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Hebrews 5:11-10:39New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

IV. Jesus’ Eternal Priesthood and Eternal Sacrifice

Exhortation to Spiritual Renewal. 11 [a]About this we have much to say, and it is difficult to explain, for you have become sluggish in hearing. 12 Although you should be teachers by this time, you need to have someone teach you again the basic elements of the utterances of God. You need milk, [and] not solid food. 13 Everyone who lives on milk lacks experience of the word of righteousness, for he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties are trained by practice to discern good and evil.

Chapter 6

Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, instruction about baptisms[b] and laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And we shall do this, if only God permits. For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift[c] and shared in the holy Spirit and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,[d] and then have fallen away, to bring them to repentance again, since they are recrucifying the Son of God for themselves[e] and holding him up to contempt. Ground that has absorbed the rain falling upon it repeatedly and brings forth crops useful to those for whom it is cultivated receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is rejected; it will soon be cursed and finally burned.

But we are sure in your regard, beloved, of better things related to salvation, even though we speak in this way. 10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones. 11 We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises.[f]

God’s Promise Immutable. 13 [g]When God made the promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, “he swore by himself,” 14 and said, “I will indeed bless you and multiply” you. 15 And so, after patient waiting, he obtained the promise.[h] 16 Human beings swear by someone greater than themselves; for them an oath serves as a guarantee and puts an end to all argument. 17 So when God wanted to give the heirs of his promise an even clearer demonstration of the immutability of his purpose, he intervened with an oath, 18 so that by two immutable things,[i] in which it was impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to hold fast to the hope that lies before us. 19 This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil,[j] 20 where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner, becoming high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Chapter 7

Melchizedek, a Type of Christ. [k]This “Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High,”[l] “met Abraham as he returned from his defeat of the kings” and “blessed him.” [m]And Abraham apportioned to him “a tenth of everything.” His name first means righteous king, and he was also “king of Salem,” that is, king of peace. Without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life,[n] thus made to resemble the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.

[o]See how great he is to whom the patriarch “Abraham [indeed] gave a tenth” of his spoils. The descendants of Levi who receive the office of priesthood have a commandment according to the law to exact tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, although they also have come from the loins of Abraham. But he who was not of their ancestry received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had received the promises. Unquestionably, a lesser person is blessed by a greater.[p] In the one case, mortal men receive tithes; in the other, a man of whom it is testified that he lives on. One might even say that Levi[q] himself, who receives tithes, was tithed through Abraham, 10 for he was still in his father’s loins when Melchizedek met him.

11 [r]If, then, perfection came through the levitical priesthood, on the basis of which the people received the law, what need would there still have been for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not reckoned according to the order of Aaron? 12 When there is a change of priesthood, there is necessarily a change of law as well. 13 Now he of whom these things are said[s] belonged to a different tribe, of which no member ever officiated at the altar. 14 It is clear that our Lord arose from Judah,[t] and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 [u]It is even more obvious if another priest is raised up after the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become so, not by a law expressed in a commandment concerning physical descent but by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed.[v] 17 For it is testified:

“You are a priest forever
    according to the order of Melchizedek.”

18 On the one hand, a former commandment is annulled because of its weakness and uselessness, 19 for the law brought nothing to perfection; on the other hand, a better hope[w] is introduced, through which we draw near to God. 20 [x]And to the degree that this happened not without the taking of an oath[y]—for others became priests without an oath, 21 but he with an oath, through the one who said to him:

“The Lord has sworn, and he will not repent:
    ‘You are a priest forever’”—

22 to that same degree has Jesus [also] become the guarantee of an [even] better covenant.[z] 23 Those priests were many because they were prevented by death from remaining in office, 24 but he, because he remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away. 25 [aa]Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.

26 It was fitting that we should have such a high priest:[ab] holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens.[ac] 27 He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day,[ad] first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests, but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law, appoints a son, who has been made perfect forever.

Chapter 8

Heavenly Priesthood of Jesus.[ae] The main point of what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister of the sanctuary[af] and of the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up. Now every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus the necessity for this one also to have something to offer. If then he were on earth, he would not be a priest, since there are those who offer gifts according to the law. They worship in a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary, as Moses was warned when he was about to erect the tabernacle. For he says, “See that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” Now he has obtained so much more excellent a ministry as he is mediator of a better covenant, enacted on better promises.

