remarks on
Hebrews are being written.

experience of Israel demonstrated that a reckless disregard for the tradition and the
commitment to which it summoned the community of faith could only expose the
people of God to divine judgment. It is this peril that the writer seeks to address. By
stressing that the preaching of the gospel was itself a juridical activity, he calls for a
response from his hearers that is consistent with the transcendent character of the
message of salvation” (Lane [1991a], pp. 40-41). Lane’s attribution of a “judicial
activity” to the preaching of the gospel is unconvincing because of its generality.
More to the point would be to infer that the preachers of the gospel in the sense
meant in 2,1-4 were officially verifiable witnesses to an office recognizable by all
who shared in, as Lane rightly recognizes, the Christian “tradition”.

CHAPTER 4. Hebrews 2,5 – 3,6

The Greek phrase uJpopovdion tw`n podw`n sou is used by the author of
Hebrews to link Ps 110,1 at Heb 1,13 (and with it the entire passage
which leads up to it, Heb 1,5-12) with the words uJpokavtw tw`n podw`n
aujtou` of Ps 8,7 at Heb 2,8a.105 This suggests that the citation from Ps
8 at Heb 2,6b-8a has a role in what follows comparable to the role Ps
110,1 has in what precedes it.106 But a delimitation of material is
necessary before proceeding.
4.1. Delimitation of the Text
Heb 2,5 serves as a transition verse between the exhortation of 2,1-4.
Again a contrast with the angels is begun, suggesting that what
follows is to be again in some way about Christ. A lengthy citation
from Ps 8 follows (Heb 2,6b-8a). Heb 2,8b takes up a phrase from the
citation, suggestion that what follows is an exposition involving the
psalm. The expository tone seems to continue until 2,18. Then, as
before at Heb 2,1, the tone of exposition changes suddenly at 3,1 to a
tone of exhortation. This exhortation seems to continue to 3,6, which
sounds like a summation of the exhortation leading into a transition to
what is to follow. V. 7 introduces a long citation from Ps 95, which
seems to introduce an entirely new scene.107
The above analysis seems to stand on its own merits: Heb 2,5-18 is
exposition, Heb 3,1-6 is exhortation. But when placed with the
material which preceded, Heb 1,5 – 2,4, it seems to result in a

    The link between Ps 110 and Ps 8 has been recognized, but not really exploited
for the structure of Hebrews. Cf.: Giles (1975), p. 331; Lindars (1961), p. 48;
Ellingworth (1992), pp. 150-152.

    “Both the context of Hebrews, and the use of Pss. 110:1 and 8:6-8 elsewhere in
the NT, suggest that uJpokavtw tw`n podw`n in 2:8a should be understood in the same
way as uJpopovdion tw`n podw`n sou in 1:14, which unquestionably refers to Christ”
(Ellingworth [1993], p. 151). This is to recognize the existence of gezera shawa in
all but name. Unfortunately Ellingworth does not exploit this insight either.
   The delimitation of 3,1-6 as a coherent block is not unusual. Cf. Attridge (1989),
p. 104.
 1,5-14 (Exposition)
      2,1-4 (Exhortation)
 2,5-18 (Exposition)
      3,1-6 (Exhortation)
This parallelism serves to reinforce the link between the two psalm
citations, a link which seems to imply that just as Christ was the
subject of the exposition in 1,5-14, so Christ will be the subject of the
exposition in 2,5-18. The passages in question are of roughly the same
length, which tends to confirm that they are structurally parallel.
4.2. The Greek Text
2,5 Ouj ga;r ajggevloi~ uJpevtaxen th;n oijkoumevnhn th;n mevllousan,
peri; h|~ lalou`men. 2,6 diemartuvrato dev pouv ti~ levgwn: tiv
ejstin a[nqrwpo~ o{ti mimnh/vskh/ oujtou`, h] uiJo;~ ajnqrwvpou o{ti
ejpiskevpth/ aujtovn; 2,7 hjlattwsa~ aujto;n bracuv ti par j
ajggevlou~, dovxh/ kai; timh/` ejstefanwsa~ aujtovn, 2,8 pavnta
uJpevtaxa~ uJpokavtw tw`n podw`n aujtou`. ejn tw`/ ga;r uJpotavxai aujtw`/
ta; pavnta oujde;n ajfh`ken aujtw`/ ajnupovtakton. nu`n de; ou[pw
oJrw`men aujtw/` ta; pavnta uJpotetagmevna: 2,9 to;n de; bracuv ti
par j ajggevlou~ hjlattwmevnon blevpomen jIhsou`n dia; to; pavqhma
tou` qanavtou dovxh/ kai; timh`/ ejstefanwmevnon, o[pw~ cavriti qeou`
uJpe;r panto;~ geuvshtai qanavtou. 2,10 [Eprepen ga;r aujtw/`, di j
o}n ta; pavnta kai; di j ou| ta; pavnta, pollou;~ uiJou;~ eij~ dovxan
ajgagovnta, to;n ajrchgo;n th`~ swthriva~ aujtw`n dia; paqhmavtwn
teleiw`sai. 2,11 o{ te gavr aJgiavzwn kai; oiJ aJgizovmenoi ejx eJno;~
pavnte~: di j h}n aijtivan oujk ejpaiscuvnetai ajdelfou;~ aujtou;~
kalei`n, 2,12 levgwn: ajpaggelw` to; o[noma sou toi`~ ajdelfoi`~
mou, ejn mevsw/ ejkklhsiva~ uJmnhvsw se. 2,13 kai; pavlin, jEgw;
e[somai pepoiqw;~ ejp j aujtw`/. kai; pavlin, ijdou; ejgw; kai; ta; paidiva
a{ moi e[dwken oJ qeov~. 2,14 ejpei; ou\n ta; paidiva kekoinwvnhken
ai{mato~ kai; sarkov~, kai; aujto;~ paraplhsivw~ metevsken tw`n
aujtw`n, i{na dia; tou` qanavtou katarghvsh/ to;n to; kravto~ e[conta
tou` qanavtou, tou`t j e[stin to;n diavbolon, 2,15 kai; ajpallavxh/
touvtou~, o{soi fovbw/ qanavtou dia; panto;~ tou` zh`n e[nocoi h\san
douleiva~. 2,16 ouj ga;r dhvpou ajggevlwn ejpilambavnetai ajlla;
spevrmato~ jAbraa;m ejpilambavnetai. 2,17 o{qen w[feilen kata;
pavnta toi`~ ajdelfoi`~ oJmoiwqh`nai, i{na ejlehvmwn gevnhtai kai;
pisto;~ ajrciereu;~ ta; pro;~ to;n qeo;n eij~ to; eJlavskesqai ta;~
aJmartiva~ tou` laou`. 2,18 ejn w|/ ga;r pevponqen aujto;~ peirasqeiv~,
duvnatai toi`~ peirazomevnoi~ bohqh`sai. 3,1 {Oqen, ajdelfoi;
a{gioi, klhvsew~ ejpouranivou mevtocoi, katanohvsate to;n
ajpovstolon kai; ajrciereva th`~ oJmologiva~ hJmw`n jIhsou`n, 3,2
pisto;n o[nta tw`/ poihvsanti aujto;n wJ~ kai; Mwu>sh`~ ejn o{lw/ tw`/
oi[kw/ aujtou`. 3,3 pleivono~ ga;r ou|to~ dovxh~ para; Mwu>sh`n
hjxivwtai, kaq j o{son pleivona timh;n e[cei tou` oi[kou oJ
kataskeuavsa~ aujtovn: 3,4 pa`~ ga;r oi\ko~ kataskeuavz`etai uJpov
tino~, oJ de; pavnta kataskeuavsa~ qeov~. 3,5 kai; Mwu>sh`~ me;n
pisto;~ ejn o{lw/ tw`/ oi[kw/ aujtou` wJ~ Qeravpwn eij~ martuvrion tw`n
lalhqhsomevnwn, 3,6 Cristo;~ de; wJ~ uiJo;~ ejpi; to;noi[kon aujtou`: ou|
oi\kov~ ejsmen hJmei`~, ejavn th;n parrhsivan kai; to; kauvchma th`~
ejlpivdo~ katavscwmen.
4.3. A Suggested Translation
2,5 For not to angels did he make subject the world to come about
which we are speaking. 2,6 Now someone bore witness to this
somewhere, saying, “What is man that you are mindful of him, or a
son of man that you watch over him? 2,7 You made him a little lower
than the angels, with glory and honor you crowned him. 2,8 All things
you made subject under his feet.” For in making all things subject he
left nothing not subject to him. Now we do not yet see all things
subject to him. 2,9 But we do gaze on the one who for a time was
made lower than the angels, Jesus, through the suffering of death
crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God he might
taste death for everyone. 2,10 For it was fitting that he, on account of
whom and through whom all things were made, in leading many sons
to glory, should perfect the originator of their salvation through
sufferings. 2,11 For both the one sanctifying and those being
sanctified are all from one; for which reason he is not ashamed to call
them brothers, 2,12 saying, “I shall announce your name to my
brothers, in the midst of the assembly I shall sing your praise.” 2,13
and again, “I shall be trusting in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the
children which God gave me.” 2.14 Since, therefore, the children
share blood and flesh, he also likewise partook of the same, so that
through death he might render ineffective the one who has power over
death, that is, the devil, 2,15 and might set free these, who by fear of
death were subject to slavery throughout all their lives. 2,16 For he
clearly is not taking hold of angels but of the seed of Abraham. 2,17
Wherefore he had to be like his brothers in every way, so that he
might become a merciful and trustworthy high priest with regard to
the things of God for the expiation of the sins of the people. 2,18 For
in what he suffered in his testing he is able to help those being tested.
3,1 Wherefore, holy brothers, sharing in a heavenly call, consider the
apostle and high priest of our confession, Jesus, 3,2 faithful to the one
who appointed him as Moses also in the entirety of his house. 3,3 For
he is deemed worthy of greater glory than Moses, just as the one
fashioning a house has greater honor than the house; 3,4 for every
house is fashioned by someone, and the one fashioning all things is
God. 3,5 And Moses was faithful in the entirety of his house as a
servant in witness to the words to be spoken, 3,6 while Christ, as son
over his house; which house are we, if we hold fast to our boldness
and the hope of which we boast.
4.4. An Approach to Hebrews 2,5 – 3,6
In accordance with the parallel division in the first part of 1,5 – 3,6,
i.e., 1,5 – 2,4 into exposition (1,5-14) and exhortation (2,1-4), the
same procedure will be followed for 2,5 – 3,6. The exposition at 2,5-
18 will be treated, and then the exhortation at 3,1-6.

4.4.1. An Approach to Hebrews 2,5-18
As was found helpful in the passages above, Heb 2,5-18 seems best
susceptible of interpretation by the two-fold approach of structure and
meaning. A Suggested Structure for 2,5-18
The subsection 2,5-18 is one of the most artfully composed passages
in the epistle, and contains a wealth of material. Perhaps nowhere else
in Hebrews, except in Chapter 13, is the determination of the structure
so important for the understanding from a modern perspective of what
the author is about. Just as in Heb 1,5-13 he indicates the basic
structure with the help of ei\pen, levgei and ei[rhken, so in Heb 2,5-
18 he helps indicate the basic structure through use of the word levgw,
once explicitly and twice implicitly. Thus the word is not used of itself
to indicate any sort of temporal progression. The key verses for
assessing the structure of the entire passage would seem to be the
      2,12 levgwn: ajpaggelw` to; o[noma sou toi`~ ajdelfoi`~ mou, ejn
                      mevsw/ ejkklhsiva~ uJmnhvsw se.
          2,13a kai; pavlin, jEgw; e[somai pepoiqw;~ ejp j aujtw`/.
      2,13b kai pavlin, ijdou; ejgw; kai; ta; paidiva a{ moi e[dwken oJ
The scriptural sources of these citations are in a way irrelevant—
Hebrews looks at the Old Testament from the standpoint of Christ, not
at Christ from the standpoint of the Old Testament. Of course the
thought of the verse(s) being cited is crucial. But only insofar as it is
relevant for the world contemporary with the author of the epistle.108

      For a discussion about the sources of the citations cf. Attridge (1989), pp. 90-91.
Just how the arrangement of these three citations affects the
argumentation would seem to be crucial. In the suggested
interpretation being advanced here each citation has a specific
purpose: 2,12 is a summing up of what precedes; 2,13b is a summing
up of what is to follow; 2,13a is a summing up of the entire subsection
2,5-18. The kinship terms “brothers” and “children” are keys to
understanding what precedes and what follows,109 and the trust
enunciated in 2,13a and put in Christ’s mouth is relevant to both: “I
shall be trusting in him” is hence, by reason of its central position, the
dominant theme of the entire passage, including the citation from Ps 8.
One last indication of a structure seems to be a mutual relevance of
the word e[prepen in v. 10 and the word w[feilen in v. 17.110 These
two word seem to serve as signs of a subdivision in their respection
When all of the above indications are put together, the result for the
structure of 2,5-18 is as follows:111
2,5 Introduction to the citation from Ps 8, and through the psalm to the
       entire passage.
2,6-8a Citation from Ps 8,5-7.
      2,8b-9 First part of subsection involving “brothers”.
      2,10-11 Second part of subsection involving “brothers”.
         2,12 Verse indicating theme of preceding subsection.
            2,13a Verse indicating theme of entire section.
         2,13b Verse indicating theme of following subsection.
      2,14-16 First part of subsection involving “children”.
      2,17-18 Second part of subsection involving “children”.
This outline seems too elaborate to be true. It remains to be seen if a
meaning can be suggested to bring the outline to plausible life.

   On kinship terms and covenant cf. now Hahn (2009). Hebrews is preeminently
the writing on covenant in the New Testament, as will be seen in the analysis below
of Heb 8,1 – 10,39.
      The pairing is noticed by Attridge (1989), p. 95, n. 181.

      Cf.: Swetnam (1992), pp. 58-66; Swetnam (2005), pp. 53-56.
                                                                                  51 A Suggested Meaning for 2,5-18
There are two steps which seem necessary to arrive at a proper
exegesis of this immensely suggestive passage. Given the unusual
number of cruces in the passage some explanation of them seems
required. Then and only then can a verse-by-verse presentation of the
passage be attempted. An Analysis of the Cruces in 2,5-18
Embedded in the above passage 2,5-18 are a number of classic cruces.
Chief among them are: 1) the exact role of the citation from Ps 8 in
the passage; 2) the apparent anomaly in v. 9 which says that Jesus was
crowned with glory and honor through suffering death in order that he
might taste death; 3) the meaning of teleiw`sai in v. 10; 4) the
meaning of the phrase ejx eJnov~ in v. 11; 5) the meaning and identity of
the ajdelfoiv in vv. 11, 12 and 17; 6) the meaning of to; o[noma in v.
12; 7) the meaning and identity of ta; paidiva in vv.13b and 14; 8) the
meaning of spevrma jAbraavm in v. 16; 9) the meaning of the two
occurrences of peiravzw in v. 18. To go through the many suggestions
regarding these cruces which have been made is neither possible nor
desirable. A basic supposition of this book is that the structure, if
plausibly analyzed, will generate a framework where a plausible
meaning of the whole can be produced, including an explanation of
cruces. It is the plausibility of the whole of Heb 2,5-18 in the light of
Catholic tradition which is in play here. The degree of plausibility
produced will be an indication of the validity of the meaning, always
with the understanding that “proof” is not being attempted or claimed.
The key to the entire passage is v. 13a. There the words “I shall be
trusting in him” are put into the mouth of Jesus. They parallel the
words in the first person in v. 12 and v. 13b which are also put into the
mouth of Jesus. Thus the whole passage is about Jesus, just as the
entire passage 1,5-13 was about the Jesus under the formality of
“son”.112 The passage 1,5-13 was about the son as fully divine. The
parallel passage 2,5-18, however, is not directly about Jesus as human.
Rather, it is about Jesus as trusting. This is possible, of course, only if
the discourse is about Jesus as man: it is nonsense to speak of Jesus
insofar as he is divine as trusting in God. Indirectly, then, the section
is about Jesus as man.

  “Whereas 1:5-14 was concerned with the respective relations of Christ and of
angels to God, now it is their respective relations with humanity which are in focus
… “ (Ellingworth [1993], p. 145).
This analysis about the over-all relevance of v. 13a is important for
understanding the meaning of the citation from Ps 8 at vv. 6b-8a. The
citation, and the entire passage which follows, is introduced by v. 5.
The gavr in the verse indicates the relevance of the son for the entire
section, for it evokes all that has preceded. The negative phrase with
no explicit positive statement indicates that something is to be
understood from the context: “For not to angels did he make subject
the world to come about which we are speaking” [sc., but to the
son].113 The use of the verb lalevw is not without significance, for it
implicitly ties in the “speaking” of the author of the epistle with the
“speaking” of the Lord (2,3) and the “speaking” of God (1,1). It also
indicates that the author is speaking about the world dominated by the
exalted/risen son whom he has just finished discussing in 1,5-13 and
who waits next to God’s throne for the eventual domination of his
enemies. The structure of the two passages 1,5-14 and 2,5-18, placed
in parallel as they are and linked by the common phrase involving
placing Christ’s enemies under his feet, suggests that the exalted son
will be discussed under the second half of the exalted/risen pairing. In
1,5-13 the son was discussed primarily as divine and hence in his
exalted state; in 2,5-18 the son will be discussed primarily as
“trusting”, i.e., indirectly as man, and hence with reference to his risen
state. The two states are materially the same, of course, but formally
different depending on how the son is viewed, as divine or as human.
After 2,5 comes 2,6 and the citation from Ps 8.114 And with Ps 8 the
force of the thematic 2,13a begins: “I shall be trusting in him”. This
would seem to be an important key for understanding how Ps 8 is
being used. The meaning in the original context of the Psalter is that
of praise for the lofty status of mankind, but in Hebrews it is clear that
it is being applied to Jesus.115 What is not clear is exactly how Jesus is
seen to be presented in the key words a[nqrwpo~, “man”, and uiJo;~
ajnqrwvpou, “son of man”.116 Many interpreters see in the latter phrase

      Weiß (1991), p. 192; Grogan (1969), p. 57.
   On the introduction to the citation cf. Attridge (1989), pp. 70-71. The Greek word
diemartuvrato, “to give witness”, “to bear testimony “, is of a solemn nature,
continuing the legal language of 2,1-4.

      Cf. Attridge (1989), p. 72.

      Cf. Attridge (1989), p. 73.
as evoking the familiar “son of man” title of the gospels. This will
be the interpretation followed here. The principal reason for the choice
is that such an interpretation involves the use of the word “son”. Just
as 1,5-13 involved the word “son”,118 so the parallel passage of 2,5-18
would seem to involve the word “son”.
But if the phrase “son of man” dominates 2,5-18 it is not clear how it
should be understood. Here the thematic 2,13a once again comes in
for consideration. The word “son” in the citation from Ps 8 is to be
taken in the Semitic sense as indicating a way of acting consonant of
another who is thus portrayed in terms of fatherhood.119 Thus in Gal
3,7 those who have faith are called “sons of Abraham”, Abraham
being the classic example of faith for the Jews. It is this latter meaning
which seems to be involved in the midrashic use of Ps 8 at Heb 2,6b-
8a. In others words, the word a[nqrwpo~ refers to Abraham in this
midrashic reading, just as uiJo;~ ajnqrwvpou refers to Jesus.120
On the supposition that this interpretation of Ps 8 is plausible, two of
the classic cruces listed above take on plausible interpretations. The
phrase “seed of Abraham” (spevrma jAbraavm) in 2,18 can be seen to

      Cf. Attridge (1989), p. 73, and p. 73, n. 38.
   In a sense, the passage 1,5-13 is about the “son of God”. But in the strict sense of
that phrase, such a phrase seems inappropriate. The “son” in the prologue (1,1-4) is
nowhere called “son of God” and quite rightly. For the word “son” in the prologue is
so presented as to indicate that he is the prime analogate for all sonship, in a class
completely by himself. To add “of God” would imply a certain univocity which is
entirely inappropriate.
     “ ... metaphorice alcs. ‘filius’ appellatur is qui illius (velut proles patris)
indolem, ingenium, mores, sentiendi agendique rationem quadammodo nactus est,
i.e. imitator atque in sua vita exprimit, alci. in bonis aut pravis moribus similis ac
velut alter talis: uiJoi; Qeou` Mt 59 545. L 635 2036 (immortalitatis div. consortes);
uiJoi; jAbraavm Abrahae et virtutum imitators et benedictionum heredes G 37 (cf. J
839-44. R 416); uije; diabovlou A 1310, uiJoi; tou` ponhrou` (masc.) …” (Zorell [1961],
col. 1350).

   A midrashic interpretation was given to the two phrases, as a matter of fact, in a
Jewish commentary of a later date: “man” is interpreted as Abraham, and “son of
man” as Isaac. (Cf. Braude [1959], p. 127.) Whether this interpretation was already
in play in the first century is not known and is really not a part of the argumentation
here. Rather, it is adduced to show that the interpretation given in the text above is
not far-fetched for people with a Jewish background.
be intended in a “spiritual” sense (Crux #8). This in turn indicates
with significant plausibility that the word paidiva in 2,13b.14 means
“(spiritual) children (of Abraham)” (Crux #7). As part of his “taking
on blood and flesh” with their attendant mortality, Jesus took on the
concomitant trust in God in the face of death which Abraham
evidenced. In being entrusted with Abraham’s “children” Jesus
himself becomes such a child. His being “tested” means that this
Abrahamic trust in God was put to the test, for facing the death of his
son Isaac with trust was the very core of what made Abraham the
father of his people as the author of Hebrews conceives him (cf. Heb
11,17-19) (Crux #9).
But Abraham’s trust in God in the face of death was trust in the face
of someone else’s death—Isaac’s. It would seem that there is another
possibility of trust in the face of death—trust in the face of one’s own
death. The contrast in the text of Hebrews seems studied and clear. In
Heb 11,17 the test of Abraham’s faith is in regard to his offering
Isaac: “In faith Abraham stands as having offered (prosenhvnocen)
Isaac in the process of being tested—that is, he was trying to offer
(prosevferen) the only son, he who had received the promises”. The
contrast is clear by viewing the texts where the same verb, prosfevrw,
is used of Jesus offering himself in sacrifice: 7,27; 9,14.28; 10,12. Put
in the perspective of 2,13a and 2,18, each one of these tests which
speak of the self-sacrifice of Jesus should be understood as implying
the trust which Jesus had not only as a child of Abraham who had
trust as Abraham had in offering another (as mentioned above), but
also as one who had trust in the face of his own death in offering
himself in sacrifice. Thus not only is a plausible explanation for the
use of the verb peiravzw in 2,18 (Crux #9), but also for the enigmatic
phrase ejx eJnov~ in 2,11: in Jesus the two faith-trusts—that of Abraham
in the face of another’s death, and that of his own faith-trust in the
face of his own (cf. Heb 5,7-8) form a unity (Crux #4), and this unity
is the basis for addressing all those who believe in the successful

   Cf.: Rom 4,13.16.18; Swetnam (1981), pp. 93-118. I am grateful to J. J. Bailly for
furnishing me with his unpublished licentiate memoire with its treatment of the
spiritual nature of “seed” (Bailly [1989], pp. 98-99). Bailly bases his proposed
solution of the crux at Heb 11,11 involving the masculine production of “seed” by
Sarah on an interpretation of “seed” in a spiritual sense: those who trust in God.
outcome of this faith-trust of Jesus, i.e., the resurrection, as “brothers”
(ajdelfoiv) (Crux #5).122
Once the central position of faith-trust is worked out in terms of v.
13a, the role of Ps 8 as an introduction to the passage is clarified. A
midrashic interpretation of the psalm in the following passage is
generally recognized because of the way vv. 8 and 9 apply them to
Jesus.123 But the role of Abraham in the subsequent verses (explicit in
v. 16) makes clear also the midrashic interpretation of a[nqrwpo~,
“man”, and uiJo;~ ajnqrwvpou, “son of man” (an explanation of Crux
The verb teleiw`sai in v. 10 is much discussed.124 The Septuagint
background in which the verb is used to indicate the act by which the
priest is consecrated for his service125 is used by the author of Hebrews
for his own purposes. That is to say, as usual, the author of Hebrews is
looking at Old Testament realities with New Testament eyes. The verb
“to perfect” alludes to the moment indicated by ajgagovnta, that is to
say, the moment of the resurrection which is the passage to the state of
being “crowned with honor and glory” (dovxh/ kai; timh`/
ejstefanwmevnon). In entering into risen glory Jesus attains a
perfection of his priesthood which definitively consecrates him for his
office. He already was a priest before the resurrection, for he entered
the world (10,5) in order to take on “blood and flesh” (2,14) and die to
expiate sins as a priest (2,17). For the author of Hebrews the word
teleiw`sai, in other words, not only implies a consecration of what is
to follow (as implied in the Old Testament background), but also
indicates a perfecting of a previous state of priesthood. The first state
of Jesus’s priesthood was based on his mortal body, which made it

      Cf. Swetnam (2007), pp. 517-525.
   The psalm, of course, has been selectively cited from the Septuagint, with the
clause “You have set him over the works of your hands” being omitted. This was
doubtless to facilitate application to Christ. Cf. Attridge (1989), p. 71.
      Ample discussion in Lane (1991a), pp. 57-58.

   The key background is the use of the verb in the Septuagint: “In ceremonial texts
of the Pentateuch [sc., in the LXX] the verb is used to signify the act of consecrating
a priest to his office (Exod 20:9, 29, 33, 35; Lev 4:5; 8:33; 16:32; 21:10; Num 3:3)”
(Lane [1991a], p. 57).
possible for him to die. The second state is based on his immortal
body with all its properties belonging to the risen state. Both states are
not simply functional but ontological realities. Thus Crux #3 has a
plausible interpretation, to be made more plausible by its place in the
interpretation of 2,5-18 as an organic whole.
The vexing Crux #2 remains a constant challenge to exegetes.127 V. 9
reads: “But we do gaze on the one who for a time was made lower
than the angels, Jesus, through the suffering of death crowned with
glory and honor, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for
everyone”. The order of the clauses seems inverted. Jesus “through
suffering death” is “crowned with honor and glory” in order that he
might “taste death for everyone”. Jesus dies and is risen so that he
might die.128 A plausible solution would seem to be possible by taking
the subsection vv. 8b-9 as parallel to the subsection vv. 14-16. Both
subsections represent Jesus as victim as opposed to subsections vv.
10-12 and vv. 17-18, which represent Jesus as high priest.129 The
contrast is between the heavenly victim in vv. 8b-9 and the earthly
victim in vv. 14-16, and the heavenly high priest in vv. 10-12 and the
earthly high priest in vv. 17-18. Jesus as earthly victim wishes 1) to
defeat the devil who controls death and 2) to take away the fear of
death from the spiritual children of Abraham (spevrma jAbraavm.) In
the corresponding section of Jesus as the risen victim these same
children who are now also his brothers can look at him ( jIhsou`n
blevpomen) who is crowned with honor and glory through the
suffering of death precisely for this purpose of tasting death for all of
them, i.e., of enabling those who believe in him to gaze at him as
victim rewarded by God with eternal glory and thus showing them
that all those who have faith-trust as he did will share the same destiny
(cf. Heb 5,7-8, where the example of Jesus offering himself as victim
is spelled out in detail).130

      Cf. Swetnam (1989), pp. 76-77.
   Just how challenging it is can be seen by the way it is handled by such a
competent exegete as W. Lane, who takes it on himself to change the order of the
clauses to “reflect the sense intended by the writer” (Lane [1991a], p. 43).
  Cf. the discussions by Attridge (1989), p. 76, and Ellingworth (1993), p. 155.
Neither of these capable exegetes takes a definitive position.
      The verbs e[prepen in v. 10 and w[feilen in v. 17 act as dividers.
There remains only Crux #6 to analyze. This involves attempting to
give a plausible proposal for “the name” (to; o[noma) of God in Heb
2,9. This verse is an example of the usefulness of source criticism for
the understanding of the meaning of the text as it stands provided the
basic supposition involving the interpretation of Old Testament texts
in Hebrews is kept in mind: they are being viewed from the standpoint
of Christ, and not vice versa. For Heb 2,12 is a citation from Ps 22,22,
and these words in the psalm are part of a tôdâ prayer.131 The “name”
which Jesus announces to his brethren is not that appropriate to the
Old Testament tôdâ prayer but to the Christianized tôdâ prayer. From
the context of Heb 2,12, in a section (1,5 – 3,6) dedicated to
expositions and parakleseis on the son, that name can only be
“father”. “Father” not in the Old Testament usage but in the New
Testament usage, where it is correlative ontologically to the “son”, as
expressed in the prologue of the epistle.132 Thus a plausible solution to
Crux #6 is possible thanks to a plausible interpretation of Chapter 13
involving a Christian tôdâ.
With an interpretation of Heb 2,12 in the sense of a Christian tôdâ the
entire section 2,5-18 can be viewed in a clearer perspective. V. 5
serves as an introduction. Vv. 6b-8a are the citation from Ps 8
interpreted midrashically, i.e., in this case, interpreted from the

      For a concise presentation of the entire argument cf. Swetnam (2010).
   Two observations by commentators on Ps 22: “The language of vv. 23-27 [sc., of
Ps 22] is based on the custom whereby a person who offered a thanksgiving
sacrifice in the temple would recount to his fellow worshippers the favor received
from God and then invite them to share in his sacrificial banquet” (The New
American Bible [1970], p. 616. (Verse 23 is according to the Hebrew numbering of
the verses he same as verse 22 of the Septuagint.) In reference to the Hebrew text of
Ps 22,23-24 cf. the remarks of H.-J. Kraus (1978), p. 330: “yjl ˚mv hrpsa ist nicht
die Formel eines Gelübdes der Klagende in seinem Leid ablegt, sondern bereits der
Einsatz des Dank- und Lobliedes (Ps 66,16; 109,30; 107,32). – Als einzigen Inhalt
seines Liedes vor der Kultgemeinde (lhq) nennt der Sänger den µv Jahwes. µv ist
die gegenwärtige Heilsmacht Jahwes (vgl. zu Ps 20,2.6.8). Die Zuhörer des Liedes
sind yja = die Kultgenossen der Israelgemeinde … . Zu lhq als Begriff für die
versammelte Kultgemeinde vgl. Ps 35,18; Ex 16,3; Lev 4,13ff.21; Nu 10,7; 15,15;
17,1; 20,6 u. ö. – In den Lobgesang einstimmen sollen alle, die Jahwes Wirklichkeit
erfahren haben (hwhy yary). In diesem Zusammenhang haben die
Konstruktusbildungen bk[y [rz und [rz larcy die Bedeutung, das »wahre Israels«
zum Lobpreis aufzurufen. 24b betont des Erschrecken vor dem Wunder in dem
Jahwe seine Gegenwart bekundet.”

