Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Hebrews 10

Verse 1

1. Σκιάν. The σκιά is the opposite to the εἰκών, and the two words sum up the whole of the preceding argument.

τῶν μελλόντων ἀγαθῶν. Of the good things which Christ had now brought into the world (Hebrews 9:11).

οὐκ αὐτὴν τὴν εἰκόνα. “The Law,” says St Ambrose, “had the shadow; the Gospel the image; the Reality itself is in Heaven.” By the word image is meant the true historic form. The Gospel was as much closer a resemblance of the Reality as a statue is a closer resemblance than a pencilled outline.

ταῖς αὐταῖς θυσίαις. Not “with those” (as in A. V.), but “with the same sacrifices, year by year, which they offer continuously, make perfect them that draw nigh,” i.e. the Priests can never with their sacrifices, which are the same year by year, perfect the worshippers. Some have given a fuller sense to the words “the same,” as though it meant that even the sacrifices of the Day of Atonement cannot make any one perfect, being as they are, after all, the same sacrifices in their inmost nature as those which are offered every morning and evening.

εἰς τὸ διηνεκές. “To perpetuity.” See Hebrews 10:12, &c.

οὐδέποτε δύναται. This may be the right reading, though the plural δύνανταιthey are never able,” is found in some MSS. If the latter be the true reading the sentence begins with an unfinished construction (anakoluthon).

Verses 1-14


Verses 1-39

CH. 10. The first eighteen verses of this chapter are a summary, rich with fresh thoughts and illustrations, of the topics on which he has been dwelling; namely [1] The one sacrifice of Christ compared with the many Levitic sacrifices (1–10). [2] The perfectness of His finished work (11–18). The remainder of the chapter is occupied with one of the earnest exhortations (19–25) and solemn warnings (26–31), followed by fresh appeals and encouragements (32–39), by which the writer shews throughout that his object in writing is not speculative or theological, but essentially practical and moral.

Verse 2

2. ἐπαύσαντο προσφερόμεναι. The participle is classically used after παύεσθαι, Winer, p. 323.

συνείδησιν. “Consciousness.”

κεκαθαρισμένους.Having been cleansed,” by these sacrifices, once for all.

Verse 3

3. ἀνάμνησις ἁμαρτιῶν. This view of sacrifices—that they are “a calling to mind of sins yearly”—is very remarkable. It seems to be derived from Numbers 5:15, where “the offering of jealousy” is called “an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance.” Philo also speaks of sacrifices as providing “not an oblivion of sins, but a reminding of them.” De plant. Noe, § 25. De Vit. Mos. III. § 10 (Opp. I. 345, II. 246). But if the sacrifices thus called sins to remembrance, they also daily symbolised the means of their removal, so that when offered obediently with repentance and faith they became valid symbols.

Verse 4

4. ἀδύνατον γάρ. This plain statement of the nullity of sacrifices in themselves, and regarded as mere outward acts, only expresses what had been deeply felt by many a worshipper under the Old Covenant. It should be compared with the weighty utterances on this subject in the O.T., 1 Samuel 15:22; Isaiah 1:11-17; Jeremiah 6:20; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8; Psalms 40:6-8 (quoted in the next verses), and Psalms 50, 51; and above all Hosea 6:6, which, being a pregnant summary of the principle involved, was a frequent quotation of our Lord. Any value which the system of sacrifices possessed was not theirs intrinsically (propriâ virtute) but relatively and typically (per accidens). “By a rudely sensuous means,” says Lünemann, “we cannot attain to a high spiritual good.” Philo in one of his finest passages shews how deeply he had realised that sacrifices were valueless apart from holiness, and that no mere external acts can cleanse the soul from moral guilt. He adds that God accepts the innocent even when they offer no sacrifices, and delights in unkindled altars if the virtues dance around them (De plant. Noe). The heathen had learnt the same high truths. Horace (Od. III. 23) sings,

“Immunis aram si tetigit manus

Non sumptuosâ blandior hostiâ

Mollivit aversos Penates

Farre pio et saliente micâ.”

Verse 5

5. εἰσερχόμενος εἰς τὸν κόσμον λέγει. The quotation is from Psalms 40:6-8. The words of the Psalmist are ideally and typologically transferred to the Son, in accordance with the universal conception of the O. T. Messianism which was prevalent among the Jews. It made no difference to their point of view that some parts of the Psalm (e.g. in Hebrews 10:12) could only have a primary and contemporary significance. The “coming into the world” is here regarded as having been long predetermined in the Divine counsels; it is regarded, as Delitzsch says, “not as a point but as a line.”