Old and New Covenants.[ag] For if that first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second one. But he finds fault with them and says:[ah]

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord,
    when I will conclude a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers
    the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt;
for they did not stand by my covenant
    and I ignored them, says the Lord.
10 But this is the covenant I will establish with the house of Israel
    after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds
    and I will write them upon their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his fellow citizen
    and kinsman, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for all shall know me,
    from least to greatest.
12 For I will forgive their evildoing
    and remember their sins no more.”

13 [ai]When he speaks of a “new” covenant, he declares the first one obsolete. And what has become obsolete and has grown old is close to disappearing.

Chapter 9

The Worship of the First Covenant.[aj] Now [even] the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. For a tabernacle was constructed, the outer one,[ak] in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of offering; this is called the Holy Place. [al]Behind the second veil was the tabernacle called the Holy of Holies, in which were the gold altar of incense[am] and the ark of the covenant entirely covered with gold. In it were the gold jar containing the manna, the staff of Aaron that had sprouted, and the tablets of the covenant. [an]Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the place of expiation. Now is not the time to speak of these in detail.

With these arrangements for worship, the priests, in performing their service,[ao] go into the outer tabernacle repeatedly, but the high priest alone goes into the inner one once a year, not without blood[ap] that he offers for himself and for the sins of the people. In this way the holy Spirit shows that the way into the sanctuary had not yet been revealed while the outer tabernacle still had its place. This is a symbol of the present time,[aq] in which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the worshiper in conscience 10 but only in matters of food and drink and various ritual washings: regulations concerning the flesh, imposed until the time of the new order.

Sacrifice of Jesus. 11 [ar]But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be,[as] passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, 12 he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes[at] can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit[au] offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

15 [av]For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. 16 [aw]Now where there is a will, the death of the testator must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death; it has no force while the testator is alive. 18 Thus not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 [ax]When every commandment had been proclaimed by Moses to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves [and goats], together with water and crimson wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is ‘the blood of the covenant which God has enjoined upon you.’” 21 In the same way, he sprinkled also the tabernacle[ay] and all the vessels of worship with blood. 22 [az]According to the law almost everything is purified by blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

23 [ba]Therefore, it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified by these rites, but the heavenly things themselves by better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf. 25 Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; 26 if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages[bb] to take away sin by his sacrifice. 27 Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, 28 so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many,[bc] will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.

Chapter 10

One Sacrifice Instead of Many. [bd]Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come,[be] and not the very image of them, it can never make perfect those who come to worship by the same sacrifices that they offer continually each year. Otherwise, would not the sacrifices have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, once cleansed, would no longer have had any consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is only a yearly remembrance of sins, for it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins. For this reason, when he came into the world, he said:[bf]

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in.
Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,
    Behold, I come to do your will, O God.’”

First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings,[bg] you neither desired nor delighted in.” These are offered according to the law. Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.” He takes away the first to establish the second. 10 By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 [bh]Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12 But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; 13 [bi]now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool. 14 For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated. 15 [bj]The holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying:

16 “This is the covenant I will establish with them after those days, says the Lord:
    ‘I will put my laws in their hearts,
    and I will write them upon their minds,’”

17 he also says:[bk]

“Their sins and their evildoing
    I will remember no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin.

Recalling the Past.[bl] 19 Therefore, brothers, since through the blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary 20 [bm]by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, 21 [bn]and since we have “a great priest over the house of God,” 22 let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience[bo] and our bodies washed in pure water. 23 Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy. 24 We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. 25 We should not stay away from our assembly,[bp] as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.

26 [bq]If we sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains sacrifice for sins 27 but a fearful prospect of judgment and a flaming fire that is going to consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who rejects the law of Moses[br] is put to death without pity on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Do you not think that a much worse punishment is due the one who has contempt for the Son of God, considers unclean the covenant-blood by which he was consecrated, and insults the spirit of grace? 30 We know the one who said:

“Vengeance is mine; I will repay,”

and again:

“The Lord will judge his people.”

31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened,[bs] you endured a great contest of suffering. 33 At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction; at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated. 34 You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, knowing that you had a better and lasting possession. 35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence; it will have great recompense. 36 You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.

