Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 8

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-5

As High-priest of the true sanctuary which God reared and not man, Christ hath taken His seat at the right hand of Majesty in the heavens

Hebrews 8:1-5

1Now of the things which we have [are being] spoken this is the sum [chief point]: We have such a high priest, who is set [took his seat, ἐχάθισεν] on the right hand of the throne of the [om. the] Majesty in the heavens; 2A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and [om. and]1 not [a] man. 3For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices; wherefore it is of necessity that 4[also] this man [one] have somewhat also [om. also] to offer. For if [indeed, μέν]2 he were on earth, he should [would] not [even, οὐδέ] be a priest, seeing that there are priests [those]3 that offer gifts according to the law: 5Who serve unto the example [as those who minister to a copy] and shadow of [the] heavenly things, [according] as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make [complete, ἐπιτελεῖν] the tabernacle: for See, saith he, that thou make4 all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

[Hebrews 8:1.—Κεφάλαιον δέ, and as a capital point, not the “sum;” for he is not summing up the preceding, but advancing to a new discussion.—ἐπὶ τοῖς λεγομένοις, over, respecting the things which are being said=the points under discussion; not over the things which we have spoken (as if summing up what had been said) which would require τοῖς εἰρημένοις.—ἐκάθισεν, sat down, took his seat.

Hebrews 8:2.—ἀληθινῆς, true=genuine, archetypal, not the shadow or copy.

Hebrews 8:3.—εἰς τὸ προσφέρειν, for the offering, in order to offer.—ὅθεν�, whence (not, wherefore) it is, or was necessary.—καὶ τοῦτον, also this, scil., high-priest.

Hebrews 8:4.—Εἰ μὲν γὰρ ἦν, for if indeed he were much better, in my judgment, than the reading εἰ μὲν οὖν, if, indeed, now.—οὐδ’ ἂν ἦν ὶερεύς, not even would he be a priest; no emphasis on ἱερεύς, as contrasted with ἀρχιερεύς, but the οὐδὲ emphasizes ἦν, not even would he be.—ὄντων τῶν προσφερόντων, there being=inasmuch as there are, those who are offering.

Hebrews 8:5.—οἵτινες, characteristic, as those who.—ὑποδείγματι, to a copy; sometimes ὑποδειγ.=pattern.Ὑπόδειγμα, a thing shown under, i.e., in subserviency to, something else whether as model or copy.—τῶν ἐπουρανίων, of the heavenly, scil., πραγμάτων, things, or, as I think, better, ἁλίων, sanctuary—καθὼς κεχρημάτισται, according as Moses has been divinely instructed.—μέλλων ἐπιτελεῖν, being about to accomplish, hence, complete, carry through the construction of.—K.].


Hebrews 8:1. A capital point in respect of the things which we are saying.—As the author comes now to a point not hitherto specially treated, and proceeds to a comparison between the priests who serve in the Mosaic tabernacle, and Christ, the royal Priest who ministers in heaven as the true sanctuary, κεφάλαιον must here denote not the “sum” (Erasm., Luth., Calv., etc.), but “chief or capital point.” The appended ἐπὶ τοῖς λεγομ. too, excludes the idea of a summing up or recapitulation of a previous discussion, as this would demand the form κεφ. τῶν εἰρημένων, ‘sum of what has been said.’ The present part. shows also that the author is not introducing a fresh topic additional to the preceding (Calov, etc.), but simply bringing out into fuller notice and development, with reference to the special character of his readers, the chief and central point of the existing discussion. This cardinal point is the determining of the quality of our High-Priest Christ, who, as the Messiah seated at the right hand of God, can only minister in the sanctuary of which that of Moses is to be regarded as the earthly copy. Hence, Hebrews 8:2 is, without a comma, to be united with Hebrews 8:1. It is indifferent for the sense whether the words commencing the chapter are taken as Acc. absolute, or as an anticipatory nominative apposition to the entire following clause. The explanation of Hofmann, who puts a colon after κεφ. δέ, is wholly erroneous: (in addition to those who were called high-priests we have,” etc.).

