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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Hebrews 6

Verse 1

Hebrews 6:1 . Διὸ “wherefore,” i.e. , because beginnings belong to a stage which ought long since to have been left behind (Hebrews 5:12 ), ἀφέντες … let us abandon [give up] the elementary teaching about Christ and press on to maturity. [Of the use of ἀφιέναι in similar connections Bleek gives many instances of which Eurip., Androm. , 393 may be cited: ἀλλὰ f1τὴν ἀρχὴν ἀφεὶς πρὸς τὴν τελευτὴν ὑστέραν οὖσαν φέρῃ . ἐπὶ τὴν τελειότητα φερώμεθα is an expression which was in vogue in the Pythagorean schools. [Westcott and Weiss press the passive. “The thought is not primarily of personal effort … but of personal surrender to an active influence.” But φέρομαι is used where it is difficult to discover a passive sense.] It is questioned whether the words are merely the expression of the teacher’s resolution to advance to a higher stage of instruction, or are meant as an exhortation to the readers to advance to perfectness. Davidson advocates the former view, Peake the latter. It would seem that the author primarily refers to his own teaching. The context and the use of λόγον favour this view. He has been chiding them for remaining so long “babes,” able to receive only “milk”; let us, he says, leave this rudimentary teaching and proceed to what is more nutritious. But with his advance in teaching, their advance in knowledge and growth in character is closely bound up. What the writer definitely means by τὸν τ . ἀρχῆς τ . Χριστοῦ λόγον , he explains in his detailed description of the “foundation,” which is not again to be laid. It consists of the teaching that must first be given to those who seek some knowledge of Christ. Westcott explains the expression thus: “ the word , the exposition, of the beginning , the elementary view of the Christ ”; although he probably too narrowly restricts the meaning of “the beginning of Christ” when he explains it as “the fundamental explanation of the fulfilment of the Messianic promises in Jesus of Nazareth”. Weiss thinks the writer urges abandonment of the topics with which he and his readers had been occupied in the Epistle [“also des bisherigen Inhalts des Briefes”.] But this is not necessarily implied, and indeed is excluded by the advanced character of much of the preceding teaching. What was taught the Hebrews at their first acquaintance with the Christ must be abandoned, not as if it had been misleading, but as one leaves behind school books or foundations: “non quod eorum oblivisci unquam debeant fideles, sed quia in illis minime est haerendum”. Calvin: as Paul says, τὰ μὲν ὀπίσω ἐπιλανθανόμενος , Philippians 3:13 . μὴ πάλιν θεμέλιον καταβαλλόμενοι “not again and again laying a foundation”. θεμέλιον possibly a neuter (see Deissmann, Bibelstudien , 119) as in Acts 16:16 ; certainly masculine in 2 Timothy 2:19 ; Hebrews 11:10 ; Revelation 21:14 ; Revelation 21:19 twice. καταβαλλ . the usual word for expressing the idea of “laying” foundations, as in Dionys. Hal., iii. 69; Josephus Ant. , xv. 11, 3; metaphorically in Eurip., Helena , 164; hence καταβολὴ κόσμου , the foundation of the world. Then follow six particulars in which this foundation consists. Various arrangements and interpretations have been offered. Dr. Bruce says: “We are tempted to adopt another hypothesis, namely, that the last four are to be regarded as the foundation of the first two, conceived not as belonging to the foundation, but rather as the superstructure. On this view we should have to render ‘Not laying again a foundation for repentance and faith, consisting in instructions concerning baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection, and judgment.’ In favour of this construction is the reading διδαχήν found in B, and adopted by Westcott and Hort, which being in opposition with θεμέλιον suggests that the four things following form the foundation of repentance and faith.” But Dr. Bruce returns to the idea that six articles are mentioned as forming the foundation, and Westcott, although adopting the reading διδαχήν , makes no use of it. Balfour ( Central Truths ) in an elaborate paper on the passage suggests that only four articles are mentioned, the words, βαπτισμῶνχειρῶν being introduced parenthetically, because the writer cannot refrain from pointing out that repentance and faith were respectively taught by two legal rites, baptism and laying on of hands. The probability, however, is, as we shall see, that six fundamentals are intended, and that they are not so non-Christian as is sometimes supposed. These six fundamentals are arranged in three pairs, the first of which is μετανοίαςΘεόν “repentance from dead works and faith toward God”. Repentance and faith are conjoined in Mark 1:15 ; Acts 20:21 ; cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9 . They are found together in Scripture because they are conjoined in life, and are indeed but different aspects of one spiritual act. A man repents because a new belief has found entrance into his mind. Repentance is here characterised as ἀπὸ νεκρῶν ἔργων . Many explanations are given. [“Hanc vero phrasin apud scriptores Judaicos mihi nondum occurrisse lubens fateor” (Schoettgen).] The only other place where works are thus designated is Hebrews 9:14 , where the blood of Christ is said to cleanse the conscience from dead works and thus to fit for the worship of the living God; on which Chrysostom remarks εἴ τις ἥψατο τότε νεκροῦ ἐμιαίνετο · καὶ ἐνταῦθα εἴ τις ἅψαιτο νεκροῦ ἔργου , μολὐνεται διὰ τῆς συνειδήσεως , as if sins were called “dead” simply because they defile and unfit for God’s worship. [On this view Weiss remarks, “wenigstens etwas Richtiges zu Grunde”.] Others think that “dead” here means “deadly” or “death-bringing”; so Peirce; or that it is meant that sins have no strength, are “devoid of life and power”; so Tholuck, Alford; or are “vain and fruitless” (Lünemann). Hofmann says that every work is dead in which there is not inherent any life from God. Similarly Westcott, who says: “There is but one spring of life and all which does not flow from it is ‘dead’. All acts of a man in himself, separated from God, are ‘dead works’.” Davidson thinks that this is “hardly enough,” and adds “they seem so called because being sinful they belong to the sphere of that which is separate from the living God, the sphere of death (Hebrews 2:14 , etc.)”. Rather it may be said that dead works are such as have no living connection with the character but are done in mere compliance with the law and therefore accomplish nothing. They are like a dead fleece laid on a wolf, not a part of his life and growing out of him. Cf. Bleek and Weiss. Such repentance was especially necessary in Jewish Christians. καὶ πίστεως ἐπὶ θεόν , the counterpart of the preceding. The abandonment of formal, external righteousness results from confidence in God as faithful to His promises and furnishing an open way to Himself. What is meant is not only faith in God’s existence, which of course had not to be taught to a Jew, but trust in God. Faith is either εἰς , πρός , ἐν , or ἐπί as union, relation, rest, or direction is meant (Vaughan).

