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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 5

International Critical Commentary NTInternational Critical

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Verses 1-99

He now (5:1-10) for the first time begins to explain the qualifications of the true�

Πὰς γὰρ�Numbers 8:6 λάβε τοὺς Λευείτας ἐκ μέσου υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ) καθίσταται—passive, in the light of 7:28 (ὁ νόμος γὰρ�

Μετριοπαθεῖν in v. 2 is a term coined by ethical philosophy. It is used by Philo to describe the mean between extravagant grief and stoic apathy, in the case of Abraham’s sorrow for the death of his wife (τὸ δὲ μέσον πρὸ τῶν ἄκρων ἑλόμενον μετριοπαθεῖν, De Abrah. 44); so Plutarch (Consol. ad Apoll. 22) speaks of τῆς κατὰ φύσιν ἐν τοιούτοις μετριοπαθείας. But here it denotes gentleness and forbearance, the moderation of anger in a person who is provoked and indignant—as in Plut. de Cohib. ira, 10,�Galatians 6:1). The thought of excess here is excessive severity rather than excessive leniency. The objects of this μετριοπαθεῖν are τοῖς�

(a) Strictly speaking, only such sins could be pardoned (Leviticus 4:2, Leviticus 4:5:21, Leviticus 4:22, Numbers 15:22-31, Deuteronomy 17:12) as were unintentional. Wilful sins were not covered by the ordinary ritual of sacrifice (10:26, cp. Numbers 12:11).

(b) The term περίκειμαι only occurs in the LXX in Ep. Jer. 23:57 and in 4 Mac 12:3 (τὰ δεσμὰ περικείμενον), and in both places in its literal sense (Symm. Isaiah 61:10), as in Acts 28:20. But Seneca says of the body, “hoc quoque natura ut quemdam vestem animo circumdedit” (Epist. 92), and the metaphorical sense is as old as Theocritus (23:13, 14 φεῦγε δʼ�

The�Leviticus 16:6-17) provided that the�

περὶ (before ἁμαρτιῶν in v. 3) has been changed to ὕπερ in Cc Dc K L etc. (conforming to 5:1). There is no difference in meaning (cp. περί, Matthew 26:28 = ὄπερ, Mk. and Lk.), for περί (see 10:6, 8, 18, 26, 13:11) has taken over the sense of ὕπερ.


For καθώσπερ (א* A B D* 33) in v. 4, אc Dc K L P ψ 6, 1288, 1739 read the more obvious καθάπερ (C? syrhkl Chrys. Cyr. Alex. Procopius: καθώς).

In v. 5 οὐχ ἑαυτὸν ἐδόξασεν, while the term δόξα was specially applicable to the highpriestly office (cf. 2 Mac 14:7 ὅθεν�John 8:54. The following γενηθῆναι is an epexegetic infinitive, which recurs in the Lucan writings (Luke 1:54, Luke 1:72, Acts 15:10) and in the earlier Psalter of Solomon (2:28, 40 etc.). After�

The argument runs thus: We have a great�Psalms 2:7 before the more apposite one (in v. 6) from Psalms 110:4, implying that the position of divine Son carried with it, in some sense, the rôle of�


Τάξις in the papyri is often a list or register; in OP 1266:24 (a.d. 98) ἐν τάξει means “in the class” (of people). It had acquired a sacerdotal nuance, e.g. Michel 735:125f. (the regulations of Antiochus 1.), ὅστις τε ἃν ὑστέρωι χρόνωι τάξιν λάβῃ ταύτην, and occasionally denoted a post or office (e.g. Tebt. P 297:8, a.d. 123).

