The epistle to the hebrews



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What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?

Or the son of man, that Thou visitest him?

7 Thou madest him a little lower than angels;

With glory and honour Thou crownedst him;

And didst set him over the works of Thy hands:

8 Thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet.

2:5. ouj gavr...] For not unto angels did He subject...The manifestations of the Divine Presence which have been shewn to attend the proclamation of the Gospel (2:4) are intelligible both from the Nature of the Son and from the scope of His work. For the greatness of the Son as the Revealer of the New Dispensation and of its preachers, His envoys, is revealed by the fact that (a) the future dispensation, which is, as has been already implied, the fulfilment of the Creator's will, was committed to man; and that (b) man's sovereignty has been gained for him, even after his failure, through the Incarnation of Jesus ‘the Son of Man.’

gavr] For...The particle refers directly to the signs of divine power among believers which were a prelude to the complete sovereignty. The subject (God) is not expressed but naturally supplied from the former sentence.

oujk...ajggevloi"...] not to angels, to beings of this class, but (as is shewn in the next verses) to man...(comp. Heb. 1:4 tw'n ajggevlwn note). It is not said that ‘the present world’ was subject to angels; but at the same time the writer of the Epistle may well have recalled the belief which found expression in the LXX. Version of Deut. 32:8 that God assigned the nations to the care of angels while Israel was His own portion.

Compare Ecclus. 17:17 (14); Daniel 12:1; 10:13, 20. So too in later Jewish literature, e.g., in the Book of Henoch, angels are represented as having charge over different elements.

uJpevtaxen] did He subject in the eternal counsel (comp. 1:2 e[qhken) made known through the Psalmist. The word is borrowed by anticipation from the Psalm.

th;n oijk. th;n mevll.] Vulg. orbem terrae futurum, O. L. saeculum futurum, Syr. dyti[d a/ml/[.

The phrase is not to be understood simply of ‘the future life’ or, more generally, of ‘heaven.’ It describes, in relation to that which we may call its constitution, the state of things which, in relation to its development in time, is called ‘the age to come’ (oJ mevllwn aijwvn), and, in relation to its supreme Ruler and characteristics, ‘the Kingdom of God,’ or ‘the Kingdom of heaven,’ even the order which corresponds with the completed work of Christ. Compare Heb. 6:5 (mevllwn aijwvn), 13:14 (hJ mevllousa [povli"]) notes. Is. 9:6.

hJ oijkoumevnh] The word is used for the world so far as it is ‘a seat of settled government,’ ‘the civilised world.’ Thus in Greek writers it is used characteristically for the countries occupied by Greeks, as distinguished from those occupied by ‘barbarians’ (Herod. 4.110; Dem. de Cor. p. 242; [de Halonn.] p. 85 f.), and at a later time for the Roman empire (Philo, Leg. ad Cai. § 45; 2.598 M.).

Hence it came to be used even of a limited district defined, as we should say, by a specific civilisation (Jos. Antt. 8.13, 4 peripevmya" kata; pa'san th;n oijkoumevnhn tou;" zhthvsonta" to;n profhvthn jHleivan). Comp. Luke 2:1; Ex. 16:35 e{w" h\lqon eij" th;n oijkoumevnhn [Alex. gh'n oijk.] ‘to the borders of the land of Canaan’: compare Euseb. H. E. 7.31, 2 ejk th'" Persw'n ejpi; th;n kaqj hJma'" oijkoumevnhn...And on the other hand it was used to describe the whole world as occupied by man (Luke 4:5 [D tou' kovsmou]; Matt. 24:14; Apoc. 16:14); and men as occupants of the world (Acts 17:31; 19:27; Apoc. 3:10; 12:9). Comp. Wisd. 1:7 pneu'ma kurivou peplhvrwke th;n oijkoumevnhn. It was therefore perfectly fitted to describe the Christian order under the aspect of a moral, organised system: comp. Heb. 1:6.

The word is found in St Paul only Rom. 10:18 (Ps. 19:5).

peri; h|" lal.] which is the subject of the whole writing. The thought has been already announced in Heb. 1:2 klhronovmon pavntwn.

Heb. 2:6-8 a. The promise. The promise of universal sovereignty was confirmed to man in a passage of Scripture (Ps. 8:5-7) which fully recognises his infirmity. His weakness is first confessed (Heb. 2:6); and then his triple divine endowment of nature, honour, dominion (2:7, 8 a).

Psalm 8 is referred to by the Lord Matt. 21:16 (comp. Matt. 11:25; 1 Cor. 1:27), and by St Paul 1 Cor. 15:27. Comp. Eph. 1:22.