Verse 2

Hebrews 6:2 . The next pair, βαπτισμῶν διδαχῆς ἐπιθέσεώς τε χειρῶν “instruction regarding washings and laying on of hands”. “The historical sequence is followed in the enumeration”. Some interpreters make all three conditions directly dependent on θεμέλιον , “foundation of baptisms, teaching, and laying on of hands”. Bengel makes διδαχῆς dependent on βαπτ . He says: “ βαπτισμοὶ διδαχῆς erant baptismi , quos qui suscipiebant, doctrinae sacrae Judaeorum sese addicebant. Itaque adjecto διδαχῆς doctrinae distinguuntur a lotionibus ceteris leviticis”. Similarly Winer ( Gramm. , p. 240): “If we render βαπτ . διδ . baptisms of doctrine or instruction , as distinguished from the legal baptisms (washings) of Judaism, we find a support for this designation, as characteristically Christian, in Matthew 28:19 , βαπτίσαντες αὐτούςδιδάσκοντες αὐτούς ”. It is better to take the words as equivalent to διδαχῆς περὶ βαπτισμῶν . In N.T. βάπτισμα is regularly used of Christian baptism or of John’s baptism, while βαπτισμός is used of ceremonial washings as in Hebrews 9:10 and Mark 7:4 . [ Cf. Blass, Gramm. , p. 62. Josephus, ( Ant. , xviii. 5, 2) uses βαπτισμός of John’s baptism.] Probably, therefore, “teaching about washings” would include instruction in the distinction between the various Jewish washings, John’s baptism and that of Christ ( cf. Acts 19:2 ); and this would involve instruction in the cleansing efficacy of the Atonement made by Christ as well as in the work of the Holy Spirit. It was very necessary for a convert from Judaism to understand the difference between symbolic and real lustration. The reference of the plural must, therefore, not be restricted to the distinction of outward and inward baptism (Grotius), nor of water and spirit baptism (Reuss) nor of infant and adult baptism, nor of the threefold immersion nor, as Primasius, “pro varietate accipientium”. ἐπιθέσεώς τε χειρῶν closely conjoined to the foregoing by τε because the “laying on of hands” was the accompaniment of baptism in Apostolic times. “As through baptism the convert became a member of the House of God, through the laying on of hands he received endowments fitting him for service in the house, and an earnest of his relation to the world to come (Hebrews 6:5 )” (Davidson, cf. Delitzsch). The laying on of hands was normally accompanied by prayer. Prayer was the essential element in the transaction, the laying on of hands designating the person to whom the prayer was to be answered and for whom the gift was designed. Cf. Acts 19:1-6 ; Acts 8:14-17 ; Acts 13:3 ; Acts 6:6 ; and Lepine’s The Ministers of Jesus Christ , p. 141 4. In Apostolic times baptism apparently meant that the baptised believed in and gave himself to Christ, while the laying on of hands meant that the Holy Ghost was conferred upon him. In baptism as now administered both these facts are outwardly represented. ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν καὶ κρίματος αἰωνίου : “resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment,” “constituting the believer’s outlook under which he was to live” (Davidson). The genitives depend on διδαχῆς , not on θεμέλιον , as Vaughan. The phrase ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν naturally includes all the dead both righteous and unrighteous (see John 5:29 and Acts 24:15 . κρίμα though properly the result of κρίσις is not always distinguished from it, see John 9:39 ; Acts 24:25 ; and cf. Hebrews 9:27 ). It is “eternal,” timeless in its results. These last-named doctrines, although not specifically Christian, yet required to be brought before the notice of a Jewish convert that he might disentangle the Christian idea from the Jewish Messianic expectation of a resurrection of Israel to the enjoyment of the Messianic Kingdom, and of a judgment on the enemies of Israel ( Cf. Weiss).

Verse 3

Hebrews 6:3 . καὶ τοῦτο ποιήσομεν : “and this will we do,” that is, we will go on to perfection and not attempt again to lay a foundation. So Theoph.: τὸ ἐπὶ τὴν τελειότητα φέρεσθαι . And Primasius: “et hoc faciemus, i.e. , et ad majora nos ducemus, et de his omnibus quae enumeravimus plenissime docebimus nos, ut non sit iterum necesse ex toto et a capite ponere fundamentum”. Hofmann refers the words to the participial clause, an interpretation adopted even by von Soden [“nämlich abermal Fundament Einsenken”] which only creates superfluous difficulty. The writer, feeling as he does the arduous nature of the task he undertakes, adds the condition, ἐάνπερ ἐπιτρέπῃ ὁ Θεός , “if God permit”. The addition of περ has the effect of limiting the condition or of indicating a sine qua non ; and may be rendered “if only,” “if at all events,” “if at least”. This clause is added not as if the writer had any doubt of God’s willingness, but because he is conscious that his success depends wholly on God’s will. Cf. 1 Corinthians 16:7 .

Verse 4

Hebrews 6:4 . First, the description here given of those who have entered upon the Christian life is parallel to the description given in Hebrews 6:1-2 of elementary Christian teaching; although the parallel is not carried out in detail. The picture, though highly coloured, is somewhat vague in outline. “The writer’s purpose is not to give information to us , but to awaken in the breasts of his first readers sacred memories, and breed godly sorrow over a dead past. Hence he expresses himself in emotional terms such as might be used by recent converts rather than in the colder but more exact style of the historian” (Bruce). ἀδύνατον γὰρ : The γὰρ does not refer to the immediately preceding clause (Delitzsch) but points directly to τοῦτο ποιήσομεν and through these words to ἐπὶ τὴν τελ . φερώμεθα , the sense being “Let us go on to perfection and not attempt to lay again a foundation, for this would be vain, seeing that those who have once begun and found entrance to the Christian life, but have fallen away, cannot be renewed again to repentance, cannot make a second beginning. τοὺς ἅπαξ φωτισθέντας , “those who were once enlightened”. τοὺς includes all the participles down to παραπεσόντας , which therefore describe one class of persons; and it is governed by ἀνακαινίζειν . ἅπαξ : “once for all” semel (not πότε = quondam) may be taken as remotely modifying the three following participles as well as φωτισθ . Its force is that “once” must be enough; no πάλιν can find place; and it refers back to πάλιν of Hebrews 6:1 , and forward to πάλιν of Hebrews 6:6 . φωτισθέντας is used in this absolute way in Hebrews 10:32 where a comparison with Hebrews 10:26 indicates that it is equivalent to τὸ λαβεῖν τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν τῆς ἀληθείας . Cf. also 2 Corinthians 4:4 and Ephesians 1:18 . The source of the enlightenment is τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινὸνφωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον , the result is repentance and faith, Hebrews 6:1 . Hatch refers to this passage in support of his contention that the language and imagery of the N.T. are influenced by the Greek mysteries ( Hibbert Lect. , pp. 295 6). “So early as the time of Justin Martyr we find a name given to baptism which comes straight from the Greek mysteries the name ‘enlightenment’ ( φωτισμός , φωτίζεσθαι ). It came to be the constant technical term.” But as Anrich shows ( Das antike Mysterienwesen , p. 125) φωτισμός was not one of the technical terms of the mysteries [“Der Ausdruck φωτισμός begegnet in der Mysterienterminologie nie und nirgends”.] The word is of frequent occurrence in the LXX, see esp. Hosea 10:12 . φωτίσατε ἑαυτοὺς φῶς γνώσεως [“Ausdruck und Vorstellung sind alttestamentlich”]. Of course it is the fact that φωτισμός was used by Justin and subsequent fathers to denote baptism ( vide Suicer, s.v.), and several interpret the word here in that sense. So the Syrian versions; Theodoret and Theophylact translate by βάπτισμα and λουτρόυ . For the use made of this translation in the Montanist and Novatian controversies see the Church Histories, and Tertullian’s De Pudic. , c. xx. The translation is, however, an anachronism. [In this connection, the whole of c. vi. of Clement’s Paedag . may with advantage be read. ἐωτίσθημεν · τὸ δʼ ἐστιν ἐπιγνῶναι τὸν Θεόν .… Βαπτιζόμενοι φωτιζόμεθα · φωτιζόμενοι υἱοποιούμεθα · υἱοποιούμενοι τελειούμεθα .]

