International Critical Commentary NT - Hebrews 10:1 - 10:99

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International Critical Commentary NT - Hebrews 10:1 - 10:99

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1 For as the Law has a mere shadow of the bliss that is to be, instead of representing the reality of that bliss, it never can perfect those who draw near with the same annual sacrifices that are perpetually offered. 2 Otherwise, they would have surely ceased to be offered; for the worshippers, once cleansed, would no longer be conscious of sins! 3 As it is, they are an annual reminder of sins 4 (for the blood of bulls and goats cannot possibly remove sins!). 5 Hence, on entering the world he says,

“Thou hast no desire for sacrifice or offering;

it is a body thou hast prepared for me—

6 in holocausts and sin-offerings (πρ ἁατα as 13:11) thou takest no delight.

7 So (ττ) I said, ‘Here I come—in the roll of the book this is written of me—

I come to do thy will, O God.’”

8 He begins by saying, “Thou hast no desire for, thou takest no delight in, sacrifices and offerings and holocausts and sin-offerings” (and those are what are offered in terms of the Law); 9 he then (ττ) adds, “Here I come to do thy will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And it is by this “will” that we are consecrated, because Jesus Christ once for all has “offered” up his “body.”

This is the author’s final verdict on the levitical cultus, “rapid in utterance, lofty in tone, rising from the didactic style of the theological doctor to the oracular speech of the Hebrew prophet, as in that peremptory sentence: ‘It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.’ The notable thing in it is, not any new line of argument, though that element is not wanting, but the series of spiritual intuitions it contains, stated or hinted, in brief, pithy phrases” (A. B. Bruce, pp. 373, 374). In σιν…οκεκν τνπαμτν(v. 1) the writer uses a Platonic phrase (Cratylus, 306 E, εκνςτνπαμτν εκν( = ἀήεα Chrysostom) is contrasted with σι as the real expression or representation of substance is opposed to the faint shadow. The addition of τνπαμτν( = τνμλοτνἀαῶ) emphasizes this sense; what represents solid realities is itself real, as compared to a mere σι. The μλοτ ἀαά(9:11) are the boons and blessings still to be realized in their fulness for Christians, being thought of from the standpoint of the new δαήη not of the Law. The Law is for the writer no more than the regulations which provided for the cultus; the centre of gravity in the Law lies in the priesthood (7:11) and its sacrifices, not in what were the real provisions of the Law historically. The writer rarely speaks of the Law by itself. When he does so, as here, it is in this special ritual aspect, and what really bulks in his view is the contrast between the old and the new δαήη i.e. the inadequate and the adequate forms of relationship to God. Once the former was superseded, the Law collapsed, and under the new δαήηthere is no new Law. Even while the Law lasted, it was shadowy and ineffective, i.e. as a means of securing due access to God. And this is the point here made against the Law, not as Paul conceived it, but as the system of atoning animal sacrifices.

The text of v. 1 has been tampered with at an early stage, though the variants affect the grammar rather than the general sense. Unless δντι(D H K L Ψ2, 5, 35, 88, 181, 206, 226, 241, 242, 255, 326, 383, 429, 431, 547, 623, 794, 915, 917, 927, 1311, 1518, 1739, 1827, 1836, 1845, 1867, 1873, 1898, 2143 lat boh Orig. Chrys. Thdt.. Oec.) is read for δννα, ὁνμςis a hanging nominative, and an awkward anacolouthon results. Hort suggests that the original form of the text was: κθ ἣ κτ ἐιυὸ τςατςθσα ποφρυι, α εςτ δηεὲ οδπτ δννα τὺ ποεχμνυ τλισι As in 9:9, κθ ἥ (dropped out by a scribe accidentally, owing to the resemblance between κθνand κθν would connect with a previous noun (here σιν α similarly fell out before ε (ες and α was changed into αςin the three consecutive words after ἐιυὸ. This still leaves ὁνμςwithout a verb, however, and is no improvement upon the sense gained either (a) by treating ὁνμςas a nominative absolute, and δννα as an irregular plural depending on α understood1 from θσας or (b) by simply reading δντι(so Delitzsch, Weiss, Westcott, Peake, Riggenbach, Blass), which clears up everything. A desire to smooth out the grammar or to bring out some private interpretation may be underneath changes like the addition of ατνafter θσας(אP), or the substitution of ατνfor ατῖ (69. 1319), or the omission of ατῖ altogether (2. 177. 206. 642. 920. 1518. 1872), as well as the omission of ἄ (A 33. 1611. 2005) or αςaltogether, like the Syriac and Armenian versions, and the change of τλισι(τλῶα, Blass) into κθρσι(D vt).

