Hebrews 11
ICC New Testament Commentary
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
1 Now faith means we are confident of what we hope for, convinced of what we do not see. 2 It was for this that the men of old won their record. 3 It is by faith we understand that the world was fashioned by the word of God, and thus the visible was made out of the invisible.

Calvin rightly protested against any division here, as an interruption to the thought: “quisquis hic fecit initium capitis undecimi, perperam contextum abrupit.” The following argument of 11:1-40 flows directly out of 10:35-39: ὑμομονή is justified and sustained by πίστις, and we have now a λόγος παρακλήσεως on μιμηταὶ τῶν διὰ πίστεως καὶ μακροθυμίας κληρονομούντων τὰς ἐπαγγελίας (6:12). Hitherto the only historical characters who have been mentioned have been Abraham, Melchizedek, Moses, Aaron, and Joshua; and Abraham alone has been mentioned for his πίστις; now a long list of heroes and heroines of πίστει is put forward, from Abel to the Maccabean martyrs. But first (vv. 1-3) a general word on faith. Ἔστιν δὲ πίστις κτλ. (v. 1). It is needless to put a comma after πίστις, i.e., “there is such a thing as faith, faith really exists.” Εἰμί at the beginning of a sentence does not necessarily carry this meaning; cp. e.g. Wis 7:1 εἰμὶ μὲν κἀγὼ θνητός, Luke 8:11 ἔστιν δὲ αὕτη ἡ παραβολή (John 21:25 and 1 John 5:17 etc.). Ἔστιν here is simply the copula, πίστις being the subject, and ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις the predicate. This turn of phrase is common in Philo, who puts ἔστι first in descriptions or definitions (e.g. Leg. Allegor. iii. 75, ἔστι δὲ στεναγμὸς σφοδρὰ καὶ ἐπιτεταμένη λύπη: quod deus immut. 19, ἔστι δὲ εὐχὴ μὲν αἴτησις ἀγαθῶν παρὰ θεοῦ κτλ.). Needless difficulties have been raised about what follows. Ὑπόστασις is to be understood in the sense of 3:14 “une assurance certaine” (Ménégoz); “faith is a sure confidence of thynges which are hoped for, and a certaynetie of thynges which are not seyne” (Tyndale), the opposite of ὑποστόλη. In the parallel clause, πράγματων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων (which in Attic Greek would have been ὧν ἄν τις μὴ ὁρᾷ), grammatically πράγματων might go with ἐλπιζομένων instead of with βλεπομένων, for the sake of emphasis (so Chrysostom, Oecumenius, von Soden, etc.); the sense would be unaffected, but the balance of the rhythm would be upset. Ἔλεγχος is used in a fresh sense, as the subjective “conviction” (the English word has acquired the same double sense as the Greek); as Euthymius said, it is an equivalent for πραγμάτων ἀοράτων πληροφορία (so syr arm eth). The writer could find no Greek term for the idea, and therefore struck out a fresh application for ἔλεγχος. As for ἐλπιζομένων … οὐ βλεπομένων (ὃ γὰρ βλέπει τις, τί ἐλπίζει; εἰ δὲ ὃ οὐ βλέπομεν ἐλπίζομεν διʼ ὑπομονῆς ἀπεκδεχόμεθα, Romans 8:24, Romans 8:25), the unseen realities of which faith is confident are almost entirely in the future as promised by God, though, as the sequel shows, τὰ οὐ βλεπόμενα (e.g. vv. 3, 7, 8, 27) are not precisely the same as τὰ ἐλπιζόμενα. It cannot be too emphatically pointed out that the writer did not mean to say: (a) that faith gave substance or reality to unseen hopes, though this is the interpretation of the Greek fathers (Chrysostom, for example, argues: ἐπειδὴ τὰ ἐν ἐλπίδι ἀνυπόστατα εἶναι δοκεῖ, ἡ πίστις ὑπόστασιν αὐτοῖς χαρίζεται· μᾶλλον δὲ οὐ χαρίζεται ἀλλʼ αὐτό ἐστιν οὐσία αὐτῶν). When the writer declares that it is by faith we understand that the world was created, he does not mean that faith imparts reality to the creation; nor, when he says, e.g., the patriarchs lived in the expectation of a celestial Fatherland, that they thereby made this more real to themselves. No doubt this was true in a sense; but the author’s point is that just because these objects of hope were real, because, e.g., God had prepared for them a City, therefore they were justified in having faith. It is faith as the reflex of eternal realities or rewards promised by God which is fundamental in this chapter, the faith by which a good man lives. (b) Similarly, faith is not the ἔλεγχος of things unseen in the sense of “proof,” which could only mean that it tests, or rather attests, their reality. The existence of human faith no doubt proves that there is some unseen object which calls it out, but the writer wishes to show, not the reality of these unseen ends of God—he assumes these—but the fact and force of believing in them with absolute confidence. Such erroneous interpretations arise out of the notion that the writer is giving an abstract definition of πίστις, whereas he is describing it, in view of what follows, as an active conviction which moves and moulds human conduct. The happiest description of it is, “seeing Him who is invisible” (v. 27); and this idea is applied widely; sometimes it is belief in God as against the world and its forces, particularly the forces of human injustice or of death, sometimes belief in the spirit as against the senses, sometimes again (and this is prominent in 11:5f.) belief in the future as against the present.

In the papyri (e.g. in OP ii. pp. 153, 176, where in the plural it = “the whole body of documents bearing on the ownership of a person’s property … deposited in the archives, and forming the evidence of ownership”) ὑπόστασις means occasionally the entire collection of title-deeds by which a man establishes his right to some property (cp. Moulton in Manchester Theological Essays, i. 174; Expositor, Dec. 1903, pp. 438f.); but while this might suggest the metaphor, the metaphor means “confident assurance.” The original sense of substance or reality, as in the de Mundo, 4 (συλλήβδην δὲ τῶν ἐν ἀέρι φαντασμάτων τὰ μέν ἐστι κατʼ ἔμφασιν τὰ δὲ καθʼ ὑπόστασιν), survives in Dante’s interpretation (Paradiso, xxiv. 61 f.). He quotes the words as a definition of faith:

“Fede è sustanzia di cose sperate,

ed argumento delle non parventi,”

adding that he understands this to be its “quidity” or essence. But the notion that faith imparts a real existence to its object is read into the text. Faith as ὑπόστασις is “realization” of the unseen, but “realization” only in our popular, psychological sense of the term. The legal or logical sense of ἔλεγχος, as proof (in classical Greek and elsewhere, e.g. Jos. BJ. iv. 5. 4, ἦν δʼ οὔτʼ ἔλεγχος τις τῶν κατηγορουμένων, οὔτε τεκμήριον) is out of place here. The existence of human faith is in one sense a proof that an invisible order exists, which can alone explain men acting as they do ἐν πίστει. But the writer assumes that, and declares that πίστις lives and moves in the steady light of the unseen realities. The sense of “test,” as in Epictetus, iii. 10, 11 (ἐνθάδʼ ὁ ἔλεγχος τοῦ πράγματος, ἡ δοκιμασία τοῦ φιλοσοφοῦντος), is as impossible here as that of “rebuke”; the force of πίστις in 11:3-40 rests on its subjective sense as an inner conviction, which forms a motive for human life, and this determines the meaning of ὑπόστασις and ἔλεγχος as applied to it in the introductory description.

