Hebrews 1:1
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
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(1) God, who at sundry times. . . .—The fine arrangement of the words in the Authorised version fails, it must be confessed, to convey the emphasis which is designed in the original. The writer’s object is to place the former revelation over against that which has now been given; and the remarkable words with which the chapter opens (and which might not inaptly serve as the motto of the whole Epistle) strike the first note of contrast. If we may imitate the artistic arrangement of the Greek, the verse will run thus, “In many portions and in many ways God having of old spoken unto the fathers in the prophets.” To the fathers of the Jewish people (comp. Romans 9:5) God’s word was given part by part, and in divers manners. It came in the revelations of the patriarchal age, in the successive portions of Holy Writ: various truths were successively unveiled through the varying ministry of law, and of prophecy, and of promise ever growing clearer through the teaching of experience and history. At one time the word came in direct precept, at another in typical ordinance or act, at another in parable or psalm. The word thus dealt out in fragments and variously imparted was God’s word, for the revealing Spirit of God was “in the prophets” (2Corinthians 13:3). We must not unduly limit the application of “prophet”; besides those to whom the name is directly given, there were many who were representatives of God to His people, and interpreters of His will. (Comp. Numbers 11:26; Numbers 11:29; Psalm 105:15.)

Hebrews 1:1. God, &c. — After the manner of the best writers, the apostle begins this most instructive epistle with proposing the subjects of which he is about to discourse; namely, four important facts, on which the authority of the gospel, as a revelation from God, is built; and which, if well established, should induce unbelievers, whether Jews or Gentiles, to renounce their infidelity and embrace the gospel. Of these facts, the first is, that the same God, who gave the former revelations to the fathers of the Jewish nation, hath in these last days given the gospel to all mankind. This the apostle mentions first of all, to show the agreement of the gospel with the former revelations. For if there were any real opposition between the Jewish and Christian revelations, the authority of one or of both of them would be destroyed; whereas these revelations agreeing in all things, they mutually explain and support each other. Thus in this verse; God, who at sundry times — The creation was revealed in the time of Adam; the last judgment in the time of Enoch; the coming of the Messiah in the time of Abraham, and the following patriarchs; the offices he should sustain, and the process he should go through in accomplishing man’s redemption, in the time of Moses, of David, of Isaiah, and the other prophets; and so at various times more explicit knowledge was given. But the word πολυμερως rather signifies in sundry parts, parcels, or degrees, in opposition to a complete revelation; or the gradual discovery of the mind and will of God, by communications, one after another, as the church could bear the light of them. Thus to Adam, victory over the grand enemy of mankind by the Seed of the woman, was promised: to Abraham, that all mankind should be blessed in him and his seed: to Jacob, that the promised Seed of the woman and of Abraham should be a peaceful Prince, unto whom the gathering of the people should be: by Moses, that he should be an extraordinary Prophet, the disobeying of whom would be punished with certain destruction: by David, that he should be a Priest of a higher order than that of Aaron, and a King in Zion, whose dominion should extend from sea to sea, yea, to the ends of the earth, Psalm 72:1; Psalm 72:8 : by Isaiah, that he should be the Child born, the Son given, and yet the mighty God, of the increase of whose government and peace there should be no end; that he should go through great scenes of suffering, (chap. 53.,) but should expiate sin, and conquer death: by Jeremiah, that he should be the Lord our righteousness: by Ezekiel, the one Shepherd of God’s people, Ezekiel 34:23 : by Zechariah, that he should build the spiritual temple, bear the glory, and be a Priest upon his throne; from whence, according to Joel, he should pour out his Spirit in an extraordinary measure upon his disciples: by Haggai and Malachi, that he should come to the temple, built after the return from Babylon, and that awful judgments should follow his coming upon such as rejected him. If (says Dr. Owen) we consider the whole progress of divine revelation from the beginning of the world, we shall find that it comprehends four principal parts or degrees, with such as were subservient to them. The first, made to Adam, was the principle of faith and obedience to the antediluvian fathers, and to this were subservient all the consequent particular revelations before the flood. The second, to Noah after the flood, contained the renewal of the covenant, and establishment of the church in his family, whereunto were subservient the revelations made to Melchizedec (Genesis 14:19) and others, before the calling of Abraham. The third, to Abraham, implied a peculiar restriction of the promise to his seed, and a fuller illustration of the nature of it confirmed in the revelations made to Isaac, Jacob, and others of their posterity. The fourth, to Moses, comprehended the giving of the law, and erection of the Jewish Church in the wilderness; to which was principally subservient the revelation made to David, which was peculiarly designed to perfect the Old Testament worship. To which we may add the revelations made to Solomon, and the prophets in their respective days; particularly those who, before and during the captivity, pleaded with the people about their defection by scandalous sins and false worship: and Ezra, with the prophets that assisted in the reformation of the church after its return from Babylon, who in an eminent manner excited the people to expect the Messiah. These were the principal parts and degrees of divine revelation, from the foundation of the world to the coming of Christ, at least until his forerunner, John the Baptist. And by thus reminding the Hebrews, that the will of God was not formerly revealed to his church all at once, by Moses or any other, but by several parts and degrees, by new additions of light, as in his infinite wisdom he saw meet, the apostle clearly convinces them of their mistake in obstinately adhering to the Mosaic institutions. It is as if he had said, Consider the way whereby God revealed his will to the church hitherto. Hath it not been by parts and degrees? Hath he at any time shut up the progress of revelation? Hath he not always kept the church in expectation of new discoveries of his will? Did he ever declare that he would add no more to what he had commanded; or make no alteration in what he had instituted? So far from it, that Moses, when he had finished all his work in the Lord’s house, told the people God would raise up another prophet like unto him, that is, who should reveal new laws and institutions as he had done, whom they were to hear and obey on the penalty of utter extermination, Deuteronomy 18:15, &c. But in opposition to this gradual revelation, the apostle intimates that now, by Jesus the Messiah, the Lord had begun and finished the whole revelation of his will, according to their own hopes and expectations.

And in divers manners — By dreams, visions, audible voices, the appearances of angels, of the Lord in a human form, by Urim and Thummim, and the immediate inspiration of his Spirit, 2 Peter 1:21; 1 Peter 1:11. Or, the expression, divers manners, may refer to the different ways in which the prophets communicated the different revelations which they received to the fathers. They did it in types and figures, significant actions, and dark sayings, as well as in plain language: whereas the gospel revelation was spoken by Christ and his apostles in one manner only, namely, in plain language; and to this one entire and perfect revelation the various, partial, imperfect revelations made before are opposed. Spake in time past Παλαι, of old, or anciently. The word, taken absolutely, comprises the whole space of time from the giving of the first promise to the end of the Old Testament revelations. Taken as relating to the Jews, it includes the ages intervening between the giving of the law and the death of the last prophet, Malachi, namely, the space of twenty-one jubilees, or near one thousand one hundred years, after which, as the Jews confess, the Spirit of prophecy was taken from Israel. The word spake is put for every kind of divine communication: unto the fathers — The ancestors of the Jewish nation; by the prophets — The mention of whom is a virtual declaration that the apostle received the whole Old Testament as of divine authority, and was not about to advance any doctrine in contradiction to it. Indeed, as he was writing to the Hebrews, many of whom were prejudiced against him as a person who departed from Moses and the prophets, it was an instance of great wisdom in him to signify, at the very beginning of his epistle, that he believed the revelations given by them of old. Thus, by removing one great cause of prejudice from those to whom he wrote, he would open the way for their receiving the doctrines contained in his epistle, a summary of which we have in the two next verses.