      Cf. Swetnam (2008), pp. 256-262.
standpoint of the risen Christ and his faith-trust in the face of his
imminent death which has been vindicated by the resurrection. Vv.
8b-9 are about the risen Christ as heavenly victim, giving an example
to those who trust as he trusted. Vv. 10-12 are about Christ as the
risen, i.e., heavenly, high priest, exercising his ministry from his place
at God’s right hand in every Christian tôdâ. Those who combine their
Abrahamic faith-trust in the face of Isaac’s death with their faith-trust
in the face of their own death, as Jesus did, are called Jesus’
“brothers”. V. 13a gives the theme for the entire passage—the faith-
trust of Jesus, before his death (in what follows, as relevant to the
earthly Jesus), and after his resurrection (in what has preceded, as
relevant to the heavenly Jesus whose faith-trust has been vindicated
and serves to help other experience his death and thus eliminate the
fear with which they face their own death). V. 13b speaks about
Abraham’s “children”, i.e., Abraham’s spiritual seed which is
constituted by those who share in Abraham’s faith-trust as manifested
at the time of his sacrifice of Isaac. Vv. 14-16 speak about Jesus as an
earthly victim and give his motivation in offering himself as victim
(defeat of the devil, saving men from fear of death). Vv. 17-18 speak
about Jesus as earthly high priest, offering himself to expiate sins. Vv.
14-16 preview vv. 8b-9, and hence are mutually illuminating. Vv. 17-
18 preview vv. 10-12, and hence are mutually illuminating. The whole
passage is essentially liturgical, i.e., the cross of Christ is not
considered “abstractly”, so to speak, but as part and parcel of a cultic
act. Chapter 13 explains what that cultic act is. A Suggested Meaning of the Verses in 2,5-18
In the light of the detailed structure given above and of an attempt to
give a plausible interpretation to the nine major cruces present, the
following verse-by-verse presentation of a plausible meaning can be
attempted. 133
   V. 5. This introductory verse indicates by indirection that God has
subjected the “age to come” not to the angels (dismissed as
definitively inferior to the exalted Jesus in vv. 5-13) but to the exalted
Jesus. Except, as the following verses make clear, it is not to the
exalted Jesus as exalted, but to the exalted Jesus as risen. Just what
that involves will be explained in terms of Christian worship, with the
risen Jesus being presented as both sacrificial victim and high priest.
   V. 6a. The legal language of the previous exhortation in 2,1-4

      For a concise presentation of the structure of 2,5-18 cf. Swetnam (2010).
continues. And with it, presumably, the connotation of the
importance of validation.
    Vv. 6b-8a. The citation from Ps 8,5-7 [LXX] is to be interpreted
from the standpoint of the enthroned Christ, as the phrase uJpopovdion
tw`n podw`n sou of Ps 110,1 at Heb 1,13 (and with it the entire
passage which leads up to it, Heb 1,5-12) linking with the words
uJpokavtw tw`n podw`n aujtou` of Ps 8,7 at Heb 2,8a, implies. This
suggests that the citation from Ps 8 at Heb 2,6b-8a has a role in what
follows comparable to the role Ps 110,1 has in what precedes it. But,
as what follows will make clear, it is the exalted Christ insofar as risen
from the dead (i.e., human), not insofar as exalted (i.e., divine).
    V. 8b-c. The midrashic character of the citation is in evidence since
the otherwise ambiguous aujtw`/ occurs in the context of the linking
phrase between Ps 110,1 and Ps 8,7: it refers to the exalted/risen
Jesus. The verb oJravw is used to indicate the lack of “seeing” all things
de facto subordinated to Jesus, with a personal experience implied.135
    V. 9. Here the object of the seeing is made explicit—Jesus, who for
a time was “less” than the angels136 (sc., because of his mortal body
assumed precisely so that he could die). Here the object of the gaze of
the addressees is made explicit— jIhsou`n. The posture of the author
and his fellow Christians is still one of looking, but here the verb
changes and becomes blevpomen. There is a certain metaphorical
quality to the use, because, as Chapter 13 makes clear, the author is
separated from his addressees in some way. The choice of the verb
blevpw indicates that the author is thinking of an actual contemplation
of Jesus as though he were present.137 In the context of the indications

    “The same solemn term, which continues the legal language of the preceding
paraenetic interlude (2:4), also appears at 1 Tim 5:21; 2 Tim 2:14; 4:1” (Attridge
[1991], p. 70, n. 15.
    “Dan la Bible, « voir » exprime assez souvent une experience personnelle … .
Une nuance de ce genre se laisse peut-être percevoir dans notre text: « nous ne
voyons pas encore » la domination universelle promise a l’homme, c’est-à-dire que
notre expéience personnelle ne comporte pas encore l’exercise de ce pouvoir … ”
(Vanhoye [1969], p. 285).

  Because of the prologue, Heb 1,1-4, the well-instructed modern reader knows
how to interpret this statement in terms of the divinity of the son and how it would
have been understood by the original addressees, whatever his own personal
convictions in the matter are.

  Cf. the emphasis on ocular contact in 11,1.3. To the point Vanhoye: “L’auteur
nous invite à la contemplation chrétienne: pour comprendre le mystère de l’homme
about the structure given above one need only recall that this graphic
presentation of the contemplation of Jesus is in the context of the
Christian tôdâ and of Jesus as heavenly victim: the call to “gaze” on
Jesus is a call to gaze on the Eucharistic Host. This, of course, is to be
done in a spirit of faith. But the Eucharistic Host is precisely the
heavenly Jesus as triumphant victim, present in each Christian
sacrifice of praise. It is this triumphant victim, gazed on in faith, who
frees the Christians from their fear of death. This is precisely what is
spelled out in the second part of the verse: the Christian through faith
knows that Jesus has been crowned with glory and honor (i.e., raised
from the dead) on account of his suffering death (i.e., the way he died
prepared the way for his being raised) and that he did this precisely so
that he might relive this experience under the faith-filled gaze of the
Christian in order that the Christian might be freed from his fear of
   V. 10. This is a theologically dense verse, certainly one of the most
challenging verses in the New Testament to understand, not least by
reason of the syntax. The syntax has been interpreted in at least two
ways. One way is quite straightforward and can be translated as
follows: “For it was fitting that he, on account of whom and through
whom all things were made, in leading many sons to glory, should
perfect the originator of their salvation through sufferings.” In this
interpretation it was “fitting” that the son be “perfected” in the act of
leading many sons to glory.138 The act of “being perfected” is the
resurrection expressed in terminology used in the LXX for the
consecration of priests. In this view it was the resurrection through
suffering that was “fitting” for God to bring about. The other view is
based on a more nuanced view of the syntax of the sentence in which
a modal participle (in this case ajgagovnta) expresses the principal
action, while the main verb (in this case teleiw`sai) becomes modal.
In this way the translation becomes: “For it was fitting that he, for
whom and through whom all things exist, should lead many sons to
glory as he perfected the originator of their salvation through
suffering.”139 In this view it was “fitting” that God should lead many

et de son rapport avec §Dieu, les fidèles regardent Jésus dans le mystère de sa
passion et de sa glorification” (Vanhoye [1969], p. 286).

   “Und stehen die beiden Verben in beiden Sätzen, das Partizip ajgagovnta und der
Infinitiv teleiw`sai, so sind sie beide auch auf denselben Vorgang und auf dasselbe
logische Subjekt zu beziehen” (Weiß [1991], p. 2306).

      Cf.: Ellingworth (1993), p. 160; Zerwick (1966), §263 (p. 88).
sons to glory. Given that the phrase “through sufferings” (dia;
paqhmavtwn) in v. 10 picks up on the phrase “through the suffering of
death” (dia; to; pavqhma tou` qanavtou) of v. 9, it would seem that the
first view is preferable. As victim Jesus was crowned with honor and
glory on account of suffering death; hence as high priest it was fitting
that God “perfect” him (i.e., consecrate his heavenly priesthood) in
resurrection through suffering as well. At the same time God was
leading many sons to glory, not just Jesus who was the originator of
their salvation. The phrase to;n ajrchgo;n th`~ swthriva~ aujtw`n picks
up on the allusion to the institution of the Christian tôdâ in 2,3, “a
salvation which had its beginning of being spoken through the Lord”
(swthriva h{ti~ ajrch;n labou`sa lalei`sqai dia; tou` kurivou) and
thus prepares the way for v. 12. In the second view it is God’s leading
many sons to glory which is “fitting”. This does not seem to follow as
well from v. 9. The problem is complicated, however, and the above
view may need revision.
    V. 11. In this verse the faith-trust of Abraham in the face of
another’s death by which the Christians, including Jesus, are
spiritually children (paidiva) is joined together with the faith-trust of
the Christians who unite with Jesus in facing each his own death and
thus become his “brothers” (ajdelfoiv). This unity of the two types of
faith-trust in “one” (ejx eJnov~) makes it possible for Jesus to sanctify
(aJgiavzw) them in the Christian tôdâ or Eucharist, given the efficacy
of the expiatory effect of his earthly, bloody sacrifice in the parallel
passage about the earthly priesthood of Jesus in 2,17-18.
    V. 12. Here the entire subsection 2,8b-11 finds its ontological
grounding in the liturgical act known as the Eucharist, which is
ultimately rooted in the bloody, expiatory death of Jesus (cf. he
parallel section 2,17-18 which speaks of his becoming a merciful and
faithful high priest.
    V. 13. The first half of the verse is the center of the entire passage
2,5-18, giving the theme which is the basis for the earthly priesthood
and the heavenly priesthood of Christ. As earthly high priest Jesus
faces his coming death with both types of faith-trust, faith-trust as
Abraham had in the death of another, and faith-trust as he had in the
face of his own death. This faith-trust is the concomitant of his taking
on blood and flesh. As heavenly high priest Jesus exemplifies the
reward which both types of faith-trust have in God’s providential care.
Tied in as the heavenly and earthly priesthoods are to the Christian
tôdâ and to the status of child of Abraham and brother of Jesus, this
faith-trust is portrayed as an essential part of being a Christian. The
second half of v. 13 introduces the sub-section vv. 14-18.
    V. 14. This verse contains the striking inversion of the phrase savrx
kai; ai|ma into ai|ma kai; savrx, which is odd in Greek as it is in
English.140 Given the structure and the meaning being presented here,
a Eucharist allusion seems behind the change. But to make the
allusion plausible one should view the inversion as reflecting the
different emphases of the two subsections. The “blood” (ai|ma) comes
first in 2,14 because this verse is at the head of the subsection vv. 13b-
18 which speaks of Jesus’ expiatory high priestly sacrifice on the
cross that is the bloody centerpiece of the Christian tôdâ. The “flesh”
(savrx) is more naturally applied to the subsection 2,8b-12, which
portrays contemplation of Jesus as Eucharistic victim in order to free
the Christian believer from fear of death. The inversion, in other
words, is simply a reminder that in the section 2,5-18 ai|ma kai; savrx
have special meanings each in its own right, and are not to be taken as
a hendiadys meaning “human nature”. V. 14 also presents the
Christian paradox of Jesus’ conquering of death through death.
    V. 15. Here the element of freeing from the fearing of death of all
those who are children of Abraham for whom Jesus’ example is
needed in addition to Abraham’s, for the achieving of such freedom.
    V. 16. This verse gives the author of Hebrews an opportunity to
reiterate the basis for the son’s being for a time less than the angels
and ties it to his victimhood. It also gives the author a chance to spell
out by indirection the relation of the word “children” (paidiva) to the
well-known Pauline term “seed of Abraham” (spevrma jAbraavm).
    V. 17. The illative particle o{qen introduces the verb w[feilen which
seems to be used in contrast to the e[prepen gavr of 2,10. “It was
fitting” that God raise Jesus from the dead through suffering. But “it
was necessary” that Jesus become similar to his “brothers” in order to
become a “merciful and faithful high priest” (ejlehvmwn kai; pisto;~
ajrciereuv~).141 The words seem to be a Christian adaptation to Jesus
of the Old Testament covenantal attributes of God. With Jesus they
are best taken to mean “merciful and trustworthy”.142 The latter word
is the result of his faith-trust being put to the test (cf. v. 18) and not
found wanting.
    V. 18. This verse explains v. 17. Jesus faith-trust was “put to the

   Cf. the discussion in: Vanhoye (1969), p. 348; Swetnam (1981), p. 171; Attridge
(1989), pp. 91-92; Ellingworth (1993), pp. 171-172.
   For the connotation of death with reference to the phrase kata; pavnta cf.
Ellingworth (1993), pp. 180-181.

      Cf. Swetnam (1999b), pp. 19-20.
test” (peirasqeiv~) in what he suffered (ejn w/| pevponqen) and hence he
can help those being similarly “tested” (toi`~ peirazomevnoi~). The
verse grounds the adjective “trustworthy” (pistov~) of v. 17, as the
illative particle “for” (gavr) at the beginning of the verse makes clear.
Thus vv. 17 and 18 sum up Jesus as high priest (v. 17) and victim (v.
18). The way is accordingly prepared for the exhortation 3,1-6 which
4.4.2. An Approach to Hebrews 3,1-6
Again, the two-fold approach involving structure and meaning seems
indicated for explaining Heb 3,1-6. But again, as was the case with
Heb 2,1-4, the structure for this relatively small section of exhortation
does not seem to be as detailed as for the longer exposition 2,5-18. Suggested Structure for 3,1-6
The basic structure for 2,1-4 was based on an a fortiori argument
involving a comparison between “the Lord” and angels: if the “word”
announced through angels, i.e., the Mosaic Law, could be transgressed
against only at great risk, how much more would transgressions
against the salvation announced through the Lord merit chastisement.
The argument gives the author the opportunity to introduce the
presence of the Lord in the Eucharist as the divine presence for the
Christian exodus paralleling the divine presence of God in the book of
the Law in the first Exodus.
In an analogous fashion, Heb 3,1-6 depends on a less obvious a
fortiori argument involving a comparison between Moses and Jesus.
In 1,1-4 the exhortation was based on the exposition of the son as
divine (1,5-14). In 3,1-6 the exhortation is based on the exposition of
Jesus as high priest (2,5-18). The Eucharist enters not as a divine
presence but as an expiatory rite by which Jesus founds a “house”
(oi\ko~) membership in which assures the Christians of entrance into
the land of promise. A Suggested Meaning for 3,1-6
In view of the structure presented above the following interpretation
suggests itself.
    V. 1. The passage begins with the use of the term ajdelfoi; a{gioi,
which immediately evokes the liturgical setting of the Christian tôdâ
alluded to in 2,11-13. The “brothers” are those members of the
spiritual seed of Abraham who share the risen Jesus’ faith-trust in the
face of personal death and are being “sanctified” by the heavenly high
priest through the liturgy of the Eucharist. (The adjective ejpouranivou
in the verse alludes to this heavenly priesthood.) The verb
katanohvsate urges careful attention to Jesus as heavenly high priest.
It parallels the verb blevpomen in 2,9. But the latter refers to Jesus as
Eucharistic victim who can be “seen”, while the former refers to Jesus
as Eucharistic minister who cannot.143 The verb katanoevw is
correlative to the term oJmologiva, which is the content of the
confession of Christian faith, probably in a Eucharistic context.144 The
terms ajpovstolo~ and ajrciereuv~ refer to the previous exposition,
with “apostle” referring to Jesus as heavenly high priest in 2,12 and
“high priest” referring to Jesus as earthly high priest in 2,17.145 V. 2.
The conjunction of the words oi\ko~ and pistov~ with the mention of
Moses in Num 12,7 LXX indicates that this verse serves as the
background for Heb 3,2 and what follows where Moses is placed in
contrast with Jesus. Jesus is being placed in contrast with Moses in the
context of an exodus—Moses as leader of the first Exodus, and Jesus
as leader of new exodus. The oi\ko~ of Jesus is the cultic community
which he founded—a startlingly evocative way to view the Church.146
Moses is viewed in the passage as being associated with a cultic
community in his own way, which is the people of God on the march.
On reflection both meanings of oi\ko~ emerge in the brief passage for
the modern reader, but they must have been quite clear from the outset
to the original addressees of Hebrews. The word poihvsanti would
seem to allude to the appointment of Moses by the Lord as presented
in 1 Kingdoms 12,6: both Jesus and Moses are “trustworthy” in
relation to the Lord as regards the entirety of the “houses” committed
to their care. The moment of Jesus’ “appointment” as head of the
cultic community which in v. 6 emerges as the Christians is the
moment of the resurrection, when he became heavenly high priest.
This becomes clearer with the mention of the honor and glory due to
Jesus with reference to his being apostle and high priest.
    V. 3. Here the illative particle gavr refers back to v. 1 and Jesus as

      Both verbs, obviously, presume an attitude of faith.
   For references to a Eucharist setting for the use of oJmologiva in 3,1 cf. Attridge
(1989), p. 108, n. 43.

   “The unusual title ‘apostle’ alludes to his [sc., Jesus’] function as the messenger
of the divine name implicit in the psalm quotation at 2:12” (Attridge [1989], p. 107).
For a detailed development of this idea and the application to the tôdâ cf. Swetnam
(2008), passim.
      Cf.: Spicq (1953), pp. 108-109, Swetnam (1972), p. 377.
apostle and high priest. This in turn implies that Jesus is worthy of
greater honor than Moses in his capacity of apostle and high priest as
well as inasmuch as he “founded” (kataskeuavzw) his “house” and is
therefore superior to it. Necessary for this argument to make sense is
the supposition that the “house” (oi\ko~) is constituted by the Christian
addressees (as v. 6 will state explicitly), and that these addressees are
“holy brothers” who are “sharers in the heavenly calling” (klhvsew~
ejpouranivou mevtocoi). Further, this present Christian “house”
(oi\ko~) is a continuation of the “house” (oi\ko~) in which Moses was
placed as servant. This continuity is evident in the way the author of
Hebrews handles the word “people” (laov~): it is used without further
distinction of the “people (of God)”.148 This chain of reasoning is
replete with indirection. Once the indirection is made explicit the
following assertions seem defensible: 1) There is both a basic
continuity and a basic discontinuity in the oi\ko~ constituted by the
people of God. 2) The continuity is explained by the fact that God is
the one who ultimately founds everything (v. 4). 3) The discontinuity
is explained by Jesus who, as high priest and apostle, with his
institution of the Christian tôdâ and its fulfillment in his bloody
sacrifice as earthly sacrifice founds a community of worship where
the members have a special relation to him, precisely as high priest
and apostle. Here again, as in the argument in 2,1-4 involving the
son’s superiority to the angels, the basic dignity of Moses is
presumed. And just as in the case of the superiority to the angels,
Jesus’ superiority to Moses indicates how great is his dignity as man.
The same a fortiori type of argument is at work. In making the
argument the author of Hebrews has inserted a profound theological
statement involving the institution of the Church.149

      Cf. Ellingworth (1993), pp. 203-204.

   “ JO laov~ is Hebrews’ preferred term for the people of God. … Hebrews uses oJ
laov~ without distinction in passages referring to the old order (5:3; 7:5, 11; 9:7, 19
bis; 11:25), to Christian realities (here [sc., Heb 2:17] and in 10:30 [= Dt. 32:36];
13:12), and to both together (4:9; 7:27; 8:10 = Je. 31:33)” (Ellingworth [1993], p.
   Lane reads 3,3b differently: “ … the statement in v. 3b has no theological
significance. Like the correlative statement in v. 4a (“for every house is built by
someone”), it simply enunciates a truism” (Lane [1991a], p. 77). It is doubtful if the
author of Hebrews took the pains to write his epistle in order to communicate
                                               150                     151
    V. 4. This verse is neither a truism nor a parenthesis. It is an
indication of an important truth: that every house has a founder, and
that God, as creator of all things, is ultimately the founder of every
house. This assures the foundation of the community of worship (i.e.,
the Church) as having the authority of God.
    V. 5. (along with v. 6) reasserts the trustworthiness of Moses and
of Christ with regard to God.152 Moses is considered a qeravpwn, i.e., a
“servant”, a word having cultic overtones.153 In this cultic capacity he
gives “witness” (martuvrion) to “the things to be spoken” (tw`n
lalhqhsomevnwn). The allusion is to the inauguration of the Sinai
covenant portrayed in Heb 9,18-22, a portrayal that has distinct
Eucharistic overtones.154 The “things to be spoken” are the words of
Jesus at the inauguration of the New Covenant. Here is an allusion to
the Eucharist just as there was an allusion to the Eucharist in 2,3. In
fact, the two moments are the same. Heb 2,3 and Heb 3,5 (by way of
prefigurement) refer to the same event, the institution of the Eucharist
by the earthly Jesus. In Heb 2,3 the allusion was to the divine
presence, which followed on an exposition of the son as fully divine.
Here, in Heb 3,5, the allusion is to the expiatory and sanctifying force
of the Eucharist presided over by the heavenly high priest (cf. the
parallel passages Heb 2,17 and Heb 2,12). This institution of the
Christian tôdâ sets in motion the complementary earthly sacrifice of
Jesus on the cross which in turn is the occasion for his consecration by
resurrection as heavenly high priest which in turn sets in motion the
presiding at every Christian tôdâ by Christ as the heavenly high priest.
Christ remains “in” the house he has founded as victim, to be gazed
on by his brothers; but he remains “over” the house he has founded as
high priest, to preside at the Eucharist. Moses rendered a cultic service
of witness indicating is trustworthiness “in the entirety of his house”
(ejn o{lw/ tw/` oi[kw/ aujtou`), i.e., in the people of God in the old

      Cf. the preceding note.

      Cf. Attridge (1989), p. 110.

      Here one sees the importance of the preceding verse, 3,4.

   Cf.: Ex 4,10; 14,31; Num 11,11; Deut 3,24; Wis 10,16; 18,21 and Ellingworth
(1993), p. 207. Ellingworth thinks that the context here is “prophetic” rather than
“cultic”, ignoring the cultic tone set in v. 1.

      Cf. Swetnam (2009), pp. 97-98.
dispensation and in the new. His inauguration of the Sinai covenant
was valid for the old dispensation as “word” (lovgo~) and for the new
dispensation as a witness to the new covenant which will be the
“Word” (Lovgo~) personified (cf. Heb 13,7). The claim of Eucharist
relevance for the exhortation at Heb 3,1-6, made on grounds
independent of Heb 2,1-4, tends to support the claim of Eucharistic
relevance in the latter text, and the claim of Eucharistic relevance for
the exhortation at Heb 2,1-4, made on grounds independent of Heb
3,1-6, tends to support the claim of Eucharist relevance for the
exhortation in the latter text. And all of this depends on the spoken
word (lalevw) with a pedigree extending to God himself. This “spoken
word” in Hebrews is a code word for Tradition, and as originating
from the Lord it trumps Scripture in any form.156
    V. 6. This verse is the climax of the exhortation. It implicitly
complements the preceding verse, as is clear from the parallelism of
“in the entirety of his (i.e., God’s) house” (v. 5) and “over his (i.e.,
God’s) house” (v. 6). The use of the word “Christ” (Cristov~)
supplies the fulfillment of the prefiguration implied by the phrase
“witness to the things to be spoken” in the preceding verse, for in
Hebrews it tends to be used in association with Christ’s priesthood
and sacrifice. (Cf. especially Heb 5,5-6.)157 The verse goes on to
identify the Christians with the “house” (oi\ko~) over which Christ as
son is placed. This is a confirmation of the interpretation of the
preceding verses that the community of worship founded by Jesus is
his Church. The verse ends by insisting on the importance of
maintaining “boldness” (parrhsiva) as regards the Christian attitude
to the old dispensation and “the boasting of hope” (to; kauvchma th`~
ejlpivdo~) as regards the new. With these last words, exhorting the

    This interpretation of “in the entirety of his house” shows again the theological
importance of the statement in v. 4.
    Cf. Swetnam (2007b), p. 28: “In the order of constitutive causality the words of
consecration of the Eucharist uttered by Christ at the Last Supper are supreme. But
in the order in which this constitutive causality of the words of conseration is
explained, Scripture is supreme. That is to say, each of these twin ways providing
contact between the Catholic Church and the one Source of revelation, Jesus Christ,
is supreme in its own order. But in relation to each other, Tradition of necessity is
superior because that which cause a reality is intrinsically superior to that which
records this causality. Being, by the nature of things, is prior to a report about that

  Cf. Ellingworth (1993), p. 209. Ellingworth, however, ignores the cultic
implications of Christ’s death in 3,1-6.
Christians to hold fast to their faith both with regard to the past and to
the future, a transition is made to the next major section of the epistle
which begins at 3,7.158
4.5. Reflections on Hebrews- 1,1 – 3,6
Even if the above discussion of Heb 1,1 – 3,6 is being advanced as
attaining “plausibility” and nothing else, some reflection on the
resulting interpretation seems called for. For it all hangs together and
is consonant with the tradition of Catholic orthodoxy. This agreement
between intrinsic cohesion with the decisive extrinsic norm which
provides the light on which this interpretation is being made is
striking. As such the passage is certainly one of the most carefully
argued presentation in the whole of the New Testament. It is hugely
rich in a variety of ways. Understood in the light of Hebrews Chapter
13 it situates the Son’s parity with God and parity with man in a
liturgical context which, by implication, is presented as being the way
the effects of the death and resurrection of Christ are to be brought to
bear on believers.
4.5.1. 1,1-4
The prologue (1,1-4) presents the Son in a memorable example of the
use of imagery as the stamp of God’s inner being and the splendor of
his external glory. The imagery conveys the primacy of God while
asserting the parity of the Son. The role of the Son in creation and
redemption is firmly asserted in the context of a “speaking” (lalevw)
by God. As the epistle unfolds this “speaking” will assume the
dimensions of a new intervention of God in the drama of salvation, an
intervention which builds on his intervention in the old covenant
which has preceded, but which is itself a radically new intervention
centered on the Son as covenant.
4.5.2. 1,5-14
The following exposition (1,5-12) builds on the word “son” and by the
use of two Old Testament texts conveys the truth that the Son of the
prologue is the same son as the Messianic descendant of David (1,5).
The author of Hebrews then insists that this Messianic descendant of
David is superior to the highest rank of created beings, the angels,
explaining the superiority by attributing to the Messianic Son the titles
“God” (Hebrew µyhla, LXX qeov~) and “Lord” (Hebrew hwhy, LXX

   As a summation of Heb 1,5 – 3,6 one may quote The Catechism of the Catholic
Church, §766: “The Church is born primarily of Christ’s total self-giving for our
salvation, anticipated in the institution of the Eucharist and fulfilled on the cross.”
kuvrio~). This Son is presented as seated (a position of honor and
authority) at God’s right hand (1,13) as a provisional term for his
exaltation/resurrection until all his enemies are placed his feet by God.
1,14 links this exposition with the paravklhsi~ that follows.
4.5.3. 2,1-4
That paravklhsi~ (2,1-4) gives to the exposition of 1,5-14 a liturgical
dimension. This exalted Son, as a result of the “salvation” which he
initiated, is liturgically available to persons of Christian faith as God’s
presence among them, just as God’s presence was liturgically
available to persons of Israelite faith. After the elaborate explanation
of 1,5-12 this divine presence of the exalted/risen Christ is to be
understood as the divine presence in the fullest sense of these words.
4.5.4. 2,5-18
This passage is a succinct presentation of Christ as earthly high priest
and earthly victim and heavenly high priest and heavenly victim in a
Eucharistic context. It emphasizes the interior attitude of Christ as one
of faith-trust, and interprets the attitude that should characterize the
Christian believer as one consonant with Christ’s. The passage is
retrospectively based on Ps 8,5-7 just as 1,5-13 anticipates Ps 110,1.
The link between the two psalms by means of a gezera shawa shows
the fundamental unity in Christ of his divinity and humanity, though
not expressed in terms of later Catholic dogmatic formulations.
4.5.5. 3,1-6
This passage of paravklhsi~ is based on 2,5-18, and is thus parallel
to 2,1-4 in the structure of 1,1 – 3,6. And just as 2,1-4 presents Christ
as divine in terms of the Eucharist (the divine presence available
liturgically among men), so 3,1-6 presents Christ as human in terms of
the Eucharist (the sacrifice of Christ which results in his victimhood
and priesthood in the Christian tôdâ or Mass). The symmetry is not
only in structure but in content.
4.5.6. Further Reflections on Hebrews 1,1 – 3,6
Underpinning the entire section 1,1 – 3,6 is the term uJpovstasi~ used
at 1,3 to link the inner being of God and the inner being of the Son
(the Son is the “imprint of God’s underlying reality”, i.e., the stamp of
God’s inner being). This identification of the Son with the inner being
of God gives to the text an aura of legitimacy impossible to
exaggerate. In the context of God’s “speaking” (lalevw) in Christ “in
these end days” after speaking in the prophets it gives to all that Christ
did as well as to all that Christ said the implication of a definitive
fulfillment as well. As was noted above, essential for the
understanding of the passage are fundamental Christological truths:
his divinity, his humanity, his incarnation, his resurrection, his
expiatory death, his priesthood, the Eucharist. But only the expiatory
death and priesthood are presented in terms that are used to today. All
of the terms express realities which are firmly rooted in the
ontological. The liturgical context should not be minimized. The
purchase of Christ on the life of the addressees of the epistle is viewed
as being liturgical. Finally, the stress on faith-trust should be noted.
Christ as victim and high priest had faith-trust, a faith-trust based
midrashically on Ps 8,5-7. His becoming man is expressed in terms of
his taking on the blood and flesh of Abraham’s children, i.e., the
presumptive basis for Christ’s becoming man is the faith-trust he
would have with others who shared Abraham’s faith-trust in God’s
ability to raise from the dead.
4.6. Considerations on 3,7 – 7,28
Heb 1,1 – 3,6 sets the stage for the next major division of the epistle,
3,7 – 7,28, which treats of the Christian fulfillment of the promises of
land (3,7 – 4,12) and offspring (4,13 – 6,20) made to Abraham. The
promise of offspring has a collary in 7,1-28: the promise of offspring
presented in 4,13 – 6,20 deals with Christians; 7,1-28 deals with those
who are live before Christ and, by implication, those who do not know
of Christ. The entire passage is anchored in the use of the designation
lovgo~ to refer to Christ (4,12-13, with the former verse referring to
Christ as priest and summing up what has preceded, and the latter
verse referring to Christ as victim and introducing what is to follow).
Thus the Christian life (the passages would seem to refer to baptism
and the priesthood/Eucharist as ways of entering into paradise as
members of God’s people) is conceived as being undergirded by the
guarantee of the Father’s gift of the Son as Logos or the new
Law/Covenant. The section on Christ as victim ends at 6,20. This
explains 6,19-20, with Christ entering the Christian Holy of Holies,
i.e., as victim. But Chapter 7 is added on to explain that Christ’s
priesthood, because of the resurrection into eternal life, extends as the
text cited about Melchizedek indicates, to the period not only in the
future without end but from the very beginning of time.

