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Moses (3 8 ), and above Aaron (T 28 ). It gives Him
the right, now that His earthly task is completed,
to sit enthroned at the right hand of the Majesty
on high (1 s ).

(b) The Incarnation. Having once clearly stated
at the outset the eternal Divinity of the Son, the
Epistle dwells almost entirely on His life, work,
and exaltation as man. The reason for this is to
be found in the apologetic aim of the writer. His
readers' perplexities centred round Christ's earthly
life of suffering and temptation, which they re-
garded as unworthy of one who occupied His high
position. The Epistle declares that such humilia-
tion was not only in the highest degree worthy of
Him who bore it and of God who sent Him (firpfvev,
2 10 ; cf. T 26 ), it was a necessary part of the ex-
perience of one who fulfilled the office of universal
High Priest. It was the ground of His subsequent
exaltation (cf. 5t& rb tcoJdtnia. TOV ffavdrov . . . fare-
<f>av<afj.frot', 2 9 ).

Nowhere in the NT is more emphasis laid on the
reality of His human nature and human experience.
He who bore the simple human name Jesus (2 s 3 1 4 14
6 ao 722 10 i9 1312) was ma d e like His human brethren
in all things (2 11 - "). He partook of flesh and blood
as they do (2 14 ) ; He could sympathize with their
sufferings and temptations, for He too, as man,
suffered and was tempted (2 18 4 1S ) ; like them He
had to conquer human weakness before He could
learn the hard lesson of obedience to God's will (5 7 - 8 ).
The only difference between their struggle and His
lay in the issue. They sometimes fail, but He always
conquered, for He was sinless (4 W ). By His participa-
tion in human weakness and suffering and tempta-
tion Christ was 'made perfect' (reXetwflefs, 5 9 ; cf. 2 10 ).
By experiencing them in His own human life He
gained the perfect sympathy with mankind which
fits Him to be their High Priest. By overcoming
them He realized in Himself as man the high
destiny of the race. He became the first-born of
many sons who shall be led to glory (2 10 ).

(c) The Priesthood and Sacrifice of Christ. (i.)
The sufferings and death of Christ find their final
explanation in the thought of His High-Priestly
office. They are the necessary condition of His
call to that office. Any priest who is called to be
the representative of men must himself be man,
capable of sympathy with human weakness and
error (5 s ). The Levitical priests possessed sym-



pathy with human weakness, but they were also
tainted with human sin (5 s ). The ideal priest must
combine perfect sympathy with the sinner with
complete freedom from sin (4 15 ). These qualifica-
tions were united in Christ. He was therefore
called by God to be Priest, not after the order of
Aaron, but after the eternal order of Melchizedek
(5 4 ~ 6 ). The Aaronic order was only the shadow,
not the reality of priesthood. Only by way of
contrast could it set forth the character of the
eternal Priesthood. For the members of that order
held office by virtue of mere physical descent (7 16 ) ;
their ministry could call sins to mind but could not
cleanse them (10 1 " 8 ) ; they could not unite the

g:ople to God even into the earthly symbol of
is presence the high priest himself could enter
only once a year alone (9 7 ) ; lastly, the Aaronic
priests were mortal their work was confined to
one generation (7 23 ).

By contrast with the Aaronic priesthood, it
follows that the perfect priest must be really, not
ritually, holy, his office resting on his own perfect
fitness to perform it ; he must be able to take away
sin and to unite men to God ; lastly, he must be
eternal placed beyond the reach of sin and death.
The essential features of this perfect priesthood
are set forth, as in a parable, in the biblical por-
trait of the priest-king Melchizedek. The name
Melchizedek, which means ' king of righteousness,'
indicates the personal, not merely official, holiness
of the true priest ; his connexion with Salem,
which means ' peace,' points to the abiding union
between God and man which he effects; the
absence from the record of any mention of Melchi-
zedek's parentage and of any references to his
birth or his death suggests that the perfect priest-
hood is eternal and exercised by right of tne per-
sonal qualification of the priest (7 1 ' 8 ). Abraham,
the father of Levi, acknowledged the superiority
of the eternal priesthood when he paid tithes to
Melchizedek and received his blessing (7*~ 10 ). The
eternal priesthood ' after the order of Melchizedek,'
as the Psalm foretold, is perfectly realized in
Christ. His office rests not on ' the law of a carnal
commandment ' (7 16 ) for according to the flesh He
was not born of a priestly family (7 18 ) but on ' the
power of an indissoluble life' (7 16 ). He has perfect
sympathy with human weakness and temptation,
for He has felt them (2 18 4 18 ), yet He is not tainted
with human sin (4 18 7 s7 ). He is really, not ritually,
holy and without blemish, blameless in His rela-
tion to God and to man (7 26 ). In His own Person
He has inseparably united man with God, and
opened a way of access into the Divine presence
which can never again be closed (6 20 10 19 - so ). For His
Priesthood is inviolable and eternal (7 20 ). He has
passed into the world of eternal realities, far be-
yond the reach of sin and death (I s 6 20 7 26 9 s4 ).
There He ever liveth to make intercession for us
(T 25 ).