1:1-3 God spake to his ancient people at sundry times, through successive generations, and in divers manners, as he thought proper; sometimes by personal directions, sometimes by dreams, sometimes by visions, sometimes by Divine influences on the minds of the prophets. The gospel revelation is excellent above the former; in that it is a revelation which God has made by his Son. In beholding the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ, we behold the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Father, Joh 14:7; the fulness of the Godhead dwells, not typically, or in a figure, but really, in him. When, on the fall of man, the world was breaking to pieces under the wrath and curse of God, the Son of God, undertaking the work of redemption, sustained it by his almighty power and goodness. From the glory of the person and office of Christ, we proceed to the glory of his grace. The glory of His person and nature, gave to his sufferings such merit as was a full satisfaction to the honour of God, who suffered an infinite injury and affront by the sins of men. We never can be thankful enough that God has in so many ways, and with such increasing clearness, spoken to us fallen sinners concerning salvation. That he should by himself cleanse us from our sins is a wonder of love beyond our utmost powers of admiration, gratitude, and praise.God who at sundry times - The commencement of this Epistle varies from all the others which Paul wrote. In every other instance he at first announces his name, and the name of the church or of the individual to whom he wrote. In regard to the reason why he here varies from that custom, see the introduction, section 3. This commences with the full acknowledgment of his belief that God had made important revelations in past times, but that now he had communicated his will in a manner that more especially claimed their attention. This announcement was of particular importance here. He was writing to those who had been trained up in the full belief of the truths taught by the prophets. As the object of the apostle was to show the superior claims of the gospel, and to lead them from putting confidence in the rites instituted in accordance with the directions of the Old Testament, it was of essential importance that he should admit that their belief of the inspiration of the prophets was well founded.

He was not an infidel. He was not disposed to call in question the divine origin of the books which were regarded as given by inspiration. He fully admitted all that had been held by the Hebrews on that heart, and yet showed that the new revelation had more important claims to their attention. The word rendered "at sundry times" - πολυμερῶς polumerōs - means "in many parts." It refers here to the fact that the former revelation had been given in various parts. It had not all been given at once. It had been communicated from time to time as the exigencies of the people required, and as God chose to communicate it. At one time it was by history, then by prophecy, by poetry, by proverbs, by some solemn and special message, etc. The ancient revelation was a collection of various writings, on different subjects, and given at different times; but now God had addressed us by His Son - the one great Messenger who had come to finish the divine communications, and to give a uniform and connected revelation to mankind. The contrast here is between the numerous separate parts of the revelation given by the prophets, and the oneness of that given by his Son. The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament.

And in divers manners - - πολυτρόπως polutropōs. In many ways. It was not all in one mode. He had employed various methods in communicating his will. At one time it was by direct communication, at another by dreams, at another by visions, etc. In regard to the various methods which God employed to communicate his will, see Introduction to Isaiah, section 7. In contradistinction from these, God had now spoken by his Son. He had addressed us in one uniform manner. It was not by dreams, or visions; it was a direct communication from him. The word used here, also, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament.

In times past - Formerly; in ancient times. The series of revelations began, as recorded by Moses, with Adam Genesis 3, and terminated with Malachi - a period of more than three thousand five hundred years. From Malachi to the time of the Saviour there were no recorded divine communications, and the whole period of written revelation, or when the divine communications were recorded from Moses to Malachi, was about a thousand years.

Unto the fathers - To our ancestors; to the people of ancient times.

By the prophets - The word "prophet" in the Scriptures is used in a wide signification. It means not only those who predict future events, but these who communicate the divine will on any subject. See Romans 12:6 note; 1 Corinthians 14:1 note. It is used here in that large sense - as denoting all those by whom God had made communications to the Jews in former times.



Canonicity and authorship.—Clement of Rome, at the end of the first century (A.D), copiously uses it, adopting its words just as he does those of the other books of the New Testament; not indeed giving to either the term "Scripture," which he reserves for the Old Testament (the canon of the New Testament not yet having been formally established), but certainly not ranking it below the other New Testament acknowledged Epistles. As our Epistle claims authority on the part of the writer, Clement's adoption of extracts from it is virtually sanctioning its authority, and this in the apostolic age. Justin Martyr quotes it as divinely authoritative, to establish the titles "apostle," as well as "angel," as applied to the Son of God. Clement of Alexandria refers it expressly to Paul, on the authority of Pantænus, chief of the Catechetical school in Alexandria, in the middle of the second century, saying, that as Jesus is termed in it the "apostle" sent to the Hebrews, Paul, through humility, does not in it call himself apostle of the Hebrews, being apostle to the Gentiles. Clement also says that Paul, as the Hebrews were prejudiced against him, prudently omitted to put forward his name in the beginning; also, that it was originally written in Hebrew for the Hebrews, and that Luke translated it into Greek for the Greeks, whence the style is similar to that of Acts. He, however, quotes frequently the words of the existing Greek Epistle as Paul's words. Origen similarly quotes it as Paul's Epistle. However, in his Homilies, he regards the style as distinct from that of Paul, and as "more Grecian," but the thoughts as the apostle's; adding that the "ancients who have handed down the tradition of its Pauline authorship, must have had good reason for doing so, though God alone knows the certainty who was the actual writer" (that is, probably "transcriber" of the apostle's thoughts). In the African Church, in the beginning of the third century, Tertullian ascribes it to Barnabas. Irenæus, bishop of Lyons, is mentioned in Eusebius, as quoting from this Epistle, though without expressly referring it to Paul. About the same period, Caius, the presbyter, in the Church of Rome, mentions only thirteen Epistles of Paul, whereas, if the Epistle to the Hebrews were included, there would be fourteen. So the canon fragment of the end of the second century, or beginning of the third, published by Muratori, apparently omits mentioning it. And so the Latin Church did not recognize it as Paul's till a considerable time after the beginning of the third century. Thus, also, Novatian of Rome, Cyprian of Carthage, and Victorinus, also of the Latin Church. But in the fourth century, Hilary of Poitiers (A.D. 368), Lucifer of Cagliari (A.D. 371), Ambrose of Milan (A.D. 397) and other Latins, quote it as Paul's; and the fifth Council of Carthage (A.D. 419) formally reckons it among his fourteen Epistles.

As to the similarity of its style to that of Luke's writings, this is due to his having been so long the companion of Paul. Chrysostom, comparing Luke and Mark, says, "Each imitated his teacher: Luke imitated Paul flowing along with more than river fulness; but Mark imitated Peter, who studied brevity of style." Besides, there is a greater predominance of Jewish feeling and familiarity with the peculiarities of the Jewish schools apparent in this Epistle than in Luke's writings. There is no clear evidence for attributing the authorship to him, or to Apollos, whom Alford upholds as the author. The grounds alleged for the latter view are its supposed Alexandrian phraseology and modes of thought. But these are such as any Palestinian Jew might have used; and Paul, from his Hebræo-Hellenistic education at Jerusalem and Tarsus, would be familiar with Philo's modes of thought, which are not, as some think, necessarily all derived from his Alexandrian, but also from his Jewish, education. It would be unlikely that the Alexandrian Church should have so undoubtingly asserted the Pauline authorship, if Apollos, their own countryman, had really been the author. The eloquence of its style and rhetoric, a characteristic of Apollos' at Corinth, whereas Paul there spoke in words unadorned by man's wisdom, are doubtless designedly adapted to the minds of those whom Paul in this Epistle addresses. To the Greek Corinthians, who were in danger of idolizing human eloquence and wisdom, he writes in an unadorned style, in order to fix their attention more wholly on the Gospel itself. But the Hebrews were in no such danger. And his Hebræo-Grecian education would enable him to write in a style attractive to the Hebrews at Alexandria, where Greek philosophy had been blended with Judaism. The Septuagint translation framed at Alexandria had formed a connecting link between the latter and the former; and it is remarkable that all the quotations from the Old Testament, excepting two (Heb 10:30; 13:5), are taken from the Septuagint. The fact that the peculiarities of the Septuagint are interwoven into the argument proves that the Greek Epistle is an original, not a translation; had the original been Hebrew, the quotations would have been from the Hebrew Old Testament. The same conclusion follows from the plays on similarly sounding words in the Greek, and alliterations, and rhythmically constructed periods. Calvin observes, If the Epistle had been written in Hebrew, Heb 9:15-17 would lose all its point, which consists in the play upon the double meaning of the Greek "diathece," a "covenant," or a "testament," whereas the Hebrew "berith" means only "covenant."