Ὅς κτλ. Some editors (e.g. A. B. Davidson, Lünemann, Peake, Hollmann) take vv. 7-10 as a further proof of (b). But the writer is here casting back to (a), not hinting that the trying experiences of Jesus on earth proved that his vocation was not self-sought, but using these to illustrate the thoroughness with which he had identified himself with men. He does this, although the parallel naturally broke down at one point. Indeed his conception of Christ was too large for the categories he had been employing, and this accounts for the tone and language of the passage. (a) Jesus being χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας did not require to offer any sacrifices on his own behalf; and (b) the case of Melchizedek offered no suggestion of suffering as a vital element in the vocation of an�Job 40:22 (27) δεήσεις καὶ ἱκετηρίας, but which was classical (e.g. Isokrates, de Pace, 46, πολλας ἱκετηρίας καὶ δεήσεις ποιούμενοι). Ἱκετηρία had become an equivalent for ἱκεσία, which is actually the reading here in 1 (δεήσεις τε καὶ ἱκεισίας). The phrase recurs in a Ptolemaic papyrus (Brunet de Presle et E. Egger’s Papyrus Grecs du Musée du Louvre, 27:22), χαίρειν σε�


Later Rabbinic piety laid stress on tears, e.g. in Sohar Exod. fol. 5:19, “Rabbi Jehuda said, all things of this world depend on penitence and prayers, which men offer to God (Blessed be He!), especially if one sheds tears along with his prayers”; and in Synopsis Sohar, p. 33, n. 2, “There are three kinds of prayers, entreaty, crying, and tears. Entreaty is offered in a quiet voice, crying with a raised voice, but tears are higher than all.”

In�Mark 14:36). This repeated supplication corresponds to the “bitter tears and cries.” Then Jesus adds,�Psalms 6:8 καὶ κύριος εἰσήκουσε προσευχὴν παντὸς ἐν φόβῳ θεοῦ.


(a) The alternative sense of “fear” appears as early as the Old Latin version (d = exauditus a metu). This meaning of εὐλαβεία (Beza: “liberatus ex metu”) occurs in Joseph. Ant. xi. 6. 9, εὐλαβείας αὐτὴν (Esther)�

which, the poet adds, is a sort of χάρις βίαιος from the gods. This moral doctrine, that πάθος brings μάθος, is echoed by Pindar (Isthm. i. 40, ὁ πονήσαις δὲ νόῳ καὶ προμάθεισν φέρει) and other writers, notably by Philo (de vit. Mos. iii. 38, τούτους οὐ λόγος�Genesis 50:19) ἐστιν). But in the Greek authors and in Philo it is almost invariably applied to “the thoughtless or stupid, and to open and deliberate offenders” (Abbott, Diat. 3208a), to people who can only be taught by suffering. Our writer ventures, therefore, to apply to the sinless Jesus an idea which mainly referred to young or wilful or undisciplined natures. The term ὑπακοή only occurs once in the LXX, at 2 S 22:36 (καὶ ὑπακοή σου ἐπλήθυνέν με, A), where it translates עֲנָוָה. The general idea corresponds to that of 10:5-9 below, where Jesus enters the world submissively to do the will of God, a vocation which involved suffering and self-sacrifice. But the closest parallel is the argument of Paul in Philippians 2:6-8, that Jesus, born in human form, ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν γενόμενος ὑπήκοος (sc. τῷ θεῷ) μέχρι θανάτου, and the conception of the ὑπακοή of Jesus (Romans 5:18, Romans 5:19) in contrast to the παρακοή of Adam. What our writer means to bring out here, as in 2:10f., is the practical initiation of Jesus into his vocation for God and men. “Wherever there is a vocation, growth and process are inevitable. … Personal relations are of necessity relations into which one grows; the relation can be fully and practically constituted only in the practical exercise of the calling in which it is involved. So it was with Christ. He had, so to speak, to work Himself into His place in the plan of salvation, to go down among the brethren whom He was to lead to glory and fully to identify Himself with them, not of course by sharing their individual vocation, but in the practice of obedience in the far harder vocation given to Him. That obedience had to be learned, not because His will was not at every moment perfect … but simply because it was a concrete, many-sided obedience” (W. Robertson Smith, Expositor2, ii. pp. 425, 426). Τελειωθείς in v. 9 recalls and expands the remark of 2:10, that God “perfected” Jesus by suffering as τὸν�


