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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Hebrews 1

 

 

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Introduction

Verse 1-2

Hebrews 1:1-2. The author contrasts the gradual and multiform revelations given of old in the person of the prophets, with the revelation given at the end of the Jewish dispensation in the person of Him who is Son.

God who . . . spake; rather, God having spoken; the Greek expressing the preliminary nature of former communications.

Sundry times describes rather the many imperfect revelations—which were still parts of one whole—given through Enoch, Abraham, Moses, etc., each knowing in part only; as diverse manners points to the many ways in which the revelations were given—mysterious promise, pregnant type, dark prophecy, or it may be, though less probably, dream, vision, audible utterance; while under the Gospel the revelation is the life and dying and explicit teaching of Christ, with the added enlightenment—still in Christ—of the Holy Spirit. . . . God spake in the prophets, as he spake in one who was Son. So the preposition means, indicating not so much instrumentality ‘through them,’ as God in them, abiding and inspiring. . . . ‘One who was Son.’ Such is the force of the original where there is no article, in contrast to the prophets of the previous clause. The completeness, the unity, the supreme authority of the revelation that closes the preliminary and partial lessons of the old economy is the theme that fills the writer’s mind. . . . The Son of God—incarnate as we afterwards learn (Hebrews 2:14)—is in His life and death and teaching the full revelation of the Father, and of all that is essential to salvation.

At the end of these days. Such is the corrected text. The common text speaks of the Son as introducing the new economy; the corrected text speaks of Him as closing the old. Christ’s kingship really began at Pentecost; but the last days of the old economy continued overlapping the new till Jerusalem was overthrown, and the possibility of keeping the Levitical law had passed away (Hebrews 8:13). The Epistle thus prepares all readers for the overthrow which is seen to be at hand, and which was to prove a sore temptation even to Christian Jews.

Heir, possessor, like the ‘heritor’ of Scotland and the Mares of the old Roman law (Justinian, Inst, xi. 19). Already Christ was Lord, and whatever was God’s was His also (Acts 2:36; John 17:10).

By whom, through rather, i.e by whose agency or instrumentality.

The worlds. The Greek word in this passage describes all things as existing in time, and in successive economies, natural and moral. Elsewhere the world often represents the world in its material order and beauty (Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 9:26), or, as inhabited, the world of men (Hebrews 1:6; Hebrews 2:5.) In the second of these senses, the word is sometimes used to mark a spirit or temper as opposed to the Gospel (Hebrews 11:7; James 4:4; 1 John 5:4.)


Verses 1-18

DOCTRINAL HINTS.

In this Epistle, as in the Gospel of John, the doctrine is based on the Divine nature of Christ, and on His incarnation. As in the Gospel (John 1:1-18) it is said that the Word was God and became flesh, and this double truth pervades the book, so in the Hebrews the Deity and the humanity of the Son form the foundation of the entire treatise, and give strength and consistency to its teaching. The double truth is not worked as a pattern on the surface, it forms part of the texture.

In this last dispensation God is said to speak to us in His Son. The Son is the medium of the revelation. As revealer He has as His associates the apostles. But this office of Christ is quite subordinate. His true character is that He is Himself the revelation. To know God and His Son Jesus Christ is eternal life. God in Christ, Christ as God,—redeeming, renewing, sanctifying,—is the saving doctrine of the Gospel.

There is a double Trinity in Scripture—the Trinity of the Old Testament: the Trinity of the eternity that precedes the incarnation, wherein Christ shares the glory He had with the Father, wherein He made the worlds; the Trinity of the New Testament, wherein He, as incarnate Son of God, becomes Messianic King, and regains with accumulated honours His original glory—the second founded on the first, revealing it in clearer colours, with greater tenderness, and in closer relation to ourselves; again, perhaps, to become subordinate to the first, when God Himself in His essential nature shall be all in all (chaps. 1 and 2.).

PRACTICAL HINTS.

Hebrews 1:1. God is the chief teacher of the Church, and what He taught of old has still its authority and its lessons even under the Gospel (Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 1:8, etc.).

Hebrews 1:2. The author of the Old Testament is also the author of the New. It is God who gives Christ the supremacy. To put Moses or some ‘son of David’ above Christ is to disobey God. By whom: Christ, then, is a distinct person from the Father, and yet He is Creator of all things.

Hebrews 1:3. As the sun is manifested only by its effulgence, so the Father is revealed to us by Him who is Light of Light, God of God. He who upholds all things is our Redeemer and sacrifice. The atonement of sin is effected not by our doings or sufferings, but by Christ, and was completed by Him before He ascended. . . .

