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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Hebrews 12

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. Τοιγαροῦν. A very strong particle of inference not found elsewhere in the N. T. except in 1 Thessalonians 4:8.

καὶ ἡμεῖς κ.τ.λ. “Let us also, seeing we are compassed with so great a cloud of witnesses … run with patience.”

νέφος. A classical Greek and Latin, as well as Hebrew, metaphor for a great multitude. Thus Homer speaks of “a cloud of foot-soldiers.” We have the same metaphor in Isaiah 60:8, “who are these that fly as clouds?” (Heb.) Here, as Clemens of Alexandria says, the cloud is imagined to be “holy and translucent.”

μαρτύρων. The word has not yet fully acquired its sense of “martyrs.” It here probably means “witnesses to the sincerity and the reward of faith.” The notion that they are also witnesses of our Christian race lies rather in the word περικείμενον, “surrounding us on all sides,” like the witnesses in a circus or a theatre (1 Corinthians 4:9).

ὄγκον ἀποθέμενοι πάντα. Lit., “stripping off at once cumbrance of every kind.” The word “weight” was used, technically, in the language of athletes, to mean “superfluous flesh,” to be reduced by training. The training requisite to make the body supple and sinewy was severe and long-continued. Metaphorically the word comes to mean “pride,” “inflation.”

εὐπερίστατον. The six words “which doth so easily beset us” represent this one Greek word, of which the meaning is uncertain, because it occurs nowhere else. It means literally “well standing round,” or “well stood around.” [1] If taken in the latter sense it is interpreted to mean (α) “thronged,” “eagerly encircled,” and so “much admired” or “much applauded,” and will thus put us on our guard against sins which are popular; or (β) “easily avoidable,” with reference to the verb περιΐστασο, “avoid” (2 Timothy 2:16; Titus 3:9). The objections to these renderings are that the writer is thinking of private sins. More probably it is to be taken in the active sense, as in the A.V. and the R.V., of the sin which either (α) “presses closely about us to attack us”; or (β) which “closely clings (tenaciter inhaerens, Erasmus) to us” like an enfolding robe (στατὸς χιτών). The latter is almost certainly the true meaning, and is suggested by the participle ἀποθέμενοι, “stripping off” (comp. Ephesians 4:22). As an athlete lays aside every heavy or dragging article of dress, so we must strip away from us and throw aside the clinging robe of familiar sin. The metaphor is the same as that of the word ἀπεκδύσασθαι (Colossians 3:9), which is the parallel to ἀποθέοθαι in Ephesians 4:22. The gay garment of sin may at first be lightly put on and lightly laid aside, but it afterwards becomes like the fabled shirt of Nessus, eating into the bones as it were fire.

ἁμαρτίαν, “sin,”—all sin, not, as the A. V. would lead us to suppose, some particular besetting sin.

διʼ ὑπομονῆς. Endurance characterised the faith of all these heroes and patriarchs, and he exhorts us to endure because Christ also endured the cross (ὑπομείνας). Διὰ with the gen. is used in classical Greek also for the temper of mind.

τὸν προκείμενον ἡμῖν ἀγῶνα. One of the favourite metaphors of St Paul (Philippians 3:12-14; 1 Corinthians 9:24-25; 2 Timothy 4:7-8).


Verses 1-3

1–3. AN EXHORTATION TO PATIENT STEADFASTNESS


Verses 1-29

CH. 12. An exhortation to faithful endurance (1–3) and a reminder that our earthly sufferings are due to the fatherly chastisement of God (4–13). The need of earnest watchfulness (14–17). Magnificent concluding appeal founded on the superiority and grandeur of the New Covenant (18–24), which enhances the guilt and peril of apostasy (25–29)


Verse 2

2. ἀφορῶντες. It is not possible to express in English the thought suggested by this verb, which implies that we must “look away (from other things) unto Jesus.” It implies “the concentration of the wandering gaze into a single direction.” Comp. ἀποβλέπειν, Hebrews 11:26.