CHAPTER 5. Hebrews 3,7 – 4,12

The next challenge to understanding Hebrews lies in the large section
3,7 – 7,28. This will have to be approached in subsections. First, 3,7 –
4,12. Then 4,13 – 6,10. Finally, 7,1-28.
5.1. Delimitation of the Text
The exhortation 3,1-6 ends in a rather decisive way, indicating a break
with what is to come. Furthermore, it seems to balance the exhortation
at 2,1-4, with the two passages furnishing comments on the respective
preceding expositions. Finally, both yield a meaning which seems to
involve an allusion to the institution of the Eucharist in each instance.
The section beginning at 3,7 involves a long citation from Psalm 95,
which further seems to indicate a change of subject matter. Where this
section beginning at 3,7 terminates is a subject of legitimate
conjecture. Based on my attempts to come to terms with the form-
content dialectic needed to establish any section, the following
division of the whole section seems indicated. The plausibility of the
ensuing presentation will have to suffice to legitimize what follows.
3,7 – 4,12 (Presentation Based on Promise of Land to Abraham)
4,13 – 5,10 (Presentation Based on Promise of Offspring to Abraham
                with Concentration on Christ as Victim)
   5,11 – 6,8 (Negative Exhortation Based on What Precedes)
   6,9-20 (Positive Exhortation Based on What Precedes)
7,1-28 (Presentation Based on Promise of Offspring with
               Concentration on Christ as Priest According to the
               Order of Melchizedek)

5.2. Hebrews 3,7 – 4,12
This first subsection involves the promise of land made to Abraham.
The theme indicates how fundamental the role of Abraham is in the
epistle even where he is not explicitly mentioned.
5.3. The Greek Text
3,7 Diov, kaqw;~ levgei to; pneu`ma to; a{gion: shvmeron eja;n th`~
fwnh`~ aujtou` ajkouvshte, 3,8 mh; sklhruvnhte ta;~ kardiva~ uJmw`n
wJ~ ejn tw`/ parapikrasmw`/ kata; th;n hJmevran tou` peirasmou` ejn th`/
ejrhvmw/, 3,9 ou| ejpeivrasan oiJ patevre~ uJmw`n ejn dokimasiva/ kai;
ei\don ta; e[rga mou 3,10 tesseravkonta e[th dio; proswvcqisa th`/
genea`/ tauvth/ kai; ei\pon: ajei; planw`ntai th`/ kardiva: aujtoi; de;
oujk e[gnwsan ta;~ oJdouv~ mou. 3,11 wJ~ w[misa ejn th`/ ojrgh`/ mou: eij
eijseleuvsontai eij~ th;n katavpausivn mou. 3,12 Blevpete,
ajdelfoiv, mhv pote e[stai e[n tini uJmw`n kardiva ponhra; ajpistiva~
ejn tw`/ ajposth`nai ajpo; qeou` zw`nto~. 3,13 ajlla; parakalei`tai
eJautou;~ kaq j eJkavsthn hJmevran, a[cri~ ou| to; shmerton kalei`tai,
i{na mh; sklhrunqh`/ ti~ ejx uJmw`n ajpavth/ th`~ aJmartiva~ 3,14
mevtocoi ga;r tou` Cristou` gegovnamen, ejavnper th;n ajrch;n th`~
uJpostavsew~ mevcri tevlou~ bebaivan katavscwmen 3,15 ejn tw/`
levgesqai: shvmeron eja;n th`~ fwnh`~ aujtou` ajjkouvshte, mh;
sjklhruvnhte ta;~ kardiva~ uJmw`n wJ~ ejn tw`/ parapikrasmw`/. 3,16
tivne~ ga;r ajkouvsante~ parepivkranan; ajll j ouj pavnte~ oiJ
ejxelqovnte~ ejx Aijguvptou dia; Mwu>sevw~; 3,17 tivsin de;
proswvcqisen tesseravkonta e[th; oujci; toi`~ aJmarthvsasin, w|n ta;
kw`la e[pesen ejn th`/ ejrhvmw/; 3,18 tivsin de; w[mosen mh;
eijseleuvsesqai eij~ th;n katavpausin aujtou` eij mh; toi`~
ajpeiqhvsasin; 3,19 kai; blevpomen o{ti oujk hjdunhvqhsan eijselqei`n
di j ajpistivan. 4,1 Fobhqw`men ou\n mhv pote kataleipomevnh~
ejpaggeliva~ eijselqei`n eij~ th;n katavpausin aujtou` dokh`/ ti~ ex
uJmw`n uJsterhkevnai. 4,2 kai; gavr ejsmen eujhggelismevnoi kaqavper
kajkei`noi: ajll j oujk wjfevlhsen oJ lovgo~ th`~ ajkoh`~ ejkeivnou~ mh;
sugkerkerasmevnou~ th`/ pivstei toi`~ ajkouvsasin. 4,3
Eijsercovmeqa ga;r eij~ th;n katavpausin oiJ pisteuvsante~, kaqw;~
ei[rhken: wJ~ w[mosa ejn th`/ ojrgh`/ mou: eij eijseleuvsontai eij~ th;n
katavpausivn mou, kaivtoi tw`n e[rgwn ajpo; katabolh`~ kovsmou
genhqevntwn, 4,4 ei[rhken gavr pou peri; th`~ eJbdovmh~ ou{tw~, kai;
katepausen oJ qeo;~ ejn th`/ hJmevra/ th`/ eJbdovmh/ ajpo; pavntwn tw`n
e[rgwn aujtou`, 4,5 kai; ejn touvtw/ pavlin: eij eijseleuvsontai eij~ th;n
katavpausinv mou. 4,6 ejpei; ou\n ajpoleivpetai tina;~ eijselqei`n eij~
aujth;n, kai; oiJ provteron eujaggelisqevnte~ oujk eijsh`lqon di j
ajpeivqeian, 4,7 pavlin tina; oJrivzei hjmevran, shvmeron, ejn Daui;d
levgwn meta; tosou`ton crovnon, kaqw;~ proeivrhtai: shvmeron ejavn
th`~ fwnh`~ aujtou` ajkouvshte, mh; sklhruvnhte ta;~ kardiva~ uJmw`n.
4,8 eij ga;r aujtou;~ jIhsou`~ katevpausen, oujk a[n peri; a[llh~
ejlavlei meta; tau`ta hJmevra~. 4,9 a[ra ajpoleivpetai sabbatismo;~
tw`/ law`/ tou` qeou`. 4,10 oJ ga;r eijselqw;n eij~ th;n katavpausin
aujtou` kai; aujto;~ katevpausen ajpo; tw`n e[rgwn aujtou w[sper ajjpo;
tw`n ijdivwn oJ Qeov~. 4,11 Spoudavswmen ou\n eijselqei`n tij~ ejkeivnhn
th;n katavpausin, i{na mh; ejn tw`/ aujtw`/ ti~ uJpodeivgmati pevsh/ th`~
ajpeiqeiva~. 4,12 Zw`n ga;r oJ lovgo~ tou` qeou` kai; ejnergh;~ kai;
tomwvtero~ uJpe;r pavsan mavcairan divstomon kai; diiknouvmeno~
a[cri merismou` yuch`~ kai; pneuvmato~, ajrmw`n te kai; muelw`n kai;
kritiko;~ ejnqumhvsewn kai; ejnnoiw`n kardiva~:
5.4. A Suggested Translation
3,7 Therefore, as the holy spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice,
3,8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, according to the day
of testing in the desert, 3,9 where your fathers made a trial by testing
and saw my works 3,10 for forty years wherefore I became angered at
this generation and I said, “Always they wander in their heart—they
did not know my ways. 3,11 Thus did I swear in my anger, ‘They shall
not enter into my rest.’” 3,12 See to it, brothers, that there is not in
any one of you an evil heart of unfaithfulness so as to desert the living
God, 3,13 but keep on exhorting one another day by day, as long as
one can speak of “today”, so that none of you is hardened by the
deceitfulness of sin. 3,14 For we have become partakers of Christ if
we maintain valid the beginning of the underlying reality until the
end. 3,15 In the reading “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden
your hearts as in the rebellion”, 3,16 who, then, on hearing, rebelled?
Was it not all coming out of Egypt through Moses? 3,17 And with
whom was anger vented for forty years? Was it not with those who
sinned and whose corpses fell in the desert? 3,18 And to whom did he
swear that they would not enter into his rest if not those who were
unbelievers? 3,19 And we see that they were unable to enter because
of unbelief. 4,1 Let us fear, therefore, that, with a promise of entering
into his rest still remaining, any one of you might be thought to have
fallen short. 4,2 For we also have received the good news just as they
did, but the word heard did not benefit them, since they were not
united in faith with those who heard. 4,3 For we are entering into the
rest, we who have believed, just as has been said, “Thus did I swear in
my anger, ‘They shall not enter into my rest’”. 4,4 For he has spoken
somewhere concerning the seventh day in this way, And God rested
on the seventh day from all of his works. 4,5 And again, in this [verse
from the psalm], “They shall not enter into my rest.” 4,6 Since
therefore it remains for some to enter into it, and those who previously
had received the good news did not enter because of disobedience, 4,7
he again designates a certain day “Today”, speaking through David
after such a long time, as was said before, “Today, if you hear his
voice, do not harden your hearts.” 4,8 For if Jesus had given them
rest, he would not be speaking about another day thereafter. 4,9 And
so, a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God. 4,10 For the one who
enters his rest has himself also rested from his own works, just as God
rested from his own works. 4,11 Let us hasten therefore to enter into
that rest in order that no one may fall in that same type of
disobedience. 4,12 For the Word of God is living and effective and
sharper than any two-edged sword and penetrating up to the division
of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to judge the innermost
thoughts and purposes of the heart.
5.5 A Suggested Structure for 3,7 – 4,12
The author begins this subsection with a lengthy citation from Ps
95,7-11 at Heb 3,7b-11 which he attributes to “the holy spirit”.159 This
is the obvious beginning of a new block of material, introduced by the
illative particle diov, “therefore”, which indicates the importance of the
preceding material as summed up by 3,6. The structure of what
follows the citation from Ps 95 at 3,12 – 4,12 would seem best viewed
as a comment on the citation. This comment seems to be divided into
four parts:
  1) 3,12-19
  2) 4,1-7
  3) 4,8-11
  4) 4,12

The first part, 3,12-19 is considered a distinct part of the subsection
because it is framed by the use of the words blevpw and ajpistiva in
3,12 and 3,19.160

The second part is to be considered self-standing because of its theme
of “rest” developed by an elaborate gezera shawa placed in its heart.
The gezera shawa involves the word of Ps 95,11 indicating “rest:
(katavpausi~) and a citation from Gen 2,2 involving the verb
meaning “to rest” (katapauvw). The result is that the “rest” spoken of
by the original author of Ps 95 becomes the “rest” which God enjoyed
after the six days of creation, i.e., eternal life.

The third part is separated in a qualified way from what precedes by
reason of the sudden introduction of Joshua in 4,8. The mention of his
name as found in the Septuagint— jIhsou`~—also brings to mind Jesus
who is the center of Hebrews and whose mention thus prepares the
way for the climactic verse 4,12.

    For Gräßer ([1990], p. 174, n. 7) to view the words to; pneu`ma to; a{gion as an
allusion to “the holy spirit” is “quite misleading” (“ganz abwegig”). But in view of
Heb 2,4 understood in the context of Heb 1,5-14, the allusion is appropriate. The
Christian addressees are accompanying the new law on their new exodus, and God
is acting as a co-witness through sharings in a “holy spirit”. The choice is not
between the Holy Spirit of Constantinople I and some completely irrelevant “holy
spirit” which has no conceivable relation to the Holy Spirit of Constantinople I.
Datur tertium.

      So Lane (1991a), p. 83.

The fourth part is the famous passage about the “two-edged sword”.
Except that in this set of observations the lovgo~ which is currently
interpreted as referring to the word of God in scripture will be
interpreted as the Word of God in the Johannine sense of the divine

5.6. A Suggested Meaning for 3,7 – 4,12
The passage 3,7 – 4,12 is one of considerable subtlety and needs
attention to elements lying beneath the surface to produce some kind
of plausible interpretation.

5.6.1. 3,12-19
The understanding of this passage is complicated by the uncertainty
regarding the syntax of vv. 14, 15, and 16. The problem centers on v.
15, which has no principal verb. One way to solve the problem is to
regard verse 14 as a parenthesis.161 But this makes of vv. 12-15 an
improbably long sentence.162 It would seem preferable to interpret vv.
12-13 as forming one sentence, and v. 14 as forming another, on the
grounds that each sentence which results expresses a complete thought
and each sentence is introduced by an illative particle. V. 15 thus
becomes the introduction of a sentence of which v. 16 is the
conclusion. In this reading the word gavr at the beginning of v. 16 is
difficult but not impossible to explain. But the meaning of the citation
of Ps 95,7-8 in v. 15 must be part of the explanation, for vv. 12-19 are
plausibility seen only in the light of their position as comments on
what precedes them. It would seem that the citation of these verses at
v. 15 is meant to be an indication that the entire passage Ps 95,7-11 is
being alluded to. The reason for this affirmation is that explicit
references are made in v. 16-18 to the entire passage vv. 7-11: in v. 16
through the use of parapikraivnw (cf. parapikasmw`) in v. 8, in v. 17
through the use of prosocqivzw (cf. proswvcqisa in v. 10), and in v.
18 through the use of ojmnuvw (cf. in v. 11).

What seems to be happening is this: the author of Hebrews is faced

    That seems to be the interpretation implied by the punctuation of the Greek text
given by Merk–O’Callaghan given above. The text of Nestle–Aland27 has a dash at
the end of v. 13 and a dash at the end of v. 14, implying that v. 14 is to be
interpreted as part of a sentence of which it is neither the beginning nor he end. This
is the interpretation followed by Attridge (1989), pp. 225-226.
      Cf. the discussion in Ellingworth (1993), pp. 225-226.
with the problem of showing that the exodus generation was unable to
enter into the “rest” of the promised land because of “unbelief”
(ajpistiva)—cf. vv. 12 and 19, where the words ajpistiva and blevpw
are used as a framing device. But the word ajpistiva is not found in
the citation from Ps 95. The author’s citations at vv. 16-18 of the three
references to Ps 95,7-11 end up with his saying that those who “did
not obey” (ajpeiqevw) would not enter into the rest—even though this
word does not appear in the citation from Ps 95 either. Thus he makes
ajpistiva the equivalent of ajpeiqevw but needs to presuppose that
hardness of heart in the context will be understood as lack of faith-
trust on the part of the exodus generation caused by their deliberate
refusal to believe. In this way the citation of Ps 95,7-8 at v. 15 with its
emphasis on hardness of heart is used to bring in the entire citation of
vv. 7-11 of Ps 95 to support the conclusion that unbelief must be
avoided if one is to enter the promised land. This conclusion leads to
the warning to the addressees based on the observation that the exodus
generation was unable to enter into the rest of the promised land
because of their unbelief (ajpistiva). This argumentation is designed
to support the exhortation of vv. 12-15 to avoid unbelief (ajpistiva) by
remaining partakers of Christ (cf. vv. 12 and 14). Thus v. 16 seems to
be an example of the use of gavr with an interrogative pronoun as part
of a question which explains a rather obscure matter. Here in Hebrews
the obscure matter is the author’s advancing the case against ajpistiva
on the basis of a psalm passage in which the word ajpistiva is not
found. This in turn would seem to indicate that the particle gavr is
being used in an attenuated sense.163 The argument is complicated but
the point is clear: remaining “sharers” (mevtocoi in v. 14) in Christ164
is absolutely necessary if hardness of heart is to be avoided, and
hardness of heart is the basis for a lack of faith-trust, and a lack of
faith-trust is what keeps the Christian from suffering the same fate as
the Exodus generation of Israel.

   Cf. Zorell (1961), “gavr”, II (col. 242): “Particula explicative—enim, etenim: res
brevius, obscurius, per transennem dicta fusius explicatur vel modi loquendi ratio
redditur … — quia interrogatione rei obscurae explicatio elicitur, consuevit tiv~
gavr, tiv gavr, mh; gavr etc. … Hb 316 … “. This would seem to be the same use
mentioned in Bauer (61988), “gavr”, 1,f. (col. 305) and translated by “denn, denn
auch”. The translation adopted in the text above, “then”, follows Zorell’s “enim”
and Bauer’s “denn”.
   At this point the relevance of the transition sentence Heb 3,6, with its
identification of the addresses with the cultic “house” of Christ, becomes clear.

5.6.2. 4,1-7
This subsection centers on vv. 3-5 which constitute an elaborate
gezera shawa, the purpose of which is to show that the “rest” spoken
of in Ps 95,7-11 is really the “rest” which God entered into on the
Sabbath following the works of creation.165 This, of course, makes the
whole argumentation much more far-reaching: instead of being a
discussion about entering the “land” promised to Abraham, the
discussion becomes centered on entering eternal life.166 The passage
ends with a statement of the author affirming that inasmuch as the
Exodus generation did not take advantage of the occasion offered
them to “enter” the land because of disobedience (v. 6), the promise
still stood. For David, presumably as prophet,167 still spoke of the
importance of not hardening one’s heart in Ps 95,7-8, and this
admonition was issued long after the failure of the Exodus generation.
But at the same time the fact that the admonition is repeated long after
the original promised land was not entered implies that the time of
eschatological salvation has come, thus supporting the argumentation
of the gezera shawa. Thus it develops that the promise of God to
Abraham in Genesis was really about eternal life: the application to
the “promised land” of Canaan was meant to be provisional.

But the clarification about the nature of the promise made to Abraham
is not the only major point made by the subsection 4,1-7. In 4,2 occurs
the statement that the Christians have “received the good news” (kai;
gavr ejsmen eujhggelismevnoi) just as the Exodus generation did. This
linking of the “good news” to the idea of “promise” (ejpaggeliva) is
not unique in the New Testament.168 But what follows in 4,2 is: “ …

      Cf. Attridge (1989), pp. 128-130.
   This change of supposition underlying the passage does not necessarily imply, of
course, that the members of the Exodus generation who failed to enter the promised
land of Canaan really failed to enter eternal life. It just means that they did not enter
into the promised land of Canaan through their own lack of faith-trust. Further, in
terms of the means available them as known at the time, they were unable to enter
into God’s rest. (Cf. 4,8-11 and the discussion which will be advanced in the text.)
  “The phrase recalls the remark of the exordium (1:1) about God’s speaking ejn
toi`~ profhvtai~. It should not be construed as simply ‘in (the book) of David’ ….
The LXX explicitly attributes the psalm to David” (Attridge [1989], p. 130, n. 95.
but the word heard did not benefit them, since they were not sharers in
faith with those who had heard” (ajll j oujk wjfevlhsen oJ lovgo~ th`~
ajkoh`~ ejkeivnou~ mh; sugkekerasmevnou~ th`/ pivstei toi`~
ajkouvsasin). This last part of the verse has been a source of perplexity
as regards the verb sugkekerasmevnou~ and related manuscript
readings.169 But a more important source of perplexity involves the
identity of “those who had heard” (toi`~ ajkouvsasin).

Three things need explaining with regard to “those who had heard”
(toi`~ ajkouvsasin): 1) the identity of “those who had heard” (toi`~
ajkouvsasin); 2) the nature of “the word heard” (oJ lovgo~ th`~ ajkoh`~);
3) the way in which the Exodus generation (ejkeivnou~170) failed to be
“united in faith” (mh; sugkekerasmevnou~ th`/ pivstei). “Those who
heard” (toi`~ ajkouvsasin) must refer to a group other than the group
referred to by the word ajkouvsante~ in 3,16, i.e., the Exodus
generation, all of whom “rebelled”, i.e., “heard” in the sense only of
becoming aware of the message, not in the Semitic sense of also
obeying what they were aware of.171 For the ajkouvsante~ of 3,16 did
not believe whereas the ajkouvsante~ of 4,2 did. This in turn would
seem to imply that the toi`~ ajkouvsasin of 4,2 refers to the Christian
addressees, for 4,3 says “for we are entering into the rest”
(eijsercovmeqa ga;r eij~ th;n katavpausin), sc., because of our belief
in the circumstances indicated in 4,2. But the difficulty with this
understanding of the text is that toi`~ ajkouvsasin is a reference in the
third person, whereas the author in the context habitually uses the first
person when referring to the Christian addresses, of whom he
considers himself a part. Address to the Christians is indicated by the
use of the first person in vv. 1, 2, and 3, i.e., the immediate context
(fobhqw`men, ejsmevn and eijsercovmeqa. If he author had understood
toi`~ ajkouvsasin in 4,2 as referring to the Christian addressees he

      Cf.: Ellingworth (1993), pp. 240-241; Swetnam (2007), p. 45.

      Cf. Lane (1991a), p. 93.
  The identification of the Exodus generation with the word ejkeivnou~, given the
contrast with the Christian generation (ejsmevn) in the context of a subsection in
which the Exodus generation and the Christian generation are being contrasted,
would seem to be unexceptionable. Cf. Ellingworth (1992), p. 242.
   For the purpose of his argumentation the author of Hebrews assumes total failure
on the part of the desert generation. Ps 95, 7-11 makes no mention of the survivors,
though 4,8-11 indicates he was aware that there were such. Cf. Attridge (1989), p.
would have more naturally have written hJmi`n toi`~ ajkouvsasin, or
used some other expression to indicate the first person.172 The
inference from this line of reasoning is that the phrase toi`~
ajkouvsasin in 4,2 refers to a group different not only from the Exodus
generation but from the Christian addressees as well.

The group referred to in Heb 4,2 by the phrase toi`~ ajkouvsasin is a
group known to the author and to the addressees as well: as is
suggested by the article in the context of what has preceded in the
epistle, it would thus logically seem to refer to the first generation of
Christians who “heard” the Lord speaking (cf. 2,3). These Christians
not only “heard” in the sense of “became aware” but “heard” in the
sense of “obeyed”, for they passed what they had “heard” on to “us”
as something worth validating. As interpreted in the present study, the
“things heard” by the first generation at 2,3 were the words of
institution of the Eucharist, which in 2,4 is viewed as the presence of
God among the Christians as they take part in the new exodus. What
the Lord said is referred to as “the things heard” (toi`~ ajkousqei`sin),
also—as interpreted in the present study—with reference to the
Eucharist. In Hebrews “the things heard” seem to be an oral tradition
independent of Scripture.173 In 4,2 then what was “heard” by the first
Christians would constitute what the author calls oJ lovgo~ th`~ ajkoh`~,
“the word heard”. The exodus generation was disadvantaged in that it
did not have contact in faith with the first generation of Christians
which, by implication, the addressees do have. All they had was the
lovgo~ of the Mosaic Law (Heb 2,2). Since, in the context of Heb 3,1-
6, the words of institution of the Eucharist implied membership in the
worshipping community, and the worshipping community meant
membership in Christ, the disadvantage of the Exodus generation was
that it did not have membership in the proper worshipping
community, i.e., were not members of Christ.

Thus, in answering the question about the identity of toi`~
ajkousqei`sin in 4,2 the answer to the other two questions about the
nature of “the word heard” and the meaning of being “united in faith”
assume a plausible interpretation. The “word heard” is something

      Cf. the following verse, v. 3.
   Cf. 1 Thes, 2,13, where the phrase lovgo~ ajkoh`~ has been taken as a reference to
the handing on of tradition (Schippers [1966], pp. 228-230) because of the technical
words paralambavnw and devcomai involving tradition which are found in the
spoken by Christ and passed on orally under legally controlled
conditions so that it remains “valid” as it is passed along. Being
“united in faith” with those who heard means belong to whose to
whom this oral tradition is officially passed on in a valid way and who
“hear” it in the full sense of the word. Thus the hearers are united in
faith within this oral tradition (which goes back to God himself—cf.
the use of lalevw) to Christ himself and the distinctive faith-trust
which marks him and his brothers. And it is this distinctive faith-trust
which enables the Christians to enter as a group.