37 “For, after just a brief moment,[bt]
    he who is to come shall come;
    he shall not delay.
38 But my just one shall live by faith,
    and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him.”

39 We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life.

Footnotes:

  1. 5:11–6:20 The central section of Hebrews (5:11–10:39) opens with a reprimand and an appeal. Those to whom the author directs his teaching about Jesus’ priesthood, which is difficult to explain, have become sluggish in hearing and forgetful of even the basic elements (Hb 5:12). But rather than treating of basic teachings, the author apparently believes that the challenge of more advanced ones may shake them out of their inertia (therefore, Hb 6:1). The six examples of basic teaching in Hb 6:1–3 are probably derived from a traditional catechetical list. No effort is made to address apostates, for their very hostility to the Christian message cuts them off completely from Christ (Hb 6:4–8). This harsh statement seems to rule out repentance after apostasy, but perhaps the author deliberately uses hyperbole in order to stress the seriousness of abandoning Christ. With Hb 6:9 a milder tone is introduced, and the criticism of the community (Hb 6:1–3, 9) is now balanced by an expression of confidence that its members are living truly Christian lives, and that God will justly reward their efforts (Hb 6:10). The author is concerned especially about their persevering (Hb 6:11–12), citing in this regard the achievement of Abraham, who relied on God’s promise and on God’s oath (Hb 6:13–18; cf. Gn 22:16), and proposes to them as a firm anchor of Christian hope the high priesthood of Christ, who is now living with God (Hb 6:19–20).
  2. 6:2 Instruction about baptisms: not simply about Christian baptism but about the difference between it and similar Jewish rites, such as proselyte baptism, John’s baptism, and the washings of the Qumran sectaries. Laying on of hands: in Acts 8:17; 19:6 this rite effects the infusion of the holy Spirit; in Acts 6:6; 13:3; 1 Tm 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tm 1:6 it is a means of conferring some ministry or mission in the early Christian community.
  3. 6:4 Enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift: this may refer to baptism and the Eucharist, respectively, but more probably means the neophytes’ enlightenment by faith and their experience of salvation.
  4. 6:5 Tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come: the proclamation of the word of God was accompanied by signs of the Spirit’s power (1 Thes 1:5; 1 Cor 2:4).
  5. 6:6 They are recrucifying the Son of God for themselves: a colorful description of the malice of apostasy, which is portrayed as again crucifying and deriding the Son of God.
  6. 6:12 Imitators of those…inheriting the promises: the author urges the addressees to imitate the faith of the holy people of the Old Testament, who now possess the promised goods of which they lived in hope. This theme will be treated fully in Hb 6:11.
  7. 6:13 He swore by himself: God’s promise to Abraham, which he confirmed by an oath (“I swear by myself,” Gn 22:16) was the basis for the hope of all Abraham’s descendants.
  8. 6:15 He obtained the promise: this probably refers not to Abraham’s temporary possession of the land but to the eschatological blessings that Abraham and the other patriarchs have now come to possess.
  9. 6:18 Two immutable things: the promise and the oath, both made by God.
  10. 6:19 Anchor…into the interior behind the veil: a mixed metaphor. The Holy of Holies, beyond the veil that separates it from the Holy Place (Ex 26:31–33), is seen as the earthly counterpart of the heavenly abode of God. This theme will be developed in Hb 9.
  11. 7:1–3 Recalling the meeting between Melchizedek and Abraham described in Gn 14:17–20, the author enhances the significance of this priest by providing the popular etymological meaning of his name and that of the city over which he ruled (Hb 7:2). Since Genesis gives no information on the parentage or the death of Melchizedek, he is seen here as a type of Christ, representing a priesthood that is unique and eternal (Hb 7:3).
  12. 7:1 The author here assumes that Melchizedek was a priest of the God of Israel (cf. Gn 14:22 and the note there).
  13. 7:2 In Gn 14, the Hebrew text does not state explicitly who gave tithes to whom. The author of Hebrews supplies Abraham as the subject, according to a contemporary interpretation of the passage. This supports the argument of the midrash and makes it possible to see in Melchizedek a type of Jesus. The messianic blessings of righteousness and peace are foreshadowed in the names “Melchizedek” and “Salem.”