It is not, and has never been accounted by the Jews to be, directly Messianic; but as expressing the true destiny of man it finds its accomplishment in the Son of Man and only through Him in man. It offers the ideal (Gen. 1:27-30) which was lost by Adam and then regained and realised by Christ.

Clement speaks of the application of the words of the Psalm to man by some: ouj ga;r ejpi; tou' kurivou ejkdevcontai th;n grafh;n kaivtoi kajkei'no" savrka e[feren: ejpi; de; tou' teleivou kai; gnwstikou', tw'/ crovnw/ kai; tw'/ ejnduvmati ejlattoumevnou para; tou;" ajggevlou" (Strom. 4.3 § 8, p. 566).

And so Chrysostom: tau'ta eij kai; eij" th;n koinh;n ajnqrwpovthta ei[rhtai, ajllj o{mw" kuriwvteron aJrmovseien a]n tw'/ Cristw'/ kata; savrka (Hom. iv. § 2).

And Theodoret: to; de; ‘tiv ejstin a[nqrwpo";’ ei[rhtai me;n peri; th'" koinh'" fuvsew", aJrmovttei de; th'/ ejx hJmw'n ajparch'/, wJ" oijkeioumevnh" ta; pavsh" th'" fuvsew": ta; de; hJmevtera oijkeiouvmeno" stovma th'" fuvsew" gevgonen. aujto;" ga;r ta;" aJmartiva" hJmw'n e[labe kai; ta;" novsou" ejbavstase (ad loc.).

One peculiar difficulty meets us in the use made of the Psalm by the writer of the Epistle. The thought expressed in the original by the words rendered in the LXX. hjlavttwsa" aujto;n bracuv ti parj ajggevlou" is that of the nobility of man's nature which falls but little short of the divine. The words on the contrary as applied to Christ describe a humiliation. This application is facilitated by the LXX. rendering, but does not depend upon it. The essential idea is that the true destiny of man described by the Psalmist, which experience teaches us that man himself has missed, was fulfilled otherwise than had been expected. Words which were used of man in himself became first true of One Who being more than man took man's nature upon Him. In such a case the description of dignity was of necessity converted initially into a description of condescension.

Heb. 2:6. The thought of man's frailty comes first. According to a remarkable Jewish tradition the words were addressed by the ministering angels to God when ‘Moses went up to receive the Law.’ ‘O Lord of the world,’ they said, ‘wilt Thou give to flesh and blood that precious thing which Thou hast kept for 974 generations? (Ps. 8:5). Give Thy glory rather to heaven’ (Sabb. 88, 1).

2:5, 6. ouj ga;r ajgg....diemart. dev...] The form of the construction is expressive. The sovereignty was not indeed designed for angels; but provision was made for it. When there is a direct and sharp opposition, ajllav follows a negative not...but. When the negative marks a sentence which is complete in itself, and another statement is added as a fresh thought, this, though it does in fact oppose the former, is introduced by dev. Comp. Heb. 2:8, 9 ou[pw—dev; 4:13; 6:12; Acts 12:9, 14.

diem. d. pouv ti"] In this quotation only in this epistle (4:7 is not a case in point) is there a reference to the human author of the words; and here God is addressed directly. At the same time the reference is as general as possible. The form of reference is found in Philo, de temul. § 14 (1.365 M.) ei\pe gavr pouv ti" (Gen. 20:12). For pouv see Heb. 4:4 note.

Diamartuvromai is used absolutely Luke 16:28; Acts 2:40 (8:25); 1 Thess. 4:6.

tiv ejstin] i.e. how little outwardly, and at first sight, compared with the stately magnificence of Nature.

Comp. Ps. 144:3; Job 7:17. The interpretation ‘how great is man,’ i.e. in consequence of God's love shewn to him, is quite foreign to the course of thought. Nor again is there any reference to the fact of the Fall.

a[nqrwpo"] v/na‘, H632, man, with the secondary idea of weakness.

uiJo;" ajnqrwvpou] µd:a;AˆB,not oJ uiJo;" tou' ajnqrwvpou (µd:a;h;AˆB,).

mimnhvskh/...ejpiskevpth/] The twofold regard of thought and action. jEpiskevptesqai is used almost exclusively in the LXX. as in the N. T., of a visitation for good. Luke 1:68, 78; 7:16; Acts 15:14. The word was especially used of the ‘visits’ of a physician. Comp. Matt. 25:36; James 1:27.

