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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

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Commentary on Hebrews

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10, 1–10 :

Christian faith now realizes that the Old Testament sacrifices did not effect the spiritual benefits to come but only prefigured them ( 1 ). For if the sacrifices had actually effected the forgiveness of sin, there would have been no reason for their constant repetition ( 2 ). They were rather a continual reminder of the people's sins ( 3 ). It is not reasonable to suppose that human sins could be removed by the blood of animal sacrifices ( 4 ). Christ, therefore, is here shown to understand his mission in terms of Ps 40, 6–8 , cited according to the Septuagint ( 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 ( 8–10 ).

10, 1 :

A shadow of the good things to come: the term shadow was used in 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 .

10, 5–7 :

A passage from Ps 40, 7–9a 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 v 5 (Ps 40, 7b ), 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 Heb.

10, 8 :

Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings: these four terms taken from the preceding passage of Ps 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 (Lv 3 , here called sacrifices); cereal offerings (Lv 2 , here called offerings); holocausts (Lv 1 ); and sin offerings (Lv 4–5 ). This last category includes the guilt offerings of Lv 5, 14–26 .

10, 11–18 :

Whereas the levitical priesthood offered daily sacrifices that were ineffectual in remitting sin ( 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 ( 12–13; cf Ps 110, 1 ). Thus he has brought into being in his own person the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah (31, 33–34) that has rendered meaningless all other offerings for sin ( 14–18 ).

10, 13 :

Until his enemies are made his footstool: Ps 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 .

10, 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 Jer 31, 31–34 , which the author previously used in 8, 8–12 .

10, 17 :

He also says: these words are not in the Greek text, which has only kai, “also,” but the expression after saying in v 15 seems to require such a phrase to divide the Jeremiah text into two sayings. Others understand “the Lord says” of v 16 (here rendered says the Lord) as outside the quotation and consider v 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 v 17 .

10, 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 ( 19–20 ), who rules God's house as high priest ( 21 ). They should approach God with sincerity and faith, in the knowledge that through baptism their sins have been remitted ( 22 ), reminding themselves of the hope they expressed in Christ at that event ( 23 ). They are to encourage one another to Christian love and activity ( 24 ), not refusing, no matter what the reason, to participate in the community's assembly, especially in view of the parousia ( 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 ( 26 ); only the dreadful judgment of God remains ( 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 ( 28–29 ). Judgment belongs to the Lord, and he enacts it by his living presence ( 30–31 ). There was a time when the spirit of their community caused them to welcome and share their sufferings ( 32–34 ). To revitalize that spirit is to share in the courage of the Old Testament prophets (cf Is 26, 20; Hb 2, 3–4 ), the kind of courage that must distinguish the faith of the Christian ( 35–39 ).

10, 20 :

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, Mk 15, 38 ), so the flesh of Jesus constituted an obstacle to approaching God.

10, 21 :

The house of God: this refers back to 3, 6 , “we are his house.”

10, 22 :

With our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience: as in 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 ( 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 .

10, 25 :

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., Rom 2, 16; 1 Cor 3, 13; 1 Thes 5, 2 .

10, 26 :

If we sin deliberately: verse 29 indicates that the author is here thinking of apostasy; cf 3, 12; 6, 4–8 .

10, 28 :

Rejects the law of Moses: evidently not any sin against the law, but idolatry. Dt 17, 2–7 prescribed capital punishment for idolaters who were convicted on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

10, 32 :

After you had been enlightened: “enlightenment” is an ancient metaphor for baptism (cf Eph 5, 14; Jn 9, 11 ), but see 6, 4 and the note there.

10, 37–38 :

In support of his argument, the author uses Hb 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 v 4 inverted. He introduces it with a few words from Is 26, 20 : after just a brief moment. Note the Pauline usage of Hb 2, 4 in Rom 1, 17; Gal 3, 11 .

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