Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Hebrews 2

Verse 1

1. Διὰ τοῦτο. Because we are heirs of a better covenant, administered not by Angels but by a Son, to whom as Mediator an absolute dominion is to be assigned.

δεῖ. The word implies moral necessity and not mere obligation. The author never loses sight of the fact that his purpose was to warn as well as to teach.

περισσοτέρως προσέχειν. If the command to “take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things that thine eyes have seen” (Deuteronomy 4:9), came with awful force to those who had only received the Law by the disposition of Angels, how much “more abundantly” should Christians attend to Him of Whom Moses had spoken to their fathers? (Acts 3:22).

τοῖς ἀκουσθεῖσιν, “to the things heard,” i.e. to the Gospel.

μήποτε, “lest haply.” See Hebrews 3:12, Hebrews 4:1.

παραρυῶμεν. This is the 2nd aor. subj. pass. of παραρέω. In classical Greek it would be spelt ρρ. There are no such verbs as παραῤῥυέω, παραῤῥύω, or παραῤῥύημι, which seem to be mere fictions of grammarians. The meaning is “should drift away from them.” Wiclif rendered the word more correctly than the A.V. which here follows the Genevan Bible of 1560—“lest peradventure we fleten away.” The verb thus resembles the Latin praetervehi. The metaphor is taken from a boat which having no “anchor sore and steadfast,” slips its anchor, and as Luther says in his gloss, “before her landing shoots away into destruction” (Proverbs 3:21 LXX. υἱὲ μὴ παραῤῥυῇς). It is obvious that these Hebrew converts were in great danger of “drifting away” from the truth under the pressure of trial, and in consequence of the apathy produced by isolation and deferred hopes (Hebrews 3:6, Hebrews 6:11, Hebrews 10:25; Hebrews 10:36-37, Hebrews 12:1-3).

Verses 1-4


Verses 1-18


Verse 2

2. εἰ γάρ. An argument a minori ad majus, of which indeed the whole Epistle is a specimen. It was the commonest form assumed by the Rabbinic interpretation of Scripture and was the first of the seven exegetic rules of Hillel, who called it “light and heavy.”

ὁ διʼ ἀγγέλων λαληθεὶς λόγος. The “by” is not ὑπὸ but διά, i.e. “by means of,” “through the instrumentality of.” The presence of Angels at Sinai is but slightly alluded to in the O. T. in Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalms 68:17; but these allusions had been greatly expanded, and were prominently dwelt upon in Rabbinic teaching—the Talmud, Targums, Midrashim, &c.—until, at last, we find in the tract Maccoth that God was only supposed to have uttered the First Commandment, while all the rest of the Law was delivered by Angels. This notion was at least as old as Josephus, who makes Herod say that the Jews “had learned of God through Angels” the most sacred part of their laws (Jos. Antt. xv. 5, § 3). The Alexandrian theology especially, impressed with the truth that “no man hath seen God at any time” (comp. Exodus 33:20), eagerly seized on the allusions to Angels as proving that every theophany was only indirect, and that God could only be seen through the medium of Angelic appearances. Hence the Jews frequently referred to Psalms 104:4, and regarded the fire, and smoke, and storm of Sinai as being Angelic vehicles of the Divine manifestation. And besides this, their boast of the Angelic ministry of the Law was founded on the allusions to the “Angel of the Presence” (Exodus 32:34; Exodus 33:14; Joshua 5:14; Isaiah 63:9). In the N. T. the only two other passages which allude to the work of Angels in delivering the Law are Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19 (see my Life of St Paul, II. 149). Clearly the Hebrew Christians had to be delivered from the notion that Christ, by being “made under the Law,” had subjected Himself to the loftier position of the Angels who had ministered the Law.

ἐγένετο βέβαιος, “became” or “proved” steadfast. The Law was no brutum fulmen; no inoperative dead-letter, but effective to vindicate its own majesty, and punish its own violation. Philo uses the very same word (βέβαια) of the institutions of Moses; but the difference of standpoint between him and the writer is illustrated by the fact that Philo also calls them ἀσάλευτα, “not to be shaken,” which this writer would not have done (Hebrews 12:27).

πᾶσα παράβασις καὶ παρακοή, i.e. all sins against it, whether of commission or of omission. παράβασις is “transgression”; παρακοὴ is “mishearing” and neglect (Matthew 18:17; Romans 5:19).

ἔνδικον. This form of the word occurs only here and in Romans 3:8.

μισθαποδοσίαν. The word μισθός, “wage” or “pay”—which is used of punishment as well as of reward—would have expressed the same thought; but the writer likes the more sonorous μισθαποδοσία (from μισθὸς and ἀποδοῦναι) (Hebrews 10:35, Hebrews 11:26). This remorseless self-vindication by the Law (“without mercy”), the certainty that it could not be broken with impunity, is alluded to in Hebrews 10:28. The Israelites found even in the wilderness (Leviticus 10:1-2; Numbers 15:32-36; Deuteronomy 4:3, &c.), that such stern warnings as that of Numbers 15:30—threatening excision to offenders—were terribly real, and applied alike to individuals and to the nation.

