Hebrews 3
ICC New Testament Commentary
Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
1 Holy brothers (ἅγιοι = οἱ ἁγιαζόμενοι, 2:11), you who participate in a heavenly calling, look at Jesus then (ὅθεν in the light of what has just been said), at the apostle and highpriest of our confession; 2 he is “faithful” to Him who appointed him. For while “Moses” also was “faithful in every department of God`s house,” 3 Jesus (οὗτος, as in 10:12) has been adjudged greater glory (δόξης) than (παρά, as 1:4) Moses, inasmuch as the founder of a house enjoys greater honour (τιμήν, a literary synonym for δόξην) than the house itself. 4 (Every house is founded by some one, but God is the founder of all.) 5 Besides, while “Moses” was “faithful in every department of God`s house” as an attendant—by way of witness to the coming revelation—6 Christ is faithful as a son over God`s house.

In v. 2 ὅλῳ (om. p 13 B sah boh Cyr. Amb.) may be a gloss from v. 5. In v. 3 the emphasis on πλείονος is better maintained by οὗτος δόξης (א A B C D P vt Chrys.) than by δόξης οὗτος (p 13 K L M 6. 33. 104. 326. 1175. 1288 vg) or by the omission of οὗτος altogether (467 arm Basil). In v. 4 πάντα has been harmonized artificially with 1:3, 2:10 by the addition of τά (Cc L P Ψ 104. 326. 1175. 1128 Athan.).

For the first time the writer addresses his readers, and as ἀδελφοὶ ἅγιοι (only here in NT, for ἁγίοις in 1 Thessalonians 5:27 is a later insertion), κλήσεως ἐπουρανίου μέτοχοι (6:4 etc., cp. Psalm 119:63 μέτοχος ἐγώ εἰμι πάντων τῶν φοβουμένων σε, Ep. Arist. 207; de Mundo, 401b). In Php 3:14 the ἄνω κλῆσις is the prize conferred at the end upon Christian faith and faithfulness. Here there may be a side allusion to 2:11 (ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοὺς καλεῖν). In κατανοήσατε (a verb used in this general sense by Ep. Aristeas, 3, πρὸς τὸ περιέργως τὰ θεῖα κατανοεῖν) κτλ., the writer summons his readers to consider Jesus as πιστός; but, instead of explaining why or how Jesus was loyal to God, he uses this quality to bring out two respects (the first in vv. 2a-4, the second in vv. 5-6a) in which Jesus outshone Moses, the divinely-commissioned leader and lawgiver of the People in far-off days, although there is no tone of disparagement in the comparison with Moses, as in the comparison with the angels.