5.6.3. 4,8-11
Heb 4,8 begins with a reference to Joshua, who has not been
mentioned previously in the epistle.174 Joshua is presented as one who
attempted to usher “them”, i.e., the implied subjects of Ps 95,11, into
God’s “rest”. Strictly speaking, the implied subjects never made it
across the Jordan into the promised land where Joshua found himself
with others for whom the promise of entering the land presumably
was still in force. These he tried to give the needed causes for assuring
definitive entrance, but he failed, faith being always presumed. This
needed cause was circumcision (cf. Jos 5,2-9). The author relies on
the gezera shawa of 4,3-5 to imply that there is question of God’s own
“rest”. This is confirmed by the introduction of the word
sabbatismov~ as a new thematic word for katavpausi~ which has
been used thus far (cf. the previous verse, 4,8, and the use of the verb
and noun in 4,10 and 4,11).175 The expression “for the people of God”
(tw`/ law`/ tou` qeou`) in connection with sabbatismov~ alludes to the
continuity between the “people” of the Exodus generation and the
“people” of the Christian generation, and confirms that it is the latter
who are entitled to enter. The implications of 4,2 remain.
The sudden introduction of Joshua and of circumcision is hard to
justify if one thinks that the author is looking at his present situation
from the standpoint of the past.176 But the reality would seem to be just

   For a discussion about the way the passage is handled by various commentators
cf. Ellingworth (1993), pp. 252-253.
      Cf. Ellingworth (1993), p. 255.
   “The reference to Joshua, whose name in Greek ( jIhsou`~) is the same as that of
Jesus, suggests a typological comparison between one ajrchgov~ of the old covenant
and that of the new. Such a typology was explicitly developed in later Christian
the opposite: he is looking at the past situation from the standpoint of
the present, as usual in Hebrews. He is interpreting what he and his
addressees know about their privileges as Christians in terms of the
past history of the people of God, not to demonize the past but to
divinize the present.
The privileges of the Christians do not mean absolute certainty about
entrance of all of the addressees into God’s rest. The author all along
the passage from 3,12 to 4,11 warns that individuals among the
addressees may still fail. (Cf. the use of ti~ in 3,12.13; 4,1.11.)177 But
this is in contrast to his confidence that the Christian group as such
will enter. (Cf. the use of the plural in 3,13.14; 4,3.5.8[“the
people”].11.)178 The basis of this certainty is clearly dependent on
faith, for the author is constantly exhorting the addressees to avoid
unbelief or to believe in explicit terms (3,12.19; 4,2), all of which is
summed up in the imagery of avoiding “hardness of heart” (mh;
sklhruvnhte ta;~ kardiva~), the words of Ps 95 which act as a
thematic warning throughout the passage.
Thus there is a clear distinction made in 3,7 – 4,7 between the non-
faith of the Exodus generation and the faith of the Christian
addressees. But does the author of Hebrews think that faith in itself is
sufficient to assure entrance into God’s rest? The passage 4,8-11 says
nothing about Joshua’s lack of faith. Further, the indications arising
from the phrase toi`~ ajkousqei`sin point to something involving faith
but beyond faith. They point to Christ and what he said. This
interpretation is reinforced by the insistence of the author that being
“partakers” (mevtocoi) of Christ is necessary, and this involves a
maintaining of a state of validity involving a beginning and an end (cf.
3,14). Hence it would seem that faith, although a necessary condition

literature, but is not exploited here” (Attridge [1989], p. 130). The present study
takes a different position.
      Cf. Swetnam (1965), p. 383.

   “His [sc., the author of Hebrews] certitude of group blessing is indicated by the
way he speaks of possible failure. It is not failure of the group as such that he
regards as possible, but failure by individuals. … The success of the Christians in
attaining their goal is simply dependent on their maintaining their union as
individuals with Christ (3,14)” (Swetnam [1965], p. 383).
for entrance, is not in itself sufficient. It would seem that Jesus
Christ is the decisive factor, granted the need to share his faith-trust.
A closer look at the contrast which the author Hebrews has made
between the Exodus generation and the Christians is in order. For the
purposes of the author of Hebrews Christian life can be considered as
an exodus. This is implied in Heb 2,4 where the distinctive Septuagint
phrasing involving the original Exodus (sunepimarturou`nto~ tou`
qeou` shmeivoi~ te kai; tevrasin) is used to describe the aftermath of
the “salvation which had its beginning spoken through the Lord”
(2,3). That a Christian exodus is involved is further indicated by the
evocation of the Sinai covenant in 2,2, an event which can be
considered as important in the first Exodus. (All of this has been
amply discussed above in Chapter 4.)
The way in which the giving of the Sinai covenant is presented in 2,2
is worth emphasizing, for it pictures the Sinai covenant as a physical
entity which is termed a lovgo~. This physical entity consisted of “the
book” (tov biblivon) [sc., of the Law]—cf. Heb 9,19—and as such
symbolized the divine presence with the people in their journey. It
was failure to maintain faith in this symbolic presence and all that it
implied which was the precise cause of the doom of the Exodus
generation (cf. Ex 17,7). It was the failure of the Exodus generation to
believe in the presence of God and therefore of his power to effect
entrance into the land which condemned that generation to failure, not
the failure to believe in the promise of entrance as such. God’s
faithfulness in maintaining his promise, not the promise itself, was
placed in question by the rebellious generation. What guarantees
success for the Christian generation is not simply faith as such but
faith in Jesus Christ as such, and all that Jesus Christ has indicated as
being necessarily implied by that faith.
It is instructive to consider Heb 2,3 / Heb 3,5 in the light of the giving
of the Sinai covenant which is specified to be a lovgo~. The warning in

    “Only faith as confident expectation for the future can secure the promised
reality” [sc., of entrance into God’s rest] (Lane [1991a], p. 98). But Lane gets
himself into a bind when he attributes to the faith of Joshua a sufficient cause for
guaranteeing entrance: “The past generation received the promise in vain because
they refused to believe the word they heard (Num 14:11; cf. 3:123, 19). They did not
share the faith of Joshua and Caleb who listened to the promise of God and regarded
it as certain” (Lane [1991a], p. 98). But 4,8-11 seems to imply that Joshua, despite
his faith, was unable to give God’s rest to those who presumably believed.
Heb 2,3 of the dangers involved in ignoring the parallel “salvation” of
the Lord is an indication that this is the focal point of belief for the
Christians in their exodus. They are challenged to believe in the real
divine presence in the Eucharist180 just as the Exodus generation was
challenged to believe in the symbolic divine presence in the book of
the Law given through angels as Sinai. This is the situation which the
author of Hebrews picks up at 3,7 when he begins his long citation
from Ps 95 with its obvious reference to the original Exodus. His
comments in 3,7 – 4,11 simply move further along this line of
comparison. This is the situation when 4,12 appears.
5.6.4. 4,12
The almost unanimous view of contemporary interpreters of the
epistle is that the lovgo~ of 4,12 is the “word” of God as found in
Scripture.181 But in the light of the comparison which has been drawn
by the author of Hebrews between the original Exodus and the exodus
of the Christians a different conclusion suggests itself. Just as the
enabling divine presence symbolized by the book of the Law was
alluded to by the author of Hebrews in describing the book of the Law
as a lovgo~ (cf. 2,2), so the enabling divine presence of Christ himself
in the Eucharist is alluded to when the author calls it the lovgo~—oJ
lovgo~.182 This explains the insistence of the author of Hebrews on the
importance of being mevtocoi of Christ (3,14). It explains why the
“leaders” of the Christian worship can “speak” to the Christians “the
word” (to;n lovgon) of God (13,7). And it explains the insertion of the
incident of Joshua at 4,8-11: just as Jesus with the institution of the
Eucharist thereby set in motion the journey of the Christian
worshipping community to the eternal rest of God, so Jesus as
enabling divine presence acts as an effective agent of spiritual
circumcision which begins the participation of the individual in this
Christian group exodus destined infallibly to succeed.183

   The whole question of the “real presence” in Hebrews will be discussed in the
treatment of Chapter 9 of the epistle.
   Cf. Attridge (1989), pp 134-136; Lane (1991a), pp. 102-103; Ellingworth (1993),
pp. 260-264.
      Christ as Word is always the prime analogate of all words. He is always oJ lovgo~.
   A Eucharistic meaning for the lovgo~ of Heb 4,12 is unique with me, as far as I
know. But to identify it with the Word of John’s Gospel is certainly not, in Catholic
tradition: “L’exégèse grecque, depuis Clément d’Alexandrie … et Origène …, et
The text itself of Heb 4,11 as well as the immediate context supports
the above conclusion. The imagery of 4,11 is that of circumcision of
the heart.184 In contrast to the ineffectual circumcision administered by
Joshua, the Word of God administers an effective circumcision, for he
is “sharper than a two-edged knife”, i.e., his efficacious action is
sharper than the knife of circumcision (mavcaira) used by Joshua to
circumcise the Israelites.185 The vivid language of the verse
(“penetrating up to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow,
and able to judge the innermost thoughts and purposes of the heart”) is
a way of alluding to the spiritual circumcision of the heart, mentioned
by Paul in Rom 2,18-29.186 Further, instead of being the only instance
in Hebrews in which the adjective zw`n is used of a non-person, v. 12
becomes an example of this pattern.187
This interpretation of oJ lovgo~ in Heb 4,12 as the living Word of God
accompanying the Christians on their exodus journey to God’s own
rest and thus as the real presence of the divinity (as opposed to the
symbolic presence of the divinity in the first Exodus) thus seems to be
an interpretation which fits the context of the epistle better than the
current one of the word of God in Scripture. The latter does not
adequately explain why the entrance of the Christians into God’s rest
as a group is de jure, i.e., a matter of right. It is a matter of right not
because of anything the Christians have did, but because of what
Christ himself did through his death on the cross. And the Christians,
if they maintain their faith-trust in Christ and his resurrection as he
maintained his faith-trust in his, will receive the same destiny that

latin, depuis S. Ambroise … jusqu’à S. Thomas et Cajetan, a entendu ‘la parole de
Dieu’ du Verbe et l’a identifiée au Fils (v. 14; 1,2), mais elle est rejetée de tous les
modernes, le contexte n’autorisant pas à donner à lovgo~ son sens johannique de
personne divine” (Spicq [1953], p. 87). Cf. Swetnam (1981a), pp. 87-88.
    For the present writer’s previous discussion of Heb 4,12-13 cf. Swetnam (1981a),
pp. 214-224; Swetnam (2001), pp. 103-107; Swetnam (2007c), pp. 48-51.

      Cf. Jos 5,2-9[LXX]. Cf. also Michaelis (1950), pp. 532-533.
    In the fifth century the Syriac writer Aphrahat in his Demonstrations (XI,12)
draws the same parallel between Joshua and Jesus and calls the latter’s circumcision
a circumcision “of the heart” and links it with baptism. Cf. Aphrahat (1894), cols.
502. Cf. Swetnam (1981a), pp. 217-218. Cf. Col 2,11-12 where baptism is identified
with a circumcision instituted by Christ.
      Cf. Heb 2,15; 3,12; 7,8.25; 9,14.17; 10,20.3138; 12,9.12.
Christ did, for they are mevtocoi of Christ through the baptism which
he administers and which makes possible this sharing in Christ. It all
hangs together.
Additional compelling arguments for the meaning of lovgo~ in the
context of Hebrews can be advanced. But these arguments will be
presented in the next chapter, which deals with Heb 4,12 – 6,20.

CHAPTER 6. Hebrews 4,13 – 6,20

With Heb 3,7 – 4,12 explained as a treatment of the nature of the
“rest” which awaits Christians as a result of the promise of land made
to Abraham, it remains to be seen how the extended passage 4,13 –
6,20 is to be understood.
6.1. Delimitation of Material
Chapter 7 seems to present an organic whole within its 28 verses. The
question is how to understand the intervening material after the
interpretation of Heb 4,12 given above. Heb 6,20 thus provides an
outer limit. But the intervening material seems to offer thoughts
relevant to the lovgo~ as high priest and victim. Just how the material
is structured though needs clarification. As was mentioned above, this
structure seems to be as follows:
   4,13 – 5,10 (Presentation based on promise of offspring to
      Abraham with concentration on Christ as victim)
   5,11 – 6,8 (Negative exhortation based on what precedes)
   6,9-20 (Positive exhortation based on what precedes)
6.2. The Greek Text
4,13 kai; oujk e[stin ktivsi~ ajfanh;~ ejnwvpion aujtou`, pavnta de;
gumna; kai; tetrachlismevna toi`~ ojfqalmoi`~ aujtou`, pro;~ o}n
hJmi`n oJ lovgo~. 4,14 [Econte~ ou\n ajrciereva mevgan dielhluqovta
tou;~ oujranouv~, jIhsou`n to;n uiJo;n tou` Qeou`, kratw`men th`~
oJmologiva~. 4,15 ouj ga;r e[comen ajrciereva mh; dunavmenon
sumpaqh`sai tai`~ ajseqneivai~ hJmw`n, pepeirasmevnon de; kata;
pavnta kaq j oJmoiovthta cwri;~ aJmartiva~. 4,16 prosercwvmeqa ou\n
meta; parrhsiva~ tw`/ qrovnw/ th`~ cavrito~, i{na lavbwmen e[leo~ kai;
cavrin eu{rwmen eij~ eu[kairon bohvqeian. 5,1 Pa`~ ga;r ajrciereu;~
ejx ajnqrwvpwn lambanovmeno~ uJpe;r ajnqrwvpwn kaqivstatai ta; pro;~
to;n Qeovn, i{na prosfevrh/ dw`rav te kai; qusiva~ uJpe;r aJmartiw`n.
5,2 metriopaqei`n dunavmeno~ toi`~ ajgnoou`sin kai; planwmevnoi~,
ejpei; kai; aujto;~ perivkeitai ajsqevneian 5,3 kai; di j aujth;n ojfeivlei,
kaqw;~ peri; tou` laou`, ou{tw~ kai; peri; aujtou` prosfevrein peri;
aJmartiw`n. 5,4 kai; oujc eJautw`/ ti~ lambavnei th;n timhvn, ajlla;
kalouvmeno~ uJpo; tou` Qeou` kaqwvsper kai; jAarwvn. 5,5 Ou{tw~ kai;
oJ Cristo;~ oujc eJauto;n ejdovxasen genhqh`nai ajrciereva, ajll j oJ
lalhvsa~ pro;~ aujtovn: uiJov~ mou ei\ suv, ejgw; shvmeron genevnnhkav
se. 5,6 kaqw;~ kai; ejn eJtevrw/ levgei: su; iJereu;~ eij~ to;n aijw`na
kata; th;n tavxin Melcisedevk. 5,7 o}~ ejn tai`~ hJmevrai~ th`~
sarko;~ aujtou` dehvsei~ te kai; iJkethriva~ pro;~ to;n dunavmenon
sw/vzein aujto;n ejk qanavtou meta; kraugh`~ ijscura`~ kai; dakruvwn
prosenevgka~ kai; eijsakousqei;~ ajpo; th`~ eujlabeiva~, 5,8 kai;per
w]n uiJov~, e[maqen ajf j w|n e[paqen th;n uJpakohvn, 5,9 kai; teleiwqei;~
ejgevneto pa`sin to`~ uJpakouvousin aujtw`/ ai[tio~ swthriva~ aijwnivou,
5,10 prosagoreuqei;~ uJpo; tou` qeou` ajrciereu;~ kata; th;n tavxin
Melcisedevk. 5,11 Peri; ou| polu;~ hJmi`n oJ lovgo~ kai;
dusermhvneuto~ levgein, ejpei; nwqroi; gegovnate tai`~ ajkoai`~. 5,12
kai; ga;r ojfeivlonte~ ei\nai didavskaloi dia; to;n crovnon, pavlin
creivan e[cete tou` didavskein uJma`~ tina; ta; stoiceia` th`~ ajrch`~
tw`n logivwn tou` Qeou`, kai; gegovnate creivan e[conte~ gavlakto~,
kai; ouj sterea`~ trofh`~. 5,13 pa`~ ga;r oJ metevcwn gavlakto~
a[peiro~ lovgou dikaiosuvnh~, nhvpio~ gavr ejstin: 5,14 teleivwn dev
ejstin hJ sterea; trofhv, tw`n dia; th;n e{xin ta; aijsqhthvria
gegumnasmevna ejcovntwn pro;~ diavkrisin kalou` te kai; kakou`. 6,1
Dio; ajfevnte~ to;n th`~ ajrch`~ tou` Crisou` lovgon ejpi; th;n
teleiovthta ferwvmeqa, mh; pavlin qemevlion kataballovmenon
metanoiva~ ajpo; nekrw`n e[rgwn kai; pivstew~ ejpi; qeovn, 6,2
baptismw`n didach`~ ejpiqevsewv~ te ceirw`n, ajnastavsewv~ te
nekrw`n kai; krivmato~ aijwnivou. 6,3 kai; tou`to poihvsomen, ejavnper
ejpitrevph/ oJ qeov~. 6,4 jAduvnaton ga;r tou;~ a{pax fwtisqevnta~
geusamevnou~ te th`~ dwrea`~ th`~ ejpouranivou kai; metovcou~
genhqevnta~ pneuvmato~ aJgivou 6,5 kai; kalo;n geusamevnou~ Qeou`
rJh`ma dunavmei~ te mevllonta~ aijw`no~, 6,6 kai; parapesovnta~,
pavlin ajnakainivzein eij~ metavnoian, ajnastauarou`nta~ eJautoi`~
to;n uiJo;n tou` Qeou` kai; paradeigmativzonta~. 6,7 gh` ga;r hJ
piou`sa to;n ejpi j aujth`~ ejrcovmenon pollavki~ uJeto;n kai; tivktousa
botavnhn eu[qeton ejkeivnoi~ di j ou}~ kai; gewrgei`tai,
metalambavnei eujlogiva~ ajpo; tou` Qeou`: 6,8 ejkfevrousa de;
ajkavnqa~ kai; tribovlou~ ajdovkimo~ kai; katavra~ ejgguv~, h|~ to;
tevlo~ eij~ kau`sin. 6,9 Pepeismeqa de; peri; uJmw`n, ajgaphtoiv, ta;
kreivssona kai; ejcovmena swthriva~, eij kai; ou{tw~ lalou`men. 6,10
ouj ga;r a[diko~ oJ Qeo;~ ejpilaqevsqai tou` e[rgou uJmw`n kai; th`~
ajgavph~ h|~ ejnedeivxasqe eij~ to; o[noma aujtou`, diakonhvsante~
toi`~ aJgivoi~ kai; diakonou`nte~. 6,11 ejpiqumou`men de; e{kaston
uJmw`n th;n aujth;n ejndeivknusqai spoudh;n pro;~ th;n plhroforivan
th``~ ejlpivdo~ a[cri tevlou~, 6,1§2 i{na mh; nwqroi; gevnhsqe, mimhtai;
de; tw`n dia; pivstew~ kai; makroqumiva~ klhronomouvntwn ta;~
ejpaggeliva~. 6,13 Tw`/ ga;r JAbraa;m ejpaggeilavmeno~ oJ Qeo;~,
ejpei; kat j oujdeno;;~ ei|cen meivzono~ oJmovsai, w[mosen kaq j eJautou`,
6,14 levgwn: eij mh;n eujlogw`n eujloghvsw se kai; plhquvnwn plhqunw`
se: 6,15 kai; ou{tw~ makroqumhvsa~ ejpevtucen th`~ ejpaggeliva~.
6,16 a[nqrwpoi ga;r kata; tou` meivzono~ ojmnuousin, kai; pavsh~
aujtoi`~ ajntilogiva~ pevra~ eij~ bebaivwsin oJ o{rko~. 6,17 ejn w|/
perissovteron boulovmeno~ oJ Qeo;~ ejpidei`xai toi`~ klhronovmoi~
th`~ ejpaggeliva~ to; ajmetavqeton th`~ boulh`~ aujtou` ejmesivteusen
o{rkw/, 6,18 i{na dia; duvo pragmavtwn ajmetaqevtwn, ejn oi|~
ajduvnaton yeuvsasqai to;n Qeovn, ijscura;n paravklhsin e[cwmen oiJ
katafugovnte~ krath`sai th`~ prokeimevnh~ ejlpivdo~: 6,19 h}n wJ~
a[gkuran e[comen th`~ yuch`~ ajsfalh` te kai; bebaivan kai;
eijsercomevnhn eij~ to; ejswvteron tou` katapetavsmato~. 6,20 o{pou
provdromo~ uJpe;r hJmw`n eijsh`lqen jIhsou`~, kata; th;n tavxin
Melcisede;k ajrciereu;~ genovmeno~ eij~ to;n aijw`na.
6.3. A Suggested Translation
4,13 And no creature is invisible before him, but all things are naked
and exposed to his eyes with whom on our behalf is the Word. 4,14
Having, therefore, a great high priest who has passed through the
heavens, Jesus, the son of God, let us hold fast to the confession. 4,15
For we do not have a priest who is unable to sympathize with our
weaknesses, but one who has been tested in every respect the same
way we are, apart from sin. 4,16 Let us therefore with our rightful
freedom approach the throne of grace in order that we may obtain
mercy and find favor for timely help. 5,1 For every high priest taken
from men is ordained for men with respect to things pertaining to
God, so that he might bring both gifts and sacrifices for sins, 5,2 being
able to act with moderation toward those who are ignorant and those
who go astray, since he himself is beset with weakness 5,3 and
because of this ought both for the people for himself to make an
offering. 5,4 And no one takes the honor for himself but when called
by God just as Aaron was. 5,5 And so Christ did not give himself the
glory of becoming high priest but the one who spoke to him, “You
are my son, today I have begotten you.” 5,6 Just as in another place he
says, “You are a priest forever according to the order of
Melchizedek.” 5,7 Who in the days of his flesh, having offered with a
loud cry and tears prayers and petitions to the one able to save him
from death, and having been heard because of his reverence 5,8 even
though son, learned from the things he suffered obedience, 5,9 and
once brought to perfection became for all those who obeyed him cause
of eternal salvation, 5,10 having been designated by God high priest
according to the order of Melchizedek. 5,11 Concerning this the word
is lengthy, and difficult to say, since you have become lazy in hearing.
5,12 For even if by this time you should be teachers, you have need of
someone to teach you the first elements of God’s communications and
you have become needy of milk and not of solid food. 5,13 For
anyone who shares in milk is inexperienced in the word of justice, for
he is a child. 5,14 Solid food however is for the perfect, those who
have discernment disciplined through habit for distinguishing good
from evil. 6,1 For this reason, leaving behind the word of the
beginning about the Christ, let us move on to what is most perfect, not
laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and faith in
God, 6,2 of teaching about ablutions and the laying on of hands, of
resurrection from the dead and of eternal judgment. 6,3 And this we
shall do, if God permits. 6,4 For it is impossible that those who have
once been enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift and have
become sharers in a heavenly spirit 6,5 and have tasted the goodness
of God’s speech and the powers of the age to come 6,6 and having
fallen, to be renewed for repentance, as they go on crucifying to their
own hurt the son of God and making him an object of scorn. 6,7 For
land which, drinking the rain which often comes on it and bearing
crops for those for whom it is cultivated, receive blessings from God;
6,8 but producing thorns and thistles it is worthless and near to a
cursing, and its destiny is fire. 6,9 But in your case we are convinced,
dear friends, that there are better things having to do with salvation, if
we may speak in this way. 6,10 For God is not so unjust as to forget
your work and the love which you showed for his name in having
served the saints and in serving them still. 6,11 Now we strongly
desire that each one of you show the same eagerness for the fullness
of hope until the end, 6,12 so that you may not become lazy, but
imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
6,13 For God, after promising to Abraham, since he had no one
greater to swear by, swore by himself, 6,14 saying, “I will surely bless
you and I will surely multiply you.” 6,15 And so in patience he
received the promise. 6,16 For men swear by the greater, and the
conclusion of every dispute is the oath for validation. 6,17 In this
context God, wishing to show to the heirs of the promise in a more
forceful way the unchanging nature of his intention, confirmed it with
an oath. 6,18 so that through two unchangeable things, to which it is
impossible that God lie, we, who have fled so as to lay hold of the
hope at hand, might have a strong source of encouragement. 6,19 We
have this hope as an anchor of the soul, steady and valid and entering
into the interior of the veil 6,20 where Jesus entered on our behalf as a
forerunner, having become high priest according to the order of
Melchizedek for all eternity.
6.4. A Suggested Structure
The larger structure suggested above can perhaps be best be filled out
in the following way:
   4,13 A discussion of the Lovgo~ as priest/victim as an introduction
      to what follows
      4,14-16 A brief passage immediately following 4,13 just as 4,8-11
         immediately preceded 4,12
      5,1-10 A presentation of Christ as victim
      5,11 – 6,12 A negative exhortation based on 4,13 – 5,10
      6,13-20 A positive exhortation based on 4,13 – 5,10
6.5. 4,13
Heb 4,13 can be best understood initially by putting it in the context
of the immediately preceding verse, 4,12:
      4,12 Zw`n ga;r oJ lovgo~ tou` qeou` kai; ejnergh;~ kai; tomwvtero~
      uJpe;r pavsan mavcairan divstomon kai; diiknouvmeno~ a[cri
      merismou` yuch`~ kai; pneuvmato~, ajrmw`n te kai; muelw`n kai;
      kritiko;~ ejnqumhvsewn kai; ejnnoiw`n kardiva~: 4,13 kai; oujk
      e[stin ktivsi~ ajfanh;~ ejnwvpion aujtou`, pavnta de; gumna; kai;
      tetrachlismevna toi`~ ojfqalmoi`~ aujtou`, pro;~ o}n hJmi`n oJ
A number of problems suggest themselves when the two verses are
juxtaposed as they are in the original text. Perhaps the most tantalizing
is the apparent inclusion formed by the word lovgo~ which stands near
the beginning of v. 12 and at the very end of v. 13. One recalls the
way the word uiJov~ was placed at the beginning and end of Heb 1,5 to
form a gezera shawa. Here, in Heb 4,12-13 there is no question of a
gezera shawa: the two verses in question are not citations from
Scripture. But conventional exegesis gives the two occurrences of
lovgo~ different meanings, the “word” of God in Scripture and an
“account”.188 But the inclusion formed by the word lovgo~, especially
when viewed in the light of the use of uiJov~ in Heb 1,5, is undeniable.
Thus a rather bizarre situation results.189 Another problem involves the

   Cf.: Attridge (1989), pp. 133-136; Lane (1991a), pp. 102-103; Ellingworth
(1993), pp. 259-265.
   “Une inclusion ouvre et ferme la longue phrase [sc., 4,12-13]: les premiers mots
présentent oJ lovgo~ tou` qeou` et les derniers dissent hJmi`n oJ lovgo~. Lovgo~, il est
vrai, n’est pas pris les deux fois dans la même acception: au début, il s’agit de la
parole de Dieu; à la fin, il s’agit, soit de l’exposé en course, soit—plus
probablement—du compte que nous aurons à render. Il en résulte pour le text une
certaine bizarrerie, qui s’accenture encore, lorsqu’on remarque que le pro;~ o{n
(traduit: «et c’est à lui») désigne le lovgo~ du début: c’est à la parole quil faut
addresser la parole!” (Vanhoye [1962 (1976)], p. 102). The exegesis of the present
study is based on the supposition that the author of Hebrews is not given to writing
imagery involved in the two verses. The usual practice is to regard the
two verses as united, but the problem then is to reconcile the image of
the sharpness of the word of God in Scripture of v. 12 with the image
of God’s judging activity in v. 13.190 Finally, there is the striking
phrasing at the beginning of 4,14: [Econte~ ou\n ajrciereva .... If one
adopts the common interpretation among exegetes today, the precise
force of the illative particle in the context is not at all clear.191
In the previous chapter the meaning lovgo~ in 4,12 was taken to be
“Word” of God in a personalized sense. Four principal arguments
were advanced for this interpretation which is in agreement with much
tradition in the early Church and even some modern commentators192:
1) in the preceding section 3,7 – 4,11 being connected in faith with
Christ and his words at the institution of the Eucharist through those
who heard the words and passed them on to the present generation of
Christians was considered essential for entering God’s eternal rest (cf.
3,14; 4,2)193; 2) the lovgo~ of 4,12 was considered as the matching
lovgo~ for the lovgo~ of 2,2, used there to describe the Mosaic Law as
the symbol of the divine presence of the Exodus generation in contrast
to the “salvation” (swthriva) which had its beginning of being spoken
through the Lord and is the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist

something which can legitimately be called “bizarre”. A different interpretation of oJ
lovgo~ is called for.
   “It is clear that what the imagery finally conveys is the reality of God’s
judgmental vision. Yet the author has not abandoned the imagery of the sharp word
that conveys God’s vitality. In this verse the metaphor and its referent are
inextricably mixed, as indeed God is inextricably mixed with God’s word” (Attridge
[1989], p. 136). In his confused and confusing discussion of the imagery (and,
ultimately, of the meaning of vv. 12-13) Attridge is driven by the evidence to look
on the imagery as somehow involving two different realities, but does not
investigate the grounds of why the evidence points this way.

   “It is … best to understand ou\n as indicating the resumption of a subject after an
interruption …. In this case, the interruption probably extends from 3:7 to 4:13”
(Ellingworth [1993]. p. 266).

      Cf. Attridge (1989), p. 134, n. 20.