γευσαμένους τε f1τῆς δωρεᾶς τῆς ἐπουρανίου , “and tasted the heavenly gift”. γευσαμ . here as elsewhere, to know experimentally; cf. Hebrews 2:9 ; Matthew 16:28 . The heavenly gift, or the gift that comes to us from heaven and partakes of the nature of its source, is according to Chrys. and Œcum: “The forgiveness of sins”; and so, many moderns, Davidson, Weiss, etc.; others with a slight difference refer it to the result of forgiveness “pacem conscientiae quae consequitur peccatorum remissionem” (Grotius). Some finding that δωρεά is more than once (Acts 2:38 ; Acts 10:45 ) used of the Holy Spirit, conclude that this is here the meaning (Owen, von Soden, etc.); while Bengel is not alone in rendering, “Dei filius, ut exprimitur (Hebrews 6:6 .) Christus , qui per fidem, nec non in sacra ipsius Coena gustatur”. Bleek, considering that this expression is closely joined to the preceding by τε , concludes that what is meant is the gift of enlightenment, or, as Tholuck says, “the δωρεά is just the Christian φῶς objectively taken”. The objection to the first of these interpretations, which has much in its favour, is that it is too restricted: the last is right in emphasising the close connection with φωτισθ ., for what is meant apparently is the whole gift of redemption, the new creation, the fulness of life eternal freely bestowed, and made known as freely bestowed, to the “enlightened”. Cf. Romans 5:15 ; 2 Corinthians 9:15 . καὶ μετόχους γενηθέντας Πνεύματος Ἁγίου , “and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost”; a strong expression intended to bring out, as Westcott remarks, “the fact of a personal character gained; and that gained in a vital development”. The bestowal of the Spirit is the invariable response to faith. The believer is πνευματικός . In chap. Hebrews 10:29 , when the same class of persons is described, one element of their guilt is stated to be their doing despite to the Spirit of grace. Grotius and others refer the words to the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit; rather it is the distinctive source of Christian life that is meant. It is customary to find a parallel between the two clauses of Hebrews 6:2 , βαπτ . διδ . ἐπιθέσ . τε χειρῶν and the two clauses of this verse γευσαμ . και μετόχους . There are, however, objections to this idea.

Verses 4-6

Hebrews 6:4-6 give the writer’s reason for not attempting again to lay a foundation. It is, he says, to attempt an impossibility. The statement falls into three parts: (1) A description of a class of persons τοὺς ἅπαξ φωτισθένταςκαὶ παραπεσόντας . (2) The statement of a fact regarding these persons ἀδύνατον πάλιν ἀνακαινίζειν εἰς μετάνοιαν . (3) The cause of this fact found in some further characteristics of their career ἀνασταυροῦνταςπαραδειγματίζοντας .

Verse 5

Hebrews 6:5 . καὶ καλὸν γευσαμένους … “and tasted God’s word that it is good”. ῥήματα καλά in LXX ( vide Joshua 21:43 ) are the rich and encouraging promises of God, cf. Zechariah 1:13 , ῥήματα καλὰ καὶ λόγους παρακλητικούς . Here it probably means the Gospel in which all promise is comprehended; cf. 1 Peter 1:25 , ῥῆμα Κυρίουτοῦτο δέ ἐστι τὸ ῥῆμα τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν εἰς ὑμᾶς . Persons then are here described who have not only heard God’s promise, but have themselves tasted or made trial of it and found it good. They have experienced that what God proclaims finds them, in their conscience with its resistless truth, in their best desires by quickening and satisfying them. The change from the genitive, δωρεᾶς , to the accusative, ῥῆμα , after γευσ . is variously accounted for. Commonly, verbs of sense take the accusative of the nearer, the genitive of the remoter source of the sensation; but probably the indiscriminate use of the two cases in LXX and N.T. arises from the tendency of the accusative in later Greek to usurp the place of the other cases. Yet it is not likely that so careful a stylist as our author should have altered the case without a reason. That reason is best given by Simcox ( Gram. , p. 87), “ γεὐεσθαι in Hebrews 6:4-5 , has the genitive, where it is merely a verb of sense, the accusative where it is used of the recognition of a fact καλόν being (as its position shows) a predicate”. With this expression may be compared Proverbs 31:18 , ἐγεύσατο ὅτι καλόν ἐστι τὸ ἐργάζεσθαι . Bengel’s idea that the genitive indicates that a part, while accusative that the whole was tasted, may be put aside. Also Hofmann’s idea, approved by Weiss, that the accusative is employed to avoid an accumulation of genitives. δυνάμεις τε μέλλοντος αἰῶνος “and [tasted] the powers of the age to come” [that they were good, for καλάς may be supplied out of the καλόν of the preceding clause; or the predicate indicating the result of the tasting may be taken for granted]. δυνάμεις is so frequently used of the powers to work miracle imparted by the Holy Spirit (see Hebrews 2:4 , 1 Corinthians 12:28 ; 2 Corinthians 12:12 ; and in the Gospels passim ) that this meaning is generally accepted as appropriate here. See Lunemann. αἰὼν μέλλων is therefore here used not exactly as in Matthew 12:32 , Ephesians 1:21 where it is contrasted with this present age or world, but rather as the temporal equivalent of the οἰκουμένημέλλουσα of chap. Hebrews 2:5 , cf. also Hebrews 9:11 , Hebrews 10:1 .; and Bengel’s note. It is the Messianic age begun by the ministry of Christ, but only consummated in His Second Advent. A wider reference is sometimes found in the words, as by Davidson: “Though the realising of the promises be yet future, it is not absolutely so; the world to come projects itself in many forms into the present life, or shows its heavenly beauty and order rising up amidst the chaos of the present. This it does in the powers of the world to come, which are like laws of a new world coming in to cross and by and by to supersede those of this world. Those “powers,” being mainly still future, are combined with the good word of promise, and elevated into a distinct class, corresponding to the third group above, viz .: resurrection and judgment (Hebrews 6:2 ).” The persons described have so fully entered into the spirit of the new time and have so admitted into their life the powers which Christ brings to bear upon men, that they can be said to have “tasted” or experienced the spiritual forces of the new era.