Ποφρυι is an idiomatic use of the plural (Mat_2:20
τθήαι, Luk_12:20 ατῦι), “where there is such a suppression of the subject in bringing emphasis upon the action, that we get the effect of a passive, or of French on, German man” (Moulton, 1. 58). The allusion is to the yearly sacrifice on atonement-day, for ποφρυι goes with κτ ἐιυό, the latter phrase being thrown forward for the sake of emphasis, and also in order to avoid bringing εςτ δηεέ too near it. Εςτ δηεέ also goes with ποφρυι, not (as in v. 14) with τλιῦ. Οδπτ here as in v. 11 before δν(ντι(never elsewhere in the epistle) is doubly emphatic from its position. The constant repetition of these sacrifices proves that their effect is only temporary; they cannot possibly bring about a lasting, adequate relationship to God. So our author denies the belief of Judaism that atonement-day availed for the pardon of the People, a belief explicitly put forward, e.g., in Jub 5:17, 18 (“If they turn to Him in righteousness, He will forgive all their transgressions, and pardon all their sins. It is written and ordained that He will show mercy to all who turn from their guilt once a year”). He reiterates this in v. 2, where ἐε (as in 9:26 = alioquin) is followed by οκ which implies a question. “Would they not, otherwise, have ceased to be offered?” When this was not seen, either οκwas omitted (H* vg? syr 206, 1245, 1518 Primasius, etc.), leaving ἄ out of its proper place, or it was suggested—as would never have occurred to the author—that the OT sacrifices ceased to be valid when the Christian sacrifice took place. In οκἂ ἐασνοποφρμνι(for construction see Gen_11:8 ἐασνοοκδμῦτς the ἄ is retained (see on 9:26). Κκθρσέοςhas been altered into κκθρεος(L), but κθρζ, not the Attic κθίω is the general NT form. If our author spelt like his LXX codex, however, κκθρσέοςwould be original (cp. Thackeray, 74). Σνίηι is again used (9:9) in connexion with “the worshipper(s),” but the writer adds ἁατῶ (i.e. sins still needing to be pardoned). For the genitive, compare Philo’s fine remark in quod det. pot. 40, ἱεεωε οντνθὸ ο σνιήε τνοκίνἀιηάω ἐεχμνι κλσιμλο ἡᾶ ἢπρῖα. In v. 3 ἀάνσςmeans that public notice had to be taken of such sins (“commemoratio,” vg).

There is possibly an echo here of a passage like Num_5:15 (θσαμηούο ἀαινσοσ ἁατα), quoted by Philo in de Plant. 25 to illustrate his statement that the sacrifices of the wicked simply serve to recall their misdeeds (ὑοινσοσιτςἑάτνἀνίςτ κὶδαατα). In vita Mosis, iii. 10, he repeats this; if the sacrificer was ignorant and wicked, the sacrifices were no sacrifices (…ο λσνἁατμτν ἀλ ὑόνσνἐγζνα). What Philo declares is the result of sacrifices offered by the wicked, the author of Hebrews declares was the result of all sacrifices; they only served to bring sin to mind. So in de Victimis, 7, εηε γρτςθσα ὑόνσνἁατμτνἀλ μ λθνατνκτσεάενwhat Philo declares absurd, our author pronounces inevitable.

The ringing assertion of v. 4 voices a sentiment which would appeal strongly to readers who had been familiar with the classical and contemporary protests (cp. ERE iii. 770a), against ritual and external sacrifice as a means of moral purification (see above on 9:13). Ἀαρῖ, a LXX verb in this connexion (e.g. Num_14:18 ἀαρνἀοίςκὶἀιίςκὶἁατα), becomes ἀεενin L (so Blass), the aoristic and commoner form; the verb is never used elsewhere in the NT, though Paul once quotes Isa_27:9 ὅα ἀέωα ἁατα (Rom_11:27). All this inherent defectiveness of animal sacrifices necessitated a new sacrifice altogether (v. 5; δό the self-sacrifice of Jesus. So the writer quotes Psa_40:7-9, which in A runs as follows:

θσα κὶποφρνοκἠέηα,

σμ δ κτρίωμι

ὁοατμτ κὶπρ ἁατα οκἐηήα.

ττ επν ἰο ἥω

(ἐ κφλδ ββίυγγατιπρ ἐο)

τῦπισιτ θλμ συ ὁθὸ μυ ἠολθν

Our author reads εδκσςfor ἐηήα,1 shifts ὁθό (omitting μυ to a position after πισι in order to emphasize τ θλμ συ and by omitting ἐολθν(replaced by W in v. 7), connects τῦπισιclosely with ἥω A recollection of Psa_51:18 ε ἠέηα θσα …ὁοατμτ οκεδκσι may have suggested εδκσς which takes the accusative as often in LXX. Κφλςis the roll or scroll, literally the knob or tip of the stick round which the papyrus sheet was rolled (cp. Eze_2:9 κφλςββίυ