Verse 3

3. πῶς ἡμεῖς ἐκφευξόμεθα; The “we” (being expressed in the original) is emphatic—we who are sons, not servants—the compound verb means “how shall we succeed in escaping,” or, “make good our escape”—namely, from similar, but yet more awful punishment (comp. Hebrews 12:25).

ἀμελήσαντες, “after neglecting,” or “when we have neglected,” not, as in A. V., “if we neglect.”

τηλικαύτης σωτηρίας. The transcendence (Hebrews 7:25) of the safety provided is a measure of the guilt involved in ceasing to pay any attention to it (Hebrews 10:29; John 12:48). It came from Christ not from Angels; its sanctions are more eternal, its promises more Divine, its whole character more spiritual.

ἥτις ἀρχὴν λαβοῦσα λαλεῖσθαι. The definite relative ἥτις “one which” has (as often) a quasi-causal force, “seeing that it, having at the first been spoken.”

διὰ τοῦ κυρίου. The Gospels shew that Jesus was the first preacher of His own Gospel (Mark 1:14). “The Lord,” standing alone, is very rarely, if ever, used as a title for Christ in St Paul. (1 Thessalonians 4:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Timothy 4:18, are, to say the least, indecisive.)

ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκουσάντων. We did not indeed receive the Gospel at first-hand, but from those who were its appointed witnesses (Luke 24:47-48; Acts 1:8; Acts 5:32). This verse, as Luther and Calvin so clearly saw, furnishes a decisive proof that St Paul was not the writer of this Epistle. He always insisted on the primary and direct character of the revelation which he had received as his independent Gospel (Galatians 1:1; Galatians 1:12; Acts 22:10; Acts 26:16; 1 Corinthians 11:23; 1 Corinthians 15:3, &c.). To talk of “accommodation” or ἀνακοίνωσις with his readers here is quite beside the mark.

εἰς ἡμᾶς. A sort of constructio praegnans, “was confirmed (so as to reach) to us,” Winer, p. 776.

ἐβεβαιώθη. The “word of this salvation”—the news of this Gospel—was ratified to us (comp. 1 Corinthians 1:6), and so it becomes “steadfast” (βέβαιος, Hebrews 2:2).

Verse 4

4. συνεπιμαρτυροῦντος τοῦ θεοῦ, “God bearing witness with them”; the supernatural witness coincided with the human.

σημείοις τε καὶ τέρασιν καὶ ποικίλαις δυνάμεσιν. “Signs” to shew that there was a power behind their witness; “portents” to awaken the feeling of astonishment, and so arouse interest; and various “powers.” These are alluded to, or recorded, in Mark 16:20; Acts 2:43; Acts 19:11. St Paul himself appealed to his own “mighty signs and wonders” (Romans 15:18-19; 1 Corinthians 2:4).

καὶ πνέυματος ἁγίου μερισμοῖς, “distributions” (Hebrews 4:12 “dividing”).

κατὰ τὴν αὐτοῦ θέλησιν, “according to His own will.” The phrase applies only to this clause—the gifts which the Holy Spirit distributes as He wills (1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Corinthians 12:11; Romans 12:3). θέλησις is not used in Attic Greek. Pollux v. 165 ἡ δὲ θέλησις ἰδιωτικόν.

Verse 5

5. γάρ. The “for” resumes the thread of the argument about the superiority of Jesus over the Angels. He was to be the supreme king, but the necessity of passing through suffering to His Messianic throne lay in the fact of His High-Priesthood for the human race. To Him, therefore, and not to Angels, the “future age” is to belong.

Οὐ γὰρ ἀγγέλοις ὑπέταξεν τὴν οἰκουμένην τὴν μέλλουσαν, “For not to Angels did He subject the inhabited earth to come.” In this “inhabited earth” things in their prae-Christian condition had been subjected to Angels. This is inferred directly from Psalms 8. where the “little” of degree is interpreted as “a little” of time. The authority of Angels over the Mosaic dispensation had been inferred by the Jews from Psalms 82:1, where “the congregation of Elohim” was interpreted to mean Angels; and from Deuteronomy 32:8-9, where instead of “He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel,” the LXX. had “according to the number of the Angels of God.” From this passage, and Genesis 10, Daniel 10:13, &c. they inferred that there were 70 nations of the world, each under its presiding Angel, but that Israel was under the special charge of God, as is expressly stated in Sirach 17:17 (comp. Isaiah 24:21-22, LXX.). The notion is only modified when in Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:20, Michael “the first Prince,” and in Tobit 12:15, “the seven Archangels,” are regarded as protectors of Israel. But now the dispensational functions of Angels have ceased, because in “the kingdom of God” they in their turn were subordinated to the man Christ Jesus.