(ii.) The central function of priesthood is to offer
sacrifice. If Christ be perfect Priest, what has He
to offer (8 s ) ? The eternal Sacrifice which corre-
sponds to the eternal Priesthood. Once more the idea
is worked out by means of a contrast with Levitical
institutions and the exposition of a verse from the
Psalter. Levitical sacrifices were material and fre-
quently repeated. Frequent repetition was neces-
sary because they had no efficacy in the spiritual
sphere ; they could not take away sin or cleanse
the conscience (9 9 10 1 -*). Long ago the Psalmist
recognized their futility and indicated the nature
of valid sacrifice. True sacrifice, he declared, is
spiritual ; its essence consists in self-sacrifice
the complete surrender of the will in voluntary
obedience to God (10*- 10 ). Christ's oblation was a
sacrifice of self, the complete surrender of a per-
fect self in willing obedience (l v 9"). ' The days

of His flesh' were one long period of self-dedication,
and in the culminating moment on the Cross His
sacrifice was made complete (5 7 - 8 9 12 10 10 - 20 ). Self-
sacrifice could be carried no further. Christ's
perfect spiritual Sacrifice the entire devotion of a
perfect will although its manifestation took place
on earth, belongs in all its stages to the world of
eternal realities (cf. did. irve^aroj aluviov, 9 14 ). It
has the power ' to cleanse the conscience from dead
works' (9 14 ) and 'to make perfect for ever them
that are sanctified' (10 14 ). Because it possesses
eternal validity it can never be repeated (T 27 9 24 ' 28 ).
The ' indissoluble life ' (7 16 ) of the Priest- Victim is
made available for all men by the one offering.
The new covenant-relation between God and man
is established (g 24 ). Henceforth Christ sits en-
throned in the heavenly sanctuary in token that
His task is done, waiting until His enemies become
His footstool (10 12 - 14 ).

(d) The Death of Christ. The supposition that
the death of Christ was a real stumbling-block to
the first readers of the Epistle is justified by the
evident pains taken by the writer to find reasons
for that death. Firstly, Christ died ' by the grace
of God' (2 9 ); God willed that it should be so.
Secondly, Christ died as true man. To die once
and once only is part of the common lot of men
(9 27 ). Thirdly, Christ died as testator, that we
might enter into the inheritance He has bequeathed
to us (9 16 ). Fourthly, the death of Christ was the
necessary climax of the experience of human
suffering which qualified Him to be 'captain of
salvation' (2 10 ). Fifthly, Christ died to free us
from the fear of death. From the time of the Fall,
death was terrible because it was regarded as the
penalty of human sin. Jesus Christ, by dying
though He was sinless, broke the connexion be-
tween death and sin, and so robbed death of its
enslaving terrors (2 14>15 ). Finally, Christ's death
was the foundation of the new covenant, the
priestly act of self -sacrifice by which ' he hath
perfected for ever them that are sanctified* (9 18
10 14 ).

That the voluntary laying down of Christ's life
was a sacrificial act is regarded as self-evident,
and no direct answer is given to the question, ' How
does His sacrifice make perfect His followers ? ' Yet
the writer provides the material for an answer
when he dwells on the principle of Christ's ' solid-
arity with sinners.' ' He that sanctitieth and they
that are to be sanctified are all of one' (2 11 , sc.
' one piece, one whole ' ; cf . Davidson, Hebrews, p.
66, n. 2). Christ's High-Priestly acts were not the
acts of an individual but of the representative
man. It was human nature which in Him was
perfected through obedience, entered the heavenly
sanctuary, and sat down on the throne of majesty.
What was actually effected in Him, was effected
potentially in those who follow Him (cf. 10 10 ).
Christians 'are included in that purpose of love
which Christ has realised ' (Westcott, Ep. to the
Hebrews*, p. 314). The High Priest is also the jr/>6-
5/30/tos (6 20 ), one of many sons who are being brought
to glory (2 10 ), who becomes the cause of salvation
to His human brethren because in Him the perfec-
tion of human nature has been realized (5 9 ).