πίστεως, “of faith,” rather than “of our faith.”

ἀρχηγόν. The word is the same as that used in Hebrews 2:10. In Acts 3:15; Acts 5:31 it is rendered “a Prince,” as in Isaiah 30:4 (LXX.). By His faithfulness (Hebrews 3:2) he became our captain and standard-bearer on the path of faith.

τελειωτήν. He leads us to “the end of our faith,” which is the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:9).

ὑπέμεινεν σταυρὸν αἰσχύνης καταφρονήσας. Lit., “endured a cross, despising shame.”

κεκάθικεν, “hath sat down” (Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 8:1, Hebrews 10:12). The “is set down” of the A. V. is also a perfect and means the same thing.


Verse 3

3. ἀναλογίσασθε. Lit., “compare yourselves with.” Contrast the comparative immunity from anguish of your lot with the agony of His (John 15:20).

τὸν τοιαύτην κ.τ.λ. Who hath endured at the hand of sinners such opposition.

ἀντιλογίαν, “gainsaying” or “contradiction,” has already occurred in Hebrews 6:16, Hebrews 7:7. Three uncials (א, D, E) read “against themselves.” Christ was a mark for incessant “contradiction,”—“a sign which is spoken against”—(Luke 2:34).

ἵνα μὴ κάμητε ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν ἐκλυόμενοι. The correction of the R.V., “that ye wax not weary, fainting in your souls,” will be reckoned by careless and prejudiced readers among the changes which they regard as meaningless. Yet, as in hundreds of other instances, it brings out much more fully and forcibly the exact meaning of the original. “That ye wax not weary” is substituted for “lest ye be weary” because the Greek verb, being in the aorist, suggests a sudden or momentary break-down in endurance; on the other hand, “fainting” is in the present, and suggests the gradual relaxation of nerve and energy which culminates in the sudden relapse. Lastly, the word in the original is “souls,” not “minds.” Endurance was one of the most needful Christian virtues in times of waiting and of trial (Galatians 6:9).


Verse 4

4. μέχρις αἵματος. If this be a metaphor drawn from pugilism, as the last is from “running a race,” it means that as yet they have not “had blood drawn.” This would not be impossible, for St Paul adopts pugilistic metaphors (1 Corinthians 9:26-27). More probably however the meaning is that, severe as had been the persecutions which they had undergone (Hebrews 10:32-33), they had not yet—and perhaps a shade of reproach is involved in the expression—resisted up to the point of martyrdom (Revelation 12:11). The Church addressed can scarcely therefore have been either the Church of Rome, which had before this time furnished “a great multitude” of martyrs (Tac. Ann. XV. 44; Revelation 7:9), or the Church of Jerusalem, in which, beside the martyrdoms of St Stephen, St James the elder, and St James the Lord’s brother, some had certainly been put to death in the persecution of Saul (Acts 8:1).

πρὸς τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἀνταγωνιζόμενοι, “in your struggles against sin.” Some from this expression give a more general meaning to the clause—“You have not yet put forth your utmost efforts in your moral warfare.”


Verses 4-13

4–13. FATHERLY CHASTISEMENTS SHOULD BE CHEERFULLY ENDURED


Verse 5

5. καὶ ἐκλέλησθε. “Yet ye have utterly forgotten,” or possibly the words may be intended interrogatively, “Yet have ye utterly forgotten?”

τῆς παρακλήσεως, “the encouragement,” or “strengthening consolation.”

διαλέγεται, “discourseth,” or “reasoneth.”

Υἱέ. The quotation is from Proverbs 3:11-12, and is taken mainly from the LXX. There is a very similar passage in Job 5:17, and Philo de Congr. quaerend. erudit. gr. (Opp. I. 544).

μὴ ὀλιγώρει. “Regard not lightly.”

