The Arguments, 2:10-12:29

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

x] The temple sacrificial system is but a shadow


Our author now gives his most pertinent reason for the superiority of Christ's priestly sacrifice, namely, its quality of complete obedience to God. Christ's "obedient death effected the cleansing from sin that was foreshadowed, but not accomplished, by the Mosaic institutions", Koester.


i] Context: See 7:1-10.


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


iii] Structure: This passage, The temple sacrificial system is but a shadow, presents as follows:

A shadow of reality, v1-4;

The sacrificial system is but a reminder of reality, v1;

It can never make perfect those who draw near, v2;

It reminds the worshiper of their sin, v3-4;

A shadow replace by Christ, v5-10:

Psalm 40:6-8, v5-7;

Christ's sacrifice replaces the Levitical cult, v8-9:

"he does away with the first in order to establish the second."

Conclusion - Christ's obedience has set aside the Levitical cult, v10.


The passage 10:1-18 presents with a ABBA chiastic structure:,

A1. The repeated sacrifices of the Aaronic priesthood are a reminder of sin, v1-4;

B1. The repeated sacrifices of the Aaronic priesthood have been replaced by Christ's once-only sacrifice which was performed in obedience to the Father's will, v5-10;

B2. The Aaronic priesthood has been replaced by Christ the high priest who is seated at the right hand of God, 11-14;

A2. Given Christ's singular and perfect sacrifice, God no longer remembers sin, v15-18.


iv] Interpretation:

The second series of arguments in this letter / sermon, 7:1-10:25, advances with particular reference to the text, namely Jeremiah 31:31-34 - the promise of a better covenant that rests on better promises, 8:7-13. This tenth sub point in the main argument again seeks to expound the substance of the text, arguing that the sacrificial offering of Christ (an offering of obedience even unto death) has replaced the ineffective cult of Israel, and so has effectively and permanently established, for the people of God, a right relationship with God - "we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all."


The interpretation of Psalm 40:6-8, v5-7. Our author quotes from from Psalm 40 to drive home his point that Christ is the only adequate sacrifice, v5-7. The words of the Psalm are attributed to Christ, who enters the flesh and blood domain to offer the perfect sacrifice. The coming is possibly being aligned with the incarnation, although Christ's coming in obedience to the cross is what is important. Of course, for such an offering to be acceptable it would have to be an offering of complete obedience. Our writer sees the Psalm as Davidic and referring to Christ - David's greater son. Christ is the incarnate son whose body has been prepared for him. He is the one who has "come to do thy will", and who has done it perfectly. Through his obedience he has made a complete offering for sin which has superseded the cultic offerings for sin. His offering is his life, a life lived in obedience to God, obedience which ended in death. As our author explains elsewhere, the sacrifice offered by our great high priest (the sacrifice of obedience unto death), is not for his own sins, but for the sins of the people of God. So then, Jesus offered the acceptable sacrifice to God, the one and only acceptable sacrifice, an offering for us. This sacrifice superseded all other sacrifices. See v5 below.


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

Text - 10:1

i] The Law", in the sense of the cultic sacrifices of the Temple, was unable to establish either a perfect, or permanent relationship with God, such that the only function served by the sacrificial regulations of the law was to remind God's people of their state of loss before God, v1-4.

a) The sacrificial system is but a reminder of reality, v1: With his mind still on the Day of Atonement sacrifices, our author makes the point that the cultic regulations in Leviticus for the tabernacle rites, are not a reality in themselves, but rather prefigure, or foreshadow, Christ's high priestly sacrificial work. Unlike the free grace that flows from Christ's work, the tabernacle rituals cannot save.

gar "-" - for. As is typical of Hebrews, this conjunction is often used to denote the next step in the argument rather than introduce a causal clause, so best left untranslated, as NIV, or possibly something like "in order to explain the matter further", Lenski.

oJ nomoV "the law" - Here obviously the cultic regulations associated with sacrifice etc. at the tabernacle.

exwn (ecw) pres. part. "is" - being, having. The participle is adverbial, possibly causal, "since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come", ESV, or possibly temporal, "for while the law foreshadowed the promised blessings", Berkeley.

