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Hebrews 2:5-9

5. For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.

5. Non enim angelis subjecit orbem futurum de quo loquimur:

6. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?

6. Testatus est autem quidam alicubi, dicens, Quid est homo quod memor es ejus? aut filius hominis quod visitas eum?

7. Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:

7. Minuisti eum paululum ab angelis; gloria et onore coronasti eum, et constituisti eum super opera manuum tuarum:

8. Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.

8. Omnia subjecisti sub pedibus ejus: subjiciendo certe illi omnia, nihil reliquit non subjectum: atqui nonc nondum videmus illi omnia subjecta:

9. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

9. Iesum autem qui paululum imminuatus fuit ab angelis intuimur propter passionem mortis gloria et honore coronatum; ut gratia Dei pro omnibus gustaret mortem.

 

5. For unto the angels, etc. He again proves by another argument that Christ ought to be obeyed; for the Father has conferred on him the sovereignty of the whole world, while the angels are wholly destitute of such an honor. It hence follows that none of the angels should stand in the way of his preeminence who alone possesses supremacy.

But first, the Psalm which he quotes must be examined, for it seems to be unfitly applied to Christ. David there mentions the benefits which God bestows on mankind; for after having contemplated God’s power as manifested in heaven and the stars, he comes to man, among whom the wonderful goodness of God appears in a peculiar manner. He does not, then, speak of any particular person, but of all mankind. To this I answer, that all this affords no reason why the words should not be applied to the person of Christ. I indeed allow that man was at first put in possession of the world, that he might rule over all the works of God; but by his own defection he deserved the loss of his dominion, for it was a just punishment for ingratitude as to one thus favored, that the Lord, whom he refused to acknowledge and faithfully to worship, should have deprived him of a right previously granted to him. As soon, then, as Adam alienated himself from God through sin, he was justly deprived of the good things which he had received; not that he was denied the use of them, but that he would have had no right to them after he had forsaken God. And in the very use of them God intended that there should be some tokens of this loss of right, such as these, — the wild beasts ferociously attack us, those who ought to be awed by our presence are dreaded by us, some never obey us, others can hardly be trained to submit, and they do us harm in various ways; the earth answers not our expectations in cultivating it; the sky, the air, the sea, and other things are often adverse to us. But were all creatures to continue in subjection, yet whatever the sons of Adam possessed would be deemed a robbery; for what can they call their own when they themselves are not God’s?

This foundation being laid, it is evident that God’s bounty belongs not to us until the right lost in Adam be restored by Christ. For this reason Paul teaches us that food is sanctified to us by faith, (1 Timothy 4:5;) and in another place he declares that to the unbelieving nothing is clean, for they have a polluted conscience. (Titus 1:16.)

We found at the beginning of this epistle that Christ has been appointed by the Father the heir of all things. Doubtless, as he ascribes the whole inheritance to one, he excludes all others as aliens, and justly too, for we are all become exiles from God’s kingdom. What food, then, God has destined for his own family, we leave no right to take. But Christ, by whom we are admitted into this family, at the same time admits us into a participation of this right, so that we may enjoy the whole world, together with the favor of God. Hence Paul teaches us that Abraham was by faith made an heir of the world, that is, because he was united to the body of Christ. (Romans 4:13) If men, then, are precluded from all God’s bounty until they receive a right to it through Christ, it follows that the dominion mentioned in the Psalm was lost to us in Adam, and that on this account it must again be restored as a donation. Now, the restoration begins with Christ as the head. There is, then, no doubt but that we are to look to him whenever the dominion of man over all creatures is spoken of.

To this the reference is made when the Apostle mentions the world to come, or the future world, for he understands by it the renovated world. To make the thing clearer, let us suppose two worlds, — the first the old, corrupted by Adam’s sin; the other, later in time, as renewed by Christ. The state of the first creation has become wholly decayed, and with man has fallen as far as man himself is concerned. Until, then, a new restitution be made by Christ, this Psalm will not be fulfilled. It hence now appears that here the world to come is not that which we hope for after the resurrection, but that which began at the beginning of Christ’s kingdom; but it will no doubt have its full accomplishment in our final redemption.

But why he suppressed the name of David does not appear to me. Doubtless he says one, or some one, not in contempt, but for honor’s sake, designating him as one of the prophets or a renowned writer.

7. Thou madest him, etc. A new difficulty now arises as to the explanation of the words. I have already shown that the passage is fitly applicable to the Son of God; but the Apostle seems now to turn the words from that meaning in which David understood them; for a little, βραχύ τι seems to refer to time, as it means a little while, and designates the abasement of Christ’s humiliation; and he confines the glory to the day of resurrection, while David extends it generally to the whole life of man.

To this I answer, that it was not the Apostle’s design to give an exact explanation of the words. For there is nothing improperly done, when verbal allusions are made to embellish a subject in hand, as Paul does in quoting a passage in Romans 10:6, from Moses, “Who shall ascend into heaven,” etc., he does not join the words “heaven and hell” for the purpose of explanation, but as ornaments. The meaning of David is this, — “O Lord, thou hast raised man to such a dignity, that it differs but little from divine or angelic honor; for he is set a ruler over the whole world.” This meaning the Apostle did not intend to overthrow, nor to turn to something else; but he only bids us to consider the abasement of Christ, which appeared for a short time, and then the glory with which he is perpetually crowned; and this he does more by alluding to expressions than by explaining what David understood. 3535     See Appendix G.

