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PARAPHRASE AND NOTES
THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS.
LEARNED men have been divided in their opinions concerning the author of this celebrated epistle. It hath been ascribed to St. Luke, to Barnabas, and to Clement of Rome. But though some considerable persons have given the sanction of their authority to the several opinions I have mentioned, yet the most prevailing one among the ancients was, and among the moderns still is, that this epistle is a genuine work of St. Paul. Among those who believe that St. Paul was its author, there are some indeed who imagine it was written by him in the Hebrew or Syriac language, and translated into Greek either by St. Luke or Clement. And it is certain there was such an ancient tradition, mentioned by Clemens Alex. andrinus, Eusebius, and Jerom. And there are arguments in support of all the particular hypotheses concerning the author of the epistle, the language in which it was originally written, and the person who translated it into Greek; I say, there are various arguments in favour of all these different opinions, taken from similarity of style, the use of particular words, and the manner of composition. But I apprehend, who. ever carefully considers the observations that have been made by very learned men, upon the language of St. Paul, of Luke, VOL. 6.
A general introduction
or Clement, in defence of their respective hypotheses, will conclude, that such arguments are very little to be depended upon, as they frequently are much indebted to a strong imagination, and in the present case, appear to be urged with equal plausibility on all sides.
I have already given my opinion, that St. Paul was the author of this epistle, (Vol. III. sect. 60, note 8;) and that because the current of antiquity, though not the authority of every individual father, runs strongly this way ; Jerom ex. pressly asserts, that the epistle to the Hebrewş had been received as St. Paul's by all the Greek writers. And though this epistle wants one characteristic of St. Paul's other epistles, the prefixing his name, and his usual form of inscription; for a very obvious reason, that he might not too early awaken the prejudices the Jewish converts had conceived against him; yet it might be easy to collect from the epistle itself, some strong intimations that St. Paul was its author.
It is of less importance in what language it was originally written, if the translation were made, (as the tradition says,) by some companion and fellow labourer of St. Paul. Though it should be considered, that the presumption lies on the side of our present Greek copy, that it is an original, and not a translation; and therefore the arguments which induce any to be of a contrary opinion, should be very strong and convincing. If the reader should be inclined to examine this matter more accurately, he may consult Spanheim's Dissertation concerning the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, particularly part iii. chap. 2, concerning the language ;* and the learned Mr. Hallet's Introduction to his Supplement to Mr. Peirce's Paraphrase ; which Mr. Wolfius hath translated into Latin, and published at the close of the 4th yolume of his Curæ Philologica, with some of his own remarks and structures in the margin. As for the date of this epistle, I am of opinion it was about the year 63, while St. Paul was imprisoned at
* Fred. Spanheim. Op. Tom. ii. p. 245, Sc.
to the epistle to the Hebrews.
5 Rome, or quickly after it. See Vol. III. sect. ix. notes, and compare Heb. xiii. 23.
This epistle was written to the Hebrews, or converts from Judaism to Christianity, who inhabited at least some one particular country, (as may be inferred from the apostle's saying, chap. xii. 19, I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner ; and verse 13, Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty, with whom if he come shortly,
I will see you.). And this country most probably was Judea, where the converts to Christianity from Judaism were almost incessantly persecuted by their unbelieving brethren, who tenaciously adhered to the consititution and ceremonies of the Mosaic law, which Christianity superseded. Now the manifest design of St. Paul in this epistle, is, “ to confirm the Jewish Christians in the faith and practice of the gospel of Christ, which they might be in danger of deserting, either through the insinuations or ill treatment of their persecutors.
It was natural for the zealous defenders of the Mosaic law to insist upon the Divine authority of Moses, the distinguishing glory and majesy which attended its first promulgation by the ministry of angels, and the special privileges with which it invested those who adhered to it. In answer to all arguments and insinuations of this kind, the apostle shews,
I. That in all these several articles, Christianity had an infinite superiority to the law. Which topic he pursues from chap. i. to xi. Reminding the believing Hebrews, That it was a most extraordinary favour, that God had sent them a revelation by his own Son, whose glory was far superior to that of angels, (chap. i. throughout,) very naturally inferring from hence the danger of despising Christ on account of his humiliation, which in perfect consistence with his dominion over the world to come, was voluntarily submitted to by him for wise and important reasons : particularly to deliver us from the fear of death, and encourage the freedom of our access to God; (chap. ii. throughout.) With the same view he fur. ther magnifies Christ as superior to Moses their great legis.
