King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Hebrews 12

An exhortation to be constant and persevere, The example of Christ is set forth, and the gracious design of God in all the sufferings believers endured. (1-11) Peace and holiness are recommended, with cautions against despising spiritual blessings. (12-17) The New Testament dispensation shown to be much more excellent than the Old. (18-29)

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An exhortation to be constant and persevere, The example of Christ is set forth, and the gracious design of God in all the sufferings believers endured

1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Peace and holiness are recommended, with cautions against despising spiritual blessings

12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

The New Testament dispensation shown to be much more excellent than the Old

18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,

19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:

20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:

21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)

22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,

23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:

26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.

27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

29 For our God is a consuming fire.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Laying aside every weight;[1] i.e. all that may hinder us when we run in the way of virtue. To the fight proposed to us. In the Greek it is more clear: let us run the proposed race. He compares the condition of Christians to those who run a race, who fight or strive for a prize in the Olympic games, who strip themselves, and make themselves as light as possible, the better to run and fight. Wi. — This Christian’s life is both a race and a combat. In baptism we enter the lists; therefore we must fight in running to Jesus Christ, for he is the term, the goal, and the prize. To run well, we must be as light and disengaged as possible; and the same if we hope to combat with success. We should look up to the battles fought by our captain, Jesus Christ, and contemplate the glory he now enjoys on that account; for this he means to share with us, if we imitate his virtues: let us then rejoice to suffer with our Captain (archegon) here, and we shall be glorified with him hereafter.

Ver. 2. Who having joy[2] proposed to him, underwent the cross. The sense seems to be, who by reason of the joy he had to perform the will of his eternal Father, for which he knew he should be exalted above all creatures, underwent willingly the ignominy and death of the cross. Wi.

Ver. 4. You have not yet resisted unto blood. Though you have met with some persecutions, you have not yet shed your blood for his sake who laid down his life, and shed every drop of his blood for you. Wi.

Ver. 5. You have forgotten the consolation, &c. He puts them in mind, that it ought to be a subject of great comfort to them, that God calls them his children, his sons, and treats them as his true and legitimate children, when he admonished them to live under discipline and obedience to him, when, to correct their disobedient and sinful ways, he sends the afflictions and persecutions in this world, which they ought to look upon as marks of his fatherly tenderness; for this is what a prudent kind father does to his legitimate children, of whom he takes the greatest care: and not to use these corrections, is to neglect them, as if they were [3]illegitimate children. We reverence the father of our flesh, (v. 10.) our parents in this world, when they instruct and correct us, how much more ought we to obey the Father and Creator of spirits, (i.e. of our souls) that being truly sanctified by him, we may live and obtain life everlasting. Wi.

Ver. 8. In these last four verses we may observe as many subjects of consolation under afflictions. God, our Father, is the author of them; the chastisement he inflicts is the proof of his love; it is the sign or mark of our divine adoption; it is a necessary condition of our being adopted.

Ver. 11. It is true all discipline, all corrections, and sufferings in this present life, are disagreeable to our nature, because they bring not joy, but trouble and grief with them; yet afterwards, they who have been exercised with them, will reap the most peaceable fruit of justice, eternal peace and happiness in heaven. Wi. — We must not judge of sufferings by the smart they occasion, but by the fruits of peace, justice, and eternal glory they produce in such as submit to them with patience.

Ver. 12-14. Wherefore life up the[4] hands, &c. Be fervent in piety, walk firmly in the way of virtue, make straight[5] steps, without declining to one side or the other, without halting or going astray, and strive to be healed from your sins by his grace. — Follow and seek peace, as much as lies in you, with all men, and [6]purity of life, without which no man shall see and enjoy God. Wi.

Ver. 15. Be wanting to the grace of God, by resisting and abusing his favours, or by falling from the grace of God received. — Lest any root of bitterness, &c. He means scandalous wicked persons, by whom others are infected, defiled, and corrupted. Wi.

Ver. 16. Or profane person, as Esau, who had so little regard for the blessing and inheritance of his father, that he sold his right of first-begotten for one mess of broth, and afterwards found no place for repentance, although with tears he had sought for it; that is, he could not make his father repent or change what he had once done, though he endeavoured with his tears and lamentable outcries. Or if any one will have repentance referred to Esau himself, still the Novatian heretics can have no advantage in favour of their error, when they deny that sinners can repent, because Esau’s tears might only be for a temporal loss, not for God’s sake, nor for the guilt of his sins, so that he wanted the dispositions of a true penitent and of a contrite heart. Wi. — Bebelos, profane, like Esau, who for a trifling meal could forfeit his right of primogeniture, and the honour of priesthood thereto attached. Oh, how many give up all right to a heavenly and eternal inheritance for even a mere trifling consideration! And how will they one day, with Esau, regret the same inflexibility on the part of God, their Father!