  14. 7:3 Without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life: this is perhaps a quotation from a hymn about Melchizedek. The rabbis maintained that anything not mentioned in the Torah does not exist. Consequently, since the Old Testament nowhere mentions Melchizedek’s ancestry, birth, or death, the conclusion can be drawn that he remains…forever.
  15. 7:4–10 The tithe that Abraham gave to Melchizedek (Hb 7:4), a practice later followed by the levitical priesthood (Hb 7:5), was a gift (Hb 7:6) acknowledging a certain superiority in Melchizedek, the foreign priest (Hb 7:7). This is further indicated by the fact that the institution of the levitical priesthood was sustained by hereditary succession in the tribe of Levi, whereas the absence of any mention of Melchizedek’s death in Genesis implies that his personal priesthood is permanent (Hb 7:8). The levitical priesthood itself, through Abraham, its ancestor, paid tithes to Melchizedek, thus acknowledging the superiority of his priesthood over its own (Hb 7:9–10).
  16. 7:7 A lesser person is blessed by a greater: though this sounds like a principle, there are some examples in the Old Testament that do not support it (cf. 2 Sm 14:22; Jb 31:20). The author may intend it as a statement of a liturgical rule.
  17. 7:9 Levi: for the author this name designates not only the son of Jacob mentioned in Genesis but the priestly tribe that was thought to be descended from him.
  18. 7:11–14 The levitical priesthood was not typified by the priesthood of Melchizedek, for Ps 110:4 speaks of a priesthood of a new order, the order of Melchizedek, to arise in messianic times (Hb 7:11). Since the levitical priesthood served the Mosaic law, a new priesthood (Hb 7:12) would not come into being without a change in the law itself. Thus Jesus was not associated with the Old Testament priesthood, for he was a descendant of the tribe of Judah, which had never exercised the priesthood (Hb 7:13–14).
  19. 7:13 He of whom these things are said: Jesus, the priest “according to the order of Melchizedek.” According to the author’s interpretation, Ps 110 spoke prophetically of Jesus.
  20. 7:14 Judah: the author accepts the early Christian tradition that Jesus was descended from the family of David (cf. Mt 1:1–2, 16, 20; Lk 1:27; 2:4; Rom 1:3). The Qumran community expected two Messiahs, one descended from Aaron and one from David; Hebrews shows no awareness of this view or at least does not accept it. Our author’s view is not attested in contemporaneous Judaism.
  21. 7:15–19 Jesus does not exercise a priesthood through family lineage but through his immortal existence (Hb 7:15–16), fulfilling Ps 110:4 (Hb 7:17; cf. Hb 7:3). Thus he abolishes forever both the levitical priesthood and the law it serves, because neither could effectively sanctify people (Hb 7:18) by leading them into direct communication with God (Hb 7:19).
  22. 7:16 A life that cannot be destroyed: the life to which Jesus has attained by virtue of his resurrection; it is his exaltation rather than his divine nature that makes him priest. The Old Testament speaks of the Aaronic priesthood as eternal (see Ex 40:15); our author does not explicitly consider this possible objection to his argument but implicitly refutes it in Hb 7:23–24.
  23. 7:19 A better hope: this hope depends upon the sacrifice of the Son of God; through it we “approach the throne of grace” (Hb 4:16); cf. Hb 6:19, 20.
  24. 7:20–25 As was the case with the promise to Abraham (Hb 6:13), though not with the levitical priesthood, the eternal priesthood of the order of Melchizedek was confirmed by God’s oath (Hb 7:20–21); cf. Ps 110:4. Thus Jesus becomes the guarantee of a permanent covenant (Hb 7:22) that does not require a succession of priests as did the levitical priesthood (Hb 7:23) because his high priesthood is eternal and unchangeable (Hb 7:24). Consequently, Jesus is able to save all who draw near to God through him since he is their ever-living intercessor (Hb 7:25).
  25. 7:20 An oath: God’s oath in Ps 110:4.
  26. 7:22 An [even] better covenant: better than the Mosaic covenant because it will be eternal, like the priesthood of Jesus upon which it is based. Hb 7:12 argued that a change of priesthood involves a change of law; since “law” and “covenant” are used correlatively, a new covenant is likewise instituted.
