The Arguments, 2:10-12:29

2. Christ's high priestly sacrifice enables us to approach God, 7:1-10:25

iii] Christ's superior priesthood


In Chapter 7 our author outlines the qualities of Christ's priesthood, a priest after the order of Melchizedek. In the passage before us he compares Christ's priesthood with that of the Levitical priesthood, making the following points: First, God's confirming oath in Psalm 110:4 establishes Christ's unique priesthood, which priesthood serves as a guarantee of a better experience of the covenant for God's people, v20-22; Second, the permanence of Christ's priesthood enables him to always intercede for his people, v23-25; Third, the perfection of Christ's priesthood means his priestly office can effectively serve our needs, v26-28.


i] Context: See 7:1-10.


ii] Background: A general introduction; See 1:1-4.


iii] Structure: This passage, Christ's superior priesthood, presents as follows:

God's confirming oath, v20-22;

The permanence of Christ's priesthood, v23-25;

The perfection of Christ's priesthood, v26-27;

Summary, v28.


iv] Interpretation:

The passage before us addresses an issue raised in 7:11-19, namely that as there has been a change in the priesthood from the order of Aaron to the order of Melchizedek, and therefore, by implication, a change in the Mosaic law as it applies to the Aaronic priesthood, a priesthood that was "weak and ineffectual." A change to the Mosaic law, with its central place in the life of the Christian community, particularly for Jewish believers, goes to the heart of the reliability of God. So, our author affirms God's reliability by showing how God has brought his purposes to completion in his Son, authorizing him by a divine oath that rightly supersedes the laws applying to the Aaronic priesthood.


The priestly role performed by Christ. In 2:17 Christ's priestly function is described as: a) to make propitiation. ie. To turn aside the wrath of God from the rebel onto the sacrifice; b) to strengthen the children of God in times of temptation. In 4:15 his priestly function is described as supplying mercy and grace to help the child of God in times of need. Now in v25, Christ's priestly function is defined in terms of making intercession. The idea is similar to that put forward by Paul in Romans 8:33. To understand what the content of this intercession would be, we need only look at the earthly example of Christ. In Luke 22:32, Christ prays for Peter in the following terms, "I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren." Similarly in John 17 Jesus asks for the acceptance of his disciples through his suffering and death, and perseverance in the way; "Keep them safe." So, Christ asks for our right-standing in God's sight as well as aid in our journey of discipleship. In asking for this on our behalf, Christ does not plead our cause before a reluctant king, but rather asks with the authority and right of the glorified Son of God.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 7:20

Christ's superior priesthood, v20-28: i] God's confirming oath, v20-22. Our author identifies an important advantage of Christ's priesthood over that of the Levitical priesthood, namely that the guarantee of a "better" covenant rests on the firm ground of a divine oath.

These three verses make up one complex sentence in the Gk. The sentence takes shape around two prepositional phrases kaq o{son and kata tosouto, both serving as a backward referencing "according to such", a kind of "now with regard to that", ie. the setting aside of the law governing the Aaronic priesthood and its replacement with "a better hope" in the appointment of a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, a point drawn from Psalm 110:4, v17, and developed in v18-19. With the appointment of a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, an everlasting priesthood, the law establishing the Aaronic priesthood is annulled, and this because the Aaronic priesthood is weak and ineffectual, unable to provide access to God, unable to facilitate forgiveness. Each of the prepositional phrases take a propositional statement: v20, "with regard / as to [the appointment of a priest after the order of Melchizedek] it was not without an oath", kai, "and", v22, "with regard to [this appointment] Jesus has become a guarantor of a covenant of much greater value." Sitting between these two statement there is a parenthetical comment explaining that whereas the Aaronic priesthood was founded without an oath, such was not the case for Christ's high-priestly role. For clarity, v20b -21 is best bracketed.

kai "and" - Introducing the next point in the argument and best left untranslated.

kaq o{son "-" - in so much as. This phrase, a kind of "with regard to what I have just said", references backward; "with regard the setting aside of the law governing the Aaronic priesthood and its replacement with a better hope, it was not without an oath."

oJrkwmosiaV (a) "[it was not without] an oath" - a swearing of an oath. Our author takes Psalm 110:4 as an oath sworn by God. Given that no such oath is made for the establishment of the Aaronic priesthood, the law coving this priesthood is not binding. This type of argumentation is foreign to our ears, but not to a 1st. century Jew. The phrase is a litotes in that it serves to emphasize the opposite. God confirmed Christ's new and eternal priesthood with an oath.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause in the form of a parenthetical comparative statement (men ..... de, "on the one hand ...... but on the other") drawing out the author's point that the priesthood of Melchizedek was not established without an oath; "(for, on the one hand, the Aaronic priesthood was established without a sworn oath, but on the other hand, Christ's priesthood after the order of Melchizedek was established with a sworn oath by Him who said The Lord has sworn and will not go back on his word; You are a priest forever)."

