The epistle to the hebrews


§ 53 (1:36 M.) th'" eJkatevra" fuvsew" ajpemavtteto th'/ yuch'/ tou;" carakth'ra"



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id. § 53 (1:36 M.) th'" eJkatevra" fuvsew" ajpemavtteto th'/ yuch'/ tou;" carakth'ra"; de mundo § 4 (2.606 M.).

De plant. Noae § 5 (1.332 M.) oJ Mwu>sh'" [th;n logikh;n yuch;n] wjnovmasen...tou' qeivou kai; ajoravtou eijkovna, dovkimon ei\nai nomivsa" oujsiwqei'san kai; tupwqei'san sfragi'di qeou', h|" oJ carakthvr ejstin oJ aji?dio" lovgo".

By a natural transition from this use, carakthvr is applied to that in which the distinguishing traits of the object to which it is referred are found. So Philo describes ‘the spirit,’ the essence of the rational part of man, as ‘a figure and impress of divine power’: hJ me;n ou\n koinh; pro;" ta; a[loga duvnami" oujsivan e[lacen ai|ma, hJ de; ejk th'" logikh'" ajporruei'sa phgh'", to; pneu'ma, oujk ajevra kinouvmenon ajlla; tuvpon tina; kai; carakth'ra qeiva" dunavmew", h}n ojnovmati kurivw/ Mwu>sh'" eijkovna kalei', dhlw'n o{ti ajrcevtupon me;n fuvsew" logikh'" oJ qeov" ejsti, mivmhma de; kai; ajpeikovnisma a[nqrwpo" (quod det. pot. insid. § 23; 1.207 M.). And Clement of Rome speaks of man as ‘an impress of the image of God’: ejpi; pa'sin to; ejxocwvtaton...a[nqrwpon...e[plasen [oJ dhmiourgo;" kai; despovth" tw'n aJpavntwn] th'" eJautou' eijkovno" carakth'ra (Gen. 1:26 f.) (ad Cor. 1.33).

Generally carakthvr may be said to be that by which anything is directly recognised through corresponding signs under a particular aspect, though it may include only a few features of the object. It is so far a primary and not a secondary source of knowledge. Carakthvr conveys representative traits only, and therefore it is distinguished from eijkwvn (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; 1 Cor. 11:7; Col. 3:10) which gives a complete representation under the condition of earth of that which it figures; and from morfhv (Phil. 2:6 f.) which marks the essential form.

There is no word in English which exactly renders it. If there were a sense of ‘express’ (i.e. expressed image) answering to ‘impress,’ this would be the best equivalent.

uJpovstasi"] The word properly means ‘that which stands beneath’ as a sediment (Arist. de hist. an. v. 19 and often), or foundation (Ezek. 43:11, LXX.), or ground of support (Ps. 68:2 (69:2); Jer. 23:22, LXX.).

From this general sense come the special senses of firmness, confidence (compare Heb. 3:14 note; 2 Cor. 9:4; 11:17); reality ([Arist.] de mundo 4 ta; me;n katj e[mfasin, ta; de; kaqj uJpovstasin, katj e[mfasin me;n i[ride"...kaqj uJpovstasin dev...komh'tai...), that in virtue of which a thing is what it is, the essence of any being (Ps. 38:6 (39:6); Ps. 88:48 (89:48); Wisd. 16:21: compare Jer. 10:17; Ezek. 26:11).

When this meaning of ‘essence’ was applied to the Divine Being two distinct usages arose in the course of debate. If men looked at the Holy Trinity under the aspect of the one Godhead there was only one uJpovstasi", one divine essence. If, on the other hand, they looked at each Person in the Holy Trinity, then that by which each Person is what He is, His uJpovstasi", was necessarily regarded as distinct, and there were three uJpostavsei". In the first case uJpovstasi" as applied to the One Godhead was treated as equivalent to oujsiva: in the other case it was treated as equivalent to provswpon.