  27. 7:25 To make intercession: the intercession of the exalted Jesus, not the sequel to his completed sacrifice but its eternal presence in heaven; cf. Rom 8:34.
  28. 7:26 This verse with its list of attributes is reminiscent of Hb 7:3 and is perhaps a hymnic counterpart to it, contrasting the exalted Jesus with Melchizedek.
  29. 7:26–28 Jesus is precisely the high priest whom the human race requires, holy and sinless, installed far above humanity (Hb 7:26); one having no need to offer sacrifice daily for sins but making a single offering of himself (Hb 7:27) once for all. The law could only appoint high priests with human limitations, but the fulfillment of God’s oath regarding the priesthood of Melchizedek (Ps 110:4) makes the Son of God the perfect priest forever (Hb 7:28).
  30. 7:27 Such daily sacrifice is nowhere mentioned in the Mosaic law; only on the Day of Atonement is it prescribed that the high priest must offer sacrifice…for his own sins and then for those of the people (Lv 16:11–19). Once for all: this translates the Greek words ephapax/hapax that occur eleven times in Hebrews.
  31. 8:1–6 The Christian community has in Jesus the kind of high priest described in Hb 7:26–28. In virtue of his ascension Jesus has taken his place at God’s right hand in accordance with Ps 110:1 (Hb 8:1), where he presides over the heavenly sanctuary established by God himself (Hb 8:2). Like every high priest, he has his offering to make (Hb 8:3; cf. Hb 9:12, 14), but it differs from that of the levitical priesthood in which he had no share (Hb 8:4) and which was in any case but a shadowy reflection of the true offering in the heavenly sanctuary (Hb 8:5). But Jesus’ ministry in the heavenly sanctuary is that of mediator of a superior covenant that accomplishes what it signifies (Hb 8:6).
  32. 8:2 The sanctuary: the Greek term could also mean “holy things” but bears the meaning “sanctuary” elsewhere in Hebrews (Hb 9:8, 12, 24, 25; 10:19; 13:11). The true tabernacle: the heavenly tabernacle that the Lord…set up is contrasted with the earthly tabernacle that Moses set up in the desert. True means “real” in contradistinction to a mere “copy and shadow” (Hb 8:5); compare the Johannine usage (e.g., Jn 1:9; 6:32; 15:1). The idea that the earthly sanctuary is a reflection of a heavenly model may be based upon Ex 25:9, but probably also derives from the Platonic concept of a real world of which our observable world is merely a shadow.
  33. 8:7–13 Since the first covenant was deficient in accomplishing what it signified, it had to be replaced (Hb 8:7), as Jeremiah (Jer 31:31–34) had prophesied (Hb 8:8–12). Even in the time of Jeremiah, the first covenant was antiquated (Hb 8:13). In Hb 7:22–24, the superiority of the new covenant was seen in the permanence of its priesthood; here the superiority is based on better promises, made explicit in the citation of Jer 31:31–34 (LXX: 38), namely, in the immediacy of the people’s knowledge of God (Hb 8:11) and in the forgiveness of sin (Hb 8:12).
  34. 8:8–12 In citing Jeremiah the author follows the Septuagint; some apparent departures from it may be the result of a different Septuagintal text rather than changes deliberately introduced.
  35. 8:13 Close to disappearing: from the prophet’s perspective, not that of the author of Hebrews.
  36. 9:1–10 The regulations for worship under the old covenant permitted all the priests to enter the Holy Place (Hb 2:6), but only the high priest to enter the Holy of Holies and then only once a year (Hb 9:3–5, 7). The description of the sanctuary and its furnishings is taken essentially from Ex 25–26. This exclusion of the people from the Holy of Holies signified that they were not allowed to stand in God’s presence (Hb 9:8) because their offerings and sacrifices, which were merely symbols of their need of spiritual renewal (Hb 9:10), could not obtain forgiveness of sins (Hb 9:9).
  37. 9:2 The outer one: the author speaks of the outer tabernacle (Hb 9:6) and the inner one (Hb 9:7) rather than of one Mosaic tabernacle divided into two parts or sections.
  38. 9:3 The second veil: what is meant is the veil that divided the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. It is here called the second, because there was another veil at the entrance to the Holy Place, or “outer tabernacle” (Ex 26:36).
  39. 9:4 The gold altar of incense: Ex 30:6 locates this altar in the Holy Place, i.e., the first tabernacle, rather than in the Holy of Holies. Neither is there any Old Testament support for the assertion that the jar of manna and the staff of Aaron were in the ark of the covenant. For the tablets of the covenant, see Ex 25:16.