(e) The Parousia. The Epistle speaks of ' the
day which is approaching' (10 25 ), when God 'will
shake not the earth only but also the heavens ' (12 26 ),
and the glorified Christ ' shall appear unto salva-
tion for them that await him ' ($ a ). ' The day' is
unquestionably the prophetic ' Day of Jahweh,'
but the idea of the day intended by the writer
seems to be that of the older OT prophets (cf. Am
5 18 , Is 2 ia ), rather than that of the later apocalyp-
tists. It is 'a coming ' rather than 'the Coming'
of the Christ. About the final Coming the Epistle
has nothing to say. But a crisis is at hand ; the



readers can already see its approach. To the
writer it is a real coming of Christ.

' The Master had said that He might come at even or at mid-
night or at cock-crowing or in the morning (Mk 13 35 ). To the
writer of this letter the thought has occurred that those hours
may be nob merely alternative but successive. And now that
the first of them has sounded warning, he bids his friends be
ready ' (Nairne, The Epistle of Priesthood, p. 210).

(3) THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. The 'great salva-
tion ' (2 s ) wrought by Christ is variously described
in the Epistle as the realization of man's lordship
over creation (2 8 - 9 ), deliverance from the fear of
death (2 14 - 15 ), entrance into the perfect Sabbath-
rest of God (4 9 ). But its essence consists in cleans-
ing and consecration, the taking away of sin (9 14 ),
and the opening of a way of free access into the
Divine presence (10 20 ), or, as it is expressed in one
passage, ' the perfecting for ever of them that are
sanctified by the one ottering of Christ' (10 14 ). In
one sense this ' perfecting ' is already accomplished
(TereXeiu/cev, 10 14 ). From another point of view it
is regarded as a hope yet to be realized. For there
is nothing mechanical about its working. Each
individual Christian must make it his own. If we
are to be perfected, our will must be united with
the will of Christ in perfect surrender to God (5 9
10 10 ). Seen from this standpoint, the Christian life
is a progressive sanctification (2 11 10 14 12 14 ), which
may be figuratively represented as a race or a
pilgrimage. Hence arises the need of solemn
warnings. It is possible to drop out of the Chris-
tian race before the goal is reached, or to set out
on the pilgrimage and yet never arrive at the
heavenly city. The great danger which besets the
Christian is faint-heartedness (airia-ria, 3 12 ), the loss
of the vision of the land of eternal things, and
want of confidence in Him who leads us to that
land. The Christian safeguard is 'faith.' Faith
is the power which helps us to grasp the abiding
realities which lie behind the world of sense, and to
test the existence and character of things which
are for us as yet unrealized (II 1 ). It is the faculty
by which, for example, we recognize the eternal
issues which were decided by the earthly life and
humiliation of Christ, and the futility of all hopes
that stand apart from Him. The practical result
of such faith will be unswerving devotion and
obedience to our Captain in the face of all trouble
and difficulty (5 9 ), for He Himself has run the race
before us and stands waiting for us at the goal
(12 2 ). If our eyes are fixed on Him, and all things
which might impede our progress are thrown aside,
He will make perfect the faith which He has
given (12 2 ), He will grant us the ' full assurance of
hope' (6 11 ), which will bring us safely along the
path which He has trodden to the end, where the
fullness of His salvation is revealed in the eternal
sanctuary, the very presence of God (cf. 6 19 - 20 ).

4. Date. The first generation of Christians had
passed away (2 3 13 7 ) ; members of the Church had
already suffered persecution, imprisonment, and
loss of property (10 32 ' s4 ); the relation of Gentile
and Jewish Christians was no longer a burning
question of the day. The Epistle cannot therefore
have been written long before A.D. 70. On the
other hand, it cannot be placed much later than
A.D. 90, for it was extensively used by Clement of
Rome in his Epistle to the Corinthians, c. A.D. 95-
96 (cf. ad Cor. 9, 12, 17, 36, 45).

Any more precise determination of the date
must rest chiefly on the view taken of the crisis
with which the first readers of the Epistle were
confronted. If the approaching 'day' (lO^J'be
taken to mean the Final Coming of Christ, the
exact date of the Epistle must be left uncertain.
But if it be rightly interpreted as an allusion to
the inevitable culmination of some national move-
ment already active a movement which forced
upon the readers a final choice between Christian-

ity and Judaism it is most naturally regarded as
referring to the outbreak of the Jewish war which
led to the Destruction of Jerusalem. The date of
the Epistle would then fall between A.D. 63 and 70.