Θυσίαν καὶ προσφορὰν οὐκ ἠθέλησας. “Thou caredst not for slain beast or bloodless oblation.” This is in accordance with the many magnificent declarations which in the midst of legal externalism declares its nullity except as a means to better things (Isaiah 1:11; Jeremiah 6:20; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21; 1 Samuel 15:22, &c.).

σῶμα δὲ κατηρτίσω μοι. “But thou didst prepare a body for me.” This is the rendering of the LXX. In the Hebrew it is “But ears hast thou digged for me.” The text of the Hebrew does not admit of easy alteration, so that either [1] the reading of the Greek text in the LXX. must be a clerical error, e.g. ΚΑΤΗΡΤΙΣΑΣΩ΄Α for ΚΑΤΗΡΤΙΣΑΣΩΤΙΑ, or [2] the LXX. rendering must be a sort of Targum or explanation. They regarded “a body didst Thou prepare” as equivalent to “Ears didst thou dig.” The explanation is usually found in the Hebrew custom of boring a slave’s ear if he preferred to remain in servitude (Exodus 21:6; Deuteronomy 15:17), so that the “bored ear” was a symbol of willing obedience. But the Hebrew verb means “to dig” rather than “to bore,” and the true explanation seems to be “thou hast caused me to hear and obey.” So in Isaiah 48:8 we have “thine ear was not opened,” and in Isaiah 50:5, “God hath opened my ear and I was not rebellious.” Thus in the two first clauses of each parallelism in the four lines we have the sacrifices which God does not desire; and in the second clause the obedience for which He does care. “The prepared body” is “the form of a servant,” which Christ took upon Him in order to “open His ears” to the voice of God (Philippians 2:7). See Revelation 18:13, where “bodies” means “slaves,” St Paul says, “Ye are become dead to the law by the body of Christ” (Romans 7:4).

Verse 6

6. ὁλοκαυτώματα. Lit., “Holocausts.” The word occurs here alone in the N. T. These “whole burnt offerings” typified absolute self-dedication; but the holocaust without the self-sacrifice was valueless.

περὶ ἁμαρτίας. “Sin-offerings.” An ellipse for θυσίας περὶ ἁμ. derived from the LXX. (Leviticus 7:27 [37]).

Verse 7

7. Ἰδοὺ ἥκω. “I am come.” This 40th Psalm is one of the special Psalms for Good Friday.

ἐκ κεφαλίδι βιβλίου. The word κεφαλίς, here rendered volume, does not occur elsewhere in the N. T. It means the knob (umbilicus) of the roller on which the vellum was rolled. The word in the Hebrew is מְנִלָּה, “a roll.” See LXX. Ezekiel 2:9; Ezekiel 3:1. It cannot be rendered “in the chief part” or “in the beginning.” The words “it is written of me” may mean in the Hebrew “it has been prescribed to me,” and others take the clause to mean “I am come with the roll of the book which is written for me.” If we ask what was “the book” to which the author of the Psalm referred the answer is not easy; it may have been the Law, or the Book of God’s unwritten counsels, as in Psalms 139:16. The writer of the Epistle, transferring and applying David’s words to Christ, thought doubtless of the whole O. T. (comp. Luke 24:26-27, “He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself”).

τοῦ ποιῆσαι ὁ θεὸς τὸ θέλημά σου. The writer has omitted the words “I delight” (LXX. ἠβουλήθην) and has made the gen. of purpose depend on ἥκω. Slavish accuracy in quotation is never aimed at by the sacred writers, because they had no letter-worshipping theory of verbal inspiration. They held that the inspiration lay in the sense and in the thoughts of Scripture, not in its ipsissima verba. Hence they often consider it sufficient to give the general tendency of a passage, and frequently vary from the exact words.

Verse 8

8. κατὰ νόμον. “According to the Law.” A whole argument is condensed into these words, which the context would enable readers to develop for themselves.

Verse 9

9. τότε εἴρηκεν. Lit., “Then he has said.”

τὸ πρῶτον. Namely, Sacrifices, &c.

τὸ δεύτερον. Namely, the Will of God.