This is taken as an avowal of Christ on entering the world, and the LXX mistranslation in σμ is the pivot of the argument. The more correct translation would be ὠί δ, for the psalmist declared that God had given him ears for the purpose of attending to the divine monition to do the will of God, instead of relying upon sacrifices. Whether ὠί was corrupted into σμ, or whether the latter was an independent translation, is of no moment; the evidence of the LXX text is indecisive. Our author found σμ in his LXX text and seized upon it; Jesus came with his body to do God’s will, i.e. to die for the sins of men. The parenthetical phrase ἐ κφλδ ββίυγγατιπρ ἐο, which originally referred to the Deuteronomic code prescribing obedience to God’s will, now becomes a general reference to the OT as a prediction of Christ’s higher sacrifice; that is, if the writer really meant anything by it (he does not transcribe it, when he comes to the interpretation, vv. 8f.). Though the LXX mistranslated the psalm, however, it did not alter its general sense. The Greek text meant practically what the original had meant, and it made this interpretation or application possible, namely, that there was a sacrifice which answered to the will of God as no animal sacrifice could. Only, our author takes the will of God as requiring some sacrifice. The point of his argument is not a contrast between animal sacrifices and moral obedience to the will of God; it is a contrast between the death of an animal which cannot enter into the meaning of what is being done, and the death of Jesus which means the free acceptance by him of all that God requires for the expiation of human sin. To do the will of God is, for our author, a sacrificial action, which involved for Jesus an atoning death, and this is the thought underlying his exposition and application of the psalm (vv. 8-10). In v. 8 ἀώεο is “above” or “higher up” in the quotation (v. 6). The interpretation of the oracle which follows is plain; there are no textual variants worth notice,1 and the language is clear. Thus ερκνin v. 9 is the perfect of a completed action, = the saying stands on record, and ἀαρῖhas its common juristic sense of “abrogate,” the opposite of ἵτμ. The general idea is: Jesus entered the world fully conscious that the various sacrifices of the Law were unavailing as means of atonement, and ready to sacrifice himself in order to carry out the redeeming will of God. God’s will was to bring his People into close fellowship with himself (2:10); this necessitated a sacrifice such as that which the σμ of Christ could alone provide. The triumphant conclusion is that this divine will, which had no interest in ordinary sacrifices, has been fulfilled in the ποφρ of Christ; what the Law could not do (v. 1) has been achieved by the single self-sacrifice of Christ; it is by what he suffered in his body, not by any animal sacrifices, that we are ἡισέο (v. 10). Jesus chose to obey God’s will; but, while the Psalmist simply ranked moral obedience higher than any animal sacrifice, our writer ranks the moral obedience of Jesus as redeemer above all such sacrifices. “Christ did not come into the world to be a good man: it was not for this that a body was prepared for him. He came to be a great High Priest, and the body was prepared for him, that by the offering of it he might put sinful men for ever into the perfect religious relation to God” (Denney, The Death of Christ, p. 234).

In conclusion (11-18) the writer interprets (11-14) a phrase which he has not yet noticed expressly, namely, that Christ sat down at the right hand of God (1:3, 13); this proves afresh that his sacrifice was final. Then, having quoted from the pentateuch and the psalter, he reverts to the prophets (15-18), citing again the oracle about the new δαήηwith its prediction, now fulfilled, of a final pardon.

11Again, while every priest stands daily at his service, offering the same sacrifices repeatedly, sacrifices which never can take sins away—12He offered a single sacrifice for sins and then “seated himself” for all time “at the right hand of God,” 13to wait “until his enemies are made a footstool for his feet.” 14For by a single offering he has made the sanctified perfect for all time. 15Besides, we have the testimony of the holy Spirit; for after saying,

16“This is the covenant I will make with them when that day comes, saith the Lord,

I will set my laws upon their hearts,

inscribing them upon their minds,”

he adds,

17“And their sins and breaches of the law I will remember no more.” 18Now where these are remitted (ἄει, as 9:22), an offering for sin exists (sc. ἔτ) no longer.

One or two textual difficulties emerge in this passage. In v. 11 ἱρύ was altered (after 5:1, 8:3) into ἀχεες(A C P 5, 69, 88, 206, 241, 256, 263, 436, 462, 467. 489, 623, 642, 794, 917, 920, 927, 999, 1836, 1837, 1898 syrhki* sah arm eth Cyr. Cosm). In v. 12 ατς(K L 104. 326 boh Theod. Oec. Theophyl.) is no improvement upon οτς A curious variant (boh Ephr.) in the following words is ἐυὸ μα ὑὲ ἁατῶ ποεέκςθσα. In v. 14 boh (“for one offering will complete them, who will be sanctified, for ever”) appears to have read μὰγρποφρ (so Bgl) τλισικλ In v. 16 τνδαοῶ is read by K L Ψd r syr sah boh arm.

The decisive consideration in favour of ἱρύ (v. 11) is not that the ἀχεεςdid not sacrifice daily (for the writer believed this, see on 7:27), but the adjective πς Πρεενis a literary synonym for ἀαρῖ (v. 4); there is no special emphasis in the verb here any more than, e.g., in 2Co_3:16, for the (Zep_3:15 πρελ κρο τ ἀιήαάσυ metaphorical idea of stripping no longer attached to the term, and the πρ had ceased to mean “entirely” or “altogether.” The contrast between this repeated and ineffective ritual of the priests and the solitary, valid sacrifice of Jesus is now drawn in v. 12, where εςτ δηεέ goes more effectively with ἐάιε than with ποεέκςθσα, since the idea in the latter collocation is at once expressed in v. 14 At the opening of the writer’s favourite psalm (110:1) lay a promise of God to his Son, which further proved that this sacrifice of Christ was final:

επνὁκρο τ κρῳμυΚθυἐ δξῶ μυ

ἕςἂ θ τὺ ἐθοςσυὑοόιντνπδνσυ

Κθυa unique privilege; so Christ’s priestly sacrifice must be done and over, all that remains for him being to await the submission and homage of his foes. As for the obedient (5:9), they are perfected “finally,” i.e. brought into the closest relation to God, by what he has done for them; no need for him to stand at any priestly service on their behalf, like the levitical drudges! The contrast is between ἐάιε and ἕτκν(the attitude of a priest who has to be always ready for some sacrifice). Who the foes of Christ are, the writer never says.1 This militant metaphor was not quite congruous with the sacerdotal metaphor, although he found the two side by side in the 110th psalm. If he interpreted the prediction as Paul did in 1Co_15:25f., we might think of the devil (2:14) and such supernatural powers of evil; but this is not an idea which is worked out in Πὸ Ἑρίυ. The conception belonged to the primitive messianic faith of the church, and the writer takes it up for a special purpose of his own, but he cannot interpret it, as Paul does, of an active reign of Christ during the brief interval before the end. Christ must reign actively, Paul argues. Christ must sit, says our writer.