No chronological argument can be based on the
fact that the writer of the Epistle generally uses
the present tense in speaking of Levitical institu-
tions (7 8 - *> 8 s - 6 9 8 9 - 13 13'). The use of the present
tense does not necessarily imply that the Temple
was still standing when he wrote. Similar lan-
guage is frequently employed in reference to the
Temple service in writings much later than A.D.
70 (e.g. Clem. Rom. ad Cor. 40-41 ; Justin Martyr,
Dial. 117 ; Epistle of Barnabas, passim). But
what the writer to the Hebrews has in mind is not
the service of the Temple but that of the Taber-
nacle. 'The references [of the Epistle] to the
Mosaic ritual are purely ideal and theoretical, and
based on the Law in the Pentateuch' (Davidson,
op. cit. p. 15).

Some commentators have found a further indica-
tion of date in the writer's application of the words
of Ps 95 to the circumstances of his own day (3 7 " n ).
Special emphasis is laid on the fact that he departs
from the construction of the original passage in
connecting the words 'forty years' with the pre-
ceding clause ' they saw my works,' instead of with
that which follows. It is suggested that the
change was made intentionally, because the writer
wished to point out that, as he wrote, another
period of ' forty years of seeing God's works ' was
rapidly drawing to a close, namely, the forty years
which followed the Crucifixion (c. A.D. 30-70).
Yet, even if it be permissible to take the number
forty literally, this argument has little value.
The language of the Psalm might equally well be
applied to the period A.D. 30-70 at a much later
date by a writer who considered that the ' to-day '
of unbelieving Israel's opportunity closed with the
Destruction of Jerusalem. The passage has even
been used to prove that the Epistle must have been
written some years later than A.D. 70 (Zahn,
Introd. to the NT, Eng. tr., ii. 321 ff.). But it
seems unlikely either in the original Psalm or in
the quotation that 'forty years' means anything
more definite than the lifetime of a generation.

5. The readers. (1) Jews or Gentiles? A unan-
imous tradition, reaching back to the 2nd cent,
and embodied in the title invariably given to the
Epistle, asserts that it was addressed vpbs'Eppalovs.
It may be granted that the title does not go back
to the original writer, and that it represents
nothing more than an inference from the contents
of the letter, but the inference is probably correct
if not inevitable. The traditional view remained
unquestioned until the 19th cent., but since then
it has frequently been maintained that the Epistle
was addressed to Gentiles, or at least to Christians
generally, without regard to their origin. By
isolating certain incidental statements contained
in the Epistle, it is not difficult to present a
plausible case for this opinion. It has been said,
for example, that no Jewish convert would need to
be taught the elementary doctrines enumerated in
6 1 ' a ; that conversion from Judaism which the
writer believed to be a Divinely-given religion,
would never have been described by him as turning
' from dead works to serve a living God ' (9 14 ) ; that
the faults against which the readers are warned
(12 14 13 4 ) are the faults of heathen rather than of
Jews. It must be recognized, however, that the
details on which the argument rests are capable of

[2 16 ] and

[2 17 ], where the argument rather requires 'man-
kind'), may be quoted on the other side.
But the traditional opinion is most strongly



supported by the general drift and tendency of the
Epistle taken as a whole. The writer appeals to
the OT as to an independent authority which may
be quoted in support of the Christian faith. He
assumes that his readers take the same view of
the QT. This would be true of Jewish but not of
Gentile converts. To the Gentile the OT had no
meaning apart from Christianity. In the same
way the main argument of the Epistle, while in-
volving the conclusion that Christianity is the
perfect and final religion, yet formally proves only
that Christianity is superior to Judaism. This
method of reasoning, unaccompanied by any refer-
ence to paganism in any form, is only intelligible if
addressed to men who were either Jews by birth or
who had adopted Jewish ways of thinking so com-
pletely as to be indistinguishable from born Jews.

(2) Place of residence. The Epistle contains no
opening salutation, and no direct information as to
its destination. This lack of evidence makes it
very difficult to locate the readers for whom it was
intended. The ancient title vpbs 'E/3paous throws
no light upon the question, for the term ' Hebrews '
is national, not local. Many suggestions have
been made of probable places where such a circle
of readers as the Epistle presupposes may have
existed. The claims most widely upheld are those
of (a) Jerusalem or some other Palestinian or Syrian
community, (b) Alexandria, (c) Rome or some other
church in Italy.