Philo (de Abrah. 11) observes that nature, instruction, and practice are the three things essential πρὸς τελειότητα τοῦ βιοῦ, οὔτε γὰρ διδασκαλίαν ἄνευ φύσεως ἢ�

Αἴτιος σωτηρίας was a common Greek phrase. Thus Philo speaks of the brazen serpent as αἴτιος σωτηρίας γενόμενος παντελοῦς τοῖς θεασαμένοις (de Agric. 22), Aeschines (in Ctesiph. 57) has τὴς μὲν σωτηρίαν τῇ πόλει τοὺς θεοὺς αἰτίους γεγενήμενους, and in the de Mundo, 398b, the writer declares that it is fitting for God αἴτιον τε γίνεσθαι τοῖς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς σωτηρίας. Σωτηρία αἰωνίος is a LXX phrase (Isaiah 45:17), but not in the sense intended here (cp. 2:3). The collocation of Jesus learning how to obey God and of thus proving a saviour τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ is remarkable. At first sight there is a clue to the sense in Philo, who declares that “the man who is morally earnest,” receiving God’s kingdom, “does not prove a source of evil to anyone (αἴτιος γίνεται), but proves a source of the acquisition and use of good things for all who obey him” (πᾶσι τοῖς ὑπηκόοις, de Abrah. 45). This refers to Abraham, but to the incident of Genesis 23:6, not to that of Melchizedek; Philo is spiritualizing the idea of the good man as king, and the ὑπηκόοι are the members of his household under his authority. The parallel is merely verbal. Here by πᾶσιν τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ the writer means οἱ πιστεύσαντες (4:3), but with a special reference to their loyalty to Christ. Disobedience to Christ or to God (3:18, 4:6, 11) is the practical expression of disbelief. It is a refusal to take Christ for what he is, as God’s appointed�




11 On this point I (ἡμῖν, plural of authorship, as 2:5) have a great deal to say, which it is hard to make intelligible to you. For (καὶ γάρ = etenim) you have grown dull of hearing. 12 Though by this time you should be teaching other people, you still need someone to teach you once more the rudimentary principles of the divine revelation. You are in need of milk, not of solid food. 13 (For anyone who is fed on milk is unskilled in moral truth; he is1 a mere babe. 14 Whereas solid food is for the nature, for those who have their faculties trained by exercise to distinguish good and evil.) 6:1 Let us pass on then to what is mature, leaving elementary Christian doctrine behind, instead of laying the foundation over again with repentance from dead works, with faith in God, 2 with instruction about ablutions and the laying on of hands, about the resurrection of the dead and eternal punishment. 3 With God’s permission we will take this step.

