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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Hebrews 8

 

 

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Introduction

Verse 1

Hebrews 8:1. Now—a transitional particle—in regard to (or in) the things here spoken of (literally being spoken of), the chief point is this: ‘The sum is this’ is a possible meaning of the word; but it does not agree with the force of the preposition, with the incomplete tense of the verb, or with what follows where it is implied that the previous enumeration is unfinished: We have such a high priest who (having finished His work) took his seat on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. The main point is that Christ, being exalted to the throne of God, and seated there, has an equally exalted sphere for His priestly office, with greater power than the priests of the Law.


Verse 2

Hebrews 8:2. A minister (the regular word for public work, and specially for priestly functions, Jeremiah 33:21) of the sanctuary (the inner part—‘the holy of holies,’ as it is called in Hebrews 9:3; though elsewhere, as here, the holy place or the sanctuary simply, Hebrews 9:25; Hebrews 13:11) and of the true tabernacle (the outer part of the same erection, called in Hebrews 9:2 the first tabernacle) which the Lord pitched, not man. Christ’s place and work are described in terms taken from the divisions of the earthly copy of the spiritual or heavenly reality. The copy Moses pitched (Exodus 33:7); the reality is the work of God Himself. The holy place is the immediate presence of God, distinguished from the tabernacle, where God is pleased to meet with men. Jesus Christ mediates for us in both—in the holy of holies of the Divine nature, while He welcomes and overshadows with His glorified humanity the whole company of the worshippers. Both are in the heavens, and in this double sphere Christ is acting as Priest and High Priest. And yet the spheres are really one. The veil having been removed by His incarnation and death, we all have free access to God. The Father Himself loveth us and gives us the right of entrance (Romans 5:2), because we have believed in the Son. ... ‘A minister of holy things’ (not of the holy places or place) is Luther’s rendering; but it is not sanctioned by the usage of this Epistle, where the expression is applied only to the holy place, Hebrews 9:25, Hebrews 10:19, Hebrews 13:11. The same form (the neuter pl.), ‘the holies,’ is clearly used of ‘the holy of holies’ in Hebrews 9:8; Hebrews 9:12. In Hebrews 9:3 the holy of holies (probably a superlative, the most holy place) is also used for the inner sanctuary.


Verses 3-6

Hebrews 8:3-6. For—a new proof is now given that Christ is in the heavenly sanctuary. There is no priest without sacrificial functions (Hebrews 8:3); and if Christ were here on earth He would not be a priest at all (Hebrews 8:4), there being already those who offer the gifts and do temple service for what is a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. Christ’s office, therefore, must be discharged elsewhere, as it really is. And the dignity of His office is measured by the superiority of the covenant to which He belongs. The following verbal explanations are important.

Hebrews 8:3. ‘Ordained’ is simply appointed. ‘This man’ is rather this high priest. Hebrews 8:4. ‘For’ is by reading ‘now,’ and marks the continuance of the statement, not a reason. Hebrews 8:5. ‘Who’ means ‘those namely who,’ and calls attention to the description. Hebrews 8:5. ‘Serve’ describes always in N. T. the service of God. It occurs in Luke eight times, in St. Paul’s acknowledged Epistles four times, and this Epistle six times. ‘What is a copy;’ the word means either a model, the archetype which is to be followed (Hebrews 4:11), or it is (as here and in Hebrews 9:23) an after-copy made from an original: And ‘shadow’ of the heavenly things: the shadow cast by a solid body or a mere outline that gives an idea of the form only without revealing the true substance. This language is clearly depreciatory, not because the writer questions the Divine origin of the things he speaks of, but because the true priest having come, the glory of the legal priesthood and of the tabernacle sinks to its proper level as the mere shadow or outline of the great reality.

That this is its true character is now proved from Exodus, Even as Moses is admonished of God (not was, the present tense shows that the admonition still stands in Scripture and may be used to explain the nature of the tabernacle), when about to make (literally, to finish, i.e to take in hand and complete) the tabernacle, for (not part of the quotation, but a proof of the assertion just made), see, saith he . . . the pattern showed to thee in the mount. These words may mean either the reality, the veritable heavenly things which are the original of the earthly resemblances, or a plan of the tabernacle itself which had the spiritual meaning here given to them. As Moses, however, could hardly have seen Christ’s priest-hood and offering as actual facts, it must have been the symbolical, the parabolical (Hebrews 9:9) representation of them in the form of the earthly tabernacle. Anyhow, the priesthood and offering of Christ belong to the heavenly state.