Internal evidence favors the Pauline authorship. Thus the topic so fully handled in this Epistle, that Christianity is superior to Judaism, inasmuch as the reality exceeds the type which gives place to it, is a favorite one with Paul (compare 2Co 3:6-18; Ga 3:23-25; 4:1-9, 21-31, wherein the allegorical mode of interpretation appears in its divinely sanctioned application—a mode pushed to an unwarrantable excess in the Alexandrian school). So the Divine Son appears in Heb 1:3, &c., as in other Epistles of Paul (Php 2:6; Col 1:15-20), as the Image, or manifestation of the Deity. His lowering of Himself for man's sake similarly, compare Heb 2:9, with 2Co 8:9; Php 2:7, 8. Also His final exaltation, compare Heb 2:8; 10:13; 12:2, with 1Co 15:25, 27. The word "Mediator" is peculiar to Paul alone, compare Heb 8:6, with Ga 3:19, 20. Christ's death is represented as the sacrifice for sin prefigured by the Jewish sacrifices, compare Ro 3:22-26; 1Co 5:7, with Heb 7:1-10:39. The phrase, "God of Peace," is peculiar to Paul, compare Heb 13:20; Ro 15:33; 1Th 5:23. Also, compare Heb 2:4, Margin, 1Co 12:4. Justification, or "righteousness by faith." appears in Heb 11:7; 10:38, as in Ro 1:17; 4:22; 5:1; Ga 3:11; Php 3:9. The word of God is the "sword of the Spirit," compare Heb 4:12, with Eph 6:17. Inexperienced Christians are children needing milk, that is, instruction in the elements, whereas riper Christians, as full-grown men, require strong meat, compare Heb 5:12, 13; 6:1, with 1Co 3:1, 2; 14:20 Ga 4:9; Col 3:14. Salvation is represented as a boldness of access to God by Christ, compare Heb 10:19, with Ro 5:2; Eph 2:18; 3:12. Afflictions are a fight, Heb 10:32; compare Php 1:30; Col 2:1. The Christian life is a race, Heb 12:1; compare 1Co 9:24; Php 3:12-14. The Jewish ritual is a service, Ro 9:4; compare Heb 9:1, 6. Compare "subject to bondage," Heb 2:15, with Ga 5:1. Other characteristics of Paul's style appear in this Epistle; namely, a propensity "to go off at a word" and enter on a long parenthesis suggested by that word, a fondness for play upon words of similar sound, and a disposition to repeat some favorite word. Frequent appeals to the Old Testament, and quotations linked by "and again," compare Heb 1:5; 2:12, 13, with Ro 15:9-12. Also quotations in a peculiar application, compare Heb 2:8, with 1Co 15:27; Eph 1:22. Also the same passage quoted in a form not agreeing with the Septuagint, and with the addition "saith the Lord," not found in the Hebrew, in Heb 10:30; Ro 12:19.

The supposed Alexandrian (which are rather Philon-like) characteristics of the Epistle are probably due to the fact that the Hebrews were generally then imbued with the Alexandrian modes of thought of Philo, &c., and Paul, without coloring or altering Gospel truth "to the Jews, became (in style) as a Jew, that he might win the Jews" (1Co 9:20). This will account for its being recognized as Paul's Epistle in the Alexandrian and Jerusalem churches unanimously, to the Hebrews of whom probably it was addressed. Not one Greek father ascribes the Epistle to any but Paul, whereas in the Western and Latin churches, which it did not reach for some time, it was for long doubted, owing to its anonymous form, and generally less distinctively Pauline style. Their reason for not accepting it as Paul's, or indeed as canonical, for the first three centuries, was negative, insufficient evidence for it, not positive evidence against it. The positive evidence is generally for its Pauline origin. In the Latin churches, owing to their distance from the churches to whom belonged the Hebrews addressed, there was no generally received tradition on the subject. The Epistle was in fact but little known at all, whence we find it is not mentioned at all in the Canon of Muratori. When at last, in the fourth century, the Latins found that it was received as Pauline and canonical on good grounds in the Greek churches, they universally acknowledged it as such.

The personal notices all favor its Pauline authorship, namely, his intention to visit those addressed, shortly, along with Timothy, styled "our brother," Heb 13:23; his being then in prison, Heb 13:19; his formerly having been imprisoned in Palestine, according to English Version reading, Heb 10:34; the salutations transmitted to them from believers of Italy, Heb 13:24. A reason for not prefixing the name may be the rhetorical character of the Epistle which led the author to waive the usual form of epistolary address.

Design.—His aim is to show the superiority of Christianity over Judaism, in that it was introduced by one far higher than the angels or Moses, through whom the Jews received the law, and in that its priesthood and sacrifices are far less perfecting as to salvation than those of Christ; that He is the substance of which the former are but the shadow, and that the type necessarily gives place to the antitype; and that now we no longer are kept at a comparative distance as under the law, but have freedom of access through the opened veil, that is, Christ's flesh; hence he warns them of the danger of apostasy, to which Jewish converts were tempted, when they saw Christians persecuted, while Judaism was tolerated by the Roman authorities. He infers the obligations to a life of faith, of which, even in the less perfect Old Testament dispensation, the Jewish history contained bright examples. He concludes in the usual Pauline mode, with practical exhortations and pious prayers for them.

His mode of address is in it hortatory rather than commanding, just as we might have expected from Paul addressing the Jews. He does not write to the rulers of the Jewish Christians, for in fact there was no exclusively Jewish Church; and his Epistle, though primarily addressed to the Palestinian Jews, was intended to include the Hebrews of all adjoining churches. He inculcates obedience and respect in relation to their rulers (Heb 13:7, 17, 24); a tacit obviating of the objection that he was by writing this Epistle interfering with the prerogative of Peter the apostle of the circumcision, and James the bishop of Jerusalem. Hence arises his gentle and delicate mode of dealing with them (Heb 13:22). So far from being surprised at discrepancy of style between an Epistle to Hebrews and Epistles to Gentile Christians, it is just what we should expect. The Holy Spirit guided him to choose means best suited to the nature of the ends aimed at. Wordsworth notices a peculiar Pauline Greek construction, Ro 12:9, literally, "Let your love be without dissimulation, ye abhorring … evil, cleaving to … good," which is found nowhere else save Heb 13:5, literally, "Let your conversation be without covetousness, ye being content with," &c. (a noun singular feminine nominative absolute, suddenly passing into a participle masculine nominative plural absolute). So in quoting Old Testament Scripture, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews quotes it as a Jew writing to Jews would, "God spoke to our fathers," not, "it is written." So Heb 13:18, "We trust we have a good conscience" is an altogether Pauline sentiment (Ac 23:1; 24:16; 2Co 1:12; 4:2; 2Ti 1:3). Though he has not prefixed his name, he has given at the close his universal token to identify him, namely, his apostolic salutation, "Grace be with you all"; this "salutation with his own hand" he declared (2Th 3:17, 18) to be "his token in every Epistle": so 1Co 16:21, 23; Col 4:18. The same prayer of greeting closes every one of his Epistles, and is not found in any one of the Epistles of the other apostles written in Paul's lifetime; but it is found in the last book of the New Testament Revelation, and subsequently in the Epistle of Clement of Rome. This proves that, by whomsoever the body of the Epistle was committed to writing (whether a mere amanuensis writing by dictation, or a companion of Paul by the Spirit's gift of interpreting tongues, 1Co 12:10, transfusing Paul's Spirit-taught sentiments into his own Spirit-guided diction), Paul at the close sets his seal to the whole as really his, and sanctioned by him as such. The churches of the East, and Jerusalem, their center, to which quarter it was first sent, received it as Paul's from the earliest times according to Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem (A.D. 349). Jerome, though bringing with him from Rome the prejudices of the Latins against the Epistle to the Hebrews, aggravated, doubtless, by its seeming sanction of the Novatian heresy (Heb 6:4-6), was constrained by the force of facts to receive it as Paul's, on the almost unanimous testimony of all Greek Christians from the earliest times; and was probably the main instrument in correcting the past error of Rome in rejecting it. The testimony of the Alexandrian Church is peculiarly valuable, for it was founded by Mark, who was with Paul at Rome in his first confinement, when this Epistle seems to have been written (Col 4:10), and who possibly was the bearer of this Epistle, at the same time visiting Colosse on the way to Jerusalem (where Mark's mother lived), and thence to Alexandria. Moreover, 2Pe 3:15, 16, written shortly before Peter's death, and like his first Epistle written by him, "the apostle of the circumcision," to the "Hebrew" Christians dispersed in the East, says, "As our beloved brother Paul hath written unto you" (2Pe 3:15), that is, to the Hebrews; also the words added, "As also in all his Epistles" (2Pe 3:16), distinguish the Epistle to the Hebrews from the rest; then he further speaks of it as on a level with "other Scriptures," thus asserting at once its Pauline authorship and divine inspiration. An interesting illustration of the power of Christian faith and love; Peter, who had been openly rebuked by Paul (Ga 2:7-14), fully adopted what Paul wrote; there was no difference in the Gospel of the apostle of the circumcision and that of the apostle of the uncircumcision. It strikingly shows God's sovereignty that He chose as the instrument to confirm the Hebrews, Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles (Ro 11:13); and on the other hand, Peter to open the Gospel door to the Gentiles (Ac 10:1, &c.), though being the apostle of the Jews; thus perfect unity reigns amidst the diversity of agencies.

