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Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 2

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-18

II: 1-4 Exhortation to Steadfastness— Being ’a word of exhortation’, Heb mixes admonition very continuously with dogmatic considerations. These warning are all directed against the’ danger of apostasy, 2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:20; also the long final exhortation, 10:19-12:29. Here, with the usual joining skill of the writer, the exhortation is attached to the word ’salvation’, 1:4, and rests on the incomparable superiority of Christ over the Angels.

1. The first sentence is somewhat weakened in Vg. Render: ’Therefore it is necessary that we pay a greater surplus of attention to the things heard (the truths once delivered), lest perhaps we should miss the port (of salvation) A final catastrophe is what is to be feared. 2-3. The sanctions of the Old Law, which was promulgated by angels (cf.Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19) showed how strongly God willed it ratified against transgression and disobedience; a fortiori ’how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation?’, cf.1 Corinthians 10:1-11. Its imperative firmness is the very greatest, having been first spoken (by God, as in the whole Epistle) through the Lord, having been delivered with irrefutable authority by witnesses who had heard Christ, having been authenticated (4 )by signs (wrought expressly for proof), by prodigies astounding, by various showings of power, and by charismatic distributions of the Holy Spirit according to God’s will. St Paul says: ’confirmed unto us by them that heard’, either by enallage (the first person plural so often used by a preacher identifying himself with his audience), or because he refers to the earthly ministry of Christ. This sentence does not exclude Pauline authorship, and in fact it occurs in a short paragraph which, in spite of five unique expressions, is overwhelmingly Pauline in thought and language. It splendidly illustrates the fallaciousness of verbal statistics.

5-18 Christ Head of the Messianic Regime— This section asserts the Messianic sovereignty of Christ,5-9, and show how the Incarnation and Passion belong to its divinely ordered fitness, 10-18.

5-9. The Messianic kingdom, as being the kingdom of heaven, having its final phase beyond this world, is called ’the world to come’—the rabbinical ’ôlam habba’. God did not subject it to Angels but to man, or more exactly to ’a Man’. This is shown from a Scripture text introduced in a special way. In the seven texts of ch 1 God spoke; here the formula is: ’Someone, as you know, in a certain place gave solemn testimony, saying: What is man, etc.’. Only once in this whole Epistle, 4:7, is a biblical quotation given under the name of its human author. This peculiarity has been represented as unPauline, but it would be natural enough in a letter to Hebrews, whose rabbis often used this method of indefinite quoting, the same being also followed by the Hellenistic Jew, Philo of Alexandria.

6-8. Ps 8 is a canticle of the greatness of God and of the littleness and greatness of man. In the three verses cited (5-7 with the omission, in the critical Greek text, of the stichos 7a) three ideas are marked for emphasis: (1) man’s diminution, so as to be something short of angels, (2) his exaltation to glory and honour, (3) the subjection of all things to him. The key to St Paul’s use of the Psalm here, as in 1 Cor 15-27, and Ephesians 1:22, is its Messianic character. Applied to mankind in general the Psalm has a certain universality of meaning founded on the universal sovereignty indicated in Genesis 1:27, but the absoluteness of the sovereignty it describes belongs to the Messias. The Psalmist sees man’s inferiority to Angels (Heb. Elohîm ’divine dignitaries’ rather than ’God’) in his mortality. 8. But that same mortality in the Messias is the cause of man’s exaltation to glory and honour—a glory and honour only partially realized in man’s present lordship over creation, but entirely realized in the glorified Christ, although the sovereignty to which it belongs has not yet actually extended itself to ’everything’. The temporal sense of ’a little’ (i.e. ’a little while’) is tempting, but is foreign to the psalm and not really postulated by the connexion of St Paul’s thought. 9. The glory of Christ, which is the reward for ’the suffering of death’, manifests the gracious intention of God that he should die for each and every one. It is insinuated here but not asserted, as in 1 Corinthians 15:26, 1 Corinthians 15:27, that the destruction of death will complete the full sovereignty of Christ.

