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Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, Part 18: The Walk of the Faith
Throughout the early chapters of this epistle to the Hebrews Paul sought to convince his readers that Yahshua Christ is indeed the ultimate prophet and messenger of God, citing many of the Messianic Psalms and attesting that they are prophecies of Christ as the promised Son of Scripture, the Messiah or Anointed Son through whom Israel would ultimately attain salvation. Doing this he illustrated the profession of David that this Son would belong to a priesthood other than that of Levi, and from the Genesis account he showed that this priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek, transcended the priesthood of Levi. In relation to all of these things, Paul had also cited accounts from the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy, and held up aspects of the lives of Moses, Joshua, David and Solomon all as types for Christ. And while doing this he sought to show that the entire history and purpose of the Old Testament interaction between Yahweh and Israel was to bring the children of Israel to the New Covenant in Christ, for which reason He is called in other scriptures the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world”. Then in his discourse on the faith of the Old Testament saints, Paul asserted that their actions were all in anticipation of this assurance of the faith which these Hebrews had now possessed, for which reason they must not reject their Messiah, who is the confirmation of the promises to the fathers.
Convincing the Hebrews that all of these things were so, if indeed they continued to read his epistle to this point, Paul then sought to convince them to depart from their earthly trappings under the Old Covenant and grasp the eternal inheritance assured by the New Covenant, through the perpetual propitiation offered by the transcendent Christ, which is the true substance of the Faith found in the promises to the patriarchs. But, as he illustrates by his explanation, this faith is the faith of history, and the recipients of the promises have not changed with the change in covenants. So we see in Hebrews chapter 11 that Paul extolled the ancient Israelites for turning to flight the armies of the aliens through their faith. Then in Hebrews chapter 12 he warned that those who do not stand correction fail because they are bastards, and not sons. With this illustration he upheld Esau as an example for those who lose their birthright on account of their fornication, or race-mixing, and finally he made an analogy which showed that any beast – ostensibly anyone who is not of the race of the children of Israel – who touches the mountain of God shall be destroyed.
All of these admonishments fully demonstrate that the Old Covenant prohibitions against race-mixing fornication still stand under the New Covenant, and the importance of this aspect of the law is once again illustrated in this final chapter of Paul’s epistle where he warns in verse 4 that God will judge fornicators and adulterers. As we had discussed at length in our presentations of chapter 12 of this epistle, these words must have disconcerted many of Paul’s readers, as Judaea was a mixed-race province of both Israelites and Edomites, as well as other Canaanites, who had all been accepted into Judaism two hundred years before Paul wrote this epistle. Speaking of that Hyrcanus who came to the high priesthood at Jerusalem about 129 BC, Flavius Josephus wrote in Antiquities book 13 that “Hyrcanus took also Dora and Marissa, cities of Idumea, and subdued all the Idumeans; and permitted them to stay in that country, if they would submit to circumcision, and make use of the laws of the Judaeans...” (13:257) But that is not all. A little later in that same book, speaking of the time of Alexander Janneus a few decades later, Josephus described the taking and conversion of 30 additional cities throughout Judaea, informing us that out of them all, only Pella was destroyed because its inhabitants refused to convert to Judaism (13:393-397). All of these Edomites and Canaanites and others of the mixed races became the so-called Jews of later history, and here in these closing chapters of this epistle Paul has thoroughly warned his Israelite Hebrew readers against race-mixing.
During this period of Judaean history, from about 129 BC, the substance of Judaea and the religion of the people of Jerusalem suffered drastic changes. No longer was it standing in the faith of Moses, Ezra and Nehemiah. From this time it was open to all who would undergo circumcision, and it became absolutely antithetical to the Israelite faith of history. Judaism sought to be a religiously distinct sect in the midst of the pagan Hellenistic world, while its true exclusivity based on race was lost forever. But while Paul did not take note of it, all of this was prophesied in Malachi chapter 2. Malachi, a prophet from the early second temple period, warned in that chapter “O ye priests, this commandment is for you” where the Word of Yahweh then protested that “I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts…. 7 For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. 8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.” Then there are warnings concerning the very universalism which Judaea had fallen into where it says, rather rhetorically, “9 Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law. [It is not evident enough in the King James Version that this is a dialogue, so the priests are protrayrd as having asked:] 10 Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers? [And here is the answer answer:] 11 Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. 12 The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts.”
Those men who had done such things as race-mixing with the Canaanites and Edomites were being cut off as Paul was writing his epistle to the Hebrews, and warning the remnant of true Israelites in Judaea against fornication. Malachi wrote the warning, and here Paul wrote of the consequences in the aftermath. In the meantime, Christ came into this corrupted race-mixed state of ancient Judaea and was slain by His enemies on behalf of His people. The sons are beckoned to follow Him, and the bastards remained to be known as the Jews, who have been a curse on the world ever since, just as it is written in Jeremiah of the so-called “bad figs” where it says (24:9) “And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them.” Christ spoke similarly of His enemies in Luke chapter 21, where He prophesied the coming destruction of Jerusalem and He said “23, Woe to those having conceived and to those with sucklings in those days! For there shall be great violence upon the earth, and wrath for this people! 24, And they shall fall by the edge of the sword and they shall be taken away captive into all nations, and Jerusalem shall be tread upon by the heathens until the times of the heathens should be fulfilled.” This is the diaspora of the Jews, who are the enemies of Christ and of Yahweh who had subverted His temple in Judaea. When Jeremiah had written, the diaspora of most of the true Israelites had already happened, over a century before the prophet wrote and nearly eight centuries before Christ.