Verse 6

Hebrews 6:6 . καὶ παραπεσόντας , “and fell away,” i.e. , from the condition depicted by the preceding participles; “grave verbum subito occurrens” (Bengel). The word in classical Greek has the meaning “fall in with” or “fall upon”; in Polybius, “to fall away from,” “to err,” followed by τ . ὁδοῦ , τ . ἀληθείας , τ . καθήκοντος ; also absolutely “to err”. In the Greek fathers the lapsed are called οἱ παραπεπτωκότες or οἱ παραπεσόντες . The full meaning of the word is given in ὑποστολῆς εἰς ἀπώλειαν of Hebrews 10:39 . The translation of the A.V. and early English versions “if they shall fall away,” although accused of dogmatic bias, is justifiable. It is a hypothesis that is here introduced. Thus far the writer has accumulated expressions which present the picture of persons who have not merely professed the Christian faith but have enjoyed rich experience of its peculiar and characteristic influence, but now a word is introduced which completely alters the picture. They have enjoyed all these things, but the last thing to be said of them is that they have “fallen from” their former state. The writer describes a condition which he considers possible. And of persons realising this possibility he says ἀδύνατονπάλιν ἀνακαινίζειν εἰς μετάνοιαν , “it is impossible to renew [them] again to repentance,” “impossible,” not “difficult” [as in the Graeco-Latin Codex Claromontanus, “difficile”]; impossible not only to a teacher, but to God, for in every case of renewal it is God who is the Agent. [Bengel says “hominibus est impossibile, non Deo,” and that therefore the ministers of God must leave such persons to Him and wait for what God may accomplish “per singulares afflictiones et operationes”. But cf. Hebrews 10:26-31 .] πάλιν ἀνακαινίζειν , πάλιν is not pleonastic, but denotes that those who have once experienced ἀνακαινισμός cannot again have a like experience. It suggests that the word ἀνακαιν . involves, or naturally leads on to, all that is expressed in the participles under ἅπαξ from φωτισθέντας to αἰῶνος of Hebrews 6:5 . A renewed person is one who is enlightened, tastes the heavenly gift, and so on. But as the first stone in the foundation was μετάνοια (Hebrews 6:1 ), so here the first manifestation of renewal is in μετάνοια . The persons described cannot again be brought to a life-changing repentance a statement which opens one of the most important psychological problems. The reason this writer assigns for the impossibility is given in the words ἀνασταυροῦνταςπαραδειγματίζοντας , “crucifying [or “seeing that they crucify”] to themselves the Son of God, and putting Him to open shame”. Edwards understands these participles as putting a hypothetical case, and renders “they cannot be renewed after falling away if they persist in crucifying, etc.”. This, however, reduces the statement to a vapid truism, and, although grammatically admissible, does not agree with the οὐκέτι of the parallel passage in Hebrews 10:26 . The mitigation of the severity of the statement is rather to be sought in the enormity and therefore rarity of the sin described, which is equivalent to the deliberate and insolent rejection of Christ alluded to in Hebrews 10:26 ; Hebrews 10:29 , and the suicidal blasphemy alluded to in Mark 3:29 . On the doctrine of the passage, see Harless, Ethics , c. 29. In classical and later Greek the word for “crucify” is not σταυρόω (of which Stephanus cites only one example, and that from Polybius), but ἀνασταυροῦν , so that the ἀνα does not mean “again” or “afresh,” but refers to the lifting up on the cross, as in ἀναρτάω or ἀνασκολοπίζω . In the N.T. no doubt σταυρόω is uniformly used, but never in this Epistle; and it was inevitable that a Hellenist would understand ἀνασταυρ . in its ordinary meaning. There is no ground therefore for the translation of the Vulg. “rursum crucifigentes,” although it is so commonly followed. Besides, any crucifixion by the Hebrews [ ἑαυτοῖς ] must have been a fresh crucifixion , and needs no express indication of that feature of it. The significance of ἑαυτοῖς seems to be “so far as they are concerned,” not “to their own judgment” or “to their own destruction”. The apostate crucifies Christ on his own account by virtually confirming the judgment of the actual crucifiers, declaring that he too has made trial of Jesus and found Him no true Messiah but a deceiver, and therefore worthy of death. The greatness of the guilt in so doing is aggravated by the fact that apostates thus treat τὸν υἱὸν τ . Θεοῦ , cf. Hebrews 10:29 . καὶ παραδειγματίζοντας , the verb is found in Numbers 25:4 , where it implies exposing to ignominy or infamy, such as was effected in barbarous times by exposing the quarters of the executed criminal, or leaving him hanging in chains. Archilochus, says Plutarch ( Moral. , 520), rendered himself infamous, ἑαυτὸν παρεδειγ ., by writing obscene verses. The verb is therefore a strong expression; “put Him to open shame” excellently renders it. “This was the crime the Hebrew Christians were tempted to commit. A fatal step it must be when taken; for men who left the Christian Church and went back to the synagogue became companions of persons who thought they did God service in cursing the name of Jesus” (Bruce).

Verse 7

Hebrews 6:7 . γῆ γὰρπιοῦσαὑετόν , “For land which drank in the rain that cometh oft upon it”; this whole clause is the subject of Hebrews 6:7-8 ; the subject remains the same, the results are different. It might almost be rendered, in order to bring out the emphasis on γῆ , “For, take the case of land”. Such constructions are well explained by Green ( Gram. , 34): “The anarthrous position of the noun may be regarded as employed to give a prominence to the peculiar meaning of the word without the interference of any other idea, while the words to which the article is prefixed, limit by their fuller and more precise description the general notion of the anarthrous noun, and thereby introduce the determinate idea intended.” The comparison of human culture with agriculture is common. Cf. especially Plut., De Educ. Puer. , c. 3; and the remarkable lines of the Hecuba , 590 596. To make the comparison with the persons described in Hebrews 6:4-5 apt, the advantageous conditions of the land are expressed in ἡ πιοῦσα κ . τ . λ . The abundant and frequently renewed rain represents the free and reiterated bestowal of spiritual impulse; the enlightenment, the good word of God, the energetic indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which the Hebrews had received and which should have enabled them to bring forth fruit to God. πιοῦσα , as in Anacreon’s ἡ γῆ μέλαινα πίνει , and Virgil’s (Ecclesiastes 3:3 ) “sat prata biberunt”. Bengel’s note, “non solum in superficie” brings out the meaning. The aorist expressing a completed past contrasts with τίκτουσα and ἐκφέρουσα continuous presents. καὶ τίκτουσαγεωργεῖται , “and produces herbage meet for those on whose account also it is tilled”. This is one of the possible results of the natural advantage. τίκτουσα βοτάνη are found in classic Greek. See examples in Wetstein and Bleek. εὔθετον originally “conveniently situated” and hence “suitable” “fit” as in Luke 9:62 . ἐκείνοις follows εὔθετον , not τίκτουσα . The measure of a field’s value is its satisfying the purpose of those on whose account it is titled. διʼ οὓς , “for whose sake” or “on whose account,” not, as Calvin, “quorum opera”; not the labourers, but the owners are intended or those whom the owners mean to supply. καὶ γεωργεῖται , καὶ introduces a consideration which “brings into relief the naturalness of the τίκτειν βοτάνην εὔθετον ἐκείνοις ” (Lünemann). Westcott seems to lean to Schlichting’s explanation: “The laborious culture of the soil seems to be contrasted with its spontaneous fruitfulness”. Cf. the “justissima tellus” of Vergil, Georg . ii. 460. Land so responding to the outlay put upon it μεταλαμβάνει εὐλογίας ἀπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ , “partakes of a blessing from God”. God’s approval is seen in the more and more abundant yield of the land. The reality here colours the figure.