Hebrews 1:4. Names are qualities and character when God gives them. ... To give angels the worship that is due to Christ is to frustrate the Divine purpose, and to give to the servant what belongs only to the Son or the Father.

Hebrews 1:5. In the first age of the Church, Scripture determined what was truth, and that is its province still.

Hebrews 2:2-3. Not to believe the Gospel is a greater sin than to break the law. . . . When men are warned or exhorted, the first person is more impressive than the second, ‘How shall we escape?’

Hebrews 2:4. The rejection of the Gospel is rejection of the doctrine which Christ and His apostles preached. Post-apostolic doctrine has no Divine authority. . . . The doctrine is Divine which miracles confirm; the miracles are false when the doctrine they support is not Divine.

Hebrews 2:6-7. The Gospel, which is sometimes said to libel human nature,—so darkly does it paint our character,—gives man highest dignities, and raises him to the greatest blessedness.

Hebrews 2:9. Faith is insight, and sees much that to the unbelieving remains unseen.

Hebrews 2:11. The poorest, feeblest Christian who is sanctified and believes is recognised by Christ as a ‘brother.’

Hebrews 2:13. Christ Himself is a believer, one with us in the covenant of grace. He lived a life of faith even as we.

Hebrews 2:15. There is a natural fear of death in man not always felt, but easily wakened. Christ’s death delivers man from the danger of death, and from the fear of it. None but the true Christian is really free.

HOMILETIC HINTS.

Hebrews 1:1-2. Revelation progressive and complete. (Trench, Titcomb). The possibility and necessity, the certainty, the characters, the methods, the perfections of Divine revelation (B. W. Williams). Divine revelation variously communicated (Dr. Ryland). The personal ministry of Christ a revelation of God (Chandler). The Gospel preached under the Old Testament (Mather).

Hebrews 1:1-4. How the New Testament fulfils the Old (Maurice).

Hebrews 1:1-12. The Son, the Creator and Ruler of the worlds (Bishop Hobart).

Hebrews 1:3. Providence (Dr. Collinges). Christ’s sufferings the purging of sin (Is. Ambrose). The Feast of the Ascension.

Hebrews 1:5-6. Messiah the Son of God. Messiah worshipped by angels (John Newton). The adoration of Christ vindicated from the charge of idolatry (Pye Smith). The similarity and contrasts of the first and second advents (Auriol).

Hebrews 1:8. Christ’s sceptre on earth a sceptre of uprightness and a source of gladness (J. H. Stewart).

Hebrews 1:13-14. The nature and ministry of holy angels (H. Wilkinson, W. H. Mill). Michaelmas (Bishop Bull, Tillotson, Conybeare, Wesley, R. Hall).

Hebrews 2:1. The great danger of carelessness in religion (Stillingfleet, Chalmers, Guthrie).

Hebrews 2:3. The great salvation (Keach, Conant, J. Superville, S. Walker, E. Cooper, Melville, etc.).

Hebrews 2:4. Miraculous evidence as proof of the truth of the Gospel (Collyer, Maltby, Conybeare, etc.).

Hebrews 2:5-9. The ‘world to come’ subject to Christ (M’Neile). The just prerogative of human nature (Dr. Snape).

Hebrews 2:8. Missions (R. Wilberforce). Succour in Christ for the tempted (H. Alford).

Hebrews 2:9-10. The reasons and end of the sufferings of Christ. Sufferings necessary to perfection (Jones of Nayland). Good Friday (S. Walker, Jay). Christ (rather God) preparing His people for glory (Blunt). Christ made perfect through suffering (Sheppard and Vaughan).

Hebrews 2:11. The mystery of godliness (Newman). The condescension of Christ (Balmer).

Hebrews 2:14. The incarnation and its design (Dr. Peddie, Simeon).

Hebrews 2:14-15. The fear of death (Saurin, Three Sermons), and deliverance from it (Usher, Bishop Hall, Dr. Bates, P. Norris, Dr. M’Crie).

Hebrews 2:16. Fallen man redeemed (South, Berriman). Discriminating mercy (Hyatt).

Hebrews 2:16-18. The merciful High Priest (M’Cheyne).

Hebrews 2:17. The incarnation of Christ and its purpose. The reconciliation of sinners by the death of Christ (Winchester).

Hebrews 2:18. Christ’s temptations (Girdlestone). Christ’s power to succour the tempted (Simeon).