The usual variation between the LXX ἐ δξῶ and ἐ δξᾷis reproduced in Πὸ Ἑρίυ: the author prefers the latter, when he is not definitely quoting from the LXX as in 1:13. As this is a reminiscence rather than a citation, ἐ δξᾷis the true reading, though ἐ δξῶ is introduced by A 104 Athanasius. The theological significance of the idea is discussed in Dr. A. J. Tait’s monograph on The Heavenly Session of our Lord (1912), in which he points out the misleading influence of the Vulgate’s mistranslation of 10:12 (“hic autem unam pro peccatis offerens hostiam in sempiternum sedit”) upon the notion that Christ pleads his passion in heaven.

After reiterating the single sacrifice in v. 14 (where τὺ ἁιζμνυ is “the sanctified,” precisely as in 2:11), he adds (v. 15) an additional proof from scripture. Μρυε δ ἡῖ κὶτ πεμ τ ἅιν a biblical proof as usual clinching the argument. Ἡῖ is “you and me,” “us Christians,” not the literary plural, as if he meant “what I say is attested or confirmed by the inspired book.” Μρυενis a common Philonic term in this connexion, e.g. Leg. Alleg. iii .2 , μρυε δ κὶἐ ἑέοςλγνκλ (introducing Deu_4:39 and Exo_17:6); similarly in Xen. Mem. i. 2. 20, μρυε δ κὶτνπιτνὁλγν The quotation, which is obviously from memory, is part of the oracle already quoted upon the new δαήη(8:8-12); the salient sentence is the closing promise of pardon in v. 17, but he leads up to it by citing some of the introductory lines. The opening, μτ γρτ ερκνι implies that some verb follows or was meant to follow, but the only one in the extant text is λγικρο (v. 16). Hence, before v. 17 we must understand something like μρυε or λγιor ποέηε κίφσν(Oecumenius) or ττ ερκν although the evidence for any such phrase, e.g. for ὕτρνλγι(31. 37, 55, 67, 71, 73, 80, 161) is highly precarious. In v. 17 μηθσμιhas been corrected into μηθ by א Dc K L P, etc., since μηθ was the LXX reading and also better grammar, the future after ο μ being rare (cp. Diat. 2255, and above on 8:11). The oracle, even in the LXX version, contemplates no sacrifice whatever as a condition of pardon; but our author (see above, p.131) assumes that such an absolute forgiveness was conditioned by some sacrifice.

The writer now (10:19-12:29) proceeds to apply his arguments practically to the situation of his readers, urging their privileges and their responsibilities under the new order of religion which he has just outlined. In 10:19-31, which is the first paragraph, encouragement (vv. 19-25) passes into warning (26-31).

19Brothers (ἀεφί not since 3:1, 12), since we have confidence to enter the holy Presence in virtue of the blood of Jesus, 20by the fresh, living way which he has inaugurated for us through the veil (that is, through his flesh), 21and since we have “a great Priest over the house of God,” 22let us draw near with a true heart, in absolute assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from a bad conscience, and our bodies washed in pure water; 23let us hold the hope we avow without wavering (for we can rely on him who gave us the Promise); 24and let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good deeds—25not ceasing to meet together, as is the habit of some, but admonishing one another(sc. ἑυος as 3:13), all the more so, as you see the Day coming near.

The writer (ἔοτςον presses the weighty arguments of 6:20-10:18, but he returns with them to reinforce the appeal of 3:1-4:16; after 10:19-21 the conception of Jesus as the ἱρύ falls more into the background. The passage is one long sentence, ἔοτς…ποεχμθ …κτχμν…κὶκτνῶε …Ἔοτςον(as in 4:14) since the way is now open (9:8) through the sacrifice of Jesus, whose atoning blood is for us the means of entering God’s presence; πρηίν “a fre sure intraunce” (Coverdale), echoing 4:16. But the writer fills out the appeal of 4:14-16 with the idea of the sanctuary and the sacrifice which he had broken off, in 5:1f., to develop. Though the appeal still is ποεχμθ (23 = 4:16), the special motives are twofold: (a) πρηί for access in virtue of the sacrifice of Jesus (vv. 19, 20), and (b) the possession of Jesus as the supreme ἱρύ (v. 21). (a) The religious sense of πρηί emerges in the early gloss inserted after Sir 18:29:

κεσω πρηί ἐ δσόημν

ἢνκὰκρί νκῶ ἀτχσα.