Verse 7

Hebrews 6:7 . γῆ γὰρπιοῦσαὑετόν , “For land which drank in the rain that cometh oft upon it”; this whole clause is the subject of Hebrews 6:7-8 ; the subject remains the same, the results are different. It might almost be rendered, in order to bring out the emphasis on γῆ , “For, take the case of land”. Such constructions are well explained by Green ( Gram. , 34): “The anarthrous position of the noun may be regarded as employed to give a prominence to the peculiar meaning of the word without the interference of any other idea, while the words to which the article is prefixed, limit by their fuller and more precise description the general notion of the anarthrous noun, and thereby introduce the determinate idea intended.” The comparison of human culture with agriculture is common. Cf. especially Plut., De Educ. Puer. , c. 3; and the remarkable lines of the Hecuba , 590 596. To make the comparison with the persons described in Hebrews 6:4-5 apt, the advantageous conditions of the land are expressed in ἡ πιοῦσα κ . τ . λ . The abundant and frequently renewed rain represents the free and reiterated bestowal of spiritual impulse; the enlightenment, the good word of God, the energetic indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which the Hebrews had received and which should have enabled them to bring forth fruit to God. πιοῦσα , as in Anacreon’s ἡ γῆ μέλαινα πίνει , and Virgil’s (Ecclesiastes 3:3 ) “sat prata biberunt”. Bengel’s note, “non solum in superficie” brings out the meaning. The aorist expressing a completed past contrasts with τίκτουσα and ἐκφέρουσα continuous presents. καὶ τίκτουσαγεωργεῖται , “and produces herbage meet for those on whose account also it is tilled”. This is one of the possible results of the natural advantage. τίκτουσα βοτάνη are found in classic Greek. See examples in Wetstein and Bleek. εὔθετον originally “conveniently situated” and hence “suitable” “fit” as in Luke 9:62 . ἐκείνοις follows εὔθετον , not τίκτουσα . The measure of a field’s value is its satisfying the purpose of those on whose account it is titled. διʼ οὓς , “for whose sake” or “on whose account,” not, as Calvin, “quorum opera”; not the labourers, but the owners are intended or those whom the owners mean to supply. καὶ γεωργεῖται , καὶ introduces a consideration which “brings into relief the naturalness of the τίκτειν βοτάνην εὔθετον ἐκείνοις ” (Lünemann). Westcott seems to lean to Schlichting’s explanation: “The laborious culture of the soil seems to be contrasted with its spontaneous fruitfulness”. Cf. the “justissima tellus” of Vergil, Georg . ii. 460. Land so responding to the outlay put upon it μεταλαμβάνει εὐλογίας ἀπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ , “partakes of a blessing from God”. God’s approval is seen in the more and more abundant yield of the land. The reality here colours the figure.

Verse 8

Hebrews 6:8 . ἐκφέρουσα δὲ … “but if it brings forth thorns and thistles it is rejected and nigh unto a curse and its end is burning”. The other alternative, which corresponds to the possible state of the Hebrews, is here introduced. With all its advantages, the land may prove disappointing, may not stand the sole test ( ἀδόκιμος ) of land, its production of a harvest. ἀκάνθας καὶ τριβ . frequently conjoined in LXX, Genesis 3:17 , Hosea 10:8 , and expressive of useless and noxious products. [ τρίβολος , frequently τριβελής , three pointed, and originally meaning a caltrop]. ἀδόκιμος is used under the influence of the personal reference rather than of the figure. κατάρας ἐγγύς with a reference to Genesis 3:18 ἐπικατάρατοςγῆ , and suggested by the εὐλογίας of the previous verse. Wetstein quotes from Aristides the expression κατάρας ἐγγύς , and from the ἐγγύς Chrys. and Theophyl. conclude, rightly, that the curse is not yet in action. ὁ γὰρ ἐγγὺς κατάρας δυνήσεται καὶ μακρὰν γενέσθαι . ἧς τὸ τέλος . What is the antecedent? γῆ , say the Geeek commentaries, Bengel, Riehm, Delitzsch, Lünemann, Alford; κατάρας , say Stuart, Bleek, Weiss, von Soden. The former seems distinctly preferable. Cf. Philippians 3:19 , ὧν τὸ τέλος ἀπώλεια . But here it is εἰς καῦσιν instead of καῦσις “for burning,” it serves for nothing else, and is thus contrasted with the use served by the productive land. The burning has with an excess of literality been ascribed to the soil itself, and therefore the example of Sodom and Gomorrah has been adduced. But Grotius is right who finds a metonymy: “de terra dicitur quod proprie iis rebus convenit quae terrae superstant”. Reference may be made to Philo, De Agric . c. 4: ἐπικαύσω καὶ τὰς ῥίζας αὐτῶν ἐφιεῖσʼ ἄχρι τῶν ὑστάτων τῆς γῆς φλογὸς ῥιπήν . Cf. John 15:6 . Certainly it points not to a remedial measure, but to a final destructive judgment.

Hebrews 6:9-12 , sudden transition, characteristic of the author, from searching warning to affectionate encouragement. “Startled almost by his own picture” he hastens to assure the Hebrews that he is convinced it does not represent their present condition. On the contrary he recognises in their loving care of Christ’s people a service God cannot overlook and which involves “salvation”. They have only to abound in hope as already they are rich in love, and they will no longer be slothful and inanimate but will reproduce in their lives the faith and endurance which have brought others into the enjoyment of the promised and eternal blessing.

Verse 9

Hebrews 6:9 . πεπείσμεθα δὲ .… “But of you, beloved, we are persuaded things that are better and associated with salvation, though we thus speak.” “Alarm at the awful suggestion of his own picture (Hebrews 6:4-8 ) causes a rush of affection into his heart” (Davidson). He hastens to assure them that he does not consider them apostates, although he has described the apostate condition and doom. “This is very like St. Paul’s way of closing and softening anything he had said that sounded terrible and dreadful” (Pierce). Cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 ; Ephesians 4:20 ; Galatians 5:10 . “The form [ πεπείσμεθα ] implies that the writer had felt misgivings and overcome them” (Westcott). περὶ ὑμῶν is emphasised, and the unique (in this Epistle) ἀγαπητοί is introduced to reassure them and as the natural expression of his own reaction in their favour. τὰ κρείττονα “things better” than those he has been describing (neither limiting the reference to the condition, although necessarily it is mainly in view, nor to the doom, although the σωτηρίας indicates that it also is in view); and things indeed that so far from being κατάρας ἐγγύς are ἐχόμενα σωτηρίας closely allied to salvation. [ Cf. Hamlet’s “no relish of salvation in it.”] ἐχόμενα = next, from ἔχομαι . I hold myself to, adhere. So locally Mark 1:38 , εἰς τὰς ἐχομένας κωμοπόλεις : temporally, Acts 21:26 , τῇ ἐχομένἡμερᾷ , here, as in Herodotus, Plato, and Lucian, “pertaining to,” so Herod., i. 120, τὰ τῶν ὀνειράτων ἐχόμενα . εἰ καὶ and καὶ εἰ generally retain in N.T. their distinctive meanings.