In the description of Jesus as τὸν ἀπόστολον καὶ ἀρχιερέα τῆς ὁμολογίας ἡμῶν, ὁμολογία is almost an equivalent for “our religion,” as in 4:14 (cp. 10:23).1 Through the sense of a vow (LXX) or of a legal agreement (papyri and inscriptions), it had naturally passed into the Christian vocabulary as a term for the common and solemn confession or creed of faith. Ἡμῶν is emphatic. In “our religion” it is Jesus who is ἀπόστολος καὶ ἀρχιερεύς, not Moses. This suits the context better than to make the antithesis one between the law and the gospel (Theophyl. οὐ γὰρ τῆς κατὰ νόμον λατρείας ἀρχιερεύς ἐστιν, ἀλλὰ τῆς ἡμετέρας πίστεως). Possibly the writer had in mind the Jewish veneration for Moses which found expression during the second century in a remark of rabbi Jose ben Chalafta upon this very phrase from Numbers (Sifre, § 110): “God calls Moses ‘faithful in all His house,’ and thereby he ranked higher than the ministering angels themselves.” The use of ἀπόστολος as an epithet for Jesus shows “the fresh creative genius of the writer and the unconventional nature of his style” (Bruce). Over half a century later, Justin (in Revelation 1:12) called Jesus Christ τοῦ πατρὸς πάντων καὶ δεσπότου θεοῦ υἱὸς καὶ ἀπόστολος ὤν, and in Apol. 1:63 described him as ἄγγελος καὶ ἀπόστολος· αὐτὸς γὰρ ἀπαγγέλλει ὅσα δεῖ γνωσθῆναι, καὶ ἀποστέλλεται, μηνύσων ὅσα ἀγγέλλεται (the connexion of thought here possibly explains the alteration of διηγήσομαι into ἀπαγγελῶ in Hebrews 2:12). Naturally Jesus was rarely called ἄγγελος; but it was all the easier for our author to call Jesus ἀπόστολος, as he avoids the term in its ecclesiastical sense (cp. 2:3). For him it carries the usual associations of authority; ἀπόστολος is Ionic for πρεσβευτής, not a mere envoy, but an ambassador or representative sent with powers, authorized to speak in the name of the person who has dispatched him. Here the allusion is to 2:3, where the parallel is with the Sinaitic legislation, just as the allusion to Jesus as ἀρχιερεύς recalls the ὁ ἁγιάζων of 2:11, 17. On the other hand, it is not so clear that any explicit antithesis to Moses is implied in ἀρχιερέα, for, although Philo had invested Moses with highpriestly honour (praem. et poen. 9, τυγχάνει … ἀρχιερωσύνης, de vita Mosis ii., I, ἐγένετο γὰρ προνοίᾳ θεοῦ … ἀρχιερεύς), this is never prominent, and it is never worked out in “Hebrews.”

The reason why they are to look at Jesus is (v. 2) his faithfulness τῷ ποιήσαντι αὐτόν, where ποιεῖν means “to appoint” to an office (as 1 S 12:6 κύριος ὁ ποιήσας τὸν Μωυσῆν καὶ τὸν Ἀαρών, Mark 3:14 καὶ ἐποίησεν δώδεκα). This faithfulness puts him above Moses for two reasons. First (vv. 2b-4), because he is the founder of the House or Household of God, whereas Moses is part of the House. The text the writer has in mind is Numbers 12:7 (οὐχ οὕτως ὁ θεράπων μου Μωυσῆς· ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ οἴκῳ μου πιστός ἐστιν), and the argument of v. 3, where οἶκος, like our “house,” includes the sense of household or family,1 turns on the assumption that Moses belonged to the οἶκος in which he served so faithfully. How Jesus “founded” God`s household, we are not told. But there was an οἶκος θεοῦ before Moses, as is noted later in 11:2, 25, a line of πρεσβύτεροι who lived by faith; and their existence is naturally referred to the eternal Son. The founding of the Household is part and parcel of the creation of the τὰ πάντα (1:2, 3). Κατασκευάζειν includes, of course (see 9:2, 6), the arrangement of the οἶκος (cp. Epict. i. 6. 7-10, where κατασκευάζω is similarly used in the argument from design). The author then adds an edifying aside, in v. 4, to explain how the οἶκος was God`s (v. 2 αὐτοῦ), though Jesus had specially founded it. It would ease the connexion of thought if θεός meant (as in 1:8?) “divine” as applied to Christ (so, e.g., Cramer, M. Stuart), or if οὗτος could be read for θεός, as Blass actually proposes. But this is to rewrite the passage. Nor can we take αὐτοῦ in v. 6a as “Christ`s”; there are not two Households, and πᾶς (v. 4) does not mean “each” (so, e.g., Reuss). Αὐτοῦ in vv. 2, 5; and 6a must mean “God`s.” He as creator is ultimately responsible for the House which, under him, Jesus founded and supervises.