Rome, in the person of Clement of Rome, originally received this Epistle. Then followed a period in which it ceased to be received by the Roman churches. Then, in the fourth century, Rome retracted her error. A plain proof she is not unchangeable or infallible. As far as Rome is concerned, the Epistle to the Hebrews was not only lost for three centuries, but never would have been recovered at all but for the Eastern churches; it is therefore a happy thing for Christendom that Rome is not the Catholic Church.

It plainly was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, which would have been mentioned in the Epistle had that event gone before, compare Heb 13:10; and probably to churches in which the Jewish members were the more numerous, as those in Judea, and perhaps Alexandria. In the latter city were the greatest number of resident Jews next to Jerusalem. In Leontopolis, in Egypt, was another temple, with the arrangements of which, Wieseler thinks the notices in this Epistle more nearly corresponded than with those in Jerusalem. It was from Alexandria that the Epistle appears first to have come to the knowledge of Christendom. Moreover, "the Epistle to the Alexandrians," mentioned in the Canon of Muratori, may possibly be this Epistle to the Hebrews. He addresses the Jews as peculiarly "the people of God" (Heb 2:17; 4:9; 13:12), "the seed of Abraham," that is, as the primary stock on which Gentile believers are grafted, to which Ro 11:16-24 corresponds; but he urges them to come out of the carnal earthly Jerusalem and to realize their spiritual union to "the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb 12:18-23; 13:13).

The use of Greek rather than Hebrew is doubtless due to the Epistle being intended, not merely for the Hebrew, but for the Hellenistic Jew converts, not only in Palestine, but elsewhere; a view confirmed by the use of the Septuagint. Bengel thinks, probably (compare 2Pe 3:15, 16, explained above), the Jews primarily, though not exclusively, addressed, were those who had left Jerusalem on account of the war and were settled in Asia Minor.

The notion of its having been originally in Hebrew arose probably from its Hebrew tone, method, and topics. It is reckoned among the Epistles, not at first generally acknowledged, along with James, Second Peter, Second and Third John, Jude, and Revelation. A beautiful link exists between these Epistles and the universally acknowledged Epistles. Hebrews unites the ordinances of Leviticus with their antitypical Gospel fulfilment. James is the link between the highest doctrines of Christianity and the universal law of moral duty—a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount—harmonizing the decalogue law of Moses, and the revelation to Job and Elias, with the Christian law of liberty. Second Peter links the teaching of Peter with that of Paul. Jude links the earliest unwritten to the latest written Revelation. The two shorter Epistles to John, like Philemon, apply Christianity to the minute details of the Christian life, showing that Christianity can sanctify all earthly relations.


Heb 1:1-14. The Highest of All Revelations Is Given Us Now in the Son of God, Who Is Greater than the Angels, and Who, Having Completed Redemption, Sits Enthroned at God's Right Hand.

The writer, though not inscribing his name, was well known to those addressed (Heb 13:19). For proofs of Paul being the author, see my Introduction. In the Pauline method, the statement of subject and the division are put before the discussion; and at the close, the practical follows the doctrinal portion. The ardor of Spirit in this Epistle, as in First John, bursting forth at once into the subject (without prefatory inscription of name and greeting), the more effectively strikes the hearers. The date must have been while the temple was yet standing, before its destruction, A.D. 70; some time before the martyrdom of Peter, who mentions this Epistle of Paul (2Pe 3:15, 16); at a time when many of the first hearers of the Lord were dead.

1. at sundry times—Greek, "in many portions." All was not revealed to each one prophet; but one received one portion of revelation, and another another. To Noah the quarter of the world to which Messiah should belong was revealed; to Abraham, the nation; to Jacob, the tribe; to David and Isaiah, the family; to Micah, the town of nativity; to Daniel, the exact time; to Malachi, the coming of His forerunner, and His second advent; through Jonah, His burial and resurrection; through Isaiah and Hosea, His resurrection. Each only knew in part; but when that which was perfect came in Messiah, that which was in part was done away (1Co 13:12).

in divers manners—for example, internal suggestions, audible voices, the Urim and Thummim, dreams, and visions. "In one way He was seen by Abraham, in another by Moses, in another by Elias, and in another by Micah; Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel, beheld different forms" [Theodoret]. (Compare Nu 12:6-8). The Old Testament revelations were fragmentary in substance, and manifold in form; the very multitude of prophets shows that they prophesied only in part. In Christ, the revelation of God is full, not in shifting hues of separated color, but Himself the pure light, uniting in His one person the whole spectrum (Heb 1:3).

spake—the expression usual for a Jew to employ in addressing Jews. So Matthew, a Jew writing especially for Jews, quotes Scripture, not by the formula, "It is written," but "said," &c.Heb 1:1-3 The essential dignity of the Son, by whom God hath

revealed himself in these last days.

Heb 1:4-14 His pre-eminence above the angels in office.

God: the apostle designing the conviction of these Hebrews by this discourse, enters on it solemnly, that if a God can awe them, the consideration of Him should gain credit to his doctrine. The God he speaks of is to be apprehended here personally, as well as essentially; God the Father, the one admirable sovereign, immutable Being, the Author of first and second revelation: order is kept here in the subsistence of the relations, as in their works.

Who at sundry times; polumerwv, by many parts, turns and changes of time, seasons and opportunities, and by many parcels of revelation. God's will was discovered by piecemeal, and not all at once. He vouchsafed one promise to Adam, and so gradually opened further to Enoch, Noah, Abraham, David, pointing out a Christ to come, to come of Abraham's seed in David's family: he discovered here a little, and there a little, Isa 28:13.

And in divers manners; polutropwv, suitable to the manifold wisdom of God, in divers forms and manners, was his revelation to them; sometimes by sensible representations to them waking, as by angels, fire in the bush, the pillar of fire and cloud: terribly, as at Mount Sinai, Heb 12:18-21. Sometimes by dreams and visions, Num 12:6; by Urim and Thummim, by voice from the ark, by types and signs from heaven, by riddles, and dark speeches, and Levitical ceremonies; sometimes by immediate illapses on the soul, powerfully influencing it with a Divine light.

Spake; revealed and declared infallibly his mind and will concerning the way of man's salvation, which his wisdom contrived and his will decreed.

In time past; all that time past between Adam and Christ, about 4000 years before.

Unto the fathers; the holy ancestors of these Hebrews, from Adam, down along the Old Testament church of God: the believers of old, such as are registered, Heb 11:1-40, and all like them to the times of Christ, from Gen 3:15, to that time.