Verse 10

Hebrews 6:10 . οὐ γὰρ ἄδικος .… “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and the love which ye shewed toward His name in that ye ministered and still do minister to the saints.” He recognises in their Christian activities ( ἔργου ὑμῶν ) and in their practical charities ( τῆς ἀγάπης ) things that are associated with salvation, because God’s justice demands that such service shall not be overlooked. God will bless the field which already has yielded good fruit. He will cherish Christian principle in those that have manifested it. To him that hath shall be given. Cf. especially Philippians 1:6 . On the doctrinal bearing of the words, see Tholuck in loc . It is impossible to think of God looking with indifference upon those who serve Him or affording them no help or encouragement. τῆς ἀγάπης ἧς … the love which found expression in personal service ( διακονήσαντες ) to Christians ( ἁγίοις ), and of which examples are specified in Hebrews 10:34 , was love εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ , because it was prompted not by natural relationship or worldly association but by the consideration that they were God’s children and people.

Hebrews 6:11 . ἐπιθυμοῦμεν δὲ .… You have manifested earnest love , cultivate as earnestly your hope ; that is what I desire. The translation should therefore be “ But we desire”. ἕκαστον ὑμῶν , “each one of you,” not merely as Chrysostom interprets πολλὴφιλοστοργία · καὶ μεγάλων καὶ μικρῶν ὁμοίως κήδεται , not as Bruce, “The good shepherd goeth after even one straying sheep”; but directly in contrast to the whole body and general reputation of the Church addressed. The writer courteously implies that some already showed the zeal demanded; but he desires that each individual, even those whose condition prompted the foregoing warning, should bestir themselves. Cf. Bengel’s “non modo, ut adhuc fecistis, in communi”. τὴν αὐτὴν ἐνδείκνυσθαι σπουδὴντέλους . The same earnest diligence [ σπουδή in exact opposition to νωθροί of Hebrews 5:11 , Hebrews 6:12 ] which had been given to loving ministries, he desires they should now exercise towards a corresponding perfectness of hope a hope which should only disappear in fruition. πληροφορία “hic non est certitudo , sed impletio sive consummatio , quo sensu πληροφ . habemus, Colossians 2:2 , et 1 Thessalonians 1:5 , πληροφορεῖν 2 Timothy 4:5 ; 2 Timothy 4:17 ” (Grotius). Alford insists that the subjective sense of the word is uniform in N.T. and therefore translates “the full assurance”. But the objective meaning, “completeness,” certainly suits Colossians 2:2 πᾶν τὸ πλοῦτος τ . πληροφορίας τ . συνέσεως and is not unsuitable in Hebrews 10:22 and 1 Thessalonians 1:5 , while the verb πληροφορεῖν , at least in some passages, as 2 Timothy 4:5 , has an objective sense. Besides, in the case before us, the one meaning involves the other, for, as Weiss himself says, hope is only then what it ought to be when a full certainty of conviction (eine volle Ueberzeugungsgewissheit) accompanies it. See also Davidson, who says “fulness or full assurance of faith and hope is not anything distinct from faith and hope, lying outside of them and to which they may lead; it is a condition of faith and hope themselves, the perfect condition”. ἄχρι τέλους the hope was to be perfect in quality and was also to be continuous “to the end,” i.e. , until it had accomplished its work and brought them to the enjoyment of what was hoped for. The words attach themselves to ἐνδείκνυσθαι σπουδήν .

Verse 12

Hebrews 6:12 . ἵνα μὴ νωθροὶ γένησθε : “that ye become not sluggish,” “be not, misses the fine delicacy of the writer” (Alford). “The γένησθε , pointing to the future, stands in no contradiction with γεγόνατε at Hebrews 5:11 . There, the sluggishness of the intellect was spoken of; here, it is sluggishness in the retaining of the Christian hope” (Lünemann). Sluggishness would result if they did not “manifest diligence”. μιμηταὶ δὲ τῶν …: “but imitators of those who, through faith and patient waiting, are now inheriting the promises”. The positive aspect of the conduct that should accompany cultivation of hope. They were not the first who had launched into that apparently shoreless ocean. Others before them had crossed it, and found solid land on the other side. There are many who are fairly described as κληρον . τὰς ἐπαγγελίας . Whether alive or now dead, they have entered on possession of that good thing which they could not see but which God had promised. Alford, apparently following Peirce, denies that κληρονομούντων can mean “who are inheriting,” and renders “who are inheritors”. To this conclusion he is led, as also Peirce, by the consideration that in c. xi. it is said of Abraham and the other heroes of faith that they did not receive the promise. But it is also indicated in the same passage that by the coming of Christ the fulness of the promise was fulfilled. It was only “without us” of the Christian period that the patriarchs were imperfect. Those who are presently enjoying the promises attained their present victory and joy, διὰ πίστεως καὶ μακροθυμίας . Necessarily, they first had to believe the promises, but faith had to be followed up by patient waiting. Alford translates μακροθ . by “endurance,” but this word rather represents ὑπομονή , while μακροθ . indicates the long-drawn-out patience which is demanded by hope deferred.

Verse 13

Hebrews 6:13 . Τῷ γὰρ Ἀβραὰμ .… “For when God made promise to Abraham, since he could sware by none greater, He sware by Himself, saying, etc.” Abraham is introduced because to him was made the fundamental and comprehensive promise ( cf. Luke 1:73 , and Galatians 3:0 ) which involved all that God was ever to bestow. And in Abraham it is seen that the promise is secure, but that only by patient waiting can it be inherited. It is secure because God pledged Himself to perform it. The promise referred to in ἐπαγγειλάμενος seems to be that which was confirmed by an oath, and which is recorded in Genesis 22:16-18 , κατʼ ἐμαυτοῦ ὤμοσα κ . τ . λ . But Westcott prefers to consider that previous promises are referred to, as in Genesis 12:3 ; Genesis 12:7 ; Genesis 13:14 ; Genesis 15:5 ; Genesis 17:5 . The aorist participle ἐπαγγ . admits of either construction. ἐπεὶ κατʼ οὐδενὸςὀμνύω followed by κατά as frequently in classics (Arist., Frogs , 94) and LXX, Isaiah 45:23 , Amos 4:2 ; Amos 8:7 , Zephaniah 1:5 , Matthew 26:63 . See references. εἶχεὀμόσαι , a classical use of ἔχειν from Homer downwards, “to have means or power to do,” “to be able”. The greater the Being sworn by, the surer the promise. Cf. Longinus, De Subl. , c. 16, on swearing by those who died at Marathon. ὤμοσε καθʼ ἑαυτοῦ , how this oath was given, and how the knowledge of it was conveyed to men, this writer does not say. But it was somehow conveyed to the mind of Abraham that the fulfilment of this promise was bound up with the life of God; that it was so implicated with His purposes that God could as soon cease to be, as neglect the fulfilment of it. Lying as it did at the root of all further development, and marking out as it did the true end for which the world exists, it seemed to be bound up with the very being of God. Paul’s way of expressing a similar idea is more congruous to our ways of looking at things, cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20 . Cf. Philo’s discussion in De Leg. Allegor. , iii. 72, 3.

Verses 13-20

Hebrews 6:13-20 . Reasons for diligently cultivating hope and exercising patience, thus becoming imitators of those who have patiently waited for the fulfilment of the promises, the reasons being that God has made the failure of the promises impossible, and that already Jesus has passed within the veil as our forerunner.