As a general rule the Eastern (Alexandrine) Fathers adopted the second mode of speech affirming the existence of three uJpostavsei" (real Persons) in the Godhead; while the Western Fathers affirmed the unity of one uJpovstasi" (essence) in the Holy Trinity (compare the letter of Dionysius of Alexandria to Dionysius of Rome, Routh, Rell. sacrae, 3.390ff. and notes). Hence many mediaeval and modern writers have taken uJpovstasi" in the sense of ‘person’ here. But this use of the word is much later than the apostolic age; and it is distinctly inappropriate in this connexion. The Son is not the image, the expression of the ‘Person’ of God. On the other hand, He is the expression of the ‘essence’ of God. He brings the Divine before us at once perfectly and definitely according to the measure of our powers.

The exact form of the expression, ajpauvg. th'" d. kai; car. th'" uJpost. and not to; ajpauvg. t. d. kai; oJ car. th'" uJpost. or ajpauvg. d. kai; car. uJpost., will be noticed (comp. Heb. 1:2 ejn uiJw'/).

fevrwn te] and so bearing...We now pass from the thought of the absolute Being of the Son to His action in the finite creation under the conditions of time and space. The particle te indicates the new relation of the statement which it introduces. It is obvious that the familiar distinction holds true here: ‘kaiv conjungit, te adjungit.’ The providential action of the Son is a special manifestation of His Nature and is not described in a coordinate statement: what He does flows from what He is.

The particle te is rarely used as an independent conjunction in the N.T. It is so used again Heb. 6:5; 9:1; 12:2; and in St Paul only Rom. 2:19; 16:26; 1 Cor. 4:21; Eph. 3:19.

fevrwn...] bearing or guiding, Vulg. portans, O. L. ferens v. gerens. This present and continuous support and carrying forward to their end of all created things was attributed by Jewish writers to God no less than their creation. ‘God, blessed be He, bears (lbws) the world’ (Shem. R. § 36 referring to Is. 46:4; compare Num. 11:14; Deut. 1:9). The action of God is here referred to the Son (comp. Col. 1:17).

The word fevrein is not to be understood simply of the passive support of a burden (yet notice Heb. 13:13; 12:20); “for the Son is not an Atlas sustaining the dead weight of the world.” It rather expresses that ‘bearing’ which includes movement, progress, towards an end. The Son in the words of OEcumenius periavgei kai; sunevcei kai; phdalioucei'...ta; ajovrata kai; ta; oJrata; perifevrwn kai; kubernw'n. The same general sense is given by Chrysostom: fevrwn...toutevsti, kubernw'n, ta; diapivptonta sugkratw'n. tou' ga;r poih'sai to;n kovsmon oujc h|ttovn ejsti to; sugkrotei'n ajllj, eij dei' ti kai; qaumasto;n eijpei'n, kai; mei'zon (Hom. 2.3). And so Primasius: verbo jussionis suae omnia gubernat et regit, non enim minus est gubernare mundum quam creasse...in gubernando vero ea quae facta sunt ne ad nihilum redeant continentur.

Gregory of Nyssa goes yet further, and understands fevrwn of the action by which the Son brings things into existence: ta; suvmpanta tw'/ rJhvmati th'" dunavmew" aujtou' fevrei oJ Lovgo" ejk tou' mh; o[nto" eij" gevnesin: pavnta ga;r o{sa th;n a[u>lon ei[lhce fuvsin mivan aijtivan e[cei th'" uJpostavsew" to; rJh'ma th'" ajfravstou dunavmew" (de perf. Christ. forma, Migne Patr. Gr. xlvi. p. 265). For this sense of fevrein compare Philo quis rer. div. haer. § 7 (1.477 M.); de mut. nom. § 44 (1:6, 7 M.).

Philo expresses a similar idea to that of the text when he speaks of oJ phdaliou'co" kai; kubernhvth" tou' panto;" lovgo" qei'o" (De Cherub. § 11; 1.145 M.). And Hermas gives the passive side of it Sim. 9.14, 5 to; o[noma tou' uiJou' tou' qeou' mevga ejsti; kai; ajcwvrhton kai; to;n kovsmon o{lon bastavzei: eij ou\n pa'sa hJ ktivsi" dia; tou' uiJou' tou' qeou' bastavzetai...

ta; pavnta] as contrasted with pavnta (John 1:2). All things in their unity: Heb. 2:8, 10 (not 3:4); Rom. 8:32; 11:36; 1 Cor. 8:6; 15:27 f.; 2 Cor. 4:15; 5:18; Eph. 1:10 f.; 3:9; 4:10, 15; Phil. 3:21; Col. 1:16 f.; 20; 1 Tim. 6:13.