This connexion of faith with the future is emphasized by Philo in de Migratione Abrahami, 9, commenting on Genesis 12:1 ἥν σοι δείξω. It is δείξω, not δείκνυμι, he points out—εἰς μαρτυρίαν πίστεως ἣν ἐπίστευσεν ἡ ψυχὴ θεῷ, οὐκ ἐκ τῶν ἀποτελεσμάτων ἐπιδεικνυμένη τὸ εὐχάριστον, ἀλλʼ ἐκ προσδοκίας τῶν μελλόντων … νομίσασα ἤδη παρεῖναι τὰ μὴ παρόντα διὰ τὴν τοῦ ὑποσχομένου βεβαιότητα πίστιν [cp. Hebrews 10:23], ἀγαθὸν τέλειον, ἆθλον εὕρηται. Faith thus relies upon God’s promise and eagerly expects what is to come; indeed it lives for and in the future. So our writer uses πίστις, almost as Paul used ἐλπίς (psychologically the two being often indistinguishable). Nor is this πίστις a novelty in our religion (v. 2), he adds, ἐν ταύτῃ γὰρ ἐμαρτυρήθησαν (7:8) οἱ πρεσβύτεροι. Ἐν = (διὰ (ταύτης) as in 4:6, 6:16, 9:22, 10:10; διʼ ἧς ἐμαρτυρήθη (v. 4), μαρτυρηθέντες διὰ τῆς πίστεως (v. 39). Οἱ πρεσβύτεροι ( = οἱ πατέρες, 1:1) never bears this exact sense elsewhere in the NT, the nearest1 parallel being Matthew 15:2 = Mark 7:3, Mark 7:5; (τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων). Philo (de Abrahamo 46), indeed, noting that Abraham the man of faith is the first man called πρεσβύτερος in scripture (Genesis 24:1), reflects that this is significant; ὁ γὰρ ἀληθείᾳ πρεσβύτερος οὐκ ἐν μήκει χρόνων ἀλλʼ ἐν ἐπαινετῷ καὶ τελείῳ βίῳ θεωρεῖται. Aged wordly people can only be called longlived children, τὸν δὲ φρονήσεως καὶ σοφίας καὶ τῆς πρὸς θεὸν πίστεως ἐρασθέντα λέγοι τις ἂν ἐνδίκως εἶναι πρεσβύτερον. But our author weaves no such fancies round the word, though he probably understood the term in an honorific sense (cp. Philo, de Sobrietate, 4, πρεσβύτερον … τὸν γέρως καὶ τιμῆς ἄξιον ὀνομάζει). For ἐμαρτυρήθησαν in this sense of getting a good report, cp. B. Latyschev’s Inscript. Antiquae Orae Septent. i. 2126f. ἐμαρτυρήθη τοὺς ὑπὲρ φιλίας κινδύνους … παραβολευσάμενος: Syll. 366:28 (i a.d.) ἀρχιτέκτονας μαρτυρηθέντας ὑπὸ τῆς σεμνοτάτης [βουλῆς], and the instances quoted in Deissmann’s Bible Studies (265).

Before describing the scriptural record of the πρεσβύτεροι, however, the writer pauses to point out the supreme proof of πίστις as πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων. The very world within which they showed their faith and within which we are to show our faith, was the outcome of what is invisible (v. 3), and this conviction itself is an act of faith. Πίστει νοοῦμεν (cp. Romans 1:20: “νοεῖν is in Hellenistic Greek the current word for the apprehension of the divine in nature,” A. T. Goodrick on Wis 13:4) κατηρτίσθαι (of creation, Psalm 73:16 σὺ κατηρτίσω ἥλιον καὶ σελήνην) τοὺς αἰῶνας (1:2) ῥήματι θεοῦ (the divine fiat here), εἰς (with consecutive infinitive) τὸ μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων τὸ βλεπόμενον γεγονέναι (perfect of permanence). The μή goes with φαινομένων, but is thrown before the preposition as, e.g., in Acts 1:5 οὐ μετὰ πολλὰς ταύτας ἡμέρας (according to a familiar classical construction, Blass, § 433, 3).2 Faith always answers to revelation, and creation is the first revelation of God to man. Creation by the fiat of God was the orthodox doctrine of Judaism, and anyone who read the OT would accept it as the one theory about the origin of the world (cp. e.g. the description of God in the Mechilta, 33b, on Exodus 14:31 etc. as “He who spoke and the world was,” שֶׁאָמַן וְחָיָה העִוֹלָם, and Apoc. Bar. 14:17: “when of old there was no world with its inhabitants, Thou didst devise and speak with a word, and forthwith the works of creation stood before Thee”). But the explicitness of this sentence about creation out of what is invisible, suggests that the writer had other views in mind, which he desired to repudiate. Possibly Greek theories like those hinted at in Wis 10:17 about the world1 being created ἐξ ἀμόρφου ὕλης, or the statement in the de aeternitate mundi, 2, where Philo declares ἐκ τοῦ μὴ ὄντος οὐδὲν γίνεται, quoting Empedocles to this effect, though elsewhere Philo does agree that the world was made out of nothing, as, e.g., in the de Somniis, i. 13 (ὁ θεὸς τὰ πάντα γεννήσας οὐ μόνον εἰς τοὐμφανὲς ἤγαγεν ἀλλὰ καὶ ἃ πρότερον οὐκ ἦν ἐποίησεν, οὐ δημιουργὸς μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ κτίστης αὐτὸς ὤν, cp. also Apoc. Bar. 21:4: “O Thou … that hast called from the beginning of the world that which did not yet exist,” and Slav. En. 24:2: “I will tell thee now what things I created from the non-existent, and what visible things from the invisible”). What the μὴ φαινόμενα were, our author does not suggest. R. Akiba is said to have applied the words of Psalm 101:7 to anyone who rashly speculated on the original material of the world. Our author does not speculate; it is very doubtful if he intends (Windisch, M ’Neill) to agree with Philo’s idea (in the de opificio Mundi, 16, de confus. ling. 34) of the φαινόμενος οὗτος κόσμος being modelled on the ἀσώματος καὶ νοητός or archetypal ideas, for the language of 8:5 is insufficient to bear the weight of this inference.

To take εἰς τὸ … γεγονέναι as final, is a forced construction. The phrase does not describe the motive of κατηρτίσθαι, and if the writer had meant, “so that we might know the seen came from the unseen,”2 he would have written this, instead of allowing the vital words might know to be supplied.

The roll-call of the πρεσβύτεροι (vv. 4f.) opens with Abel and Enoch, two men who showed their πίστις before the deluge (vv. 4-6). One was murdered, the other, as the story went, never died; and the writer uses both tales to illustrate his point about πίστις.

4 It was by faith (πίστει, the rhetorical anaphora repeated throughout the section) that Abel offered God a richer sacrifice than Cain did, and thus (διʼ ἧς, sc. πίστεως) won from God the record of being “just,” on the score of what he gave; he died, but by his faith he is speaking to us still. 5 It was by faith that Enoch was taken to heaven, so that he never died (“he was not overtaken by death, for God had taken him away”). For before he was taken to heaven, his record was that “he had satisfied God”; 6 and apart from faith it is impossible (ἀδύνατον, sc. ἔστι) “to satisfy him,” for the man who draws near to God must believe that he exists, and that he does reward those who seek him.

The faith of Abel and of Enoch is not πίστις ἐλπιζομένων, which is not introduced till v. 7. In 4 Mac 16:20f. the illustrations of steadfast faith are (a) Abraham sacrificing Isaac, (b) Daniel in the den of lions, and (c) the three men in the fiery furnace; but in 18:11f. the list of noble sufferers includes (a) Abel, (b) Isaac, (c) Joseph in prison, (d) Phinehas, (e) the three men in the fiery furnace, and (f) Daniel. Sirach’s eulogy of famous men in Israel (44-50) has a wider sweep: Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Phinehas, Joshua, Caleb, the judges, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Hezekiah, Isaiah, Josiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Job, the twelve prophets, Zerubbabel, Joshua the son of Josedek, Nehemiah, and the highpriest Simon (i.e. down to the second century b.c.).