παιδίας. “The training.”

μηδὲ ἐκλύου, “nor faint.” In the Hebrew it is “and loathe not His correction.”

ἐλεγχόμενος, “on being tested,” “corrected.”


Verse 6

6. παιδεύει. This blessedness of being “trained by God” (“Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law,” Psalms 94:12) is found in many parts of Scripture. “As many as I love, I test (ἐλέγχω) and train” (παιδεύω), Revelation 3:19; Psalms 119:75; James 1:12.

μαστιγοῖ δὲ κ.τ.λ. The writer follows the reading of the LXX., by a slight change in the vowel-points, for “even as a father to a son He is good to him.”


Verse 7

7. εἰς παιδίαν ὑπομένετε. The true reading is not εἰ, “if” (which is followed by the A. V., but for which there is hardly any good authority), but εἰς, “unto.” “It is for training that ye endure,” or better, “Endure ye, for training,” i.e. “regard your trials as a part of the moral training designed for you in love and mercy by your Father in Heaven.”

ὑμῖν προσφέρεται. “In dealing with you.” Here only in the N. T. in this sense.

τίς γὰρ υἱός. The thought and its application to our relationship towards God are also found in Deuteronomy 8:5; 2 Samuel 7:14; Proverbs 13:24.


Verse 8

8. πάντες. He speaks of God’s blessed and disciplinary chastisement as a gift in which all His sons have their share.

ἄρα. See note on Hebrews 4:9.


Verse 9

9. ἐνετρεπόμεθα. In classical Greek this verb is found with the gen. but in later Greek with an acc. as here. Comp. Matthew 21:37, ἐντραπήσονται τὸν υἱόν μου, Luke 18:4, ἄνθρωπον οὐκ ἐντρέπομαι.

τῷ πατρὶ τῶν πνευμάτων. God might be called “the Father of the spirits,” as having created Angels and Spirits; but more probably the meaning is “the Father of our spirits,” as in Numbers 16:22, “the God of the spirits of all flesh.” God made our bodies and our souls, but our spirits are in a yet closer relation to Him (Job 12:10; Job 32:8; Job 33:4; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Zechariah 12:1; Isaiah 42:5, &c.). If it meant “the Author of spiritual gifts,” the expression would be far-fetched, and would be no contrast to “the father of our flesh.” Here and in Hebrews 7:10 theologians have introduced the purely verbal, meaningless, and insoluble dispute about Creationism and Traducianism—i.e. as to whether God separately creates the soul of each one of us, or whether we derive it through our parents by hereditary descent from Adam.


Verse 10

10. πρὸς ὀλίγας ἡμέρας. Comp. πρὸς καιρόν, Luke 8:13.

κατὰ τὸ δοκοῦν αὐτοῖς. “As seemed good to them.” He is contrasting the brief authority of parents, and their liability to error, and even to caprice, with the pure love and eternal justice of God.


Verse 11

11. χαρᾶς. “A matter of joy”; the gen. of a property, or perhaps of the sphere to which a thing belongs. Winer, p. 244.

ὕστερον δὲ κ.τ.λ. The original is expressed in the emphatic and oratorical style of the writer, “but afterwards it yieldeth a peaceful fruit to those who have been exercised by it—(the fruit) of righteousness.” He means that though the sterner aspect of training is never pleasurable for the time, it results in righteousness—in moral hardihood and serene self-mastery—to all who have been trained in these gymnasia (γεγυμνασμένοις). See Romans 5:2-5.


Verse 12

12. διό. The poetic style, and even the metrical form of diction, in these two verses (of which Hebrews 12:13 contains a complete hexameter,

καὶ τροχιὰς ὀρθὰς ποιήσατε τοῖς ποσὶν ὑμῶν

and half an iambic,

ἵνα μὴ τὸ χωλὸν ἐκτραπῇ),

reflect the earnestness of the writer, as he gives more and more elaboration to his sentences in approaching the climax of his appeal. It is most unlikely that they are quotations from Hellenistic poets, for the first agrees closely with Proverbs 4:26 (LXX.). On these accidentally metrical expressions see my Early Days of Christianity, I. 464, II. 14.