τὴν οἰκουμένην τὴν μέλλουσαν. The Olam habba or “future age” of the Hebrews; although the word here used is not αἰὼν but οἰκουμένη, properly the inhabited world. In Isaiah 9:6 the Theocratic king who is a type of the Messiah is called “the Everlasting Father,” which is rendered by the LXX. “father of the future age.” In the “new heavens and new earth,” as in the Messianic kingdom which is “the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ,” man, whose nature Christ has taken upon Him, is to be specially exalted. Hence, as Calvin acutely observes, Abraham, Joshua, Daniel, are not forbidden to bow to Angels, but under the New Covenant St John is twice forbidden (Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:9). But although the Messianic kingdom, and therefore the “future age,” began at the Resurrection, there is yet another “future age” beyond it, which shall only begin when this age is perfected, and Christ’s kingdom is fully come.

περὶ ἧς λαλοῦμεν, i.e. which is my present subject.

Verses 5-13


Verse 6

6. διεμαρτύρατο δέ πού τις. The writer was of course perfectly well aware that the Psalm on which he proceeds to comment is the 8th Psalm. This indefinite mode of quotation (“some one, somewhere”) is common in Philo (De ebriet., Opp. I. 365, where he quotes Genesis 20:12 with the formula εἶπε γάρ πού τις) and the Rabbis. Scripture is often quoted by the words “It saith “or “He saith “or “God saith.” Possibly the indefinite form (comp. Hebrews 4:4)—which is not found in St Paul—is only here adopted because God is Himself addressed in the Psalm. (See Schöttgen, Nov. Hebr., p. 928.)

Τί ἐστιν ἄνθρωπος. The Hebrew word—אֱנוֹש—means man in his weakness and humiliation. The “what” expresses a double feeling—how mean in himself! how great in Thy love! The Psalm is only Messianic in so far as it implies man’s final exaltation through Christ’s incarnation. It applies, in the first instance, and directly, to Man: and only in a secondary sense to Jesus as man. But St Paul had already (1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:22) applied it in a Messianic sense, and “Son of man” was a Messianic title (Daniel 7:13). Thus the Cabbalists regarded the name Adam as an anagram for Adam, David, Moses, and regarded the Messiah as combining the dignity of all three. David twice makes the exclamation—“What is man?”;—once when he is thinking of man’s frailty in connexion with his exaltation by God (Psalms 8); and once (Psalms 144:3) when he is thinking only of man’s emptiness and worthlessness, as being undeserving of God’s care (comp. Job 7:17).

Verse 7

7. βραχύ τι. The “little” in the original (meät) means “little in degree”; but is here applied to time—“for a little while”—as is clear from Hebrews 2:9. The writer was only acquainted with the LXX. and in Greek the βραχύ τι would naturally suggest brevity of time (comp. 1 Peter 5:10). Some of the old Greek translators who took the other meaning rendered ὀλίγον παρὰ θεόν.

παρʼ ἀγγέλους. On this comparative use of παρὰ see Winer, p. 503, and the note to Hebrews 1:9. The original has “than Elohim,” i.e. than God; but the name Elohim has, as we have seen, a much wider and lower range than “Jehovah,” and the rendering “angels” is here found both in the LXX. and the Targum. It must be borne in mind that the writer is only applying the words of the Psalm, and putting them as it were to a fresh use. The Psalm is “a lyric echo of the first chapter of Genesis” and speaks of man’s exaltation. The author is applying it to man’s lowliness (“ad suum institutum deflectit,” says Calvin, “κατʼ ἐπεξεργασίαν”). Yet David’s notion, like that of Cicero, is that “Man is a mortal God,” and the writer is only touching on man’s humiliation to illustrate his exaltation of the God-Man. See Perowne on the Psalms (1:144).

[καὶ κατέστησας αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὰ ἔργα τῶν χειρῶν σου]. This clause is probably a gloss from the LXX., as it is absent from some of the best MSS. and Versions (e.g. B and the Syriac). The writer omitted it as not bearing on the argument.

Verse 8

8. ὑπέταξας, “Thou didst put …” by one eternal decree. This clause should be added to the last verse. The clause applies not to Christ (as in 1 Corinthians 15:25) but to man in his redeemed glory.

πάντα. This is defined in the Psalm (Hebrews 8:8-9) to mean specially the animal world, but is here applied to the universe in accordance with its Messianic application (Matthew 28:18).

γάρ. The “for” continues the reasoning of Hebrews 2:5. The writer with deep insight seizes upon the juxtaposition of “humiliation” and “dominion” as a paradox which only found in Christ its full solution.

οὐδὲνἀνυπότακτον. The inference intended to be drawn is not “and therefore even angels will be subject to man,” but “and therefore the control of angels will come to an end.” When however we read such a passage as 1 Corinthians 6:3 (“Know ye not that we shall judge angels?”) it is uncertain whether the author would not have admitted even the other inference.

νῦν δέ, i.e. but, in this present earthly condition of things man is not as yet supreme. We see as a fact (ὁρῶμεν) man’s humiliation: we perceive by faith the glorification of Jesus, and of all humanity in Him.