The first illustration (v. 4) is much less natural than most of those that follow. In the story of Genesis 4:4-8, ἔπιδεν ὁ θεὸς ἐπὶ Ἄβελ καὶ ἐπὶ τοῖς δώροις αὐτοῦ. But why God disregarded Cain’s sacrifice and preferred Abel’s, our author does not explain. Josephus (Ant. i. 54) thought that an offering of milk and animals was more acceptable to God as being natural (τοῖς αὐτομάτοις καὶ κατὰ φύσιν γεγονόσι) than Cain’s cereal offering, which was wrung out of the ground by a covetous man; our author simply argues that the πλείων θυσία of Abel at the very dawn of history was prompted by faith. He does not enter into the nature of this πλείονα (in sense of Mark 6:25 or Mark 12:43 ἡ χήρα αὕτη ἡ πτωχὴ πλεῖον πάντων βέβληκεν) θυσίαν παρὰ (as in 1:4) Κάιν, offered at the first act of worship recorded in scripture. What seems to be implied is that faith must inspire any worship that is to be acceptable to God from anyone who is to be God’s δίκαιος (10:38). Josephus held that Abel δικαιοσύνης ἐπιμελείτο, the blood of Ἄβελ τοῦ δικαίου is noted in Matthew 23:35, and the Genesis-words ἔπιδεν ὁ θεός are here expanded by our author into ἐμαρτυρήθη εἶναι δίκαιος. Note the practical equivalence of δῶρα and θυσία, as already in 5:1 etc. There is nothing in Πρὸς Ἑβραίους like Philo’s effort (Quaest. in Genesis 4:4) to distinguish between δῶρα and θυσίας as follows: ὁ μὲν θύων ἐπιδιαιρεῖ, τὸ μὲν αἷμα τῷ βωμῷ προχέων, τὰ δὲ κρέα οἴκαδε κομίζων. ὁ δὲ δωρούμενος ὅλον ἔοικε παραχωρεῖν τῷ λαμβάνοντι· ὁ μὲν οὖν φίλαυτος διανομεὺς οἷος ὁ Κάϊν, ὁ δὲ φιλόθεος δώρηται οἷον ὁ Ἄβελ.

Πλείονα: of the conjectural emendations, ΠΙΟΝΑ and ΗΔΙΟΝΑ (Cobet, Vollgraff), the latter is favoured by Justin’s reference in Dial. 29 (εὐδόκησε γὰρ καὶ εἰς τὰ ἔθνη, καὶ τὰς θυσίας ἤδιον παρʼ ἡμῖν ἢ παρʼ ὑμῶν λαμβάνει· τίς οὖν ἔτι μοὶ περιτομῆς λόγος, ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ μαρτυρηθέντι;), and is admitted into the text by Baljon and Blass (so Maynard in Exp.7 vii. 164 f., who infers from μαρτυρηθέντι that Justin knew Πρὸς Ἑβραίους, the original text of the latter being αὐτῷ τοῦ θεοῦ). In Demosth. Prooem. 23, ἤδιον has been corrupted into πλεῖον.

In what follows, (a) the original text (μαρτυροῦντος … αὐτῷ τοῦ θεοῦ) is preserved in p13 Clem. (om. τῷ θεῷ). (b) αὐτῷ then became αὐτοῦ under the influence of the LXX, and τῷ θεῷ was inserted after προσήνεγκε to complete the sense (אc Dc K L P r vg syr boh arm Orig. Chrys. etc.). Finally, (c) τοῦ θεοῦ became assimilated to the preceding τῷ θεῷ, and μαρτυροῦντος … αὐτοῦ τῷ θεῷ (א* A D* 33, 104, 326, 1311, 1836, eth) became current, as though Abel witnessed to God, instead of God witnessing to Abel. Thus after προσήνεγκε the Greek originally ran: διʼ ἦς ἐμαρτυρήθη εἶναι δίκαιος, μαρτυροῦντος ἐπὶ τοῖς δώροις αὐτῷ τοῦ θεοῦ. Then another application of the LXX was added. The phrase in Genesis 4:10 (φωνὴ αἵματος τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου βοᾷ πρός με) had already suggested to Philo that Abel was in a sense still living (quod det. potiori insid. soleat, 14: ὁ Ἄβελ, τὸ παραδοξότατον, ἀνῄρηταί τε καὶ ζῇ· ἀνῄρηται μὲν ἐκ τῆς τοῦ ἄφρονος διανοίας, ζῇ δὲ τὴν ἐν θεῷ ζωὴν εὐδαίμονα· μαρτυρήσει δὲ τὸ χρησθὲν λόγιον, ἐν ᾧ "φωνῇ" χρώμενος καὶ "βοῶν" (Genesis 4:10) ἃ πέπονθεν ὑπὸ κακοῦ συνδέτου τηλαυγῶς εὑρίσκεται· πῶς γὰρ ὁ μηκέτʼ ὢν διαλέγεσθαι δυνατός; ). Our author takes a similar line here: καὶ διʼ αὐτῆς (i.e. πίστεως) ἀποθανὼν ἔτι λαλεῖ.. Even after death, Abel’s cry is represented as reaching God, so Philo puts it (ibid. 20), ζῇ μὲν γάρ, ὡς καὶ πρότερον ἔφην, ὁ τεθνάναι δοκῶν, εἴ γε καὶ ἱκέτης ὢν θεοῦ καὶ φωνῇ χρώμενος εὑρίσκεται. Only, it is not the fact that the cry was one for retribution (12:24) which is stressed here, not the fact that his blood cried to God after he died; but, as λαλεῖν is never used of speaking to God, what the writer means to suggest (as in 3:15) is that Abel’s faith still speaks to us (λαλεῖ, not the historic present, but = in the record). Not even in 12:24 does he adopt the idea of a divine nemesis for the sufferings of the pious in past generations. He does not represent the blood of martyrs like Abel as crying from the ground for personal vengeance; he has nothing of the spirit which prompted the weird vision of the wronged souls under the altar crying out for retribution (Revelation 6:10). Ἔτι λαλεῖ means, in a general sense, that he is an eloquent, living witness to all ages (so recently Seeberg). Primasius (“qui enim alios suo exemplo admonet ut justi sint, quomodo non loquitur?”) and Chrysostom (τοῦτο καὶ τοῦ ζῇν σημεῖον ἐστι, καὶ τοῦ παρὰ πάντων ἄδεσθαι, θαυμάζεσθαι καὶ μακαρίζεσθαι· ὁ γὰρ παραινῶν τοῖς ἄλλοις δικαίοις εἶναι λαλεῖ) put this well. The witness is that πίστις may have to face the last extreme of death (12:4), and that it is not abandoned by God; ἀποθανών is never the last word upon a δίκαιος. Compare Tertullian’s argument from Abel, in De Scorpiace, 8: “a primordio enim justitia vim patitur. Statim ut coli Deus coepit, invidiam religio sortita est: qui Deo placuerat, occiditur, et quidem a fratre; quo proclivius impietas alienum sanguinem sectaretur, a suo auspicata est. Denique non modo justorum, verum etiam et prophetarum.”

