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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Hebrews 13

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. Ἡ φιλαδελφία. “Your brotherly affection.” Not only was “brotherly love” a new and hitherto almost undreamed of virtue but it was peculiarly necessary among the members of a bitterly-persecuted sect. Hence all the Apostles lay constant stress upon it (Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:14-18, &c.). It was a special form of the more universal “Love” (Ἀγάπη), and our Lord had said that by it the world should recognise that Christians were His disciples (John 13:35). How entirely this prophecy was fulfilled we see alike from the fervid descriptions of Tertullian, from the mocking admissions of Lucian in his curious and interesting tract “on the death of Peregrinus” (§ 16), and from the remark of the Emperor Julian (Ep. 49), that their “kindness towards strangers” had been a chief means of propagating their “atheism.” But brotherly-love in the limits of a narrow community is often imperilled by the self-satisfaction of egotistic and dogmatic orthodoxy, shewing itself in party rivalries. This may have been the case among these Hebrews as among the Corinthians; and the neglect by some of the gatherings for Christian worship (Hebrews 10:25) may have tended to deepen the sense of disunion. The disunion however was only incipient, for the writer has already borne testimony to the kindness which prevailed among them (Hebrews 6:10, Hebrews 10:32-33).


Verses 1-9

1–9. CONCLUDING EXHORTATIONS TO LOVE [1]; HOSPITALITY [2]; KINDNESS TO PRISONERS AND THE SUFFERING [3]; PURITY OF LIFE [4]; CONTENTMENT [5]; TRUSTFULNESS [6]; SUBMISSION TO PASTORAL AUTHORITY (7, 8); STEADFASTNESS AND SPIRITUALITY [9]

We may notice that the style of the writer in this chapter offers more analogies to that of St Paul than in the rest of the Epistle (comp. Romans 12:1-21; Romans 14:17; Romans 15:33 with 1–6, 9, 20); the reason being that these exhortations are mostly of a general character, and probably formed a characteristic feature in all the Christian correspondence of this epoch. They are almost of the nature of theological loci communes.


Verses 1-25

CH. 13. Concluding Exhortations to Love [1]; Hospitality [2]; Kindness to Prisoners and the Suffering [3]; Purity of Life [4]; Contentment [5]; Trustfulness [6]; Submission to Pastoral Authority (7, 8); Steadfastness and Spirituality [9]; The Altar, the Sacrifice, and the Sacrifices of the Christian (10–16); The Duty of Obedience to Spiritual Authority [17]. Concluding Notices and Benedictions (18–25)


Verse 2

2. φιλοξενίας. The hospitality of Christians (what Julian calls ἡ περὶ ξένους φιλανθρωπία) was naturally exercised chiefly towards the brethren. The absence of places of public entertainment except in the larger towns, and the constant interchange of letters and messages between Christian communities—a happy practice which also prevailed among the Jewish Synagogues—made “hospitality” a very necessary and blessed practice. St Peter tells Christians to be hospitable to one another ungrudgingly, and unmurmuringly, though it must sometimes have been burdensome (1 Peter 4:9; comp. Romans 12:13; Titus 1:8; 1 Timothy 3:2). We find similar exhortations in the Talmud (Berachoth, f. 63. 2; Shabbath, f. 27.1). The “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” shews that hospitality to wandering teachers was an ordinary duty.

ἀγγέλους. Abraham (Genesis 18:2-22. Lot (Genesis 19:1-2). Manoah (Judges 13:2-14). Gideon (Judges 6:11-20). Our Lord taught that we may even entertain Him—the King of Angels—unawares. “I was a stranger, and ye took Me in” (Matthew 25:35-40). There is an allusion to this “entertaining of angels” in Philo, De Abrahamo (Opp. II. 17). The classic verb rendered “unawares” (ἔλαθον) is not found elsewhere in the N. T. in this sense, and forms a happy paronomasia with “forget not.” The verb is used adverbially, “unconsciously.”


Verse 3

3. τῶν δεσμίων. Comp. Colossians 4:18.

ὡς συνδεδεμένοι. Lit., “as having been bound with them.” In the perfectness of sympathy their bonds are your bonds (1 Corinthians 12:26), for you and they alike are Christ’s slaves (1 Corinthians 7:22) and Christ’s captives (2 Corinthians 2:14 in the Greek). This seems to be the meaning rather than that the Hebrew Christians too have had their own personal experience of imprisonment for the faith. Lucian’s tract (referred to in the previous note) dwells on the effusive kindness of Christians to their brethren who were imprisoned as confessors.