(a) In favour of the first hypothesis, it is argued
that Jerusalem, or at least some Palestinian city,
would be the most likely place for a purely Jewish
community, and that there too the practical problem
with which the Epistle deals would be most keenly
felt. But the language used in the Epistle (2 s ),
which implies that the community addressed had
had no opportunity of hearing tne gospel from
Christ's own lips, certainly does not favour the
theory of any Palestinian destination, nor do the
suggestions of the comparative wealth of the
readers (6 10 10 33 '-) agree with the known poverty
of the primitive church of Judaea. Palestine again
is not a place where Timothy might be expected to
have much influence (13 23 ), and the absence of any
distinct mention in the Epistle of the Temple as
opposed to the Tabernacle would be, to say the
least, remarkable if it were addressed to Judaea.

(ft) Alexandria has been suggested chiefly on
account of the affinities of thought and language
between the Epistle and Alexandrian Judaism as
represented by the writings of Philo and the Book
of Wisdom. Such affinities undoubtedly exist, and
may perhaps contain a hint concerning the writer's
own birth-place, but they supply no evidence as to
the destination of the Epistle. It must be remem-
bered also that the Alexandrian type of Judaism
was by no means confined to Alexandria. The
theory that the Epistle was written with particular
reference to the worship of the Jewish Temple at
Leontopolis falls to the ground when it is realized
that the writer had in view not the worship of any
particular Temple, but the Levitical service as it
is described in the Pentateuch (K. Wieseler, Unter-
suchung iiber den Hebrderbrief, 1861).

(c) What little evidence the Epistle itself supplies,
may be quoted in favour of Home or some other
Italian community. For the words ' They of Italy
send greeting' are most naturally taken as imply-
ing that the letter was sent either to or from Italy,
and some less vague expression than ol dirb TTJS
'IraXtas (13 24 ) might reasonably have been expected
if the writer were actually in Italy at the time of
writing. Corroborative evidence for regarding
Rome as the destination of the Epistle may be
found in the fact that the earliest known quotation
of its language occurs in the letter of Clement of

But the question of the Epistle's destination
must remain without a final answer. It seems
clear that it was addressed not to a mixed com-
munity, but to Jews, and the general impression it
gives is of a limited circle of readers rather than of
a large and miscellaneous gathering (Zahn, op. cit.
ii. 349 ff. ). Whether that circle was 'the church
in so-and-so's house,' or ' a group of scholarly men
like the author' (Nairne, op. cit. p. 10), cannot be
finally determined.

6. Author. 'But who wrote the Epistle God
only knows certainly ' (ris 82 d ypfyas TJJV ^iriffro\^v
rb fj-tv aXrjdts 9e6s older, Origen, ap. Euseb. HE vi.
25). These words were originally spoken with
reference to the amanuensis or translator of the
Epistle. Most modern scholars are content to ex-
tend their reference to the actual author. The
writer keeps himself in the background, and later
research has never finally discovered his identity.
In this respect students of the 2nd cent, were as
much in the dark as those of the present day. It
is significant that the Roman Church, which was
the first to make use of the Epistle, refused for
more than three centuries to grant it a place
amongst the NT Scriptures, on account of the un-
certainty of its authorship (Euseb. HE iii. 3). If
Eusebius is to be trusted, Roman opinion on the
subject did not go beyond a denial of the author-
ship of St. Paul. The only positive statement
made by any early Latin writer occurs in a work
of Tertullian, who attributes the Epistle without
question to Barnabas (de Pudicitia, xx.). This
belief may perhaps represent a Montanist tradition
generally current in North Africa. It is difficult
to see why it vanished so completely from the other
churches, if it had ever been more widely circulated.

It was in Alexandria, after the Epistle had
already been accepted as canonical on its own
merits, that the theory of Pauline authorship
gradually arose. The writings of Clement of
Alexandria (c. A.D. 200), Origen (c. A.D. 220), and
Eusebius (c. A.D. 320), display the theory in process
of formation. Clement put forward the suggestion
that St. Paul wrote the Epistle in Hebrew, and St.
Luke afterwards translated it into Greek. The
latter conjecture is based on the resemblance of
style between the Greek of the Epistle and that of
the Acts (Euseb. HE vi. 14). Origen expresses
his own opinion thus : ' The thoughts are the
thoughts of the Apostle, but the language and
composition that of one who recalled from memory,
and, as it were, made notes of what was said b*y
the master' (&TrofJLvt]ti.oi>e6ffa.vT6s TWOS ret dmxrroXt/cA

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