The difficulty of λαλεῖ led to the tame correction λαλεῖται in D K L d eth, etc. Λαλεῖται as passive (=λέγεται) is nearly as impossible as middle; to say that Abel, even after death, is still spoken of, is a tepid idea. The writer of Hebrews meant more than an immortal memory, more even than Epictetus when he declared that by dying ὅτε ἔδει καὶ ὡς ἔδει one may do even more good to men than he did in life, like Socrates (iv. 1. 169, καὶ νῦν Σωκράτους ἀποθανόντος οὐθὲν ἧττον ἤ καὶ πλεῖον ὠφέλιμός ἐστιν ἀνθρώποις ἡ μνήμη ὧν ἔτι ζῶν ἔπραξεν ἤ εἶπεν).

The πίστις Ἐνώχ (vv. 5, 6) is conveyed in an interpretation of the LXX of Genesis 5:24 καὶ εὐηρέστησεν Ἐνὼχ τῷ θεῷ· καὶ οὐχ ηὑρίσκετο, διότι μετέθηκεν αὐτὸν ὁ θεός. The writer takes the two clauses in reverse order. Enoch μετετέθη τοῦ (with infinitive of result) μὴ ἰδεῖν θάνατον (Luke 2:26) καὶ (“indeed,” introducing the quotation) οὐχ ηὑρίσκετο (on this Attic augmented form, which became rare in the κοινή, see Thackeray, 200) διότι μετέθηκεν αὐτὸν ὁ θεός, πρὸ γὰρ (resuming πίστει μετετέθη) τῆς μεταθέσεως μεμαρτύρηται (in the scripture record; hence the perfect, which here is practically aoristic) εὐηρεστηκέναι τῷ θεοῦ (εὐαρεστεῖν in its ordinary Hellenistic sense of a servant giving satisfaction to his master). For εὑρίσκεσθαι = die (be overtaken or surprised by death),1 cp. Epict. iii. 5. 5 f., οὐκ οἶδας ὅτι καὶ νόσος καὶ θάνατος καταλαβεῖν ἡμᾶς ὀφείλουσίν τί ποτε ποιοῦντας; … ἐμοὶ μὲν γὰρ καταληφθῆναι γένοιτο μηδενὸς ἄλλου ἐπιμελουμένῳ ἢ τῆς προαιρέσεως τῆς ἐμῆς … ταῦτα ἐπιτηδεύων θέλω εὑρεθῆναι: iv. 10. 12, ἀγαθὸς ὢν ἀποθανῇ, γενναίαν πρᾶξιν ἐπιτελῶν. ἐπεὶ γὰρ δεῖ πάντως ἀποθανεῖν, ἀνάγκη τί ποτε ποιοῦντα εὑρεθῆναι … τί οὖν θέλεις ποιῶν εὑρεθῆναι ὑπὸ τοῦ θανάτου; Here εὑρεθῆναι (with or without τοῦ θανάτου) is a synonym for καταληφθῆναι or ἀποθανεῖν, as in Php 3:9 (εὑρεθῶ ἐν αὐτῷ).

Both Clem. Rom. (9:2) and Origen, like Tertullian, appear to have read οὐχ εὑρέθη αὐτοῦ θάνατος in Genesis 5:24; and Blass therefore reads here οὐχ ηὑρίσκετ(ο) αὐτοῦ θάνατος, especially as it suits his scheme of rhythm. This is linguistically possible, as εὑρίσκεσθαι = be (cp. Fr. se trouver), e.g. in Luke 17:18, Php 2:8. Μετέθηκεν was turned into the pluperfect μετετέθηκεν by א* Dc L 5, 203, 256, 257, 326, 337, 378, 383, 491, 506, 623, 1611, etc.

Traditions varied upon Enoch (EBi 1295a), and even Alexandrian Judaism did not always canonize him in this way. (a) The author of Wis 4:10f., without mentioning his name, quotes Genesis 5:24 as if it meant that God removed Enoch from life early (καὶ ζῶν μεταξὺ ἁμαρτωλῶν μετετέθη) in order to prevent him from sharing the sin of his age (ἡρπάγη, μὴ κακία ἀλλάξῃ σύνεσιν αὐτοῦ, ἢ δόλος ἀπατήσῃ ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ); he departed young, but his removal was a boon mercifully granted by God to his youthful piety. (b) Philo views him in de Abrahamo, 3 (cp. de praem. 3-4), as a type of μετάνοια. Quoting Genesis 5:24 he points out that μετάθεσις means a change for the better, and that οὐχ ηὑρίσκετο is therefore appropriate, τῷ τὸν ἀρχαῖον καὶ ἐπίληπτον ἀπαληλίφθαι βίον καὶ ἠφανίσθαι καὶ μηκέθʼ εὑρίσκεσθαι, καθάπερ εἰ μηδὲ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐγένετο. The Greek version of Sir 44:16 echoes the same tradition (Ἔνωχ εὐηρέστησεν Κυρίῳ καὶ μετετέθη, ῦπόδειγμα μετανοίας ταῖς γενεαῖς), viz. that μετέθηκεν implies the effacement of Enoch’s blameable past, or at any rate that he was enrolled in better company. Our author does not share this view. His general deduction in v. 6 expands the description of πίστις in v. 1. To say that a man has satisfied God is to pronounce the highest possible eulogy upon him, says Philemon 1:1 (de Abrahamo, 6, “τῷ θεῷ εὐηρέστησεν·” οὗ τί γένοιτʼ ἂν ἐν τῇ ψύσει κρεῖττον; τίς καλοκἀγαθίας ἐναργέστερος ἔλεγχος; ), though he is referring to Noah, not to Enoch. Our author explains that to satisfy God necessarily implies πίστις (v. 6) in the sense of 10:35. Πιστεῦσαι γὰρ δεῖ τὸν προσερχόμενον τῷ θεῷ (4:16 etc.) ὅτι ἔστιν (so Epict. iii. 26. 15, ὅτι καὶ ἔστι καὶ καλῶς διοικεῖ τὰ ὅλα) καὶ τοῖς ἐκζητοῦσιν αὐτὸν μισθαποδότης (cf. v. 26, 10:35) γίνεται. As for the first element of belief, in the existence of God (ὅτι ἔστιν), the early commentators, from Chrysostom (ὅτι ἔστιν· οὐ τὸ τί ἐστιν: cp. Tert. adv. Marc. i. 17, “primo enim quaeritur an sit, et ita qualis sit”) and Jerome (on Isaiah 6:1-7, in Anecdota Maredsolana, iii. 3. 110: “cumque idem apostolus Paulus scribit in alio loco, Credere oportet accedentem ad Deum quia est, non posuit quis et qualis sit debere cognosci, sed tantum quod sit. Scimus enim esse Deum, scimusque quid non sit; quid autem et qualis sit, scire non possumus”) onwards, emphasize the fact that it is God’s existence, not his nature, which is the primary element of faith. Philo does declare that the two main problems of enquiry are into God’s existence and into his essence (de Monarch. i. 4-6), but our author takes the more practical, religious line, and he does not suggest how faith in God’s existence is to be won or kept. When objectors asked him why he believed in the existence of the gods, Marcus Aurelius used to reply: πρῶτον μὲν καὶ ὄψει ὁρατοί εἰσιν· ἔπειτα μέντοι οὐδὲ τὴν ψυχὴν τὴν ἐμαυτοῦ ἑώρακα καὶ ὅμως τιμῶ· οὕτως οὖν καὶ τοὺς θεούς, ἐξ ὧν τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτῶν ἑκάστοτε πειρῶμαι, ἐκ τούτων ὅτι τε εἰσὶ καταλαμβάνω καὶ αἰδοῦμαι (xii. 28). We have no such argument against atheism here; only the reminder that faith does imply a belief in the existence of God—a reminder which would appeal specially to those of the readers who had been born outside Judaism. Belief in the existence of God is for our author, however, one of the elementary principles of the Christian religion (6:1); the stress here falls on the second element, καὶ … μισθαποδότης γίνεται. When the Stoics spoke about belief in the divine existence, they generally associated it with belief in providence; both Seneca (Ep. xcv. 50, “primus est deorum cultus deos credere … scire illos esse qui praesident mundo, quia universa vi sua temperant, qui humani generis tutelam gerunt interdum curiosi singulorum”) and Epictetus (e.g. ii. 14. 11, λέγουσιν οἱ φιλόσοφοι ὅτι μαθεῖν δεῖ πρῶτον τοῦτο, ὅτι ἔστι θεὸς καὶ προνοεῖ τῶν ὅλων: Enchir. xxxi. 1, τῆς περὶ τοὺς θεοὺς εὐσεβείας ἴσθω ὅτι τὸ κυριώτατον ἐκεῖνό ἐστιν ὀρθὰς ὑπολήψεις περὶ αὐτῶν ἔχειν ὡς ὄντων καὶ διοικούντων τὰ ὅλα καλῶς καὶ δικαίως) are contemporary witnesses to this connexion of ideas, which, indeed, is as old as Plato (Leges, 905d, ὅτι μὲν γὰρ θεοί τʼ εἰσὶν καὶ ἀνθρώπων ἐπιμελοῦνται).