Hebrews 8:2. As minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle.—The Adj. ἀληθινη̄ς is commonly, by Zeugma, referred also to ἀγίων. But we have thus either a tautology, or a difficulty in distinguishing ἁγίων and σκηνῆς, if the former word be regarded as neuter. The distinction drawn by Chr. F. Schmid, who makes τὰ ἄγια denote the whole temple, and σκηνή the holiest of all, is entirely arbitrary. The reverse distinction would be much more in accordance with the general usage of the author, who uniformly, except Hebrews 9:3, designates the holiest of all by the simple ἅγια. But why thus distinguish the part from the whole, if this part again is to be included in the whole? We should rather infer that the σκηνή could also designate only a part of the entire sanctuary, and of course the part separated from the ‘holiest of all,’ which Hebrews 9:2 is called σκηνὴ ἡ πρώτη. But what application shall we make of this distinction? According to Del. τὰ ἄγια would seem to designate the throne of God situated above and beyond all the heavens, the eternal δόξα of God Himself, into which Christ has entered, and where He appears as mediator on our behalf; but σκηνή, the heaven of angels and of all the blessed saints, where Christ rules with mediatorial sway. This view is refuted—to say nothing of other objections—by the very language of our passage, in which Christ, as minister τῶν ἁγίων, has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of Majesty in the heavens. Few, however, will be inclined, with Hofm. (Weiss. II. 189 ff.; Schriftbeweis II. 1, 405), to understand, after Beza, Gerhard, etc., by σκηνή, the glorified body of Christ, or in a broader sense, after Calov, Braun, etc., the Christian church. It were more natural to refer τὰ ἅγια, though not with Seb. Schmidt, Braun, Rambach, to the employments and utensils required for the priestly service, yet, with Luth. and others, to the holy and true goods and possessions. But this explanation is discountenanced alike by the word σκηνή and the word λειτουργός, which latter in this connection, instead of its original signification of a public officer acting for the good of the people, has, doubtless, in accordance with the usage of the Sept. a special relation to the position and office of priest. If now we abandon the idea of a zeugma in the construction, we shall still not be obliged, either with Hofm., to resort to the unnatural construction of ἐν τοῑς οὐράνοις with τῶν ἁγ. λειτουργός, nor to retain, with Primas. and Œcum., the masc. construction of τῶν�, a construction illy harmonizing with the designation of Christ as λειτουργός. We need but take καί explicatively, and all difficulty vanishes.

[The last sentence undoubtedly suggests the true solution of this much vexed question. The term ἅγια, holy place, sanctuary, is first naturally used with reference to the character and use of the tabernacle as consecrated to God, and a place of religious and priestly service. The word σκηνή is then added to designate the structure, and to bring it into more distinct relation to the tabernacle of Moses. The added καὶ τῆς σκηνῆς�. is then a sort of loose synonyme or fuller statement of the idea conveyed by the τὰ ἅγια. Delitzsch’s notion, that the ἡ σκηνή is the heaven of the glorified saints, and Hofmann’s that it is the glorified body of Christ, are both utterly unfounded conceits—that of Hofmann preëminently so; while the view of Alford, which undertakes to combine the two, with a preponderance in favor of Hofmann’s, labors under the double difficulty of adopting two views, both of which are alike without support in the Epistle, and without a particle of intrinsic probability, and which are also irreconcilable with each other. Every interpretation that undertakes to carry into the heaven of the New Testament the distinction between the inner and the outer sanctuary of the Mosaic tabernacle, ignores the very fundamental idea of that distinction, and leads to inextricable difficulties in interpretation, as has been illustrated in the numerous hypotheses, purely conceits, which the attempt to fix the nature of that heavenly outer tabernacle has originated. And if it be urged that the Mosaic tabernacle was itself but the copy of the heavenly tabernacle, and that, therefore, the antitype must have the same divisions as are found in the pattern, I reply that this is pressing unduly the figurative language of the author. The real actual pattern of the Mosaic tabernacle was that which God showed to Moses in Mount Sinai, an exact model after which he was to construct his earthly material tabernacle, and nothing more. Now that the author again should make a figurative application of that literal language, need not surprise, and should not mislead us. Literally that tabernacle was modelled precisely after the pattern or the direction which God had given Moses in the mount. Figuratively that tabernacle becomes a copy or type of the heavenly tabernacle or sanctuary, inasmuch as the high-priest ministering there in a symbolical expiation and removal of sin, typifies the heavenly High-priest officiating on high in a real expiation and forgiveness of sins. But that we are thence to carry all the special features of the earthly tabernacle into the figurative, heavenly New Testament tabernacle, does not follow; and is in fact impossible. For the essential characteristic of the outer tabernacle as distinguished from the inner—the very thing which it denoted was, as we shall subsequently see, separation from God. The veil of the temple, answering to the veil of the tabernacle, was rent at the death of the Son of God. The separation between outer and inner tabernacle, was done away—never to be renewed.—K.].—“Ἀληθής excludes the untrue and unreal, ἀληθινός excludes that which does not correspond to its idea. The measure of the ἀληθής is the actual, the measure of the ἀληθινός is the ideal. In ἀληθής the idea corresponds to the object, in ἀληθινός the object corresponds to the idea” (Kahnis Eucharist, p. 119). For a parallel in thought see Wis 9:8.

Hebrews 8:3. For every high-priest, etc.—Many expositors take Hebrews 8:3, which Camer., Beng., etc., enclose in a parenthesis as an incidental remark, unnecessary to the connection (Michael.), or disturbing the train of thought (De W.), or introducing a train of ideas that is again crowded out by others (Thol.), or merely explanatory of the word λειτουργός (Lün.). But the purpose of the author is not to show that Christ must be a Priest of sacrifice. Since the λειτουργεῑν or dealing in sacrifices is essential to the function of every high-priest (Lün.); he rather proceeds to prove that the λειτουργία of Christ can be exercised only in a heavenly sanctuary, which corresponds to the idea of the sanctuary that in type and figure was presented in the Mosaic tabernacle. It was already demonstrated from Scripture, that the Messiah is appointed of God to be alike King and Priest. As High-priest He must necessarily have somewhat that he may offer. In what this consists, remains as yet unstated, and it is a purely arbitrary and embarrassing hypothesis, which limits λειτουργεῑν and προσφέρειν exclusively to offering sacrifices. We are but pointed (as already observed by Justiniani, Este., etc.) to the necessity of priestly functions and acts to be accomplished by Christ. But in the legal economy where the Levitical priests have their function, there was absolutely no place for the priesthood of Christ; He needs, consequently, for the exercise of His priestly vocation, a heavenly sanctuary, and one which fulfils the entire idea of a sanctuary. Hence we are to supply with ἀναγκαῑον not ἦν (Peshito, Bez., Beng., Bl., De W., Lün.), but ἐστίν (Vulg., Luth., Calv., etc.), and to refer the προσφέρειν not to the sacrifice, offered once for all, of the body of Christ on the cross. The Aor. requires neither that we translate with Lün.: “for which reason it was necessary that also this one should have something which he might offer;” nor with Hofm.: “for which reason it is necessary that he have something which he may have offered.” To read ῳ=where for ὅ is totally unnecessary.