Verse 10

10. ἡγιασμένοι ἐσμέν. “We have been sanctified.” As we have already seen, the word ἁγιασμὸς is not used of progressive sanctification, but of consecration in a pure state to God’s service (Hebrews 2:11, Hebrews 13:12, &c., and comp. John 17:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification”).

τοῦ σώματος. The “body” is a reference to Hebrews 10:5. And because Christ thus offered His body we are bidden to offer our bodies as “a living sacrifice, holy, well-pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1).

Verse 11

11. πᾶς μὲν ἱερεύς. The better reading seems to be ἀρχιερεύς, “High Priest.”

ἕστηκεν. None were permitted to sit in the Holy Place. Christ sat in the Holiest, far above all Heavens.

πολλάκις. “Day by day for a continual burnt-offering” (Numbers 28:3; comp. Hebrews 7:27).

περιελεῖν. This is a much stronger word than ἀφαιρεῖν in Hebrews 10:4. It means “at once to strip away,” as though sin were some close-fitting robe (see Hebrews 12:1) (“ringsum wegnehmen”).

Verse 12

12. ἐν δεξιᾷ. Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 8:1.

Verse 13

13. ἕως τεθῶσιν. The more usual construction of ἕως when no definite time is indicated would be ἕως ἄν; but ἂν is frequently omitted, and especially in later Greek. 2 Peter 1:19 ἔως οὗ ἡμέρα διαυγάσῃ. Winer, p. 371.

ὑποπόδιον. Psalms 110:1; 1 Corinthians 15:25.

Verse 14

14. τετελείωκν. Hebrews 7:11; Hebrews 7:25.

τοὺς ἁγιαζομένους. “Those who are in the way of sanctification” (Hebrews 2:11; comp. Acts 2:47).

Verse 15

15. δέ. “But.” The A.V. inserts “whereof” in italics to make the connexion easier.

τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον. “For holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).

μετὰ γὰρ τὸ εἰρηκέναι. There is no direct completion of this sentence, but the words “again He saith” are found in some editions before Hebrews 10:17. They have no manuscript authority, but were added by Dr Paris (from the Philoxenian Syriac) in the margin of the Cambridge Bible of 1762.

Verse 16

16. Αὕτη ἡ διαθήκη. Jeremiah 31:33-34 (comp. Hebrews 8:10-12).

Verse 17

17. οὐ μὴ μνησθήσομαι ἔτι. This oblivion of sin is illustrated by many strong metaphors in Isaiah 44:22; Isaiah 38:17; Jeremiah 50:20; Psalms 103:12; Micah 7:19, &c.

Verse 18

18. οὐκέτι προσφορὰ περὶ ἁμαρτίας. Since the object of all sacrifices is the purging of the soul from guilt, sacrifices are no longer needed when sins have been annulled (Hebrews 9:26). Those words form the triumphant close of the argument. To revert to Judaism, to offer sacrifices, meant henceforth faithlessness as regards Christ’s finished work. And if sacrifices were henceforth abolished there was obviously an end of the Aaronic Priesthood, and therewith of the whole Covenant. The shadow had now been superseded by the substance, the sketch by the reality. And thus the writer has at last made good his opening words, that “at this end of the days God had revealed Himself to us by His Son,” and that the New Covenant thus revealed was superior to the First, alike in its Agent (Hebrews 7:1-25), its Priesthood (Hebrews 7:25 to Hebrews 9:12), its Tabernacle, and its sacrificial ordinances (Hebrews 9:13 to Hebrews 10:18).

Verse 19

19. ἀδελφοί. Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 3:12, Hebrews 13:22.

παρρησίαν εἰς τὴν εἴσοδον κ.τ.λ. “Confidence in the blood of Jesus, for our entrance into the Holiest.” This right of joyful confidence in our access to God through Christ is dwelt upon in Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12.

Verses 19-25


Verse 20

20. πρόσφατον. The word rendered “new” both in A. V. and R. V. is substituted for καινὸς (recens) which is used throughout the Epistle, probably because ἐνεκαίνισεν (“He dedicated” or inaugurated, comp. Hebrews 9:18) immediately precedes. Πρόσφατος by its derivation means “newly-slain.” It may be doubted however whether the writer intended the oxymoron “newly-slain yet living.” That the road was “new” has already been shewn in Hebrews 9:8-12. It is called “living” not as “life-giving” or “enduring,” but because “the Lord of life” is Himself the way (John 14:6; comp. Ephesians 3:12).