See also 1 Cor. 11:12; 12:6; Gal. 3:22; Phil. 3:8; Eph. 1:23; 5:13. The reading in 1 Cor. 9:22, and perhaps in 12:19, is wrong.

tw'/ rJ. th'" dun.] by the word—the expression—of His (Christ's) power, the word in which His power finds its manifestation (compare Rev. 3:10 to;n lovgon th'" uJpomonh'" mou). As the world was called into being by an utterance (rJh'ma) of God (Heb. 11:3), so it is sustained by a like expression of the divine will. The choice of the term as distinguished from lovgo" marks, so to speak, the particular action of Providence. Gen. 1:3 ei\pen oJ qeov".

dun. aujtou'] The pronoun naturally refers to the Son, not to the Father, in spite of the preceding clauses, from the character of the thought.

kaq. poihsavmeno"] having made—when He had made—purification of sins. This clause introduces a new aspect of the Son. He has been regarded in His absolute Nature (w[n), and in His general relation to finite being (fevrwn): now He is seen as He entered into the conditions of life in a world disordered by sin.

The completed atonement wrought by Christ (having made) is distinguished from His eternal being and His work through all time in the support of created things (being, bearing); and it is connected with His assumption of sovereign power in His double Nature at the right hand of God (having made...He sat...). Thus the phrase prepares for the main thought of the Epistle, the High-priestly work of Christ, which is first distinctly introduced in Heb. 2:17.

poihsavmeno"] The Vulgate, from the defectiveness of Latin participles, fails to give the sense: purgationem peccatorum faciens (compare Heb. 1:1 loquens). In 5:14 (missi) there is the converse error. The Old Latin had avoided this error but left the thought indefinite, purificatione (purgatione) peccatorum facta.

The use of the middle (poihsavmeno") suggests the thought which the late gloss dij eJautou' made more distinct. Christ Himself, in His own Person, made the purification: He did not make it as something distinct from Himself, simply provided by His power. Compare mneivan poiei'sqai Rom. 1:9; Eph. 1:16, c poiei'sqai dehvsei" 1 Tim. 2:1; Luke 5:33; John 14:23, & c.

kaq. tw'n aJmartiw'n] 2 Pet. 1:9 (personally applied). Compare Exod. 30:10 (LXX.); Job 7:21 (LXX.). Elsewhere the word kaqarismov" is used only of legal purification (Luke 2:22; Mark 1:44 || Luke 5:14; John 2:6; 3:25). The verb kaqarivzein is also used but rarely of sin: Heb. 10:2 (9:14); 1 John 1:7, 9. Comp. Acts 15:9; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 2:14 (2 Cor. 7:1; James 4:8).

There is perhaps a reference to the imperfection of the Aaronic purifications (compare Lev. 16:30) which is dwelt upon afterwards, Heb. 10:1 ff.

The genitive (kaq. aJmartiw'n) may express either

(1) the cleansing of sins, i.e. the removal of the sins. Compare Matt. 8:3; Job 7:21 (Ex. 30:10),

or (2) the cleansing (of the person) from sins. Comp. Heb. 9:15.

The former appears to be the right meaning. See Additional Note.

tw'n aJmartiw'n] of sins generally. Comp. Col. 1:14; Eph. 1:7. Elsewhere hJmw'n (or aujtw'n) is added: Matt. 1:21; Gal. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 John 4:10; Apoc. 1:5. Contrast John 1:29 (th;n aJmartivan). For the contrast of the sing. and pl. see Heb. 9:26, 28; 10:18, 26.

The result of this ‘purification’ is the foundation of a ‘Holy’ Church (comp. John 13:10 n.). The hindrance to the approach to God is removed.

ejkavqisen] Heb. 8:1; 10:12; 12:2. Comp. Eph. 1:20 (kaqivsa"); Apoc. 3:21. Kaqivsai (intrans.) expresses the solemn taking of the seat of authority, and not merely the act of sitting. Comp. Matt. 5:1; 19:28; 25:31.