  40. 9:5 The place of expiation: the gold “mercy seat” (Greek hilastērion, as in Rom 3:25), where the blood of the sacrificial animals was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement (Lv 16:14–15). This rite achieved “expiation” or atonement for the sins of the preceding year.
  41. 9:6 In performing their service: the priestly services that had to be performed regularly in the Holy Place or outer tabernacle included burning incense on the incense altar twice each day (Ex 30:7), replacing the loaves on the table of the bread of offering once each week (Lv 24:8), and constantly caring for the lamps on the lampstand (Ex 27:21).
  42. 9:7 Not without blood: blood was essential to Old Testament sacrifice because it was believed that life was located in the blood. Hence blood was especially sacred, and its outpouring functioned as a meaningful symbol of cleansing from sin and reconciliation with God. Unlike Hebrews, the Old Testament never says that the blood is “offered.” The author is perhaps retrojecting into his description of Mosaic ritual a concept that belongs to the New Testament antitype, as Paul does when he speaks of the Israelites’ passage through the sea as a “baptism” (1 Cor 10:2).
  43. 9:9 The present time: this expression is equivalent to the “present age,” used in contradistinction to the “age to come.”
  44. 9:11–14 Christ, the high priest of the spiritual blessings foreshadowed in the Old Testament sanctuary, has actually entered the true sanctuary of heaven that is not of human making (Hb 9:11). His place there is permanent, and his offering is his own blood that won eternal redemption (Hb 9:12). If the sacrifice of animals could bestow legal purification (Hb 9:13), how much more effective is the blood of the sinless, divine Christ who spontaneously offered himself to purge the human race of sin and render it fit for the service of God (Hb 9:14).
  45. 9:11 The good things that have come to be: the majority of later manuscripts here read “the good things to come”; cf. Hb 10:1.
  46. 9:13 A heifer’s ashes: ashes from a red heifer that had been burned were mixed with water and used for the cleansing of those who had become ritually defiled by touching a corpse; see Nm 19:9, 14–21.
  47. 9:14 Through the eternal spirit: this expression does not refer either to the holy Spirit or to the divine nature of Jesus but to the life of the risen Christ, “a life that cannot be destroyed” (Hb 7:16).
  48. 9:15–22 Jesus’ role as mediator of the new covenant is based upon his sacrificial death (cf. Hb 8:6). His death has effected deliverance from transgressions, i.e., deliverance from sins committed under the old covenant, which the Mosaic sacrifices were incapable of effacing. Until this happened, the eternal inheritance promised by God could not be obtained (Hb 9:15). This effect of his work follows the human pattern by which a last will and testament becomes effective only with the death of the testator (Hb 9:16–17). The Mosaic covenant was also associated with death, for Moses made use of blood to seal the pact between God and the people (Hb 9:18–21). In Old Testament tradition, guilt could normally not be remitted without the use of blood (Hb 9:22; cf. Lv 17:11).
  49. 9:16–17 A will…death of the testator: the same Greek word diathēkē, meaning “covenant” in Hb 9:15, 18, is used here with the meaning will. The new covenant, unlike the old, is at the same time a will that requires the death of the testator. Jesus as eternal Son is the one who established the new covenant together with his Father, author of both covenants; at the same time he is the testator whose death puts his will into effect.
  50. 9:19–20 A number of details here are different from the description of this covenant rite in Ex 24:5–8. Exodus mentions only calves (“young bulls,” NAB), not goats (but this addition in Hebrews is of doubtful authenticity), says nothing of the use of water and crimson wool and hyssop (these features probably came from a different rite; cf. Lv 14:3–7; Nm 19:6–18), and describes Moses as splashing blood on the altar, whereas Hebrews says he sprinkled it on the book (but both book and altar are meant to symbolize the agreement of God). The words of Moses are also slightly different from those in Exodus and are closer to the words of Jesus at the Last Supper in Mk 14:24 // Mt 26:28.
