December 09, 2002 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- 1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, 2 and not the very image of them, it can never make perfect those who come to worship by the same sacrifices that they offer continually each year.
- Otherwise, would not the sacrifices have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, once cleansed, would no longer have had any consciousness of sins?
- But in those sacrifices there is only a yearly remembrance of sins,
- for it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins.
- For this reason, when he came into the world, he said: 3 "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me;
- holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in.
- Then I said, 'As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.'"
- First he says, "Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, 4 you neither desired nor delighted in." These are offered according to the law.
- Then he says, "Behold, I come to do your will." He takes away the first to establish the second.
- By this "will," we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
- 5 Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins.
- But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God;
- 6 now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.
- For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.
- 7 The holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying:
- "This is the covenant I will establish with them after those days, says the Lord: 'I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds,'"
- he also says: 8 "Their sins and their evildoing I will remember no more."
- Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin.
- 9 Therefore, brothers, since through the blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary
- 10 by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh,
- 11 and since we have "a great priest over the house of God,"
- let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience 12 and our bodies washed in pure water.
- Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy.
- We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works.
- We should not stay away from our assembly, 13 as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.
- 14 If we sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains sacrifice for sins
- but a fearful prospect of judgment and a flaming fire that is going to consume the adversaries.
- Anyone who rejects the law of Moses 15 is put to death without pity on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
- Do you not think that a much worse punishment is due the one who has contempt for the Son of God, considers unclean the covenant-blood by which he was consecrated, and insults the spirit of grace?
- We know the one who said: "Vengeance is mine; I will repay," and again: "The Lord will judge his people."
- It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
- Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, 16 you endured a great contest of suffering.
- At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction; at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated.
- You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.
- Therefore, do not throw away your confidence; it will have great recompense.
- You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.
- "For, after just a brief moment, 17 he who is to come shall come; he shall not delay.
- But my just one shall live by faith, and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him."
- We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life.
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1 [1-10] Christian faith now realizes that the Old Testament sacrifices did not effect the spiritual benefits to come but only prefigured them (Hebrews 10:1). For if the sacrifices had actually effected the forgiveness of sin, there would have been no reason for their constant repetition (Hebrews 10:2). They were rather a continual reminder of the people's sins (Hebrews 10:3). It is not reasonable to suppose that human sins could be removed by the blood of animal sacrifices (Hebrews 10:4). Christ, therefore, is here shown to understand his mission in terms of Psalm 40:5-7, cited according to the Septuagint (Hebrews 10:5-7). Jesus acknowledged that the Old Testament sacrifices did not remit the sins of the people and so, perceiving the will of God, offered his own body for this purpose (Hebrews 10:8-10).
2  A shadow of the good things to come: the term shadow was used in Hebrews 8:5 to signify the earthly counterpart of the Platonic heavenly reality. But here it means a prefiguration of what is to come in Christ, as it is used in the Pauline literature; cf Col 2:17.
3 [5-7] A passage from Psalm 40:7-9 is placed in the mouth of the Son at his incarnation. As usual, the author follows the Septuagint text. There is a notable difference in Hebrews 10:5 (Psalm 40:7), where the Masoretic text reads "ears you have dug for me" ("ears open to obedience you gave me," NAB), but most Septuagint manuscripts have "a body you prepared for me," a reading obviously more suited to the interpretation of Hebrews.
4  Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings: these four terms taken from the preceding passage of Psalm 40 (with the first two changed to plural forms) are probably intended as equivalents to the four principal types of Old Testament sacrifices: peace offerings (Lev 3, here called sacrifices); cereal offerings (Lev 2, here called offerings); holocausts (Lev 1); and sin offerings (Lev 4-5). This last category includes the guilt offerings of Lev 5:14-19.
5 [11-18] Whereas the levitical priesthood offered daily sacrifices that were ineffectual in remitting sin (Hebrews 10:11), Jesus offered a single sacrifice that won him a permanent place at God's right hand. There he has only to await the final outcome of his work (Hebrews 10:12-13; cf Psalm 110:1). Thus he has brought into being in his own person the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:33-34) that has rendered meaningless all other offerings for sin (Hebrews 10:14-18).