[I cannot but conceive that the true connection of the thought in Hebrews 8:3 has escaped nearly, or quite all the interpreters. That many of them have failed to detect it, is certain from the diversity of their explanations. Some, with Bengel, would put it in parenthesis. Michaelis regards it as entirely unessential to the connection; De Wette, as a disturbing intruder; Tholuck as turning to a thought that was again crowded out by others; Lönemann as added to explain the import of λειτουργός; Alford, after Delitzsch, as belonging here only incidentally; while Moll regards it as simply a general statement of the high-priestly function of Christ as introductory to the proof that He is ministering in a heavenly tabernacle. In this general and wide diversity of views, all but one must be, and all may be, wrong. The following may perhaps only increase by one the number of opinions to be rejected. I think, however, that it will be found that a close analysis will sustain the view that the passage is neither parenthetical, nor irrelevant, nor incidental, but introduces the grand thought which forms the theme of discussion through this and the following chapter, and that in fact this states, and states in its proper place, what is the vital point of the whole Epistle. Christ’s Melchisedek Priesthood has been previously considered; now comes the consideration of His Aaronic high-priesthood. This is vital to the subject; for His mere Melchisedek priesthood, however intrinsically majestic and glorious, would be of no avail to sinners; He must minister in the heavenly sanctuary as the counterpart of Aaron, the Levitical high-priest, and, as such, in correspondence with this relation, He must have something to offer. What this is, is the point now to be stated, and of which the author only apparently loses sight, the point toward which he pursues a constant though somewhat indirect course from this to Hebrews 9:0. Hebrews 8:11. Let us follow the course of thought. So important is it that He have something to offer, that if He were on earth, He could not even be a priest, inasmuch as there there is a regularly ordained priesthood for all the offerings of the Mosaic law, and which cannot there be superceded. But in fact He has a Priesthood in the heavenly tabernacle, and a Priesthood as much superior to the Levitical as the Covenant which He guarantees is superior to that under which they served. This leads to a natural digression—a digression from the immediate point under discussion, but standing in intimate vital connection with the general theme of the Epistle—in illustrating the superiority of the New Covenant, of which Christ was High-priestly Mediator and surety, over that Old Covenant of which the Levitical priests were servants. This illustration is effected by the apposite and beautiful citation from Jeremiah, which unfolds the better promises that characterize the New Covenant. This topic finished, the author resumes with Hebrews 9:0. the inquiry, what the New Testament High-Priest has to offer. He recurs, therefore, to the arrangements of that Old Covenant, whose high-priestly service was typical of that of the New. He naturally goes back to the tabernacle in which that service was performed (“to the first Covenant now there belonged,” etc.), dwells somewhat minutely on its features (in order, by delineating its majesty, to enhance the glory of the Covenant which it but symbolizes), and then adds the facts to which all this description is but introductory, viz., that while the ordinary priests enter daily into the outer sanctuary, into the inner the high-priest enters but once a year, alone, and not without blood. Thus we are prepared for the statement at Hebrews 8:11, to which all this has tended, viz., that Christ must enter the heavenly tabernacle also with blood, and here the author reaches the point which he had in mind at Hebrews 8:3, and which he has not since lost sight of. If this analysis be correct, it will be seen that Moll’s general division of the Epistle, which makes Hebrews 9:0 commence a new capital section, is vicious, inasmuch as it cuts right in two a chain of argument whose links are most closely connected. The same is true of Ebrard’s analysis, who begins, as it were, a new and independent section with the description of the Mosaic tabernacle, and neither Delitzsch nor Alford has made any improvement on them. In fact, this description of the Mosaic tabernacle, Hebrews 9:0, is merely incidental, or rather a subordinate link in a chain of reasoning by which the author is showing what the New Testament High-priest has to offer. Thus Hebrews 8:3 of Hebrews 8:0 formally introduces the topic around which the whole discussion turns from this point to Hebrews 10:19, where, in reality, the grand argument of the Epistle terminates.—K.].

Hebrews 8:4. For if to be sure [εἰ μὲν γάρ] he were on earth.—Εἰ ἦν cannot here mean “if he had been” (Böhme, Kuinoel; nor is anything to be supplied, as e. g., either μόνον, Grot., etc.), or ἱερεύς (Zeger, Beng., Carpz, etc.). The οὐδέ belongs to ἦν, not to ἱερεύς. Had the author intended to say that in the case supposed Christ could not be even a priest, much less a high-priest, (Bl., Bisp., Hofm.), he would have written οὐδ’ ἱερεὺς ἂν ἦν.