eisin .... gegonoteV (ginomai) perf. "became" - are having become. A periphrastic perfect construction. Possibly emphasizing aspect, "here denotes the beginning of a state or condition", BDF.


oJ "[but] he became a priest" - [but] the one. The phrase refers to Christ's priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. It possibly takes a general sense like "the whole process occurred", but more specifically "he became a priest."

meta + gen. "with [an oath]" - with [a sworn oath]. Accompaniment.

dia + gen. "when" - Grammatically, this preposition followed by a genitive would normally take an instrumental sense; "through, by means of"; "by the one who said to him", ESV.

tou legontoV (legw) pres. part. "God said" - the one saying. The participle serves as a substantive.

proV + acc. "to [him]" - to, toward [him, ie. Jesus]. "Concerning him."

ou metamelhqhsetai (metamelomai) fut. pas. "will not change his mind" - he will not change his mind, repent, regret. Emphasizing God's constancy.

eiV ton aiwna "forever" - into the age. Common phrase used of eternity.


kata tosouto + acc. "because of [this oath]" - according to such. For this prepositional phrase see above.

diaqhkhV (h) "covenant" - agreement. The "better covenant" rests on better promises, cf. 8:6. The writer to the Hebrews, more than any other NT writer, makes much of the new covenant, although he doesn't suggest that its being "new" means it is totally different to / other than, the original covenant made with Abraham. There is actually only one covenant, which when renewed by Christ realized its full potential. God's covenant with Abraham, and its final manifestation in Christ, rest on God promise to bless his people as an act of mercy (grace), which mercy is appropriated by faith. Yet, in comparison, the realization of the covenant in Christ is better / superior because it rests on the blood of Jesus, rather than its prefiguring in the sacrificial blood of animals. "Better" in the sense of "greater"; "a superior covenant", Koester.

egguoV "guarantee" - guarantee, guarantor. Normally used of guaranteeing persons, but here obviously of the covenant promises. "And this makes Jesus surety of a superior covenant", Moffatt.


ii] The permanence of Christ's priesthood, v23-25. Our author now identifies a second advantage of Christ's priesthood over that of the Levitical priesthood. The Levitical priesthood was continually interrupted by death, but Jesus lives forever. Unlike the Levites, Christ can fulfill the perpetual priesthood identified in the text "for ever." We no longer have to see the priesthood constantly handed to another imperfect mediator, since Christ lives forever at God's right hand. Therefore, Jesus is well able to save us and intercede on our behalf.

kai "-" - and. Christ's priesthood and the Levitical priesthood were compared in v20-22, and so this particle is possibly being used to introduce another comparison, "there is another difference", TEV, or possibly going back to the whole kai kaq o{son / kata tosouto kai construction of v20 / 22.

men ..... de "now ....... v24, but". Adversative comparative construction; "on the one hand ....... but on the other ......"

eisin gegonoteV "there have been" - are becoming = have become. Another paraphrastic perfect construction, possibly serving to emphasize durative aspect, repeatedly many of them.

oiJ .... oJ "many ...... v24 Jesus" - [on the one hand] these many [ ....... on the other hand] this one.

dia to + inf. "since" - because of, on account of. This construction forms a causal clause explaining why there had been many priests.

kwluesqai (kwluw) pres. pas. inf. "[death] prevented them" - to be hindered (rather than prevented). Causal; see above.

paramenein (paramenw) pres. inf. "from continuing in office" - to continue. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of "hindered" = was not able to continue in office.


de "but" - but, and. Here adversative; see v23.

oJ "Jesus" - this one. See above.

dia to + inf. "because [Jesus lives]" - because [to abide, remain, continue]. As in v23, this construction forms a causal clause.

eiV to aiwna "forever" - to the age, eternity.

aparabaton adj. "permanent [priesthood]" - unchangeable, permanent, inviable. "His work as priest does not pass to someone else", TEV.


oJqen "therefore" - Here drawing a logical conclusion / inferential.

swzein (swzw) "to save" - The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of "is able".

eiV to panteleV "completely" - to the complete = to the uttermost. The adjective serves as a substantive, with the preposition eiV forming an adverbial prepositional phrase, "completely", possibly temporal, "for all time", NRSV.

touV prosercomenouV (prosercomai) pres. part. "those who come" - the ones coming. The participle serves as a substantive; "those who draw near to God", ESV.

tw/ qew/ (oV) dat. "to God" - Dative of direct object / complement of the participle "coming" which takes a dative of persons.

dia + gen. "through [him]" - through, by means of. Instrumental / means.

zwn (zaw) pres. part. "because he [always] lives" - living. The participle is adverbial, probably causal, as NIV. "Since he is always living", Moffatt.

eiV to + inf. "to [intercede]" = in order to. This construction usually forms a purpose clause, "in order to intercede / make intercession for."


