1. Christ is a faithful and merciful high priest, 2:10-5:10
vii] The source of eternal salvationArgument
Our author now introduces us to Christ, the faithful and merciful high priest after the order of Melchizedek, and while doing so, further defines the qualifications of Jesus the High Priest, explaining that he is a genuine High Priest, far superior to any of the descendants of Aaron, and therefore, someone we can rely on to speak for us before the throne of God's grace. The first qualification of Christ's high priestly rule is given in v5-6, namely, that he is appointed by God. Christ's call to the priesthood is supported from scripture, Ps.2:7, 110:4. The second qualification touches on his qualities, his empathy, v7-8, and finally the service he offers, namely, the provision of eternal salvation, v9-10. As such, Christ is a perfect High Priest, able to renew our relationship with God.
i] Context: See 4:14-16.
ii] Background: A general introduction; See 1:1-4.
iii] Structure: This passage, Christ, the source of eternal salvation, presents as follows:
Christ our High Priest, v5-10:
Appointed by God, v5-6;
Empathizes with his people, v7-8;
Provides eternal salvation, 9-10.
Our author now compares Christ's priesthood with that of Israel's Aaronic priesthood. He has noted that Israel's priests are chosen from among men to serve as representatives of the people, and that they identify with the people in that they too are subject to weakness, sinners like everyone else. Their honor is derived from the fact that they are chosen by God, v1-4. Christ is similarly a priest, chosen by God, but a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, v5-6. Our author goes on to make the point that Christ is also a representative of the people, one who identifies with them in their weakness. Jesus' weakness, of course, is not sin, but like every human being he experienced the same dread of death. He didn't need to offer a sacrifice for his sins, but he did offer up prayers for his preservation. So, Christ is a priest well able to sympathize with broken humanity, v7. But of course, unlike broken humanity, when life bore down on him he remained obedient to God, he complied fully with the will of God ("he learned obedience" = "he practiced obedience", Koester, better than "to appreciate fully what conformity to God's will means", Attridge), v8. With his obedience to the will of God perfected on the cross, he became a priest able to provide eternal salvation to all who trust him, v9, a priest appointed as God's eternal high priest, v10.
Greek text: In the Gk. this passage consists of a single relative clause introduced by o}V, "who, in the days of his flesh / in his days of flesh, ..." The antecedent, of course, is "Christ", v5, or more immediately su, "you (= Christ)", v6. A relative clause is usually subordinate to the main clause, but here, as is often the case in Hebrew, it serves to make a major statement "about the passion and exaltation of Christ", Ellingworth. There are two main verbs, emaqen, "he learned", and egeneto, "he became", each with two subordinate participial constructions.
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 5:5
Christ, the source of our eternal salvation, v5-10 - Our author will now establish that "Christ entirely meets the qualifications of a high priest specified in v1-4, namely divine appointment and solidarity with humanity", Ellingworth; "The Son is the effective mediator that he is because he is the High Priest who suffered and now sits enthroned in heavenly glory", Attridge.
i] Christ is a superior high priest appointed by God the Father, v5-6. In v5-6 our author compares the appointment of Aaron with that of Christ. Initially, to make this point, our author draws on the teaching of Psalm 2:7; "You are my Son, this day have I begotten you". He wants to establish that Jesus was appointed to the position of High Priest by God the Father. The "this day" is most likely referring to the day of Christ's enthronement - the day when Christ was publicly exalted in his death, resurrection and ascension, Ac.2:36. On that day he was the "coming Son of Man", coming in the sense of proceeding to the throne of God to take upon himself authority and rule. In that day Christ was proclaimed Son of God. Christ is now seated at the right hand of God and is ruling his kingdom. God has handed the authority of the kingdom over to his beloved Son, the Messiah, the Son of David. This leads our author into his piece of original theology. He develops this theology from this chapter onward. As the Davidic Messiah, now ruling his kingdom in glory, Jesus is also a high priest. In the book of Zechariah the function of priest and king is at times amalgamated; originally these functions were separate. The priestly service was performed by Aaron and his family, a family not of the House of David; they were Levites. Later in Israel's history the priesthood was limited to the family of Zadok. The writer to the Hebrews has found a Davidic link to the priesthood in Melchizedek. In Genesis 14:18 Melchizedek is described as the king of Salem, ie. Jerusalem. When David takes over Jerusalem as his city, he inherits the priestly authority of Melchizedek. Christ, the Davidic Messiah, therefore fulfills the high priestly role, and is given this authority when he was proclaimed "Lord and Christ" at his coming to the Ancient of Days, ie. when he took up his seat at the right hand of the Father in heaven.
outwV adv. "so / in the same way" - thus, so, in this way. With reference to what precedes - + kai, "so also."
ouc .. edoxasen (dokew) aor. "did not take upon [himself] the glory" - did not glorify, honor [himself]. Christ did not claim the position of divine high priest, but was appointed high priest by God - he did not honor himself, but was honored by God; "did not bestow on himself the glory of becoming a high priest", Cassirer.