ἐν σώματι. And therefore as being yourselves liable to similar maltreatment. “In the body” does not mean “in the body of the Church,” but “human beings, born to suffer.” You must therefore “weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15). The expressions of the verse (κακουχουμένων, ὡς καὶ αὐτοὶ ὄντες ἐν σώματι) read like a reminiscence of Philo (De Spec. Legg. § 30) who says ὡς ἐν τοῖς ἑτέρων σώμασιν αὐτοὶ κακούμενοι, “as being yourselves also afflicted in the bodies of others”; but if so the reminiscence is only verbal, and the application more simple. Incidentally the verse shews how much the Christians of that day were called upon to endure.


Verse 4

4. τίμιος ὁ γάμος κ.τ.λ. Probably this is an exhortation, “Let marriage be held honourable among all,” or rather “in all respects.” Scripture never gives even the most incidental sanction to the exaltation of celibacy as a superior virtue, or to the disparagement of marriage as an inferior state. Celibacy and marriage stand on an exactly equal level of honour according as God has called us to the one or the other state. The mediaeval glorification of Monachism sprang partly from a religion of exaggerated gloom and terror, and partly from a complete misunderstanding of the sense applied by Jewish writers to the word “Virgins.” Nothing can be clearer than the teaching on this subject alike of the Old (Genesis 2:18; Genesis 2:24) and of the New Covenant (Matthew 19:4-6; John 2:1-2; 1 Corinthians 7:2). There is no “forbidding to marry” (1 Timothy 4:1-3) among Evangelists and Apostles. They shared the deep conviction which their nation had founded on Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:18-24 and which our Lord had sanctioned (Matthew 19:4-6). The warning in this verse is against unchastity. If it be aimed against a tendency to disparage the married state it would shew that the writer is addressing some Hebrews who had adopted in this matter the prejudices of the Essenes (1 Timothy 4:3). In any case the truth remains “Honourable is marriage in all”; it is only lawless passions which are “passions of dishonour” (Romans 1:26).

ἐν πᾶσιν. This may mean “in all things” as in Hebrews 13:18; or “among all,” which would however be normally expressed by παρὰ πᾶσιν. In the A.V. ἐστὶν is supplied, in the R.V. ἔστω.

ἀμίαντος. “And let the bed be undefiled” by adultery. A warning to Antinomians (such for instance as the Nicolaitans, Revelation 2:6; Revelation 2:15) who made light of unchastity (Acts 15:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:6).

πόρνους. Christianity introduced a wholly new conception regarding the sin of fornication (Galatians 5:19; Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5-6; Revelation 22:15) which, especially in the depraved decadence of Heathenism under the Empire, was hardly regarded as any sin at all. Hence the necessity for constantly raising a warning voice against it (1 Thessalonians 4:6, &c.).

κρινεῖ. The more because they often escape altogether the judgement of man (1 Samuel 2:25; 2 Samuel 3:39).


Verse 5

5. ὁ τρόπος. Lit., “Let your turn of mind be unavaricious.” In the A.V. it is “Let your conversation be without covetousness”; but the word here used is not the one generally rendered by “conversation” in the N.T. (ἀναστροφὴ as in Hebrews 13:7, “general walk,” Galatians 1:13; Ephesians 2:3), or “citizenship” (πολίτευμα, as in Philippians 1:27; Philippians 3:20), but “turn of mind” (τρόπος).

ἀφιλάργυρος. Not merely without covetousness (πλεονεξία) but “without love of money.” It is remarkable that “covetousness” and “uncleanness” are constantly placed in juxtaposition in the N.T. (1 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Ephesians 5:3; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5).

ἀρκούμενος. The form of the sentence “Let your turn of mind be without love of money, being content” is the same as ἡ ἀγάπη ἀνυπόκριτος, ἀποστυγοῦντες in Romans 12:9. The few marked similarities between this writer and St Paul only force the radical dissimilarity between their styles into greater prominence; and as the writer had almost certainly read the Epistle to the Romans a striking syntactical peculiarity like this may well have lingered in his memory.