By the prophets; all those holy men to whom and by whom God revealed his will to his church throughout the successive ages of the Old Testament day; such as were but God's servants, Heb 2:4, and had his will and mind by measure; who as they preached God's will were God's mouth, as they wrote it were God's scribes; as Abel, Enoch, &c. before the flood; Noah before and after; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David. &c.; to these did God infallibly declare it, and they did infallibly deliver it to the church by word and writing; God was by gracious inhabitation in them, in their hearts, tongues, and hands, 2Pe 1:21

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners,.... The apostle begins the epistle with an account of the revelation God has made of his mind and will in former times: the author of this revelation is God, not essentially, but personally considered, even God the Father, as distinguished from his Son in the next verse; for the revelation under the Old Testament is divine, as well as that under the New; in this they both agree, in whatsoever else they differ: and this revelation was made at several times, at different seasons, and to different persons; and consisted of a variety of things relating to doctrine and worship, and concerning the Messiah, his person and office; of whom, at different times, there were gradual discoveries made, both before and after the giving of the law, from the beginning of the world, or the giving forth of the first promise, and in the times of the patriarchs, of: Moses, David, Isaiah, and other prophets: and this was delivered in various manners; sometimes by angels; sometimes in a dream; at other times by a vision; and sometimes by Urim and Thummim: and this he

spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets; by Moses, and other succeeding prophets, as David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Zechariah, Malachi, and others; who were sent to the Jewish fathers, the ancestors of the people of the Jews, to whom they prophesied and declared the will of God, as they were moved and inspired by the Holy Ghost: and the apostle suggests, by this way of speaking, that it was a long time since God spake to this people; for prophecy had ceased ever since the times of Malachi, for the space of three hundred years; and this time past includes the whole Old Testament dispensation, from the beginning to the end of it, or of prophecy in it.

God, who at {1} sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

The purpose of this epistle, is to show that Jesus Christ the Son of God both God and man is that true eternal and only Prophet, King and High Priest, that was shadowed by the figures of the old law, and is now indeed exhibited of whom the whole Church ought to be taught, governed and sanctified.

(1) The first part of the general proposition of this epistle the son of God is indeed that prophet or teacher, who has actually now performed that which God after a sort and in shadows signified by his prophets, and has fully revealed his Father's will to the world.

Hebrews 1:1. Πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως κ.τ.λ.] After God had spoken oftentimes and in manifold ways of old time to the fathers in the prophets. The twofold expression πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως (comp. Maximus Tyrius, Dissert. vii. 2, xvii. 7) is by no means merely rhetorical amplification of one and the same idea (Chrysostom: τουτέστι διαφόρως, Michaelis, Abresch, Dindorf, Heinrichs, Kuinoel, Reiche, Tholuck,[28] and others). Τὸ πολυμερές is that which is divided into many parts (τὸ εἰς πολλὰ μεριζόμενον, Hesychius). Πολυμερῶς therefore presents the λαλεῖν of former ages from the point of view of something which was accomplished in a multiplicity of successive acts, whereas πολυτρόπως brings out the manifold character of the modality in which, in connection with those acts, the λαλεῖν was accomplished. Common thus to both expressions is, indeed, the notion of changeful diversity; but the former marks the changeful diversity of the times in which, and the persons through whom, God revealed Himself; the latter, the changeful diversity of the divine revelations as regards contents and form. For not only was the substance and extent of the single revelations disproportioned, but also the modes of their communication varied, inasmuch as God spoke to the recipients of His revelations sometimes by means of visions and dreams, sometimes mouth to mouth (comp. Numbers 12:6 ff.), sometimes immediately, sometimes by the intervention of an angel, sometimes under the veil of symbols and types, sometimes without these.[29] By the very choice of πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως our author indicates the imperfection of the O. T. revelations. No single one of them contained the full truth, for otherwise there would have been no need of a succession of many revelations, of which the one supplemented the other. And just so was the continual change in the modes of communicating these revelations a sign of imperfection, inasmuch as only a perfect form of communication corresponds to the perfect truth.

As, moreover, on the one hand, by means of the adverbs the imperfection of the O. T. revelation is indicated in contrast with the perfection of the N. T. revelation; so, on the other hand, by means of the identity of the subject ὁ θεός in λαλήσας and ἐλάλησεν, the inner connection between the revelations of the O. T. and that of the N. T. is brought into relief, and in this way attention is tacitly drawn to the fact that the former was the divinely appointed preliminary stage and preparation for the latter.

πάλαι] of old, in long bygone times. For Malachi was looked upon as the last of the O. T. prophets, and since his appearing already from four to five centuries had elapsed. Delitzsch: πάλαι is not so much antiquitus as antehac, since the contrast is not between ancient and recent or new, but between past and present. Wrongly; for the opposition of a “prius” and “post” has certainly been already expressed by λαλήσας and ἐλάλησεν, whereas πάλαι still finds its special, and indeed very significant opposition in ἐπʼ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων, and must accordingly be explained after the analogy of this.

λαλεῖν] particularly in our epistle of very frequent use, to indicate divine revelations. Comp. Hebrews 2:2-3, Hebrews 3:5, Hebrews 7:14, Hebrews 9:19, Hebrews 11:18, Hebrews 12:24-25.

τοῖς πατράσιν] to the fathers (forced, and needlessly; Kurtz: τοῖς πατράσιν, and equally so afterwards ἡμῖν, is dativus commodi), i.e. to the forefathers of the Jewish people. Comp. Romans 9:5. The expression in its absolute use characterizes author and recipients as born Jews.

προφῆται] is to be taken in the widest sense, in such wise that all holy men of the O. T. history who received revelations from God are comprehended under it. For unquestionably the aim of the discussion now begun, that of expressing the pre-eminence of the revelation contained in Christ over each and all of the O. T. revelations, demands this. But thus must Moses also, and very specially, be reckoned as belonging to the προφῆται, since Moses held the first rank in the series of development of the pre-Christian revelations; as, accordingly, Hebrews 3:2 ff., the superiority of Christ even over Moses is expressly asserted. Nor does the wider acceptation of προφῆται encounter any difficulties on the ground of Biblical usage. Comp. e.g. Genesis 20:7, where Abraham is spoken of as a προφήτης (נָבִיא); Deuteronomy 34:10, where it is said of Moses: καὶ οὐκ ἀνέστη ἔτι προφήτης ἐν Ἰσραὴλ ὡς Μωϋσῆς. Philo, too (de nom. mut. p. 1064 A, ed. Mangey, I. p. 597), calls Moses the ἈΡΧΙΠΡΟΦΉΤΗς.

By virtue of this wider acceptation of ΠΡΟΦῆΤΑΙ in itself, the opinion of Er. Schmid and Stein, that ἘΝ ΤΟῖς ΠΡΟΦΉΤΑΙς signifies: “in the prophetic Scriptures,” becomes an impossibility; quite apart from the consideration that this interpretation is also sufficiently refuted by the antithesis ἘΝ ΥἹῷ. But just as little is ἘΝ ΤΟῖς ΠΡΟΦΉΤΑΙς to be made equivalent to ΔΙᾺ ΤῶΝ ΠΡΟΦΗΤῶΝ, as is done by Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Primasius, Luther, Calvin, Grotius, and the majority, also Böhme, Reiche, Tholuck, Stengel, Ebrard, Bisping, Bloomfield, Delitzsch, Maier, and M‘Caul. For the linguistic character of the Epistle to the Hebrews affords no warrant for the supposition of such a Hebraism in the interchange of prepositions. Nor is this proved by Hebrews 9:25, to which Tholuck appeals in following the precedent of Fritzsche (Jen. Literaturzeit. 1843, p. 59). Ἐν is of more extensive significance than ΔΙΆ. While the latter would signify the mere medium, the mere instrument, ἘΝ implies that God, in revealing Himself to the fathers by the prophets, was present in the latter, was indwelling in them, in such wise that the prophets were only the outward organs of speech for the God who spoke in them. Comp. 2 Corinthians 13:3; Matthew 10:20.

ἘΠʼ ἘΣΧΆΤΟΥ ΤῶΝ ἩΜΕΡῶΝ ΤΟΎΤΩΝ] Antithesis to ΠΆΛΑΙ. Wrongly does Delitzsch, with the approval of Meier (comp. also Schneckenburger in the Theol. Stud. u. Krit. 1861, H. 3, p. 557), take τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων as apposition to ἙΠʼ ἘΣΧΆΤΟΥ: “at the period’s close, which these days form,”—for which, on account of the article before ἩΜΕΡῶΝ, the placing of ἘΠῚ ΤΟῦ ἘΣΧΆΤΟΥ would at least have been required,—while he then still more arbitrarily finds in ἜΣΧΑΤΟΝ ΤῶΝ ἩΜΕΡῶΝ “the expression indicative of one idea, equivalent to אַתֲרִית הַיָּמִים,” and makes ΤΟΎΤΩΝ belong logically to the whole idea! The ἩΜΈΡΑΙ ΑὟΤΑΙ are identical with that which is elsewhere called Ὁ ΑἸῺΝ ΟὟΤΟς, in opposition to Ὁ ΑἸῺΝ ΜΈΛΛΩΝ. The demonstrative ΤΟΎΤΩΝ refers to the fact that these ἩΜΈΡΑΙ are the period of time in which the author equally as his readers lives, and of an ἜΣΧΑΤΟΝ of these ἩΜΈΡΑΙ he speaks, because like all N. T. writers—the author of the Second Epistle of Peter (Hebrews 3:4 ff.) excepted—he regards the return of Christ, for the transforming of the present order of the world and the accomplishment of the Messianic kingdom, as near at hand; comp. Hebrews 10:37, Hebrews 9:26.