   A key verse here is 3,14. And in 3,14 a key word is uJpovstasi~. Inasmuch as this
word will be seen to have considerable importance in the macroexegesis of the
epistle, a discussion of its place in 3,14 (and 1,3 and 11,1 is best kept until a
discussion of this macroexegesis at the end of this study, once the microexegesis is
in place.
accompanying the Christians on their exodus; 3) the lovgo~ of 4,12
and the imagery of 4,12 explains the sudden reference to Joshua and
his failed rite of circumcision mentioned in 4,8-11: the circumcision
of the heart administered by Christ as lovgo~ is essential for entrance
into God’s rest; 4) the adjective zw`n in 4,12 would conform to its
meaning elsewhere in Hebrews as referring to a living person if the
lovgo~ of 4,12 is taken as a living person too. These arguments are to
be understood as having a cumulative effect, and if the conclusion
which they point to—that the lovgo~—of 4,12 is Christ himself, then
the three problems mentioned above can be shown to be resolved.
The first step to the resolution to the three problems mentioned above
is the separation of v. 13 from v. 12. The inclusion created by the
mention of the same word, lovgo~, at the beginning of v. 12 and at the
end of v. 13 shows that in some sense they belong together. In the
interpretation being advanced here that reason is the identify of
meaning of the two words: the lovgo~ of v. 12 means the person Christ
and the lovgo~ of v. 13 means the person Christ. And this is,
paradoxically, this reason for unity between the two verses is also the
reason for their division. For if the word lovgo~ is the same in both
verses then the imagery must be diverse. For as it stands it does not
make plausible sense.194
In the previous chapter the image presented by v. 12 was said to be
that of a “spiritual circumcision” (i.e., baptism) expressed in terms of
a physical heart which only the divine Word can penetrate and make
available the fruit of his redemptive death. V. 13 would then, by itself,
portray the role of the Word as intercessor with God with the
implication of having been a sacrificial victim with this victimhood
being the grounds for his role as intercessor. The contrived use of the
genitive pronoun aujtou`, the lack of an explicit referent for the relative
pronoun o{n, the double negative in the first clause with its repetition
as positive in the following clause, all point to enhanced emphasis on
the final word lovgo~. The word tetrachlismevna is much discussed,
of course.195 The meaning which seems most plausible is that of a

   An indication of this is the tortured argumentation attendant on attempts by
capable exegetes to portray a unified picture of what is being discussed. Cf., for
example, Attridge (1989), pp. 133-136.

   “The underlying imagery [sc., for the word tetrachlismevna] has been
intensively and inconclusively discussed since patristic times” (Ellingworth [1993],
p. 264.
sacrificial victim, with neck laid bare. In Hebrews the sacrificial
victim is Isaac (cf. Heb 11,17-19).196 In Heb 4,13 the connotation of
such a meaning would be that the Word was a sacrificial victim just as
Isaac was, and this victimhood is the basis for the climactic ending of
the verse, pro;~ o}n uJmi`n oJ lovgo~. On the supposition that oJ lovgo~
means the Word, the phrase would mean that the Word is the
intercessor with God on the behalf of the Christians. The phrase
would thus have the same meaning about the relation of the Word to
God as that expressed in the prologue of John’s Gospel, where the
meaning undoubtedly involves the Word as a divine person: kai; oJ
lovgo~ h\n pro;~ to;n qeovn. Thus the imagery of the exposed neck of a
sacrificial victim with probable allusion to Isaac and thus applied
metaphorical to Christ as sacrificial victim, would be understood in
the context—lapidary to the point of obscurity—of Christ as
intercessor with God. Christ as victim prepares the way for Christ as
intercessory high priest with God. Thus the victimhood of Christ is
linked with the priesthood of Christ as in Heb 2,8b-18. Thus v. 13,
with its presentation of Christ as victim and Christ as high priest
encompasses the essential elements of the Eucharistic mystery which
is the background of 2,8b-18.
This interpretation, in turn, explains the third problem in the common
current interpretation of vv. 12-13, the illative particle ou\n at the
beginning of v. 14. If Christ in v. 13 is portrayed as intercessor with
God, there is no mystery involved in v. 14 calling him a high priest.
There is no problem accommodating this meaning which associates
the mavcaira of v. 12 with sacrifice, for the word used of the
sacrificial knife wielded by Abraham in Gen 22,10 is precisely
mavvcaira. The double meaning for mavvcaira thus plausibly explains
the word divstomo~ at 4,12: the knife has two functions, circumcision
and sacrifice.

   There is a Jewish tradition, reflected in the Targum Pseudio-Jonathan and the
Targum Neofiti on Genesis, that Isaac in v. 10 of Gen 22 of both targums “stretches
out his neck” (hyrww [cycp in Pseudo-Jonathan], hyraw [cycp in Neofiti]) after freely
offering himself in sacrifice. Cf. Maher (1992), p. 80, and McNamara (1992), p.
118. For the text cf. Clarke (1984), p. 24 (Pseudo-Jonathan) and Díez Macho (1968),
p. 127 (Neofiti). This not to imply, of course, that these two targums date in their
present version from the same period as Hebrews. But the fact that there was a
tradition, even at a later date, about Isaac “stretching forth his neck” at the moment
of his freely-willed sacrifice in Genesis is striking, given the text of Heb 11,17. For
a summary of current views about Isaac and the Aqedah roughly contemporary with
the writing of Hebrews cf. Fisk (2009).
The word ou\n in v. 14 also takes on deeper resonance because of the
identical meaning for oJ lovgo~ but different functions for the imagery:
just as the illative particle ou\n indicates that v. 14 relates v. 13 to what
follows, the gavr of v. 12 relates v. 12 to what precedes. Hence just as
v. 12 was the interpretive key to 3,12 – 4,11, so v. 13 is the
interpretive key to 4,14 – 5,10.

6.6. 4,14-16
Just as 4,8-11 is a small sub-section which prepared the way most
immediately for the climactic 4,12, so v. 14-16 is a small sub-section
which immediately explains the antecedent 4,13. Both sub-sections
are brief hortatory passages which aim at deepening the faith-trust of
the addressees.197 V. 14 portrays Jesus as the great high priest who has
“passed through the heavens”. This is poetic language to express
Jesus’ exaltation, which, like other key aspects of his passion, are now
permanent parts of the Christ event.198 Further, the cultic ring of the
passage, with its insistence on the word prosevrcwmeqa, is
unmistakable.199 V. 15 is of importance in the passage, for it links
Jesus as son of God with the “weakness” (ajsqevneia) of “us” (i.e.,
Christians in particular, men in general). As was explained in 2,14-16

  Cf. the spoudavswmen of 4,11 and the kratw`men of 4,14 with the
prosercwvmeqa of 4,16.
    So, acutely, Ellingworth: “Dielhluqovta tou;~ oujranouv~: the exaltation of Jesus,
like his temptations (pepeirasmevnon, v. [1]5). are now viewed as permanent
aspects of the Christ-event, seen as a whole; cf. 2:9, hjlattwmevnon; 12:2…
ejstefanwmevnon; 12:2, kekavqiken; contrast ejkavqisen, 1:3, 8:1, 10:12”
(Ellingworth [1993], p. 266).

   “Neben der Mahnung: kratw`men (v. 14) steht verstärkend prosercwvmeqa (726
101 1022 116 1222). Das vorwiegend priesterliche Sich-Nahen is aus dem AT gut
bekannt (Lev 217 223), ist aber hier auf jedes Glied der Gemeinde übertragen (Apc
16 510 1 Petr 25.9). Die Gemeinde tritt aber nicht zum Priesterdienst vor den „Thron
der Gnade”, sondern al seine Gemeinschaft von Sündern, die Barmherzigkeit und
Gnade erhofft. Sie hat also nichts zu geben, sondern nur zu empfangen. Dem
Gnadenthron kann die Gemeinde nur dadurch nahen, daß sie das Wort von Jesus
Christus als dem rechten Hohenpriester annimt, Im Hören und Glauben „naht ” sie.
An sich meint das Bild, das in der ganzen Antike bekannt ist, einen konkreten und
realen Vorgang, der sich in Gottesdienst ereignet” (Michel [1966], pp. 209). Instead
of believing in the word “of” Jesus Christ the present writer maintains that the
community must believe in the Word who is Jesus Christ. The “concrete and real
procedure which takes place in the worship of God” is of course understood by the
present writer as referring to the Eucharist even though it was not intended in this
way by Michel.
this condition of man in need of help is man’s fear of death. Christ’s
faith-trust in the face of his own personal death was “tested”
(peiravzw) in his suffering and death just as men are being “tested”
(peiravzw) (2,18). And Christ’s victorious example enables Christ to
“help” (bohqevw) such fearful men by making it possible for them to
contemplate his glorious state as victim (2,8b-9). It is participation in
this faith-trust of Christ that is the mark of a brother of Christ (2,11).
This example drawn from Christ as human is of course reinforced
immensely by the realization that the one acting here is oJ Lovgo~.
Thus in the light of vv. 14-16 one can evaluate better the force of the
evocation of the Lovgo~ as a divine person in vv. 12-13. The
immediate force of the evocation was to support the hortatory
subjunctives in vv. 8-11 and vv. 14-16. That is, the author issues an
exhortation to reassure the addressees, and he is clearly absolutely
certain of the grounds for his exhortation. He is certain that the people
as such will enter into eternal life (spoudavswmen. He is certain that
the oJmologiva of the Christians is something to be held onto at all
costs (kratw`men).200 And he is certain that the Christians should
approach the throne of God’s grace in order to obtain mercy and help
(prosevrcwmeqa). It is Christ who is the center of these certitudes.
Faith in Christ is an essential condition for the power of the Lovgo~ to
have its effect, but this condition should not be confused with the
cause of the author’s certitude. The Christians’ certitude is based on
Christ himself as a divine person (cf. the phrase jIhsou`n to;n uiJo;n
tou` qeou`) and all that this implies as regards Christian tradition and
the oi\ko~ over which he is placed as son. In 4,12-13 we are at the
heart of Heb 3,7 – 6,20.
6.7. 5,1-10
After the pivotal passage 4,12-13 with its flanking paraklêsis passages

    There is reason for thinking that the Christian oJmologiva has reference to tradition
centered on Christ (cf. Lk 8,15; 1 Cor 11,2.5; 1 Pet 3,15). Ellingworth has some
insightful comments on the use of oJmologiva in Hebrews. With regard to Heb 3,1:
“There is a close connection between ‘considering Jesus’ as the object of faith, and
‘hold(ing) fast (kratevw) our confession’ in 4:14, or ‘hold(ing) fast (kratevw) the
confession of our hope” in 10:23” (Ellingworth [1993], p. 199). With regard to Heb
10,23: “This language refers to Christian tradition and has points of contact with
other NT writings, e.g., Lk. 8:15, of those who ‘hold the word fast’; 1 Cor. 11:2, of
holding fast to primitive Christian ‘traditions’; similarly 1 Cor. 11:5, of ‘the gospel’
(i.e., the primitive kerygma); 1 Pet 3:15, of witnessing to ‘the hope that is in you’”
(Ellingworth [1993], p. 525).
at 4,8-11 and 4,14-16 comes a gezera shawa in the passage 5,1-10
which is symmetrical with the gezera shawa and passage at 3,12 – 4,7.
The symmetry involving 3,12 – 4,7 and 5,1-10 is not perfect: 3,12 –
4,7 is longer, but there the passage has the function of commenting
midrashically on a text of scripture (the citation of Ps 95,7-11), a
function which 5,1-10 does not have. The gezera shawa at 5,5-6
concerns the nature of Jesus as high priest and follows from the
paraklêsis at 4,14-16 which in turn is based on 4,12 which in turn,
because of the common theme of oJ lovgo~ is connected with all that
precedes from 3,7 on. Thus 5,1-10 is an integral part of the entire
The passage 5,1-10 begins with a description of the Aaronic
priesthood of the Mosaic dispensation (vv. 1-4). The description is
made from the standpoint of the new dispensation: those elements of
the priesthood of the old dispensation are highlighted which serve to
illustrate the priesthood of Christ.201 The illative particle gavr in 5,1
links this selective description of the Aaronic priesthood with the
“help” (bohvqeia) mentioned at the emphatic final position in 4,16. 5,1
in itself speaks about the high priest being selected in i{na prosfevrh/
dw`ra te kai; qusiva~, i.e., in order to offer sacrifice.202 5,2 suggests
that the old dispensation high priest was surrounded by “weakness”
(ajsqevneia) and is thereby able to help those in a similar state. The
high priests of the old dispensation are “obliged” (ojfeilevw—cf. the
use of the same word expressing obligation at 2,17) to offer sacrifices
for themselves as well as for the people (5,3). And what is more, no
one takes on himself the honor of being a high priest except one called
by God (5,4). With this discussion centering (by implication) on the
need for faith-trust to compensate for man’s weakness, on the call to
the high priesthood by God, and to the vocation to the high priesthood
as a result of God’s initiative, the stage is set for one of the classic
cruces of the New Testament.
The passage about Christ (5,5-10) begins, as mentioned above, with a
gezera shawa which tells how he was “called” (kalevw—the term used
in Hebrews to express God’s summons to membership in his people
[cf. Heb 9,15; 11,8; and the suggestive 11,18; not to mention 3,1 in
the light of 2,11). The word kalevw itself is not used of Christ in 5,1

      Cf. Attridge (1989), p. 142.

      Cf. Attridge (1989), p. 143 and p. 143, n. 85.
but the word doxavz`w takes its place: Christ was “called” to be high
priest by the act of “glorifying” him by the one who “said” (lalevw).
Here is an evocative concurrence of the three verbs kalevw, lalevw and
doxavzw. In contrast to the way of designating the high priest of the old
dispensation, the way of designating Christ was radically different: it
consisted in his being “glorified”, i.e., being raised from the dead.
And it was done by God himself who “spoke” to him, i.e., in a way
involving a definitive communication involving his son. The echoes
of the prologue are papable.
The gezera shawa in vv. 5b-6 consists of citations of Ps 2,7 and Ps
110,4 linked by the pronoun suv. The word “you” occurs in each of the
first three stichoi of the two quotations, always in an emphatic
position: “son to me are you”, “I today have generated you”, “you are
a priest forever”. And the fourth and final stichos puts in the final and
emphatic position for the two citations the word Melcisevdek. The
stress on the word “son” in the first citation harks back to 4,14 where
the high priesthood of Jesus is linked to his divine sonship. There is
also an allusion back to 1,5, where Ps 2,7 was used to indicate the
moment of glorification of the son. There the gezera shawa was used
to link Ps 2,7 with 2 Sam 7,14 to show that the “son” of the line of
David had become fully the “son” spoken of in the prologue. At 5,5b-
6 the combination of Ps 2,7 and Ps 110,4 indicates that at the moment
of resurrection from the dead (cf. the emphasis on the selection of the
high priest from among men in 5,1) the priesthood of Melchizedek is
realized in the son.203 In the context the resurrection is thus God’s
“calling” of Christ as son to be high priest. This is the second stage of
Christ’s priesthood, as explained above in the interpretation of 2,5-18.
It is alluded to again at the end of the passage 5,1-10, in v. 9.
Thus at v. 9 the author indicates by the use of teleiovw that in 5,7-8
the discussion is about the preliminary state of Christ’s priesthood.
This preliminary state is indicated by the words “in the days of his
flesh” (ejn toi`~ hJmevrai~ th`~ sarko;~ aujtou`). But the earthly
priesthood of Christ is not the only aspect of Christ being discussed in
vv. 7-8: the earthly victimhood of Christ is also being presented. But
as the references to Melchizedek and to “being perfect” makes clear,

   Thus the word “son” is linked with the motive of “(high) priest”. And the motif of
the “son” is the dominant one: Jesus becomes priest of the order of Melchizedek
because he is son, not vice versa. At Heb 7,3 Melchizedek is said to have been
“like” Christ under the aspect of “son of God”. Cf. Attridge (1989), p. 146, who
points out the linkage between “son” and “(high) priest”.
the earthly priesthood and victimhood of Christ are being discussed in
the context of the heavenly priesthood and victimhood. Given the
nature of the two stages of Christ’s interlocking priesthood and
victimhood (as presented in 2,8a-18) it could hardly be otherwise.
This, then, is the situation when one of the most challenging cruces in
the New Testament finally is presented to the modern reader: the crux
will involve Christ in his earthly “weakness”, i.e., in a state where he
is in need of faith-trust in the face of his own personal death, but as he
is a child of Abraham with the faith-trust that every child of Abraham
had in the face of another’s death as Abraham had in the face of
Isaac’s. Further, Christ is portrayed as earthly high priest who came to
offer sacrifice, in this case the sacrifice of himself. And he did this for
two basic reasons: so that the shedding of his blood might serve as an
expiatory force for sin (earthly high priest) and so that his victimhood
might serve as an example of all those who will be his brothers so that
they too may have faith-trust in the face of their own personal
In 5,7 Christ is said to have “offered” (prosenevgka~) “prayers and
petitions” (dehvsei~ te kai; iJkethriva~). The verb prosfevrw is the
same verb used in 5,1.3 to define the offering of sacrifices of the
Aaronic priest.205 Further, this same verb is used at Heb 7,27 and 9,14
with reference to Jesus’ offering of himself in sacrifice. This is of
crucial importance in trying to come to terms with the crux about what
Jesus is asking of God.206 This consideration alone—that Christ was
making an offering of himself in sacrifice—would seem to eliminate
many of the usual answers given to the object of the prayers and
petitions: being freed from the need of dying, for example, would
hardly seem to be the object of a sacrifice.207 Even the request to be
raised from the dead cannot qualify.208 The one answer given which

   For the exegesis on which all of this is based one must consult above all Chapter
4 above, with its discussion of Heb 2,5-18.

      Attridge (1989), p. 149 and p. 149, n. 152.

   On the problem of the object of the “prayers and petitions” of Jesus cf.: Attridge
(1989), pp. 147-154; Ellingworth (1993), pp. 284-196; Gräßer (1990), pp. 293-317.

      Attridge (1989), p. 150, and p. 150, n. 168.

      Attridge (1989), p. 150, and p. 150, n. 170.
does seem to qualify is that Jesus requested to die. Thus the object
of Jesus’ loud cries and petitions suggests the nature of his “gifts and
sacrifices” (cf. 5,1): Jesus himself.210
In the perspective of Jesus offering himself in sacrifice as the
background for Heb 5,7-8 the various problems connected with the
text find an intelligible explanation:
    1) The prayers directed to “the one able to save him from death”
(prov~ to;n dunavmenon sw/vzein aujto;n ejk qanavtou) become
intelligible: just as God spared Isaac in the Genesis account of
Abraham’s sacrifice (cf. Heb 11,17-19) on the basis of Abraham’s
distinctive faith-trust, so God would seem to be inclined to spare his
son’s life on Jesus’ distinctive faith-trust. But notwithstanding this
tendency, he yielded to his son’s intense desire to sacrifice himself.
    2) The intensity of Jesus’ prayers—“with a loud cry and tears”
(meta; kraugh`~ ijscura`~ kai; dakruvwn—become intelligible: such
intensity is compatible with the function of Jesus as one without sin
(4,15) bent on achieving redemption of men through his own death
    3) The fact that Jesus was “heard because of his reverence”
(eijsakousqei;~ ajpo; th`~ eujlabeiva~) becomes intelligible:
“reverence” in Hebrews is used of respectful awe before God’s
    4) The “learning” of obedience although son (kaivper w]n uiJov~,
e[maqen ajf j o|n e[paqen th;n uJpakohvn) becomes intelligible: Jesus
learned experientially , i.e., as one who had faith-trust in God, the
positive nature of obedience, for he was already obedient when he
came into the world (Heb 10,5-7).212

      Cf. Swetnam (1981), pp. 178-184; Swetnam (2000), pp. 353-356.

   At Heb 10,5-14 the offering of himself in sacrifice is indicated as the motivation
for his “coming into the world” to assume a body. To repeat: in the present study the
contention is that the difference between the two stages of the priesthood of Christ is
in function of the ontological status of the body of Christ in each respective stage.

      Cf.: Attridge (1989), p.151, and p. 151, n. 184; Ellingworth (1993), p. 290.

   “Jesus is presented as one who ‘learns obedience’ (uJpakohvn) in the midst of
suffering because that is what the addressees are called upon to do. Hence,
speculation on the sense in which Jesus may be said to learn obedience can be
misdirected. A fundamental affirmation of Hebrews is that Jesus was obedient to
God’s will from the start of his earthly career (10:5-10). Thus, he can learn
   5) The obedience to a “perfected” (teleiwqeiv~) Jesus as cause of
eternal salvation becomes intelligible: Jesus’ experience of the
positive nature of he results of obedience becomes mirrored in those
who comport themselves as he did in the face of death, i.e., with the
same faith-trust.213
Underlying these considerations is the understanding that Jesus coped
with his “weakness” (i.e., his being tested in faith-trust) without sin
(4,15). And the explanation for this lies even deeper in the context:
Jesus is the son of God, oJ Lovgo~.
In brief: Heb 4,13 – 5,10 begins with Jesus being portrayed as oJ
Lovgo~ who, in his risen state after being a sacrificial victim (4,13),
intercedes on man’s behalf with God. This is the basis for the brief
exhortation at 4,14-16 to approach this high priestly intercessor. But
in Jewish tradition a high priest must be appointed by God, as Aaron
and his successors were (5,1-4). Jesus was not “appointed” by God in
this technical sense in order to offer his earthly sacrifice. Rather, God
“called” Jesus by raising him from the dead and thus consecrating
him, i.e., “perfecting” him, for his service as heavenly high priest. In
preparation for this heavenly high priesthood the earthly Jesus in a
priestly role dependent on his earthly body offered himself as earthly
victim in sacrifice (Heb 5,7-8) with insistence, and because of his
reverent pleas was heard by God despite God’s ability to disregard
Jesus’ plea as son. As a result all those who obey Jesus command to

obedience only in the sense that he comes to appreciate fully what conformity to
God’s will means. Because he has learned that lesson, he can be the sympathetic
heavenly intercessor on whom the addressees can rely and, at the same time, a
model for them in their attempt to be obedient to God’s will” (Attridge [1989], p.

   “The notion of Christ’s followers being obedient to him is unique in the text, but
the notion that they should be subjected to the inaugurator and perfecter of faith
(12:2) is certainly not inappropriate to Hebrews’ paraenetic program (Attridge
[1989], p. 154). In the context of 5,9 “obedience” to the risen Jesus would seem to
be directed most immediately to the command of his earthly words “Do this in
commemoration of me”, and obedience which is reflected in the concern to hand on
in a legally verifiable way this command (cf. Heb 2,3; 4,2 as discussed above).
Specifically, this command would seem to be “Do this in commemoration of me”.
Obedience to this command would involve a living in faith-trust which Jesus had
when he issued it. The fact that a number of allusions in vv. 7-10 are to Ps 22[LXX
21] would seem to point to the influence of that psalm on the author’s thinking. (Cf.
Ellingworth [1993], p. 285). These allusions reinforce a Eucharist relevance, given
Heb 2,12 as interpreted above.
share in his Eucharistic sacrifice as high priest share in the result of
his obedience (Heb 5,9-10) which effects for them everlasting
salvation. The graphic portrayal of Jesus as earthly high priest in the
act of being tested as to his faith-trust in the face of his personal death
as he offers himself in sacrifice serves the addressees as they gaze on
the risen victim, Jesus, in the Eucharist (cf. 2,8b-9) in order to deepen
their own faith-trust in the face of their own deaths as children of
Abraham (cf. 2,14-16).
6.8. 5,11 – 6,8
The considerable subsection 5,11 – 6,20 would seem to be best
analyzed as an extended passage in paraklêsis or exhortation. And as
such it would best divided into two parts, negative (5,11 – 6,8) and
positive (6,9-20).
The general tenor of the first, negative passage is that of lamentation
to the addressees by the author for their neglect of fundamentals about
their faith. This lamentation is coupled with an insistence that the time
has come for an advance on the part of the addressees to a more
profound knowledge of their faith.214
Worth nothing is the emphasis on the terminology involving oral
tradition in the passage. The introductory verse 5,11 has the words oJ
lovgo~, levgein, tai`~ ajkoai`~. “The word” (oJ lovgo~) of the author
has become difficult for the addressees because of their sluggishness
in “hearing”. The addresses have need of a relearning of the
foundations of the beginning of the “oracles of God’ (ta; lovgia tou`
qeou`a—5,12). The author leave s behind “the word” (oJ lovgo~) of the
beginning of Christ. The addressees have tasted a “beautiful word of
God” (kalo;n ... qeou` rJh`ma).215 What is being adduced as the basis for

   “The pericope [sc., for the author, 5,11 – 6,3] basically operates with a dichotomy
between fundamental, traditional doctrines, schematically listed in 6:1-2, and
advanced teachings, which finally consist of a new reflection on the central and
basic Christian doctrine of Christ’s salvific death” (Attridge [1989], p. 156). In the
exegesis of 5,11 – 6,8 to be advanced above, this fundamental dichotomy will be
honored, but perhaps not precisely in the way intended by Attridge.

   “ … der Autor … an dieser Stelle—notwendigerweise, da er ja einen christlichen
‘Elementarunterricht’ kennzeichnen will—auf Tradition zurückgreift” (Weiß [1991],
p. 337).
the argumentation is distinctively by means of oral tradition either
from Christ or about Christ.216
Three cruces are found in the passage:
   1) the use of the illative particle diov in 6,1;
   2) the enigmatic listing of various practices involving cult and
doctrine in 6,1b-2;
   3) the passage about the “unforgiveable sin” at 6,4-6.
Tentative resolution of these cruces will be sufficient to explain the
basic meaning of the entire passage.
6.8.1. 6,1
The problem involving the use of diov at Heb 6,1 centers on the
relation of what precedes 6,1 (5,11-14) and what follows (6,1-8).
After apparently rebuking the addressees for not having mastered the
fundamentals of Christian teaching (5,11-14), the author then says,
“Therefore” (diov) we shall go on to advanced teaching. The
“therefore” seems counterintuitive: if the addressees have failed to
master fundamentals it certainly seems inadvisable to go on to what is
more advanced. One solution is to resort to an interpretation based on
irony: in reprimanding the addressees the author of Hebrews was slyly
praising them.217 Another solution is to admit a violation of logic.218

   The phrase tou` Cristou` is best taken as an objective genitive. “The structure of
the sentence [sc., in 6,1-2] suggests that vv. 1b-2, mh; pavlin qemevlion
kataballovmenoi, express negatively what ajfevnte~ to;n th`~ ajrch`~ tou` Cristou`
lovgon states positively (Ellingworth [1993], p. 311).

   “A failure to appreciate the irony in 5:11-14 and the firm connection between
these verses and 6:1 is evident when H. P. Owen, for example, speaks of “the
violence of the diov” (New Testament Studies 3 [1956-57] 248)” (Lane [1990a], p.
139). Attridge ([1989], pp. 157-158) likewise favors an interpretation of irony in the
passage with regard to v. 11.

   “The author [sc., of Hebrews] has announced his intention of giving advanced
teaching (5:11a), expressed his doubt of the readers’ readiness to receive it (5:11b-
12), and drawn a general contrast between the childish and the mature (5:13f.). The
conclusion, introduced by diov … , is that the readers should progress from the state
of children to that of maturity. Just as elementary instruction was an essential part of
their Christian initiation (cf. 2:3f.; 3:14; 5:12), so the epistle itself is intended to play
a part in leading them to maturity (6:3). Many scholars … find the conclusion
surprising and would expect ‘nevertheless’ instead of diov. In strict logic this is
doubtless correct; but as 6:9 confirms, the author counts on a positive reaction from
his readers, a response to his description of their present state and his stern warning
But there seems to be another possibility: in leading the addressees to
maturity the author of Hebrews hopes to lead them to a better grasp of
fundamentals. Or, perhaps better, in understanding the advanced
teaching which the author is about to convey, the addressees will
necessarily understand the fundamentals.
In explaining the mature teaching which he plans to convey the author
of Hebrews implies a relation between this teaching (ejpi; th;n
teleiovthta ferwvmeqa—“let us move on to what is most perfect”)
and the perfection which the priestly ministry of Christ provides (cf.
7,11 and 10,14).219 The author of Hebrews is about to go on to explain
a major aspect of Christ’s heavenly priesthood which enables not only
the addressees to participate in his “perfection” but all other humans
as well: the passage 4,13 – 5,20 is preparing the way for the decisive
passage 7,1-28 which will give a definitive explanation of the
offspring promised to Abraham, just as 3,7 – 4,12 definitive explains
the land promised to him.
The illative particle diov, then, is to be retained with the fullness of its
inferential “therefore” meaning. In perceiving the implications of
Christ’s heavenly priesthood the addressees will finally perceive the
implication of his earthly priesthood.
6.8.2. 6,1b-2
The list of cultic practices and beliefs in 6,1-2b is the source of no

(vv. 4-6) against falling back still further from it. ‘Contentment with “elementary
principles” already shows a marked degree of failure. There is no alternative (diov)
but to press on to maturity’ (G. Hughes 1979.162.n.63)” (Ellingworth [1993], p.

