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Hebrews 8

The excellence of Christ’s priesthood above that of Aaron is shown. (1-6) The great excellence of the new covenant above the former. (7-13)

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The excellence of Christ’s priesthood above that of Aaron is shown

1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;

2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.

3 For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.

4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:

5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

The great excellence of the new covenant above the former

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.

8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:

9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.

10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Of the things spoken[1] the sum is. This word sum, many expound, as if S. Paul said: I will sum up, and give you an abridgment or recapitulation of what I have said. But S. Chrys. and others, by the Greek would rather understand the chief, or greatest thing of all, when he adds, that Christ is our high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of majesty in the heavens. Wi.

Ver. 2. A minister of the holies. Lit. of the holy places, and of the true tabernacle: he adds true, to signify that though he speaks with an allusion to the sanctuary, and the priests of the former law, yet that Christ hath now entered into the true holy of holies; that is, into heaven, of which the Jewish sanctuary was only a type or figure. — Which the Lord hath pitched, and not man; i.e. all the parts of the Jewish sanctuary was the work of men’s hands; but heaven, the habitation prepared for the saints, is the work of God. Wi. — The Old Testament was a figure of the New; but the tabernacle of Moses, and the temple of Solomon, were in particular an image and figure of the Christian Church. v. 5. The Church triumphant in heaven is the true sanctuary; the Church militant on earth is the true tabernacle; and Jesus Christ is the sovereign priest of both the one and the other, and exercises his priesthood both in heaven and upon earth.

Ver. 3. For every high priest, &c. That is, as all priests are ordained to offer up to God some gifts and sacrifices; so Christ, a priest for ever, has now in heaven something to offer to his eternal Father; to wit, the infinite merits and satisfactions of his death and passion. This he doth in heaven, and also by the ministry of his priests on earth, who offer the same in his name. Wi. — This is the daily sacrifice of Christians, foretold plainly by Malachy, c. i. 10. 11. This is also clearly mentioned in S. Justin, Dial cum Tryphone. Tert. co. M. l. iii. c. 21. Iren. l. iv. c. 32. Cyp. l. i. adv. Jud. Eus. l. i. Dem. Evan. Chrys. in Ps. xcv. Aug. l. xviii. de civ. Dei. c. 35, &c. &c. For authorities see annotations on chap. x. of this epistle. The apostate Courayer, who pretending to remain a Catholic, ended by becoming a Socinian or Unitarian, taught that persons were at liberty to deny the real presence, and admit with Catholics a commemorative or representative sacrifice, which applies to us the merits of Christ’s death. But this system was condemned by the Gallican church, as contrary to the doctrine of the Council of Trent, which has defined the mass to be not merely a commemorative and representative sacrifice, but a true and real offering of a victim, really present, and actually offered to God by the priest. “By his last sentiments, (published by Dr. Bell) it appears, says the New Gen. Biogr. Dict. edited by Chalmers, an. 1814, vol. lxxx. art. Courayer, that although he professed to die a member of the Roman Catholic Church, he could not well be accounted a member of that, or of any other established Church. In rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity, he became nearly, if not quite, a Socinian, or modern Unitarian; he denied also the inspiration of the holy Scriptures, as to matters of fact; and as to baptism, seems to wish to confine it to adults. In 1811 a more full exposure of his sentiments was published by Dr. Bell, in a posthumous work of Courayer, on the Divinity of Jesus Christ, 8vo. a publication we have little hesitation in saying ought never to have appeared. It could not be wanting to illustrate the wavering, unsettled character of the author. The creed of innovators is never fixed; and when once they cast off the authority of the Church, they are carried about, like children, with every wind of doctrine.”

Ver. 4. If then he were on earth, he would not be a priest. He speaks of a priest according to the custom of the Jews, where none were priests but of the tribe of Levi, and Jesus Christ was of the tribe of Juda: and if the law of Moses was to continue, there would not be wanting priests to offer sacrifices according to their worship, though such priests were only employed about things that were types[2] and shadows of heavenly things in the new law after Christ’s coming, and of the sacrifice by which he offered himself on the cross. And this God doubtless revealed to Moses, when he said to him: take heed “thou make all things according to the pattern which was shewn thee on the mount.” Wi. — Earth, &c. That is, if he were not of a higher condition than the Levitical order of earthly priests, and had not another kind of sacrifice to offer, he should be excluded by them from the priesthood, and its functions, which by the law were appropriated to their tribe. Ch.