τὰς παρειμένας χεῖρας κ.τ.λ. Lit., “straighten out the relaxed hands and the palsied knees.” Make one effort to invigorate the flaccid muscles which should be so tense in the struggle in which you are engaged. The writer is thinking of Deuteronomy 32:36; Isaiah 35:3; Sirach 25:23, and perhaps of the metaphors of the race and the fight which he has just used.


Verse 13

13. ἐκτραπῇ. Lit., “that the lame (i.e. lameness) may not be quite out of joint, but may rather be cured.” The verb ἐκτραπῆ may mean “be turned out of the way,” as in 1 Timothy 1:6; 1 Timothy 5:15; 2 Timothy 4:4; but as it is a technical term for “spraining” or “dislocation” it may have that meaning here, especially as he has used two medical terms in the previous verse, and has the metaphor of “healing” in his thoughts. The writer may have met with these terms in ordinary life, or in his intercourse with St Luke, with whose language he shews himself familiar throughout the Epistle. Intercourse with the beloved physician is perhaps traceable in some of the medical terms of St Paul’s later Epistles (see Dean Plumptre’s papers on this subject in the Expositor, IV. 134 (first series). But τὸ χωλὸν is a natural metaphor for weakness, and may be derived from the curious translation of the LXX. in 1 Kings 18:21, ἕως πότε ὑμεῖς χωλανεῖτε ἐπὶ ἀμφοτέραις ταῖς ἰγνύαις;

ἰαθῇ δὲ μᾶλλον. Isaiah 57:17-19.


Verse 14

14. μετὰ πάντων. The word “men” is better omitted, for doubtless the writer is thinking mainly of peace in the bosom of the little Christian community—a peace which, even in these early days, was often disturbed by rival egotisms (Romans 14:19; 2 Timothy 2:22).

καὶ τὸν ἁγιασμόν. “And the sanctification” (Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 10:29, Hebrews 13:12).

οὗ χωρίς. We have here in succession two iambics:

οὗ χωρὶς οὐδεὶς ὄψεται τὸν κύριον,

ἐπισκοποῦντες μή τις ὑστερῶν ἀπό.


Verses 14-17

14–17. NEED OF EARNEST WATCHFULNESS


Verse 15

15. ὑστερῶν κ.τ.λ. Lit., “whether there be any man who is falling short of” or possibly “falling back from the grace of God.” We have already noticed that not improbably the writer has in view some one individual instance of a tendency towards apostasy, which might have a fatal influence upon other weary or wavering brethren (comp. Hebrews 3:12). For ὑστερεῖν ἀπὸ we find ἐκκλίνειν ἀπὸ in Numbers 22:32.

ἐνοχλῇ. The words “root of bitterness” are a reference to Deuteronomy 29:18, “a root that beareth gall and wormwood,” or, as in the margin, “a poisonful herb.” Here the LXX. in the Vatican MS. has ἐν χολῇ “in gall,” for ἐνοχλῇ, “should trouble you.” But the Alexandrian MS., which the writer habitually follows in his quotations, has ἐνοχλῇ. Some have supposed that there is a curious allusion to this verse and to the reading “in gall” in the apparent reference to this Epistle by the Muratorian Canon as “the Epistle to the Alexandrians current under the name of Paul, but forged in the interests of Marcion’s heresy,” which adds that “gall ought not to be mixed with honey.” The allusion is, however, very doubtful.

οἱ πολλοί. “The many.” Comp. 1 Corinthians 5:6 (“a little leaven”); 1 Corinthians 15:33 (“evil communications”); Galatians 5:9.