   “ … it would be a mistake to deny any connection between the maturity
(teleiwvth~) that the addressees are urged to attain and the perfection (teleivwsi~)
that Christ affords” (Attridge [1989], 163). But after this insightful statement
Attridge then precedes to minimize it, calling it an example of the author’s
“characteristically subtle wordplay”. Since Attridge minimizes the resurrection of
Christ in the epistle he fails to understand the relation between the priesthood of
Christ and the resurrection, and hence between the priesthood of Christ as alluded to
in Heb 5,11 – 6,8 and the preceding section 4,13 – 5,10. He does, however, sense
that the explanation of the mature teaching will help the addressees understand the
fundamental teaching: “The author in fact will meet the ‘need’ of his addressees by
pushing on, in the words of his illustration, to ‘exercise them’ with more mature
teaching” (Attridge [1989], p. 162).
little perplexity to modern commentators. But there have been
valuable insight—for example, that the six items mentioned all have a
relation to the high priestly ministry of Christ.221 It is worth examining
the text:
      6,1 Dio; ajfevnte~ to;n th`~ ajrch`~ tou` Crisou` lovgon ejpi; th;n
      teleiovthta ferwvmeqa, mh; pavlin qemevlion kataballovmenon
      metanoiva~ ajpo; nekrw`n e[rgwn kai; pivstew~ ejpi; qeovn, 6,2
      baptismw`n didach`~ ejpiqevsewv~ te ceirw`n, ajnastavsewv~ te
      nekrw`n kai; krivmato~ aijwnivou.
Two questions are discussed in regard to this material: 1) the
arrangement;222 2) the meaning of the items.223 In the present study the
relevant material will be arranged in three pairs as follows:

      of repentance from dead works and faith in God
      of teaching about ablutions and the laying on of hands
      of resurrection from the dead and of eternal judgment
The arrangement can suggest a number of meanings, but the one
which seems simplest and most in keeping with the confusion which
the text has generated and still generates among competent exegetes is
that the specific meaning of the components is irrelevant for the
author of the epistle. Part of the reason for the confusion is the lack
(one is tempted to say “the explicit lack”) of development in the

   “It is striking how little in this summary [sc., in vv. 1b-2] is distinctive of
Christianity” (Attridge [1989], p. 163). “The relationship of the six items of teaching
to one another, and hence the punctuation of the sentence, are disputed”
(Ellingworth [1993], p. 313).

   “Each of the six articles … is related to the high priestly Christology developed in
the subsequent chapters, which makes explicit the christological structure of the
foundation (Lane [1990a], p. 140). This is a perceptive insight which, unfortunately,
was not developed.

   “The simplest and most logical arrangement is in three pairs … , metavnoia and
pivsti~ referring to (inward) events preceding initiation into God’s people,
baptismoiv and ejpivqesi~ ceirw`n to (outward) acts of initiation, and ajnavstasi~
and krivma referring to the future; but neither the context between inward and
outward, nor succession in time, is stressed” (Ellingworth [1993], p. 313).

   Cf.: Ellingworth (1993), pp. 313-316; Lane (1991a), pp. 139-140; Attridge
(1989), pp. 162-165. The general impression from these excellent commentaries is
confused and confusing. No one knows what to make of the meaning of the material
adduced in the verses.
immediate context. For the author of Hebrews the terms of the three
pairs are, for his immediate purpose, of no specific importance. What
is important is the supposition underlying each of the pairs. For each
of the three pairs seems to represent a specific period of time:
      pair one: the past
      pair two: the present
      pair three: the future224
Together the three pairings suggest no succession in time. Rather they
represent time itself. The author of Hebrews is leaving behind a
discussion of the priesthood of Christ involving time, i.e., his earthly
priesthood, to lead the addressees on to a discussion of the priesthood
of Christ which does not involve time, i.e., his heavenly priesthood.
This seems to be the fundamental meaning of the enigmatic Heb 1b-2.
6.8.3. 6,4-6
The crux in 6,4-6 involving the impossibility of renewal of repentance
is classic.225
      6,4 For it is impossible that those who have once been enlightened
      and have tasted the heavenly gift and have become sharers in a
      heavenly spirit 6,5 and have tasted the goodness of God’s speech
      and the powers of the age to come 6,6 and having fallen, to be
      renewed for repentance, as they go on crucifying to their own hurt
      the son of God and making him an object of scorn.
The present attempt at a solution is based not only on the immediate,
negative context of 5,11 – 6,8 but also on the positive context of 6,9-
20. In trying to offer a plausible interpretation of a text which has
challenged many thinkers for centuries one can hardly be blamed for
being tentative. In any event, being tentative is appropriate for a study
which hopes to propose plausible interpretations and nothing more.
Finally, in trying to understand the meaning of the author of Hebrews
with regard to the impossibility of forgiveness no attempt, obviously,

   Cf. the pairing suggested above by Ellinger, in note 212. He agrees that the
meaning of the third pair involves the future. And he notes that the author is not
interested in any succession in time. Exactly so.
   Cf.: Attridge (1989), pp. 167-172; Gräßer (1990), pp. 347-357; Ellingworth
(1992), pp. 317-325.
is being made in the present study to see him playing God with
speculation about the final status of any human.226
The apostasy in question involves the crucifixion of the son of God,
i.e., the sacrifice of Jesus’ first stage of priesthood. Once a Christian
has fallen away, and in so doing denied the efficacy of the death of
Jesus on the cross even to the point of ridiculing it, he cannot regain
the efficacy of this death for himself. It is like the selling by Esau of
his birthright: once the deed is done and the blessing given to another
(cf. 6,7) there is no place to turn to for a remedy (Heb 12,16-17).
Of considerable importance in any attempt to achieve a solution of the
crux is the illative particle gavr at the beginning of 6,4. It should be
taken at full force. The “for” implies that the author at this point
suspects that the sluggishness of the addressees may indicate their
willingness to renounce the whole project of being Christian and
revert to their Jewish faith. The Jewish community in Rome, after all,
did not have the taint of unknown and possibly subversive0 newness
about them that the followers of Christ did. That is to say, there was
no immediate threat of persecution for the Jews in Rome. The author
of Hebrews accordingly proceeds to demolish the idea of a possible
reversion to Judaism.227
The verb parapivptw in the Septuagint means deliberate renunciation
of God.228 The aorist is probably inceptive and, in the context of the
present interpretation being given to the passage, refers to the loss of
faith-trust in Jesus, “the son of God” (6,6). It is an apostasy done with
full knowledge of what is involved, for the addressees have had a
thorough preparation for their change of faith (6,1)—though they may
now be in lax in living it as the author would like. The expression

    “The absence of any conditional expression suggests that the author envisages a
situation which could really develop, and in which some at least of the readers could
be involved. However, the eschatological character of the whole passage … and
references to God’s blessing and cursing … suggest that the author’s stern warning
is seen as subordinate to God’s final judgment” (Ellingworth [1993], p. 318). The
same could be said about the author of Hebrews in his treatment of the failure of the
exodus generation in Heb 3,7 – 4,12.

   “The context virtually requires a reference to apostasy here” (Ellingworth [1993],
p. 322).

      Cf. Lane (1991a), p. 142.
pavlin ajnakainivzein refers to baptism. The two participles
ajnastaurou`nta~ and paradeigmativzonta~ are best taken as
circumstantial, describing in terms of the crucifixion a withdrawal of
faith-trust in Christ which continues after the act of apostasy.230 Such
an attitude may not be intended, but it is intrinsically involved by the
act of apostasy itself which changes the apostate’s role in the
crucifixion from that of sympathy to that of ridicule.231
The crux is precisely this: that the author of Hebrews seems to be
saying that if the addressees apostatize there is no possibility for them
to be forgiven at some subsequent time. The reason is that they have
eliminated from their lives the unique source of forgiveness, Jesus
Christ. They are no longer under the new dispensation of Christ, but
once again under the old dispensation initiated through Moses. But
they resume their membership in the Sinai covenant with the guilt of
having deliberately apostatizing from this covenant in becoming
Christians. (The supposition operative here, of course, is that the
epistle is directed to the group which is labeled correctly, “to the
Hebrews”, i.e., to Christians who had once been Jews.) And for such a
deliberate sin there is no possibility of forgiveness, as the Mosaic Law
says explicitly.232 Forgiveness of deliberate sin233 can come only
through Christ, and it is this possibility that they would renounce in
becoming once again members of the “house” where Moses and not
Christ has been the instrument of expiation. That is to say, they would
automatically lapse back into the regime of the Mosaic Law, but they
would do so with the guilt of apostasy on their heads, with no means
of forgiveness, their one means of forgiveness having been

      Cf. Ellingworth (1993), p. 323.
      Cf. Ellingworth (1993) , p. 324.

   The word paradeigmativzonta~, “making an object of scorn”, should be noted.
“ … the apostate causes the shame of the cross to be re-enacted” (Ellingworth
[1993], p. 325. That is to say, causing a situation demanding the ultimate in faith-
trust in Jesus and, by his apostasy, abdicating his own faith-trust in him.

      Cf.: Num 15,30-31; Deut 13,1-10.

   The author of Hebrews was well aware of the distinction between sins of
deliberation and sins of weakness. The Aaronic high priest could offer sacrifice for
the latter (cf. Heb 6,2).
deliberately forsaken. The presupposition underlying this scenario,
of course, is that the legal arrangements flowing from the inauguration
sacrifices of each of the two covenants, the Sinai covenant and the
new covenant, were still in force.235 The apostasy of one or other of
the addressees would be all the worse because it would be directed at
the crucifixion, the very act which grounds Christian forgiveness of
sins. Thus the impossibility is strictly legal and theological, not
Throughout this passage of negative paraklêsis the author’s purpose
has been ultimately positive of course. But he has resorted to powerful
arguments to keep the addressees from leaving their faith-trust in
6.9. 6,9-20
The positive portion of the paraklêsis begins with an allusion to the
preceding verses: the author is convinced that the addressees have the
better part of the situation described in v. 7, i.e., the land which has
received God’s blessing, a blessing which is still to come.238 That is to
say, they are members of the new covenant, where forgiveness is
always possible on the supposition that faith-trust in Jesus is not
abandoned. Vv. 10-11 single out their positive achievements. V. 10

   The impossibility is expressed by the forceful word ajduvnaton in the emphatic
initial position of the passage 6,4-6.
      For the Sinai covenant cf. Heb 8,13.

   “The ‘impossibility’ of a second repentance is … not psychological, or more
generally related to the human condition’ it is in the strict sense theological, related
to God’s saving action in Christ (Ellingworth [1993], p. 323).

    “The meaning of vv. 4-6 may thus be summarized as follows: (1) apostasy is a
real danger which threatens the community addressed. (2) There is no way back
from apostasy to a renewal of the initial act of repentance associated with baptism
and forgiveness. (3) The author does not state that the community or any of its
members have in fact already abandoned their faith. (4) The author’s ultimate
purpose, next expressed in vv. 9-12, is to encourage his readers to persevere”
(Ellingworth [1993], p. 325).

   Attridge (1989), pp. 173-174. “The motif of blessing (v. 7) and curse (v. 8) places
the discussion firmly in a covenantal context. … Those who committed apostasy
must expect the imposing of the curse sanctions of the covenant … ” (Lane [1991a],
p. 143). The curse sanctions of the Sinai covenant, that is.
looks at them from God’s standpoint by linking the verse with what
precedes by a gavr. The author thus reinforces the covenant imagery
by reminding the addressees that God is “not unjust” (ouj gavr a[diko~
oJ qeov~), i.e., he is upholding his part of the covenant. The author
recalls what the addressees have done “for God’s name” (eij~ to;
o[noma aujtou`).239 They are encouraged to imitate those who inherited
the promises dia; pivstew~ kai; makroqumiva~—“through faith and
perseverance (v. 12).
It should be noted that there is not question here of inheriting the
substance of what was promised, but only of inheriting the promises
of the substance of what was promised. Thus the author evokes the
addressees’ ancestors who had faith-trust only in a preliminary stage.
They are thus subtly reminded that the fulfillment of the promises was
not for their ancestors to achieve, and that their privileged position as
inheritors of the substance of what was promised deserves greater
faith-trust and perseverance still. Of the two promises made to
Abraham what is of particular concern at this point to the author of
Hebrews is the promise of progeny (v. 14). The words cited here were
pronounced to Abraham at the end of his successful passing of his
“test” of faith as portrayed in Gen 22. Thus his “endurance” (ou{tw~
makroqumhvsa~) was rewarded with his obtaining the promises anew.
But the repetition of the promise is accompanied by something new:
an oath by God. That this promise and oath is of particular importance
to the author is clear from the space and emphasis he gives to it in vv.
16-19. This space and emphasis indicates that the author has more
than just an example to encourage the addressees in their maintaining
their faith-trust. It would seem that now, in the positive part of the
paraklêsis which terminates the entire section 3,7 – 5,10, he is
indicated that at the moment he has a special concern for the promise
of offspring made to Abraham, just as in 3,7 – 4,12 he was concerned
in a special way with the promise made to Abraham of land. In his
discussion of the promise of land he indicated that the real meaning of
the promise involved not a terrestrial area but God’s own rest, i.e.,
eternal life. Just so, in 6,9-20 the author would seem to be preparing
the addressees for a discussion of the promise of offspring with a view
to establishing the real meaning. That meaning clearly involves in
some way the high priesthood of Christ.

   Cf. the use of eij~ to; o[noma aujtou` at Mt 18,20 as an indication of Christian
The addressees are portrayed as oiJ katafugovnte~ (“those seeking
refuge”), a term used in the Septuagint for those seeking asylum.240
The asylum seekers are to “lay hold of the hope at hand” (krath`sai
th`~ prokeimevnh~ ejlpivdo~). In vv. 19-20 “hope” is portrayed as the
focal point of the faith-trust of the addressees. “Hope” is pictured as
an anchor on a chain and is “steady and valid” (ajsfalh` te kai;
bebaivan) amd “entering into the interior of the veil” (eijsercovmenon
eij~ to; ejswvteron tou` katapetavsmatoi~). Jesus himself has
entered inside the veil “as a forerunner on our behalf” (o{pou
provdrdomo~ uJpe;r hJmw`n eijsh`lqen jIhsou`~). The nautical metaphor
involving the anchor would seem to hark back to Heb 2,1 and the
word pararuw`men, “to drift away”). There it seemed to be a general
metaphor for not heeding the Lord’s message. But in the light of Heb
6,19-20 it takers on a deeper meaning. For in 2,1 it stands at the
beginning of an evocation of the Eucharist, all the more powerful for
being so elusive.
In Heb 6,19-20 an allusion to the Eucharist under the aspect of Christ
as victim also seems present. In fact, 6,19-20 form a challenge to the
interpreter, for they give the impression of acting as a termination
(with the imagery of the anchor as a symbol of hope (v. 18) connected
with Jesus’ entry inside the veil, i.e., inside the Holy of Holies. As the
interpretation of Chapter 9 to be given below will hope to make clear,
this use of Old Covenant cultic imagery to express New Covenant
cultic reality is about the risen Jesus as Eucharistic victim.241 And as
such 6,19-20 would seem to act as the closing frame of Heb 4,13 –
6,20, which is about the Lovgo~ as victim, matching Heb 3,8 – 4,12,
which is about the Lovgo~ as high priest. Thus the entire section 3,8 –
6,20 can be viewed as an applied commentary on Heb 2,5-18, with its
clearly divided consideration of Jesus as earthly victim and heavenly
victim, of earthly high priest and heavenly high priest. The “hope”
(ejlpiv~) of 6,18, identified with Jesus’ presence inside the veil, i.e.,
inside the Holy of Holies, is thus related to the heavenly Jesus as
victim freeing the Christians from the fear of death (2,15) by offering
them the chance to taste in faith his death in contemplating him as
Eucharistic victim (2,9).

      Cf. Deut 4,42 and 19,5 as well as Jos 20,9 (Lane [1991a], p. 153).
   A detailed discussion will be made of Christ’s entry into the “holy of holies” later
on in the text in the presentation of Heb 9.
But Heb 6,19-20 does more than terminate 3,8 – 6,20. It also sets the
stage for Heb 7,1-28 (i.e., the entire chapter) by adding on to the
imagery of Jesus as Eucharistic victim the reminder that he is the
eternal high priest according to the order of Melchizedek (6,20b), a
remark which serves to introduce Heb 7. In Heb 7 the author’s point
would seem to be that Jesus as both heavenly victim and heavenly
high priest is the instrument God uses to redeem all mankind, even
those who do not have access to the Eucharistic Jesus as priest and as
victim, as will be explained below. Thus Heb 4,13 – 6,20 refers to the
expiatory power of Jesus as Eucharistic victim for those who have
access to the Eucharist, and Heb 7, building on this, refers to the
expiatory power of Jesus as Eucharistic victim for those who do not.242

   The underlying supposition is that Jesus, in rising from the dead, escapes the
normal limits of time and space. Thus the resurrection is the key element to be kept
in mind by faith. Cf. Heb 2,8b-9 // Heb 2,14-16 and Heb 5,5-6.

CHAPTER 7. Hebrews 7,1-28

Heb 7,1-28 is a uniquely important passage in the epistle. It is
dedicated to Melchizedek, but not Melchizedek for his own sake but
Melchizedek insofar as the scriptural passages about him illumine the
mystery of Christ.243 Hebrew 7, then, is not about Melchizedek as
illumined by Christ, but about Christ as illumined by Melchizedek.
The process of using the scriptural passages involving Melchizdek to
illumine the mystery of Christ began at 5,6 and continued on through
5,10 and 6,20, all key places in the text. The explicit references to
Melchizedek in these key places serve to indicate to the addressees to
expect more about him later in the text: they are harbingers of things
to come. Thus Chapter 7 comes as no surprise—it has been carefully
7.1. Delimitation of the Text
Though there is disagreement about the internal structure of Heb 7,1-
28, the external limits of the text are fairly clear given the introductory
nature of 7,1 after a verse (6,20) which has all the air of a transition,
and the terminal ring of 7,28 before the decisively inceptive 8,1.244
7.2. The Greek Text
7,1 Ou|to~ ga;r oJ Melcisevdek, basileu;~ Salhvm, iJereu;~ tou`
Qeou` tou` uJyivstou, oJ sunanthvsa~ jAbraa;m uJpostrevfonti ajpo;
th`~ koph`~ tw`n basilevwn kai; eujloghvsa~ aujtovn, 7,2 w|/ kai;
dekavthn ajpo; pavntwn ejmevrisen jAbraavm, prw`ton me;n
eJrmhneuovmemo~ basileu;~ dikaiosuvnh~, e[peita de; kai; basileu;~
Salhvm, o{ ejstin basileu;~ eijrhvnh~, 7,3 ajpavtwr, ajmhvtwr,
ajgenealovghto~, mhvte ajrch;n hJmerw`n mhvte zwh`~ tevlo~ e[cwn,
ajfwmoiwmevno~ de; tw`/ uiJw`/ tou` Qeou`, mevnei iJereu;~ eij~ to;
dihnekev~. 7,4 Qewrei`te de; phlivko~ ou|to~, w|/ kai;
dekavthn jAbraa;m e[dwken ejk tw`n ajkroqinivwn oJ patriavrch~. 7,5
kai; oiJ me;n ejk tw`n uiJw`n Leui; th;n iJerateivan lambavnonte~
ejntolh;n e[cousin ajpodekatou`n to;n lao;n kata; to;n novmon, tou`t j
e[stin tou;~ ajdelfou;~ aujtw`n, kaivper ejxelhluqovta~ ejk th`~

      Cf. the implications of the word ajfwmoiwmevno~ in 7,2.

   Cf.: Attridge (1989), pp. 186-215; Lane (1991a), pp. 155-198; Ellingworth
(1993), pp. 349-398.
ojsfuvo~ jAbraavm: 7,6 o Jde; mh; genealogouvmeno~ ejx aujtw`n
dedekavtwken JAbraa;m, kai; to;n e[conta ta;~ ejpaggeliva~
eujloghken. 7,7 cwri;~ de; pavsh~ ajntilogiva~ to; e[latton uJpo; tou`
kreivttono~ eujlogei`tai. 7,8 kai; w|de me;n dekavta~
ajpoqnh/vskonte~ a[nqrwpoi lambavnousin, ejkei` de; marturouvmeno~
o{ti zh`/. 7,9 kai; wJ~ e[po~ eijpei`n, di j jAbraa;m kai; Leui; oJ dekavta~
lambavnwn dedekavtwtai: 7,10 e[ti ga;r ejn th/` ojsfuvi tou` patro;~
h\n o{te sunhvnthsen aujtw`/ Melcisevdek. 7,11 Eij me;n ou\n
teleivwsi~ dia; th`~ Leuitikh`~ iJerwsuvnh~ h\n,—oJ lao;~ ga;r ejp j
aujth`~ nenomoqevthtai—tiv~ e[ti creiva kata; th;n tavxin
Melcisevdek e{teron ajnivstasqai iJereva kai; ouj kata; th;n
tavxin jAarw;n levgesqai; 7,12 metatiqemevnh~ ga;r th`~
iJerwsuvnh~ ejx ajnavgkh~ kai; novmou metavqesi~ givnetai. 7,13 ejf j
o}n ga;r levgetai tau`ta, fulh`~ eJtevra~ metevschken, ajf j h|~
oujdei;~ prosevschken tw`/ qusiasthrivw/: 7,14 provdhlon ga;r o{ti
ejx jIouvda ajnatevtalken oJ kuvrio~ hJmw`n, eij~ h}n fulh;n peri;
iJerevwn oujde;n Mwu>sh`~ ejlavlhsen. 7,15 kai; perissovteron e[ti
katavdhlovn ejstin, eij kata; th;n oJmoiovthta Melcisevdek
ajnivstatai iJereu;~ e{tero~, 7,16 o}~ ouj kata; novmon ejntolh`~
sarkivnh~ gevgonen ajlla; kata; duvnamin zwh`~ ajkataluvtou. 7,17
marturei`tai ga;r o{ti su; iJereu;~ eij~ to;n aijw`na kata; th;n tavxin
Melcisevdek. 7,18 ajqevthsi~ me;n ga;r givnetai proagouvsh~
ejntolh`~ dia; to; aujth`~ ajsqene;~ kai; ajnwfelev~, 7,19 oujde;n ga;r
ejteleivwsen oJ novmo~, ejpeisagwgh; de; kreivttono~ ejlpivdo~, di j h|~
ejggivzomen tw`/ Qew`/. 7,20 Kai; kaq j o{son ouj cwri;~ oJrkwmosiva~,—
oiJ me;n gavr cwri;~ oJrkwmosiva eijsi;n iJerei`~ gegonovte~, 7,21 oJ de;
meta; oJrkwmosiva~ dia; tou` levgonto~ pro;~ aujtovn: w{mosen
Kuvrio~ kai; ouj metamelhqhvsetai: su; iJereu;~ eij~ to;n aijw`na 7,22
—kata; tosou`to kai; kreivttono~ diaqhvkh~ gevgonen
e[gguo~ Ihsou`~. 7,23 Kai; oiJ me;n pleivonev~ eijsin gegonovte~
iJerei`~ dia; to; qanavtw/ kwluvesqai paramevnein: 7,24 oJ de; dia; to;
mevnein aujto;n eij~ to;n aijw`na ajparavbaton e[cei th;n iJerwsuvnhn:
7,25 o{qen kai; sw/vzein eij~ to; pantele;~ duvnatai tou;~
prosercomevnou~ di j aujtou` tw`/ Qew`/, pavntote zw`n eij~ to;
ejntugcavnein uJpe;r aujtw`n. 7,26 Toiou`to~ ga;r hJmi`n kai; e[prepen
ajrciereuv~, o{_sio~, a[kako~ ajmivanto~, kecwrismevno~ ajpo; tw`n
ajmartwlw`n, kai; uJyhlovtero~ tw`n oujranw`n genovmeno~: 7,27 o}~
oujk e[cei kaq j hJmevran ajnavgkhn, w{sper oiJ ajrcierei`~, provteron
uJpe;r tw`n iJdivwn aJmartiw`n qusiva~ ajnafevrein, e[peita tw`n tou`
laou`: tou`to ga;r ejpoivhsen ejfavpax eJauto;n ajnenevgka~. 7,28 oJ
novmo~ ga;r ajnqrwvpou~ kaqivsthsin ajrcierei`~ e[conta~
ajsqevneian, oJ lovgo~ de; th`~ oJrkwmosiva~ th`~ meta; to;n novmon
uiJo;n eij~ to;n aijw`na teteleiwmevnon.
7.3. A Suggested Translation
7,1 Now this “Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the God Most
High”, he “who after meeting Abraham as he was returning from the
defeat of the kings and after blessing him, 7,2 to whom Abraham gave
a tenth of everything”, who is interpreted first as “king of
righteousness”, and then also as “king of Salem”, that is, king of
peace, 7,3 without father, without mother, without lineage, having
neither beginning of days nor end of life, but having been likened to
the son of God, he remains priest forever. 7,4 Notice how great is he
to whom Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. 7,5 And those of the
sons of Levi as they receive the priesthood have a command according
to the Law to a tenth from the people, that is, their brothers, even
though these have come forth from the loins of Abraham. 7,6 But he
who is not descended from them has collected a tenth from Abraham
and has blessed the one having the promises. 7,7 Now it is beyond
dispute that the less is blessed by the greater. 7,8 And here men who
were in the process of dying did receive tenths, but there the one who
receives the tenths is the one who has been witnessed to that he lives.
7,9 And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, the one receiving
tenths, has paid a tenth: 7,10 for he was still in the loins of his father
when Melchizedek met him. 7,11 Now if there were perfection
through the Levitical priesthood—for based on it the people have been
given a law—what need would there still be that another priest be
raised up according to the order of Melchizedek and not according to
the order of Aaron? 7,12 For when the priesthood is changed, of
necessity there is a change of law. 7,13 now the one about whom these
things are said is a sharer in a different tribe, from which no one has
served the altar. 7,14 For it is clear that from Judah our Lord has
sprung, a tribe about which Moses spoke nothing in regard to priests.
7,15 And the change in law is even more abundantly clear since
another priest has arisen in the likeness of Melchizedek. 7,16 who has
come to be not according to a law of fleshly command but according
to a power of life without end. 7,17 For testimony is given that “you
are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”. 7,18 For a
nullification of a preceding command is occurring because of its
weakness and uselessness—7,19 for the law brought nothing to
perfection—but what is more, an introduction to a better hope through
which we draw near to God. 7,20 And not without a swearing of an
oath (for they have become priests with an oath, 7,21 whereas he, with
a swearing of an oath through the one who says to him, “The Lord
swore and he will not change. You are a priest forever”). 7,22
According to such a criterion has Jesus become the guarantor of a
better covenant. 7,23 And they have become many because death
prevented them from remaining. 7,24 but he, because of his remaining
forever, has a permanent priesthood. 7,25 For this reason he is always
able to save those who come to God through him, because he is
always living to intercede for them. 7,26 Such a high priest was fitting
for us to have, holy, innocent, pure, set apart from sinners and higher
than the heavens, 7,27 who has no need as do the high priests daily to
offer sacrifices first for his own sins then for the sins of the people.
For this he did once and for all when he offered himself. 7,28 For the
Law establishes men as priests who have weakness, whereas the word
of the swearing of the oath, which was subsequent to the Law,
establishes a son perfected forever.
7.4. A Suggested Structure
Preliminary to a discussion of a plausible structure for 7,1-28 is the
question of the relation of the passage to what precedes. It does seem
to be related to what precedes: witness the mention of Melchizedek at
the citation from Ps 110,4 at 5,6; at the transition verse 5,10; and at
the transition verse 6,20. These explicit references to Melchizedek
prepare the way for the five mentions of Melchizedek in 7,1-28 (vv. 1,
10, 11, 15, 17). After Chapter 7 there is no further mention of
Melchizedek in the epistle.
A view of the entire passage 3,7 – 6,20 seems to indicate that the first
half (3,7 – 4,12) is based on the promise of land made to Abraham: in
the passage not only is the land identified definitively as the eternal
“rest” of God, but entry into that rest is guaranteed on the basis of the
participation of the believing and trusting Christian in Christ as Logos
(provided one or the other of the individual Christians does not lose
that faith-trust). Just so, the passage 4,13 – 6,20 would seem to be
about the descendants promised to Abraham and constituting not only
those who believe and trust as Abraham believed and trusted, but in
addition those who believe and trust as Jesus believed and trusted.
Christ as Logos is involved here as well (4,13), for as sacrificial
victim he intercedes as high priest with God. Thus the descendants
have some relation to the high priestly status of Christ. It would seem
that these descendants of Abraham through Christ are related in some
way to the oath sworn by God to Abraham after his successful passing
of his test in faith-trust, for the author of Hebrews singles out this oath
in Heb 7,13-18.
This, then, is the state of the question as the structure of Heb 7 comes
under discussion.
The passage 7,1-28 seems to have been structured by the author of
Hebrews so as to have three parts:
      1) vv. 1-10;245
      2) vv. 11-19;246
      3) vv. 20-28.247

The first subsection (vv. 1-10) is introduced by mention of the
meeting between Melchizedek and Abraham in v. 1 (oJ sunanathvsa~
jAbraavm). The following verses develop the implications of that
 meeting. They explain who Melchizedek was and why his encounter
 with Abraham is of interest to the author of Hebrews.248 By selective
 use of words from the brief appearance of Melchizedek at Gen 14,17-
 20 the author points out that Melchizedek was a king,249was a priest,
 was associated with Jerusalem, and is the recipient of tithes from
 Abraham whom he in turn blesses. The author then in his own words
 says that Melchizedek had no parents and hence no genealogy, and
 neither a beginning nor an end of mortal life. In doing so the author is
 speaking very precisely, limiting himself to what the text of Genesis
 says. His point of view, as usual, is not from Melchizedek looking
 toward Christ, but from Christ looking toward Melchizedek:
 Melchizedek exists as one who “has been likened to”
 (ajfwmoiwmevno~) “the son of God” (tw`/ uiJw/` tou` qeou`). This last
 element—that Melchizedek had neither beginning nor end of his
 life—would seem to be the point which the author considers the most
 important, for it is here that he specifies that Melchizedek “has been
 liked to the son of God”. Precisely as recorded in Scripture

      Cf. Lane (1991a), pp. 158-163.
      Cf.: Attridge (1989), pp. 199-205; Lane (1991a), p. 178.
      Cf. Attridge (1989), p. 159.