αὐτὸς γὰρ εἴρηκεν. “Himself hath said.” The “Himself” of course refers to God, and the phrase of citation is common in the Rabbis (הוא אמר). “He” and “I” are, as Delitzsch says, used by the Rabbis as mystical names of God.

Οὐ μή σε ἀνῶ κ.τ.λ. These words are found (in the third person) in Deuteronomy 31:6; Deuteronomy 31:8; 1 Chronicles 28:20, and similar promises, in the first person, in Genesis 28:15; Joshua 1:5; Isaiah 41:17. The very emphatic form of the citation (first with a double then with a triple negation), “I will in no wise fail, neither will I ever in any wise forsake thee,” does not occur either in the Hebrew or the LXX., but it is found in the very same words in Philo (De Confus. Ling. § 32), and since we have had occasion to notice again and again the thorough familiarity of the writer with Philo’s works, it is probable that he derived it from Philo, unless it existed in some proverbial or liturgical form among the Jews. The triple negative οὐδʼ οὐ μὴ is found in Matthew 24:21.


Verse 6

6. θαρροῦντας. “We boldly say,” not as in A.V. “we may boldly say.”

Κύριος. Psalms 118:6.

οὐ φοβηθήσομαι. “I will not fear. What shall man do unto me?” The rendering of the A.V. “I will not fear what man shall do unto me” is ungrammatical, as is that of the Vulg., “Non timebo quid faciat mihi homo.”


Verse 7

7. τῶν ἡγουμένωνοἵτινες. “Your leaders, who spoke to you”; for, as the next clause shews, these spiritual leaders were dead. At this time the ecclesiastical organisation was still unfixed. The vague term “leaders” (found also in Acts 15:22), like the phrase “those set over you” (προϊστάμενοι, 1 Thessalonians 5:12) means “bishops” and “presbyters,” the two terms being, in the Apostolic age, practically identical. In later ecclesiastical Greek this word (ἡγούμενοι) was used for “abbots.”

ὧν ἀναθεωροῦντες κ.τ.λ. In the emphatic order of the original, “and earnestly contemplating the issue of their conversation, imitate their faith.”

τὴν ἔκβασιν. Not the ordinary word for “end” (τέλος) but the very unusual word ἔκβασιν, “outcome.” This word in the N.T. is found only in 1 Corinthians 10:13, where it is rendered “escape.” In Wisdom of Solomon 2:17 we find, “Let us see if his words be true, and let us see what shall happen at his end” (ἐν ἐκβάσει). It here seems to mean death, but not necessarily a death by martyrdom. It merely means “imitate them, by being faithful unto death.” The words ἔξοδος “departure” (Luke 9:31; 2 Peter 1:15) and ἄφιξις (Acts 20:29) are similar euphemisms for death.


Verse 8

8. Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸςὁ αὐτός. “Jesus Christ is the same” (comp. Hebrews 1:12). The A. V. by its omission of the copula seems to connect this with τὴν ἔκβασιν as if Jesus Christ were the “end of their conversation,” which it is scarcely necessary to say is impossible. The collocation “Jesus Christ” is in this Epistle only found elsewhere in Hebrews 13:21 and Hebrews 10:10. He commonly says “Jesus” in the true reading (Hebrews 2:9, Hebrews 3:1, Hebrews 6:20, &c.) or “Christ” (Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:14, Hebrews 5:5, &c.). He also has “the Lord” (Hebrews 2:3), “our Lord” (Hebrews 7:14), and “our Lord Jesus” (Hebrews 13:20). “Christ Jesus,” which is so common in St Paul, only occurs as a very dubious various reading in Hebrews 3:1.

ἐχθὲς κ.τ.λ. See Hebrews 7:24. The order of the Greek is “yesterday and to-day the same, and to the ages.” See Hebrews 1:12; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17. The unchangeableness of Christ is a reason for not being swept about by winds of strange teaching.


Verse 9

9. διδαχαῖς κ.τ.λ. Lit., “With teachings various and strange be ye not swept away.” From the allusion to various kinds of food which immediately follows we infer that these “teachings” were not like the incipient Gnostic speculations against which St Paul and St John had to raise a warning voice (Ephesians 4:14; Colossians 2:8; 1 John 4:1), but the minutiae of the Jewish Halachah with its endless refinements upon, and inferences from, the letter of the Law; possibly doctrines akin to those of the Essenes. This is the sort of teaching of which the Talmud is full, and most of it has no real connexion with true Mosaism.