The phrase marks the fulfilment of Ps. 110:1; Matt. 22:44 and parallels; Acts 2:34; and so it applies only to the risen Christ. Angels are always represented as ‘standing’ (Is. 6:2; 1 Kings 22:19) or falling on their faces: and so the priests ministered, comp. Heb. 10:11. Only princes of the house of David could sit in the court (hr:z:[}, H6478) of the Temple (Biesenthal). Hence ‘the man of sin’ so asserts himself: 2 Thess. 2:4. Bernard says in commenting on the title ‘thrones’ (Col. 1:16): nec vacat Sessio: tranquillitatis insigne est (de consid. v. 4, 10).

ejn dexia'/] 5:13. The idea is of course of dignity and not of place (‘dextra Dei ubique est’). All local association must be excluded: oujc o{ti tovpw/ perikleivetai oJ qeo;" ajllj i{na to; oJmovtimon aujtou' deicqh'/ to; pro;" to;n patevra (Theophlct.). Non est putandum quod omnipotens Pater qui spiritus est incircumscriptus omnia replens dexteram aut sinistram habeat...Quid est ergo ‘sedit ad dexteram majestatis’ nisi ut dicatur, habitat in plenitudine paternae majestatis? (Primas.) Comp. Eph. 4:10. We, as we at present are, are forced to think in terms of space, but it does not follow that this limitation belongs to the perfection of humanity.

Herveius (on 5:13) notices the double contrast between the Son and the Angels: Seraphin stant ut ministri, Filius sedet ut Dominus: Seraphin in circuitu, Filius ad dexteram.

th'" megal.] Heb. 8:1; Jude 25. The word is not unfrequent in the LXX.: e.g., 1 Chron. 29:11; Wisd. 18:24.

‘The Majesty’ expresses the idea of God in His greatness. Comp. Buxtorf Lex. s. v. hr:WbG“, H1476. 1 Clem. xvi. to; skh'ptron th'" megal., c. xxxvi. ajpauvgasma th'" megal.

ejn uJyhloi'"] Ps. 93:4 (92:4) (LXX.).

Here only in N.T. Comp. ejn uJyivstoi" Luke 2:14; Matt. 21:9 and parallels; and ejn toi'" ejpouranivoi" Eph. 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12.

The term marks the sphere of the higher life. Local imagery is necessarily used for that which is in itself unlimited by place (compare Heb. 4:14; 7:26). Tiv ejstin jEn uJyhloi'"; Chrysostom asks, eij" tovpon perikleivei to;n qeovn; a[page (Hom. 2.3). In excelsis dicens non eum loco concludit, sed ostendit omnibus altiorem et evidentiorem, hoc est quia usque ad ipsum pervenit solium paternae claritatis (Atto Verc.).

The clause belongs to ejkavqisen and not to th'" megalwsuvnh". The latter connexion would be grammatically irregular though not unparalleled, and th'" megalwsuvnh" is complete in itself.

This Session of Christ at the right hand of God,—the figure is only used of the Incarnate Son—is connected with His manifold activity as King (Acts 2:33 ff.; Eph. 1:21 ff.; Col. 3:1; Heb. 10:12) and Priest (1 Pet. 3:22; Heb. 8:1; Heb. 12:2) and Intercessor (Rom. 8:34). Comp. Acts 7:55 f. (eJstw'ta ejk d.).

iii. Transition to the detailed development of the argument (4).

The fourth verse forms a transition to the special development of the argument of the Epistle. The general contrast between ‘the Son’ as the mediator of the new revelation and ‘the prophets’ as mediators of the old, is offered in the extreme case. According to Jewish belief the Law was ministered by angels (Heb. 2:2; Gal. 3:19; comp. Acts 7:53), but even the dignity of these, the highest representatives of the Dispensation, was as far below that of Christ as the title of minister is below that of the incommunicable title of divine Majesty. This thought is developed Heb. 1:5-2:18.

The abrupt introduction of the reference to the angels becomes intelligible both from the function which was popularly assigned to angels in regard to the Law, and from the description of the exaltation of the Incarnate Son. Moses alone was admitted in some sense to direct intercourse with God (Num. 12:8; Deut. 34:10): otherwise ‘the Angel of the Lord’ was the highest messenger of revelation under the Old Covenant. And again the thought of the Session of the Son on the Father's throne calls up at once the image of the attendant Seraphim (Is. 6:1 ff.; John 12:41; 4:2 ff.).

The superiority of Messiah to the angels is recognised in Rabbinic writings.






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