αὐτῷ, i.e. under man.

Verse 9

9. βραχύ τι κ.τ.λ. This alludes to the temporal (“for a little while”) and voluntary humiliation of the Incarnate Lord. See Philippians 2:7-11. For a short time Christ was liable to agony and death from which angels are exempt; and even to the “intolerable indignity” of the grave.

βλέπομεν. “But we look upon,” i.e. not with the outward eye, but with the eye of faith. The verb used is not ὁρῶμεν videmus as in the previous verse, but βλέπομεν cernimus (as in Hebrews 3:19). In accordance with the order of the original the verse should be rendered, “But we look upon Him who has been, for a little while, made low in comparison of angels—even Jesus—on account of the suffering of death crowned, &c.”

διὰ τὸ πάθημα τοῦ θανάτου, “because of the suffering of death.” The via crucis was the appointed via lucis (comp. Hebrews 5:7-10, Hebrews 7:26, Hebrews 9:12). This truth—that the sufferings of Christ were the willing path of His perfectionment as the “Priest upon his throne” (Zechariah 6:13)—is brought out more distinctly in this than in any other Epistle.

δόξῃ καὶ τιμῇ ἐστεφανωμένον. Into the nature of this glory it was needless and hardly possible to enter. “On His head were many crowns” (Revelation 19:12).

ὅπως. The words refer to the whole of the last clause. The universal efficacy of His death resulted from the double fact of His humiliation and glorification. He was made a little lower than the angels, He suffered death, He was crowned with glory and honour, in order that His death might be efficacious for the redemption of the world.

χάριτι θεοῦ. The work of redemption resulted from the love of the Father no less than from that of the Son (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). It is therefore a part of “the grace of God” (Romans 5:8; Galatians 2:21; 2 Corinthians 6:1; Titus 2:11), and could only have been carried into completion by the aid of that grace of which Christ was full. The Greek is χάριτι θεοῦ, but there is a very interesting and very ancient various reading χωρὶς θεοῦ, “apart from God.” St Jerome says that he only found this reading “in some copies” (in quibusdam exemplaribus), whereas Origen had already said that he only found the other reading “by the grace of God” in some copies (ἐν τίσιν ἀντιγράφοις). At present however the reading “apart from God” is only found in the cursive manuscript 53 (a MS. of the 9th century), and in the margin of 67. It is clear that once the reading was more common than is now the case, and it seems to have been a Western and Syriac reading which has gradually disappeared from the manuscripts. Theodore of Mopsuestia calls the reading “by the grace of God” meaningless, and others have stamped it as Monophysite (i.e. as implying that in Christ there was only one nature). We have seen that this is by no means the case, though the other reading may doubtless have fallen into disfavour from the use made of it by the Nestorians to prove that Christ did not suffer in His divinity but only “apart from God,” i.e. “divinitate tantisper depositâ” (so too St Ambrose and Fulgentius). But even if the reading be correct (and it is certainly more ancient than the Nestorian controversy) the words may belong to their own proper clause—“that He may taste death for every being except God”; the latter words being added as in 1 Corinthians 15:27. But the reading is almost certainly spurious. For [1] in the Nestorian sense “(should, apart from God, taste death”) it is unlike any other passage of Scripture; [2] in the other sense (“should taste death for everything except God”) it is unnecessary (since it bears in no way on the immediate argument) and may have been originally added as a superfluous marginal gloss by some pragmatic reader who remembered 1 Corinthians 15:27; or [3] it may have originated from a confusion of letters on the original papyrus. The incorporation of marginal glosses into the text is a familiar phenomenon in textual criticism. Such perhaps are 1 John 5:7; Acts 8:37; the latter part of Romans 8:1; “without cause” in Matthew 5:22; “unworthily” in 1 Corinthians 11:29, &c.

ὑπέρ, “on behalf of,” not “as a substitution for,” which would require ἀντί. παντός. Origen and others made this word neuter, “for every thing” or “for every existence”; but this seems to be expressly excluded by Hebrews 2:16, and is not in accordance with the analogy of John 1:29; John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2. It will be seen that the writer deals freely with the Psalm. The Psalmist views man in his present condition as being one which involves both glory and humiliation: his words are here applied as expressing man’s present humiliation and his future glory, which are compared with Christ’s temporal humiliation leading to His Eternal glory. It is the necessity of this application which required the phrase “a little” to be understood not of degree but of time. No doubt the writer has read into the words a pregnant significance; but [1] he is only applying them by way of illustrating acknowledged truths: and [2] he is doing so in accordance with principles of exegesis which were universally conceded not only by Christians but even by Jews.

γεύσηται θανάτου. The word “taste” is not to be pressed as though it meant that Christ “saw no corruption.” “To taste” does not mean merely “summis labris delibare.” It is a common Semitic and metaphoric paraphrase for death, derived from the notion of Death as an Angel who gives a cup to drink; as in the Arabic poem Antar “Death fed him with a cup of absinth by my hand.” Comp. Matthew 16:28; John 8:52. But the “death” here referred to is the life of self-sacrifice as well as the death of the body. Γεύεσθαι with the gen. is common in classical Greek, but its use with θανάτου in the N. T. (Matthew 16:28 &c.) is a Rabbinic phrase (see Schöttgen, Hor. Hebr. p. 148).