καλόν. “A beautiful or excellent thing.”

χάριτι. By the favour or mercy of God as a pledge of our real security.

οὐ βρώμασιν. Not by minute and pedantic distinctions between various kinds of clean and unclean food (Hebrews 9:10). The word βρώματα, “kinds of food,” was never applied to sacrifices. On the urgency of the question of “meats” to the early Christians see my Life of St Paul, I. 264.

οὐκ ὠφελήθησαν. These outward rules were of no real advantage to the Jews under the Law. As Christianity extended, the Rabbis gave a more and more hostile elaboration and significance to the Halachoth, which decided about the degrees of uncleanness in different kinds of food, as though salvation itself depended on the scrupulosities and micrologies of Rabbinism. The reader will find some illustrations of these remarks in my Life of St Paul, I. 264. The importance of these or analogous questions to the early Jewish Christians may be estimated by the allusions of St Paul (Romans 14; Colossians 2:16-23; 1 Timothy 4:3, &c.). No doubt these warnings were necessary because the Jewish Christians were liable to the taunt, “You are breaking the law of Moses; you are living Gentile-fashion (ἐθνικῶς) not Jewish-wise (Ἰουδαϊκῶς); you neglect the Kashar (rules which regulate the slaughter of clean and unclean animals, which the Jews scrupulously observe to this day); you feed with those who are polluted by habitually eating swine’s flesh.” These were appeals to “the eternal Pharisaism of the human heart,” and the intensity of Jewish feeling respecting them would have been renewed by the conversions to Christianity. The writer therefore reminds the Hebrews that these distinctions involve no real advantage (Hebrews 7:18-19).


Verse 10

10. ἕχομεν θυσιαστήριον. These seven verses form a little episode of argument in the midst of moral exhortations. They revert once more to the main subject of the Epistle—the contrast between the two dispensations. The connecting link in the thought of the writer is to be found in the Jewish boasts to which he has just referred in the word “meats.” Besides trying to alarm the Christians by denunciations founded on their indifference to the Levitical Law and the oral traditions based upon it, the Jews would doubtless taunt them with their inability henceforth to share in eating the sacrifices (1 Corinthians 9:13), since they were all under the Cherem—the ban of Jewish excommunication. The writer meets the taunt by pointing out (in an allusive manner) that of the most solemn sacrifices in the whole Jewish year—and of those offered on the Day of Atonement—not even the priests, not even the High-priest himself, could partake (Leviticus 6:12; Leviticus 6:23; Leviticus 6:30; Leviticus 16:27). But of our Sacrifice, which is Christ, and from (ἐξ) our Altar, which is the Cross—on which, as on an altar, our Lord was offered—we may eat. The “Altar” is here understood of the Cross, not only by Bleek and De Wette, but even by St Thomas Aquinas and Estius; but the mere figure implied by the “altar” is so subordinate to that of our participation in spiritual privileges that if it be regarded as an objection that the Cross was looked on by Jews as “the accursed tree,” we may adopt the alternative view suggested by Thomas Aquinas—that the Altar means Christ Himself. To eat from it will then be “to partake of the fruit of Christ’s Passion.” So too Cyril says, “He is Himself the Altar.” We therefore have loftier privileges than they who “serve the tabernacle.” The other incidental expressions will be illustrated as we proceed; but, meanwhile, we may observe that the word “Altar” is altogether secondary and (so to speak) “out of the Figure.” There is no reference whatever to the material “table of the Lord,” and only a very indirect reference (if any) to the Lord’s Supper. Nothing can prove more strikingly and conclusively the writer’s total freedom from any conceptions resembling those of the “sacrifice of the mass” than the fact that here he speaks of our sacrifices as being “the bullocks of our lips.” The Christian priest is only a presbyter, not a sacrificing priest. He is only a sacrificing priest in exactly the same sense as every Christian is metaphorically so called, because alike presbyter and people offer “spiritual sacrifices,” which are alone acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). The main point is “we too have one great sacrifice,” and we (unlike the Jews, as regards their chief sacrifice, Leviticus 4:12; Leviticus 6:30; Leviticus 16:27) may perpetually partake of it, and live by it (John 6:51-56). We live not on anything material, which profiteth nothing, but on the words of Christ, which are spirit and truth; and we feed on Him—a symbol of the close communion whereby we are one with Him—only in a heavenly and spiritual manner.