διὰ τοῦ καταπετάσματος κ.τ.λ. There is here a passing comparison of Christ’s human body to the Parocheth or Veil (Hebrews 6:19, Hebrews 9:3) through which the Priest passed into the Holiest, and which was rent at the crucifixion (Matthew 27:51). It was through His Suffering Humanity that He passed to His glory.

Verse 21

21. ἱερέα μέγαν. Lit., “a great Priest” (as in Leviticus 21:10), by which is meant not only a High Priest, but also a Kingly Priest (Zechariah 6:11-13).

ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον τοῦ θεοῦ. See Hebrews 3:6; 1 Timothy 3:15.

Verse 22

22. προσερχώμεθα. We have seen throughout that the notion of free access and approach to God is prominent in the writer’s mind.

ἐν πληροφορίᾳ. See Hebrews 6:11.

ῥεραντισμένοι κ.τ.λ. In verbs beginning with ρ the MSS. vary in their method of writing both the augmented and the reduplicated tenses. Thus we find both ἐῤῥιμένοι and ῥερ. The ἀπὸ means that we are so sprinkled as to be removed from the evil conscience (Winer, p. 736). The words mean “having our souls—our inmost consciousness—sprinkled as it were with the blood of Christ (Hebrews 9:14, Hebrews 12:24, 1 Peter 1:2) and so cleansed from the consciousness of guilt.” So the Jewish priests were purified from ceremonial defilement by being sprinkled with blood (Exodus 29:21; Leviticus 8:30).

λελουμένοι. The perfect participles in these clauses—“having been sprinkled,” “having been washed”—imply that it is to be done once and for ever. All Christians are priests to God (Revelation 1:5-6); and therefore Christian Priests, before being permitted to approach to God, must, like the Jewish Priests (Exodus 30:20), be sprinkled with the blood of Christ, and bathed in the water of baptism (Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21).

ὕδατι καθαρῷ. “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean” (Ezekiel 36:25).

Verse 23

23. τὴν ὁμολογίαν τῆς ἐλπίδος. “The confession of our Hope.” Here we have the same trilogy of Christian graces as in St Paul—Faith (Hebrews 10:22), Hope (Hebrews 10:23), and Love (Hebrews 10:24).

ἀκλινῆ. “So that it do not bend.” It must be not only “secure” (Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:14), but not even liable to be shaken.

πιστὸς γάρ. Hebrews 6:13, Hebrews 11:11, Hebrews 12:26. The writer felt the necessity of insisting upon this point, because the sufferings of the Hebrew converts, and the long delay (as it seemed to them) of Christ’s return, had shaken their constancy.

Verse 24

24. εἰς παροξυσμὸν ἀγάπης. “For provocation to love.” The word παροξυσμός (whence our “paroxysm”) is more generally used in a bad sense, like the English word “provocation” (see Acts 15:39; Deuteronomy 29:28, LXX.). And perhaps the writer here chose the word to remind them that the “provocation” at present prevailing among them was to hatred not to love.

Verse 25

25. τὴν ἐπισυναγωγὴν ἑαυτῶν, i.e. “our Christian gatherings.” Apparently the flagging zeal and waning faith of the Hebrews had led some of them to neglect the Christian assemblies for worship and Holy Communion (Acts 2:42). Ἐπισυναγωγὴ only occurs in 2 Thessalonians 2:1, and is perhaps chosen to avoid the Jewish word “synagogue”; and the more so because the duty of attending “the synagogue” was insisted on by Jewish teachers. In the neglect of public worship the writer saw the dangerous germ of apostasy.

καθὼς ἔθος τισίν. This neglect of attending the Christian gatherings may have been due in some cases to fear of the Jews. It shewed a fatal tendency to waver in the direction of apostasy.

παρακαλοῦντες. Though the active is used it implies the duty of mutual encouragement.

τὴν ἡμέραν. The Day which Christians expected was the Last Day (1 Corinthians 3:13). They failed to see that the Day which the Lord had primarily in view in His great eschatological discourse (Matthew 24) was the Close of the Old Dispensation in the Fall of Jerusalem. The signs of this were already in the air, and that approaching Day of the Lord was destined to be “the bloody and fiery dawn” of the Last Great Day—“the Day of days, the Ending-day of all days,” the Settling-day of all days, the Day of the promotion of Time into Eternity, the Day which for the Church breaks through and breaks off the night of this present world” (Delitzsch).

