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Bible Commentaries

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Hebrews 5

 

 

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Verse 1

Every high priest. He speaks first of the office of priests in general, before he speaks of Christ's priesthood. A priest is chosen and preferred before other men, as qualified for the divine ministry, to offer up gifts, oblations, sacrifices, in order to obtain forgiveness for his own sins and those of the people, who, by the experience he has of his own infirmities, may compassionate others who offend through frailty or ignorance, every priest (excepting our Saviour Christ) being a sinner. Nor must he take upon himself rashly and inconsiderately, for temporal motives, this sacred ministry, formidable (says St. Gregory) even for the shoulders of Angels; he must consult God by prayer, follow the advice of his spiritual guides and pious parents; by these means to know whether he has a call from God to this ministry, as Aaron had. (Witham) --- The priest and pastor should never forget that he is a man and a sinner; that he is honoured with this divine ministry, to offer sacrifice both for his own sins and for the sins of the faithful; that prayer should be his delight, the altar his centre, and the sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ his supreme felicity. "This sacrifice of the Eucharist," says St. Augustine, "has succeeded to all the ancient victims that were immolated of old, to signify the future sacrifice." (lib. 10. chap. xx. de Civit. Dei.) As to the word mass, it was in use to signify this holy sacrifice of the altar above thirteen hundred years ago. See the second Council of Carthage, canon 3.; St. Jerome upon the Prov. chap. xi.; St. Ambrose, lib. 2. ep. 14. Missa facere cœpi; I began to say mass. It was introduced into this country [Great Britain] with Christianity itself. See Ven. Bede's history, chap. xxvii. & b. 4. chap. xiv.


Verse 3

Verse 4

See in 3 Kings xiii.; 2 Paralipomenon xxvi.; and 1 Kings xiii. the manifest punishments of the Almighty on laics that impiously and sacrilegiously attempted the ministry of priests. In the Christian dispensation, archbishop Cranmer, the very soul of the pretended reformation, dictatorially pronounces, "he that is appointed to be a bishop or priest, needeth no consecration:" words quoted by Dr. Stillingfleet from his own handwriting, in his Irenicum, p. 391, 2nd. ed. But the Catholic Church has given a very different decision, which is confirmed by the testimony of Scripture, apostolical tradition, and the unanimous consent of the Fathers. See Acts vi. 6. and xiii. 3. and xiv. 22.; 1 Timothy iv. 14. &c. See in the history of Socrates, who lived in the fifth century, how the usurpation of Ischyras, in taking upon himself the name and office of a priest without receiving holy orders, was reprobated as a crime worthy of death. (lib. 1. chap. xxvii. Ed. Val.)


Verse 5

So also Christ, as man, did not glorify himself, by assuming this dignity of high priest, but had it conferred upon him by the divine decrees of his eternal Father, who said to him: Thou art my Son, and thou art a priest forever, &c. (Witham)


Verse 6

may perhaps wonder why St. Paul does not dwell more in this epistle on the eucharistic sacrifice; but until the Hebrews understood the bloody sacrifice on the cross, they could not be supposed to understand the unbloody sacrifice of the altar. The holy Fathers observe, that the sacrifice of Melchisedech, (Genesis xiv. 18.) offered in bread and wine, prefigured the unbloody sacrifice offered by Jesus Christ at his last supper. See Clement of Alexandria, lib. 4. Strom. chap. viii.; St. Cyprian, lib. 2. ep. 3. ad Cæul.; Eusebius of Cæsarea, lib. 5. Dem. Evang. chap. iii.; St. Jerome, ad Marcel.; St. Augustine, ep. 95. ad Inn. Pap.; St. Ambrose; St. Epiphanius; St. John Chrysostom; &c. apud Bellarmine, lib. 1. de missa. chap. vi. Hence it follows, that the holy Eucharist is truly and properly a sacrifice as well as a sacrament, as the paschal lamb or passover of the old law was both a sacrament and sacrifice. For either our Saviour offered sacrifice at his last supper under the forms of bread and wine, or he cannot be called a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech. For the different orders of priests are chiefly distinguished by their sacrifice; (see ver. 1.) and if it be supposed that our Saviour only offered a bloody sacrifice, he would with more propiety have been called a priest according to the order of Aaron, and not of Melchisedech. See St. Augustine, lib. 16. de Civitat. Dei. chap. xxii.


Verse 7

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[BIBLIOGRAPHY]