  51. 9:21 According to Exodus, the tabernacle did not yet exist at the time of the covenant rite. Moreover, nothing is said of sprinkling it with blood at its subsequent dedication (Ex 40:9–11).
  52. 9:22 Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness: in fact, ancient Israel did envisage other means of obtaining forgiveness; the Old Testament mentions contrition of heart (Ps 51:17), fasting (Jl 2:12), and almsgiving (Sir 3:29). The author is limiting his horizon to the sacrificial cult, which did always involve the shedding of blood for its expiatory and unitive value.
  53. 9:23–28 Since the blood of animals became a cleansing symbol among Old Testament prefigurements, it was necessary that the realities foreshadowed be brought into being by a shedding of blood that was infinitely more effective by reason of its worth (Hb 9:23). Christ did not simply prefigure the heavenly realities (Hb 9:24) by performing an annual sacrifice with a blood not his own (Hb 9:25); he offered the single sacrifice of himself as the final annulment of sin (Hb 9:26). Just as death is the unrepeatable act that ends a person’s life, so Christ’s offering of himself for all is the unrepeatable sacrifice that has once for all achieved redemption (Hb 9:27–28).
  54. 9:26 At the end of the ages: the use of expressions such as this shows that the author of Hebrews, despite his interest in the Platonic concept of an eternal world above superior to temporal reality here below, nevertheless still clings to the Jewish Christian eschatology with its sequence of “the present age” and “the age to come.”
  55. 9:28 To take away the sins of many: the reference is to Is 53:12. Since the Greek verb anapherō can mean both “to take away” and “to bear,” the author no doubt intended to play upon both senses: Jesus took away sin by bearing it himself. See the similar wordplay in Jn 1:29. Many is used in the Semitic meaning of “all” in the inclusive sense, as in Mk 14:24. To those who eagerly await him: Jesus will appear a second time at the parousia, as the high priest reappeared on the Day of Atonement, emerging from the Holy of Holies, which he had entered to take away sin. This dramatic scene is described in Sir 50:5–11.
  56. 10:1–10 Christian faith now realizes that the Old Testament sacrifices did not effect the spiritual benefits to come but only prefigured them (Hb 10:1). For if the sacrifices had actually effected the forgiveness of sin, there would have been no reason for their constant repetition (Hb 10:2). They were rather a continual reminder of the people’s sins (Hb 10:3). It is not reasonable to suppose that human sins could be removed by the blood of animal sacrifices (Hb 10:4). Christ, therefore, is here shown to understand his mission in terms of Ps 40:6–8, cited according to the Septuagint (Hb 10:5–7). Jesus acknowledged that the Old Testament sacrifices did not remit the sins of the people and so, perceiving the will of God, offered his own body for this purpose (Hb 10:8–10).
  57. 10:1 A shadow of the good things to come: the term shadow was used in Hb 8:5 to signify the earthly counterpart of the Platonic heavenly reality. But here it means a prefiguration of what is to come in Christ, as it is used in the Pauline literature; cf. Col 2:17.
  58. 10:5–7 A passage from Ps 40:7–9 is placed in the mouth of the Son at his incarnation. As usual, the author follows the Septuagint text. There is a notable difference in Hb 10:5 (Ps 40:6), where the Masoretic text reads “ears you have dug for me” (“ears open to obedience you gave me,” NAB), but most Septuagint manuscripts have “a body you prepared for me,” a reading obviously more suited to the interpretation of Hebrews.
  59. 10:8 Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings: these four terms taken from the preceding passage of Ps 40 (with the first two changed to plural forms) are probably intended as equivalents to the four principal types of Old Testament sacrifices: peace offerings (Lv 3, here called sacrifices); cereal offerings (Lv 2, here called offerings); holocausts (Lv 1); and sin offerings (Lv 4–5). This last category includes the guilt offerings of Lv 5:14–19.
  60. 10:11–18 Whereas the levitical priesthood offered daily sacrifices that were ineffectual in remitting sin (Hb 10:11), Jesus offered a single sacrifice that won him a permanent place at God’s right hand. There he has only to await the final outcome of his work (Hb 10:12–13; cf. Ps 110:1). Thus he has brought into being in his own person the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah (Jer 31:33–34) that has rendered meaningless all other offerings for sin (Hb 10:14–18).