ἩΜῖΝ] to us, namely, who belong to the age just mentioned, the ἔσχατον τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων. Antithesis to τοῖς πατράσιν.

ἐν υἱῷ] anarthrous, as Hebrews 7:28; not because υἱός has acquired the nature of a nomen proprium (Böhme, Bloomfield, Delitzsch, Riehm, Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 272), but for the indication of the essential property: in one (to wit, Christ) who is not merely prophet—who is more than that, namely, Son.

[28] The last-named expositor would otherwise expect an antithetical ἀπλῶς (!) or ἐφάπαξ at the close of the verse.

[29] Erroneously does Grimm (Theol. Literaturbl. to the Darmstadt A. K. Z. 1857, No. 29, p. 661) raise against the above explanation, according to which πολυτρόπως has respect not only to the purport, but also at the same time to the form of the divine revelations, the objection that the properly understood ἐν τοῖς προφ. (see below) does not accord therewith, inasmuch as revelations “mouth to mouth,” or by the intervention of angels, would not have been a speaking of God in the prophets, but to (πρός) the same. For what is spoken of (ver. 1) is not the relation of God to the prophets in itself alone, but the relation of God to the fathers through the medium of the prophets. The fact, however, that the prophets, as men in whom God was present, brought to the knowledge of the fathers the revelations received, is independent of the way and manner in which those revelations were previously communicated to themselves by God.—Since, moreover, the prophets as recipients of revelation in the first rank are distinguished from the fathers as recipients of revelation in the second rank, and only an interweaving of the relation of God to both takes place, we cannot assume either, with Riehm (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 90), who in other respects rightly explains πολυτρόπως, that the form of the communication of the word of God to the prophets is to be taken into account only so far as a duly proportioned form corresponded to it, even as in the prophetic word the revelation of God became known to the fathers.

Hebrews 1:1-4. Without beginning with the ordinary salutation, with the omission even of any kind of preface, the author proceeds at once to place the revelation of God in Christ in contrast with the revelations of God under the Old Covenant, inasmuch as he characterizes the revelations under the Old Covenant as imperfect, while he shows the perfection of this new revelation by a description of the incomparable dignity of its Mediator. With Hebrews 1:1-3 the author strikes the keynote for all that which he is subsequently to disclose to the readers. The utterances of these three verses afford the theme of his whole epistle. For the later dogmatic disquisitions are only the more full unfolding of the same; and for the later paraeneses they form the motive and fundamental consideration. To Hebrews 1:4, however,—which combines grammatically with that which precedes into the unity of a well-ordered, rhetorically vigorous and majestic period,

Hebrews 1:1-3 stand related as the universal to the particular, since that which was before expressed in a more general way is in Hebrews 1:4 brought into relief on a special side, which finds in the sequel its detailed development, in such wise that then Hebrews 1:4 in turn forms, as regards its contents, the theme for the first section of the epistle (Hebrews 1:4 to Hebrews 2:18).

On Hebrews 1:1-3 comp. L. J. Uhland, Dissert. Theol. ad Hebr. i. 1–3, Pars I., II., Tubing. 1777, 4.

G. M. Amthor, Commentatio exegetico-dogmatica in tres priores versus epistolae ad Hebraeos scriptae (Coburg), 1828, 8.—(J. G. Reiche), In locum epist. ad Hebr. i. 1–3 observationes, Gotting. (Weihnachts-programm) 1829, 4.

Hebrews 1:1-3. The aim of the writer is to prove that the old Covenant through which God had dealt with the Hebrews is superseded by the New; and this aim he accomplishes in the first place by exhibiting the superiority of the mediator of the new Covenant to all previous mediators. The Epistle holds in literature the place which the Transfiguration holds in the life of Christ. Former mediators give place and Christ is left alone under the voice “Hear ye Him”. With this writer, Jesus is before all else the Mediator of a better Covenant, Hebrews 8:6. But ‘Mediator’ involves the arranging and accomplishing of everything required for the efficacy of the Covenant; the perfect knowledge of the person and purposes of Him who makes the Covenant with men and the communication of this knowledge to them; together with the removal of all obstacles to man’s entrance into the fellowship with God implied by the Covenant. This twofold function is in these first three verses shown to be discharged by Christ. He as Son speaks to men for God and thus supersedes all previous revelations; while, instead of appointing a priest who can only picture a cleansing, and accomplish a ceremonial purity, He becomes Priest and actually cleanses men from sin, and so effects their actual fellowship with God.

1–4. Thesis of the Epistle

1. God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake] It is hardly possible in a translation to preserve the majesty and balance of this remarkable opening sentence of the Epistle. It must be regarded as one of the most pregnant and noble passages of Scripture. The author does not begin, as St Paul invariably does, with a greeting which is almost invariably followed by a thanksgiving; but at once, and without preface, he strikes the key-note, by stating the thesis which he intends to prove. His object is to secure his Hebrew readers against the peril of an apostasy to which they were tempted by the delay of Christ’s personal return, by the persecutions to which they were subjected, and by the splendid memories and exalted claims of the religion in which they had been trained. He wishes therefore, not only to warn and exhort them, but also to prove that Christianity is a Covenant indefinitely superior to the Covenant of Judaism, alike in its Agents and its Results. The words “How much more,” “A better covenant,” “a more excellent name,” might be regarded as the keynotes of the Epistle (Hebrews 3:3, Hebrews 7:19-20; Hebrews 7:22, Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 9:23, Hebrews 10:34, Hebrews 11:40, Hebrews 12:24, &c.). In many respects, it is not so much a letter as an address. Into these opening verses he has compressed a world of meaning, and has also strongly brought out the conceptions of the contrast between the Old and New Dispensations—a contrast which involves the vast superiority of the latter. Literally, the sentence may be rendered, “In many portions and in many ways, God having of old spoken to the fathers in the prophets, at the end of these days spake to us in a Son.” It was God who spoke in both dispensations; of old and in the present epoch: to the fathers and to us; to them in the Prophets, to us in a Son; to them “in many portions” and therefore “fragmentarily,” but—as the whole Epistle is meant to shew—to us with a full and complete revelation; to them “in many ways,” “multifariously,” but to us in one way—namely by revealing Himself in human nature, and becoming “a Man with men.”