Verse 10

10. ἔπρεπεν γὰρ αὐτῷ. Πρέπει has four constructions; [1] with dat. and inf. Matthew 3:15; [2] dat. followed by acc. and inf. as here; [3] personal as in Hebrews 7:26; [4] with acc. and inf. 1 Corinthians 11:13. Unlike St Paul the writer never enters into what may be called “the philosophy of the plan of salvation.” He never attempts to throw any light upon the mysterious subject of the antecedent necessity for the death of Christ. Perhaps he considered that all which could be profitably said on that high mystery had already been said by St Paul (Romans 3:25; Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He dwells upon Christ’s death almost exclusively in its relation to us. The expression which he here uses, “it was morally fitting for Him,” is almost the only one which he devotes to what may be called “the transcendent side of Christ’s sacrifice”—the death of Christ as regards its relation to God. He develops no theory of vicarious satisfaction, &c., though he uses the metaphoric words “redemption” and “make reconciliation for” (Hebrews 2:17, Hebrews 9:15). The “moral fitness” here touched upon is the necessity for absolutely sympathetic unity between the High Priest and those for whom He offered His perfect sacrifice. Compare Luke 24:46, “thus it behoved Christ to suffer.” Philo also uses the phrase πρέπει τῷ θεῷ (Leg. alleg. p. 48, 8). It is a very remarkable expression, for though it also occurs in the LXX. (Jeremiah 10:7), yet in this passage alone does it contemplate the actions of God under the aspect of inherent moral fitness.

διʼ ὅν, i.e. “for whose sake,” “on whose account.” The reference here is to God, not to Christ.

διʼ οὗ, i.e. by whose creative agency. Compare Romans 11:36, “of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things.” The same words may also be applied to Christ, but the context here shews that they refer to God the Father.

πολλούς. “A great multitude which no man could number” (Revelation 7:9-14). The word is used in contrast to the one Captain.

υἱούς. This word furnishes an additional proof that the “having brought” refers to God, not to Christ, for we are called Christ’s “brethren,” but never His sons.

ἀγαγόντα, “having brought.” The subject is involved in the τῷ θεῷ. The use of the aorist participle is difficult, but the “glory” seems to imply the potential triumph of the “sons” in the one finished act of Christ which was due to “the grace of God.” The “Him” and the “having brought” refer to God and not to Christ. God led many sons to glory through the Captain of their Salvation, whom—in that process of Redemptive Work which is shared by each “Person” of the Blessed Trinity—He perfected through suffering. On the Cross the future glory of the many sons was won and was potentially consummated.

ἀρχηγόν. Comp. 1 Maccabees 10:47 ἀρχηγὸς λόγων εἰρηνικῶν. The word also occurs in Acts 5:31. In Acts 3:15 it means “author,” or “originator,” as in Hebrews 12:2. The word primarily signifies one who goes at the head of a company as their leader (antesignanus) and guide (see Isaiah 55:4), and then comes to mean “originator.” Comp. Hebrews 5:9.

διὰ παθημάτων. See note on Hebrews 2:9, and comp. Revelation 5:9; 1 Peter 5:10. Jewish Christians were slow to realise the necessity for a crucified Messiah, and when they did so they tried to distinguish between Messiah son of David and a supposed Messiah son of Joseph. There are however some early traces of such a belief. See an Appendix to Vol. II. of the last Edition of Dean Perowne on the Psalms.

τελειῶσαι. Not in the sense of making morally, or otherwise, perfect, but in the sense of leading to a predestined goal or consummation. See the similar uses of this word in Hebrews 5:9, Hebrews 7:28, Hebrews 9:9, Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 11:40, Hebrews 12:23. The LXX. uses the word to represent the consecration of the High Priest (Leviticus 21:10). In this Epistle the verb occurs nine times, in all St Paul’s Epistles probably not once. (In 2 Corinthians 12:9 the reading of ABDFG is τελεῖται. In Philippians 3:12 the reading of DEFG is δεδικαίωμαι.)

Verse 11

11. γάρ. The next three verses are an illustration of the moral fitness, and therefore of the Divine necessity, that there should be perfect unity and sympathy between the Saviour and the saved.

ὅ τε ἁγιάζων καὶ οἱ ἁγιαζόμενοι. The idea would perhaps be well, though not literally, expressed by “both the sanctifier and the sanctified,” for the idea of sanctification is here not so much that of progressive holiness as that of cleansing (Hebrews 13:12). This writer seems to make but little difference between the words “to sanctify” and “to purify,” because in the sphere of the Jewish Ceremonial Law from which his analogies are largely drawn, “sanctification meant the setting apart for service by various means of purification.” See Hebrews 9:13-14, Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 13:12, and comp. John 17:17-19; 1 John 1:7. The progressive sanctification is viewed in its ideal result, and in this result the whole Church of Christ shares, so that, like Israel of old, it is ideally “holy.”