Τοῖς ἐκζῆτοῦσιν αὐτόν (for which p13 P read the simple ζητοῦσιν) denotes, not philosophic enquiry, but the practical religious quest, as in the OT (e.g. Acts 15:17, Romans 3:11). This is not Philo’s view, e.g., in the Leg. Alleg. iii. 15 εἰ δὲ ζητοῦσα εὑρήσεις θεὸν ἄδηλον, πολλοῖς γὰρ οὐκ ἐφανέρωσεν ἑαυτὸν, ἀλλʼ ἀτελῆ τὴν σπουδὴν ἄχρι παντὸς ἔσχον· ἐξαρκεῖ μέντοι πρὸς μετουσίαν ἀγαθῶν καὶ ψιλὸν τὸ ζητεῖν μόνον, ἀεὶ γὰρ αἱ ἐπὶ τὰ καλὰ ὁρμαὶ κἂν τοῦ τέλους ἀτυχῶσι τοὺς χρωμένους προευφραίνουσιν. But our author has a simpler belief; he is sure that the quest of faith is always successful. By God’s reward he means that the faith of man reaching out to God is never left to itself, but met by a real satisfaction; God proves its rewarder. Such faith is a conviction which illustrates 11:1, for the being of God is an unseen reality and his full reward is at present to be hoped for.

A still more apt illustration of πίστις as the ἔλεγχος πράγματων οὐ βλεπομἐνων which becomes a motive in human life, now occurs in (v. 7) the faith which Noah showed at the deluge when he believed, against all appearances to the contrary, that he must obey God’s order and build an ark, although it is true that in this case the unseen was revealed and realized within the lifetime of the δίκαιος. Like Philo, our author passes from Enoch to Noah, although for a different reason. Philo ranks Noah as the lover of God and virtue, next to Enoch the typical penitent (de Abrah. 3, 5, εἰκότως τῷ μετανενοηκότι τάττει κατὰ τὸ ἑξῆς τὸν θεοφιλῆ καὶ φιλάρετον); here both are grouped as examples of πίστις. Sirach (44:17.) also passes at once from Enoch to Noah the δίκαιος.

7 It was by faith (πίστει) that Noah, after being told by God (χρηματισθείς, 8:5, sc. παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ) of what was still unseen (τῶν μηδέπω βλεπομένων, i.e. the deluge), reverently (εὐλαβηθείς, cp. 5:7) constructed (κατεσκεύασεν, as 1 P 3:20) an ark to save his household; thus he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that follows faith.

The writer recalls, though he does not quote from, the story of Genesis 6:13f. Πίστει goes closely with εὐλάβηθεὶς κατεσκεύασεν, and περὶ τ. μ. βλεπομένων goes with χρηματισθείς (as Jos. Ant. iv. 102, ἐχρηματίζετο περὶ ὧν ἐδεῖτο), not with εὐλαβηθείς, which is not a synonym for φοβηθείς—the writer is at pains always to exclude fear or dread from faith (cp. vv. 23, 27). Εἰς σωτηρίαν is to be taken as = “to save alive” (Acts 27:20 πᾶσα ἐλπὶς τοῦ σώζεσθαι ἡμᾶς, 27:34 τοῦτο γὰρ πρὸς τῆς ὑμετέρας σωτηρίας ὑπάρχει). Διʼ ἧς (i.e. by the faith he thus exhibited; as both of the following clauses depend on this, it cannot refer to the ark, which would suit only the first) κατέκρινε τὸν κόσμον, where κατέκρινεν corresponds to what is probably the meaning of Wis 4:16 κατακρινεῖ δὲ δίκαιος καμὼν τοὺς ζῶντας ἀσεβεῖς, though καμών ( = θανών) is not the point of Hebrews, which regards Noah’s action as shaming the world, throwing its dark scepticism into relief against his own shining faith in God (Josephus, in Ant. i. 75, puts it less pointedly: ὁ δὲ θεὸς τοῦτον μὲν τῆς δικαιοσύνης ἠγάπησε, κατεδίκαζε δʼ ἐκείνους); κόσμος here (as in v. 38) means sinful humanity, almost in the sense so common in the Johannine vocabulary, the κόσμος ἀσεβῶν of 2 P 2:5. Philo (de congressu erudit. 17) notes that Noah was the first man in the OT to be specially called (Genesis 6:9) δίκαιος; but our author, who has already called Abel and Noah δίκαιος, does not use this fact; he contents himself with saying that τῆς κατὰ πίστιν δικαιοσύνης ἐγένετο κληρόνομος, i.e. he became entitled to, came into possession of, the δικαιοσύνη which is the outcome or property (κατά κτλ., as in Hellenistic Greek, cp. Ephesians 1:15, a periphrasis for the possessive genitive) of such faith as he showed. Δικαιοσύνη here is the state of one who is God’s δίκαιος (ὁ δίκαιος μου, 10:38). A vivid description of Noah’s faith is given in Mark Rutherford’s novel, The Deliverance, pp. 162, 163.

The faith of Abraham, as might be expected, receives more attention than that of any other (cp. Acts 7:2f.). It is described in three phases (8, 9-10, 17-19); the faith of his wife Sara is attached to his (11-12), and a general statement about his immediate descendants is interpolated (13-16) before the writer passes from the second to the third phase. As in Sirach and Philo, Abraham follows Noah. “Ten generations were there from Noah to Abraham, to show how great was His longsuffering; for all the generations were provoking Him, till Abraham our father came and received the reward of them all” (Pirke Aboth 5:3).

8 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed his call to go forth to a place which he would receive as an inheritance; he went forth, although he did not know where he was to go. 9 It was by faith that he “sojourned” in the promised land, as in a foreign country, residing in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were co-heirs with him of the same promise; 10 he was waiting for the City with its fixed foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

The first phase (v. 8) is the call to leave Mesopotamia and travel West, which is described in Genesis 12:1f.. The writer does not dwell, like Philo (de Abrahamo, 14), on the wrench of tearing oneself from one’s home. But, as Philo says that Abraham started ἅμα τῷ κελευσθῆναι, our author begins with καλούμενος. When the call came, he obeyed it—ὑπήκουσεν ἐξελθεῖν (epexegetic infinitive), a reminiscence of Genesis 12:1, Genesis 12:4 καὶ εἶπεν κύριος τῷ Ἀβρὰμ, Ἔξελθε … καὶ ἐπορεύθη Ἀβρὰμ καθάπερ ἐλάλησεν αὐτῷ κύριος. He went out from Mesopotamia, μὴ ἐπιστάμενος ποῦ ἔρχεται, his faith being tested by this uncertainty. So Philo (de Migr. Abrah. 9) notes the point of the future δείξω in Genesis 12:1; it is εἰς μαρτυρίαν πίστεως ἣν ἐπίστευσεν ἡ ψυχὴ θεῷ.