To be mindful and to visit mean the same thing, except that the second is somewhat fuller, for it sets forth the presence of God by the effect.

8. For in that he put all in subjection under him; or, doubtless in subjecting all things to him, etc. One might think the argument to be this, — “To the man whom David speaks all things are subjected, but to mankind all things are not made subject; then he does not speak of any individual man.” But this reasoning cannot stand, for the minor proposition is true also of Christ; for all things are not as yet made subject to him, as Paul shows in 1 Corinthians 15:28. There is therefore another sentence; for after having laid down this truth, that Christ has universal dominion over all creatures, he adds, as an objection, “But all things do not as yet obey the authority of Christ.” To meet this objection he teaches us that yet now is seen completed in Christ what he immediately adds respecting glory and honor, as if he had said, “Though universal subjection does not as yet appear to us, let us be satisfied that he has passed through death, and has been exalted to the highest state of honor; for that which is as yet wanting, will in its time be completed.”

But first, this offends some, that the Apostle concludes with too much refinement, that there is nothing not made subject to Christ, as David includes all things generally; for the various kinds of things which he enumerates afterwards prove no such thing, such as beasts of the field, fishes of the sea, and birds of the air. To this I reply, that a general declaration ought not to be confined to these species, for David meant no other thing than to give some instances of his power over things the most conspicuous, or indeed to extend it to things even the lowest, that we may know that nothing is ours except through the bounty of God and our union with Christ. We may, therefore, explain the passage thus, — “Thou hast made subject to him all things, not only things needful for eternal blessedness, but also such inferior things as serve to supply the wants of the body.” However this may be, the inferior dominion over animals depends on the higher.

It is again asked, “Why does he say that we see not all things made subject to Christ?” The solution of this question you will find in that passage already quoted from Paul; and in the first chapter of this Epistle we said a few things on the subject. As Christ carries on war continually with various enemies, it is doubtless evident that he has no quiet possession of his kingdom. He is not, however, under the necessity of waging war; but it happens through his will that his enemies are not to be subdued till the last day, in order that we may be tried and proved by fresh exercises.

9. But we see Jesus, etc. As the meaning of the words, βραχύ τι “a little” is ambiguous, 3636     There is no doubt but that the expression is capable of being understood as “little” in degree, or as “little” in time; but in the Psalm the former is evidently the meaning, and there is no reason for a different meaning here: Christ, in becoming man, assumed a nature inferior to that of angels. Many of the fathers, indeed, and some moderns, have thought that time is what is intended “for a little while;” but this is not true, for Christ continues in the nature which has assumed, though it be now refined and perfected. The inferiority of nature is admitted, but that inferiority is as it were compensated by a superiority of honor and glory. Our version is the Vulgate, which Doddridge has also adopted, and also Stuart and Bloomfield. — Ed. he looks to the thing itself, as exhibited in the person of Christ, rather then to the exact meaning of the words, as I have already said; and he presents to our meditation the glory after the resurrection, which David extends to all the gifts by which man is adorned by God’s bounty; but in this embellishment, which leaves the literal sense entire, there is nothing unsuitable or improper.

For the suffering of death, etc. It is the same as though it was said that Christ, having passed through death, was exalted into the glory which he has obtained, according to what Paul teaches us in Philippians 2:8-10; not that Christ obtained anything for himself individually, as sophists say, who have devised the notion that he first earned eternal life for himself and then for us; for the way or means, so to speak, of obtaining glory, is only indicated here. Besides, Christ is crowned with glory for this end, that every knee should bow to him. (Philippians 2:10.) We may therefore reason from the final cause that all things are delivered into his hand.

That he by the grace of God, 3737     See Appendix H. etc. He refers to the cause and the fruit of Christ’s death, lest he should be thought to detract anything from his dignity. For when we hear that so much good has been obtained for us, there is no place left for contempt, for admiration of the divine goodness fills the whole mind. By saying for every man, he means not only that he might be ample to others, as Chrysostom says, who brings the example of a physician tasting first a bitter draught, that the patient might not refuse to drink it; but he means that Christ died for us, and that by taking upon him what was due to us, he redeemed us from the curse of death. And it is added, that this was done through the grace of God, for the cause of redemption was the infinite love of God towards us, through which it was that he spared not even his own Son. What Chrysostom says of tasting of death, as though he touched it with his lips, because Christ emerged from death a conqueror, I will not refute nor condemn, though I know not whether the Apostle meant to speak in a manner so refined. 3838     There is no doubt but that is a fanciful refinement. To taste food, according to the language of Scripture, is to eat it. See Acts 10:11; 20:11; 23:14. To taste death is to die, to undergo death, and nothing else. See Matthew 16:28; Luke 9:27. Stuart observes that the word for taste in Hebrew is taken in the same sense, and also in classic Greek authors. “For every man,” ὑπὲρ πάντος, that is “man,” mentioned in verse 6; and the “man” there means all the faithful, to whom God in Noah restored the dominion lost in Adam; but this dominion was not renewed to man as a fallen being, but as made righteous by faith. — Ed.


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