Hebrews 8:5. As those who minister to a copy and shadow of the heavenly.—Λατρεύειν stands indeed commonly with the Dat. of the person whom one serves, yet is found also with the Dat. of the thing in which (not with which) one serves, as also Hebrews 13:10. The proper signification of ὑπόδειγμα is that of an embodying, representative image; for which reason the word can be used, Hebrews 4:11, as=παράδειγμα, example, model, and here as at Hebrews 9:23, and more usually, denotes copy, with the subordinate idea of an outline simply drawn from memory. Σκιά, shadow, may stand in antithesis to σῶμα, body (as at Colossians 2:17), in which case it simply opposes the non-essential to the essence; or in antithesis to εἰκών (as Hebrews 10:1), in which case it suggests to the imagination the obscurity of the shadowy image. With τῶν οὐρανίων we need not, with Lönemann, supply ἁγίων; for the following chapters show clearly that not heavenly localities, but heavenly relations and Divine ideas, as realized in Christ, are regarded as the archetype symbolized by the Mosaic sanctuary: [so Alford: “the things in heaven, in the heavenly sanctuary.” But the author, though treating of heavenly facts, relations, etc., yet does it under the imagery drawn from the earthly tabernacle. He has already employed that imagery, transferring to heaven the figure of the tabernacle (Hebrews 8:2), and to this he ever and anon returns (Hebrews 9:24), and in view especially of this passage just referred to, I incline to adopt Lönemann’s view. This, of course, need not prejudice the fact that the thing essentially aimed at is ideas and relations.—K.]. So also Exodus 25:40. We need not assume an actual temple as archetype of the tabernacle which Moses from Sinai may be supposed to have beheld, standing in heaven, nor any original structure which God Himself had reared as a model upon Sinai, where, according to the later Rabbins, it was to stand forever, but a, pattern structure, which was shown to Moses in prophetic vision, and is described in the words of God, Exodus 26:26-30. This signification, model building, the word תַּבְנִית (which Joshua 22:28 denotes architecture, Deuteronomy 4:17, denotes sculpture of every kind, and Psalms 144:12 points to a plastic model), will very well bear at Exodus 25:40. But it by no means accords with the prophetic survey of a model building which expresses heavenly relations, to assume, with Ebrard, a mere drawing or outline edifice, although such a drawing might in itself apply to the word in question according to 2 Chronicles 16:10, where it signifies sketch, outline, and 1 Chronicles 28:11 ff., where it signifies ground plot. The typical signification comes out strongly at Isaiah 44:13, inasmuch as there, at Isaiah 8:14, the wood is to be sought for the carrying out and realization of the pattern structure given in Hebrews 8:13.


1. After Christ, as High-Priest, had given His life as an expiatory offering on the cross, and with His atoning blood had entered into the inner sanctuary of heaven, He has not returned again from heaven to earth, as the Levitical high-priest was obliged, after completing the sprinkling of blood, again to quit the inner Sanctuary. The office and function of the Levitical priests suffices not as a type of Christ’s work of reconciliation, and of His mediatorial position. Christ is a Priest of a different description, and for this has Melchisedek for His type. In this comparison, the capital point is, the recognition of the fact that Christ is a royal Priest in heaven, i.e, after His elevation to the right hand of Majesty ceases not to exercise priestly sway.

2. Since the Melchisedek priesthood is of a different order from the Levitico-Aaronical, this cannot refer to an offering of Christ in heaven, but only to a Priestly function, by which the High-Priestly sacrifice that was previously, and once for all, offered upon the cross, is rendered prevalent with God, efficacious with respect to men. Yet this priestly function in making intercession and in bestowing blessings, Christ exercises as a High-Priest who sits upon the Throne of God, i.e, on the ground of His sacrificial death upon the cross, and by virtue of His position as glorified God-man. “The blood of Christ has indeed been, in His sacrifice, poured out upon the earth, and so been separated from the sacrificial body, as was done with animals in the typical sacrifice. But still it behooved that it should not barely be sprinkled upon the earth, but be borne to the sanctuary of God to sprinkle the throne of grace. And after it has been once borne in thither, and sprinkled in a divine way, it belongs now to the office of our High-Priest whom we have in the sanctuary, to sprinkle it also upon our hearts and consciences, and this life of ours, still, indeed, having its source in blood, but not in the love of God, again to unite with the true life of Divine love.” (Steinhofer).

3. Since, according to the Scriptures, the Priesthood belongs essentially to the Messiah, He must necessarily always exercise Priestly functions of essential significance; but it thence by no means follows that He must be conceived as in an act of perpetual sacrifice, as those do who understand by the heavenly offering either the person of the glorified God-man, and thence deduce the sacrifice of mass (as still recently Thalhofer) or regard the believers of all generations as the sacrificial offering of Christ to God, (Theodor. Mops., Chrys., Cyrill. Alex.). Nor even does it follow that in the offering which He makes we need specially think of blood. (Del.). Since if we, with justice, distinguish this act from the slaying of the victim, and in a detailed comparison of Christ with the Aaronic high-priests, as chaps. 9 and 10, refer the slaying specially to the crucifixion, and the offering to the sprinkling of the throne of God with the sacrificial blood, we must still, in the case of the expiation wrought in the death of Christ, refrain from pushing too far the points of comparison; and particularly we must not forget that these acts immediately followed one another on the day of atonement, belong, in fact, inseparably together, and work in the objective sense an expiation which is essentially distinguished from the reconciliation which is to be obtained by the subject only on this ground, and in consequence of this. In this relation the offering of Christ by His sacrifice of Himself on the cross, is an offering once for all, whereby He has effected an eternal redemption.