ἐξ ἑνὸς πάντες. Sub. πατρός. The ἐξ implies descent; they alike derive their origin from God; in other words the relation in which they stand to each other is due to one and the same Divine purpose (John 17:17-19). This seems a better view than to refer the “one” to Abraham (Isaiah 51:2; Ezekiel 33:24, &c.) or to Adam.

οὐκ ἐπαισχύνεται. Sc. ὁ ἁγιάζων.

ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοὺς καλεῖν. αὐτοὺς sc. τοὺς ἁγιαζομένους. If the Gospels had been commonly known at the time when this Epistle was written, the author would doubtless have referred not to the Old Testament, but to such direct and tender illustrations as Matthew 12:49-50, “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother”: or to John 20:17, “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God”: Matthew 28:10, “go unto my brethren.” Or are we to suppose that this application of Messianic Psalms would have come with even greater argumentative force to his Judaising readers?

καλεῖν, i.e. to declare them to be His brethren by calling them so.

Verse 12

12. Ἀπαγγελῶ κ.τ.λ., Psalms 22:22. This is a typico-prophetic Psalm, accepted in a Messianic sense, which was supposed to be mystically indicated by its superscription, “On the hind of the dawn.” The sense of its prophetic and typical character had doubtless been deepened among Christians by our Lord’s quotation from it on the Cross (Matthew 27:46). It is one of our special Psalms for Good Friday. See the references to it in Matthew 27:35; John 19:24.

ἐκκλησίας, “of the congregation.”

Verse 13

13. Ἐγὼ ἔσομαι πεποιθὼς ἐπʼ αὐτῷ. The quotation is probably from Isaiah 8:17, but nearly the same words are found in Psalms 18:2 and 2 Samuel 22:3 (LXX.). The necessity of putting His trust in God is a proof of Christ’s humanity, and therefore of His brotherhood with us. When He was on the Cross His enemies said by way of taunt, “He trusted in God” (Matthew 27:43).

Ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ κ.τ.λ. This verse furnishes a marked instance of the principles of Biblical interpretation, of which we have already seen many specimens. Isaiah by the prophetess has a son to whom he is bidden to give the name Maher-shalal-hash-baz, or “Speed-plunder-haste-spoil”; to his elder son he has been bidden to give the name Shear-Jashub, “a remnant shall remain”; and as the names of both sons are connected with prophecies concerning Israel he says “Lo! I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts.” The words are here entirely dissociated from their context and from their primary historical meaning to indicate the relation between Christ and His redeemed children. The LXX. in Isaiah 8:17 insert the words “And He will say,” and some have supposed that the author (who, like most Alexandrians, was evidently unacquainted with the original Hebrew) understood these words to imply that it was no longer the Prophet but the Messiah who was the speaker. It is however more probable that he took for granted the legitimacy of his application. In this he merely followed the school of interpretation in which he had been trained, in accordance with principles which were at that period universally accepted among Jews and Christians. We must ourselves regard it as a somewhat extreme instance of applying the words of Scripture in a Messianic sense. But we see the bearing of the illustration upon the immediate point in view, when we recall the typical character and position of Isaiah, and therefore the mystic significance which was naturally attached to his words. Our Lord Himself uses, with no reference to Isaiah, a similar expression, “those that thou gavest me,” in John 17:12.

Verse 14

14. κεκοινώνηκεν, “have shared (and do share) in blood and flesh,” i.e. are human. They are all inheritors of this common mystery. This is implied by the perfect tense. “Blood and flesh,” as in Ephesians 6:12.

παραπλησίως. This word furnished the Fathers with a strong argument against the Docetae who regarded the body of Christ not as real but as purely phantasmal.

μετέσχεν τῶν αὐτῶν. Because, as he goes on to intimate, it would otherwise have been impossible for Christ to die. Comp. Philippians 2:8. The aorist implies the one historic fact of the Incarnation. The contrasted use of the aor. and perf. in many passages shews the importance of observing the difference between them. Comp. Luke 4:18 ἔχρισέ με εὐαγγελίσασθαι, ἀπέσταλκέ με κηρύξαι, 1 Corinthians 15:4 on ὅτι ἐτάφη καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται. See Colossians 1:16; 2 Corinthians 11:28, &c.

καταργήσῃ, “He may bring to nought,” or “render impotent.” See 2 Timothy 1:10, “Jesus Christ … hath abolished death”; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; Revelation 1:18. The word occurs 28 times in St Paul, but elsewhere only here and in Luke 13:7, though sometimes found in the LXX.

τὸνἔχοντα, “him that hath,” i.e. in the present condition of things. But Christ, by assuming our flesh, became “the Death of death,” as in the old epitaph,

“Mors Mortis Morti mortem nisi morte dedisset,

Aeternae vitae janua clausa foret”;

which we may render

“Had not the Death of death to Death by death his death-blow given, For ever closèd were the gate, the gate of life and heaven.”