10-18 Congruity of the Passion— Man’s mortality— here marked as his infra-angelic condition—is in actual historical fact a penal appendage of the guilt of sin. Hence the fitness of an expiation by way of suffering and death. 10. Not necessity nor moral obligation but the beauty of an harmonious fitness drew God, the final and efficient Cause of all things, to choose this means to an end fixed by his goodness. The end was that of’ bringing many sons to glory’. The Gk participle ??a?ó?ta translated ’who had brought’ does not mark priority of time over the principal verb, and therefore the interpretation ’qui adduxerat = qui adducendos praeordinaverat’ is not necessary. The whole verse should be translated: ’It befitted him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, because he set himself to bring many sons to glory—it befitted him to perfect the Author of their salvation through sufferings’. The prepositional description of God (for whom—by whom) is very Pauline, cf.Romans 11:26; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16, Colossians 1:20. In bringing many’—an indefinitely great number—as sons to the glory of his bliss, he fittingly chose to bring the Author of their salvation to the goal (te?e??+?sa?) by the way of sufferings. ’Leader of their salvation ’would harmonize with the idea of God ’leading or bringing’, but ’Author’ is favoured by Hebrews 5:9; Hebrews 12:2. The concept in the verb te?e???+??, namely, ’to perfect, consummate, bring to final attainment’ is very characteristic of this Epistle; cf. for verb, 5.9; 7:19, 28; 9:9; 10:1, 14, 11:40; 12:23—for abstract noun te?e??ót?? 6:1—for verbal noun te?eí?s?? 7:11—for nomen agentis 12:2. Really the notion of ’consummation’ sums up the whole theology of the better revelation and the better priesthood and the better covenant and the better sacrifice, and these sum up Hebrews.

11. The reason of this brotherhood in pain is found in the principle of family solidarity. SON and sons—Sanctifier and sanctified—claim, at least analogically, one heavenly father, ’the One from whom they are being God and not Adam (following Chrysostom, Theodoret, Aquinas, Westcott, Vitti against Estius, à Lapide, Bisping, Médebielle). This divine family association is fittingly joined to human association.

12-13. That Christ calls men his brethren is emphasized by citing three texts, Psalms 21:23; Isaiah 8:17b, 18a. The first places the Messias amongst his brethren, the second in the human fellowship of confidence towards God, the third sets him at the head off a family group of which Isaias and his two sons are types. In the last text for ’children’ read ’brethren’.14-18. Such solidarity was the reason that the Son shared human weakness (’blood and flesh’ being the Gk order of words here), through which (a) he broke the empire of death, (b) delivered men from sin, (c) fitted himself with sacerdotal sympathy.

14-15. (a) He became mortal, in order that by dying he might destroy the power of the Prince of death, namely, the devil, who caused man’s spiritual death and corporal death, Genesis 3:15; Wis 2:24, and wished to bring him to eternal death. Hence the freedom from the slavery of fear gained by those who now say: ’For me to live is Christ and to die is gain’, Philippians 1:21

16-17. (b) Christ did not come to help immortal angels but mortal men—and firstly the race of Abraham to which he belonged and to which the divine promises were made. Note this probable indication that the letter is addressed to Hebrews. The verb rendered ’take hold’ and sometimes unduly pressed to mean ’taking the nature of men and not of angels’, simply signifies ’to help’. As helper of mortals, he had to resemble his brethren in every possible way (in all things) so as to become merciful by partnership in misery, and so as to be a faithful High Priest towards God—joined. at once to the miserable and to the Merciful—so as to expiate the sins of the people. The title of ’Priest’ is first given to Christ here, 2:17. All the changes of a rich sacerdotal theology shall be rung on it in the subsequent chapters (except 11 and 12).

18. (c) Experience of suffering and of trial is the best school of compassion. Knowing pain and trial, Christ is a competent Helper for those who are being tried. Compare the words of Virgil’s Sidonian Dido: ’Non ignara mali miseris succurrere disco’, Aen I, 630.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Hebrews 2". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/hebrews-2.html. 1951.
 
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