Vincent's Word Studies
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Leaving the principles of the doctrines of Christ (ἀφέντες τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ Χριστοῦ λόγον)
Lit. leaving the word of the beginning concerning Christ. Ἀφέντες leaving or dismissing does not imply ceasing to believe in elementary truths or to regard them as important, but leaving them "as a builder leaves his foundation in erecting his building" (Bruce). The word of the beginning of Christ is practically equals the rudiments of the beginning, Hebrews 5:12; that rudimentary view of Christ's person and office which unfolds into the doctrine of his priesthood. Up to this point the writer has shown only that the permanent elements of the old covenant remain and are exalted in Christ. The more difficult point, which it will require matured perception to grasp, is that Christ's priesthood involves the entire abolition of the old covenant.
Let us go on unto perfection (ἐπὶ τὴν τελειότητα φερώμεθα)
Lit. let us be born on to completeness. The participial clause, leaving, etc., is related to the verbal clause as expressing a necessary accompaniment or consequence of the latter. Let us be born on to completeness, and, because of this, leave, etc. This sense is not given by the Rev. Τελειότης only here and Colossians 3:14. Rend. completeness. The completeness is viewed as pertaining to both the writer and the readers. He proposes to fully develop his theme: they are exhorted to strive for that full Christian manhood which will fit them to receive the fully-developed discussion.
Not laying again the foundation (μὴ πάλιν θεμέλιον καταβαλλόμενοι)
Not explanatory of leaving, etc. The following words, describing the elements of the foundation, - repentance, baptisms, etc., - simply illustrate in a general way the proposal to proceed to the exposition of the doctrine of Christ's priesthood. The illustrative proposition is that a building is not completed by lingering at the foundation; and so Christian maturity is not to be attained by going back to subjects which belong to the earliest stage of Christian instruction. He purposely selects for his illustration things which belong to the very initiation of Christian life.
Dead works (νεκρῶν ἔργων)
The phrase only in Hebrews. Comp. Hebrews 9:14. Not sinful works in the ordinary sense of the term, but works without the element of life which comes through faith in the living God. There is a sharp opposition, therefore, between dead works and faith. They are contraries. This truth must be one of the very first things expounded to a Jew embracing Christianity.
Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
Doctrine of baptisms (βαπτισμῶν διδαχὴν)
Not laying again as a foundation the teaching (διδαχὴν) of baptisms. βαπτισμός only here, Hebrews 9:10, and Mark 7:4. The common form is βάπτισμα. Neither word in lxx or Class. The meaning here is lustral rites in general, and may include the baptism of John and Christian baptism. The teaching would cover all such rites, their relations and comparative significance, and it would be necessary in the case of a Jewish convert to Christianity who might not perceive, for example, any difference between Jewish lustrations and Christian baptism.
Laying on of hands
See on 1 Timothy 4:14. A Jewish and a Christian practice.
Resurrection - eternal judgment
Both resurrection and future judgment were Jewish tenets requiring exposition to Jewish converts as regarded their relations to the same doctrines as taught by Christianity. The resurrection of Christ as involving the resurrection of believers would, of itself, change the whole aspect of the doctrine of resurrection as held by a Jew. Ἀιωνίου eternal certainly cannot here signify everlasting. It expresses rather a judgment which shall transcend all temporal judgments; which shall be conducted on principles different from those of earthly tribunals, and the decisions of which shall be according to the standards of the economy of a world beyond time. See additional note on 2 Thessalonians 1:9. The phrase eternal judgment N.T.o. Comp. κρίμα τὸ μέλλον the judgment to come, Acts 24:25.
And this will we do, if God permit.
If God permit (ἐάνπερ ἐπιτρέπῃ ὁ θεός)
The exact formula N.T.o. Comp. 1 Corinthians 16:7; Acts 18:21. Pagan parallels are τῶν θεῶν θελόντων if the gods will; θεῶν ἐπιτρεπόντων the gods permitting, and θεῶν βουλομένων if the gods desire. An ominous hint is conveyed that the spiritual dullness of the readers may prevent the writer from developing his theme and them from receiving his higher instruction. The issue is dependent on the power which God may impart to his teaching, but his efforts may be thwarted by the impossibility of repentance on their part. No such impossibility is imposed by God, but it may reside in a moral condition which precludes the efficient action of the agencies which work for repentance, so that God cannot permit the desired consequence to follow the word of teaching.