Verse 16

16. πόρνος. The word must be taken in a literal sense, since Esau was not “an idolater.” It is true that Esau is not charged with fornication in the Book of Genesis (which only speaks of his heathen marriages, Genesis 26:34, Genesis 28:8), but the writer is probably alluding to the Jewish Haggadah, with which he was evidently familiar. There Esau is represented in the blackest colours, as a man utterly sensual, intemperate, and vile, which is also the view of Philo (see Siegfried, Philo, p. 254).

βέβηλος. A man of coarse and unspiritual mind (Genesis 25:33). Philo explained the word “hairy” to mean that he was sensuous and lustful.

ἀντὶ βρώσεως μιᾶς. “For one meal” (Genesis 25:29-34).


Verse 17

17. μετέπειτα. The verse runs literally, “for ye know that even, afterwards, when he wished to inherit the blessing, he was rejected—for he found no opportunity for a change of mind—though with tears he earnestly sought for it.” It is clear at once that if the writer means to say “that Esau earnestly sought to repent, but could not,” then he is contradicting the whole tenor of the Scriptures, and of the Gospel teaching with which he was so familiar. This would not indeed furnish us with any excuse for distorting the meaning of his language, if that meaning be unambiguous; and in favour of such a view of his words is the fact that he repeatedly dwells on the hopelessness—humanly speaking—of all wilful apostasy. On the other hand, “apostasy,” when it desires to repent, ceases to he apostasy, and the very meaning of the Gospel is that the door to repentance is never closed by God, though the sinner may close it against himself. Two modes of interpreting the text would save it from clashing with this precious truth. [1] One is to say (α) that “room for repentance” means “opportunity for changing his father’s or his brother’s purpose”; no subsequent remorse or regret could undo the past or alter Isaac’s blessing (Genesis 27:33); or (β) no room for changing his own mind in such a way as to recover the blessing which he had lost; in other words, he “found no opportunity for such repentance as would restore to him the lost theocratic blessing.” But in the N. T. usage the word “repentance” (μετάνοια) is always subjective, and has a deeper meaning than in the LXX. The same objection applies to the explanation that “he found no room to change God’s purpose,” to induce God “to repent” of His rejection of him, since God “is not a man that He should repent” (Numbers 23:19). [2] It seems simpler therefore, and quite admissible, to regard “for he found no place for repentance” as a parenthesis, and refer “it” to the lost blessing. (So the R.V.) “Though he earnestly sought the lost blessing, even with tears, when (perhaps forty years after his shameful indifference) he wished once more to inherit it, yet then he found no room for repentance”; or in other words his repentance, bitter as it was, could not avert the earthly consequence of his profanity, and was unavailing to regain what he had once flung away. As far as his earthly life was concerned, he heard the awful words “too late.” The text gives no ground for pronouncing on Esau’s future fate, to which the writer makes no allusion whatever. His “repentance,” if it failed, could only have been a spurious repentance—remorse for earthly foolishness, not godly sorrow for sin, the dolor amissi, not the dolor admissi. This explanation accords with the sense of “locus poenitentiae,” the Latin translation of τόπος μετανοίας. The phrase itself occurs in Wisdom of Solomon 12:10. The abuse of this passage to support the merciless severity of the Novatians was one of the reasons why the Epistle was somewhat discredited in the Western Church.

μετὰ δακρύων. “In former days he might have had it without tears; afterwards he was rejected, however sorely he wept. Let us use the time” (Luke 13:28). Bengel.


Verse 18

18. Οὐ γάρ. At the close of his arguments and exhortations the writer condenses the results of his Epistle into a climax of magnificent eloquence and force, in which he shews the transcendent beauty and supremacy of the New Covenant as compared with the terrors and imperfections of the Old.