skian (a) "shadow" - Note 8:5 where the tabernacle is a "shadowy copy" of the heavenly temple. The cultic regulations of the law are but foreshadowing of the covenant blessings realized in Christ. Probably not the Platonic idea of a copy of a heavenly ideal.

twn mellontwn (mellw) gen. pres. part. "[of the good things] that are coming" - [of the good things] coming. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the good things". Genitive in agreement with agaqwn, "good", while the genitival phrase "of the good things which are coming" is adjectival, appositional, limiting "shadow". The "good things" are "the realities themselves" (the very image of the thing) which the cultic regulations are a foreshadowing of. This reality is all that is achieved by Christ's high-priestly duty performed in his sacrifice.

thn eikona (wn onoV) "[not] the realities" - [not this] image. "Image" is used in the sense of exact replica, not in the sense of copy, and is therefore somewhat misleading, which is why the NIV etc. has gone for something like "the Temple sacrifices are a shadow of reality, but are not the real thing."

twn pragmatwn (a) gen. "themselves" - of the things. The genitive is adjectival, probably epexegetic/appositional, explaining/defining the sense of "image"; "a reality consisting of heavenly blessings." The Aaronic sacrificial system is "no more than a shadow of the good things to come; you will not find in it the true expression of these realities", Barclay.

taiV ... qusiaiV (a) dat. "by the [same] sacrifices" - The dative is instrumental, means, as NIV, "year after year (kat eniauton) with/by the same sacrifices", ie. by the repeated offering of the day of Atonement sacrifice.

eiV to dihnekeV "repeated endlessly" - in perpetuity, continuously, for ever. Idiomatic.

teleiwsai (teleiow) aor. inf. "make perfect" - to complete, perfect. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is able". Here in the sense of make spiritually holy rather than ritually clean, 7:19.

touV prosercomenouV (prosercomai) pres. part. "those who draw near" - the ones approaching. The participle functions as a substantive.


b) The sacrificial ritual of the Temple cult can purify those who draw near, v2: If the Levitical sacrifices could cleanse inwardly, there would be no need to repeat them, but repeated they are.

epei ... an "if it could / otherwise" - since otherwise. Forming a condensed elliptical protasis introducing the the apodosis of a conditional clause, 2nd. class contrary to fact; "[protasis, v1] if the cultic sacrifices of the law were effective (if they could), then, [apadosis, v2] they would have stopped being offered." The sense may better be carried as a statement, "otherwise, they (the sacrifices) would surely have ceased to be offered", Moffatt.

ouk "[would they] not" - Serving in this rhetorical question to form the answer "yes", demonstrating the limitations of the Levitical sacrificial system; "yes, the services would have stopped", Ellingworth.

prosferomenai (prosferw) pres. pas. part. "being offered" - The participle is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "would have ceased", taking on the normal function of an infinitive, "would have ceased to be offered".

dia to + inf. "for" - because [the worshipers ....... would have]. This construction forms a causal clause, as NIV.

touV latrouontaV (latrouw) pres. part. "the worshipers" - the ones worshiping. The participle functions as a substantive, accusative subject of the infinitive ecein, "to have."

kekaqarismenouV (kaqarizw) perf. pas. pat. "would have been cleansed [once for all]" - [once] having been cleansed. The participle may be treated as adjectival, limiting the worshipers, "the worshipers who had been cleansed once and for all ..", as a substantive in apposition to "worshipers"; "those who have been cleansed once for all", or adverbial, possibly temporal, "when they had once for all been cleansed", Westcott.

aJmartiwn (a) gen. "[would no longer have felt guilt] for their sins" - [not a single conscience any longer] of sins. The genitive is adverbial, reference, "with respect to sins", possibly verbal, objective, "in regard to sins." Where inward cleansing has not taken place a person is conscious of their separation from God, aware of the gulf created by their rebellion. Yet, for the worshipers under the Aaronic priesthood guilt remained and the sacrificial offerings were therefore repeated.


c) The sacrificial system had only a limited function, v3-4. The sacrificial system of old Israel could only remind the worshiper that their relationship with God was broken because of sin, but it didn't the power to restore that relationship.