genhqhnai (ginomai) aor. pas. inf. "of becoming" - to become. Forming a purpose clause "in order that"; "so as to become a high priest", Westcott.
alla "but" - but. Adversative; "but on the contrary."
oJ lalhsaV (lalew) aor. part. "God said [to him]" - the one having said [to him]. The participle serves as a substantive. "But by him who declared to him", Moffatt.
su pro. "you" - Emphatic by use.
uiJoV (oV) "son" - The quote supports our author's claim that Jesus is the true Son of God, the one who attains universal lordship over all things, unlike the other "sons" / Davidic kings of Israel, whose rule was limited. God's true Son is heir of all things, Heb.1:2.
gegennhka (gennaw) perf. "[I] have become [your Father]" - [I] have become [a Father to you]. The "I", egw, is emphatic by use. The begetting may be viewed as a reference to the incarnation, but better viewed metaphorically and aligned with Christ's death, resurrection and ascension - his enthronement in glory as Lord; Jesus "is declared to be Son of God .... by his resurrection from the dead", Rom.1:4.
The text comes from Psalm 110:4.
kaqwV "-" - Comparative. Often used to introduce a quote from scriputre. "In the same way", Barclay.
en dat. "in [another place]" - in [another]. Expressing space/sphere, "in another passage", Barclay.
eiV ton aiwna "forever" - to the ages, eternity. Temporal construction.
kata + acc. "in" - according to. Expressing a standard: "in accordance with."
thn taxin (iV ewV) "the order [of Melchizedek]" - "According to the nature of", rather than "order" in the sense of "succession", Ellingworth, so the genitive Melchizedek is adjectival, possessive.
ii] Christ, our high priest, empathizes with his people, v7-8. "Jesus, in the face of the cross, offered strong and anguished prayers to God as the one who had the power to rescue him from the power of death itself. God heard and answered these prayers because in them Jesus submitted himself humbly to God's will. From the agony in which he prayed, and from his final acceptance of God's will, he learned obedience (he was obedient??) - something necessary even for one who was God's Son", Ellingworth. It is difficult to know exactly what the writer is alluding to in this verse. It seems a bit like the Gethsemane scene, but he may be harking back to Psalm 22; in "crying and tears" he was "heard". The phrase, he was "heard because of his reverent submission", simply means that he was heard by God because of his devotion and submission to the will of God. Our author goes on in v8 to say that although Jesus was the Son of God (the definite article ["the"] is not in the Greek, but is best translated this way) he still had to strive to be obedient to the Father. Jesus had to struggle with all the temptations, tests, strife..... that are part of human existence. Faced with the cross, he chose the path of honor and integrity rather than dishonor, and in so doing could stand before God as the tested and honorable Son - having emerged perfect through suffering.
o}V "-" - who. Serving to introduce a relative clause; see above.
en + dat. "during" - in. Temporal use of the preposition.
thV sarkoV (x oV) gen. "[the days of Jesus] life on earth" - [the days] of the flesh [of him]. The genitive is probably adjectival, attributive, limiting "days", "fleshly days", days which are the normal state of affairs for human existence; "while Jesus was living an earthly life", "in the days of his earthly life", NEB.
prosenegkaV (prosferw) aor. part. "he offered" - having offered. This participle, along with "having been heard (he was heard)", is attendant circumstance, expressing action accompanying the verb egeneto, "he learned", v8; "having offered prayers and supplications ....... and having been heard ....... although being a Son, he learned ......." Offered to God, but not in a sacrificial sense. Offered in the sense of "prayed / entreated God."
ikethriaV (a) "prayers" - humble pleading, lowly pleading / urgent pleading. Hapax legomenon. Many commentators focus on Jesus' Gethsemane prayer, where Jesus, in all his humanity, agonizes over the ordeal of the cross and would be glad of another way, but sets himself to the Father's will. As Luke records the prayer, Lk.22:42, its indefinite construction and the adversative alla, "but your (your will) be done", indicates that Jesus' request "take this cup from me", is but a muse, while "your will be done" makes up the actual prayer, cf. Jn.12:28. Schauffler suggests that "take this cup from me" is indeed a prayer request, but not so much as to escape the cross, but rather for the strength to reach it. This seems unlikely. "Made his prayers and requests", TEV.
te kai "and" - both [prayers] and [pleadings]. Correlative construction. Here prayers and petitions are virtually synonymous, so "prayers and supplications" = "Christ, in the days when he was a man on earth, appealed to the one who could save him from death", Phillips.
meta + gen. "with [loud cries and tears]" - Expressing accompaniment.
proV "to" - to, toward. Probably spacial, as NIV.
ton dunamenon (dunamai) pres. pas. part. "the one who could" - the one being able. The participle serves as a substantive.
swzein (swzw) pres. inf. "save [him]" - to save. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the participle "being able."