Exauditus est pro sua reverentia, Greek: eisakoustheis apo tes eulabeias. Even the last Protestant translation, though much more exact than any of the former, puts, and was heard in that he feared. If the Rhemes translation, which I have not changed, be obscure, I much doubt whither theirs can be better understood. I will not suppose that they mean with Calvin, that Christ was so abandoned on the cross as to be driven to despair, and that he feared and felt the punishments of the damned, from which he begged to be freed, and was heard. Beza, says Calvin, was the first author of this exposition, that is, of this blasphemy. I will rather suppose that the Protestant translators only meant, that Christ, as man, feared death. How then was he heard in that he feared? not so as to be freed from death, and shortly after to rise and ascend triumphant into heaven. Dr. Wells, in his amendments to the Protestant translation, has changed it in this manner, was heard so as to be delivered from his fear; and in his paraphrase expounds it thus, namely, by an Angel sent on purpose to strengthen him; so that he expounds this text of the fear and prayer of Christ in the garden, from which fear he was freed at the appearing of the Angel. (Luke xxii. 43.) I pretend, notwithstanding, that the Protestant translation, was heard in that he feared, though we take it with the additions made by Dr. Wells, was heard so as to be delivered from his fear, is far from being exact, nor can it be looked upon as a proper and literal translation from the Greek text, Greek: apo tes eulabeias. First, where is there any thing in the Greek for he feared, or his fear? or that he was delivered from his fear? This is to add in the text itself a particular exposition, which at the same time is contrary to what divers interpreters take to be the literal sense of these words, Greek: apo tes eulabeias, who by Greek: eulabeias understand that great respect and regard which was in the Father towards Christ, because he was his Son. St. John Chrysostom understood the force of the Greek text as well as any one, and this seems the meaning of these his words: (Greek: log. e, p. 475, linea 20. Ed. Sav.) Greek: tosaue en autou e eulabeia, os kai apo toutou aideisthai auton ton theon. Nor does the Latin translator of St. John Chrysostom, Mutius Scholasticus, in the edition of Fronto Ducæus, seem to have mistaken the sense of St. John Chrysostom, where we find, (hom. viii. p. 1478) tanta fuit ejus reverentia, ac pietas, ut ideo eum revereretur Deus. Others indeed expound it of the reverential and godly fear, or piety, that was in Christ, as man, towards God, his Father, and that his prayers were heard on this account: but this will not justify the Protestant translation, that he was heard in that he feared, not the paraphrase of Dr. Wells, so as to be delivered from his fear, as if by Greek: eulabeias were understood merely a natural fear and apprehension. I find Mr. Legh, in his Critica Sacra, on the word Greek: eulabeias, says that the Syriac version has from fear: but he is mistaken, as may be seen in Walton's Polyglot: the Syriac has only, he was heard, without any mention at all of any kind of fear, which is left out. Mr. Legh says, Nazianzen [St. Gregory of Nazianzus] and Theodoret follow this sense. He cites not the words nor the places. It must be again his mistake. Theodoret has nothing like it in his commentary on this passage, nor St. Gregory (orat. xxxvi.) where cites these words of St. Paul. It is true Greek: eulabeias, especially in profane authors, has sometimes the same signification as timor, or metus. It is, says Scapula, timiditas circumspecta; but also, even in profane writers, the same as, religio, pietas in Deum. See also what examples Scapula brings on Greek: eulaboumai and Greek: eulabes; on which he says, apud Ecclesiasticos Scriptores, et in Test. Novi libris, circumspectus et cautus circa ea quæ ad cultum divinum pertinent, religiosus, pius, ut Luc. 2. I know also, that in Hebrews xi. 7. it is said of Noe [Noah], metuens, in the vulgar Latin, for Greek: eulabetheis; and Acts xxiii. 10. Tribunus timens, Greek: eulabetheis; but neither do these two examples shew that in this place, where mention is made of our Saviour Christ, Greek: eulabeia can be properly and literally translated by fear, or that the sense is that Christ was heard so as to be delivered from his fear. For first, this exposition of fear and apprehension of death agrees not with the common exposition of the ancient Fathers, neither with St. John Chrysostom and those who follow him, nor with the others, as I have shewn already. Secondly, this translation agrees not with the Protestant translation in other places. As for the substantive, Greek: eulabeia, it is only found in one other place in the New Testament, to wit, Hebrews xii. 28. Greek: meta aidous, kai eulabeias, where the Protestant translation has with reverence and godly fear; and for the adjective, Greek: eulabes, where old Simeon is called Greek: eulabes in the common Greek copies, (Luke ii. 25.) they have translated, a devout man. Acts viii. 2. the men that buried St. Stephen, Greek: andres eulabeis, are translated devout men, as also Acts ii. 5. Thirdly, the ancient Arabic version signifies propter reverentiam ejus, and the Ethiopic ob justitiam ejus, as they are in the translations of Walton, which agree with the Latin Vulgate, but not with that sense in which the English Protestants have translated the Greek. In fine, it must be observed that Greek: apo here, according to these versions, bears the sense of ob or propter, and not of ab or ex, of which signification see many examples in Estius. (Witham)

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Verse 8

that was truly the Son of God, and knew all things, learnt practically, and taught us perfect obedience in suffering and dying a cruel death on the cross. (Witham)


Verse 9

And being consummated, or perfected as man in all kinds of virtues, and at the same time true God by his divine person, became the author of salvation to all those who both believe in him and obey him. (Witham)


Verse 10

is but one eternal Pontiff, one universal Priest given by God all others are his vicars, but not successors, whom he associates to his priesthood, to continue those same functions on earth which he himself exercises in heaven, and which had been prefigured in Melchisedech.


Verse 11

Of whom, i.e. of his high priesthood, according to the order of Melchisedech, we have mighty things to say, and very hard to be expounded or understood by you, at least many of you, who, though you ought to be masters after the gospel hath been so long preached, and even by the apostles of Christ, yet you are weak as to understanding it; (the Greek also signifies slothful and negligent) you stand in need of being taught the first elements and principles of the Christian faith, like children, who are rather to be fed with milk than with more solid meats. How many are there now in the like condition, who are for reading and expounding all the holy Scriptures according to their own way of thinking? (Witham)

 


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Bibliography Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Hebrews 5:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/hebrews-5.html. 1859.

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