Here πρηί means confident trust, the unhesitating adherence of a human soul to God as its only Master, but our author specially defines it as πρηί ες(cp. 2 P 1:11 ἡεσδςεςτναώινβσλίν εσδν(with gen. as ὁό in 9:8, but not a synonym for ὁό), i.e. for access to (τνἁίν the holy Presence, ἐ τ αμτ Ἰσῦ(qualifying εσδν This resumes the thought of 9:24-26, 10:10-12 (ἐ αμτ as in 9:25). Compare for the phrase and general idea the words on the self-sacrifice of Decius Mus in Florus, i. 15. 3: “quasi monitu deorum, capite uelato, primam ante aciem dis manibus se devoverit, ut in confertissima se hostium tela iaculatus nouum ad uictoriam iter sanguinis sui semita aperiret.” This εσδςτνἁίνἐ τ αμτ Ἰσῦis further described in v. 20; we enter by (ἥ, with ὅο …ζσνin apposition) a way which Jesus has inaugurated by his sacrifice (9:18, 24, 25). This way is called recent or fresh and also living. In πόφτς as in the case of other compounds (e.g. κλιεή), the literal sense of the second element had been long forgotten (cp. Holden’s note on Plutarch’s Themistocles, 24); πόφτςsimply means “fresh,” without any sacrificial allusion (“freshly-killed”). Galen (de Hipp. et Plat. plac. iv. 7) quotes the well-known saying that λπ ἐτ δξ πόφτςκκῦπρυίς and the word (i.e. τ ἀτω γνμνν νο, ναό, Hesychius), as is plain from other passages like Arist. Magna Moralia, 1203b (ὁἐ τςποφτυφναίςἀρτςκλ and Ecc_1:9 (οκἔτνπνπόφτνὑὸτνἥιν had no longer any of the specific sacrificial sense suggested etymologically by its second part. It is the thought of ἐθςin 13:8, though the writer means particularly (as in 1:1-2, 9:8-11) to suggest that a long period had elapsed before the perfect fellowship was inaugurated finally; it is πόφτς not ἀχῖς Ζσνmeans, in the light of 7:25 (cp. Joh_14:6), that access to God is mediated by the living Christ in virtue of his sacrificial intercession; the contrast is not so much with what is transient, as though ζσνwere equivalent to μνυα (Chrysostom, Cosm 415a), as with the dead victims of the OT cultus or “the lifeless pavement trodden by the highpriest” (Delitzsch). He entered God’s presence thus δὰτῦκτπτσαο (6:19, 9:3), τῦʼἔτντῦσρὸ ατῦa ritual expression for the idea of 6:19. Δάis local, and, whether a verb like εσλώ is supplied or not, δὰτ κ goes with ἐεανσν the idea being that Jesus had to die, in order to bring us into a living fellowship with God; the shedding of his blood meant that he had a body (10:5-10) to offer in sacrifice (cp. 9:14). The writer, however, elaborates his argument with a fresh detail of symbolism, suggested by the ritual of the tabernacle which he has already described in 9:2f. There, the very existence of a veil hanging between the outer and the inner sanctuary was interpreted as a proof that access to God’s presence was as yet imperfectly realized. The highpriest carried once a year inside the veil the blood of victims slain outside it; that was all. Jesus, on the other hand, sheds his own blood as a perfect sacrifice, and thus wins entrance for us into the presence of God. Only, instead of saying that his sacrificial death meant the rending of the veil (like the author of Mar_15:38), i.e. the supersession of the OT barriers between God and man, he allegorizes the veil here as the flesh of Christ; this had to be rent before the blood could be shed, which enabled him to enter and open God’s presence for the people. It is a daring, poetical touch, and the parallelism is not to be prosaically pressed into any suggestion that the human nature in Jesus hid God from men ἐ τῖ ἡέαςτςσρὸ ατῦ or that he ceased to be truly human when he sacrificed himself.

The idea already suggested in ζσνis now (b) developed (in v. 21) by (ἔοτς κὶἱραμγνἐὶτνοκντῦθο, another echo of the earlier passage (cp. 3:1-6, 4:14), ἱρὺ μγςbeing a sonorous LXX equivalent for ἀχεες Then comes the triple appeal, ποεχμθ …κτχμν…κὶκτνῶε …The metaphor of ποεχμθ κλ (v. 22), breaks down upon the fact that the Israelites never entered the innermost shrine, except as represented by their highpriest who entered once a year ἐ αμτ ἀλτί (9:7, 25), which he took with him in order to atone for the sins that interrupted the communion of God and the people. In Πὸ Ἑρίυ the point is that, in virtue of the blood of Christ, Christians enjoy continuous fellowship with God; the sacrifice of Christ enables them to approach God’s presence, since their sins have been once and for all removed. The entrance of the OT highpriest therefore corresponds both to the sacrifice of Christ and to that access of Christians which the blood of Christ secures. On the one hand, Christ is our highpriest (v. 21); through his self-sacrifice in death the presence of God has been thrown open to us (vv. 19, 20). This is the primary thought. But in order to express our use of this privilege, the writer has also to fall back upon language which suggests the entrance of the OT highpriest (cp. v. 19 ἐ τ αμτ ἰσῦwith 9:25). He does not mean that Christians are priests, with the right of entry in virtue of a sacrifice which they present, but, as to approach God was a priestly prerogative under the older order, he describes the Christian access to God in sacerdotal metaphors. Ποεχμθ is one of these. It is amplified first by a μτ clause, and then by two participial clauses. The approach to God must be whole-hearted, μτ ἀηιῆ κρίς without any hesitation or doubt, ἐ πηοοί (6:11) πσες This thought of πσι as man’s genuine answer to the realities of divine revelation, is presently to be developed at length (10:38f.). Meantime the writer throws in the double participial clause, ῥρνιμνι…κθρ. The metaphors are sacerdotal; as priests were sprinkled with blood and bathed in water, to qualify them for their sacred service, so Christians may approach God with all confidence, on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, since they have been ῥρνιμνι(i.e. sprinkled and so purified from—a frequent use of the verb) ἀὸσνιήεςπνρς(= σνιήεςἁατῶ, 10:2) in their hearts (τςκρίςno external cleansing). Then the writer adds, κὶλλυμνιτ σμ ὕαικθρ, suggesting that baptism corresponded to the bathing of priests (e.g. in Lev_16:4). Once and for all, at baptism (cp. 1 P 3:21), Christians have been thus purified from guilty stains by the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice.3 What room then can there be in their minds for anything but faith, a confident faith that draws near to God, sure that there is no longer anything between Him and them?