Verse 26

26. Ἑκουσίως γάρ. The word “wilfully” stands in contrast with sins of weakness, ignorance and error in Hebrews 5:2. If the writer meant to say that, after the commission of wilful and heinous sins, “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,” this would not only be the most terrible passage in Scripture, but would do away with the very object of Redemption, and the possibility of any Forgiveness of Sins. It would, as Kurtz says, “be in its consequences truly subversive and destructive of the whole Christian soteriology.” But the meaning rather is, “If we are willing sinners,” “if we are in a state of deliberate and voluntary defiance to the will of God.” He is alluding not only to those sins which the Jews described as being committed presumptuously “with uplifted hand” (Numbers 15:30; Psalms 19:13; see Hebrews 6:4-8, Hebrews 12:16-17), but to the deliberate continuity of such sins as a self-chosen law of life; as for instance when a man has closed against himself the door of repentance and said “Evil, be thou my good.” Such a state is glanced at in 2 Peter 2:20-21; Matthew 12:43-45.

τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν. “The full knowledge of the truth.” Something more is meant than mere historical knowledge. He is contemplating Christians who have made some real advance, and then have relapsed into “desperation or the wretchlessness of unclean living.”

οὐκέτι περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν ἀπολείπεται θυσία. Lit., “no sacrifice for sins is any longer left for them.” They have rejected the work of Christ, and it cannot be done for them over again. There is one atoning sacrifice, and that they have repudiated. He does not say that they have exhausted the infinite mercy of God, nor can we justly assert that he held such a conclusion; he only says that they have, so long as they continue in such a state, put themselves out of God’s covenant, and that there are no other covenanted means of grace. For they have trampled under foot the offer of mercy in Christ and there is no salvation in any other (Acts 4:12).

Verses 26-31


Verse 27

27. φοβερὰ δέ τις ἐκδοχή. All that is left for willing apostates when they have turned their backs on the sole means of grace is “some terror-causing expectance of a judgement.” They are “heaping up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath” (Romans 2:5). φοβερὸς means “inspiring fear,” not “feeling fear.” Ἐκδοχὴ is a ἄπαξ λεγόμενον in the N. T. The τις adds strong emphasis to the expression = “a very terrible.” Comp. Lucian φοβερόν τι θέαμα. Diod. Sic. ἐπίπονός τις βίος.

καὶ πυρὸς ζῆλος. Lit., “and a jealousy of fire.” He is thinking of God “as a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29) and of the question “Shall thy jealousy burn like fire?” Psalms 79:5 (comp. Ezekiel 36:5).

ἐσθίειν μέλλοντος τοὺς ὑπεναντίους. “Destined” (by prophecy) “to devour opponents.” “Yea, let fire devour thine enemies” (Isaiah 26:11). It has so long been the custom to interpret such passages of “eternal torments” that we lose sight of the fact that such a meaning, if we may interpret Scripture historically, was in most cases not consciously present to the mind of the writers. The constant repetition of the same metaphor by the Prophets with no reference except to temporal calamities and the overthrow of cities and nations made it familiar in this sense to the N. T. writers. By “the adversaries” here are not meant “sinners,” but impenitent Jews and wilful apostates who would perish in the Day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:8). It is at least doubtful whether the writer meant to imply anything beyond that prophecy of doom to the heirs of the Old Covenant which was fulfilled a few years later when the fire of God’s wrath consumed the whole system of a Judaism which had rejected its own Messiah. The word for “adversaries” only occurs besides in the N. T. in Colossians 2:14.

Verse 28

28. ἀθετήσας τις. Especially by being guilty of the sin of idolatry (Deuteronomy 17:2-7). Literally, it is “any one, on setting at nought Moses’ law.”

χωρὶς οἰκτιρμῶν. The Mosaic law pronounced on offenders an inexorable doom. “The letter killeth” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

ἐπὶ δυσὶν ἤ τρισὶν μάρτυσιν, i.e. by the testimony of at least two (John 8:17; 2 Corinthians 13:1). Comp. the use of ἐπὶ “on the condition of” in Hebrews 9:17.