ἐξ οὖ. Lit., “from which.” It is one of the numerous forms of constr. praegnans, implying “to take from the altar and eat.”

οὐκ ἔχουσιν ἐξουσίαν. Because they utterly reject Him whose flesh is meat indeed and whose blood is drink indeed (John 6:54-55). Forbidden to eat of the type (see Hebrews 13:11) they could not of course, in any sense, partake of the antitype which they rejected.

τῇ σκηνῇ λατρεύοντες. See Hebrews 8:5. It is remarkable that not even here, though the participle is in the present tense, does he use the word “Temple” or “Shrine” any more than he does throughout the whole Epistle. There may, as Bengel says, be a slight irony in the phrase “who serve the Tabernacle,” rather than “in the Tabernacle.”


Verses 10-16

10–16. THE ONE SACRIFICE OF THE CHRISTIAN, AND THE SACRIFICES WHICH HE MUST OFFER


Verse 11

11. ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς. Of the sin-offerings the Priests could not, as in the case of other offerings, eat the entire flesh, or the breast and shoulder, or all except the fat (Numbers 6:20; Leviticus 6:26, &c.). The word for “burn” (saraph) means “entirely to get rid of,” and is not the word used for burning upon the altar. The rule that these sin-offerings should be burned, not eaten, was stringent (Leviticus 6:30; Leviticus 16:27).


Verse 12

12. διὰ τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος. Lit., “through,” or “by means of His own blood.” The thought is the same as that of Titus 2:14, “Who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people.” This sanctification or purifying consecration of His people by the blood of His own voluntary sacrifice corresponds to the sprinkling of the atoning blood on the propitiatory by the High-priest. For “the people,” see Hebrews 2:17.

ἔξω τῆς πύλης. Hebrews 9:26; Matthew 27:32; John 19:17-18.


Verse 13

13. ἐξερχώμεθα. Let us go forth out of the city and camp of Judaism (Revelation 11:8) to the true and eternal Tabernacle (Exodus 33:7-8) where He now is (Hebrews 12:2). Some have imagined that the writer conveys a hint to the Christians in Jerusalem that it is time for them to leave the guilty city and retire to Pella; but, as we have seen, it is by no means probable that the letter was addressed to Jerusalem.

τὸν ὀνειδισμὸν αὐτοῦ. The reproach which Christ bore and still bears. “If ye be reproached,” says St Peter, “for the name of Christ, happy are ye” (comp. Hebrews 11:26). As He was excommunicated and insulted and made to bear His Cross of shame, so will you be, and you must follow Him out of the doomed city (Matthew 24:2). It must be remembered that the Cross, an object of execration and disgust even to Gentiles, was viewed by the Jews with religious horror, since they regarded every crucified person as “accursed of God” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23; Galatians 3:13; see my Life of St Paul, II. 17, 148). Christians shared this reproach to the fullest extent. The most polished heathen writers, men like Tacitus, Pliny, Suetonius, spoke of their faith as an “execrable,” “deadly,” and “malefic” superstition; Lucian alluded to Christ as “the impaled sophist”; and to many Greeks and Romans no language of scorn seemed too intense, no calumny too infamous, to describe them and their mode of worship. The Jews spoke of them as “Nazarenes,” “Epicureans,” “heretics,” “followers of the hung,” and especially “apostates,” “traitors,” and “renegades.” The notion that there is any allusion to the ceremonial uncleanness of those who burnt the bodies of the offerings of the Day of Atonement “outside the camp” is far-fetched.


Verse 14

14. τὴν μέλλουσαν. “The city which is to be” (Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 11:16). Our earthly city here may be destroyed, and we may be driven from it, or leave it of our own accord; this is nothing,—for our real citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).


Verse 15

15. θυσίαν αἰνέσεως. A thanksgiving (Jeremiah 17:26; Leviticus 7:12), not in the form of an offering, but something which shall “please the Lord better than a bullock which hath horns and hoofs” (Psalms 69:31).

διαπαντός. Even the Rabbis held that the sacrifice of praise would outlast animal sacrifices and would never cease.

