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Hebrews 1:1-2

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

1. Deus olim multifariam multisque modis loquutus patribus per prophetas,

2. Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

2. Extremis hisce diebus loquutus est nobis per Filium, quem constituit haeredem omnium, per quem etiam secula condidit.

God formerly, etc. This beginning is for the purpose of commending the doctrine taught by Christ; for it shows that we ought not only reverently to receive it, but also to be satisfied with it alone. That we may understand this more clearly, we must observe the contrast between each of the clauses. First, the Son of God is set in opposition to the prophets; then we to the fathers; and, thirdly, the various and manifold modes of speaking which God had adopted as to the fathers, to the last revelation brought to us by Christ. But in this diversity he still sets before us but one God, that no one might think that the Law militates against the Gospel, or that the author of one is not the author of the other. That you may, therefore, understand the full import of this passage, the following arrangement shall be given, —

God spake

Formerly by the Prophets

Now by the Son;

Then to the Fathers

But now to us;

Then at various times

Now as at the end of the times.

 

This foundation being laid, the agreement between the Law and the Gospel is established; for God, who is ever like himself, and whose word is the same, and whose truth is unchangeable, has spoken as to both in common.

But we must notice the difference between us and the fathers; for God formerly addressed them in a way different from that which he adopts towards us now. And first indeed as to them he employed the prophets, but he has appointed his Son to be an ambassador to us. 77     The absence of the definite article before ὑιῷ is not unusual in the New Testament, it being often omitted before all sorts of nouns. In many instances it is Hebrewism, and so here; for Chrysostom in his comment supplies it, and mentions that ἐν here is διὰ, which is another Hebrewism. — Ed. Our condition, then, in this respect, is superior to that of the fathers. Even Moses is to be also classed among the prophets, as he is one of the number of those who are inferior to the Son. In the manner also in which revelation was made, we have an advantage over them. For the diversity as to visions and other means adopted under the Old Testament, was an indication that it was not yet a fixed state of things, as when matters are put completely in order. Hence he says, multifariously and in many ways”. God would have indeed followed the same mode perpetually to the end, had the mode been perfect and complete. It hence follows, that this variety was an evidence of imperfection.

The two words I thus understand: I refer multifariously to a diversity as to times; for the Greek word πολυμερῶς which we may render, “in many parts,” as the case usually is, when we intend to speak more fully hereafter; but πολυτροπῶς points out a diversity, as I think, in the very manner itself. 88     Some of the fathers, such as Chrysostom, regarded the two words as meaning the same thing; but there is no reason for this. On the contrary, each word has a distinct meaning; one expresses a variety as to parts or portions, and the other variety as to the mode or manner. The “parts” clearly refer to the different portions of revelation communicated to “holy men” in different ages of the world. Hence the meaning, though not the literal rendering, is given in our version, “at sundry time;” or “often”, as by Stuart; or “at many times”, as by Doddridge. A more literal version is given by Macknight, “in sundry parts”.
    Most agree as to the second word, that it designates the various modes of communication, — by visions, dreams, interposition of angels, and speaking face to face, as the case was with Moses; see Numbers 12:6-8. And there was another variety in the manner, sometimes in plain language, and at another time in similitudes and parables. — Ed.
And when he speaks of the last times, he intimates that there is no longer any reason to expect any new revelation; for it was not a word in part that Christ brought, but the final conclusion. It is in this sense that the Apostles take the last times and the last days. And Paul means the same when he says, “Upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11.) If God then has spoken now for the last time, it is right to advance thus far; so also when you come to Christ, you ought not to go farther: and these two things it is very needful for us to know. For it was a great hindrance to the Jews that they did not consider that God had deferred a fuller revelation to another time; hence, being satisfied with their own Law, they did not hasten forward to the goal. But since Christ has appeared, an opposite evil began to prevail in the world; for men wished to advance beyond Christ. What else indeed is the whole system of Popery but the overleaping of the boundary which the Apostle has fixed? As, then, the Spirit of God in this passage invites all to come as far as Christ, so he forbids them to go beyond the last time which he mentions. In short, the limit of our wisdom is made here to be the Gospel. 99     It is said that the MSS, are in favor of ἐσχάτου “in the last of these days.” Were it not for “these”, this might be allowed, as the literal rendering of these Hebrew words often used, באחרית המים, “at the extremity of the days”, (see Isaiah 2:2; Hosea 3:5, etc.) but the sentence, as changed by Griesbach and others, makes no sense, and is inconsistent with the words as elsewhere used by Paul; see 2 Timothy 3:1. A mere majority of MSS, is no sufficient authority for a reading. — Ed.

2. Whom he has appointed, heir, etc. He honors Christ with high commendations, in order to lead us to show him reverence; for since the Father has subjected all things to him, we are all under his authority. He also intimates that no good can be found apart from him, as he is the heir of all things. It hence follows that we must be very miserable and destitute of all good things except he supplies us with his treasures. He further adds that this honor of possessing all things belongs by right to the Son, because by him have all things been created. At the same time, these two things 1010     That is, heirship and creation. are ascribed to Christ for different reasons.

The world was created by him, as he is the eternal wisdom of God, which is said to have been the director of all his works from the beginning; and hence is proved the eternity of Christ, for he must have existed before the world was created by him. If, then, the duration of his time be inquired of, it will be found that it has no beginning. Nor is it any derogation to his power that he is said to have created the world, as though he did not by himself create it. According to the most usual mode of speaking in Scripture, the Father is called the Creator; and it is added in some places that the world was created by wisdom, by the word, by the Son, as though wisdom itself had been the creator, [or the word, or the Son.] But still we must observe that there is a difference of persons between the Father and the Son, not only with regard to men, but with regard to God himself. But the unity of essence requires that whatever is peculiar to Deity should belong to the Son as well as to the Father, and also that whatever is applied to God only should belong to both; and yet there is nothing in this to prevent each from his own peculiar properties.

But the word heir is ascribed to Christ as manifested in the flesh; for being made man, he put on our nature, and as such received this heirship, and that for this purpose, that he might restore to us what we had lost in Adam. For God had at the beginning constituted man, as his Son, the heir of all good things; but through sin the first man became alienated from God, and deprived himself and his posterity of all good things, as well as of the favor of God. We hence only then begin to enjoy by right the good things of God, when Christ, the universal heir, admits to a union with himself; for he is an heir that he may endow us with his riches. But the Apostle now adorns him with this title, that we may know that without him we are destitute of all good things.

If you take all in the masculine gender, the meaning is, that we ought all to be subject to Christ, because we have been given to him by the Father. But I prefer reading it in the neuter gender; then it means that we are driven from the legitimate possession of all things, both in heaven and on earth, except we be united to Christ.


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