4. But to the priestly functions there belongs also a sanctuary. The earthly sanctuary, however, built by human hands, cannot be that in which Christ has His Priesthood. There, men minister who are from a stock to which Jesus, who is Christ, does not belong. Moreover, this sanctuary in its very erection was already designated as a mere copy. There must thus be a heavenly sanctuary, to which the Messianic priestly king belongs, and in which he exercises a priestly office. All endeavors, however, to fix such a sanctuary as a separate locality in heaven, which locality is the real archetype of the Mosaic tabernacle, fail, in the fact, that “the different attributes here assigned to Christ, taken literally, exclude one another,” (Thol.), and that according to Exodus 25:0., not only the tabernacle but also all its utensils were to be made after the heavenly model. We must thus regard this expression as a sensible embodiment of the idea of the reconciliation and restoration of our fellowship with God, wrought through Christ, introduced by the designation of Christ’s mission as a Priestly one, for which reason also Luther, with most of the ancients, understood by the sanctuary simply the spiritual blessings belonging to the kingdom of God.


The patterns after which we are to regulate our life and our condition, have been shown to us by God, and described in the Holy Scriptures.—It is only by His royal throne in heaven that the High-Priestly dignity, power and work of Jesus, are rendered to us truly intelligible, challenge our admiration, and reach the depth of our spiritual needs.—Whether we let the High-Priest whom we have, also influence us for our salvation?—As the people of the New Testament we belong to the heavenly sanctuary, and thereby have great prerogatives: how do we stand with reference to the corresponding duties?

Starke:—Thanks be to God that we have a High-Priest who sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high, and whose sacrifice and intercession have, therefore, unlimited power.—Christ is the fosterer of His Church. He Himself communicates the holy and heavenly gift. Would that we with perfect faith might hasten to this faithful High-Priest, and from the fulness of His grace, bring forth a real treasure and amplitude of heavenly blessings.—Precisely for the reason that Christ, after His one completed sacrifice, sits at the right hand of God, He fills all in all.—Whoever offers to God only the outward and corporeal, offers a Jewish, and not a Christian sacrifice.

Rieger:—We have a Priest, such as we need. The Father has prepared Him; love and obedience have drawn Him into His office; He is perfected according to all that which was written aforetime with regard to Him; He is set before us in the Gospel, and faith lays hold upon Him.—As God has prepared to Himself a seat of Majesty, a central point of His Government, and of the bestowment of His life and His glory; He has also reared a dwelling, or holy tabernacle, in which is the seat of Majesty, and in which He receives the priestly service and worship of those who draw near to Him.—The Saviour has made use of the temple, as His Father’s house, for instruction, and cleansed this house of prayer for all nations, from abuses; but on Golgotha, not at the foot of the altar, flowed His blood, shed upon the wood of His cross.

Hahn:—We must follow with our gaze the dear Saviour on His course of suffering clear up into heaven.

Heubner:—Were not Christ in this inconceivably close connection with God in heaven, He could not, in proper and complete authority, impart the forgiveness of sins, truly annihilate sin, and arrest its consequences.—Our service of God and priesthood should be an imitation and copy of the service of God in heaven.


Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 8:2.—Καί is to be expunged after Sin. B. D*. E*., 17.

Hebrews 8:4; Hebrews 8:4.—Instead of εἰ μὲν γάρ, should be read with Sin. A. B. D*., 17, 73, 80, 137, εἰ μὲν οὖν. [Tisch. retains εἰ μὲν γάρ, which seems to me much more accordant with the connection. The substitution of οὖν, for γάρ, though strongly supported and favored by most modern editors, I cannot but regard as the result of a misunderstanding of the connection.—K.].

Hebrews 8:4; Hebrews 8:4.—The words τῶν ἱερέων before τῶν προσφερόντων, are not found in Sin. A. B. D*. E*., 17, 73, 137, and are to be regarded as a gloss, which Grotius, Mill, and Griesbach were inclined to expunge. The Art. before νόμον is wanting in Sin. A. B., 57, 80.

Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 8:5.—Instead of ποιήσῃς, all the best authorities require us to read ποιήσεις.

Verses 6-13


Christ’s priestly service is by so much the more excellent, as the covenant of which He is Mediator, rests upon better promises than the old covenant, which, according to its own testimony, is destined to destruction.

Hebrews 8:6-13

6 But now [as it is] hath he obtained5 a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was [hath been] established upon better promises. 7For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should [would] no place 8have been [be] sought for the second. For [while] finding fault with them he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day When I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not 10[disregarded them], saith the Lord. For [Because] this is the6 covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my laws into their mind, and will write [inscribe] them in [on] their hearts: and I will be to them a God, 11and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, [fellow-citizen, πολίτην],7 and every man his brother, saying, Know ye the Lord: for all shall [will] know me, from the least8 unto the greatest. 12For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities9 will I remember no more. 13In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now [But] that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

[Hebrews 8:6.—νυνὶ δέ, but now, as it is, as the case actually stands, contrasted with the case supposed Hebrews 8:4,—ἥτις, as one which, characteristic, νενομεθέτηται, has been enacted, instituted as matter of legislation, the word suggested by the legal character of the old covenant.