ἀποθνήσκει. Lit., “dies.” Here is another of the favourite Jewish exegetical arguments a minori ad majus.

Verse 29

29. δοκεῖτε. This word is parenthetic, and does not affect the construction.

τιμωρίας. The word for “punishment” in the N.T. is in every other passage κόλασις, which means, in accordance with its definition, and in much of its demonstrable usage, “remedial punishment.” Here the word (though the difference is not observed by our A. V., which has created so many needless variations, and obliterated so many necessary distinctions) means “vengeance” or “retribution.” It need hardly be said that “vindictive punishment” can only be attributed to God by the figure of speech known as anthropopathy, i.e. the representation of God by metaphors drawn from human passions. It is also obvious that we misuse Scripture when we press casual words to unlimited inferences. “Vengeance” is here used because [1] the author is alluding to defiant and impenitent apostates, in language derived from the earthly analogies, and [2] because he is referring to the temporal ruin and overthrow of the Jewish polity at the fast-approaching Day of Christ’s Coming. The passage which he proceeds to quote (Deuteronomy 32:35) refers directly to national and temporal punishments. The verb τιμωρεῖν is only used twice in the N. T. (Acts 22:5; Acts 26:11)—both times of the persecution of Christians by Saul.

καταπατήσας. The writer could hardly use stronger language to imply the extremity of wilful rebellion which he has in view. It scarcely applies to any except blaspheming infidels and to those Jews who have turned the very name of Jesus in Hebrew into an anagram of malediction, and in the Talmud rarely allude to Him except in words of scorn and execration.

τὸ αἶμα τῆς διαθήκης. He uses the same phrase in Hebrews 13:20; and naturally, since the thoughts are full of the analogy of Jewish sacrifices.

κοινόν. Lit., “a common thing,” i.e. either “unclean” or “valueless.” Clearly such conduct as this must be the nearest approach we can conceive to “the sin against the Holy Ghost,” “the unpardonable sin,” “the sin unto death,” for which no remedy is provided in any earthly means of grace (Matthew 12:31; 1 John 5:16).

ἐνυβρίσας. Lit., “insulted”; e.g. “by blasphemy against the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 12:31-32). It is possible to grieve utterly that Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and so to become “reprobate.” The apostates whose case is here imagined despise alike the Father (Hebrews 5:5), the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:4-6). They reject the very promises of their baptismal profession and abnegate the whole economy of grace. The verb ἐνυβρίζειν occurs here only in the N. T. It may also govern the dative.

Verse 30

30. Ἐμοὶ ἐκδίκησις. The Scripture warrant adduced in support of this stern language is Deuteronomy 32:35, and a similar phrase (“O God, to whom vengeance belongeth”) is used in Psalms 94:1-2. It is remarkable that the citation does not agree either with the Hebrew or the LXX., but is quoted in the same form as in Romans 12:19, where however the application is quite different, for it is there used as an argument against avenging our own wrongs. The writer of this Epistle, as a friend of St Paul and one who was of his school, may have been familiar with this form of the quotation, or may have read it in the Epistle to the Romans, with which he seems to have been familiar (comp. Hebrews 13:1-6 with Romans 12:1-21); and indeed there are traces that the quotation in this form was known in the Jewish schools. Perhaps it had become proverbial.

The words “saith the Lord” are omitted in א, D, and most ancient versions, and may have been added from Romans 12:19.

καὶ πάλιν. Deuteronomy 32:36.

Κρινεῖ κύριος. In the original passage the “judgement” consists in saving His people from their enemies, as also in Psalms 135:14.

Verse 31

31. φοβερόν. Fearful for the deliberate apostate and even for the penitent sinner (1 Chronicles 21:13; 2 Samuel 24:14; LXX. Sirach 2:18), and yet better in any case than to fall into the hands of man.

θεοῦ ζῶντος. Hebrews 3:12.

Verse 32

32. ἀναμιμνήσκεσθε δέ. “But keep in remembrance.” Here, as in Hebrews 6:9-12, he mingles appeal and encouragement with the sternest warnings. The “former days” are those in which they were in the first glow of their conversion.

φωτισθέντες. The word φωτίζειν “to enlighten” only became a synonym for “to baptize” at a later period. Naturally however in the early converts baptism was synchronous with the reception of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (see Hebrews 6:4). For the metaphor—that “God hath shined in our hearts”—see 2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Peter 2:9.