all (alla) "but" - Adversative; "but en with regard (v2) the worshipers having their sins cleansed by the Aaronic sacrifices and no longer feeling guilty for them, (v3) autaiV (fem.) these very sacrifices are offered as an annual reminder of sins present and unforgiven (v4) gar for it is impossible ....."

anamnhsiV (iV ewV) "reminder" - remembrance. The only useful function served by the sacrificial system is to remind the worshiper that their sinful state has separated them from God. Their only hope is to rely on God's mercy to provide a sacrifice that will cleanse. As is always the case, the function of the law, here cultic law, is to expose sin and so drive the sinner toward a reliance upon God's mercy.

aJmartiwn (a) gen. "of sins" - The genitive is usually treated as verbal, objective; "in these sacrifices sins are brought to remembrance year after year", Cassirer.


gar "because" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why the Aaronic sacrifices are but a reminder of sins.

taurwn (oV) gen. "[the blood] of bulls" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

afairein (afairw) pres. inf. "to take away [sins]" - The infinitive forms a substantive phrase, serving as the subject of the assumed verb to-be "it is"; "because to take away sins is impossible ...." "For the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins", TEV.


i] The once only sacrifice of Christ in accord with God's will has set aside the Aaronic priesthood and its sacrifices, v5-10. a) Our author uses Psalm 40:6-8 to identify the sacrifice that does take away sin, v5-7. The Psalm teaches that obedience is the sacrifice that God desires, not the spilling of the blood of dumb animals. Blood sacrifices only have worth when done out of devotion toward God. That is, the condition of the heart (attitude) is of more importance than the actual offering. So, in the passage there is a contrast between the sacrifices of dumb animals which unknowingly give their lives, and the sacrifice of a knowing man who gives his life up to God in complete obedience. Passivity is contrasted with submission. The scripture is clearly saying that cultic sacrifices are not pleasing to God. Only a sacrifice of obedience to the will of God is pleasing to him. It is worth noting that such an opinion is a radical one, given that the sacrificial system revealed in the Law (the books of Moses) is divine in origin. Our author is arguing that a later revelation, here a Psalm, is modifying an earlier revelation.

dio "therefore" - Drawing a logical conclusion / inferential.

eisercomenoV (eisercomai) pres. part. "when [Christ] came [into the world]" - entering, coming. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV.

swma ... kathrtisw moi "[but] a body you prepared for me" - a body you prepared for me. Interestingly, this statement quoted from the LXX, our author's source text, is actually different to the MT, the original Hebrew, which states "my ears you have opened". The LXX translation is usually regarded as a scribal error, a fact which raises interesting questions as to the authority of scripture, questions which bother us, but would probably not have bothered our author.

moi dat. pro. "for me" - Dative of interest, advantage, as NIV.


Note how the psalmist has recognized that doing God's will is what delights him, rather than the performance of cultic rituals. This obedience our writer applies to Christ.

oJlokautwmata (a atoV) "with burnt offerings" - whole burnt offerings. This type of sacrifice was used to expiate sin and involved the total destruction of the animal by fire.

peri aJmartiaV "sin offerings" - The prepositional phrase, "with respect/reference to sin offerings", is being used as a noun.


gegraptai (grafw) perf. pas. "it is written" - The perfect tense indicating past action with ongoing consequences. The phrase "it was written about me in the scroll" ("your law is within my heart", v8 is a similar idea), presents the notion that God's intentions for us are contained in the book of the Law - the scriptures, the Bible. The scriptures contain God's personal instructions for us. This was so for Jesus, who accepted his calling as messiah and set out on the path of obedience, an obedience which led to great suffering. None-the-less, in the face of this great opposition Jesus continued to trust God, and even when feeling abandoned, he did not curse God. Rather, he continued to put his trust in the living God.

en + dat. "in" - Expressing space/sphere.

kefalidi (iV idoV) "the scroll" - nob = manuscript. Referring to the end of the rod on which the scroll is wound and so used of the scroll itself.

bibliou (on) gen. "-" - book. The genitive is adjectival, partitive, the "book" being the scriptures as a whole = this particular scroll of the scriptures.