Ver. 5. Who serve unto, &c. The priesthood of the law and its functions were a kind of an example, and shadow of what is done by Christ in his Church militant and triumphant, of which the tabernacle was a pattern. Ch.

Ver. 6. But now Christ, the Messias, being come, hath ordained a more excellent ministry and priesthood, being the great Mediator betwixt God and man of a better and more excellent testament, accompanied with greater graces and blessings, and established with better and more ample promises, not of temporal blessings, as the former, but of eternal happiness. Wi.

Ver. 7. For if that first testament had been faultless: if it had not been imperfect, and all those sacrifices and ceremonies insufficient for the justification, salvation, and redemption of mankind, there would have been no need of a second. Wi.

Ver. 8. For finding fault with them. It is not said here, blaming the law, says S. Chrys. which in itself was good, just, and holy, (see Rom. vii. 12.) but blaming the breakers and transgressors of it; not but that men were saved in the time of the law, who by God’s grace believed in their Redeemer that was to come, and lived well. And the mercies of God were so great, even towards sinners, that he made them a solemn promise, clearly expressed in the prophet Jeremy, (C. xxxi. 31. &c.) The days shall come, saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant, . . . not according to the covenant (or not such a one) as I made to their fathers, at the time when I took them as it were by the hand to lead them out of . . . Egypt, &c. with signs and prodigies: I then made choice of them to be my people, but they were always transgressing against this testament, this covenant, which I had made with them: and for their transgressions I neglected them, punished them from time to time, and, what was the greatest punishment of all, permitted such ungrateful and obstinate offenders to run on in their own sinful ways to their own ruin. Wi.

Ver. 10. For this is the testament which I will make with the house of Israel, and with all nations, as I promised to Abraham, I will give (lit. by giving) my laws into their mind, and I will write this new law, not as the former, in tables of stone, but in their hearts, and to them I will be a merciful God, and they shall be my elect people. Wi. — The Jews were like slaves, and God ruled them as a master; Christians are his children, and God rules them as a father: and so great is the efficacy of this divine teacher, that by means of a short and easy catechism, children are now taught to know God more perfectly than the first sages of antiquity by their abstruse and erudite disquisitions. We moreover observe under the new law the grace and spirit of love, engrafted in the hearts of the faithful by the Holy Ghost working in the sacraments and sacrifice of the new law to that effect. . . This covenant was made at the last supper, and ratified the next day by the death of the Testator on the cross, when he exclaimed, “consummatum est,” all is consummated.

Ver. 11. They shall not teach, &c. So great shall be the light and grace of the new testament, that it shall not be necessary to inculcate to the faithful the belief and knowledge of the true God, for they shall all know him. Ch. — All shall know me, &c. This seems to signify that by the truths which Christ preached, and which the apostles published to all nations, the faithful in the new law should have a greater knowledge of God, of the true manner of worshipping him, and of heavenly things, and also greater and more abundant graces than they had before Christ’s coming. They shall also serve God with greater fidelity, by considering his mercy in sending them a Redeemer to free them from the slavery of sin and damnation, of which they stood guilty. Wi.

Ver. 13. In calling this testament a new one, he hath made the former old. This is to put the Hebrews in mind that the former law, as to its ceremonies and sacrifices, is now to be laid aside, and the new law or testament to be received and complied with. Wi. — Thus the first alliance was to end according to the testimony of Scripture itself, and make place for the second, which is infinitely more perfect. To be fully satisfied of this, it is merely necessary to compare the one with the other. V.

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[1] V. 1. Capitulum super ea quæ dicuntur, kephalaion epi tois legomenois. Beza and others reprehend here the ancient Latin interpreter. They have as much reason to blame the Greek original. S. Aug. observes that the Latin interpreter was more solicitous to follow exactly the sense than to write proper Latin.

[2] V. 4. Exemplari et umbræ deserviunt, upodeigmati, kai skia latreuousi. It signifies, that they served God by those things that were types and figures of more perfect and heavenly things.