“Paradoxon: Jesus, mortem passus, vicit: diabolus, mortem vibrans, succubuit.” Bengel. It is, however, possible that the phrase, “the power of death,” does not imply that the devil can, by God’s permission, inflict death, but that he has “a sovereignty, of which death is the realm.”

τὸν διάβολον. This is the only place in this Epistle in which the name “Devil” occurs. It is nowhere very frequent in the N.T. The English reader is liable to be misled by the rendering “devils” for “demons” in the Gospels. Satan has the power of death, if that be the meaning here, not as lord but as executioner (comp. Revelation 9:11); his power is only a permissive power (John 8:44; Revelation 12:10; Wisdom of Solomon 2:24, “Through envy of the devil came death unto the world).” The manner in which Christ shall thus bring Satan to nought is left untouched, but the best general comments on the fact are in 1 Corinthians 15 and the Apocalypse. Nor does this expression encourage any Manichean or dualistic views; for, however evil may be the will of Satan, he can never exercise his power otherwise than in accordance with the just will of God. The Jews spoke of an Angel of Death, whom they called Sammael, and whom they identified with Satan (Eisenmenger, Entd. Judenth. II. p. 821).

Verses 14-18


Verse 15

15. τούτους ὅσοι. Lit., “those, as many as,” i.e. “all who.”

φόβῳ θανάτου. This fear was felt, as we see from the O.T., far more intensely under the old than under the new dispensation. Dr Robertson Smith quotes from the Midrash Tanchuma, “In this life death never suffers man to be glad.” See Numbers 17:13; Numbers 18:5; Psalms 6, 30, &c., and Isaiah 38:10-20, &c. In heathen and savage lands the whole of life is often overshadowed by the terror of death, which thus becomes a veritable “bondage.” Philo quotes a line of Euripides to shew that a man who has no fear of death can never be a slave. But, through Christ’s death, death has become to the Christian the gate of glory. The different aspect which death assumed in the eyes of Christians is forcibly illustrated by the contrast between the passionate despair, resentment, and cynicism of many Pagan epitaphs, compared with the peace, resignation, and even exultation displayed by those in the catacombs. Christians had not received the πνεῦμα δουλείας πάλιν εἰς φόβον, Romans 8:15. It is remarkable that in this verse the writer introduces a whole range of conceptions which he not only leaves without further development, but to which he does not even allude again. They seem to lie aside from the main current of his views.

διὰ παντὸς τοῦ ζῆν = διὰ πάσης τῆς ζωῆς. The substantival inf. with an adj. is rare, but compare Persius “Scire tuum nihil est.”

ἔνοχοι δουλίας. Stronger than δουλείᾳ, not merely “liable to” but “wholly subdued to” or “implicated in” slavery.

Verse 16

16. οὐ γὰρ δήπου κ.τ.λ.,for assuredly it is not angels whom He takes by the hand.” The word δήπου, “certainly,” “I suppose” (opinor), occurs here only in the N. T. or LXX., though common in Philo. In classical Greek it often has a semi-ironic tinge, “you will doubtless admit that,” like opinor in Latin. All are now agreed that the verb does not mean “to take the nature of,” but “to take by the hand,” and so “to help” or “rescue.” Beza indeed called it “execrable rashness” (exsecranda audacia) to translate it so, when this rendering was first adopted by Castellio in 1551; but the usage of the word proves that this is the only possible rendering, although all the Fathers and Reformers take it in the other way. It is rightly corrected in the R. V. (comp. Isaiah 49:9-10; Jeremiah 31:32; Hebrews 8:9; Matthew 14:31; Sirach 4:11, “Wisdom … takes by the hand those that seek her”). To refer “he taketh not hold” to Death or the Devil is most improbable.

σπέρματος Ἀβραάμ, i.e. Jesus was born a Hebrew. He does not at all mean to imply that our Lord came to the Jews more than to the Gentiles, though he is only thinking of the former. Still, as Reuss says, St Paul could hardly have omitted all allusion to the Gentiles here.

ἐπιλαμβάνεται. The present implies Christ’s continued advocacy and aid.

Verse 17

17. ὅθεν. This word “whence,” common in this Epistle, does not occur once in St Paul, but is found in Acts 26:19, in a report of his speech, and in 1 John 2:18.

ὤφειλεν. He was morally bound, stronger than the “it became Him” of Hebrews 2:10. It means that, with reference to the object in view, there lay upon Him a moral obligation to become a man with men. See Hebrews 5:1-2.

κατὰ πάντα. These words should be taken with “to be made like.”

ἵναγένηται. “That He might become,” or, “prove Himself.”