The insertion of ὁ before καλούμενος (A D 33. 256. 467. 1739. 2127 sah boh arm Thdt.) turns the phrase into an allusion to Abraham’s change of name in Genesis 17:5, which is irrelevant to his earlier call to leave the far East.

The second phase (vv. 9, 10) is the trial of patience. He did not lose heart or hope, even when he did reach the country appointed to him, although he had to wander up and down it as a mere foreigner, εἰς ( = ἐν, Mark 13:16, Acts 8:40) … ἀλλοτρίαν. He found the land he had been promised still in the hands of aliens, and yet he lived there, lived as an alien in his own country! Παρῴκησεν is the opposite of κατῴκησεν (as in Genesis 37:1), and with a fine touch of paradox the writer therefore goes on to describe Abraham as ἐν σκηναῖς κατοικήσας, contented patiently to lead a wandering, unsettled life. Such was all the “residence” he ever had! What sustained him was his πίστις (v. 10), his eager outlook for the City, ἧς τεχνίτης καὶ δημιουργὸς ὁ θεός. Compare the scholion on Lucian’s Jou. Trag. 38: ὃν δὴ θεὸν καὶ δημιουργὸν ὁ εὐσεβὴς ἀνευρηκὼς λογισμὸς ἔφορον καὶ τεχνίτην τοῦ παντὸς προευτρέπισεν. Τεχνίτης is not a LXX term, and only began to be used of God in Alexandrian Judaism (e.g. in Wis 13:1). This is the one place in the NT where it is applied to God; afterwards (e.g. Did. 12:3; Diognetus, 7:2) it became more common. Δημιουργός is equally unique as a NT term for God, but it occurs in 2 Malachi 4:1, and was used in classical literature frequently for a subordinate deity (cp. Schermann, Texte u. Untersuchungen, xxxiv. 2b. 23). In Apoc. Esdrae (ed. Tisch. 32) the phrase occurs, ὁ πάσης τῆς κτίσεως δημιουργός. Our author simply writes τεχνίτης καὶ δημιουργός as a rhetorical expression for maker or creator (8:2), without differentiating the one term from the other, as “designer” and “constructor” (cp. Philo, quis rer. div. 27, ὁ τεχνίτης … ἡνίκα τὸν κόσμον ἐδημιούργει: de mut. nom. 4, ἔθηκε τὰ πάντα ὁ γεννήσας καὶ τεχνιτεύσας πατήρ, ὥστε τὸ "ἐγώ εἰμι θεὸς σὸς" ἴσον ἐστὶ τῷ "ἐγώ εἰμι ποιητὴς καὶ δημιουργός").

In 9b the writer adds a new touch (as if to suggest that Abraham propagated his πίστις) in μετὰ Ἰσαὰκ καὶ Ἰακώβ1—who shared the same outlook—τῶν συγκληρονόμων (a κοινή, though not a LXX, term for co-heir) τῆς ἐπαγγελίας τῆς αὐτῆς. Their individual faith is noted later (vv. 20, 21). In sketching his fine mystical interpretation of Abraham’s hope, the author ignores the fact that Jacob, according to Genesis 33:17 (ἐποίησεν αὐτῷ ἐκεῖ οἰκίας), did erect a permanent settlement for himself at Sukkoth. His immediate interest is not in Isaac and Jacob but in Abraham, and in the contrast of the tent-life with the stable, settled existence in a city—the idea which recurs in 12:22, 13:14. It is a Philonic thought in germ, for Philo (Leg. Alleg. 3:27) declares that the land promised by God to Abraham is a πόλις ἀγαθὴ καὶ πολλὴ καὶ σφόδρα εὐδαίμων, typifying the higher contemplation of divine truth in which alone the soul is at home, or that the soul lives for a while in the body as in a foreign land (de Somniis, 1:31), till God in pity conducts it safe to μητρόπολις or immortality. The historical Abraham never dreamed of a πόλις, but our author imaginatively allegorizes the promised land once more (cp. 4:3f.), this time as (12:22) a celestial πόλις or Jerusalem, like Paul and the apocalyptists. According to later tradition in Judaism, the celestial Jerusalem was shown in a vision to Abraham at the scene of Genesis 15:9-21 (Apoc. Bar. 4:4), or to Jacob at Bethel (Beresh. rabba on Genesis 28:17). Ἐξεδέχετο γὰρ—and this showed the steady patience (10:36) and inward expectation (11:1) of his faith—τὴν τοὺς θεμελίους (τούς, because it was such foundations that the tents lacked) ἔχουσαν πόλιν. No doubt there was something promised by God which Abraham expected and did get, in this life; the writer admits that (6:13-15). But, in a deeper sense, Abraham had yearnings for a higher, spiritual bliss, for heaven as his true home. The fulfilment of the promise about his family was not everything; indeed, his real faith was in an unseen future order of being (11:1). However, the realization of the one promise about Isaac (6:13-15) suggests a passing word upon the faith of Sara (vv. 11, 12).

11 It was by faith that even (καί) Sara got strength to conceive, bearing a son when she was past the age for it—because she considered she could rely on Him who gave the promise. 12 Thus a single man, though (καὶ ταῦτα) he was physically impotent, had issue in number “like the stars in heaven, countless as the sand on the seashore.”

This is the first instance of a woman’s faith recorded, and she is a married woman. Paul (Romans 4:19f.) ignores any faith on her part. Philo again praises Sarah, but not for her faith; it is her loyalty and affection for her husband which he singles out for commendation, particularly her magnanimity in the incident of Genesis 16:2 (de Abrahamo, 42-44). Our author declares that even in spite of her physical condition (καὶ αὐτὴ Σάρρα), she believed God when he promised her a child. The allusion is to the tale of Gen_17:15-7, which the readers are assumed to know, with its stress on the renewal of sexual functions in a woman of her age. This is the point of καὶ αὐτή, not “mere woman that she was” (Chrysostom, Oec., Bengel), nor “in spite of her incredulity” (Bleek), nor “Sara likewise,” i.e. as well as Abraham (Delitzsch, Hofmann, von Soden, Vaughan), owing to her close connexion with Abraham (Westcott, Seeberg), though the notion of “like-wise” is not excluded from the author’s meaning, since the husband also was an old man. A gloss (στεῖρα, ἡ στεῖρα, ἡ στεῖρα οὖσα) was soon inserted by D* P, nearly all the versions, and Origen. This is superfluous, however, and probably arose from dittography (ΣΑΡΡΑΣΤεΙΡΑ). The general idea is plain, though there is a difficulty in δύναμιν ἔλαβεν (i.e. from God) εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος = εἰς τὸ καταβάλλεσθαι σπέρμα, i.e. for Abraham the male to do the work of generation upon her. This is how the text was understood in the versions, e.g. the Latin (“in conceptionem seminis”). Probably it was what the writer meant, though the expression is rather awkward, for καταβολὴ σπέρματος means the act of the male; εἰς ὑποδοχὴν σπέρματος would have been the correct words. This has been overcome (a) by omitting καὶ αὐτὴ Σάρρα as a gloss, or (b) by reading αὐτῇ Σάρρᾳ. (a) certainly clears up the verse, leaving Abraham as the subject of both verses (so Field in Notes on Transl. of NT, p. 232, and Windisch); (b) is read by Michaelis, Storr, Rendall, Hort, and Riggenbach, the latter interpreting it not as “dativus commodi,” but = “along with.” If the ordinary text is retained, the idea suggested in καὶ αὐτὴ Σάρρα is made explicit in παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας. What rendered such faith hard for her was her physical condition. Philo (de Abrah. 22) applies this to both parents (ἤδη γὰρ ὑπερήλικες γεγονότες διὰ μακρὸν γῆρας ἀπέγνωσαν παιδὸς σποράν,) and a woman in the period of life described in Genesis 18:11, Genesis 18:12 is called by Josephus γύναιον τὴν ἡλικίαν ἤδη προβεβληκός (Ant. vii. 8. 4).