πολλὴν ἄθλησινπαθημάτων. “Much wrestling of sufferings.” Ἄθλησις occurs here only in the N. T. The sufferings were doubtless due to the uncompromising hostility of the Jewish community (see 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16), which generally led to persecutions from the Gentiles also. To the early Christians it was given “not only to believe on Christ, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29).

Verses 32-39


Verse 33

33. τοῦτο μὲντοῦτο δέ. Distributive formula, used adverbially, Winer.

θεατρίζομενοι. Lit., “being set upon a stage.” The same metaphor is used in 1 Corinthians 4:9 (“We became a theatre,” comp. 1 Corinthians 15:32). It was however fearfully literal to many Christians in the Neronian and later persecutions in which Christian youths had to undertake on the stage the characters of Hercules and Mucius and Laureolus, displaying to the blood-corrupted spectators a horrible realism of agony; and even Christian maidens had to appear in the characters of Dirce or the Danaids. See Sueton. Nero, 12, Caius, 57; Juv. Sat. VIII. 186; Mart. X. 25, VIII. 30, Spectac. VII.; Clem. Rom. ad Cor. i. 6 γυναῖκες Δαναΐδες καὶ Δίρκαι. And see Renan L’Antéchrist, pp. 168–175.

κοινωνοί. “Partakers.”

οὕτως ἀναστρεφομένων. “Who lived in this condition of things.”

Verse 34

34. τοῖς δεσμίοις συνεπαθήσατε. “Ye pitied the prisoners.” The other reading of the A.V. had more to do than anything else with the common assumption that this Epistle was written by St Paul. The true reading however undoubtedly is not τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου, but τοῖς δεσμίοις, “ye sympathised with the prisoners.” The reading of our text was probably introduced from Colossians 4:18; Philippians 1:7, &c. In the first persecutions many confessors were thrown into prison (Acts 26:10), and from the earliest days Christians were famed for their kindness to their brethren who were thus confined. See too Hebrews 13:3. The verb συμπαθεῖν occurs only here and in Hebrews 4:15. St Paul uses συμπάσχειν “to suffer with” in Romans 8:17. The extreme care and attention paid by Christians to imprisoned confessors is illustrated in the letters of Ignatius, and in those of Cyprian. It had even attracted the astonished notice of the heathen, and Lucian in his satirical romance De Morte Peregrini indicates that it was one of the motives for the sham-conversion of that charlatan.

τὴν ἀρπαγήν. Christians were liable to be thus plundered by lawless mobs. Epictetus, by whose time Stoicism had become unconsciously impregnated with Christian feeling, says, “I became poor at thy will, yea and gladly.” On the supposition that the letter was addressed to Rome, “the spoiling of goods” has been referred to the edict of Claudius which expelled the Jews (and with them the Christian Jews) from Rome; or to the Neronian persecution. But the supposition is improbable; and indeed confiscation was one of the most ordinary incidents of persecution, as we see in the letters of Cyprian.

γινώσκοντες ἔχειν ἑαυτοὺς κρείσσονα ὕπαρξιν. The “in heaven” (of the A. V.) is almost certainly a spurious gloss, and the “in” before “yourselves” should be unquestionably omitted. If the true reading be ἑαυτοῖς, the meaning is “recognising that ye have for yourselves,” but if we may accept ἑαυτούς, the reading of א, we have the very beautiful and striking thought—“recognising that ye have yourselves as a better possession and an abiding.” He points them to the tranquil self-possession of a holy heart (Luke 9:25; Luke 21:19), the acquisition of our own souls, as a sufficiently present consolation for the loss of earthly goods (Hebrews 11:26), independently of the illimitable future hope (Matthew 6:20; Romans 8:18; 1 Peter 1:4-8).

Verse 35

35. παρρησίαν. Hebrews 3:6, Hebrews 4:16.

ἥτις. “Seeing that it has” (quippe quae).

μισθαποδοσίαν. Hebrews 2:2, Hebrews 11:26; comp. Hebrews 11:6.

Verse 36

36. ὑπομονῆς. Few graces were more needed in the terrible trials of that day (Hebrews 6:12; Luke 21:19; Colossians 1:11; James 1:3-4).