Heb. 2:7, 8 a. In spite of his frailty man recognises his divine affinity. He is more glorious than the world which seems to crush him, in nature, endowment, destiny.

2:7. hjlavtt. br. ti...] Thou madest him a little lower...Vulg. Minuisti (Old Lat. minorasti) eum paulo minus ab angelis. Bracuv ti is used here of degree (compare 2 Sam. 16:1), and not of time (Is. 57:17 LXX. ‘for a little while’). The Hebrew is unambiguous; and there is no reason to depart from the meaning of the original either in this place or in Heb. 2:9.

parj ajggevlou"] The original µyhiløa‘me, rendered literally by Jerome a deo, is thus interpreted by the Targum and Syr. and by the Jewish Commentators (Rashi, Kimchi, Aben-Ezra), as well as by the LXX.

The original meaning is probably less definite than either ‘a little less than angels’ or ‘a little less than God.’ It would more nearly correspond to ‘a little less than one who has a divine nature.’ ‘Thou hast made him to fall little short of being a God’ (comp. 1 Sam. 28:13). To our ears ‘than God’ would be equivalent to ‘than the Eternal,’ which would have been wholly out of place in the Psalm. And on the other hand ‘than angels’ obscures the notion of the ‘divine nature’ which lies in the phrase.

For the wider sense of µyhiløa‘, H466, see Ps. 82:1, 6 (John 10:34 f.); Ps. 29:1 (not Ex. 21:6).

dovxh/ kai; timh'/] with the essential dignity and with the outward splendour which signalises it: Rom. 2:7, 10; 1 Pet. 1:7; Apoc. 4:9. The words occur in opposite order, 1 Tim. 1:17; 2 Pet. 1:17; Apo c. 5.14f. The combination is common in LXX. e.g., Ex. 28:2 (t. kai; d. tr

ejstefavnwsa"] crownedst as a conqueror; 2 Tim. 2:5.

Heb. 2:8. pavnta...aujtou'] Man's sovereignty is exercised over a worthy domain. This clause completes

the view of man's eminence in nature, glory, dominion. See Additional Note.

2:8 b, 9. The divine fulfilment of the promise in the Son of man. The promise to man has not however yet been realised. It assured to him a dominion absolute and universal; and as yet he has no such dominion (2:8 b). But the words of the Psalm have received a new fulfilment. The Son of God has assumed the nature in which man was created. In that nature—bearing its last sorrows—He has been crowned with glory. The fruit of His work is universal. In ‘the Son of man’ (Jesus) then there is the assurance that man's sovereignty shall be gained (v. 9). Thus the fact of man's obvious failure is contrasted with the accomplishment of Christ's work which is the potential fulfilment of man's destiny (Humiliation, Exaltation, Redemption).



8b For in that He subjected all things unto him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we see not yet all things subjected to him. 9 But we behold Him who hath been made a little lower than angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, that by the grace of God He should taste of death for every man.

2:8. ejn tw'/ ga;r uJp.] The ‘for,’ which is directly connected with the preceding clause, points back to v. 5, so that the connexion is: God did not subject the future world to angels, for He promised man an absolute sovereignty which has still to be assured in that coming order. The ta; pavnta takes up the pavnta of the Psalm.

nu'n dev...] but at present, as the world is....

aujtw'/] i.e. to man.

2:9. to;n dev...] But in spite of the obvious fact of man's failure the promise has not failed: we behold Him that hath been made a little lower than angels, even Jesus,...crowned with glory and honour....The words of the Psalm have an unexpected accomplishment. The man thus spoken of as little less than angels (so great is he) is represented by Jesus, the Son of GOD become flesh, and so made little less than angels (so full of condescension was He), and in that humanity which He has taken to Himself crowned with glory.

Jesus is not the ‘man’ of the Psalmist, but He through whom the promise to man has been fulfilled and is in fulfilment; while the revelation of the complete fulfilment belongs to ‘the world to come.’

The definite article (to;n de; br. ti hjl.) does not refer to the Psalm as fixing the original meaning of it, but to the known personality of Christ in whom the promise of the Psalm was fulfilled.

bracuv ti...] Vulg. qui modico quam angeli minoratus est....O. L. paulo quam angelos minoratum...See 5:7.

hjlattwmevnon] not ejlattwqevnta. The human nature which Christ assumed He still retains. Comp. 2:18 pevponqen.

blevpomen] The change of the verb from oJrw'men in 2:8 cannot be without meaning. Blevpein apparently expresses the particular exercise of the faculty of sight (comp. John 1:29; 5:19; 9:7 ff.), while oJra'n describes a continuous exercise of it (Heb. 11:27). The difference is not marked by the Latt. (videmus...videmus...).

jIhsou'n] The name comes in emphatically as marking Him who, being truly man, fulfilled the conception of the Psalmist of ‘one made a little lower than angels.’