God] In this one word, which admits the divine origin of Mosaism, the writer makes an immense concession to the Jews. Such expressions as St Paul had used in the fervour of controversy—when for instance he spoke of “the Law” as consisting of “weak and beggarly elements”—tended to alienate the Jews by utterly shocking their prejudices; and in very early ages, as we see from the “Epistle of Barnabas” some Christians had developed a tendency to speak of Judaism with an extreme disparagement, which culminated in the Gnostic attribution of the Old Testament to an inferior and even malignant Deity, whom they called “the Demiurge.” The author shared no such feelings. In all his sympathies he shews himself a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and at the very outset he speaks of the Old Dispensation as coming from God.

who] There is no relative in the Greek. Instead of “who … spake … hath spoken …” the force of the original would be better conveyed by “having spoken … spake.”

at sundry times] In the Greek, one word polumerôs “in many parts.” The nearest English representative of the word is “fragmentarily,” which is not meant as a term of absolute but only of relative disparagement. It has never been God’s method to reveal all His relations to mankind at once. He revealed Himself “in many portions.” He lifted the veil fold by fold. First came the Adamic dispensation; then the Noahic; then the Abrahamic; then the Mosaic; then that widening and deepening system of truth of which the Prophets were ministers; then the yet more advanced and elaborate scheme which dates from Ezra;—the final revelation, the “fulness” of revealed truth came with the Gospel. Each of these systems was indeed fragmentary, and therefore (so far) imperfect, and yet it was the best possible system with reference to the end in view, which was the education of the human race in the love and knowledge of God. The first great truth which God prominently revealed was His Unity; then came the earliest germ of the Messianic hope; then came the Moral Law; then the development of Messianism and the belief in Immortality. Isaiah and Ezekiel, Zechariah and Malachi, the son of Sirach and John the Baptist, had each his several “portion” and element of truth to reveal. But all the sevenfold rays were united in the pure and perfect light when God had given us His Son; and when, by the inbreathing of the Spirit, He had made us partakers of Himself, the last era of revelation had arrived. To this final revelation there can be no further addition, though it may be granted to age after age more and more fully to comprehend it. Complete in itself, it yet works as the leaven, and grows as the grain of mustard seed, and brightens and broadens as the Dawn. Yet even the Christian Revelation is itself but “a part;” “we know in part and prophesy,” says St Paul, “in part.” Man, being finite, is only capable of partial knowledge.

in divers manners] The “sundry” and “divers” of our A. V. are only due to the professed fondness for variety which King James’s translators regarded as a merit. The “many manners” of the older revelation were Law and Prophecy, Type and Allegory, Promise and Threatening; the diverse individuality of many of the Prophets, Seers, Warriors, Kings, who were agents of the revelation; the method of various sacrifices; the messages which came by Urim, by dreams, by waking visions, and “face to face” (see Numbers 12:6; Psalm 89:19; Hosea 12:10; 2 Peter 1:21). The mouthpiece of the revelation was now a Gentile sorcerer, now a royal sufferer, now a rough ascetic, now a polished priest, now a gatherer of sycomore fruit. Thus the separate revelations were not complete but partial; and the methods not simple but complex.

spake] This verb (lalein) is often used, especially in this Epistle, of Divine revelations (Hebrews 2:2-3, Hebrews 3:5, Hebrews 7:14, &c.).

in time past] Malachi the last Prophet of the Old Covenant had died more than four centuries before Christ.

unto the fathers] That is to the Jews of old. The writer, a Jew in all his sympathies, leaves unnoticed throughout this Epistle the very existence of the Gentiles. As a friend and follower of St Paul he of course recognised the call of the Gentiles to equal privileges, but the demonstration of their prerogatives had already been furnished by St Paul with a force and fulness to which nothing could be added. This writer, addressing Jews, is not in any way thinking of the Gentiles. To him “the people” means exclusively “the people of God” in the old sense, namely Israel after the flesh. It is hardly conceivable that St Paul, who was the Apostle to the Gentiles, and whose writings were mainly addressed to them, and written to secure their Gospel privileges, should, even in a single letter, have so completely left them out of sight as this author does. On the other hand he always tries to shew his “Hebrew” readers that their conversion does not involve any sudden discontinuity in the religious history of their race.

by the prophets] Rather, “in the Prophets.” It is true that the “bymay be only a Hebraism, representing the Hebrew בְּ in 1 Samuel 28:6; 2 Samuel 23:2. We find ἐνin” used of agents in Matthew 9:34, “In the Prince of the demons casteth He out demons,” and in Acts 17:31. But, on the other hand, the writer may have meant the preposition to be taken in its proper sense, to imply that the Prophets were only the organs of the revelation; so that it is more emphatic than διὰ “by means of.” The same thought may be in his mind as in that of Philo when he says that “the Prophet is an interpreter, while God from within whispers what he should utter.” “The Prophets,” says St Thomas Aquinas, “did not speak of themselves, but God spoke in them.” Comp. 2 Corinthians 13:3. The word Prophets is here taken in that larger sense which includes Abraham, Moses, &c.

Hebrews 1:1. Πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως) God spoke πολυμερῶς, in many portions. The creation was revealed in the time of Adam; the last judgment in the time of Enoch; and so from time to time knowledge was given more fully unfolded. He also spoke πολυτρόπως, in divers modes of revelation, in dreams and visions. Therefore πολυμερῶς refers to the matter, πολυτρόπως to the form. In both there is an antithesis to one total and most perfect communication of GOD to us in Jesus Christ. The very multitude of prophets shows, that they “prophesied in part;” therefore, says he, you ought not to be frightened at the novelty of Christianity.—πάλαι, in time past) For a very considerable space of time there had arisen no prophets, in order that the Son might be the more an object of expectation. [Malachi, the last of the prophets of the Old Testament, prophesied at the interval of some ages before the birth of Christ.—V. g.]—ὁ Θεὸς, God) The apostle treats of GOD in this passage; of Christ, ch. Hebrews 2:3; of the Holy Ghost, ch. Hebrews 3:7.—λαλήσας, having spoken) A Synecdoche[1] for every sort of communication, as Psalm 2:5. So דבר ῬῆΜΑ, a word, is used in a wide sense.—ἐν, in) [Not as Engl. Vers. by] Therefore God Himself was in the prophets, as also especially in the Son. A mortal king speaks by his ambassador, not, however, in his ambassador. If the apostle had not used the ἐν, in, with a view to what follows, in order that it might apply to the Son, he would doubtless have put διὰ τῶν προφητῶν, by the prophets. For this reason it is not inconsistent to urge the use of the ἘΝ, in.—ἐν τοῖς προφήταις, in the prophets) Artemonius, Part I., cap. 43, contends that Luke wrote ἘΝ ΤΟῖς ἈΓΓΈΛΟΙς; for he is of opinion, that Luke wrote this epistle, p. 98; and this opinion is not inconsistent with Clem. Alex. adumbr. on 1 Peter 5:13, where Luke is said to have translated the Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews, although we have proved above that it was written in Greek by Paul himself. All the copies[2] have ἐν τοῖς προφήταις; and the epistle, showing the excellence of Christ by using so many comparisons, certainly prefers Him to the prophets also, and to them all: Matthew 11:13; Matthew 12:41; John 8:53. But it prefers Him to the prophets, if not in this passage, then nowhere else; and here, indeed, it touches upon it, as it were by the way, at the very beginning, as this comparison is immediately after swallowed up by others more illustrious. In the mean time, this mention of the prophets summarily, made at the very beginning of the epistle, admirably anticipates objections, and presents a conciliatory argument; so that the apostle hereby declares, that he embraces the whole scripture of the Old Testament, and asserts nothing contrary to it. Wolfius has more on this passage.

[1] A part for the whole. See Append.

[2] The original word, monumenta, does not only refer to the MS. copies of this Epistle, but to any writing in after times, in which this passage may be quoted.—TR.

Moses occupies the first place among the prophets, of whom Paul afterwards speaks separately. The antithesis of the prophets and the Son is the same as in Matthew 21:34; Matthew 21:37, and the very appellation, Son, indicates His excellence above the prophets: and whatever is presently said of the angels [as to their inferiority to the Son] is intended to be understood as holding good much more of the prophets.—ἐπʼ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμέρων τούτων, in the last of these days) There is a similar expression in Numbers 24:14, באחרית הימים, LXX., ἐπʼ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν; in like manner, 1 Peter 1:5; 1 Peter 1:20, and in a different sense 2 Timothy 3:1, note. The antithesis is πάλαι, in time past. The apostle intimates, that no further speaking was afterwards to be expected. This whole epistle, concerning which comp. 2 Peter 3:15, sets before us the end of all things as at hand: ch. Hebrews 2:8, Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 9:28, Hebrews 10:13; Hebrews 10:25; Hebrews 10:37, Hebrews 11:40, Hebrews 12:23, Hebrews 13:4.—ἐλάλησεν, hath spoken) all things, in one most perfect way [as contrasted with the many ways of revealing Himself formerly].—ἡμῖν, to us) The antithesis is τοῖς πατράσιν, unto the fathers.—ἐν Υἱῷ, in the Son) Ἐν often denotes by, but here it has a higher meaning; comp. John 14:10. How great a prophet is the very Son of God! The name, Son, is put here by Antonomasia,[3] as equivalent to a proper name; but a proper name in Hebrew is without the article; and so in the present case the article is omitted. It is also omitted in Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 5:8; Hebrews 7:28. So בר, Psalm 2:12. God hath spoken to us in the Son alone. The apostles were also spoken to; who themselves also are considered in the light of persons to whom the word was spoken, before that they could speak the word to others: they were ὙΠΗΡΈΤΑΙ ΤΟῦ ΛΌΓΟΥ, ministers of the word; but the apostles taught nothing new after Christ, and as the Father spoke in the Son, so the Son spoke in the apostles. The Son also spoke by the prophets in the Old Testament: but in a different manner. The majesty of this Son is SET FORTH, I. Absolutely,—Α) by the very name of Son, Hebrews 1:1; β) by three glorious predicates, expressed by as many finite verbs along with the pronoun who: Whom He has appointed, by Whom He made, Who sat down; and in this way His course, as it were, is described from the beginning of all things till He reached the goal, Hebrews 1:2-3. II. In comparison with the angels, Hebrews 1:4. The CONFIRMATION presently after corresponds to this proposition, and the very name of Son is presently proved at Hebrews 1:5; as also the inheritance, at Hebrews 1:6-9; the making of the worlds, Hebrews 1:10-12; the sitting on the right hand, at Hebrews 1:13-14. Let us consider them one by one.