ποιήσαντες. The meaning perhaps rather is “by doing,” or “by having done, the will of God ye may win the fruition of the promise.” The apparently contradictory expressions, about “receiving” and “not receiving” the promise or the promises, arise in part from the fact that “promise” is used both for the verbal promise, and for its actual fulfilment (Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 11:39).

Verse 37

37. μικρὸν ὅσον ὅσον. A very emphatic phrase to imply the nearness of Christ’s return, “yet but a very very little while” (lit., “little, how very, how very.” Comp. Arist. Vesp. 213 ὅσον ὅσον στίλην = quantillum; Arrian, Indic. XXIX. 15 ὀλίγοι δὲ αὐτῶν σπείρουσιν ὅσον τῆς χώρας). The phrase occurs in the LXX. in Isaiah 26:20. The quotations in this and the next verse are adapted from Habakkuk 2:3-4. In the original it is “the vision” which will not tarry, but the writer quotes from the LXX., only inserting the definite article before ἐρχόμενος, and applying it to the Messiah. “The coming one” was a Messianic title (Matthew 11:3; Luke 7:19; comp. Daniel 7:13, &c.). In Matthew 24:34 our Lord has said, “This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled”; and by the time that this Epistle was written few still survived of the generation which had seen our Lord. Hence, Christians felt sure that Christ’s coming was very near, though it is probable that they did not realise that it would consist in the close of the Old Dispensation, and not as yet in the End of the World. It is most probable that by the time this Epistle was written the Roman eagles were already beginning to gather to the carcase of a corrupted nationality and a decadent religionism; so that no wise man could overlook the indications of the rapidly approaching end.

Verse 38

38. ὁ δὲ δίκαιός μου κ.τ.λ. The true reading here (though not in the Hebrew) perhaps is, “But my righteous one shall live by faith” (as in א, A, H), and this is all the more probable because the “my” is omitted by St Paul, and therefore might be omitted here by the copyists. In D, as in some MSS. of the LXX., “my” is found after “faith.” In the original Hebrew the passage seems to mean “But the righteous shall live by his fidelity.” On the deeper meaning read into the verse by St Paul see my Life of St Paul, I. 369. The Rabbis said Habakkuk had compressed into this one rule the 365 negative and 218 positive precepts of the Law.

καὶ ἐὰν ὑποστείληται. “And if he shrink back.” The A.V. renders this “but if any man draw back.” But it is clear that ὁ δίκαιος is understood, not ἄνθρωπος. The introduction of the words “any man” is wholly unwarrantable, and at first sight looks as if it were due to dogmatic bias and a desire to insinuate the Calvinistic doctrine of the “indefectibility of grace.” But throughout this Epistle there is not a word which countenances the dogma of “final perseverance.” The true rendering is “And if he draw back My soul approveth him not”; i.e. “if my just man draw back” (comp. Ezekiel 18:24, “when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness”). The verb ὑποστέλλεσθαι implies that shrinking from a course once begun which is used of St Peter in Galatians 2:12. It means primarily “to strike or shorten sail,” and then to withdraw or hold back (comp. Acts 20:20; Acts 20:27). This quotation follows the LXX. in here diverging very widely from the Hebrew of Habakkuk 2:4, which has, “Behold his (the Chaldean’s) soul in him is puffed up, it is not humble (lit. “level”); but the righteous shall live by his faithfulness.” All that we have seen of previous quotations shews us how free was the use made, by way of illustration, of Scripture language. Practically the writer here applies the language of the old Prophet, not in its primary sense, but to express his own conceptions (Calvin). On the possible defection of “the righteous” see Article 16. of our Church.

Verse 39

39. οὐκ ἐσμὲν ὑποστολῆς κ.τ.λ. “But we are not of defection unto perdition, but of faith unto gaining of the soul.” (The genitives are genitives which imply a property, as in 1 Corinthians 14:33, οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀκαταστασίας ὁ θεός.) “Faith,” says Delitzsch, “saves the soul by linking it to God … The unbelieving man loses his soul; for not being God’s neither is he his own.” He does not possess himself. The word περιποίησις is also found in Ephesians 1:14. In these words the writer shews that in his awful warnings against apostasy he is only putting a hypothetical case. “His readers,” he says, “though some of them may have gone towards the verge, have not yet passed over the fatal line.” The word Faith is here introduced with the writer’s usual skill to prepare for the next great section of the Epistle.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Hebrews 10". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.