καρπὸν χειλέων ὁμολογούντων τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ. “The fruit of lips which confess to His name.” The phrase “the fruit of the lips” is borrowed by the LXX. from Isaiah 57:19. In Hosea 14:2 we have “so will we render the calves of our lips,” literally, “our lips as bullocks,” i.e. “as thank-offerings.” Dr Kay notices that (besides the perhaps accidental resemblance between פרי perî, “fruit,” and פרים parîm, “calves”) κάρπωμα and similar words were used of burnt-offerings.

ὁμολογούντων τῷ. Like the Hebrew הוֹרָה לְ.


Verse 16

16. κοινωνίας. To share your goods with others (Romans 15:26). It is rendered “distribution” in 2 Corinthians 9:13.

τοιαύταις γὰρ θυσίαις. The verse is meant to remind them that sacrifices of well-doing and the free sharing of their goods are even more necessary than verbal gratitude unaccompanied by sincerity of action (Isaiah 29:13; Ezekiel 33:31).


Verse 17

17. τοῖς ἡγουμένοις. See Hebrews 13:7. The repetition of the injunction perhaps indicates a tendency to self-assertion and spurious independence among them. “Bishops” in the modern sense did not as yet exist, but in the importance here attached to due subordination to ecclesiastical authority we see the gradual growth of episcopal powers. See 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 5:17.

ἀγρυπνοῦσιν. Lit., “are sleepless.”

λόγον. See Acts 20:26; Acts 20:28.

μετὰ χαρᾶς. See 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20.

στενάζοντες. Lit., “groaning.”

ἀλυσιτελές. A litotes—i.e. a mild expression purposely used that the reader may correct it by a stronger one—for “disadvantageous.”


Verse 18

18. Προσεύχεσθε περὶ ἡμῶν. A frequent and natural request in Christian correspondence (1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; Romans 15:30; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:3). The “us” probably means “me and those with me,” shewing that the name of the writer was well known to those addressed.

πειθόμεθα. “We are persuaded.”

καλὴν συνείδησιν. The writer, being one of the Paulinists, whose freedom was so bitterly misinterpreted, finds it as necessary as St Paul had done, to add this profession of conscientious sincerity (Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16; 1 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 1:12). These resemblances to St Paul’s method of concluding his letters are only of a general character, and we have reason to suppose that to a certain extent the beginnings and endings of Christian letters had assumed a recognised form.

ἐν πᾶσιν. “Among all men.”

θέλοντες. I.e. “desiring,” “determining.”


Verses 18-25

18–25. CONCLUDING NOTICES AND BENEDICTIONS


Verse 19

19. ἵνα τάχιον ἀποκατασταθῶ ὑμῖν. So St Paul in Philemon 1:22. We are unable to conjecture the circumstances which for the present prevented the writer from visiting them. It is clear from the word “restored” that he must once have lived among them.


Verse 20

20. θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης. The phrase is frequent in St Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Romans 15:33; Romans 16:20; Philippians 4:9).

ὁ ἀναγαγών. Among many allusions to the Ascension and Glorification of Christ this is the only direct allusion in the Epistle to His Resurrection (but comp. Hebrews 6:2, Hebrews 11:35). The verb ἀνήγαγεν may be “raised again” rather than “brought up,” though there may be a reminiscence of “the shepherd” (Moses) who “brought up” his people from the sea in Isaiah 63:11.

ἐν αἵματι κ.τ.λ. “By virtue of (lit. “in”) the blood of an eternal covenant.” The expression finds its full explanation in Hebrews 9:15-18. Others connect it with “the Great Shepherd.” He became the Great Shepherd by means of His blood. So in Acts 20:28 we have “to shepherd the Church of God, which He purchased for Himself by means of His own blood.” A similar phrase occurs in Zechariah 9:11, “By (or “because of”) the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit.”


Verse 21

21. καταρτίσαι. Τελειόω, the verb so often used to express “perfecting,” is here replaced by another verb—“may He fit” or “stablish” or “equip you.”

ποιῆσαιποιῶν. There is a play on the words “to do His will, doing in you.” There is a similar play on words in Philippians 2:13.