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
It is impossible to dilute this word into difficult.
Those who were once enlightened (τοὺς ἅπαξ φωτισθέντας)
Rend. "once for all enlightened." Ἅπαξ is frequent in the Epistle. Comp. Hebrews 9:7, Hebrews 9:26, Hebrews 9:27, Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:2; Hebrews 12:26, Hebrews 12:27. Indicating that the enlightenment ought to have sufficed to prevent them from falling away; not that it does not admit of repetition. Enlightened, through the revelation of God in Christ, the true light, and through the power of the Spirit. Φωτίζειν in lxx usually to teach or instruct; see Psalm 119:130; 2 Kings 12:2; 2 Kings 17:27. Comp. in N.T. John 1:9; Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 3:9; Hebrews 10:32. Erasmus gives the correct explanation: "Who once for all have left the darkness of their former life, having been enlightened by the gospel teaching." There is no ground for explaining the word here of baptism, although the fathers from the time of Justin Martyr used φωτίζειν and φωτοσμός in that sense, and this usage continued down to the Reformation. See Just. Mart. Apol. i. 62. Chrysostom entitled his 59th Homily, addressed to candidates for baptism, πρὸς τοὺς μέλλοντας φωτίζεσθαι to those who are about to be enlightened; and justified this name for baptism by this passage and Hebrews 10:32. The Peshitto translates this passage, "who have once (for all) descended to baptism." The N.T. gives no example of this usage.
Tasted of the heavenly gift (γευσαμένους τῆς δωρεᾶς τῆς ἐπουρανίου)
For γευσαμένους tasted, comp. Hebrews 2:9. The meaning is, have consciously partaken of. Comp. 1 Peter 2:3, and τρώγων eateth, John 6:56. The heavenly gift is the Holy Spirit. It is true that this is distinctly specified in the next clause, but the two clauses belong together.
Partakers of the Holy Ghost (μετόχους πνεύματος ἁγίου)
"Heavenly gift" emphasizes the heavenly quality of the gift. The Holy Ghost is the gift itself which possesses the heavenly quality.
And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
The good word of God (καλὸν θεοῦ ῥῆμα)
The gospel of Christ as preached. Comp. Hebrews 2:3. To the word are attached life (Acts 5:20); spirit and life (John 6:63); salvation (Acts 11:14); cleansing (Ephesians 5:26); especially the impartation of the Spirit (John 3:34; Acts 5:32; Acts 10:44; Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 2:4).
Powers of the world to come (δυνάμεις μέλλοντος αἰῶνος)
Not foretastes of heavenly bliss. The world to come is the world of men under the new order which is to enter with the fulfillment of Christ's work. See on these last days, Hebrews 1:2. These powers are characteristic of that period, and in so far as that dispensation is inaugurated here and now, they assert and manifest themselves.
If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
If they shall fall away (καὶ πααπεσόντας)
To renew them again (πὰλιν ἀνακαινίζειν)
Seeing they crucify to themselves - afresh (ἀνασταυροῦντας ἑαυτοῖς)
In the Roman classical use of the word, ἀνά has only the meaning up: to nail up on the cross. Here in the sense of anew, an idea for which classical writers had no occasion in connection with crucifying. Εαυτοῖς for themselves. So that Christ is no more available for them. They declare that Christ's crucifixion has not the meaning or the virtue which they formerly attached to it.
The Son of God
Marking the enormity of the offense.
Put him to an open shame (παραδειγματίζοντας)
N.T.o. Rarely in lxx. Comp. Numbers 25:4, hang them up. From παρὰ beside, δεικνύναι to show or point out. To put something alongside of a thing by way of commending it to imitation or avoidance. To make an example of; thence to expose to public disgrace. Δεῖγμα example, only Jde 1:7. Δειγματίζειν to make a public show or example, Matthew 1:19; Colossians 2:15. See additional note at the end of this chapter.
Additional Note on Hebrews 6:4-6.
The passage has created much discussion and much distress, as appearing to teach the impossibility of restoration after a moral and spiritual lapse. It is to be observed:
(1) That the case stated is that of persons who once knew, loved, and believed Christian truth, and who experienced the saving, animating, and enlightening energy of the Holy Spirit, and who lapsed into indifference and unbelief.