A general introduction lator ; and from the sentence passed on those who rebelled against the authority of Moses, infers the danger of despising the promises of the gospel ; (chap. iii. 1-13.) And as it was natural from hence, to call to mind that rest in Canaan to which the authority wherewith Moses was invested, was intended to lead them, the apostle cautions them against the sin of unbelief, as what would prevent their entering into rest : an expression, which he shows to refer to a nobler state of rest than what the Jews enjoyed in Canaan, even on their most sacred days, and in their most prosperous ages: (chap. iii. 14; iv. 11 :) Further enforcing this caution by awful views of the omniscie ce of God, and animating representations of the character of Christ as our High Priest, of whose Divine appointment, gracious administration, and previous suffering, he goes on to discourse, and promises further illustrations of so important a topic; (chap. iv. 12, to the end; chap. v. throughout.) Declaring that he would advance to sublimer truths without dwelling upon the first principles, for the sake of those who might have apostatized from Christianity; and whose case he represents as very hopeless; (chap. vi. 1-9.) And then for the establishment and comfort of sincere believ. ers, he sets before them the consideration of the goodness of God, and his fidelity to his sacred engagements, the performance of which is sealed by the entrance of Christ into heaven as our Forerunner; (chap. vi. 9, to the end.) Further to illustrate the character of our blessed Lord, the Author and Finisher of our faith, he enters into a parallel between Melchi. zedec and Christ, aş agreeing in title and descent ; and from instances in which the priesthood, of Melchizedec excelled the Levitical priesthood, he infers the surpassing glory of the priesthood of Christ to the priesthood under the law; (chap. vii. 1-17.) From these premises, which plainly manifested the defects of the Aaronical priesthood, he argues, that it was not only excelled, but vindicated and consummated by that of Christ, to which it was introductory and subservient; and by consequence, that the obligation of the law was henceto the episile to the Hebrews.
7 forth dissolved; (chap. vii.i18, to the end.) He then recapitulates, what he had before demonstrated of the superior dignity of Christ as the High Priest of Christians, and further illustrates the distinguished excellence of that new covenant which was foretold by Jeremiah as established in him, and plainly enriched with much better promises than the old : (chap. viii. throughout.) Illustrating further the doctrine of the priesthood and intercession of Christ, by comparing it to what the Jewish high priest did on the great day of atonement; (chap. ix. 1-14.) And having enlarged on the necessity of shedding Christ's blood, and the sufficiency of the atonement made by it, (chap. ix. 15, to the end,) and proved that legal ceremonies could not by any means purify the conscience, and from thence argued the insufficiency of the Mosaic law, and the necessity of looking beyond it, (chap. x. 1-15,) the a. postle urges the Hebrews to improve the privileges which such an High Priest and covenant conferred on them, to the purpose of a fiducial approach to God, a constant attendance on his worship, and most benevolent regards to each other. (Chap. x. 15–25.)
The apostle having thus at length obviated the insinuations and objections of the Jews to the gospel of Christ, as inferior to the Mosaic dispensation, by showing its transcendant excellence in a clear and convincing light, for the satisfaction and establishment of the believing Hebrews, proceeds,
II. To awaken their attention, and fortify their minds against the storm of persecution, which had come, and was further likely to come upon them, for the sake of the Christian faith. To this end, he reminds them of the extremities they had already endured in defence of the gospel, and of the fatal consequences which would attend their apostasy ; (chap. X. 26, to the end.) Calling to their remembrance the renowned examples of faith and fortitude, which had been exhibited by holy men mentioned in the scriptures of the Old Testament, and particularly by Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, (chap. xi. 1-16,) by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,