[3] See Append.

Verse 1. - Retaining the order of the words in the original, we may translate, In many portions, and in many modes of old God having spoken to the fathers in the prophets. Πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως ( νοτ a mere alliterative redundancy, denoting variously: - the writer's usual choice use of words forbids this supposition. Nor is the μερῶς of the first adverb to be taken (as in the A.V.) to denote portions of time: - this is not the proper meaning of the compound. Nor (for the same reason) does it denote various degrees of prophetic inspiration, but (on etymological as well as logical grounds) the various portions of the preparatory revelation to "the fathers." It was not one utterance, but many utterances; given, in fact, at divers times, though it is to the diversity of the utterances, and not of the times, that the expression points. Then the second adverb denotes the various modes of the several former revelations - not necessarily or exclusively the rabbinical distinction between dream, vision, inspiration, voices, angels; or that between the visions and dreams of prophets and the "mouth to mouth" revelation to Moses, referred to in Numbers 12:6-9; but rather the various characters or forms of the various utterances in themselves. Some were in the way of primeval promises; some of glimpses into the Divine righteousness, as in the Law given from Mount Sinai; some of significant ritual, as in the same Law; some of typical history and typical persons, spoken of under inspiration as representing an unfulfilled ideal; some of the yearnings and aspirations, or distinct predictions, of psalmists and of prophets. But all these were but partial, fragmentary, anticipatory utterances, leading up to and adumbrating the 'one complete, all-absorbing "speaking of God to us in the SON," which is placed in contrast with there all. If the subsequent treatment in this Epistle of the Old Testament utterances is to be taken as a key for unlocking the meaning of the exordium, such ideas were in the writer's mind when he thus wrote. "Πολυμερῶς pertinet ad materiam, πολυτρόπως ad formam" (Bengel). Of old; i.e. in the ages comprised in the Old Testament record. Though it is true that; God has revealed himself variously since the world was made to other than the saints of the Old Testament, and though he ceased not to speak in some way to his people between the times of Malachi and of Christ, yet both the expression, "to the fathers," and the instances of Divine utterances given subsequently in the Epistle, restrict us in our interpretation to the Old Testament canon. Addressing Hebrews, it is from this that the writer argues. Having spoken; a word used elsewhere to express all the ways in which God has made himself, his will, and his counsels, known (cf. Matthew 10:20; Luke 1:45, 70; John 9:29; Acts 3:21; Acts 7:6). To the fathers; the ancestors of the Jews in respect both of race and of faith; the saints of the Old Testament. The word had a well-understood meaning (cf. Matthew 23:30; Luke 1:55, 72; Luke 11:47; and especially Romans 9:5). For the double sense of the term "father," thus used, see John 8:56, "your father Abraham;" but again, John 8:39, "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham;" and also Romans 4. and Galatians 3:7. But this distinction between physical and spiritual ancestry does not come in here. In the prophets. The word "prophet" must be taken here in a general sense; not confined to the prophets distinctively so called, as in Luke 24:44, "Moses, the prophets, and the psalms." For both Moses and the psalms are quoted in the sequel, to illustrate the ancient utterances. Προφήτης means, both in classical and Hellenistic Greek (as does the Hebrew נָבִיא, of which προφήτης is the equivalent), not a foreteller, but a forth teller of the mind of God, an inspired expounder (cf. Διὸς προφήτης ἐστὶ Λοξίας πατρός, AEsch., 'Eum.,' 19; and Exodus 7:1, "See I have made thee a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet"). Observe also the sense of προφητεία in St. Paul's Epistles (especially 1 Corinthians 14.). In this sense Moses, David, and all through whom God in any way spoke to man, were prophets. On the exact force of the preposition ἐν, many views have been entertained. It does not mean "in the books of the prophets," - the corresponding "in the SON" precludes this; nor that God by his Spirit spoke within the prophets, - this idea does not come in naturally here; nor is "the SON" presented afterwards as one in whom the Godhead dwelt, so much as being himself a manifestation of God; nor may we take ἐν, as simply a Hellenism for διὰ, - the writer does not use prepositions indiscriminately. Ἐν, (as Alford explains it) differs from διὰ as denoting the element in which this speaking takes place. This use of the preposition is found also in classical Greek; cf. σημαίνειν ἐν οἰωνοῖς, frequent in Xenophon; in the New Testament, cf. Ἐν τῷ ἄρχοντι τῶν δαιμονίωι ἐκβάλλει τὰ δαιμόνια (Matthew 9:34.). Hebrews 1:1God

Both stages of the revelation were given by God.

At sundry times (πολυμερῶς)

Rend. in many parts. N.T.o. olxx, but πολυμερής Wisd. 7:22. In the first stage of his revelation, God spake, not at once, giving a complete revelation of his being and will; but in many separate revelations, each of which set forth only a portion of the truth. The truth as a whole never comes to light in the O.T. It appears fragmentarily, in successive acts, as the periods of the Patriarchs, Moses, the Kingdom, etc. One prophet has one, another element of the truth to proclaim.

In divers manners (πολυτροπῶς)

Rend. in many ways. N.T.o. lxx, 4 Macc. 3:21. This refers to the difference of the various revelations in contents and form. Not the different ways in which God imparted his revelations to the prophets, but the different ways in which he spoke by the prophets to the fathers: in one way through Moses, in another through Elijah, in others through Isaiah, Ezekiel, etc. At the founding of the Old Testament kingdom of God, the character of the revelation was elementary. Later it was of a character to appeal to a more matured spiritual sense, a deeper understanding and a higher conception of the law. The revelation differed according to the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of the covenant-people. Comp. Ephesians 3:10, the many-tinted wisdom of God, which is associated with this passage by Clement of Alexandria (Strom. i. 4, 27). "Fitly, therefore, did the apostle call the wisdom of God many-tinted, as showing its power to benefit us in many parts and in many ways."

Spake (λαλήσας)

See on Matthew 28:18. Often in the Epistle of the announcement of the divine will by men, as Hebrews 7:14; Hebrews 9:19; by angels, as Hebrews 2:2; by God himself or Christ, as Hebrews 2:3; Hebrews 5:5; Hebrews 12:25. In Paul, almost always of men: once of Christ, 2 Corinthians 13:3; once of the Law, personified, Romans 3:9.

In time past (πάλαι)

Better, of old. The time of the Old Testament revelation. It indicates a revelation, not only given, but completed in the past.

Unto the fathers (τοῖς πατράσιν)

Thus absolutely, John 7:22; Romans 9:5; Romans 15:8. More commonly with your or our.

By the prophets (ἐν τοῖς προφήταις)

Rend. "in the prophets," which does not mean in the collection of prophetic writings, as John 6:45; Acts 13:40, but rather in the prophets themselves as the vessels of divine inspiration. God spake in them and from them. Thus Philo; "The prophet is an interpreter, echoing from within (ἔνδοθεν) the sayings of God" (De Praemiis et Poenis, 9)

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