Verse 14

Hebrews 6:14 . The oath runs εἰ μὴν εὐλογῶν εὐλογήσω σε .… “Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.” “Sentences which denote assurance … are in classical Greek introduced by ἦ μήν , which in the Hellenistic and Roman period is sometimes written in the form of εἶ (accent?) μήν ; so in the LXX and in a quotation from it in Hebrews 6:14 ” (Blass, Gram. , p. 260); and cf. Jannaris, Hist. Greek Gram. , 2055. μήν is used to strengthen asseveration, suitably therefore in oaths. On the emphatic participle in imitation of the Hebrew absolute infinitive, see Winer, sec. 45, 8, p. 445. The oath here cited was a promise to bless mankind, a promise that through all history God’s gracious purpose should run; that, let happen what might, God would redeem and bless the world.

Verse 15

Hebrews 6:15 . καὶ οὕτω μακροθυμήσας … “and thus having patiently waited he [Abraham] obtained the promise”. οὕτω , in these circumstances; that is, thus upheld by a promise and an oath. The oath warned him of trial. It would not have been given had the promise been a trifling one or had it been destined for immediate fulfilment. f1μακροθυμήσας , having long kept up his courage and his hope. Delay followed delay; disappointment followed disappointment. He was driven out of the promised land, and a barren wife mocked the hope of the promised seed, but he waited expectant, and at length ἐπέτυχε τῆς ἐπαγγελίας , for although it was true of him, as of all O.T. saints, that he did not obtain the promise, [ μὴ λαβόντες τὰς ἐπαγγελίας , Hebrews 11:13 ; οὐκ ἐκομίσαντο τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν , Hebrews 11:39 ], but could only wave his hand to it and salute it at a distance, yet the initial fulfilment he did see and was compensated for all his waiting by seeing the beginnings of that great history which ran on to the consummate performance of the promise in Christ. Bleek and Rendall understand by ἐπέτυχε … “obtained from God a promise of future blessing,” and not the thing itself. But in this case μακροθυμήσας would be irrelevant. He had not to wait for the promise, but for its fulfilment.

Verse 16

Hebrews 6:16 . ἄνθρωποι γὰρ , κ . τ . λ . “For men swear by the greater.” The procedure of God in confirming His promise by an oath is justified by human custom, and the confident hope which God’s oath warrants is justified by the fact that even a human oath ends debate. ἄνθρωποι refers back to ὁ Θεός of Hebrews 6:13 and forward to Hebrews 6:17 . τοῦ μείζονος , him who is greater than the persons taking the oath, the idea of an oath being that a higher authority is appealed to, one of inviolable truth and power to enforce it. καὶ πάσης αὐτοῖς … “and of all gainsaying among them an oath is an end for confirmation”. “The oath has two results negative and positive; it finally stops all contradiction; and it establishes that which it attests” (Westcott). On βεβαίωσις as a technical term, see Deissmann, Bibl. Studies , p. 104. ἀντιλογία is rendered by “strife” in A.V., and by “dispute” in R.V.; and this meaning is found in Exodus 18:16 ; Deuteronomy 19:17 οἱ δύο ἄνθρωποι οἶς ἐστιν αὐτοῖςἀντιλογία . But in the other instances of its use in N.T., Hebrews 7:7 ; Hebrews 12:3 ; Jude 1:11 , it has the meaning of “contradiction” or “gainsaying”. So also in Polybius xxviii. 7, 4: πρὸς δὲ τὴν ἀντιλογίαν ἀνίσταντο πολλοί . It is this sense which suits the context here, as it is not a strife between God and man which is in question. Besides, εἰς βεβαίωσιν is more congruous with this meaning. The meaning is that when one man disputes the assertion of another, an oath puts an end to the contradiction and serves for confirmation. So Davidson, Westcott, Weiss, etc. πάσης is added not to indicate the universal deference paid to the oath (Bleek), but the completeness of its effect; no room is left for contradiction. ὁ ὅρκος the generic article, best translated “an oath”. f1πέρας an end or limit, as in Psalms 119:96 , πάσης συντελείας εἶδον πέρας ; and Psalms 145:3 τῆς μεγαλωσύνης αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔστι πέρας . εἰς βεβαίωσιν almost in the technical sense of a guarantee. See Deissmann’s interesting treatment of the word in Bibelstud. , pp. 100 104. On the verse Calvin remarks: “hic locus docet aliquem inter Christianos jurisjurandi usum esse legitimum. Quod observandum est contra homines fanaticos qui regulam sancte jurandi, quam Deus lege sua praescripsit, libenter abrogarent.”

Verse 17

Hebrews 6:17 . ἐνπερισσότερον .… “Wherefore God, being minded more abundantly to demonstrate to the heirs of the promise the immutability of His purpose, interposed with an oath.” ἐν ᾧ = διὸ (Theoph.), and see Winer, 484. It might be rendered “quae cum ita sint,” or “this being so”. The oath having among men this convincing power, God disregards the insult implied in any doubt of His word and condescending to human infirmity confirms His promise by an oath. περισσότερον neuter adjective for adverb (Hebrews 2:1 ) is to be construed with ἐπιδεῖξαι , the meaning of the comparative being “abundantius quam s ne juramento factum videretur” (Bengel). Carpzov renders by “ex abundanti,” and cites Philo, De Abrahamo c. 46 where the word of God is said to become an oath, ἕνεκα τοῦ τὴν διάνοιαν ἀκλινῶς καὶ παγίως ἔτι μᾶλλονπρότερον ἐρηρεῖσθαι . τοῖς κληρονόμοις , not exclusively the O.T. nor exclusively the N.T. heirs, neither Jews nor Gentiles, but all; see Hebrews 9:3 , and Galatians 3:29 . τὸ ἀμετάθετον τῆς βουλῆς αὐτοῦ , the unchangeable character of His purpose. [ ἀμετάθ . 3Ma 5:1 ; 3Ma 5:12 ; Polybius with ἐπιβολή , ὁρμή , διάληψις . For use of adjective see Romans 2:4 ; Rom 8:3 ; 1 Corinthians 1:25 , etc. Winer, p. 294.] ἐμεσίτευσεν ὅρκῳ , μεσιτεύω , belonging to later Greek, “to act as mediator,” but sometimes used transitively “to negotiate,” as in Polybius Hebrews 11:34 ; Hebrews 11:3 . Other examples in Bleek. Here, however, it is used intransitively as in Josephus, Ant. , vii. 8, 5. So the margin of A.V. “interposed himself by an oath,” improved in R.V. “interposed with an oath”. Cf. Josephus Ant. , iv. 6, 7; ταῦτα δὲ ὀμνύοντες ἔλεγον καὶ θεὸν μεσίτην ὧν ὑπισχνοῦντο ποιούμενοι . “God descended, as it were, from His own absolute exaltation, in order, so to speak, to look up to Himself after the manner of men and take Himself to witness; and so by a gracious condescension confirm the promise for the sake of its inheritors” (Delitzsch). “He brought in Himself as surety, He mediated or came in between men and Himself, through the oath by Himself” (Davidson).