Hebrews 8:7.—οὐκ ἂν ἐζητεῖτο, would not be sought.

Hebrews 8:8.—μεμφόμενος, blaming, finding fault, either with it or them, or both; here, I think, mainly the former.

Hebrews 8:9.—ε͂ν ἡμέρᾳ ἐπιλαβομένου μου, in the day of my taking hold of them for succor, see Hebrews 2:16—αὐτοί and κἀγώ placed in contrast. God divides, in His tenderness, the blame between the people and himself.

Hebrews 8:10.—διδούς giving either with ο͂ιαθήσομαὶ understood from the preceding verse, or irregularly connected by καί with the following finite verb.—ἐπιγράψω, I will write upon, inscribe.

Hebrews 8:11.—οὐ μὴ διδάξωσιν, a familiar emphatic construction: There is no fear lest they may teach=they shall by no means teach,—τὸν πολίτην=συμπολίτην, fellow-citizen.—εἰδήσω, old Ionic Fut. for εἴσομαι, which thence past over to the later Attic.—ἀπὸ μικροῦ ἔως μεγάλου, from small unto great of them.

Hebrews 8:12.—ἵλεως, propitious, gracious.—οὑ μὴ μνησθῶ ἔτι. I will no longer make mention.

Hebrews 8:13.—ἐν τῷ λέγεῖν καινήν, in saying “new.”—πεπαλαίωκε, he hath rendered antiquated.—παλαιούμενον καὶ γηράσκον, becoming antiquated and growing old.—K.].


Hebrews 8:6. But now, etc.—In. contrast with the supposition made in Hebrews 8:4, Hebrews 8:7 exhibits the actual state of the case, and reminds us that the priestly service of Christ, although there is no place for it in the Mosaic sanctuary, has still not less value than the so highly revered Levitical worship; nay rather by so much surpasses it as the New Covenant of which Christ is Mediator surpasses the Old Covenant, which, though also founded on Divine promises, yet, even by these themselves is reminded of its yet imperfect nature and transitory significance. The νυνὶ δέ is thus to be taken not temporally but logically, not, however, deducing, but contrasting, [as is uniformly the case in its logical use].

Hebrews 8:6. Establish.—The expression νενομοθέτηται shows that the author regards the New Covenant partly as a fact which has been historically accomplished, partly as an economy of salvation and of life established by God, and for this reason not merely of binding authority, but also working according to fixed laws, as does also Paul, Romans 3:27; Romans 8:2; Romans 9:31.

Hebrews 8:7. There would no place be sought.—Bleek finds the idea expressed that God would have had no need to seek in the hearts of men for a better place for His covenant than was furnished by the tables of stone; but, although the statement that the first covenant was not faultless refers to the outward and ceremonial character of the Old Testament institutions, still the author, if Bleek’s idea had been in his mind, could hardly have omitted the words ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις. Moreover the emphasis certainly not upon τόπος but upon δευτέρας. The translation “would have been sought” (Erasm., Calv., Bez., etc.), is erroneous, as it would have demanded the pluperfect. The following passage of Scripture which contains the promise of a new covenant, would seem, according to Del., to show that God in His counsel already had a place for such a covenant, and hence sought, in the history of the world, the place for its actualization. Thol. takes the τόπον ζητεῖν here as=τόπον λαμβάνειν, Acts 25:16, i.e., to take occasion. Ebr. and Lün. assume a blending of the two clauses οὐκ ἄν ἦν τόπος δευτέρας=there would have been no place for a second, and οὐκ ἂν ἐζητεῖτο δευτέρα=no second would be sought.

Hebrews 8:8. For finding fault he saith to them.—Lachmann reads after A. D*. K., 17, 39, αὐτοῖς,. This reference to the Israelites is, however, possible even with the better attested reading αὐτοῖς, since μέμφεσθαι, is constructed alike with the Acc. and the Dat. In this construction the Peshito is followed by the Vulg., Chrys., Luth., Calv., Bisp., Del., and the majority. It is a more elegant and delicate construction, however, to leave the object of the fault-finding undetermined (De W., Ebr.), and with Faber Stapul., Piscat., Schlicht., Grot., Bl., Lün., Reiche, etc., to connect αὐτοῖς with λέγει. We must not, however, exactly supply αὐτήν, and regard μεμφ. as corresponding directly with the preceding ἄμεμπτος. This corresponds not with the citation from Jeremiah 31:31-34, in which the positive censure falls upon the people, and strikes but indirectly the covenant which was unable to secure right conduct in the nation. The designation of it here is=not blameless (ἄμεμπτος): and it is certainly inadmissible to regard the negative expression as on a level, with a positive one. On the other hand Del. goes too far in regarding the suppression of the object of the blame, as an ambiguity. The construction rather intimates the two-fold applicability of the censure, and this is entirely consonant with the facts of the case. In the citation itself which adduces the Scripture proof of the preceding statement, the author puts συντελέσω for διαθήσομαι and ἐποίησα for διεθέμην, with the evident design of indicating even in the very words of the New Testament as on the part of God accomplished.