ψηλαφωμένῳ καὶ κεκαυμένῳ πυρί. Unless we allow the textual evidence to be overruled by the other considerations, which are technically called “paradiplomatic evidence,” the verse should be rendered “For ye are not come near to a palpable and enkindled fire.” In any case the allusion is to Exodus 19:16-19; Deuteronomy 4:11, and generally to “the fiery law.” The present participle ψηλ. here means “which could be felt” because the capability is involved in the property; just as τὰ βλεπόμενα may mean “things which can be seen.” Winer, p. 431.

γνόφῳ. Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 5:22.


Verses 18-29

18–29. THE MERCY AND SUBLIMITY OF THE NEW COVENANT AS CONTRASTED WITH THE OLD (18–24) ENHANCE THE GUILT AND PERIL OF THE BACKSLIDER (25–29)


Verse 19

19. σάλπιγγος. Exodus 19:16; Exodus 19:19; Exodus 20:18.

φωνῇ ῥημάτων. Deuteronomy 4:12.

παρῃτήσαντο. The verb means literally “to beg off.”

μή. The common redundant negative (expressing the negative result) after verbs of denying. See Winer, p. 755.

μὴ προστεθῆναι κ.τ.λ. Lit., “that no word more should be added to them” (Deuteronomy 5:22-27; Deuteronomy 18:16; Exodus 20:19).


Verse 20

20. οὐκ ἔφερον γὰρ κ.τ.λ. “For they endured not the injunction, If even a beast …” (Exodus 19:12-13). This injunction seemed to them to indicate an awful terror and sanctity in the environment of the mountain. It filled them with alarm. The Jewish Haggadah said that at the utterance of each commandment the Israelites recoiled twelve miles, and were only brought forward again by the ministering angels. St Paul, in different style, contrasts “the Mount Sinai which gendereth to bondage” with “the Jerusalem which is free and the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:24-26).

ἢ βολίδι κατατοξευθήσεται. This clause is a gloss added from Exodus 19:13. Any man who touched the mountain was to be stoned, any beast to be transfixed (Exodus 19:13): but the quotation is here abbreviated, and the allusion is summary as in Hebrews 7:5; Acts 7:16.


Verse 21

21. τὸ φανταζόμενον. “The splendour of the spectacle” (here only in N. T.). The true punctuation of the verse is And—so fearful was the spectacle—Moses said …

Ἔκφοβός εἰμι κ.τ.λ. No such speech of Moses at Sinai is recorded in the Pentateuch. The writer is either drawing from the Jewish Haggadah or (by a mode of citation not uncommon) is compressing two incidents into one. For in Deuteronomy 9:19 Moses, after the apostasy of Israel in worshipping the Golden Calf, said “I was afraid (LXX. καὶ ἔκφοβός εἰμι) of the anger and hot displeasure of the Lord,” and in Acts 7:32 we find the words “becoming a-tremble” (ἔντρομος γενομενος) to express the fear of Moses on seeing the Burning Bush (though here also there is no mention of any trembling in Exodus 3:6). The tradition of Moses’ terror is found in Jewish writings. In Shabbath f. 88. 2 he exclaims “Lord of the Universe, I am afraid lest they (the Angels) should consume me with the breath of their mouths.” Comp. Midrash Koheleth, f. 69. 4.


Verse 22

22. Σιὼν ὄρει The true Sion is the antitype of all the promises with which the name had been connected (Psalms 2:6; Psalms 48:2; Psalms 78:68-69; Psalms 125:1; Joel 2:32; Micah 4:7). Hence the names of Sion and “the heavenly Jerusalem” are given to “the city of the living God” (Galatians 4:26; Revelation 21:2). Sinai and Mount Sion are contrasted with each other in six particulars. Bengel and others make out an elaborate sevenfold antithesis here.

μυριάσιν ἀγγέλων This punctuation is suggested by the word “myriads,” which is often applied to angels (Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalms 68:17; Daniel 7:10). But under the New Covenant the Angels are surrounded with attributes, not of terror but of beauty and goodness (Hebrews 1:14; Revelation 5:11-12).