6  Until his enemies are made his footstool: Psalm 110:1 is again used; the reference here is to the period of time between the enthronement of Jesus and his second coming. The identity of the enemies is not specified; cf 1 Cor 15:25-27.
7 [15-17] The testimony of the scriptures is now invoked to support what has just preceded. The passage cited is a portion of the new covenant prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34, which the author previously used in Hebrews 8:8-12.
8  He also says: these words are not in the Greek text, which has only kai, "also," but the expression "after saying" in Hebrews 10:15 seems to require such a phrase to divide the Jeremiah text into two sayings. Others understand "the Lord says" of Hebrews 10:16 (here rendered says the Lord) as outside the quotation and consider Hebrews 10:16b as part of the second saying. Two ancient versions and a number of minuscules introduce the words "then he said" or a similar expression at the beginning of Hebrews 10:17.
9 [19-39] Practical consequences from these reflections on the priesthood and the sacrifice of Christ should make it clear that Christians may now have direct and confident access to God through the person of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19-20), who rules God's house as high priest (Hebrews 10:21). They should approach God with sincerity and faith, in the knowledge that through baptism their sins have been remitted (Hebrews 10:22), reminding themselves of the hope they expressed in Christ at that event (Hebrews 10:23). They are to encourage one another to Christian love and activity (Hebrews 10:24), not refusing, no matter what the reason, to participate in the community's assembly, especially in view of the parousia (Hebrews 10:25; cf 1 Thes 4:13-18). If refusal to participate in the assembly indicates rejection of Christ, no sacrifice exists to obtain forgiveness for so great a sin (Hebrews 10:26); only the dreadful judgment of God remains (Hebrews 10:27). For if violation of the Mosaic law could be punished by death, how much worse will be the punishment of those who have turned their backs on Christ by despising his sacrifice and disregarding the gifts of the holy Spirit (Hebrews 10:28-29). Judgment belongs to the Lord, and he enacts it by his living presence (Hebrews 10:30-31). There was a time when the spirit of their community caused them to welcome and share their sufferings (Hebrews 10:32-34). To revitalize that spirit is to share in the courage of the Old Testament prophets (cf Isaiah 26:20; Habakkuk 2:3-4), the kind of courage that must distinguish the faith of the Christian (Hebrews 10:35-39).
10  Through the veil, that is, his flesh: the term flesh is used pejoratively. As the temple veil kept people from entering the Holy of Holies (it was rent at Christ's death, Mark 15:38), so the flesh of Jesus constituted an obstacle to approaching God.
11  The house of God: this refers back to Hebrews 3:6, "we are his house."
12  With our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience: as in Hebrews 9:13 (see the note there), the sprinkling motif refers to the Mosaic rite of cleansing from ritual impurity. This could produce only an external purification, whereas sprinkling with the blood of Christ (Hebrews 9:14) cleanses the conscience. Washed in pure water: baptism is elsewhere referred to as a washing; cf 1 Cor 6:11; Eph 5:26.
13  Our assembly: the liturgical assembly of the Christian community, probably for the celebration of the Eucharist. The day: this designation for the parousia also occurs in the Pauline letters, e.g., Romans 2:16; 1 Cor 3:13; 1 Thes 5:2.
14  If we sin deliberately: verse 29 indicates that the author is here thinking of apostasy; cf Hebrews 3:12; 6:4-8.
15  Rejects the law of Moses: evidently not any sin against the law, but idolatry. Deut 17:2-7 prescribed capital punishment for idolaters who were convicted on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
16  After you had been enlightened: "enlightenment" is an ancient metaphor for baptism (cf Eph 5:14; John 9:11), but see Hebrews 6:4 and the note there.
17 [37-38] In support of his argument, the author uses Habakkuk 2:3-4 in a wording almost identical with the text of the Codex Alexandrinus of the Septuagint but with the first and second lines of Hebrews 10:4 inverted. He introduces it with a few words from Isaiah 26:20: after just a brief moment. Note the Pauline usage of Hebrews 2:4 in Romans 1:17; Gal 3:11.
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