tou poihsai (poiew) aor. inf. "[I have come] to do" - This construction, a genitive article + an infinitive, forms a final clause expressing purpose; "in order to do your will."

oJ qeoV (oV) "my God" - God. The nominative case is being instead of the vocative; "I have come, O God, to do your will", Barclay.


b) Drawing out the point from the Psalm that obedience is what is required by God, and such sets aside the cult, v8-9. Our author now comments on the quote by underlining its salient points. We see that in the priestly sacrifice of Christ (an offering of his life in complete obedience to the will of God, even unto death) a new order is inaugurated which replaces the Levitical cult. In v8 our writer makes the point that the old order has been abolished. In v9 the establishment of a new order is recorded, the sacrificial offering of obedience. The sacrifice pleasing to God involves a total submission to his will. This is the very thing Jesus has done, and having done it, he supersedes the old order of blood sacrifice.

legwn (legw) pres. part. "[first] he said]" - saying. The participle is adverbial, possibly instrumental, "he begins by saying", Moffatt, or temporal, "when he said."

anwteron adv. "-" - above. Although translated in the ESV etc, "when he said above", it actually doesn't refer to something earlier in the document / scriptures, but rather "marks an antithesis in the two portions of the Psalm", Koester.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement, direct quotation.

ai{tineV ind. pro. "although" - which. This pronoun can take a concessive sense, and so introduce a concessive clause, as here. Often this clause is treated as a parenthesis, so NIV, although this is unnecessary. "He said this, even though all these sacrifices are offered according to the Law", TEV.

kata + acc. "in accordance with [the law]" - Expressing a standard; "in accordance with / corresponding to."


tote "then" - Temporal adverb.

eirhken (eipon) perf. "he said" - The perfect tense expressing a past act with continuing results.

tou poihsai (poiew) aor. inf. "to do [your will]" - This construction forms a purpose clause; "in order to do your will."

iJna + subj. "to [establish]" - that. Forming a purpose clause, "in order that he may establish the second."


iii] Christ's obedience has set aside the cult, v10. Finally, our author points out that since Jesus knowingly submitted himself to the will of God in perfect obedience, we in turn, in consequence of that perfect offering of obedience, are cleansed of our sin, declared holy, and are able to stand before God as obedient sons. Jesus, in a body made/incarnate for him, a human body, performed the required will of God for a son of God. He fulfilled the divine requirements, which requirements no other son of God (a person in submission to God) has ever fulfilled. In so doing we share in his perfect humanity; in his perfection we are declared perfect. So, it is through the obedience of Christ that we are treated as obedient sons. This, of course, is ours by grace through faith.

en "by" - in, on, by. Here instrumental, "by", as NIV, or possibly local, "in connection with." "It is by this will", Moffatt.

w|/ dat. rel. pro. "that [will]" - "By which will", or with demonstrative force "by this will."

hJgiasmenoi esmen perf. pas. part. "we have been made holy" - we have been sanctified. Perfect participle with the present verb to-be forms a periphrastic perfect construction, possibly serving to emphasize the durative nature of the sanctification. Note how sanctification is linked to both the will of God and the sacrifice of Christ. Given the context, our writer is speaking of spiritual cleansing which enables the worshiper to come into the presence of God and commune with him, ie. that which establishes a renewed relationship with God. Although perfectionism is certainly not in our author's mind, he is speaking of a complete sanctification which makes for a "once for all" justification. A believer in Christ is as Christ, perfect, holy, set apart for God, and as Paul would say, this by grace through faith.

dia + gen. "through" - Instrumental, expressing means; "by means of."

tou swmatoV (a atoV) gen. "[the offering] of the body" - The genitive may be treated as verbal, objective, but also adjectival, limiting "offering", an offering which consists of the body of Christ; "made holy through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ."

Ihsou Cristou gen. "of Jesus Christ" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

efapax adv. "once for all" - This adverb takes an emphatic position in the Gk. thus making a punch-home point. Probably functioning to limit the periphrasis "we have been made holy", although possibly referencing the sacrifice of Christ, a "once only" offering. So, "we are all purified from sin ..... once and for all", but possibly, "Christ offered himself once and for all."


Hebrews Introduction



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