iii] The perfection of Christ's priesthood, v26-27. These verses identify a third advantage of Christ's priesthood over that of the Levitical priesthood, namely the perfection of Christ's priestly office, although in the logic of our author they probably serve to explain / support (gar) his statement in v25 that Christ "is able to save completely." The new priesthood is better than the old because the new priest is Jesus. Jesus went the way of obedience, he was tested and did not rebel against the living God. Jesus stands as the Holy one of God, pure and blameless in glory. As the pure one, Jesus does not need to offer sacrifices for his own sin as did the high priest of old. Jesus has offered only one sacrifice and this for others; a sin offering for the people, Isa.53:10; a sin offering of his own life, Mk.10:45, 14:24.

gar "-" - for. More explanatory than causal; as noted above.

kai "truly" - and. Emphatic; "for indeed, such a high priest."

hJmin dat. pro. "our" - [for indeed, such a high priest was fitting] to us. Dative of interest, advantage; "for us"

eprepen (prepw) imperf. "meets [our] needs" - was suitable, fitting. "This is the kind of priest we need", Barclay.

oJsioV adj. "holy" - Used of both God and of godly persons. Note that the Hebrew cognate is hesed "loving kindness", "steadfast love"

akakoV adj. "blameless" - innocent. The word does also have the sense of "guileless", easily led astray. Obviously not the sense here.

amiantoV adj. "pure" - undefiled. The prefix a negates the word, which as a verb = "I stain, defile". The adjective has a passive connotation "he cannot be defiled", Kistemaker.

kecwrismenoV (cwrizw) perf. pas. part. "set apart [from sinners]" - having been separated. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "high priest", "who was separated from". The perfect tense indicates a lasting state. The high priest of Israel was ceremonially set apart from the people, but Jesus is set apart morally, possibly also in the sense of now seated at the right hand of the Ancient of Days.

genomenoV (ginomai) aor. part. "exalted [above the heavens]" - having become [higher the heavens]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "high priest", "who became high above the heavens"; "exalted to a hight greater than the heavens", Cassirer.


w{sper "unlike" - as, like. Comparative; "as is the case for the Aaronic high priests."

anaferein (anaferw) pres. inf. "[he does not need] to offer" - [who does not have] .... to offer. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of "does not have". Of "an offering made to God and placed upon his altar", Westcott.

kaq hJmeran "day after day" - daily. Temporal. Actually, the sacrifice for the high priest's sins was yearly, on the day of Atonement. The sacrifices offered daily were usually performed by lower ranking priests. The point here is that the sacrifices are repeated. Jesus didn't need to offer a sacrifice for himself and his sacrifice for the world did not need to be repeated. "He does not need to offer a repeated sacrifice, first ....."

uJper + gen. "for [his own sins]" - Expressing advantage / benefaction; "for the sake of."

twn gen. art. "[then for] the sins [of the people]" - This article assumes aJmartiwn, "the sins", genitive after an assumed uJper, "for".

gar "-" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus doesn't need to offer daily sacrifices, namely, because his sacrifice was a one-off action, singular and complete; "because he did this once for all."

touto "He" - this one. That is, "Jesus the high priest."

efapax adv. "once for all" - "For everything that had to be done in this matter he accomplished once and for all through the offering up of himself", Cassirer.

anenegkaV (anaferw) aor. part. "when he offered [himself]" - having offered up [himself]. The participle is adverbial, possibly temporal, as NIV, but also possibly instrumental, "by means of offering up himself." Of "an offering brought to God", Westcott.


iv] A summary of the argument presented in v20-28. The high priest of old was affected by human frailty, but Christ is untainted by human failing. The new perpetual priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek, is established by Divine acclimation, given under oath, and thus, supersedes the imperfect Aaronic model.

gar "-" - for. More explanatory than causal; introduce an explanatory summary of the passage and thus may be left untranslated, or "So then, ....

oJ nomoV (oV) "the law" - Obviously "the Law of Moses", as it pertains to the priesthood, but not law in general.

kaqisthsin (kaqisthmi) pres. "appoints" - puts in charge, makes. "Appoints".

asqeneian (a) "[men who are] weak / [men in all their] weakness" - "Imperfect and beset by weakness."

de "but" - but, and. Here adversative, "but".

hV oJrkwmosiaV (a) gen. "the oath" - [the word] of the oath. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "word"; "oath word" = "sworn statement." The new perpetual priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek, was established by Divine acclimation, given under oath, and thus, supersedes the limited, and preparatory, Aaronic model.

thV "which came" - which. Referencing the oath given by God = [the oath] which God swore [came after ...].

meta + acc. "after [the law]" - after. Spacial, "after", used in the sense of superseding the law; "came later than the law", Barclay.

teteleiwmenon (teleiow) perf. pas. part. "who has been made perfect [forever]" - having been made perfect. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the Son". The perfect tense expresses a continuing state and the passive possibly expresses divine action. Christ's exaltation is permanent and absolute; "appoints the forever-perfect Son", Berkeley.


Hebrews Introduction



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