ek + gen. "from [death]" - out of, from [death]. Expressing separation; "away from." Some argue that the preposition her means "out of" such that Jesus prayed that he may be saved "out of the midst of death", ie. rescued from the grip of Hades and so rise again. Westcott says that the prepositional phrase can mean either, "from death" or "out of death."
eisakousqeiV (eisakouw) aor. pas. part. "was heard" - having been heard, answered. Attendant circumstance participle, see above; "God answered him."
apo + gen. "because of" - Causal, as NIV.
thV eulabeiaV (a) "his reverent submission" - devout God-fearing faithfulness, reverence toward God. "Humble submission", NEB.
kaiper + part. "although" - Concessive conjunction.
w]n (eimi) "he was" - being. The participle is adverbial, concessive with kaiper; "Son though he was", NEB. Although there is no definite article, "son" still should have a capital. He is not a son, rather he is "God's son", TEV.
uiJoV (oV) "a son" - As a predicate the noun would not normally take an article so the article may be properly assumed; "the son", or better "the Son."
emaqen (manqanw) aor. "he learned" - Expressing a disciplined learning. Probably "he practiced obedience", Koester. Yet, it has been noted that "learned" and "suffered" have a similar sound, ie. they rhyme in Gk. The words were often used together in Greek literature to make the point that learning comes only by suffering. "Suffering was the way to learn obedience", Barclay, so possibly "he had to prove the meaning of obedience through all he suffered", Phillips.
thn uJpakohn (h) "obedience" - the obedience. The particularizing of "the obedience" with the use of the article indicates that Christ's obedience to the will of God in face of death is in mind, cf. Phil.2:8.
af (apo) "from [what]" - from, out of [the things]. Possibly expressing source, or better agency; "by what he suffered."
iii] Christ provides eternal salvation, v9-10. Christ's vindication is usually described in terms of his resurrection and ascension, but our author focuses on the fact that through his ordeal of suffering he has become the source of eternal salvation having been appointed as a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, a priesthood which is not Aaronic, but rather an eternal order superior in nature. As God's high priest, Christ is the pathfinder and source of a permanently valid ("eternal") salvation for his people. This salvation is available to all who "obey" Christ ie., all who are loyal to Christ in the sense of identifying with him, following him, believing in him..
teleiwqeiV (teleiow) aor. pas. part. "once made perfect" - having been made perfect, complete, finished. Possibly attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he became", although better temporal, "when he was made perfect", as NIV, or even causal, "because he was made perfect." "Having been perfected" in the sense of fully completing his mission through the obedience of the cross (suffering), being enthroned at the right hand of the Ancient of Days, and being appointed high priest forever, the source of eternal salvation. Not "perfected" in the sense of becoming completely obedient, since Jesus was always perfectly obedient to the Father. Eusebius, writing about the martyr Marinus, said, "having been led off to death, he was perfected." The difference of course is that Jesus was perfect, while Marinus' perfection, like ours, is only his as a gift in Christ. "When perfected, he became ....", Berkeley.
aitioV adj. "the source" - Taking the sense "source", or possibly "cause (and thus author) of eternal salvation."
swthriaV (a) gen. "of [eternal] salvation" - The genitive is probably adverbial, reference, "source / course with respect to / with reference to eternal salvation."
toiV uJpakouousin (uJpakouw) dat. pres. part. "for [all] who obey" - to [all] the ones obeying. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of interest, advantage, as NIV. The present tense is probably durative; "those who always obey." Koester notes that "obedience is not a prerequisite for receiving grace", but Christ's "obedience is the basis of Christian obedience" such that "salvation is a gift, but people come to possess it by following the path that Christ set." This position seems fraught and inevitably leads to nomism. Salvation is possessed by faith in Christ apart from works of the law. It is true that a child of faith tends to follow Christ's lead on righteous living, but the effectiveness, or otherwise, of their righteousness plays no part in their eternal salvation. Obedience to Christ primarily entails believing in him, following him, such that this participle takes the same sense as oiJ pisteusanteV "the ones having believed", 4:3.
autw/ dat. pro. "him" - Dative of direct object.
prosagoreuqeiV (prosagoreuw) aor. pas. part. "was designated" - having been designated, called, appointed. Forming a participial construction subordinate to the verb egeneto, "he became", v9. Probably attendant circumstance, "he became the source ...... and was given by God the title ....", but possibly consecutive, expressing result; with the result that he was addressed by God ..." "Designated", Attridge, as in the sense of addressing with a particular title, so "recognize as." Other possibilities: "named", NEB; "called", CEV; "given ..... the title of", Barclay; "declared", TEV; "acclaimed by God with the title of", NJB.
uJpo + gen. "by [God]" - Expressing agency.
kata + acc. "in" - in accordance with. Expressing a standard; "high priest according to the type of Melchizedek", Koester.
Melcisedek gen. "[the order] of Melchizedek" - [the order] of Melchizedek. The genitive may not be possessive, but rather descriptive, so "just like Melchizedek", CEV. The priestly order of Melchizedek is explained in chapter 7. See 5:6 for notes on Melchizedek.