Εἰς τὸ τεκνῶσαι (D* P 69 436. 462. 1245. 1288. 2005 syrhkl) after ἔλαβεν is a harmless gloss. The addition of ἔτεκεν (אc K L P lat arm) after ἡλικίας was made when the force of καί ( = even) before παρὰ καιρόν was missed.

Πιστὸν ἡγήσατο τὸν ἐπαγγειλάμενον (10:23) is an assertion which shows that the author ignores her sceptical laughter in Genesis 18:12; he does not hesitate (cp. v. 27) to deal freely with the ancient story in order to make his point, and indeed ignores the equally sceptical attitude of Abraham himself (Genesis 17:17). To be πιστός in this connexion is to be true to one’s word, as Cicero observes in the de Officiis (i. 7: “fundamentum autem justitiae fides, id est dictorum conventorumque constantia et veritas”). The promise was fulfilled in this life, so that Sara’s faith resembles that of Noah (v. 7). The fulfilment is described in v. 12, where, after διὸ καὶ ἀφʼ ἑνὸς (i.e. Abraham),1 ἐγεννήθησαν (p13 א L Ψ 1739, etc.) is read by some authorities for ἐγενήθησαν (A D K P etc.), though the latter suits the ἀπό in ἀφʼ ἑνός rather better. In either case something like τέκνα must be understood. Ἀφʼ ἑνός is resumed in καὶ ταῦτα (a v. l. in 1 Corinthians 6:8 for the less common καὶ τοῦτο) νενεκρωμένου (in the sense of Romans 4:19). Gen. r. on Genesis 25:1 applies Job 14:7-9 to Abraham, but the plain sense is given in Augustine’s comment (Civit. Dei, 16:28): “sicut aiunt, qui scripserunt interpretationes nominum Hebraeorum, quae his sacris literis continentur, Sara interpretatur princeps mea, Sarra autem uirtus. Unde scriptum est in epistula ad Hebraeos: Fide et ipsa Sarra uirtutem accepit ad emissionem seminis. Ambo enim seniores erant, sicut scriptura testatur; sed illa etiam sterilis et cruore menstruo iam destituta, propter quod iam parere non posset, etiam si sterilis non fuisset. Porro si femina sit prouectioris aetatis, ut ei solita mulierum adhuc fluant, de iuuene parere potest, de seniore non potest; quamuis adhuc possit ille senior, sed de adulescentula gignere, sicut Abraham post mortem Sarrae de Cettura potuit [Genesis 25:1], quia uiuidam eius inuenit aetatem. Hoc ergo est, quod mirum commendat apostolus, et ad hoc dicit Abrahae iam fuisse corpus emortuum, quoniam non ex omni femina, cui adhuc esset aliquod pariendi tempus extremum, generare ipse in illa aetate adhuc posset.” This elucidates Hebrews 11:11, Hebrews 11:12a. In what follows, the author is quoting from the divine promise in Genesis 22:17, a passage much used in later Jewish literature,2 though this is the only full allusion to it in the NT (cf. Romans 9:27).

Before passing to the third phase of Abraham’s faith, the writer adds (vv. 13-16) a general reflection on the faith of the patriarchs, an application of vv. 9, 10. There were promises which could not be fulfilled in the present life, and this aspect of faith is now presented.

13 (These all died in faith without obtaining the promises; they only saw them far away and hailed them, owning they were “strangers and exiles” upon earth. 14 Now people who speak in this way plainly show they are in search of a fatherland. 15 If they thought of the land they have left behind, they would have time to go back, 16 but they really aspire to the better land in heaven. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God; he has prepared a City for them.)

οὗτοι πάντες (those first mentioned in 9-12, particularly the three patriarchs) died as well as lived κατὰ πίστιν, which is substituted here for πίστει either as a literary variety of expression, or in order to suggest πίστις as the sphere and standard of their characters. The writer argues that the patriarchs already possessed a πίστις in eternal life beyond the grave; their very language proves that. Μὴ κομισάμενοι explains the πίστις in which they died; this is the force of μή. All they had was a far-off vision of what had been promised them, but a vision which produced in them a glad belief—ἰδόντες καὶ ἀσπασάμενοι, the latter ptc. meaning that they hailed the prospect with delight, sure that it was no mirage. The verb here is less metaphorical than, e.g., in Musonius (ed. Hense), vi.: τὴν δὲ ζωὴν ὡς τῶν ἀγαθῶν μέγιστον ἀσπαζόμεθα, or Philo (ἀγάπησον οὖν ἀρετὰς καὶ ἄσπασαι ψυχῇ τῇ σεαυτοῦ, quis rer. div. heres, 8). Two interesting classical parallels may be cited, from Euripides (Ion, 585-587:

οὐ ταὐτὸν εἶδος φαίνεται τῶν πραγμάτων

πρόσωθεν ὄντων ἔγγύθεν θʼ ὁρωμένων.

ἐγὼ δὲ τὴν μὲν συμφορὰν ἀσπάζομαι)

and Vergil (Aen. 3:524 “Italiam laeto socii clamore salutant”). Chrysostom prettily but needlessly urges that the whole metaphor is nautical (τῶν πλεόντων καὶ πόρῥωθεν ὁρώντων τὰς πόλεις τὰς ποθουμένας, ἃς πρὶν ἢ εἰσελθεῖν εἰς αὐτὰς τῇ προσρήσει λαβόντες αὐτὰς οἰκειοῦνται).

Κομισάμενοι (p13 א* P W 33, etc.) is more likely to be original than a conformation to 10:36, 11:39; the sense is unaffected if we read the more common λαβόντες(אc D K L Ψ 6. 104. 1739, Orig.). The reading of A arm (προσδεξάμενοι) makes no sense.