   “The presentation of Melchizedek in 7:1-10 assumes the form of homiletical
midrash, in which the exposition of Scripture determines the structure of the
argument. The unit exhibits five characteristics of this distinctive form: (1) the point
of departure for interpretation is the OT text; (2) the exposition is homiletical in
character; (3) the writer is attentive to the analysis of the details of the text; (4) the
text is made relevant to the current situation through interpretation; and (5) the point
of interest is the narrative account not merely the characters themselves” (Lane
[1991a], p. 159).

      Cf. Heb 7,12.
Melchizedek had no beginning nor end of his life and because of this
is like God’s son. This harking back to the prologue is obviously by
design: Christ is God’s son in the full sense of the word “God”, i.e., he
is the legitimate stamp of God’s inner being.250
The second subsection (vv. 11-19) is delimited by the words referring
to “perfection” (teleivwsi~) and “law” (nenomoqevthtai) in v. 11 and
in v. 19 (ejteleivwsen, novmo~). The heavenly priest is explicitly
contrasted with the earthly priesthood of the order of Aaron (vv. 11,
15, 16). Again, emphasis is placed on the never-ending state of the
heavenly high priest (cf. 5,5-6, the passage which introduced
Melchizedek to the addressees): kata; duvnamin zwh`~ ajkataluvtou
(v. 16). The priesthood is considered so important that change in
priesthood implies a change in law (v. 12).251 The eternity of Christ’s
priesthood thus brought to perfection makes possible a definitively
“better” hope.252

The third subsection(v v. 20-28 is delimited by the word “oath”
(oJrkwmosiva) in vv. 20-21 and 28.253 The use of the word “oath”
indicates the function of the subsection and the place of the subsection
in the entire passage 3,7 – 7,28: to emphasize that the son is high
priest according to the order of Melchizedek as Melchizedek is

    In the use of Melchizedek by the author of Hebrews there is no evocation of the
speculation about Melchizedek rife at the time Hebrews was written: it is all sober
and straightforward, and because of this sobriety and straightforwardness all the
more forceful. Cf. Cockerill (2008), pp. 128-144.

    “ … in the author’s view, the Mosaic Law is essentially a set of cultic regulations
in which the role of priests is fundamental. Priesthood is logically prior (cf. v. 12;
8:6). The present clause therefore means ‘the levitical priesthood’ … was the basis
of the Law given to the people’ (N[ew] J[erusalem] B[ible]) … “ (Ellingworth
[1993], p. 372).

   With regard to the “better” hope “through which” (di j h|~) we approach God
Ellingworth ([1993], p. 382) has this observation: “In the last analysis, the covenant
itself is nothing other than Christ, who alone gives access to God: di j h|~ [ejlpivdo~]
becomes in v. 25 simply di j aujtou`, through Christ.” The present writer would
simply suggest: The identification of Christ with the [new] covenant is to be
understood not metaphorically but liturgically: Christ in the Eucharist is the [new]
covenant, and in Christ as the Eucharistic new covenant lies the Christian’s basis for
definitive and infallible hope in entering into God’s rest.

   These are the only times the word oJrkwmosiva is used in Hebrews, and in the
entire New Testament, for that matter.
understood in Genesis and Psalm 110 and by the author of Hebrews.
The oath is a key factor in understanding the role played by Christ as
high priest in the offspring promised to Abraham.254

7.5. A Suggested Meaning
On the supposition that the suggestions given above regarding
structure have a certain plausibility as regards the text as it actually
stands, a plausible interpretation of the text seems feasible. For Heb
7,1-28 gives key indications as to how the climax of the passage on
the promise of offspring made to Abraham (i.e., Heb 4,13 – 6,20) is to
be handled. Heb 6,13-18 gives an extended treatment to the oath
sworn by God to Abraham at the successful completion of the test of
his faith-trust as portrayed in Gen 22,1-18. This alerts the reader that
this oath of God is crucial for the understanding the promise of
offspring which the oath reaffirms.255 The apparently gratuitous
insertion about the nautical image involving an anchor of hope on a
line leading inside the veil [of the holy of holies] where Jesus had
entered (v. 19) now becomes less enigmatic. It refers to the Eucharist
under the aspect of Jesus as victim. This is the same heavenly Jesus as
victim which the children of Abraham and brothers of the risen Jesus
can gaze on in order to re-live the death of Jesus and gain courage in
the face of their own death (cf. Heb 2,8b-9). It is united in the context
with the previous passage about God’s oath (vv. 13-18) and the
subsequent passage about Christ’s priesthood according to
Melchizedek (v. 20) in order to show the tangible, liturgical witness
for those who are Christ’s brothers that the oath sworn by God is in
the process of being brought to fulfillment in them. The way has now
been prepared for a presentation of the priesthood of Christ according
to Melchizedek which brings to completion the explanation of what
God’s promise in Genesis was really all about.

   As with David in Heb 4,7, Psalm 110 and with it mention of the oath by which
Christ became high priest, was written after the giving of the Mosaic Law. This is
another argument (implicit, to be sure) of the author of Hebrews that the priesthood
of Christ is definitively superior to the priesthood of the Law.

   The oath, coming as it does as God’s gratuitous re-affirmation of the promise of
offspring as an implicit reward for Abraham’s faith-trust in him, is also an implicit
incorporation of that faith-trust into the content of the promise (cf. Moberly [1988],
pp. 320-321 and Swetnam [2004], p. 141 and p. 141, n. 13). This explains why faith-
trust is part of the identity of all those who are of the seed of Abraham: they are
constituted by their sharing in his faith-trust, and this with the approval of God.
The prominence of an oath of God at the end of 6,11-20 is matched by
the prominence of an oath of God at the end of 7,1-28. This has led to
speculation as a possible mutual relevance intended by the author of
Hebrews.256 Just how the attribution of this relevance is to be
understood is discussed.257 The most plausible understanding of the
relationship would seem to be implied by the way the author of
Hebrews uses the Septuagint text—as an illustration of the reality of
Christ. The oath of God in Genesis does not illumine the oath of God
at the moment of the resurrection, the oath of God at the moment of
resurrection illumine the oath of God in Genesis. (Cf. the context of
the discussion of the oath at Heb 7,20-28: Melchizedek “has been
made like” the son of God, not vice versa [Heb 7,3]).258 In other
words, it would seem that the normal perspective of the author of
Hebrews in citing Septuagint texts is enough to explain the mutual
relevance in his eyes. The oath to Abraham in Genesis illumines the
oath to Christ at the moment of the resurrection and his becoming a
high priest according to the order of Melchizedek: the heavenly high
priesthood of Christ is the basis for understanding the identity of the
offspring promised—and sworn—to Abraham.
Once the author of Hebrews has established the relation between the
heavenly high priest, Christ, and the true offspring of Abraham, it
remains to explore the nature of the offspring in the light of the other
data given in Heb 7. The reason the risen Christ can function as the
basis for the offspring is that he has been granted “perfection”
(teleivwsi~), i.e., priestly consecration by the act of his being raised.

      Cf.: Peterson (1982), p. 113; Lane (1991a), p. 152.

   Cf. Klappert (1969), pp. 27-28, and Hahn (2009), p. 296. Klappert attempts to
show that the wording of 7,19-21 echoes the wording of 6,13-20. Possible, but not
really convincing. Hahn argues that the oath cited in Heb 7 (i.e., the oath in Ps
110,4) is the “fulfillment” of the oath cited in Heb 6 (i.e., the oath cited at Heb 6,13-
18). But his mention of David as an implied participant because of the citation of a
psalm seems to go too far. Again, possible, but not really convincing.

   Cf. Köster (1961), pp. 105-108. Köster argues that the oath of Ps 110,4 is the
primary oath in the mind of the author of Hebrews once he mentions the oath of Gen
22,16 at Heb 6,14. Rather, it seems that it always was the primary oath which the
author of Hebrews had in mind. But perhaps this is to quibble. In any event, Christ
and his resurrection are always primary for the author of Hebrews in his view of
Christ’s high priesthood, because the resurrection gave Christ the ontological
wherewithal to exercise his high priestly ministry, the basis for which was laid on
the cross with the ontological wherewithal which Jesus had as earthly high priest.
(Cf. Heb 7,11-18 in the light of Heb 2,8b-12.) As a result of being
raised he joins Melchizedek in having (insofar as he his high priest)
no genealogy as do the Levitical priests, i.e., no father and no mother
which legitimize his priesthood, and no beginning of days nor end of
life, as each Levitical high priest had (cf. Heb 7,3). In effect, he is
“back” where he had been when God created the ages of time through
him as son (Heb 1,3).259 Thus his earthly high priesthood was, in a
sense, an “interval”, but an interval with eternal consequences. In this
“interval”, as earthly high priest, he brought about a purifying from
sin by means of his earthly death (Heb 1,3). But this act of purification
remains with him as heavenly high priest (Heb 2,10-12 in the light of
Heb 2,17-18) except that in Heb 2,10-12 the effects of this purification
were pictured as existing only after his saving death, whereas in Heb 7
they are envisaged as being applicable to all men.260 And now this
heavenly high priest “remains” (261) with a priesthood which will

    The relation between Jesus Christ as (divine) son and as high priest is explicitly
and implicitly affirmed by Hebrews. At 3,6 the attribution of sonship to Christ is in
the climactic position in the paragraph 3,1-6 which begins by calling Jesus “apostle
and high priest”. At 4,14 Jesus is identified as son of God and high priest. At 5,5-6
his becoming high priest at his resurrection is explicitly linked with his being called
“son” by God. At 5,8 his (divine) sonship is linked with his victimhood. At 6,6 those
who apostatize crucify again the “son of God”. At 7,28, the final and climactic verse
of Chapter 7, Christ as son is the one who has been made perfect. In the account of
apostasy at 10,29 it is the son of God who is being trodden underfoot. But, of
course, this intimate connection between the son and his priesthood/victimhood has
been indelibly indicated in the prologue: “God … speaks through this Son not only
in word, but in deed, in the entirety of the Christ-event, providing for humanity
atonement for sin and an enduring covenant relationship” (Attridge [1989], p. 39).
   In 9,25-26 the author of Hebrews seems to allude to the forgiveness of sins of
those who lived before Christ when he says that if Christ were to expiate sins the
way the old dispensation high priest expiated sins “he would have had to suffer
many times from the foundation of the world” (e[dei aujto;n pollavki~ paqei`n ajpo;
katabolh`~ kovsmou`). That is to say, the temporal scope of the high priest on the
Day of Expiation extended for one year. But the temporal scope of Christ’s
expiation brought about by his once-and-for-all death extended to all of previous

    “The choice of the infinitive mevnein, ‘to continue.’ appears to be theologically
significant. In the LXX mevnein signifies God’s continuing life in contrast to limited
human existence (e.g., qeo;~ mevnwn kai; zw`n eij~ genea;~ genew`n e{w~ tou` aijwvne~,
‘God continuing and living from generation to generation forever,’ Dan 6:27 LXX
…). … The predication ‘he continues forever’ implies Christ’s participation in the
life of God” (Lane [1991a], p. 189). One should add that in the context of Heb 7 the
endure forever. The conditions for adherence to this saving death
for those who have never heard of Christ are obviously different from
the conditions of Christians, and are set forth in Heb 11,6. In other
words, as the high priest according to the order of Melchizedek Christ
exercises the effect of his saving death from outside of time and
therefore to all those in time.263
7.6. A Summary View
With an explanation of Heb 7 a suggested interpretation of the entire
passage 3,7 – 7,28 comes into focus. The passage is an extended
treatment of the two promises made to Abraham, of land and
offspring. 3,7 – 4,12 shows how Christ as Logos guarantees the
entrance into the eternal Rest of God to all those who remain linked to
him as members of his “house”, i.e., his Church, provided they
maintain their faith-trust in their resurrection from the dead as he did.
4,13 – 7,28 shows how Christ as Logos makes possible the entrance
into this Rest of God for all men without temporal distinction by
reason of the expiation of sin through his death as earthly high
priest/victim combined with his risen state.

word mevnein is to be interpreted in the context of life without beginning as well as
without end of days.

   The temporal implications of 1,13, where the risen Christ is pictured as waiting
until his enemies are placed under his feet, arise from the scene being viewed from
the standpoint of the enemies, i.e., from the standpoint of time.
    In the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church this thought is expressed
authoritatively in the following manner: “In the liturgy of the Church, it is
principally his own Paschal mystery that Christ signifies and makes present. During
his earthly life Jesus announced his Paschal mystery by his teaching and anticipated
it by his actions. When his Hour comes, he lives out the unique event of history
which does not pass away: Jesus dies, is buried, rises from the dead, and is seated at
the right hand of the Father ‘once and for all.’ His Paschal mystery is a real event
that occurred in our history, but it is unique: all other historical events happen once,
and then they pass away, swallowed up in the past. The Paschal mystery of Christ,
by contrast, cannot remain only in the past, because by his death he destroyed death,
and all that Christ is—all that he did and suffered for all men—participates in the
divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being made present in them all.
The event of the cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything toward life”
(The Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1085).

All of this is prologue to the central portion of the epistle in 8,1 –
10,39 which the author of Hebrews introduces beginning with an
explicit reference to Christ as high priest who is a leitourgov~, a “cult
7.7. Assorted Hermeneutical Reflections
At this point, roughly mid-way in this attempt to come to grips with
the Epistle to the Hebrews, it would seem appropriate to pause for
some hermeneutical reflections. If the above interpretation has any
value it is now clear that the author of the epistle is a person facing
remarkable challenges with remarkable resources. The reigning prime
analogate of contemporary twenty-first century culture—the mind-set
of the hard sciences—should not be allowed to obscure what the
epistle is really all about. The reigning scientific mind-set calls for
impersonal analysis, whereas that very analysis, if done with sufficient
reflection, calls for just the opposite: a personal analysis.
The author of Hebrews was faced with fellow persons who, like him,
had staked their lives on another person, Jesus Christ. These fellow
Christians were in a sense the felt responsibility of the author of the
epistle, but in a sense were not, for he did not use his name in
addressing them for he did not feel authorized to do so. But both he
and they were acutely aware of the challenge immediately before
them: another person, the Roman imperator, crazed with practically
unlimited power. All of the Christians had been graced with the gift of
faith-trust in Jesus Christ and were in touch with him through
Liturgical Practice set in the context of a living Tradition. This
Liturgical Practice and this living Tradition could be understood in a
more profound way by constant reference to the historical matrix from
which they came—the world of the Old Covenant. Using the official
text of the Old Covenant, the Septuagint, as a source of real but
limited authority, the author applied his personal insight which had
been nourished by the Liturgical Practice and living Tradition which
enabled him to speak objectively and author-itatively about Jesus
Christ. He knew and the addressees knew that the stakes were a matter
of life or death both in this world and in the next.
Unless the contemporary reader today, in the twenty-first century,
makes an attempt to come to grips with the persons involved in any
exegesis of Hebrews—the author, the addressees, and above all Jesus
Christ—in the felt context of the faith-trust which marked their self-
awareness as Christians in a very real and very hostile world, the
Epistle to the Hebrews will remain to a greater or lesser extent a
closed book.

CHAPTER 8. Hebrews 8,1-13

The author of Hebrews signals with 7,28 that the discussion about
Melchizedek has been terminated (the name Melchizedek does not
appear any time afterwards in the epistle). Matching this concluding
remark is the suggestive assertion which opens 8,1: that he is now
going to discuss the principal subject matter of all that he is talking
8.1. Structure of the Central Section of Hebrews
It would seem that “the principal subject matter” of all that the author
of Hebrews is talking about is a highly structured section framed by
the prophecy of Jeremiah about the New Covenant. A suggested
arrangement is as follows:
      8,1-6 Introduction to Central Section
      8,7-13 Frame: Quotation of Jeremiah 31,31-34[LXX38,31-34]
      9,1-10 Introduction to the Three Entrances of Christ
         9,11-23 Entrance into the Heavenly Holy of Holies
         9,24 – 10,4 Entrance into Heaven Itself
         10,5-14 Entrance into the World
      10,15-18 Frame: Quotation of Jeremiah 31,33-34[LXX31,33-34]
         10,19-30a Negative Paraklêsis
         10,30b-39 Positive Paraklêsis
In the central section the prophecy of Jeremiah indicates by inclusion
the subject matter under discussion: the three entrances of Christ. But
the precise formality of the lengthy and variegated prophecy (and
hence the relevance for the three entrances) is not evident.264 The view
adopted in the present study is that the prophecy is being cited
principally because of its use of the word “covenant” (diaqhvkh).265

   For a brief overview of the various aspects touched on by the prophecy cf.
Ellingworth (1993), pp. 412-415.
      A more detailed argumentation will be presented below.
In order to divide the central section of Hebrews into manageable
units, the material will be presented in four chapters:
   Chapter 8: Heb 8,1-13;
   Chapter 9: Heb 9,1-23;
   Chapter 10: Heb 9,24 – 10,14;
   Chapter 11: Heb 10,15-39.
8.2. The Greek Text
8,1 Kefavlaion de; ejpi; toi`~ legomevnoi~: toiou`ton e[comen
ajrcievra, o}~ ejkavqisen ejn dexia`/ tou` qrovnou th`~ megalwsuvnh~ ejn
toi`~ oujranoi`~, 8,2 tw`n aJgivwn leitourgo;~ kai; th`~ skhnh`~ th`~
ajlhqinh`~, h}n e[phxen oJ kurio~, oujk a[nqrwpo~. 8,3 Pa`~ ga;r
ajrciereu;~ eij~ to; prosfevrein dw`rav te kai; qusiva~ kaqivstatai:
o{qen ajnagkai`on e[cein ti kai; tou`ton o} prosenevgkh/. 8,4 eij me;n
ou\n h\n ejpi; gh`~, oujd j a]n h\n iJereuv~, o[ntwn tw`n prosferovntwn
kata; to;n novmon ta; dw`ra: 8,5 oi{tine~ uJpodeivgmati kai; skia`/
latreuvousin tw`n ejpouranivwn, kaqw;~ kecrhmavtistai Mwu>sh`~
mevllwn ejpitelei`n th;n skhnhvn, o{ra gavr fhsin, poihsvei~ pavnta
kata; to;n tuvpon to;n deicqevnta soi ejn tw`/ o[rei. 8,6 Nuni; de;
diaforwtevra~ tevtucen leitourgiva~, o{sw/ kai; kreivttonov~ ejstin
diaqhvkh~ mesivth~, h{ti~ ejpi; kreivttosin ejpaggelivai~
nenomoqevthtai. 8,7 eij ga;r hJ prwvth ejkeivnh h\n a[mempto~, oujk a]n
deutevra~ ejzhtei`to tovpo~. 8,8 memfovmeno~ ga;r aujtou;~ levgei:
ijdou; hJmevrai e[rcontai, levgei Kuvrio~, kai; suntelevsw ejpi; to;n
oi|kon jIsrah;l kai; ejpi; ton oi\kon jIouvda diaqhvkhn kainhvn, 8,9 ouj
kata; th;n diaqhvkhn h}n ejpoivhsa toi`~ patravsin aujtw`n ejn hJmevra/
ejpilabomevnou mou th`~ ceiro;~ aujtw`n ejxagagei`n aujtou;~ ejk gh`~
Aijguvptou, o{ti aujtoi; oujk ejnevmeinan ejn th`/ diaqhvkh/ mou, kajgw;
hjmevlhsa aujtw`n, levgei Kuvrio~. 8,10 o{ti au{th hJ diaqhvkh h}n
diaqhvsomai tw`/ oi[kw/ jIsrah;l meta; ta;~ hJmevra~ ejkeivna~, levgei
Kuvrio~, didou;~ novmou~ mou eij~ th;n diavnoian aujtw`n kai; ejpi;
kardiva~ aujtw`n ejpigravyw aujtouv~, kai; e[somai aujtoi`~ eij~ qeovn,
kai; aujtoi; e[sontaiv moi eij~ laovn. 8,11 kai; ouj mh; didavxwsin
e{kasto~ th;n polivthn aujtou` kai;; e{kasto~ to;n ajdelfo;n aujtou`
levgwn: gnw`qi to;n Kuvrion, o{ti pavnte~ eijdhvsousivn me ajpo; mikrou`
e{w~ megavlou aujtw`n, 8,12 o{ti i{lew~ e[somai tai`~ ajdikivai~ aujtw`n
kai; tw`n aJmartiw`n aujtw`n ouj mh; mnhsqw` e[ti. 8,13 ejn tw`/ levgein
kainh;n pepalaivwken th;n prwvthn. to; de; palaiouvmenon kai;
ghravskon ejggu;~ ajfanismou`.
8.3. A Suggested Translation
8,1 The principal point in what is being said is that we have such a
high priest, who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of
the majesty in heaven, 8,2 cult minister of the holy things/holy of
holies and of the true tent, which the Lord pitched, not man. 8,3 For
every high priest is appointed for the offering of gifts and sacrifices;
from which it follows that this high priest must have something to
offer. 8,4 Now if he were on earth he would not be a priest, since there
are those who offer gifts according to law. 8,5 These serve a shadowy
sketch of the heavenly things, according to the oracle which Moses
received as he was about to make the tent. For it says, “See that you
do everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”
8,6 Now, as it is, he has come upon a superior ministry, as superior as
the better as the covenant of which he is the mediator, which has
become law on the basis of better promises. 8,7 For if that first
covenant were blameless no place would be being sought for a
second. 8,8 For while blaming them he says: “Behold, days are
coming”, says the Lord, when I shall bring to completion upon the
house of Israel and upon the house of Judah a new covenant, 8,9 not
according to the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day
when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they
did not stay in my covenant and I abandoned care of them, says the
Lord. 8,10 Now this is the covenant which I shall make with the house
of Israel after those days, says the Lord—giving my laws into their
mind and writing them on their hearts. And I shall be for them their
God and they will be for me my people. 8,11 And no one shall instruct
his kinsman and no one his brother with the words ‘Know the Lord’,
for everyone will know me from the smallest to the greatest, 8,12 and
I shall be merciful to their injustices and their sins I shall be mindful
of no more.” 8,13 In saying “new:” he has made old the first covenant.
Now what is old and aging is near to disappearance.
8.4. A Suggested Interpretation
The first verse indicates the importance given the entire passage and
what follows up until 10,39 by the author of Hebrews: “The principal
point in what is being said is that we have such a high priest … ”. The
use of the word ajrciereuv~ (“high priest”) with the designation “such”
shows that the principal point relates to what has previously been said,
i.e., it involves Christ and his role in the Christian liturgy. This view is
supported by the use of the word leitourgov~ (“cult minister”) in the
following verse. The reference to the seat taken by Christ at the right
of God’s throne in heaven indicates that Christ has an active role in
the Christian liturgy even though portrayed as not being on earth.
    The challenge in vv. 1-2, then, is to identify the realities indicated
by the words tw`n aJgivwn and th`~ skhnh`~ th`~ ajlhqinh`~ in v. 2.266
The present writer long ago opted for seeing in the words tw`n aJgivwn,
i.e., ta; a{gia, a term designed by the author of Hebrews to refer to
one reality with two connotations. The reality is the consecrated
Eucharist bread, which appears in Hebrews as Christ the heavenly
victim (cf. Heb 2,8b-9). The two connotations refer to 1) the old
dispensation use of the words ta; a{gia to signify “holy things” (i.e.,
holy food) consumed in a liturgical setting267 and 2) the Holy of Holies
according to the ad hoc terminology devised by the author of Hebrews
for the occasion268. The purpose is to indicate the “real presence” of
Christ in the consecrated host which is destined to be consumed by the
believer or to be contemplated in faith for the removal of fear of
death. The Holy of Holies was the “place” of God’s symbolic
presence in the old dispensation, while the “holy things” were the
sacred foods consumed in connection with the liturgy. In their new
dispensation fulfillment this symbolic presence has been replaced by
the “real” presence. This elaborate conceit (to be interpreted,
obviously, as a sui generis attempt to communicate a sui generis
reality) will be the subject of Heb 9,11-23, where Christ is portrayed
as “entering” (eijsevrcomai) “into the holy things/Holy of Holies” (eij~

   These terms are much discussed and summary presentations may be found in
standard detailed commentaries (cf., for example, Attridge [1989], pp. 232-234).
The presentation being given here will give only the present writer’s conclusions
made in the context of a Eucharistic interpretation of the entire epistle. It may safely
be said that the imagery involved in 8,1 – 10,39 has been the occasion of a variety of
      Cf. Swetnam (1970), p. 208, n. 14.
   Elsewhere in Hebrews the word a{gia with reference to the spatial imagery of the
desert tabernacle/Temple refers to the Holy of Holies as opposed to the Septuagint
usage which uses it to refer to the outer tent. Cf. Koester (1962), p. 309, n. 34, who
presents the usage of Hebrews in a succinct manner: “The remark hêtis legetai
Hagia referring to the ‘first tent’ Hebr. 9.2 is very odd and not consistent with the
word usage of the rest of the Epistle. In 9.3 Hebr. calls the inner tent hagia hagiôn,
but in all other places the simple Hagia is the technical term for the ‘inner tent,’ the
earthly one (9.25; 13.11) as well as its heavenly prototype (8.2; 9,12; in both
passages the inner sanctuary called Hagia, is clearly distinguished from the skênê of
the heavens; 9.23; 10.19; 9.9). The use of the term Hagia for the outer tent in 9.2 is
either to be explained as due to the dependence upon a ‘Vorlage’ in the description
of the tabernacle, or, preferably, the sentence hêtis legetai Hagia is a marginal gloss
which later came into the text, that is at a wrong place …”. The view being
suggested in the present study of Hebrews is that there is no need to resort to a
‘Vorlage’ or a gloss. But this will discussed at 9,2.
ta; a{gia) (Heb 9,11-12).
    At Heb 8,2, Christ is portrayed as the cult minister of ta; a{gia and
hJ skhnhv hJ ajlhqinhv. As understood in this study ta; a{gia refers to
both holy foods and the inner tent, the Holy of Holies, and hJ skhnhv hJ
ajlhqinhv refers to the outer tent which, as viewed in Hebrews from the
standpoint of the risen Christ, is the risen body of Christ.269 The risen
body of Christ enables Christ the heavenly high priest to be really
present (symbolism of the Holy of Holies in its Christian fulfillment)
in the holy foods of the New Dispensation. Thus the symbolism of the
Old Dispensation tabernacle/Temple is in agreement with the use of
teleiovw in Heb 2,10, as interpreted above.270
    Heb 8,4 all but states explicitly that the present high priesthood of
Christ is a heavenly one, for he is not “on earth” (ejpi; gh`~). Those
who are on the earth, i.e., the Levitical priests who serve the Temple,
in doing so serve at a shadowy sketch of the cultic realities ministered
to by Christ. The text does not say that these cultic realities are not on
the earth, only that the heavenly high priest who ministers to them is
not on earth. In other words, he is a high priest who ministers from the
right hand of God in heaven.
    V. 3 implies that the heavenly high priest offers gifts and sacrifices
(dw`ra te kai; qusiva~) which, when applied to Christ, becomes an
enigmatic ti (“something”). As the immediately preceding context of
the epistle indicated (e.g., 7,27), this enigmatic “something” is Christ
himself. His high priestly offering of himself is an established parallel
in the epistle (cf. Heb 2,8a-18, and the discussion above regarding the
basis for the macrostructure 3,7 – 6,20).
    The lengthy citation of Jer 31[38], 31-34 is many faceted, as was
noted above. These aspects must have been important for the author,
otherwise their inclusion is inexplicable. But the central focus of the
author’s interest seems to have been the “covenant” (diaqhvkh). This
focal point seems indicated by a convergence of factors:

      This interpretation follows that of Vanhoye (1965), pp. 1-25.
   Ellingworth ([1993], p. 402) argues against the present writer’s interpretation of
the phrase h}n e[phxen oJ kuvrio~ as referring to Christ, and not God (Swetnam
[1970], p. 219). On reflection the present writer thinks he is right. But not for the
reason he alleges (“It is unnecessarily complicated to think of Jesus as ministering
in, and in 9:11 as passing through a tabernacle which he had himself set up.”)
Rather, the reason is that in Hebrews God raised up Jesus from the dead (cf. Heb
2,10 and Heb 13,20) and thus “set up” the tent which consists of the heavenly body
of Jesus which enables him to “enter into” ta; a{gia. (In Heb 8,2 the relative
pronoun h}n refers to the immediately preceding skhnhv and not to ta; a{gia as well.)
   1) The citation from Jeremiah is introduced by the remark (v. 6)
that the heavenly high priest is “mediator” (mesivth~) of a covenant
which is legally based on better promises than those of the covenant
regulating the worship of the priests at the shadowy sketch of the
realities at which Christ ministers (v. 6). These “better promises”
would seem to be the promises of God to Abraham of land and
offspring (cf. Heb 6,13-15) which, transformed by Christ’s
resurrection, become eternal life and all of mankind, as explained
above in the discussion of Heb 3,7 – 7,28.
   2) The “first” covenant is said in v. 7 not to be blameless,
indicating that the citation is designed to highlight the contrast
between the covenant made with the fathers alluded to in v. 9 and the
new, Christian covenant.
   3) In summing up the citation in v. 13, reference is again made to
the contrast between the “first” (prwvth) and the “new” (kainhv)
   4) In the closing frame of the macro structure of the central part, at
10,16-17, the word “covenant” is again singled out.
   Thus there is plausibility in thinking that in the citation from
Jeremiah the author of Hebrews is focusing his attention on the idea of
covenant, with the contrast between the first, Sinai covenant being
made with the new covenant which is the basis for the Christian
   But it is important for the understanding of the emphasis on
covenant in the mind of the author of Hebrews to reflect on the
context in which the citation from Jeremiah is made. The verse
introducing the section, 8,1, indicates the liturgical context. This
emphasis on the liturgy continues through the entire section 8,1-6.
Thus, when 8,13 states that the first, i.e., Sinai covenant is near
disappearance, the supposition is that it is being considered with
regard to its liturgical aspects which, as 8,1-4 makes clear, involved
priesthood and sacrifice.271 Thus in what is to follow, Heb 9,1 – 10,39,
will arguably involve the new covenant’s priesthood and its sacrifice.
   But the emphasis on “covenant” (diaqhvkh) manifest in the author’s
approach to the citation from Jeremiah makes possible an even more
precise view of the author’s focus on the liturgy in the form of the
high priest and his offering. For the word diaqhvkh occupies a

    The remark seems to refer to the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. And with
it, the Temple sacrifices. The basis for this statement would seem to be the
prophecies of Jesus in the Synoptic gospels about the end of the liturgical world of
the old dispensation.
significant position in the tradition underlying the gospels. The word
occurs only once each in Matthew (26,28) and Mark (14,24), each
time with regard to the institution of the Eucharist. The word occurs
twice in Luke, in the prophecy of Zechariah with regard to the
covenant with Abraham (1,72), and once with regard to the institution
of the Eucharist (22,20, in the phrase kainh; diaqhvkh). That is to say,
the word diaqhvkh is common to all three Synoptic gospels with
regard to the Eucharist, and this is the only common usage among
them of the word. Inasmuch as the liturgical focus of the author of
Hebrews involves the high priest of the Christians (e[comen [8,1]), and
the gifts and sacrifices which he offers (8,3—cf. 7, 27), in the context
of Hebrews as it has been interpreted in the chapters above it does not
seem implausible to infer that Heb 9,1 – 10,39 will be about the

CHAPTER 9. Hebrews 9,1-23

Chapter 8 presented an outline of the entire central section of Hebrews
with the assertion that this section contained the chief point of the
author in the entire epistle. The assertion is based on the statement in
8,1 that what follows is the chief point of the entire epistle, but, of
course, it is also based on an interpretation of how what follows from
8,1 is interpreted. Following the principle outlined in the introduction
about the importance of structure in determining meaning, especially
in Hebrews, the structure presented in Chapter 8 is repeated here as a
preliminary step in delving deeper into the meaning of the structure
there outlined. All of this, of course, is presented with the hope that it
is viewed as being plausible and nothing more.
9.1. The Meaning behind the Structure: An Initial Interpretation
The structure containing the chief point of Hebrews as viewed in the
present study is repeated here:
   8,1-6 Introduction to Central Section
   8,7-13 Frame: Quotation of Jeremiah 31,31-34[LXX38,31-34]
   9,1-10 Introduction to the Three Entrances of Christ
      9,11-23 Entrance into the Heavenly Holy of Holies
      9,24 – 10,4 Entrance into Heaven Itself
      10,5-14 Entrance into the World
   10,15-18 Frame: Quotation of Jeremiah 31,33-34[LXX31,33-34]
      10,19-30a Negative Paraklêsis
      10,30b-39 Positive Paraklêsis
In Chapter 8 the point was advanced that the focal point of the author
in the multifaceted citation of Jer 31,31-34 was the (new) covenant
([kainhv] diaqhvkh). The reason for this was the author’s insistence on
the covenant in the four principal contexts of the citation, i.e., Heb
8,6; Heb 8,7; Heb 8,13; and Heb 10,16-17. It was further argued that
given the use of the word diaqhvkh in the Synoptic gospels to
designate the Eucharist as instituted by Christ at the Last Supper—the
word diaqhvkh occurs in all three Synoptic gospels at the institution of
the Eucharist, and occurs only there in the Synptics in a pattern
involving all three gospels—and given the plausible use of Jer 31,31-
34 as a framing device for the entire central section of Hebrews, the
chief point of the author in the central section would thus seem to
involve the Eucharist. No proof is being attempted here. But in the
light of the argumentation the assertion is plausible.
   It remains to be seen how the central section involves the
   The heart of the section involves three passages involving the use
of the verb eijsevrcomai. In the interpretation being advanced here the
passages are distinguished on the basis of the termination of the
      9,11-23 Entrance into the Heavenly Holy of Holies
      9,24 – 10,4 Entrance into Heaven Itself
      10,5-14 Entrance into the World
In Hebrews there are only two contexts in which word eijsevrcomai is
found: 3,11 – 4,11 (entrance into God’s katavpausi~) and 9,11 –
10,14 (1] entrance into the Holy of Holies [along with 6,19-20]; 2]
entrance into heaven itself; 3] entrance into the world). The word
eijsevrcomai is found in no other context in Hebrews. This patterned
usage suggests that the word bears connotations of the liturgical use in
non-biblical Greek religion and in the Septuagint translation of the
Old Testament.272
    As interpreted in Chapter 5 above, the word eijsevrcomai refers to
the infallible “entrance” of God’s people into God’s eternal rest, an
entrance made possible by the sacramental force of Christ as Lovgo~
and in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham of land (first pattern
in Hebrews, 3,7 – 4,11).
    In 9,11 – 10,14 the word eijsevrcomai will be interpreted as
referring to Christ’s three major “entrances” as priest or victim:

      9,11-23 portrays Christ’s “entrance” into the Holy of Holies/holy
      food to indicate Christ’s “real presence” in the Eucharistic species
      of bread (Christ as victim—cf. Heb 2,8b-9).

      9,24 – 10,4 portrays Christ’s “entrance” into heaven itself, i.e., to
      his place at the right hand of God from where he officiates as
      heavenly high priest at the Christian tôdâ or Eucharist (Christ as
      heavenly high priest—cf. Heb 2,10-12).

 Schneider (1935), pp. 673-676, especially p. 674: “Der kultische Gebrauch des
Wortes is im NT ziemlich häufig”.

   10,5-14 portrays Christ’s “entrance” into the world as earthly
   high priest (Christ as earthly high priest—cf. Heb 2,7-18).
Interpreted in this way the three “entrances” form a pattern. All are
roughly the same length. In the center is the heavenly high priesthood
of Christ, presumably central because it alone of the three will abide
eternally. The Eucharistic presence of Christ as heavenly victim will
eventually disappear when there is no need to sustain the faith-trust of
the Christians in the face of death or conquest of the devil (Heb 2,8b-9
in the light of Heb 2,14-16). The earthly priesthood of Christ has
disappeared with Christ’s resurrection, but the expiatory and
sanctificatory effects of that priesthood, of course, abide eternally
because they are subsumed into the heavenly high priesthood of
    Thus the pattern which emerges from the above interpretation, a
pattern itself based on factors independent of the pattern itself,
supports the interpretation of the passage being given here. It remains
to see how the interpretation works itself out in detail, beginning with
Heb 9,11 – 10,4.
9.2. The Greek Text
9,1 Ei\ce me;n ou\n kai; hJ prwvth dikaiwvmata latreiva~ tov te a{gion
kosmikovn. 9,2 skhnh; ga;r kateskeuavsqh hJ prwvth ejn h/\ h{ te
lucniva kai; hJ trapevza kai; hJ provqesi~ tw`n a[rtwn, h{ti~
levgetai {Agia. 9,3 meta; de; to; deuvteron katapevtasma skhnh; hJ
legomevnh {Agia JAgivwn, 9,4 crusou`n e[cousa qumiathvrion kai;
th;n kibwto;n th`~ diaqhvkh~ perikekalummevnhn pavntoqen crusivw/,
ejn h/| stavmno~ crush` e[cousa to; mavnna kai; hJ rJavbdo~ jAarw;n hJ
blasthvsasa kai; aiJ plavke~ th`~ diaqhvkh~, 9,5 uJperavnw de;
aujth`~ Ceroubi;m dovxh~ kataskiavzonta to; iJlasthvrion: peri; w|n
oujk e[stin nu`n levgein kata; mevro~. 9,6 Tou`twn de; ou{tw~
kateskeuasmevnwn eij~ me;n th;n prwvthn skhnh;n dia; panto;~
eijsivasin oiJ iJerei`~ ta;~ latreiva~ ejpitelou`nte~. 9,7 eij~ de; th;n
deutevran a{pax tou`` ejniatou` movno~ oJ ajrciereuv~, ouj cwri;~
ai{mato~ o} prosfevrei uJpe;r eJautou` kai; tw`n tou` laou`
ajgnohmavtwn, 9,8 tou`to dhlou`nto~ tou` pneuvmato~ tou` aJgivou,
mhvpw pefanerw`sqai th;n tw`n aJgivwn oJdovn e[ti th`~ prwvth~
skhnhv~ ejcouvsh~ stavsin: 9,9 h{ti~ parabolhv eij~ to;n kairo;n to;n
ejnesthkovta, kaq j h}n dw`ra te kai; qusivai prosfevrontai mh;
dunavmenai kata; suneivdhsin teleiw`sai to;n latreuvonta, 9,10
movnon ejpi; brwvmasin kai; povmasin kai; diafovrou~ baptismoi`~,
dikaiwvmata sarko;~ mevcri kairou` diorqwvsew~ ejpikeivmena. 9,11
Cristo;~ de; paragenovmeno~ ajrciereu;~ tw`n genomevnwn ajgaqw`n
dia; th`~ meivzono~ kai; teleiotevra~ skhnh`~ ouj ceiropoihvtou,
tou`t j e[stin ouj tauvth~ th`~ ktivsew~, 9,12 oujde; di j ai{mato~
eijsh`lqen ejfavpax eij~ ta; a{gia aijwnivan luvtrwsin euJravmeno~.
9,13 eij gar; to; ai|ma travgwn kai; tauvrwn kai; spodo;~ damavlew~
rJantivzousa tou;~ kekoinewmevnou~ aJgiavzei pro;~ th;n th`~ sarko;~
kaqarovthta, 9,14 povsw/ mavllon to; ai|ma tou` Cristou`, o}~ dia;
pneuvmato~ aijwnivou eJauto;n proshvnegken a[mwmon tw/` Qew`/,
katariei` th;n suneivdhsin hJmw`n ajpo; nerkrw`n e[rgwn eij~ to;
latreuvein Qew`/ z`w`nti. 9,15 Kai; dia; tou`to diaqhvkh~ kainh`~
mesivth~ ejstivn, o{pw~ qanavtou genomevnou eij~ ajpoluvtrwsin tw`n
ejjpi; th/` prwvth/ diaqhvkh/ parabavsewn th;n ejpaggelivan lavbwsin oiJ
keklhmevnoi th`~ aijwnivou klhronomiva~. 9,16 o{pou ga;r diaqhvkh,
qavnatou ajnavgkh fevresqai tou` diaqemevnou: 9,17 diaqhvkh ga;r
ejpi; nekroi`~ bebaiva, ejpei; mhvpote ijscuvei o{te z`h`/ oJ diaqevmeno~.
9,18 {Oqen oujde; hJ prwvth cwri;~ ai{mato~ ejgkekaivnistai, 9,19
lalhqeivsh~ ga;r pavsh~ ejntolh`~ kata; to;n novmon uJpo; Mwu>sevw~
panti; tw`/ law`/, labw;n to; ai|ma tw`n movscwn kai; tw`n travgwn meta;
u{dato~ kai; ejrivou kokkivnou kai; uJsswvpou, aujtov te to; biblivon kai;
pavnta to;n lao;n ejravntisen, 9,20 levgwn: tou`to to; ai|ma th`~
diaqhvkh~ h|~ ejneteivlato pro;~ uJma`~ oJ Qeov~. 9,21 kai; th;n
skhnh;n de; kai; pavnta ta; skeuvh th`~ leitourgiva~ tw`/ ai{mati
oJmoivw~ ejravntisen. 9,22 kai; scedo;n ejn ai{mati pavnta
kaqarivzetai kata; to;n novmon kai; cwri;~ aiJmatekcusiva~ ouj
givnetai a[fesi~. 9,23 jAnavgkh ou\n ta; me;n uJpodeivgmata tw`n ejn
toi`~ oujranoi`~ touvtoi~ kaqarivzesqai, aujta; de; ta; ejpouravnia
kreivttosin qusivai~ para; tauvta~.
9.3. A Suggested Translation
9,1 Now the first then had regulations of worship as well as a this-
worldly sanctuary. 9,2 For the first tent was constructed in which was
the lamp and the table with the presentation of loaves which is called
Holy Things. 9,3 And after the second veil there was the tent called
the Holy of Holies, 9,4 having a golden altar for incense and the ark of
the covenant covered on all sides with gold in which was a golden jar
having the manna and the staff of Aaron which flowered and the
tablets of the the covenant, 9,5 and above it were the cherubim in
glory overshadowing the seat of mercy. About these things it is not
possible to speak in detail now. 9,6 With these things thus fashioned
the priests regularly come into the first tent as they perform the rites.
9,7 while into the second, once a year, the high priest alone, not
without blood, which he offers for himself and the inadvertent sins of
the people. 9,8 This is an indication of the holy spirit that the way into
the Holy of Holies does not stand revealed as long the first tent has a
standing. 9,9 This is a figure for the present time, according to which
gifts and sacrifices which are unable to perfect the conscience of the
worshipper, 9,10 lying as they are on foods and drinks and various
washings, rules of the flesh until the time of making straight. 9,11 But
Christ, after appearing as high priest of the good things which come
about, through the greater and more perfect tent not made by hands,
that is, not of this creation, 9,12 and not through blood of goats and
calves but through his own blood entered once for all into the Holy of
Holies/Holy Things in the finding of an eternal redemption. 9,13 For
if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling on
those defiled sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, 9,14 how
much more will the blood of Christ, who offered himself blameless to
God through an eternal spirit, cleanse our conscience of dead works
for the worship of the living God. 9,15 And because of this he is
mediator of a new covenant, so that a death having taking place for
redemption of transgressions on the basis of the first covenant, the
heirs of the eternal inheritance might receive the promise. 9,16 For
where there is a covenant, it is required that the death of the one who
ratifies the covenant be attested. 9,17 For a covenant is valid on the
basis of the dead, since it is never valid when the ratifier lives. 9,18
Wherefore neither was the first covenant inaugurated without blood.
9,19 For when every command had been spoken according to the Law
by Moses to all the people, after taking the blood of calves and goats
with water and scarlet wool and hyssop he sprinkled the book itself
and all the people. 9.20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant
which God has enjoined on you”. 9,21 And with the blood he
sprinkled the tent and all the vessels of cult. 9,22 And almost all
things are purified with blood according to the law, and without the
shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 9,23 It is required therefore
that the copies of the things in the heavens be purified by these means,
but that the heavenly realities themselves by sacrifices better than
9.4. Hebrews 9,1-10: Introduction to the Three Entrances of
Hebrews 9,1-10 would seem to serve as an introduction to the three
entrances of Christ outlined above. Its function is to indicate the
meaning of ta; a[gia in the central section 8,1 – 10,39 dedicated to
explaining the nature of the new covenant as prophesied by Jeremiah.
Heb 9,2-3 would seem to be the key verses involved. In their context
they are as follows:

   9,1 Ei\ce me;n ou\n kai; hJ prwvth dikaiwvmata latreiva~ tov te
   a{gion kosmikovn. 9,2 skhnh; ga;r kateskeuavsqh hJ prwvth ejn h/\
   h{ te lucniva kai; hJ trapevza kai; hJ provqesi~ tw`n a[rtwn, h{ti~
      levgetai {Agia. 9,3 meta; de; to; deuvteron katapevtasma
      skhnh; hJ legomevnh {Agia JAgivwn, 9,4 crusou`n e[cousa
      qumiathvrion kai; th;n kibwto;n th`~ diaqhvkh~
      perikekalummevnhn pavntoqen crusivw/, ejn h/| stavmno~ crush`
      e[cousa to; mavnna kai; hJ rJavbdo~ jAarw;n hJ blasthvsasa kai; aiJ
      plavke~ th`~ diaqhvkh~, 9,5 uJperavnw de; aujth`~ Ceroubi;m dovxh~
      kataskiavzonta to; iJlasthvrion: peri; w|n oujk e[stin nu`n levgein
      kata; mevro~.
The passage is perplexing.273 The present writer has tried his hand
more than once at elucidating at least part of it.274 The basic problem
is that the author apparently uses the term {Agia in 9,2 to designate
the Holy Place of the desert tabernacle, whereas everywhere else in
Hebrews he apparently uses it to designate the Holy of Holies.275
Authors wonder why he is inconsistent. But that is only part of the
problem. 9,2 shows that the author of Hebrews is aware that {Agia is
used in the Septuagint to indicate the Holy Place as contrasted with
the use of {Agia JAgivwn to indicate the Holy of Holies. The other
part of the problem, then, is to explain not only the inconsistency but
the reason for the use of the term {Agia to indicate the Holy of Holies
in the first place. It is to explain this use of {Agia that the present
writer has argued for forty years that {Agia in 9,2 refers to the “Holy
Foods” of the Old Dispensation.276
    Heb 9,2-3 would seem to be the crucial text for indicating the
solution to the problem. The author of Hebrews is here describing the
worship area (a{gion kosmikovn) of the first, i.e., Sinai, covenant and
its appurtenances (dikaiwvmata).277 The use of the term a{gion
kosmikovn together with the use of the word skhnhv in conjunction
with the reference to the “second veil” (deuvteron katapevtasma)

      Cf. Ellingworth (1993), pp. 420-431, for a detailed presentation of the terms.
      Cf. Swetnam (1970), pp. 205-214: Swetnam (2000b), pp. 163-185.
   Cf. 8,2; 9,8; 9,24.25; 10,19; 13,11 and Attridge (1989), p. 233, n. 46. Cf. the note
on Heb 8,1-2 and the quotation from Koester (1962), p. 309, n. 34.

      Cf. Swetnam (1970); Swetnam (2000b).

   The author of Hebrews is well aware that there were other covenants besides the
Sinai covenant and the new covenant. But for the purposes of his writing he limits
himself to the use of the term diaqhvkh to these realities. He is looking at the Old
Dispensation from the standpoint of the New, and wishes to view the Sinai covenant
as a foil and preparation for the New. It is the New Covenant which rules the
would seem to indicate an interpretation of {Agia and {Agia JAgivwn
in their conventional Old Testament usages of describing the the Holy
Place and the Holy of Holies.278 But at the same time the syntax
indicates that the relative clause h{ti~ levgetai {Agia refers to what
immediately precedes, hJ provqesi~ tw`n a[rtwn.279 To satisfy the
exegencies of both imagery and syntax it would seem that the
interpretation that merits acceptance is that the author is primarily
referring to the Septuagint usage in designating the Holy Place and
Holy of Holies, but incidentally giving the basis for the usage of the
term a{gia in the sense of “holy things”, i.e., “holy food”. Elsewhere
the use of a{gia can refer to the Holy of Holies of the Old Testament
physical tent/temple only, or it can refer to the Holy Things of the
New Testament with the connotation of the Holy of Holies. The
context is determinative.
    Thus, in Heb 9,8 the allusion is to the New Testament a{gia since
the Old Testament first tent blocks the entrance as long as the first,
i.e., outer, tent is standing (cf. 9,7). 9,8, together with 9,9-10, prepare
th way for the decisive 9,12.
    In Heb 9,12 is found the premier text in which a{gia refers to “holy
things” primarily using the spatial imagery of the Holy of Holies as
the framework. The term of Christ’s entrance (eijsh`lqen) is “holy
things”, i.e., “holy food”, just as the spatial term of the Old Testament
priest’s entrance was the Holy of Holies. (Here would seem to be the
key text in Hebrews for asserting the “real presence” of Christ in the
Eucharist.) The “greater and more perfect tent not made by hands, that
is, not of this creation” (dia; th`~ meivzono~ kai; teleiotevra~
skhnh`~ ouj ceiropoihvtou, tou`t j e[stin ouj tauvth~ th`~ ktivsew~)
refers to Christ’s risen body.280 Thus, matching the ontological basis
for Christ’s heavenly priesthood, is the ontological reality of the
exercise of that priesthood, the Eucharist in which Christ is really
present as victim.
    In Heb 9,24 the reference is the Old Testament Holy of Holies as is
indicated by the context. Here the term of Christ’s entrance
(eijsh`lqen) is not a Holy of Holies made by hands (ceiropoivhta ...

   Here the present writer is forced to recognize that he ignored the imagery of the
two verses while insisting only on the syntax. Most commentators on Hebrews do
just the opposite: they ignore the syntax while insisting on the imagery.

      Cf. the argumentation in Swetnam (2000b), pp. 165-167.

      Cf. Vanhoye (1965), pp. 1-28.
a{gia) but heaven itself. Here the word a{gia is used to express a
terminus, and for Christ the definitive terminus of his act of entering is
not “holy things”, but heaven itself, for there he will abide
    In 10,19 ta; a[gia in the genitive as the term of an entrance by the
faithful would seem to refer to the reception of the “holy things”
under the imagery of a term of entrance. The text which would seem
to elucidate this text is Heb 6,19-20, with its reference to Christ as
victim. Here Christ is not simply gazed on, but “accompanied”
through communion.
    In the light of the above usage the reference to Christ in 8,2 as the
cult minister of ta; a[gia in the sense of “holy things” would seem to
be justified, but here, before 9,2-3, and the clarification which it
brings, ta; a[gia is best taken as an unspecified liturgical expression
which, along with hJ skhnh; hJ ajlhqinhv, is to be explained in due
    Thus the section 9,1-10 sets the stage for the three entrances of
9.5. Hebrews 9,11-23: The First Entrance of Christ
This passage is not without its problems.
9.5.1. 9,11-14: The Opening Verses
As outlined above, this first section refers to Christ’s entrance into ta;
a[gia. The majestic opening verses, 9,11-14, indicate a break with
what went before and the introduction of an important passage. In
9,11 Christ’s heavenly high priesthood is mentioned through the
reference to the greater and more perfect tent not made by hands; in
9,12 the mention is made of entrance into ta; a[gia, an entrance made
possible by his own blood, the unique efficacy of which is extolled in
9,13-14. The self-offering of Christ is mentioned in 9,14, thus
explicitly referring to what results from Christ’s entrance into ta;
a[gia, Christ as victim (cf. Heb 2,8b-9 in the light of 2,14-16).
9.5.2. 9,15-18: A Classic Crux
Then, in 9,15-18, occurs one of the classic problem texts in the epistle.
The word diaqhvkh is found explicitly in vv. 15, 16 and 17, and
implicitly in v. 18. Because of the content, vv. 15 and 18 seem to refer
to diaqhvkh in the sense of “covenant”, which is the case elsewhere in
Hebrews, which uses the word in its Old Testament, Semitic sense.
But because of the apparent content of vv. 15 and 16, the word
diaqhvkh there seems to refer to “testament” as understood in
contemporary Greek culture. If judged in the light of the presumed
usages regarding “testament” the meaning would seem to be
“testament”. But the evidence about “testament” from sources roughly
contemporary with Hebrews, if examined closely, would seem to
point in the favor of a consistent meaning of diaqhvkh in all four
verses—that of “covenant”282: there is no evidence in classical or
papyrological sources to substantiate the claim that a testament was
valid only when the testator died. A will became valid when it was
properly notarized.283 Further, syntactically, the use of the particles in
vv. 15-18 tells against a change of meaning: reading the verses closely
in the light of these particles indicates that vv. 16-17 are parenthetical
explanations of the necessity of Christ’s death. Since diaqhvkh in v. 18
means “covenant”, it must mean “covenant” in vv. 16-17 as well.284
    The point of the passage is that for a covenant to be valid the death
of the ratifier had to be represented symbolically.285 The key verse is
9,16: o{pou ga;r diaqhvkh, qavnatou ajnavgkh fevresqai tou`
diaqemevnou (“For where there is a covenant, it is required that the
death of the one who ratifies the covenant be attested”). And the key
word in this key verse is fevresqai. It seems to be used her in its
cultic, Old Testament sense of having a relation to sacrifice.286
Specifically, it would seem to refer to a bringing of sacrifices so that
the (symbolic) death of the one who ratifies a covenant is represented
as a sacrificial death.287

  Cf. Swetnam (1965). The article expresses the view held by the present writer for
decades. Cf. Attridge (1989), pp. 255-256, and Ellingworth (1993), pp. 462-465.
Lane (1991b), p. 231, gives a succinct overview of the problem.

  Cf. Hahn (2004) and Hahn (2009), pp. 314-320. And also Lane (1991b), p. 231
and pp. 242-243.

   “ … it is impossible to translate diaqhvkh in vv. 16-17 as ‘will’ or ‘testament’ and
to harmonize the writer’s statements with any known form of Hellenistic, Egyptian,
or Roman legal practice. There is no evidence in classical or papyriological sources
to substantiate that a will or testament was legally valid only when the testator died.
A will became operative as soon as it was properly drafted, witnessed, and
notarized” (Lane [1991b], p. 231).

      Cf. Lane (1991b), p. 231, with bibliographical references.
      The point is well developed by Lane (1991b), p. 243.

      Cf. Lane (1991b), p. 231.
      Cf. J. J. Hughes (1979), pp. 40-43, 65-66 (cited by Lane [1991b], p. 231).
9.5.3. 9,19 -23: The Eucharistic Dimension
Thus far what seems to be the judicious results of scholarship with
regard to the meaning of diaqhvkh in Heb 9,15-18. But there remains
still the need to specify exactly how the death of Christ is related to
his sacrifice in Heb 9,16. At the inauguration of a covenant the
symbolic death of the one entering into the covenant was indicated by
the death of animals: Heb 9,19-22 give the example of how the Sinai
covenan was inaugurated with the death of the ratifying persons being
represented by such deaths. The blood of animals is emphasized as a
purifying element, because the entire ceremony is being looked on
from the standpoint of Christ’s sacrificial death and the purifying
effect of his sacrificial death. The allusion to the institution of the
Eucharist in 9,20 was discussed above, in relation to Heb 3,1-6.
Again, this allusion is not to be looked on as though the author were
looking forward from Moses to Christ; he is rather looking backward
from Christ to Moses. And this suggests just how the attestation of
Christ’s death in 9,16 is taking place: it is taking place as part of the
Christian tôdâ. Christ’s entry into ta; a{gia was done with the
shedding of his blood in a sacrificial, purificatory act, and this
sacrificial, purificatory act is symbolically attested in each
reenactment of the Christian Eucharist.
    V. 23 refers to these reenactments by the use of the plural qusivai~:
just as the book of the Law and the people were purified/inaugurated
by Moses using sacrificial blood, so the heavenly realities which the
book of the Law and the people prefigured have to be
purified/inaugurated by better sacrifices still. That is, ta; a{gia and
those who receive ta; a{gia (cf. Heb 10,19-22), Christ really present
as the New Law/Covenant and those who partake of it, have to be
inaugurated (“purified” in the technical sense of bringing the loaves of
presentation into the Chritian sphere) in each Mass, which is based on
the reality of Christ’s unique death on the cross.288 The blood of Christ
present in each Eucharistic sacrifice symbolically represents the
purifying force of his death really present in each Mass.

   Cf. Ellingworth (1993), pp. 475-478, for a discussion of views about 9,23. Lack
of recognition of a Eucharistic relevance hampers exegesis here as in other texts of
the epistle.

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