The personal name Jesus, which always fixes attention on the Lord's humanity, occurs frequently in the Epistle: Heb. 3:1; 6:20; 7:22; 10:19; 12:2, 24; 13:12 (4:14; 13:20). See Additional Note on Heb. 1:4.

For the separation of the Name (Him that hath been made...even Jesus) compare Heb. 3:1; 12:2, 24; 13:20 (our Lord even Jesus; comp. 6:20; 7:22); 1 Thess. 2:15; 3:13.

dia; to; pavq. tou' q.] Vulg. (Latt.) propter passionem mortis. The suffering of death—the endurance of the uttermost penalty of sin—was the ground of the Lord's exaltation in His humanity. Comp. Phil. 2:9 (Rom. 8:17).

The words are not to be joined with hjlattwmevnon either in the sense (1) that in this lay His humiliation, or (2) that this was the aim of His humiliation, that death might be possible, ‘owing to the fact that death has to be borne by men.’ The main thought of the passage is that man's promised supremacy, owing to the fall, could only be gained by sacrifice.

Stress is laid not upon the single historic fact that the Lord suffered death (dia; to; paqei'n q.), but on the nature of the suffering itself (dia; to; pavqhma).

ejstefanwmevnon] As in the case of the Lord's humiliation so also in this of His exaltation the writer brings out the permanent effect (not stefanwqevnta as ejstefavnwsa" in Heb. 2:7).

o{pw"...] The particle is not strictly connected with ejstefanwmevnon alone, but refers to all that precedes—to the Passion crowned by the Ascension. The glory which followed the death marked its universal efficacy. Thus Christ was made lower than angels that He might accomplish this complete redemption. The particle, which is much less frequent in the Epistles than i{na, occurs again Heb. 9:15.

Under this aspect the words are illustrated by St John's view of the Passion as including potentially the glorification of Christ (John 13:31), a double ‘lifting up’ (12:32). So OEcumenius here says boldly dovxan kai; timh;n to;n stauro;n kalei'.

cavriti qeou'] Comp. 1 John 4:10; John 3:17; Rom. 5:8. Chrysostom: dia; th;n cavrin tou' qeou' th;n eij" hJma'" tau'ta pevponqen. For the anarthrous form (as contrasted with hJ cavri" tou' qeou' 12:15), ‘by grace, and that grace of Him Whose Nature is the pledge of its efficacy,’ see Heb. 3:4 note. Comp. Lk. 2:40; 1 Cor. 15:10; 2 Cor. 1:12.

The reading cwri;" qeou' is capable of being explained in several ways.

(1) Christ died ‘apart from His divinity.’ His divine Nature had no share in His death.

(2) Christ died ‘apart from God,’ being left by God, and feeling the completeness of the separation as the penalty of sin. Comp. Matt. 27:46.

(3) Christ died for all, God only excepted. Compare 1 Cor. 15:27.

(4) Christ died to gain all, to bring all under His power, God only excepted.

But all these thoughts seem to be foreign to the context, while it is natural to bring out the greatness of God's grace in fulfilling His original counsel of love in spite of man's sin. The reference to ‘the grace of God’ seems to be the necessary starting point of the argument in the next section: For it became...

uJpe;r pantov"] Vulg. pro omnibus. Syr. for every man. Comp. Mark 9:49; Luke 16:16. The singular points to the effect of Christ's work on the last element of personality. Christ tasted death not only for all but for each. The thought throughout the passage (v. 16) is directed to personal objects; and in such a connexion the phrase could hardly mean ‘for everything’ (neut.). This thought however is included in the masculine. Creation is redeemed in man (Rom. 8:19 ff.). Comp. 5:11 ejx eJnov".

The notes of the Greek commentators are of considerable interest.



ORIGEN: mevga" ejsti;n ajrciereu;" oujc uJpe;r ajnqrwvpwn movnon ajlla; kai; panto;" logikou'...kai; ga;r a[topon uJpe;r ajnqrwpivnwn me;n aujto;n favskein aJmarthmavtwn gegeu'sqai qanavtou, oujkevti de; kai; uJpe;r a[llou tino;" para; to;n a[nqrwpon ejn aJmarthvmasi gegennhmevnou, oi|on uJpe;r a[strwn (Job 25:5) (In Joh. Tom. i. § 40).