  61. 10:13 Until his enemies are made his footstool: Ps 110:1 is again used; the reference here is to the period of time between the enthronement of Jesus and his second coming. The identity of the enemies is not specified; cf. 1 Cor 15:25–27.
  62. 10:15–17 The testimony of the scriptures is now invoked to support what has just preceded. The passage cited is a portion of the new covenant prophecy of Jer 31:31–34, which the author previously used in Hb 8:8–12.
  63. 10:17 He also says: these words are not in the Greek text, which has only kai, “also,” but the expression “after saying” in Hb 10:15 seems to require such a phrase to divide the Jeremiah text into two sayings. Others understand “the Lord says” of Hb 10:16 (here rendered says the Lord) as outside the quotation and consider Hb 10:16b as part of the second saying. Two ancient versions and a number of minuscules introduce the words “then he said” or a similar expression at the beginning of Hb 10:17.
  64. 10:19–39 Practical consequences from these reflections on the priesthood and the sacrifice of Christ should make it clear that Christians may now have direct and confident access to God through the person of Jesus (Hb 10:19–20), who rules God’s house as high priest (Hb 10:21). They should approach God with sincerity and faith, in the knowledge that through baptism their sins have been remitted (Hb 10:22), reminding themselves of the hope they expressed in Christ at that event (Hb 10:23). They are to encourage one another to Christian love and activity (Hb 10:24), not refusing, no matter what the reason, to participate in the community’s assembly, especially in view of the parousia (Hb 10:25; cf. 1 Thes 4:13–18). If refusal to participate in the assembly indicates rejection of Christ, no sacrifice exists to obtain forgiveness for so great a sin (Hb 10:26); only the dreadful judgment of God remains (Hb 10:27). For if violation of the Mosaic law could be punished by death, how much worse will be the punishment of those who have turned their backs on Christ by despising his sacrifice and disregarding the gifts of the holy Spirit (Hb 10:28–29). Judgment belongs to the Lord, and he enacts it by his living presence (Hb 10:30–31). There was a time when the spirit of their community caused them to welcome and share their sufferings (Hb 10:32–34). To revitalize that spirit is to share in the courage of the Old Testament prophets (cf. Is 26:20; Hb 2:3–4), the kind of courage that must distinguish the faith of the Christian (Hb 10:35–39).
  65. 10:20 Through the veil, that is, his flesh: the term flesh is used pejoratively. As the temple veil kept people from entering the Holy of Holies (it was rent at Christ’s death, Mk 15:38), so the flesh of Jesus constituted an obstacle to approaching God.
  66. 10:21 The house of God: this refers back to Hb 3:6, “we are his house.”
  67. 10:22 With our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience: as in Hb 9:13 (see note there), the sprinkling motif refers to the Mosaic rite of cleansing from ritual impurity. This could produce only an external purification, whereas sprinkling with the blood of Christ (Hb 9:14) cleanses the conscience. Washed in pure water: baptism is elsewhere referred to as a washing; cf. 1 Cor 6:11; Eph 5:26.
  68. 10:25 Our assembly: the liturgical assembly of the Christian community, probably for the celebration of the Eucharist. The day: this designation for the parousia also occurs in the Pauline letters, e.g., Rom 2:16; 1 Cor 3:13; 1 Thes 5:2.
  69. 10:26 If we sin deliberately: verse 29 indicates that the author is here thinking of apostasy; cf. Hb 3:12; 6:4–8.
  70. 10:28 Rejects the law of Moses: evidently not any sin against the law, but idolatry. Dt 17:2–7 prescribed capital punishment for idolaters who were convicted on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
  71. 10:32 After you had been enlightened: “enlightenment” is an ancient metaphor for baptism (cf. Eph 5:14; Jn 9:11), but see Hb 6:4 and the note there.
  72. 10:37–38 In support of his argument, the author uses Hb 2:3–4 in a wording almost identical with the text of the Codex Alexandrinus of the Septuagint but with the first and second lines of Hb 10:4 inverted. He introduces it with a few words from Is 26:20: after just a brief moment. Note the Pauline usage of Hb 2:4 in Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11.
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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