ᾦ ἡ δόξα κ.τ.λ. Lit., “to whom be the glory (which is His of right) unto the ages of the ages.” The same formula occurs in Galatians 1:5; 2 Timothy 4:18. The doxology may be addressed to Christ as in 2 Peter 3:18.


Verse 22

22. ἀνέχεσθε. “Bear with the word of my exhortation.” Comp. Acts 13:15. This is a courteous apology for the tone of severity and authority which he has assumed.

καὶ γάρ. “For indeed,” as in Hebrews 12:29.

διὰ βραχέων. “In paucis.” “Briefly,” considering the breadth and dignity of the subject, which has left him no room for lengthened apologies, and for anything but a direct and compressed appeal. Or the force of the words may be “bear with my exhortation, for I have not troubled you at any great length” (comp. διʼ ὀλίγων, 1 Peter 5:12). Could more meaning have been compressed into a letter which could be read aloud in less than an hour, but which was to have a very deep influence on many centuries?

ἐπέστειλα. This is the epistolary aorist, and is therefore equivalent to our perfect “I have written you a letter.” This is the only place in the N. T. (except Acts 15:20; Acts 21:25) where ἐπιστέλλω has this sense. Usually it means “I enjoin.”


Verse 23

23. γινώσκετε. Either “ye are aware”; or “know ye,” i.e. let me inform you.

ἀπολελυμένον. The word probably means (as in Acts 3:13; Acts 4:21) “has been set free from prison.” It is intrinsically likely that Timothy at once obeyed the earnest and repeated entreaty of St Paul, shortly before his martyrdom, to come to him at Rome (2 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 4:21), and that, arriving before the Neronian persecution had spent its last force, he had been thrown into prison. His comparative youth, and the unoffending gentleness of his character, together with the absence of any definite charge against him, may have led to his liberation. All this however is nothing more than reasonable conjecture. The word ἀπολελυμένον may mean no more than official, or even ordinary, “sending forth” on some mission or otherwise, as in Acts 13:3; Acts 15:30; Acts 19:41; Acts 23:22.

τάχιον. Lit., “if he come sooner,” i.e. earlier than I now expect (comp. κάλλιον, Acts 25:10; βέλτιον, 2 Timothy 1:18). This again is an allusion to circumstances unknown to us. Böhme said “non est comparativa stricte intellegenda,” but it always refers to some special fact. Comp. John 13:27.


Verse 24

24. ἀσπάσασθε. This salutation to all their spiritual leaders implies the condition of Churches, which was normal at that period—namely, little communities, sometimes composed separately of Jews and Gentiles, who in default of one large central building, met for worship in each other’s houses.

οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς Ἰταλίας. This merely means “the Italians in the place from which I write,” just as “they of Asia” means Asiatic Jews (Acts 21:27. Comp. Acts 17:13, Hebrews 6:9, &c.). The phrase therefore gives no clue whatever to the place from which, or the persons to whom, the Epistle was written. It merely shews that some Christians from Italy—perhaps Christians who had fled from Italy during the Neronian persecution—formed a part of the writer’s community; but it suggests a not unnatural inference that it was written to some Italian community from some other town out of Italy. Had he been writing from Italy he would perhaps have been more likely to write “those in Italy” (comp. 1 Peter 5:13), and some have explained the phrase as a constr. praegnans for οἱ ἐν τῇ Ἰταλίᾳ ἀσπ. ὑμᾶς ἀπὸ τῆς Ἰταλίας. But this is quite needless, and as Winer says (p. 784) “a critical argument as to the place where the Epistle was written should never have been founded on these words.”


Verse 25

25. Ἡ χάρις μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν. This is one of the shorter forms of final conclusion found in Colossians 4:18; 1 Timothy 6:21; 2 Timothy 4:22; Titus 3:15.

The superscription “Written to the Hebrews from Italy by Timothy” is wholly without authority, though found in K and some versions. It contradicts the obvious inference suggested by Hebrews 13:23-24. We have no clue to the bearer of the Epistle, or the local community for which it was primarily intended, or the effect which it produced. But it would scarcely be possible to suppose that such a composition did not have a powerful influence in checking all tendency to retrograde into Judaism from the deeper and far more inestimable blessings of the New Covenant. The Manuscripts א and C have only “To the Hebrews.” A has “It was written to the Hebrews from Rome.”

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Hebrews 13:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/hebrews-13.html. 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 15th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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