(2) The questions whether it is possible for those who have once experienced the power of the gospel to fall away and be lost, and whether, supposing a lapse possible, those who fall away can ever be restored by repentance - do not belong here. The possibility of a fall is clearly assumed.
(3) The sin in the case supposed is the relinquishment of the spiritual gifts and powers accompanying faith in Christ, and rejecting Christ himself.
(4) The significance of this sin lies in the mental and spiritual condition which it betrays. It is the recoil of conviction from Christ and the adoption of the contrary conviction.
(5) The writer does not touch the question of the possibility of God's renewing such to repentance. He merely puts his own hypothetical case, and says that, in the nature of such a case, the ordinary considerations and means which are applied to induce men to embrace the gospel no longer appeal to the subjects supposed. He contemplates nothing beyond such agencies, and asserts that these are powerless because the man has brought himself into a condition where they can no longer exert any power. Whether God will ever reclaim by ways of his own is a point which is not even touched. Destruction of the faculty of spiritual discernment is the natural outcome of deliberate and persistent sin, and the instrument of its punishment. Note, "renew unto repentance." God promises pardon on penitence, but not penitence on sin. See a powerful passage in Coleridge's Moral and Religious Aphorisms, Amer. ed., Vol. I., p. 191.
For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
The inevitableness of the punishment illustrated by a familiar fact of nature.
The earth (γῆ)
Or the land. Personified. Comp. αὐτομάτη ἡ γῆ the land of itself, Mark 4:28, see note.
Which drinketh in (ἡ πιοῦσα)
Appropriates the heavenly gift of rain, the richness of which is indicated by that cometh oft upon it.
Grass, fodder. N.T.o.
Meet for them by whom it is dressed (εὔθετον ἐκείνοις δι οὕς καὶ γεωργεῖται)
For εὔθετον, lit. well placed, thence fit or appropriate, see Luke 9:62; Luke 14:35. Γεωργεῖν to till the ground, N.T.o. Rend. tilled. Dress is properly to trim. The natural result of the ground's receiving and absorbing the rains is fruitfulness, which redounds to the benefit of those who cultivate it.
Receiveth blessing from God (μεταλαμβάνει εὐλογίας ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ)
But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
But that which beareth thorns and briers (ἐκφέρουσα δὲ ἀκάνθας καὶ τριβόλους)
Wrong. As given in A.V. the illustration throws no light on the subject. It puts the contrast as between two kinds of soil, the one well-watered and fertile, the other unwatered and sterile. This would illustrate the contrast between those who have and those who have not enjoyed gospel privileges. On the contrary the contrast is between two classes of Christians under equally favorable conditions, out of which they develop opposite results. Rend. but if it (the ground that receives the rain) bear thorns and thistles, etc. Ἄκανθαι thorns, from ἀκή a point. Τρίβολος, from τρεῖς three and βέλος a dart; having three darts or points. A ball with sharp iron spikes, on three of which it rested, while the fourth projected upward, was called tribulus or tribolus, or caltrop. These were scattered over the ground by Roman soldiers in order to impede the enemy's cavalry. A kind of thorn or thistle, a land-caltrop, was called tribulus. So Virgil,
"Subit aspera silva,
Is rejected (ἀδόκιμος)
Lit. unapproved. See on reprobate, Romans 1:28.
Nigh unto cursing (κατάρας ἐγγύς)
See on Galatians 3:10. Enhancing the idea of rejected. It is exposed to the peril of abandonment to perpetual barrenness.
Whose end is to be burned (ἧς τὸ τέλος εἰς καῦσιν)
Ἧς whose, of which, may be referred to cursing - the end of which cursing: but better to the main subject, γῆ the land. Τέλος is consummation rather than termination. Ἐις καῦσιν, lit. unto burning. Comp. lxx, Isaiah 40:16. The consummation of the cursed land is burning. Comp. John 15:6. The field of thorns and thistles is burned over and abandoned to barrenness.
But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
But the writer refuses to believe that his readers will incur such a fate.
We are persuaded (πεπείσμεθα)
We are firmly convinced. The verb indicates a past hesitation overcome.