The distinctive feature which marked off the Christian βπιμςfrom all similar ablutions (6:2, 9:10) was that it meant something more than a cleansing of the body; it was part and parcel of an inward cleansing of the κρί, effected by τ αμ τςδαήη (v. 29).1 Hence this as the vital element is put first, though the body had also its place and part in the cleansing experience. The κρί and the σμ are a full, plastic expression for the entire personality, as an ancient conceived it. Ancient religious literature2 is full of orders for the penitent to approach the gods only after moral contrition and bodily cleansing, with a clean heart and a clean body, in clean clothes even. But, apart from other things, such ablutions had to be repeated, while the Christian βπιμςwas a single ceremony, lying at the source and start of the religious experience. And what our author is thinking of particularly is not this or that pagan rite, but the OT ritual for priests as described in Exo_29:20f., Lev_8:23f. Lev_8:14:5f. etc. (cp. Joma 3).

Three specimens of the anxious care for bodily purity in ancient religious ritual may be given. First (i) the ritual directions for worship in Syll. 567 (ii a.d.): πῶο μνκὶτ μγσο, χῖα κὶγώη κθρὺ κὶὑιῖ ὑάχνα κὶμδνατῖ διὸ σνιόα. Second (ii) the stress laid on it by a writer like Philo, who (quod deus sit immutabilis, 2), after pleading that we should honour God by purifying ourselves from evil deeds and washing off the stains of life, adds: κὶγρεηε εςμντ ἱρ μ ἐενιβδζι, ὄ ἂ μ πόεο λυάεο φιρντιτ σμ, εχσα δ κὶθενἐιερῖ ἔικλδμν κὶπφρέῃδαοᾳ His argument is that if the body requires ablutions (πρρατροςκὶκθρίι ἁνυιος before touching an external shrine, how can anyone who is morally impure draw near (ποεθῖ τ θῷ the most pure God, unless he means to repent? Ὁμνγρπὸ τ μδνἐεεγσσα κκνκὶτ πλι ἐνψσα δκισςγγθςποίω[cp. Heb_10:19, Heb_10:22], ὁδ ἄε τύω δσάατςὦ ἀιτσω λστιγροδπτ τντ ἐ μχῖ τςδαοα ὁῶτ [cp. Heb_4:13] κὶτῖ ἀύοςατςἐπρπτῦτ. Or again in de Plant. 39: σμτ κὶψχςκθρμνι τ μνλυρῖ, τ δ νμνκὶπιεα ὀθςῥύαι In de Cherub. 28 he denounces the ostentatious religion of the worldly, who in addition to their other faults, τ μνσμτ λυρῖ κὶκθρίι ἀορποτι τ δ ψχςἐνψσα πθ, οςκτρυαντιὁβο, οτ βύοτιοτ ἐιηεοσ, are very particular about their outward religious practices3 but careless about a clean soul. Finally, (iii) there is the saying of Epictetus (iv. 10. 3): ἐε γρἐενι(i.e. the gods) φσικθρὶκὶἀήαο, ἐʼὁο ἠγκσνατῖ ο ἄθωο κτ τνλγν ἐὶτσῦο κὶτῦκθρῦκὶτῦκθρο εσνἀθκιο.

For the exceptional ῥρνιμνι(א A C D*), א Dc etc. have substituted ἐρνιμνι(so Theodoret). The λλυμνιof אB D P is the more common κιήform of the Attic λλυέο (A B Dc etc.).

The next appeal (v. 23), κτχμντνὁοοίντςἐπδς(to which א vg pesh eth add the gloss of ἡῶ), echoes 4:14 (καῶε τςὁοοίς and 3:6 (ἐντνπρηίνκὶτ κύηατςἐπδς…κτσωε). This hope for the future was first confessed at baptism, and rests upon God’s promise1 (as already explained in 6:17, 18). It is to be held ἀλνς a term applied by Philo to the word of a good man (ὁγρτῦσοδίυ φσ, λγςὅκςἔτ, ββις ἀλνς ἀεδσαο, ἐηεσέο ἀηεᾳ de Spec. Leg. ii. 1); in Irenaeus it recurs in a similar connexion (i. 88, ed. Harvey: ὁτνκνν τςἀηεα ἀλν ἐ ἑυῷκτχν ὃ δὰτῦβπίμτςελφ). The old Wycliffite version translates finely. “hold we the confessioun of oure hope bowynge to no side.” The close connexion between ῥρνιμνικλ and λλυμνικλ makes it inadvisable to begin the second appeal with κὶλλυμνιτ σμ ὕαικθρ (Erasmus, Beza, Bengel, Lachmann, Lü von Soden, B. Weiss, etc.). A more plausible suggestion, first offered by Theodoret and adopted recently by Hofmann and Seeberg, is to begin the second appeal after πσες making κτχμνcarry ῥρνιμνι…κθρ. This yields a good sense, for it brings together the allusions to the baptismal confession. But the ordinary view is more probable; the asyndeton in κτχμνis impressive, and if it is objected that the κτχμνclause is left with less content than the other two, the answer is that its eschatological outlook is reiterated in the third clause, and that by itself its brevity has a telling force. Besides, ἔοτςκλ (19-21) introduce κτχμνas well as ποεχμθ.