Hebrews 8:10. I will give.—Διδούς, giving, stands not instead of δώσω, I will give (Beng., etc.), nor is either this now to be supplied (Heinr., Steng., etc.), although the Cod. Vat. of the LXX. reads διδοὺς δώσω, or εἰμί or ἔσομαι. If we supply any thing, it could be only διαθήσομαι (Del.), with which preceding word we can also with Lün. construct the Part. (I will make a covenant, viz., in giving), unless we prefer with Winer the not unfamiliar construction which makes a transition from the Part, to the finite verb. It is grammatically possible also (with Böhme and Paulus) to connect διδούς with the following ἐπιγράψω, in which case καί=also.

Hebrews 8:13. In that he saith a new covenant, etc.—From the above cited passage our author, by emphasizing the καινή, new, draws the conclusion that the Mosaic economy is even in its very origin declared as the old covenant which appears as languishing and waxing old without hope of rejuvenation. Παλαιοῦν means originally not to render antiquated=to do away as old and useless, to abrogate, (Bez., Erasm., etc.) but, to render ancient, or old, to deliver over to the past, and to place in contrast with the new, with that which is hitherto non-existent. This transitive signification it has also, Job 9:5; Job 32:15; Lamentations 3:5; which, at Daniel 7:25, passes over into the sense of set aside as antiquated. For what is consigned to the past, naturally grows old (vetus), and this in the case of the living is called senescere. The intransitive signification, grow old is found only at Isaiah 65:22. The word belongs to later Greek, and in extra biblical literature is in use only in the Mid. or Pass. The Perf. in our passage points to the completed act.


1. From the elevation of the Priest, the author at Hebrews 7:22, reasons to the elevation of the covenant guaranteed by Him in His everlasting existence; since those mortal priests who are appointed by command of the Law can sustain no comparison with the Royal Priest promised by the oath of God, potent in virtue of His indestructible life, the eternally perfected Son. There arises thus not a mere inversion of the relation, much less an argument in a circle, if here the author reasons from the superiority of the covenant founded on better promises, to the superiority of His priestly functions, who is not merely the surety, but also the Mediator, i.e., the founder, supporter, quickener of this covenant.

2. The New Covenant also has its institutions and arrangements, established by the revelation of the Divine will, whose foundations are laid in the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. Among them particularly stands forth in the relation here adverted to the prophecy, Jeremiah 31:31-34 (whose parallel we find in Ezekiel 36:25-27) which, within the limits of the O. Test. itself, expresses most clearly the contrast so strongly emphasized by Paul (2 Corinthians 3:6-9) between the economies of law and gospel, and the purely disciplinary and educational, and hence transitory nature of the Mosaic institutions.

3. In this prophecy there is promised a new Covenant, which Jehovah will make with Israel and with Judah, i.e., with the collective people, whose restoration and reunion on the soil of the Promised Land is also promised by the prophet, a Covenant which shall have a different fate from that which was formed after the nation’s deliverance from Egypt. The all holy God, in His righteousness, does away with the old relation to the covenant-breaking people; but in His grace will institute a system of salvation by a new Covenant, for which He already lays the foundation by better promises.

4. The superiority of these promises consists in the fact that the Divine will is no longer as a bare command to come into mere outward contact with the people, but is to live and work in its heart; that in consequence of this a living knowledge of God is to be the common blessing of all the members of the Covenant, and the distinction between prophets and non-prophets, priests and non-priests, to fall away; and that finally the ground of this will be the forgiveness of sins wrought without any human merits by the grace of God. Precisely for this reason could Jeremiah 3:16-17 even predict that the entire legal economy, nay, the very ark of the Covenant itself, would no more be an object of longing to the people. Intimations of this state of things are found, Joel 3:1 ff.; Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 54:13; Ezekiel 11:19.

5. From the disparagement of sacrificial worship which comes out frequently and strongly within the limits of the O. Test. itself (1 Samuel 15:22 ff.; Psalms 40:7 ff; Psalms 50:0; Psalms 51:18 ff.; Hosea 6:6; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Proverbs 21:3), we may not, however, conclude that the idea of the death of Jesus Christ as an expiatory offering is a relapse into Judaism—a sentiment in accordance with which Holdheim (on the Ceremonial Law in the Kingdom of the Messiah, 1845) says: “The Rabbinical doctrine stands in this near relation to Christianity that they both rest on the common conviction that the principle of expiation contained in the Mosaic law is to be maintained as of perpetual truth and validity. Christianity bases on this the fact that by a single great sacrifice the work of expiation has been once for all accomplished for all who believe in it, while Rabbinical Judaism, holding the same fundamental idea, regards the sacrificial ritual as only temporarily done away, and looks forward to its restoration.” This modern Judaism is as far removed from faith in the Old Testament as from faith in the gospel, and hence is equally incapable of comprehending both the one and the other. An arbitrary, self-willed and self-seeking separation from the legal worship is sharply rebuked by those same prophets who, turning away from the external character of the legal ceremonial and its meritorious works, demand and predict the fulfilment of that Divine will which is revealed in the law. But God, in the law, gave, on the one hand, not merely moral precepts, but also such as were intended to regulate the collective social relations of His people, and on the other, ordained, in a way which was unconditionally binding on the Israelites, the means for the fulfilment of these precepts, and for expiating their transgressions of His law. To these means belonged preëminently the system of worship whose central point is the sacrificial service. But in the position which God gave to the O. Test. in the economy of salvation, all its arrangements have a partly educational or disciplinary, partly a typical and symbolical character. It is hence equally erroneous to deny, on the one hand, the reality of the idea which at this stage could be expressed only in type and figure, and in the period of fulfilment, to turn back, on the other, to the types and symbols of that earlier period, whether this be done by Rabbins, who look forward to a simple restitution of the Mosaic ritual, or by Mormons, who have recently proposed the introduction of animal sacrifices into the Christian worship. Until the arrival of the period of perfection, it is true that even Christianity itself cannot dispense with symbols, and still bears a character which represents in the temporal and earthly the eternal and the heavenly. But its symbols have no longer the appearance of any independent value, and its type is the type of the completion of revelation.