ἐλεήμωνκαὶ πιστὸς ἀρχιερεύς, “merciful,” or rather “compassionate” to men; “faithful” to God. In Christ “mercy and truth” have met together, Psalms 85:10. The expression “a faithful priest” is found in 1 Samuel 2:35. Dr Robertson Smith well points out that the idea of “a merciful priest,” which is scarcely to be found in the O. T., would come home with peculiar force to the Jews of that day, because mercy was a quality in which the Aaronic Priests had signally failed (Yoma, f. 9, 1), and in the Herodian epoch they were notorious for cruelty, insolence and greed (see my Life of Christ, II. 329, 330). The Jews said that there had been no less than 28 High Priests in 107 years of this epoch (Jos. Antt. xx. 10), their brief dignity being due to their wickedness (Proverbs 10:27). The conception of the Priesthood hitherto had been ceremonial rather than ethical; yet it is only “by mercy and truth” that “iniquity is purged.” Proverbs 16:6. The word “High Priest,” here first introduced, has evidently been entering into the writer’s thoughts (Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 2:11; Hebrews 2:16), and is the most prominent conception throughout the remainder of the Epistle. The consummating elements of genuine High Priesthood are touched upon in Hebrews 5:10, Hebrews 6:20, Hebrews 9:24.

ἀρχιερεύς. The Greek word is comparatively new. In the Pentateuch the high priest is merely called “the Priest” (except in Leviticus 21:10). In later books of Scripture the epithet “head” or “great” is added. The word occurs 17 times in this Epistle, but not once in any other.

τὰ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. This is the adverbial accusative of reference. Comp. Hebrews 5:1. The phrase is found in the LXX. of Exodus 18:19.

ἱλάσκεσθαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας τοῦ λαοῦ, “to expiate the sins of the people.” In Pagan and classic usage ἱλάσκομαι is always followed by the accusative of the Person who is supposed to be angry and to be appeased by a present or sacrifice. And this heathen notion has been transferred to Christianity by a false theology. But Christ is nowhere said in the N. T. to “expiate” or “propitiate” God or “the wrath of God” (which are heathen, not Christian, conceptions), nor is any such expression found in the LXX. Nor do we find such phrases as “God was propitiated by the death of His Son,” or “Christ propitiated the wrath of God by His blood.” Throughout the Old and New Testaments the verb is only used with the accusative of the sinner, in which case it means “to be merciful to,” and of the sin, in which case it means “to neutralise the effects of.” The propitiation changes us, not God who is unchangeable. We have to be reconciled to God, not God to us. It is therefore wholly unwarrantable with Winer (p. 285) to understand τὸν θεὸν here and to regard the verb as governing a double accusative. Further we may observe that in the N. T. ἱλάσκεσθαι occurs but twice (Luke 18:13, and here) and ἱλασμὸς only twice (1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). God Himself fore-ordained the propitiation (Romans 3:25). The verb represents the Hebrew kippeer “to cover,” whence is derived the name for the day of Atonement (Kippurim). In Daniel 9:24 Theodotion’s version has ἐξιλάσασθαι ἀδικίας. We are left to unauthorised theory and conjecture as to the manner in which and the reason for which “expiation,” in the form of “sacrifice,” interposes between “sin” and “wrath.” All we know is that, in relation to us, Christ is “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10; Romans 3:25). Accepting the blessed result as regards ourselves we shall best shew our wisdom by abstaining from dogmatism and theory respecting the unrevealed and transcendent mystery as it affects God.

τοῦ λαοῦ. Primarily the Jewish people, whom alone the writer has in mind. Angels, so far as we are told, did not need the Redemptive work.

Verse 18

18. ἐν ᾦ γὰρ πέπονθεν αὐτὸς πειρασθείς. These words have been taken, and grammatically may be explained, in eight or nine different ways. One of the best ways is that given by the A. V. and endorsed by the R. V. This method regards the Greek ἐν ᾦ as equivalent to the Hebrew בַּאֲשֶׁר, which means “in so far as.” “By His Passion,” says Bp Wordsworth, “He acquired compassion.” Of other possible ways, the most tenable is that which takes ἐν ᾦ quite literally, “In that sphere wherein (ἐν τούτῳ ὅ, comp. 1 Peter 2:12) He suffered by being tempted”—the sphere being the whole conditions of human life and trial (comp. Hebrews 6:17; Romans 8:3). But the first way seems to be the better. Temptation of its own nature involves suffering, and it is too generally overlooked that though our Lord’s severest temptations came in two great and solemn crises—in the wilderness and at Gethsemane—yet Scripture leads us to the view that He was always liable to temptation—though without sin, because the temptation was always repudiated with the whole force of His will throughout the whole course of His life of obedience. After the temptation in the wilderness the devil only left Him “for a season” (Luke 4:13). We must remember too that the word “temptation” includes all trials.

τοῖς πειραζομένοις, “that are under temptation” (lit., “that are being tempted,” i. e. men in their mortal life of trial). This thought is the one so prominent throughout the Epistle, viz. the closeness of Christ’s High-Priestly sympathy, Hebrews 4:15, Hebrews 5:1-2. The aor. βοηθῆσαι implies the immediate help to those who are being continuously tempted.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Hebrews 2". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.