Περὶ οὗ (i.e. on�Proverbs 22:29

Why (καὶ γάρ, v. 12), the writer continues, instead of being teachers you still need a teacher. For χρεία with the article and infinitive (τοῦ διδάσκειν2 κτλ.), cp. the similar use of χρέων in OP 1488:25. In what follows, τινά, the masculine singular, gives a better sense than τίνα, the neuter plural. “Ye again have need of (one) to teach you what are the elements” (sah boh); but it is the elementary truths themselves, not what they are, that need to be taught. Τὰ στοιχεῖα here means the ABC or elementary principles (see Burton’s Galatians, pp. 510f.), such as he mentions in 6:1, 2. He defines them further as τῆς�1 Corinthians 3:1, 1 Corinthians 3:2), and adds a general aside (vv. 13, 14) in order to enforce his remonstrance. He does not use the term γνῶσις, and the plight of his friends is not due to the same causes as operated in the Corinthian church, but he evidently regards his interpretation of the priesthood of Christ as mature instruction, στερεὰ τροφή. Ὁ μετέχων γάλακτος is one whose only food (μετέχειν as in 1 Corinthians 10:17 etc.) is milk; ἄπειρος is “inexperienced,” and therefore “unskilled,” in λόγου δικαιοσύνης—an ethical phrase for what moderns would call “moral truth,” almost as in Xen. Cyrop. i.6. 31,�Hebrews 12:1f.: “and when you meet anything stiff or sweet, glorious or inglorious, remember that νῦν ὁ�1 Corinthians 2:6 ἐν τοῖς τελείοις, 3:1 νηπίοις). In διὰ τὴν ἕξιν (vg. “pro consuetudine”) he uses ἕξις much as does the writer of the prologue to Sirach (ἱκανὴν ἕξιν περιποιησάμενος), for facility or practice.1 It is not an equivalent for mental faculties here, but for the exercise of our powers. These powers or faculties are called τὰ αἰσθητήρια. Αἰσθητήριον was a Stoic term for an organ of the senses, and, like its English equivalent “sense,” easily acquired an ethical significance, as in Jeremiah 4:19 τὰ αἰσθητήρια τῆς καρδίας μου. The phrase γεγυμνασμένα αἰσθητήρια may be illustrated from Galen (de dign. puls. iii:2, ὃς μὲν γὰρ ἂν εὐαισθητότατον φύσιν τε καὶ τὸ αἰσθητήριον ἔχῃ γεγυμνασμένον ἱκανῶς … οὗτος ἂν ἄριστος εἴη γνώμων τῶν ἐντὸς ὑποκειμένων, and de complexu, ii.: λελογισμένου μὲν ἐστιν�Luke 13:6, and γεγυμνασμένον above. Compare what Marcus Aurelius (iii:1) says about old age; it may come upon us, bringing not physical failure, but a premature decay of the mental and moral faculties, e.g., of self-control, of the sense of duty, καὶ ὅσα τοιαῦτα λογισμοῦ συγγεγυμνασμένου πάνυ χρῄζει. Elsewhere (ii:13) he declares that ignorance of moral distinctions (ἄγνοια�Deuteronomy 1:39 πᾶν παιδίον νέον ὅστις οὐκ οἶδεν σήμερον�


In spite of Resch’s arguments (Texte u. Untersuchungen, xxx:3. 112f.), there is no reason to hear any echo of the well-known saying attributed to Jesus: γίνεσθε δὲ δόκιμοι τραπεζῖται, τὰ μὲν�

1 Like that of Hosea 12:4, where tears are added to the primitive story (Genesis 32:26) of Jacob’s prayer (ἐνίσχυσεν μετὰ�


d (Latin version of D)

Blass F. Blass, Grammatik des neutestamentlichen Griechisch: vierte, völlig neugearbeitete Auflage, besorgt von Albert Debrunner (1913); also, Brief an die Hebräer, Text mit Angabe der Rhythmen (1903).

177 [α 106]

1 D* inserts�Matthew 15:16) between γάρ and ἐστιν: “he is still a mere babe.” Blass adopts this, for reasons of rhythm.


2 1912 and origen read (with 462) διδάσκεσθαι, and omit ὑμᾶς.

sah The Coptic Version of the NT in the Southern Dialect (Oxford, 1920), vol. v. pp. 1-131.

1 Origen (Philocalia, xviii. 23) uses this passage neatly to answer Celsus, who had declared that Christians were afraid to appeal to an educated and intelligent audience. He quotes 5:12f. as well as 1 Corinthians 3:2f., arguing that in the light of them it must be admitted ἡμεῖς, ὅση δύναμις, πάντα πράττομεν ὑπὲρ τοῦ φρονίμων�


Weiss B. Weiss, “Textkritik der paulinischen Briefe” (in Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur, vol. xiv. 3), also Der Hebräerbrief in Zeitgeschichtlicher Beleuchtung (1910).

1 “Firma quaedam facilitas quae apud Graecos ἕξις nominatur” (Quint. Instit. Orat. 10:1).

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Hebrews 5". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/hebrews-5.html. 1896-1924.
 
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