6. The circumstance is of special importance that not without, but within the Old Covenant itself, and indeed only by undoubted words of God, was declared that capital defect of the Covenant mediated by Moses, which consisted in its want of provisions for effecting a real forgiveness of sin, and genuine communion with God, and that by the promise of a new Covenant the existing Covenant was already in the time of Jeremiah stamped as an institution no longer satisfactory, and destined to pass away. To Christians, then, the mere continued outward existence of Judaism can have no such import as to engender doubts of that abrogation of the Old Covenant which has historically taken place. Decay and superannuation clear to utter extinction are the inevitable destiny of that Covenant, allotted to it by the decision of God on the ground of its intrinsic nature.


The Old Covenant was not broken up from without, but was dissolved internally, and by God Himself given over to extinction.—The infidelity of the covenant-people might induce the judgments of God, and occasion the abrogation of the former covenant; but could not bring to naught God’s purpose of salvation.—To the New Covenant belongs a new heart and a new spirit.—Forgiveness of sin is the foundation of all renewal; and this comes from grace by means of the New Covenant.—How the promises of the Old Covenant are fulfilled by the Mediator of the New.

Starke:—How blessed are we in the New Covenant! We have so great a Mediator, such glorious promises, such glorious possessions! Is it not our shame that we still remain under the dominion of sin?—The Levitical law is to be sure in itself full of Divine goodness and wisdom, yet not adequate to our happiness; but only a shadow in comparison with the substance of the Messianic priesthood and kingdom.—God adheres faithfully to His covenant and promise; men are covenant-breakers. Woe unto them!—So tender is still God’s love toward His people, that He brings them into danger and need as a father his child, then takes them by the hand and brings them into security.—On contempt of the Divine words follows the Divine punishment.—Put to thyself the question: Perceivest thou that the law of God has been traced by the pen of the Holy Spirit upon thy mind and heart? Recognizest thou also the Lord thy Saviour in living faith and obedience?—Believers, as God’s covenant-people, are a blessed people.—The forgiveness of sins is the greatest treasure; without it the rich man has nothing, and with it the poorest man has all things.—Man, take God at these His words and sigh: Lord be gracious to my transgressions!—Thou seeker after vengeance, art thou not ashamed to say, “I will remember it of him!” when God says, “I will not remember it?”—Ceremonies which are not superstitious and sinful, can perhaps be endured for a season, although they have no special utility.

Rieger:—The function of a high-priest in heaven is for himself more dignified and noble, and better and more blessed for those in whom he is to execute the promises.—Those who were under the Old Testament said: We will! and did not know that they could not. Now that the grace of the New Testament has made it possible, many shield themselves under the pretext of a cannot, while yet there is a real will not.

Heubner:—God most honors and distinguishes Himself when He associates and deals with us not as a constraining Lord and Ruler, but as a Father with children. How are we put to shame by that announcement and awaiting of the New Covenant, which we linger so far behind!—The Old Covenant is past. Would to God that the old spirit of slavish service were gone with it, and the new spirit of willingness and love reigned in all!


Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 8:6.—The Attic form τετύχηκε instead of the Rec. τέτευχε is found in the Minusc, 47, 72, 73, 74. The form τέτυχεν however, is best supported on the authority of A. D*. K. L., 80, 116, 117. The Sin. has τέτυχε, but a second hand has put τέτευχε.

Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 8:10.—A. D. E. add μου which is also found in many Codd. of the LXX. But it is wanting in the cod. Alex. of the LXX. and the Sin.

Hebrews 8:11; Hebrews 8:11.—Instead of τὸν πλησίον, according to all authority, should be read τὸν πολίτην.

Hebrews 8:11; Hebrews 8:11.—Αὐτῶν after ἀπὸ μικροῦ is to be erased after Sin. A. B. D*. E*. K. 17, 31, 61, 73, 80.

Hebrews 8:12; Hebrews 8:12.—The retaining of the words καὶ τῶν άνομιῶν αὐτῶν is sustained by A. D. E. K. L. The Sin., however, has them only from the later hand. In B. 17, 23, Vulg. and other versions they are wanting.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Hebrews 8". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.