Verse 3

Hebrews 1:3. The brightness—the effulgenceof the divine glory, with allusion probably to the visible glory of the Shekinah over the mercy-seat, though the meaning is deeper. ‘Light of (i.e emanating from Him who is the) light.’

The express image, the impress or stamp wherein and whereby the divine essence is made manifest: and all this He is in His own nature, so the Greek implies (‘being,’ comp. John 1:1), not that He became so by incarnation. ‘Image of his person’ is not felicitous. The earlier rendering, substance (Tyndale, essence or nature), is more accurate.

And bearing, upholding and directing all things by the word, the fiat of His power, when (rather after) he had made purification of sins, i.e had atoned for them, sat down, etc.

What higher honour can be given to our Lord? He is the glory—the love and holiness of God made visible; the very essence, the nature of the Father in loving embodiment. He therefore that has the Son has the Father also.

Note that God not only acted in creating all things; He acts still in upholding them. A creation regulated by dead law alone is not Scripture teaching (see Acts 17:24-25, He is giving to all life and all things, Acts 17:27-28). And it is in and through Christ this is done.


Verse 4

Hebrews 1:4. Having become, after He had made at nement for sin, as much superior to the angels, as he has obtained a name far more excellent than they. His greatness is partly essential and partly acquired (see Philippians 2:6-11). The first He had as Son before the world was; the second He obtained through His incarnation, and after He had suffered.


Verse 5

Hebrews 1:5. My Son. Again by position the emphasis is on this name, and on the relation it describes: My Son art thou, today have I begotten thee. These words have been referred to the incarnation, when the ‘holy thing’ born of the Virgin was called Son of God (Luke 1:35); or to His resurrection and exaltation, when He is marked out as Son of God in regal dignity, ‘in power’ as Messianic King (Romans 1:4). This last view is favoured by Acts 13:32-33, where this identical promise is said to be fulfilled unto us when God raised up Jesus. Others refer the words to the essential nature of our Lord, as Son of the Father by ‘eternal generation,’ as it is called. God sent the Son, it is said, and so He had dignity before His incarnation and before His resurrection. The fact is, the word Son describes His relation to the Father, both personal and official; and ‘I have begotten thee’ applies to every state to which the word ‘Son’ applies—His original nature, His incarnation, and His kingship. In the following verse He is called ‘the first-begotten’—a title not given to Him in connection with His incarnation, but describing His dignity and rights. He is called first-begotten, never first-created, for all things belong to Him, as all things were made by Him. This expression, the first-begotten, is peculiar in this figurative sense to Paul’s writings (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15; Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5; comp. Hebrews 12:23).


Verses 5-14

Hebrews 1:5-14. Now follows the proof of this superiority—in name and, as name generally implies in Scripture, in nature.


Verse 6

Hebrews 1:6. And in accordance with this relation, whenever (to quote another passage, ‘again’) He bringeth or leadeth (literally ‘shall have led’) in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, ‘Let all the angels of God worship him.’ Here are several difficulties. The quotation from Psalms 97:7 is not exact, as most of the quotations in this Epistle are. In Deuteronomy 32:43 the very words are found in the Septuagint; but there are no words corresponding to them in the Hebrew text. The Psalm belongs to the Messianic Psalms, and the exact words of Deuteronomy describe the welcome given to the Messianic King. Two passages are here blended in one. Some translate ‘bringeth or leadeth again,’ and refer the words to our Lord’s second coming alone. But ‘bringeth in’ is hardly appropriate to the second coming; and the use of an expression that describes an indefinite future is justified by the fact that it is a quotation of what was spoken long ago, from which time the futurity begins. It is therefore better to regard the language as fulfilled whenever Christ is introduced into the world of men. Then—at His birth, His resurrection, His kingdom—is He the object of angelic worship.

The angels. The Hebrew of Psalms 97:7 is, ‘all ye mighty or divine ones,’ a word applied to God, and applicable to magistrates, and to all who had a divine message and spoke in God’s name (John 10:34). Comp. ‘The divine in man,’ ‘The divine disciples sat.’ Divine though they be, the Son is exalted above them all—in His nature, and in the reverence paid Him. (See on Hebrews 2:6.)