The third appeal (24, 25) turns on love (cp. 6:10), as the first on faith, and the second on hope. The members of the circle or community are to stir up one another to the practice of Christian love. Since this is only possible when common worship and fellowship are maintained, the writer warns them against following the bad example of abandoning such gatherings; κὶκτνῶε ἀλλυ, for, if we are to κτνενChrist (3:1), we are also bound to keep an eye on one another εςπρξσὸ ἀαῆ κὶκλνἔγν(i.e. an active, attractive moral life, inspired by Christian love). This good sense of πρξσό as stimulus seems to be an original touch; in Greek elsewhere it bears the bad sense of provocation or exasperation (cp. Act_15:39), although the verb πρξνι had already acquired a good sense (e.g. in Josephus, Ant. xvi. 125, πρξνιτνενιν in Pro_6:3 ἴθ μ ἐλόεο, πρξν δ κὶτνφλνσυὃ ἐευσ: and in Xen. Cyrop. vi. 2. 5, κὶτύοςἐανντ πρξν). Pliny’s words at the close of his letter to Caninius Rufus (iii. 7) illustrate what is meant by πρξσό in this sense: “Scio te stimulis non egere; me tamen tui caritas evocat ut currentem quoque instigem, sicut tu soles me. Ἀαὴδ ἔι, cum invicem se mutuis exhortationibus amici ad amorem immortalitatis exacuunt.” How the πρξσό is to be carried out, the writer does not say. By setting a good example? By definite exhortations (πρκλῦτς v. 25, like 13:1)? Μ ἐκτλίοτςdo not do to one another what God never does to you (13:5), do not leave your fellow-members in the lurch (the force of ἐκτλίεν especially in the κιή—τνἐιυαωὴ ἑυῶ (reflexive pronoun in the genitive = ἡῶ). Ἐιυαωήin the κιή(cp. Deissmann’s Light from the East, 102 f.) means a collection (of money), but had already in Jewish Greek (e.g. 2 Mal_2:7 ἕςἂ σνγ ὁθὸ ἐιυαωὴ τῦλο) begun to acquire the present sense of a popular “gathering.” Κθςἔο (sc. ἔτν τσν But who are these? What does this abandonment of common fellowship mean? (a) Perhaps that some were growing ashamed of their faith; it was so insignificant and unpopular, even dangerous to anyone who identified himself with it openly. They may have begun to grow tired of the sacrifices and hardships involved in membership of the local church. This is certainly the thought of 10:32f., and it is better than to suppose (b) the leaders were a small group of teachers or more intelligent Christians, who felt able, in a false superiority, to do without common worship; they did not require to mix with the ordinary members! The author in any case is warning people against the dangers of individualism, a warning on the lines of the best Greek and Jewish ethics, e.g. Isokrates, ad Demon. 13, τμ τ διόινἀὶμν μλσαδ μτ τςπλω, and the rabbinic counsel in Taanith, 11, 1 (“whenever the Israelites suffer distress, and one of them withdraws from the rest, two angels come to him and, laying their hands upon his head, say, this man who separates himself from the assembly shall not see the consolation which is to visit the congregation”), or in Hillel’s saying (Pirke Aboth 2, 5): “Separate not thyself from the congregation, and trust not in thyself until the day of thy death.” The loyal Jews are described in Ps.-Sol 17:18 as ο ἀαῶτςσνγγςὁίν and a similar thought occurs also (if “his” and not “my” is the correct reading) in Od. Son_3:2: “His members are with Him, and on them do I hang.” Any early Christian who attempted to live like a pious particle without the support of the community ran serious risks in an age when there was no public opinion to support him. His isolation, whatever its motive—fear, fastidiousness, self-conceit, or anything else—exposed him to the danger of losing his faith altogether. These are possible explanations of the writer’s grave tone in the passage before us. Some critics, like Zahn (§46), even think that (c) such unsatisfactory Christians left their own little congregation for another, in a spirit of lawless pique, or to gratify their own tastes selfishly; but ἑυῶ is not emphatic, and in any congregation of Christians the duties of love would be pressed. Separatist tendencies were not absent from the early church; thus some members considered themselves too good to require common worship, as several warnings prove, e.g. in Barn 4:10 μ κθ ἑυοςἐδννε μνζτ ὡ ἤηδδκιμνι ἀλ ἐὶτ ατ σνρόεο σνηετ πρ τῦκιῇσμέοτς and Ign. Eph_5:3 (ὁονμ ἐχμνςἐὶτ ατ οτςἤηὑεηαε κὶἑυὸ δέρνν But in our epistle (d) the warning is directed specially against people who combined Christianity with a number of mystery-cults, patronizing them in turn, or who withdrew from Christian fellowship, feeling that they had exhausted the Christian faith and that it required to be supplemented by some other cult. “At first and indeed always there were naturally some people who imagined that one could secure the sacred contents and blessings of Christianity as one did those of Isis or the Magna Mater, and then withdraw” (Harnack, Expansion of Christianity, bk. iii. c. 4; cp. Reitzenstein’s Hellen. Mysterienreligionen, 94). This was serious, for, as the writer realized, it implied that they did not regard Christianity as the final and full revelation; their action proved that the Christian faith ranked no higher with them than one of the numerous Oriental cults which one by one might interest the mind, but which were not necessarily in any case the last word on life. The argument of the epistle has been directed against this misconception of Christianity, and the writer here notes a practical illustration of it in the conduct of adherents who were holding aloof, or who were in danger of holding aloof, from the common worship. Hence the austere warning which follows. Such a practice, or indeed any failure to “draw near” by the way of Jesus, is an insult to God, which spells hopeless ruin for the offender. And evidently this retribution is near. Christians are to be specially on their guard against conduct that means apostasy, for βἑεε(how, he does not say) ἐγζυα (as in Rom_13:12) τνἡέα (here, as in 1Co_3:13, without ἐεν or τῦκρο). This eschatological setting distinguishes the next warning (vv. 26-31) from the earlier in 6:4-6.