Καὶ ὁμολογήσαντες, for to reside abroad carried with it a certain stigma, according to ancient opinion (cp. e.g. Ep. Aristeae, 249, καλὸν ἐν ἰδίᾳ καὶ ζῇν καὶ τελευτᾷν. ἡ δὲ ξενία τοῖς μὲν πένησι καταφρόνησιν ἐργάζεται, τοῖς δὲ πλουσίοις ὄνειδος, ὡς διὰ κακίαν ἐκπεπτωκόσιν: Sir 29:22-28 etc.). The admission, ὅτι ξένοι καὶ παρεπίδημοί εἰσιν ἐπὶ γῆς, is a generalization from the Oriental deprecation of Jacob in Genesis 47:9 (εἶπεν Ἰακὼβ τῷ Φαραώ, αἱ ἡμέραι τῶν ἔτων τῆς ζωῆς μου ἃς παροικῶ κτλ.), and the similar confession of Abraham in Genesis 23:4 to the sons of Heth, πάροικος καὶ παρεπίδημος ἐγώ εἰμι μεθʼ ὑμῶν. The ἐπὶ γῆς is a homiletic touch, as in Psalm 119:19 (πάροικός εἰμι ἐν τῇ γῇ). In both cases this ὁμολογία τῆς ἐλπίδος (10:23) is made before outsiders, and the words ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς start the inference (vv. 14-16a) that the true home of these confessors was in heaven. Such a mystical significance of ξένοι καὶ παρεπίδημοι, which had already been voiced in the psalter, is richly and romantically developed by Philo, but it never became prominent in primitive Christianity. Paul’s nearest approach to it is worded differently (Php 3:20, where τὸ πολίτευμα corresponds to πατρίς here). In Ephesians 2:12-19, indeed, Christians are no longer ξένοι καὶ πάροικοι, for these terms are applied literally to pagans out of connexion with the chosen People of God. The only parallel to the thought of Hebrews is in 1 P, where Christians are παρεπιδήμοι (1:1) and παροίκοι καὶ παρεπιδήμοι (2:11). The term ξένοι is used here as a synonym for πάροικοι, which (cp. Ephesians 2:12, Ephesians 2:19) would be specially intelligible to Gentile Christians. Παρεπίδημος only occurs in the LXX in Genesis 23:4, Psalm 39:13; in the Egyptian papyri παρεπιδημοῦντες (consistentes) denotes foreigners who settled and acquired a domicile in townships or cities like Alexandria (GCP i. 40, 55; cp. A. Peyron’s Papyri graeci R. Taur. Musei Aegyptii, 8:13 τῶν παρεπιδημοῦντων καὶ [κα]τοικούντων ἐ[ν] [τ]αύται[ς] ξένων), and for ξένοι =peregrini, Ep. Arist. 109 f. The use of such metaphorical terms became fairly common in the moral vocabulary of the age, quite apart from the OT, e.g. Marcus Aurelius, 2:17 (ὁ δὲ βιὸς πόλεμος καὶ ξένου ἐπιδημία). A similar symbolism recurs in the argument of Epictetus (ii. 23, 36 f.) against the prevalent idea that logic, style, and eloquence are the end of philosophy: οἷον εἴ τις ἀπιὼν εἰς τὴν πατρίδα τὴν ἑαυτοῦ καὶ διοδεύων πανδοκεῖον καλὸν ἀρέσαντος αὐτῷ τοῦ πανδοκείου καταμένοι ἐν τῷ πανδοκείῳ. ἄνθρωπε, ἐπελάθου σου τῆς προθέσεως· οὐκ εἰς τοῦτο ὥδευες, ἀλλὰ διὰ τούτου … τὸ δὲ προκείμενον ἐκεῖνο· εἰς τὴν πατρίδα ἐπανελθεῖν. In a more specifically religious sense, it is expressed in the saying of Anaxagoras quoted by Diogenes Laertius (2:3, 7, πρὸς τὸν εἰπόντα, "οὐδέν σοι μέλει τῆς πατρίδος," "εὐφήμει" ἔφη, "ἔμοι γὰρ καὶ σφόδρα μέλει τῆς πατρίδος," δείξας τὸν οὐρανόν). According to Philo, the confession that they were strangers and pilgrims meant that the soul in this world longed to return to its pre-existent state in the eternal order, and could never feel at home among things material. So, e.g., de confus. ling. 17, διὰ τοῦτο οἱ κατὰ Μωυσῆν σοφοὶ πάντες εἰσάγονται "παροικοῦντες·" αἱ γὰρ τούτων ψυχαὶ στέλλονται μὲν ἀποικίαν οὐδέποτε τὴν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ, εἰώθασι δὲ ἕνεκα τοῦ φιλοθεάμονος καὶ φιλομαθοῦς εἰς τὴν περίγειον φύσιν ἀποδημεῖν … ἐπανέρχονται ἐκεῖσε πάλιν, ὅθεν ὡρμήθησαν τὸ πρῶτον, πατρίδα μὲν τὸν οὐράνιον χῶρον ἐν ᾧ πολιτεύονται, ξένην δὲ τὸν περίγειον ἐν ᾧ παρῴκησαν νομίζουσαι κτλ. In Cherub. 33, 34, commenting on πάροικοι in Leviticus 25:23, he argues that this is the real position of all wise souls towards God, since each of us is a stranger and sojourner in the foreign city of the world where God has for a time placed us till we return to Him.

The metaphor had been applied, in a derogatory sense, by Sallust to the lazy and sensual men who never know what real life means, but who pass through it heedlessly: “many human beings, given over to sensuality and sloth (‘ventri atque somno’), uneducated, and uncultured, have gone through life like travellers” (“vitam sicuti peregrinantes transiere,” Son_2).

Such a confession proves (v. 14) that the men in question are not satisfied with the present outward order of things; ἐμφανίζουσιν (Esther 2:22 καὶ αὐτὴ ἐνεφάνισεν τῷ βασιλεῖ τὰ τῆς ἐπιβουλῆς: Acts 23:15, OGIS (3 a.d.) 42:9, Syll. 226:85 τήν τε παρουσίαν ἐμφανίσαντων τοῦ βασίλεως), they thus avow or affirm, ὃτι πατρίδα ἐπιζητοῦσιν (Valckenaer’s conjecture, ἔτι ζητοῦσι, is ingenious but needless, cp. 13:14). For πάτρις in a mystical sense, compare Philo, de Agric. 14, commenting on Genesis 47:4): τῷ γὰρ ὄντι πᾶσα ψυχὴ σοφοῦ πατρίδα μὲν οὐρανόν, ξένην δὲ γῆν ἔλαχε, καὶ νομίζει τὸν μὲν σοφίας οἶκον ἴδιον, τὸν δὲ σώματος ὀθνεῖον, ᾧ καὶ παρεπιδημεῖν οἴεται. Here it is “heaven, the heart’s true home.” The creditable feature in this kind of life was that these men had deliberately chosen it.1 Had they liked, they might have taken another and a less exacting line (v. 15). Εἰ μὲν (as in 8:4) ἐμνημόνευον (referring to the continuous past) κτλ. The μνημονεύουσιν of א* D* was due to the influence of the preceding presents, just as ἐμνημόνευσαν (33. 104, 216 Cosm) to the influence of ἐξέβησαν, which in turn was smoothed out into the usual NT term ἐξῆλθον (אc D K L Ψ 436 919. 1288. 1739). Μνημόνευειν here has the sense of “giving a thought to,” as in Jos. Ant. vi. 37, οὔτε τροφῆς ἐμνημόνευσεν οὔθʼ ὕπνου, and below in v. 22. Time (as Acts 24:25), as elsewhere in Hebrews, rather than opportunity (1 Mac 15:34 ἡμεῖς δὲ καιρὸν ἔχοντες ἀντεχόμεθα τῆς κληρονομίας ἡμῶν καὶ τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν), is the idea of εἴχον ἂν καιρὸν, καιρός taking an infinitive ἀνακάμψαι (so Codex A in Jdg 11:39 καὶ ἀνεκάμψεν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα αὐτῆς, for the ἀπέστρεψεν of B), as in Eurip. Rhesus, 10 (καιρὸς γὰρ ἀκοῦσαι).

Philo remarks of Abraham: τίς δʼ οὐκ ἂν μετατραπόμενος παλινδρόμησεν οἴκαδε, βραχέα μὲν φροντίσας τῶν μελλουσῶν ἐλπίδων, τὴν δὲ παροῦσαν ἀπορίαν σπεύδων ἐκφυγεῖν (de Abrahamo, 18).

“Sometimes he wished his aims had been

To gather gain like other me

For by it the elders obtained a good report.
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment.
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;
Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.
By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
ICC New Testament commentary on selected books

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