Hebrews 8:6. But now—as the case is; not the temporal now, but the logical now so common in this Epistle, Hebrews 9:26, Hebrews 11:16, Hebrews 11:8, Hebrews 12:26, and in Paul’s writings—hath he obtained a more excellent ministry (see Hebrews 8:2); by how much he is the mediator of a better covenant also. Jesus is surety (Hebrews 7:22) and mediator, both; and herein He has qualities which Aaron never had. He is Moses and Aaron (Mediator and Priest), and the ratifying, the sealing blood of the victim all in one.

Which (i.e better in this that it) was a law-based constitution, like the first, but resting upon better promises, as the following quotations prove. ‘A law-based and a law-enacted constitution’ (as the Greek implies) is the very character Paul gives to the Gospel. It is ‘the law of faith,’ ‘the law of spiritual life in Jesus Christ,’ ‘the law of righteousness,’ Romans 3:27; Romans 8:2; Romans 9:31.


Verse 7

Hebrews 8:7. For ... the better promises implied in what follows are themselves a proof of the inferiority of the old covenant—no place would have been sought, i.e in the development of the Divine purpose, in the plan of redemption.


Verse 8

Hebrews 8:8. Yet it is sought—For (and this is the proof) finding fault with them. This phrase completes the description of the previous verse. There, the covenant is said to be not blameless; and here, it is the people who are blamed. The covenant, as a revelation of God’s holiness, was faultless; but as the people fell away under it, it failed as a covenant of works to establish abiding fellowship between them and God, and so proved weak and profitless (Hebrews 7:22, see on Hebrews 7:19).

He saith: Behold, the days come—Jeremiah’s common introduction to his prophecies (Jeremiah 9:25, Jer. 16:24, etc.). The prediction that follows is taken from the last great series of his prophecies (chaps, 30-31), which are distinctly Messianic It points to the new covenant which God will one day make with His people, based upon the absolute remission of sins and on a no less absolute change of heart.

When I will make; rather, will complete. The word here used is not the same as in Hebrews 8:9, which is rightly ‘made,’ nor yet as in Hebrews 8:10, where the word means establish a ‘covenant.’ It may be added, however, that the three different Greek verbs used here are taken from the LXX., and that all represent one and the same Hebrew verb. Nor is the ‘with’ of Hebrews 8:9-10 the same expression in the Greek. In both verses the ‘house of Israel’ and ‘their fathers’ are rather recipients than co-ordinate agents. The covenant is ‘for’ them rather than with them, though in a sense it was both and is so described.


Verse 9

Hebrews 8:9. The old covenant differs from the new in this—that it was broken on the one side, and ended in indifference and displeasure on the other. Perfect as the Law was, the Jews never kept it. Idolatry prevailed in nearly all the earlier ages of the theocracy, as later hypocrisy and formalism prevailed; and so God withdrew the providential favour He had promised to show them, though only that in the end he might introduce an economy of richer grace; whether with a correspondent change upon the part of the ancient people of God remains, the Epistle tells us, yet to be seen.


Verse 10

Hebrews 8:10. The new differs also from the old in this, that—(a) God will write His law upon their hearts; (b) they shall be permanently His people, and He will be their God (Hebrews 8:11); (c) the true knowledge of God, moreover, will become the common heritage of all the members of the polity He is about to establish (Hebrews 8:12); and fourthly, (d) a more excellent promise, itself the beginning and the very reason (for) of the rest; God will forgive (will be propitious to them, and to) their unrighteousness and their sins and their lawlessness will he remember no more. Sins of every kind He will forgive—at once and for ever. How completely this teaching agrees with Paul’s need not be shown. In Christ all is forgiven when once men believe, and yet the doctrine is not the minister of sin, for the faith that justifies is ever the beginning of renewal, the germ of a holy life.


Verse 12

Hebrews 8:12. In saying a new covenant, he hath made the first old. Long ago, in Jeremiah’s day, God showed by His promise of a new covenant that the former one had done its work; was antiquated and virtually obsolete. And (we know, for it is a general truth) that which is becoming antiquated, which is already obsolescent, and is daily growing feebler with age, is nigh to vanishing away. It is nearing the point where its power and its right to exist will both cease!

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Hebrews 8:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/hebrews-8.html. 1879-90.

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Friday, May 29th, 2020
the Seventh Week after Easter
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