Verse 18

Hebrews 6:18 . The motive of this procedure on God’s part has already been indicated in βουλόμενος , but now it is more fully declared. ἵνα διὰ δύοἐλπίδος “that by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have a strong encouragement, who fled for refuge to hold fast the hope set before us”. The two immutable things are God’s promise and His oath. It is impossible for God to break His promise, impossible also for him to falsify His oath. Both of these were given that even weak men might have strong encouragement. The emphasis is on ἰσχυρὰν , no ordinary encouragement. Interpreters are divided as to the construction of κρατῆσαι , Œcumenius, Bleek, Lünemann, and others maintaining its dependence on παράκλησιν , encouragement to hold fast the hope; while others, as Beza, Tholuck, Delitzsch, Weiss, construe it with καταφυγόντες as in A.V. “who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope”. If this latter construction be not adopted, καταφυγ . is left undefined and must be taken in an absolute sense, which is unwarranted. It is the word used in the LXX (Deuteronomy 4:42 ; Deuteronomy 19:5 ; Joshua 20:9 ) for fleeing from the avenger to the asylum of the cities of refuge. So here Christians are represented as fleeing from the threatened danger and laying hold of that which promises safety. κρατῆσαι (aor. of single act) must therefore be rendered “to lay hold of” and not, as in Hebrews 4:14 , “hold fast”. The former meaning is much more frequent than the latter. τῆς προκειμένης ἐλπίδος , the hope, that is, the object of hope is set before us as the city of refuge was set before the refugee and it is laid hold of by the hope it excites. προκειμ . is used of any object of ambition, “de praemiis laborum ac certaminum” (Wetstein, with examples). Cf. Colossians 1:5 , τὴν ἐλπίδα τὴν ἀποκειμένην ὑμῖν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς .

Verse 19

Hebrews 6:19 . ἣν ὡς ἄγκυραν ἔχομεν … “which [hope] we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast, and entering into that which is within the veil”. An anchor was in ancient as well as in modern times the symbol of hope; see Aristoph., Knights , 1224 (1207) λεπτή τις ἐλπίς ἐστʼ ἐφʼ ἧς ὀχούμεθα . “A slender hope it is at which we ride,” and Æsch., Ag. , 488: πολλῶν ῥαγεισῶν ἐλπίδων many hopes being torn away [like the flukes of anchors]. Cf. Paley in loc . Kypke quotes a saying attributed to Socrates: οὔτε ναῦν ἐξ ἑνὸς ἀγκυρίου οὔτε βίον ἐκ μιᾶς ἐλπίδος ὁρμιστέον . The symbol appears on ancient coins. ἀσφαλῆ τε καὶ βεβαίαν , unfailing and firmly fixed; negative and positive, it will not betray the confidence reposed in it but will hold firm. ἀσφ . καὶ βεβ ., Wis 7:23 . Cebet., Tab. , 31. Bleek, Vaughan, Westcott, and others refer these adjectives to ἥν , not to ἄγκυραν . It seems much more natural to refer them with Chrys., Theoph., etc. to ἄγκυραν . Cf. Vulg.: “Quam sicut anchoram habemus animæ tutam ac firmam, et incedentem,” and Weizsäcker “in der wir einen sicheren, festen Anker der Seele haben, der hineinreicht,” etc. καὶ εἰσερχομένην … The anchor has its holding ground in the unseen. Some interpreters who refer the former two adjectives to the anchor, find so much strangeness or awkwardness in this term if so applied that they understand it directly of the hope itself. But as Davidson and Weiss show, the εἰσερχ . gives the ground of the two former adjectives; it is because the anchor enters into the eternal and unchangeable world that its shifting or losing hold is out of the question. (But cf. also Hebrews 6:16 ). No doubt the figure is now so moulded to conform to the reality that the physical reference is obscure, unless we think of a ship being warped into a harbour on an anchor already carried in. Cf. Weiss. That to which the figure points is obvious. It is in the very presence of God the anchor of hope takes hold. The Christian hope is fixed on things eternal, and is made sure by God’s acceptance of it. [Alford quotes from Estius: “sicut ancora navalis non in aquis haeret, sed terram intrat sub aquis latentem, eique infigitur; ita ancora animæ spes nostra non satis habet in vestibulum pervenisse, id est, non est contenta bonis terrenis et visibilibus; sed penetrat usque ad ea, quae sunt intra velum, videlicet in ipsa sancta sanctorum; id est, Deum ipsum et coelestia bona apprehendit, atque in iis figitur”.] τὸ ἐσώτερον τοῦ καταπετάσματος , the holy of holies, the very presence of God. καταπέτασμα (in non-biblical Greek παραπέτασμα ) is used in LXX of either of the two veils in the Temple ( מָסָךְ or פָּרֹכֶח , Exodus 26:37 ; Numbers 3:26 ; and Exodus 26:31 ; Leviticus 4:6 ) but κάλυμμα , according to Philo, De Vit. Mes. , iii. 5, was the proper designation of the outer veil, καταπέτ . being reserved for the inner veil; and in this sense alone it is used in N.T. as Hebrews 9:3 ; Matthew 27:51 . See Carpzov in ( loc . and Kennedy’s Sources of N.T. Greek , 113. τὸ ἐσώτερον τ . κ . is therefore the inmost shrine into which the Jewish worshipper could not enter but only the High Priest once a year. For the expression see Exodus 26:33 , etc.

Verse 20

Hebrews 6:20 . The holding-ground of the anchor of hope, the real presence of God, is further described in the words ὅπου πρόδρομος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν εἰσῆλθεν Ἰησοῦς , “whither as forerunner for us entered Jesus”. ὅποι does not occur in N.T. or LXX, ὅπου taking its place, as in English “where” often stands for “whither”; see Matthew 8:19 , Luke 9:57 , James 3:4 . So, too, occasionally, in Attic; examples in Bleek. πρόδρομος as an adjective, “running forward with headlong speed,” see Jebb’s note on Soph., Antig. , 107; as a substantive “scouts” or “advanced guard” of an army, Herodot., i. 60, and Wis 12:8 , ἀπέστειλάς τε προδρόμους τοῦ στρατοπέδου σου σφῆκας . The more general meaning is found in Numbers 13:21 , ἡμέραι ἔαρος , πρόδρομοι σταφυλῆς . Isaiah 28:4 . The idea may be illustrated by Hebrews 2:10 , Colossians 1:18 , 1 Corinthians 15:23 . ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν goes better with πρόδρομος which requires further definition than with εἰσῆλθεν , although Bleek, Weiss and others prefer to join it to the verb. Ἰησοῦς , the human name is used, because it is as man and having passed through the whole human experience that Jesus ascends as our forerunner. His superiority to the Levitical priest is disclosed in the word πρόδρομος . When the Levitical High Priest passed within the veil he went as the representative, not as the forerunner of the people. Hence indeed the veil. In Christ the veil is abolished. He enters God’s presence as the herald and guarantee of our entrance. The ground of this is given in the concluding clause, κατὰ τὴν τάξιναἰῶνα , “having become [becoming] an High Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek”. Jesus carries our hope with Him to the realities which lie within the veil, because it is as our High Priest who has made atonement for sin that He is now at God’s right hand. By His death He secured for us power to enter, to follow where He has gone before. The participle does not determine the precise point at which He became High Priest, before or contemporaneously with His passing through the veil.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Hebrews 6". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.