Ver. 17. He found, &c. That is, he found no way to bring his father to repent, or change his mind, with relation to his having given the blessing to his younger brother, Jacob. Ch.

Ver. 18. For you are not come to a mountain,[7] &c. That is, to a mountain on earth that can be touched; to wit, to Mount Sinai, where the law was given to Moses, where the mountain seemed all on fire, with dreadful thunder and lightning, whirlwinds, darkness, tempests, sounding of trumpets, voices, &c. which they who heard excused themselves, begging that Moses only, and not God, might speak to them, for they could not without exceeding consternation think of what was then said; that if any man, or even beast, should touch the mountain, he should be stoned to death. Ex. xix. 15. Nay Moses himself, trembling, was frightened. This particular is nowhere mentioned in the Scripture, but the apostle might know it by revelation, or by some tradition among the Jews. Wi.

Ver. 22. But you are come to Mount Sion, where not a law of fear, like that of Moses, but a new law of love and mercy hath been given you, preached by our Saviour himself, and by his apostles, testified by the coming of the Holy Ghost, and by the effusion of God’s spirit upon the believers. Here you are called to the city of the living God, (to the Christian Church on earth) and even to the celestial Jerusalem, there to be for ever happy in the company of many millions of Angels; to the church of the first-born, who are written in heaven, (v. 23.) to be happy with those who have been chosen by a special mercy of God, and blessed with an endless happiness; to be there in the presence of God, the judge of all men, with all the celestial spirits and souls of the just and perfect in the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ is the mediator of this new testament, the redeemer of mankind by his death on the cross, by the sprinkling and effusion of his blood, which speaketh better than that of Abel: the blood of Abel cried to heaven for vengeance, and the blood of Christ for mercy and pardon. Wi.

Ver. 25. Refuse not then to hearken to him; for if the Jews escaped not God’s severe judgments, for being deaf to his admonitions, given by an Angel to Moses on Mount Sinai, and by him to the people, much less shall we escape, if we turn away our minds, and harden our hearts against the instructions of our Redeemer, who came from heaven to speak to us, and teach us the way to our eternal salvation. Wi.

Ver. 26. Whose voice then moved the earth, by such signs and prodigies on Mount Sinai: but now he promiseth, saying by the prophet Aggeus: yet once; and I will move not only the earth, but heaven also. These words of the prophet are commonly understood of Christ’s first coming at his incarnation, when at his birth a star appeared, Angels were sent, and sung his praises, when the heavens opened at his baptism, when the earth trembled at his resurrection, when the sun and moon were darkened at his death, &c. Yet others expound these words of Christ’s coming to redeem mankind, so as to comprehend all the time of the law of grace, and even his second coming to judge all men, at the end of the world, of which may particularly be understood those words, (v. 27.) of the translation of the moveable things; that is, of the elements, and of the heavens changed to a more perfect state. See here S. Chrys. S. Aug. l. 18. de civ. Dei. c. xxxv. p. 517. Nov. Editionis. Wi.

Ver. 27. Some refer these words to the tabernacle, to the ark, the altar, and other parts of the Jewish religion; which, as figures were to be altered and to be replaced by the more lasting and more perfect dispensation of the gospel. Estius.

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[1] V. 1. Omne pondus, panta ogkon, omnem sarcinam.

[2] V. 2. Curramus ad propositum nobis certamen, trechomen ton prokeimenon emin agona, without pros, ad. Certamen is not only pugnando, but contendendo cursu, &c.

[3] V. 5. Ergo adulteri, et non filii, ara nothoi este, kai ouch uioi, adulterini, non germani filii.

[4] V. 12-14. Remissas manus, pareimenas, which signifies hands hanging down in a lazy posture.

[5] Ibid. Gressus rectos facite, trochias orthas poiesate, which is to advance in a straight line, not turning aside, or tottering.

[6] Ibid. Sanctimoniam, agiasmon.

[7] V. 18. Ad tractabilem montem, pselaphomeno orei. palpabilem.