Verse 23

23. πανηγύρει. The word means a general festive assembly, as in Song of Solomon 7:1 (LXX.). It has been questioned whether both clauses refer to Angels—“To myriads of Angels, a Festal Assembly, and Church of Firstborn enrolled in Heaven”—or whether two classes of the Blessed are intended, viz. “To myriads of Angels, (and) to a Festal Assembly and Church of Firstborn.” The absence of “and” before πανήγυρις makes this latter construction doubtful, and the first construction is untenable because the Angels are never called in the N.T. either “a Church” (but see Psalms 89:5) or “Firstborn.” On the whole the best and simplest way of taking the text seems to be “But ye are come … to Myriads—a Festal Assembly of Angels—and to the Church of the Firstborn … and to spirits of the Just who have been perfected.”

ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς. “Who have been enrolled in heaven.” This refers to the Church of living Christians, to whom the Angels are “ministering spirits,” and whose names, though they are still living on earth, have been enrolled in the heavenly registers (Luke 10:20; Romans 8:16; Romans 8:29; James 1:18) as “a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” unto God and to the Lamb (Revelation 14:4). These, like Jacob, have inherited the privileges of firstborn which the Jews, like Esau, have rejected.

κριτῇ θεῷ πάντων. Into whose hands, rather than into the hands of man, it is a blessing to fall, because He is “the righteous Judge” (2 Timothy 4:8).

τετελειωμένων. That is, to saints now glorified and perfected—i.e. brought to the consummation of their course—in heaven (Revelation 7:14-17). This has been interpreted only of the glorified saints of the Old Covenant, but there is no reason to confine it to them. The writer tells the Hebrews that they have come not to a flaming hill, and a thunderous darkness, and a terror-stricken multitude, but to Mount Sion and the Heavenly Jerusalem, where they will be united with the Angels of joy and mercy (Luke 15:10), with the happy Church of living Saints, and with the spirits of the Just made perfect. The three clauses give us a beautiful conception of “the Communion of the Saints above and the Church below” with myriads of Angels united in a Festal throng, in a Heaven now ideally existent and soon to be actually realised.


Verse 24

24. διαθήκης νέας μεσίτῃ. “Mediator of a New Covenant.” The word for “new” is here νέας (“new in time”), not καινῆς (“fresh in quality”), implying not only that it is “fresh” or “recent,” but also young and strong (Matthew 26:27-29; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 10:22).

παρὰ τὸν Ἄβελ. Better things “than Abel” is a comparatio compendiaria for “than the blood of Abel.” The allusion is explained by Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 10:22, Hebrews 11:4, Hebrews 13:12. “The blood of Abel cried for vengeance; that of Christ for remission” (Erasmus). In the original Hebrew it is (Genesis 4:10) “The voice of thy brother’s bloods crieth from the ground,” and this was explained by the Rabbis of his blood “sprinkled on the trees and stones.” It was a curious Jewish Haggadah that the dispute between Cain and Abel rose from Cain’s denial that God was a Judge. The “sprinkling” of the blood of Jesus, an expression borrowed from the blood-sprinklings of the Old Covenant (Exodus 24:8), is also alluded to by St Peter (1 Peter 1:2).


Verse 25

25. τὸν λαλοῦντα. Not Moses, as Chrysostom supposed, but God. The speaker is the same under both dispensations, different as they are. God spoke alike from Sinai and from heaven. The difference of the places whence they spoke involves the whole difference of their tone and revelations. Perhaps the writer regarded Christ as the speaker alike from Sinai as from Heaven, for even the Jews represented the Voice at Sinai as being the Voice of Michael, who was sometimes identified with “the Shechinah,” or the Angel of the Presence. The verb for “speaketh” is χρηματίζοντα, as in Hebrews 8:5, Hebrews 11:7.