Verse 7

Hebrews 1:7. As to angels, moreover, they were made by Him (not begotten). They are spirits, not sons; and His servants or ministers, a ‘flame of fire.’ Some render ‘spirits’ by ‘winds,’ and read, ‘He maketh His angels as winds, passive, swift, and untiring.’ They do His will, as do the tempest and the lightning. In the Hebrew of the Psalm (Psalms 104:4) either meaning is possible, ‘He maketh the winds or spirits His messengers,’ or ‘His messengers spirits’ or winds. In the Septuagint, and so here, on the other hand, the only allowable meaning is, ‘His angels or messengers winds’ or ‘spirits.’ The rendering of the Greek by winds is very rare in the New Testament, and is indeed found only here, and possibly in John 3:8. In Hebrews 1:14, the angels are expressly called ‘ministering spirits’—a name that recalls both the names given in Hebrews 1:7, spirits and ministers. They are His workmanship, not His sons; and they are all either ‘spirits’ or material elements, or as material elements; ‘a flame of fire,’ an allusion perhaps to a Jewish interpretation of seraphim—‘the burning ones.’ On the whole, therefore, the A.V. seems preferable to the marginal rendering.


Verse 8

Hebrews 1:8. But whatever the difficulties in the minute interpretation of those verses, the general sense is clear. Angels are all subordinate; while to Christ are given names of a very different import—God and Lord, and highest dignities—a sceptre and a throne, a kingdom.

A sceptre of righteousness, or rather of uprightness, as the word is translated in the Old Testament. If this change be made, it may then be said that righteous, righteousness, just, justify, justification, are throughout the New Testament forms of the same Greek word. His character befits His kingdom. His is a sceptre of uprightness. He loves righteousness and hates iniquity, showing herein the very nature of the Father.


Verse 9

Hebrews 1:9. The dignity of the God-man He owes to His Father. God anointed Him as King and Priest, and gave Him honours such as kings, prophets, priests—His ‘fellows,’ associates that is, not necessarily equals—never knew. He therefore is now the One Priest, the King of kings and Lord of lords (see Ephesians 1:21). This supremacy is a joy to all who trust and obey Him. Nay, the earth itself is called to rejoice because He reigneth. The anointing oil that consecrates Messiah Priest and King is oil of gladness indeed!

Of these quotations, Hebrews 1:8 is taken from Psalms 45, which Jewish commentators maintain to be written of the Messiah; Hebrews 1:9 is taken from a passage that speaks of Solomon, and of Christ as an antitype; and Hebrews 1:10 is taken from a Psalm (Psalms 102:25-27) that seems to speak of Jehovah only; and yet Hebrews 1:13-14 of that Psalm are connected with the Messianic kingdom. Creating power and immortality are here ascribed to the Son, as in Psalms 102:13 universal empire is given to Him. The quotation in Hebrews 1:13 is from Psalms 110, a strictly Messianic Psalm (see Matthew 22:43-44).


Verse 11

Hebrews 1:11. They all, i.e the heavens and the earth. The language and the imagery are taken largely from Isaiah 34:4; Isaiah 51:6.


Verse 12

Hebrews 1:12. As a mantle shalt thou roll them up, as a garment also shall they be changed—a quotation from Psalms 102, with the words ‘as a garment’ added, on the authority of the best MSS. The heavens and the earth are to be lolled up as done with, and they are to be changed for a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.


Verse 13

Hebrews 1:13. Sit thou, etc., from Psalms 110:1. The right hand is the place of authority and honour. Thy footstool, lit. a footstool of thy feet—not a resting-place for the feet, but what is to be trodden under by them. The application of this Psalm to the Messiah is accepted by the Jews, as appears from the Targums and other Jewish writings, is affirmed by Christ (Matthew 22:43-46) and by His apostles (Acts 2:34-35; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Ephesians 1:20-23), and by different passages in this Epistle. Whom else could David acknowledge as his Lord? and to whom else did God swear that he should be a priest for ever?


Verse 14

Hebrews 1:14. Are they not all ministering spirits?—a blending in reverse order of the expressions found in Hebrews 1:7. The play upon the words ‘ministering spirits sent forth to minister’ is not in the Greek. The original is simply ‘ministering spirits continually sent forth on (or for) service.’ The word here rendered ‘ministering’ is used in N. T. to express the temple service; and the word rendered ‘ministry’ or service is a form of the word that expresses deaconship or subordinate service generally. The worship and the work of angels is carried on in the great temple of nature and grace, and their service originates in the needs and claims of those who are soon to possess complete salvation. Of their ministry, for the benefit of all who believe, we have many examples under both Testaments. It is none the less real now that it is unseen.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/hebrews-1.html. 1879-90.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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