26For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the Truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, 27nothing but an awful outlook of doom, that “burning Wrath” which will “consume the foes” (see v. 13) of God. 28Anyone who has rejected the law of Moses “dies” without mercy, “on the evidence of two or of three witnesses.” 29How much heavier, do you suppose, will be the punishment assigned (i.e. by God) to him who has spurned the Son of God, who has profaned “the covenant-blood” (9:20) with which he was sanctified (10:10), who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30We know who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will exact a requital”: and again (πλν as in 2:13), “The Lord will pass sentence on his people.” 31 It is an awful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Apostasy like withdrawal from the church on the ground already mentioned, is treated as one of the deliberate (ἑοσω) sins which (cp. on 5:2), under the OT order of religion, were beyond any atonement. Wilful offences, like rebellion and blasphemy against God, were reckoned unpardonable. “In the case of one who, by his sin, intentionally disowns the covenant itself, there can be no question of sacrifice. He has himself cut away the ground on which it would have been possible for him to obtain reconciliation” (Schultz, OT Theology, ii. 88). There is an equivalent to this, under the new δαήη our author declares. To abandon Christianity is to avow that it is inadequate, and this denial of God’s perfect revelation in Jesus Christ is fatal to the apostate. In ἑοσω ἁατνω ἡῶ (26), ἑοσω is put first for the sake of emphasis, and ἁατνω means the sin of ἀοτνιἀὸθο ζνο (3:12) or of πρππεν(6:6), the present tense implying that such people persist in this attitude. Ἑοσω is the keynote to the warning. Its force may be felt in a passage like Thuc. iv. 98, where the Athenians remind the Boeotians that God pardons what is done under the stress of war and peril, κὶγρτνἀοσω ἁατμτνκτφγνενιτὺ βμύ, and that it is wanton and presumptuous crimes alone which are heinous. Philo (vit. Mos. i. 49) describes Balaam praying for forgiveness from God on the ground that he had sinned ὑʼἀνίςἀλ ο κθ ἑοσο γώη. The adverb occurs in 2 Mac 14:3 (Ἄκμς…ἑοσω δ μμλσέο). The general idea of the entire warning is that the moral order punishes all who wantonly and wilfully flout it; as Menander once put it (Kock’s Com. Attic. Fragm. 700):


ὁμ φλχεςκὶνμςκὶδμο.

Our author expresses this law of retribution in personal terms drawn from the OT, which prove how deeply moral and reverent his religious faith was, and how he dreaded anything like presuming upon God’s kindness and mercy. The easy-going man thinks God easy going; he is not very serious about his religious duties, and he cannot imagine how God can take them very seriously either. “We know” better, says the author of Πὸ Ἑρίυ!

Christianity is described (in v. 26) as τ λβῖ τνἐίνσντςἀηεα, a semi-technical phrase of the day, which recurs in the Pastoral Epistles (though with ἐθῖ εςinstead of λβῖ). It is not one of our author’s favourite expressions,1 but the phrase is partly used by Epictetus in its most general sense (λβντςπρ τςφσω μτακὶκννςεςἐίνσντςἀηεα κλ ii. 20, 21), when upbraiding the wretched academic philosophers (ο ἀααπριἈαηακί for discrediting the senses as organs of knowledge, instead of using and improving them. All that renegades can expect (v. 27) is φβρ τς(= quidam, deepening the idea with its touch of vagueness) ἐδχ (a sense coined by the writer for this term, after his use of ἐδχσα in 10:13) κίες for they have thrown over the only sacrifice that saves men from κίι (9:27). This is expanded in a loose1 reminiscence of Isa_26:11 (ζλςλμεα λὸ ἀαδυο, κὶννπρτὺ ὑεατοςἔεα), though the phrase πρςζλςrecalls Zeph 1:19 (3:8) ἐ πρ ζλυατῦκτνλθστιπσ ἡγ. The contemporary Jewish Apocalypse of Baruch (48:39, 40) contains a similar threat to wilful sinners:

“Therefore shall a fire consume their thoughts,

and in flame shall the meditations of their reins be tried;

for the Judge shall come and will not tarry—

because each of earth’s inhabitant knew when he was transgressing.”

The penalty for the wilful rejection (ἀεήα) of the Mosaic law2 was severe (Deu_17:2-17), but not more severe than the penalty to be inflicted on renegades from Christianity (vv. 28-31). The former penalty was merciless, χρςοκιμν(to which, at an early period, κὶδκύνwas added by D, most old Latin texts, and syrhkl). It is described in a reminiscence of Deu_17:6 ἐὶδσνμρυι ἢἐὶτιί μρυι ἀοαετιὁἀονσω (i.e. the apostate who has yielded to idolatry). The witnesses executed the punishment for the sin of which they had given evidence (Deu_17:7, Act_7:57 f., Joh_8:7, Sanhedrim 6:4), but this is not before the writer’s mind; ἐίwith the dative simply means “on the ground of (the evidence given by).” In πσ δκῖεκλ (v. 29), δκῖεis intercalated as in Aristoph. Acharn. 12 (π&sigmaf