Better things (τὰ κρείσσονα)
That accompany salvation (ἐχόμενα σωτηρίας)
Ἔχεσθαι with a genitive is a common Greek idiom meaning to hold one's self to a person or thing; hence to be closely joined to it. So in a local sense, Mark 1:38; in a temporal sense, Luke 13:33, next. He is persuaded that they will give heed to all things which attend the work of salvation and will enjoy all that attaches to a saved condition.
For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
He is encouraged in this confidence by the fact that they are still as formerly engaged in Christian ministries.
Your work and labor of love (τοῦ ἔργου ὑμῶν καὶ τῆς ἀγάπης)
Omit labor. The A.V. follows T.R. τοῦ κόπου. Rend. your work and the love which ye shewed, etc.
Which ye have shewed toward his name (ἧς ἐνεδείξασθε εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ)
The verb means, strictly, to show something in one's self; or to show one's self in something. similar praise is bestowed in Hebrews 10:32. They have shown both love and work toward God's name. That does not look like crucifying Christ. God is not unjust, as he would show himself to be if he were forgetful of this.
And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
We desire (ἐπιθυμοῦμεν)
He is concerned, not only for the body of believers, but for each member.
To the full assurance of hope unto the end (πρὸς τὴν πληροφορίαν τῆς ἐλπίδος ἄρχι τέλους)
That is, we desire that each of you exhibit the same diligence to develop your hope, which is in danger of failing, into full assurance, unto the end of the present season of trial with its happy consummation. Comp. Romans 8:24. For πληροφορία see on 1 Thessalonians 1:5, and comp. Romans 4:21; Romans 14:5. It is practically the same whether we translate full development or full assurance. The two meanings coalesce. Hope develops into full assurance.
That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
See on Hebrews 5:11. Or sluggish, as you will become if you lose hope.
Faith and patience (πίστεως καὶ μακροθυμίας)
For patience rend. long-suffering, and see on James 5:7. Faith and long-suffering go together. Faith does not win its inheritance without persevering endurance; hence long-suffering is not only presented as an independent quality, but is predicated of faith.
Notice the present participle, are inheriting. Their present faith and perseverance are now making for their final inheritance. Comp. Ephesians 1:14.
For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,
Illustration of the long-suffering of faith by the example of Abraham. The necessity for emphasizing this element of faith lay in the growing discouragement of the Jewish Christians at the long delay of Christ's second coming. Comp. ch. 11. Abraham became a sojourner in the land of the promise, looking for the heavenly city (Hebrews 11:9, Hebrews 11:10). All the instances cited in that chapter illustrate the long outlook of faith, involving patient waiting and endurance. The example of Abraham shows, first, that the promise of God is sure.
Because he could swear by no greater (ἐπεὶ κατ' οὐδενὸς εἶχεν μείζονος ὀμόσαι)
Lit. since he had (the power) to swear by no one greater.
By himself (καθ' ἑαυτοῦ)
Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
Surely blessing I will bless thee (εἰ μήν εὐλογῶν εὐλογήσω σε).
Ει μήν as a formula of swearing N.T.o. In lxx, see Numbers 14:23, Numbers 14:28, Numbers 14:35; Isaiah 45:23; Ezekiel 33:27; Ezekiel 34:8. Blessing I will bless is a Hebraism, emphasizing the idea contained in the verb. Comp. lxx, Genesis 22:17; Numbers 25:10; Deuteronomy 15:4.
And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
After he had patiently endured (μακροθυμήσας)
Pointing back to μακροθυμία long-suffering, Hebrews 6:12.
He obtained (ἐπέτυχεν)
The compounded preposition ἐπὶ has the force of upon: to light or hit upon. The verb indicates that Abraham did not personally receive the entire fulfillment of the promise, but only the germ of its fulfillment. It was partially fulfilled in the birth of Isaac. See Romans 4:18.
The security of the divine promise illustrated by the analogy of human practice.
For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
And an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife (καὶ πἁσης αὐτοῖς ἀντιλογίασπέρας εἰς βεβαίων ὁ ὅρκος)
For "an oath," rend. "the oath": generic. Const. for confirmation with end. "The oath is final for confirmation." Πέρας is the outermost point; the point beyond which one cannot go. With this exception always in N.T. in the plural, of the ends of the earth. See Matthew 12:42; Romans 10:18. So often in lxx. Ἀντιλογία, strictly contradiction, only in Hebrews and Jde 1:11, on which see note.
Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:
Wherein (ἐν ᾧ)
Referring to the whole previous clause. In accordance with this universal human custom.
Rend. being minded. See on Matthew 1:19.
The immutability (τὸ ἀμετάθετον)
The adjective used substantively. Only here and Hebrews 6:18.
Rend. interposed or mediated. Comp. μεσίτης mediator. From μέσος midst. Placed himself between himself and the heritors of the promise.
That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
Two immutable things (δύο πραγμάτων ἀμεταθέτων)
His word and his oath.
Strong consolation (ἰσχυρὰν παράκλησιν)
Ἰσχιρὸς strong implies indwelling strength embodied or put forth either aggressively or as an obstacle to resistance; as an army or a fortress. For consolation rend. encouragement, and see on Luke 6:24; see on 1 Corinthians 14:3.
Who have fled for refuge (οἱ καταφυγόντες)
Only here and Acts 14:6. The compound verb is well rendered by A.V., since, as distinguished from the simple φεύγειν to flee, it expresses flight to a definite place or person for safety. Hence often used in connection with an altar or a sanctuary. The distinction between the simple and the compound verb is illustrated in Hdt. iv. 23, where, speaking of the barbarous tribe of the Iyrcae, he says, "Whoever flees (φεύγων) and betakes himself for refuge (καταφύγῃ) to them, receives wrong from no one." So Xen., Hellen. 1, 6, 16: "Conon fled (ἔφευγε) in swift vessels, and betakes himself for refuge (καταφεύγει) to Mitylene."
To lay hold upon the hope set before us (κρατῆσαι τῆς προκειμένης)
For κρατῆσαι to lay fast hold, see on Mark 7:3; see on Acts 3:11; see on Colossians 2:19. Προκειμένης lying before or set before; destined or appointed. Mostly in Hebrews. Comp. 2 Corinthians 8:12; Jde 1:7.
Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
An anchor of the soul (ἄγκυραν τῆς ψυχῆς)
The same figure is implied 1 Timothy 1:19.
Sure and steadfast (ἀσφαλῆ τε καὶ βεβαίαν)
The distinction between the two adjectives expresses the relation of the same object to different tests applied from without. Ἀσφαλῆ, not, σφάλλειν to make totter, and so to baffle or foil. Hence, secure against all attempts to break the hold. Βεβαίαν sustaining one's steps in going (βαίνεν to go): not breaking down under what steps upon it.
Which entereth into that within the veil (εἰσερχομένην εἰς τὸ ἐσώτερον τοῦ καταπετάσματος)
Const. the participle εἰσερχομένην entering with anchor. Ἐσώτερον only here and Acts 16:24. Comparative, of something farther within. So ἐσωτέραν φυλακήν "the inner prison," Acts 16:24. Καταπέτασμα veil, oClass. Commonly in N.T. of the veil of the temple or tabernacle. See Matthew 27:51; Hebrews 9:3. That within the veil is the unseen, eternal reality of the heavenly world. Two figures are combined: (a) the world a sea; the soul a ship; the hidden bottom of the deep the hidden reality of the heavenly world. (b) The present life the forecourt of the temple; the future blessedness the shrine within the veil. The soul, as a tempest-tossed ship, is held by the anchor: the soul in the outer court of the temple is fastened by faith to the blessed reality within the shrine.
Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
Whither the forerunner is for us entered (ὅπου πρόδρομος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ιἐσῆλθεν)
Ὅπου, strictly where, instead of ὄποι whither (not in N.T.), but more significant as indicating an abiding there. Πρόδρομος forerunner, N.T.o. It expresses an entirely new idea, lying completely outside of the Levitical system. The Levitical high priest did not enter the sanctuary as a forerunner, but only as the people's representative. He entered a place into which none might follow him; in the people's stead, and not as their pioneer. The peculiarity of the new economy is that Christ as high priest goes nowhere where his people cannot follow him. He introduces man into full fellowship with God. The A.V. entirely misses this point by rendering "the forerunner," as if the idea of a high priest being a forerunner were perfectly familiar. Rend. whither as a forerunner Jesus entered. Comp. Hebrews 10:19.
Made a high priest (ἀρχιερεὺς γενόμενος)
Rend. having become a high priest, etc. Become, because his office must be inaugurated by his suffering human life and his death.