This was a commonplace of ancient thought. Justin, e.g., observes: Μενάνδρῳ τῷ κωμικῷ καὶ τοῖς ταῦτα φήσασι ταὐτὰ φράζομεν· μείζονα γὰρ τὸν δημιουργὸν τοῦ σκευαζομένου ἀπεφήνατο (Revelation 1:20). It had been remarked by Philo (De Plant. 16): ὅσῳ γὰρ ὁ κτησάμενος τὸ κτῆμα τοῦ κτήματος ἀμείνων καὶ τὸ πεποιηκὸς τοῦ γεγονότος, τοσούτῳ βασιλικώτεροι ἀκεῖνοι, and in Legum Allegor. iii. 32 he argues that just as no one would ever suppose that a furnished mansion had been completed ἄνευ τέχνης καὶ δημιουργοῦ, so anyone entering and studying the universe ὥσπερ εἰς μεγίστην οἰκίαν ἢ πόλιν would naturally conclude that ἧν καὶ ἔστιν ὁ τοῦδε τοῦ παντὸς δημιουργὸς ὁ θεός.

The usual way of combining the thought of v. 4 with the context is indicated by Lactantius in proving the unity of the Father and the Son (diuin. instit. iv. 29): “When anyone has a son of whom he is specially fond (quem unice diligat), a son who is still in the house and under his father`s authority (in manu patris)—he may grant him the name and power of lord (nomen domini potestatemque), yet by civil law (civili iure) the house is one, and one is called lord. So this world is one house of God, and the Son and the Father, who in harmony (unanimos) dwell in the world, are one God.”

The second (5-6a) proof of the superiority of Jesus to Moses is now introduced by καί. It rests on the term θεράπων used of Moses in the context (as well as in Numbers 11:11, Numbers 11:12:7, Numbers 11:8 etc.; of Moses and Aaron in Wis 10:16, 18:21); θεράπων is not the same as δοῦλος, but for our author it is less than υἱός, and he contrasts Moses as the θεράπων ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ with Jesus as the Son ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον, ἐπί used as in 10:21 (ἱερέα μέγαν ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον τοῦ θεοῦ) and Matthew 25:21, Matthew 25:23 (ἐπὶ ὀλίγα ῃς πιστός). Moses is “egregius domesticus fidei tuae” (Aug. Conf. xii. 23). The difficult phrase εἰς τὸ μαρτύριον τῶν λαληθησομένων means, like 9:9, that the position of Moses was one which pointed beyond itself to a future and higher revelation; the tabernacle was a σκήνη τοῦ μαρτυρίου (Numbers 12:5) in a deep sense. This is much more likely than the idea that the faithfulness of Moses guaranteed the trustworthiness of anything he said, or even that Moses merely served to bear testimony of what God revealed from time to time (as if the writer was thinking of the words στόμα κατὰ στόμα λαλήσω αὐτῷ which follow the above-quoted text in Numbers).

The writer now passes into a long appeal for loyalty, which has three movements (3:6b-19, 4:1-10, 4:11-13). The first two are connected with a homily on Psalm 95:7-11 as a divine warning against the peril of apostasy, the story of Israel after the exodus from Egypt being chosen as a solemn instance of how easy and fatal it is to forfeit privilege by practical unbelief. It is a variant upon the theme of 2:2, 3 suggested by the comparison between Moses and Jesus, but there is no comparison between Jesus and Joshua; for although the former opens up the Rest for the People of to-day, the stress of the exhortation falls upon the unbelief and disobedience of the People in the past.

6 Now we are this house of God (οὖ, from the preceding αὐτοῦ), if we will only keep confident and proud of our hope. 7 Therefore, as the holy Spirit says:

“Today, when (ἐάν, as in 1 John 2:28) you hear his voice,

8 harden not (μὴ σκληρύνητε, aor. subj. of negative entreaty) your hearts as at the Provocation,

on the day of the Temptation in the desert,

9 where (οὗ = ὅπου as Deuteronomy 8:15) your fathers put me to the proof,

10 and for forty years felt what I could do.”

Therefore “ I grew exasperated with that generation,

I said, ‘They are always astray in their heart’

Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.
For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.
For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.
And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;
But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,
Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.
Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.
So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.
But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?
So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
ICC New Testament commentary on selected books

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