THEODORET: to; mevntoi pavqo" uJpe;r aJpavntwn uJpevmeine. pavnta ga;r o{sa ktivsthn e[cei th;n fuvsin tauvth" ejdei'to th'" qerapeiva"...He then refers to Rom. 8:19 ff., and supposes that the angels will be gladdened by man's salvation: uJpe;r aJpavntwn toivnun to; swthvrion uJpevmeine pavqo": movnh ga;r hJ qeiva fuvsi" th'" ejnteu'qen ginomevnh" qerapeiva" ajnendehv" (ad loc.).

CHRYSOSTOM: oujci; [uJpe;r] tw'n pistw'n movnon, ajlla; kai; th'" oijkoumevnh" aJpavsh": aujto;" me;n ga;r uJpe;r pavntwn ajpevqanen. Hom. 4.2.

OECUMENIUS: ouj movnon uJpe;r ajnqrwvpwn ajlla; kai; uJpe;r tw'n a[nw dunavmewn ajpevqanen, i{na luvsh/ to; mesovtucon [mesovtoicon] tou' fragmou' kai; eJnwvsh/ ta; kavtw toi'" a[nw (Eph. 2:14).

Comp. 1 John 2:2.

uJpevr] not in place of, but in behalf of. Comp. Heb. 5:1; 6:20; 7:25; 9:24.

geuvshtai qanavtou] Comp. Matt. 16:28; John 8:52 note. Arist. Apol. p. 110, 50:19.

The phrase, which is not found in the Old Testament, expresses not only the fact of death, but the conscious experience, the tasting the bitterness, of death. Man, as he is, cannot feel the full significance of death, the consequence of sin, though he is subject to the fear of it (Heb. 2:15); but Christ, in His sinlessness, perfectly realised its awfulness. In this fact lies the immeasurable difference between the death of Christ, simply as death, and that of the holiest martyr, Chrysostom (Theodoret, Primasius) less rightly understands the phrase of the brief duration of Christ's experience of death: Non dixit Apostolus ‘Subjacuit morti,’ sed proprie gustavit mortem, per quod velocitatem resurrectionis voluit ostendere (Primasius).

Chrysostom (Hom. 4.2) likens Christ to the physician who, to encourage his patients, tastes that which is prepared for them.


(2) Man's destiny, owing to the intrusion of sin, could only be fulfilled through suffering, made possible for Christ and effective for man through the Incarnation (Hebrews 2:10-18)
The thought of death, and the fact of Christ's death, lead the apostle to develope more in detail the conditions under which man's destiny and God's promise were fulfilled in spite of sin. The reality of the connexion between the Son and the sons is first traced back to their common source and shewn to be recognised in the records of the Old Testament (2:10-13). This connexion was completed by the Incarnation with a twofold object, to overcome the prince of death, and to establish man's freedom (2:14, 15). And such a completion was necessary from the sphere, the scope, the application of Christ's work (2:16-18).

The course of thought will appear most plainly if it is set in a tabular form:

Sovereignty for man fallen was won through suffering (2:10-18).

(1) The Son and the sons (2:10-13).

The connexion lies in a common source (2:11 a).

This is shewn in the Old Testament:

The suffering King (2:12),

The representative Prophet(2:13).

(2) The connexion of the Son and the sons completed by the Incarnation (2:14, 15),

with a twofold object:

To overcome the prince of death (2:14 b),

To establish man's freedom (215).

(3) The Incarnation necessary (2:16-18), from

The sphere of Christ's work (2:16),

The scope of Christ's work (2:17),

The application of Christ's work (2:18).

2:10-13. The Son and the sons. The difficulties which at first sight beset the conception of a suffering Messiah vanish upon closer thought. For when we consider what is the relation between the Son of man and men—the Son and the sons—what man's condition is, and how he can be redeemed only through divine fellowship, we ourselves can discern the ‘fitness’ of the divine method of redemption. So far therefore from the Death of Christ being an objection to His claims, it really falls in with what deeper reflection suggests.

The connexion of the Son and the sons is first referred to their common source (2:11 ejx eJnov") and then shewn to be recognised in the divine dealings with representative men under the Old Covenant, the suffering king, the typical prophet (2:12, 13).

There is throughout the section a reference to the Jewish expectation that Messiah should ‘abide for ever’ (John 12:34).

10 For it became Him, for Whom are all things and through Whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the author (captain) of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of One; for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying




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