οὐκ ἐξέφυγον. Hebrews 2:2-3, Hebrews 3:17, Hebrews 10:28-29.

παραιτησάμενοι τὸν χρηματίζοντα. The A. V. “who refused Him that spake” is in this, as in many thousands of instances, far less closely accurate to the exact sense of the original than the “when they refused Him that warned them” of the R. V. There are, however, instances in classical Greek as well as in N. T. where the participle without the article may be rendered as a relative in English, e.g. Luke 13:1.

πολὺ μᾶλλον. On this proportional method of statement, characteristic of the writer, as also of Philo, see Hebrews 1:4, Hebrews 3:3, Hebrews 7:20, Hebrews 8:6. Kuinöl mistakenly renders it multo minus, and connects it with ἐκφευξόμεθα instead of οὐκ ἐκφ.

οἱ ἀποστρεφόμενοι. Not “if we turn away from” (A. V.) but “who turn” (or “are turning”) “away from.”


Verse 26

26. γῆν ἐσάλευσεν. Exodus 19:18; Judges 5:4; Psalms 114:7.

ἐπήγγελται. “He has promised.” The verb has the sense of the middle voice as in Romans 4:21.

Ἔτι ἅπαξ. “Again, once for all.” The quotation is from Haggai 2:6-7, “yet once, it is a little while” (comp. Hosea 1:4).

καὶ τὸν οὐρανόν. “For the powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (Luke 21:26).


Verse 27

27. τὸ δὲ Ἔτι ἅπαξ. The argument on the phrase “Again, yet once for all,” and the bringing it into connexion with the former shaking of the earth at Sinai, resembles the style of argument on the word “to-day” in Hebrews 3:7 to Hebrews 4:9; and on the word “new” in Hebrews 8:13.

μετάθεσιν. The rest of this verse may be punctuated “Signifies the removal of the things that are being shaken as of things which have been made, in order that things which cannot be shaken may remain.” The “things unshakeable” are God’s heavenly city and eternal kingdom (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 21:1, &c.). The material world—its shadows, symbols and all that belong to it—are quivering, unreal, evanescent (Psalms 102:25-26; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 20:11). It is only the Ideal which is endowed with eternal reality (Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:13-14). This view, which the Alexandrian theology had learnt from the Ethnic inspiration of Plato, is the reverse of the view taken by materialists and sensualists. They only believe in what they can taste, and see, and “grasp with both hands”; but to the Christian idealist, who walks by faith and not by sight, the Unseen is visible (ὡς ὁρῶν τὸν Ἀόρατον (Hebrews 11:27), τὰ γὰρ ἀόρατα αὐτοῦνοούμενα καθορᾶται, Romans 1:20), and the material is only a perishing copy of an Eternal Archetype. The earthquake which dissolves and annihilates things sensible is powerless against the Things Invisible.

ἵνα. Bleek and De Wette make the ἵνα dependent on τὴν μετάθεσιν.

μείνῃ. The aor. shews the meaning to be that the threatened convulsion will at once test the quality of permanence of the things not to be shaken.


Verse 28

28. διό. This splendid strain of comparison and warning ends with a brief and solemn appeal.

ἔχωμεν χάριν. “Let us have grace,” or “let us feel thankfulness, whereby, &c.”

μετὰ εὐλαβείας (Hebrews 5:7, Hebrews 11:7) καὶ δέους. “With godly caution and fear.” The word δέος for “fear” does not occur elsewhere in the N.T.


Verse 29

29. καὶ γάρ. Comp. Hebrews 4:2.

πῦρ καταναλίσκον. The reference is to Deuteronomy 4:24, and the special application of the description to one set of circumstances shews that this is not—like “God is light” and “God is love”—a description of the whole character of God, but an anthropomorphic way of expressing His hatred of apostasy and idolatry. Here the reference is made to shew why we ought to serve God with holy reverence and fear.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Hebrews 12:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/hebrews-12.html. 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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