Time does not afford us the luxury of proving our chronology of the writing of Paul’s epistles again and again, as we have already done throughout our presentations of the Book of Acts as well as these epistles themselves. However we have described in detail how Paul’s epistle to the Romans was written from the Troad shortly before his arrival in Judaea in time for the Pentecost in 57 AD. Then we have demonstrated, and will continue to demonstrate as we present Hebrews chapter 13, that this epistle was written some time after his arrest in Jerusalem either later that same year or early in 58 AD. So of all of Paul’s surviving epistles, this epistle was written next in time after his epistle to the Romans which was written from the Troad.
In Romans chapter 9, Paul made the following prayer, which we believe is far more accurate in our own translation:
1 I speak the truth among the Anointed, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that grief for me is great, and distress incessant in my heart, 3 for I have prayed that I myself would be accursed from the Anointed for the brethren, my kinsmen in regards to the flesh; 4 those who are Israelites, whose is the position of sons, and the honor, and the covenants, and the legislation, and the service, and the promises; 5 whose are the fathers; and of whom are the Anointed in regards to the flesh, being over all blessed of Yahweh for the ages. Truly. 6 Not, however, that the word of Yahweh has failed; since not all those who are from Israel are those of Israel: 7 nor because they are offspring of Abraham all children: but, “In Isaac will your offspring be called.” 8 That is to say, the children of the flesh, these are not children of Yahweh, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
Now there are many commentators who take verse 8 of this passage out of context and use it to promote universalism, or the idea that Abraham’s children could possibly come from some place other than his own loins. But comparing the children of the flesh to the children of the promise Paul’s intention is not to corrupt the promises of God, since in any event he is only talking about the children of Abraham. In Romans chapter 4 Paul wrote that Abraham’s seed became many nations, and not that many nations would somehow become Abraham’s seed, which is a ridiculous and anti-Scriptural proposition. Rather, to Paul the “children of the flesh” are all of the descendants of Abraham, where the children of the promise are only those born according to the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Rebekah which distinguish Jacob-Israel from the rest of Abraham’s children. Because, as Paul also said, only in Isaac shall the seed of Abraham be called, then in verse 9 Paul goes on to explain the promise to Sarah, and in verse 10 the promise to Rebekah, both of which narrow the field of Abraham’s descendants who are the “children of the promise” down to Isaac and then to Jacob.
Paul then went on to explain that God hated Esau, and that the progeny of Esau are “vessels of destruction” where the children of Jacob are “vessels of mercy”. So here in the opening verses of Romans chapter 9 Paul showed that out of all of his own countrymen, out of all of the people of Judaea, his concern was for his “kinsmen according to the flesh” since not all of those from Israel are actually of Israel. In this regard the apostle John in chapter 2 of his first epistle warned against antichrists and said that “they went out from us, but they were not of us”, ostensibly referring to those same Edomite Jews. Paul, being concerned with his “kinsmen according to the flesh”, shows that the distinctions of the flesh should indeed matter to Christians, and here in this epistle to the Hebrews he has thoroughly admonished his readers in reference to bastards, and warned them against race-mixing fornication. Those warnings were important to Paul, as they were the primary subject of chapter 12 of this epistle, from verses 7 through 25, which we discussed here for the past three weeks.
While any creature on earth may suffer in the travails of this world, only the sons – the children of Israel – are being educated in those travails for a future in the Kingdom of Yahweh, and for that very reason Paul opens this last chapter of his epistle by saying:
13 1 Brotherly love must abide.
As we have seen in chapter 9 of his epistle to the Romans, of all of the people in Judaea Paul of Tarsus expressed concern only for his “kinsmen according to the flesh”, and since he considered the covenants to belong exclusively to those same genetic children of Israel, we see just what it is was that he considered a brother, which is a person of his same flesh, or race. Because all of the members of that race have an assurance in the promise of eternal life in Christ, for that reason they should love one another here in this world – or they are ignoring the reasons for their own chastisement.
Christ had exhorted his disciples, in John chapter 14, that “If ye love me, keep my commandments”, and several times in that same discourse He encouraged them also to love one another, such as where he said in John chapter 13 that “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” So Paul said to the Galatians, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”, and James in chapter 2 of his epistle, “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well”. Paul also encouraged his readers in Romans to “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” There is nowhere in the law where any Israelite is compelled to love aliens.
Christ and the apostles are not contradicting one another, but rather they all compliment one another in agreement. Paul’s words about love fulfilling the law do not abrogate the law, since one cannot love his brother without keeping the law, as Christ had also said in that same portion of John that “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him”, and the apostle John later wrote in his epistles “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” and “this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.” This is the walk of the faith: The love of God requires men to love and keep His commandments and to love their own brethren, and if one does not do all of these things then, as John also explained, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
Once again, the armies of aliens should not be loved, but through faith we shall indeed turn them to flight, as our ancient ancestors had also turned them to flight. Paul continues by discussing hospitality, but we cannot imagine that he was discussing the aliens where he wrote:
2 Do not be forgetful of hospitality. For in this some being unaware have been hospitable to messengers.
Or some not being aware had been hospitable to angels, of which there are several examples in Scripture. Most notably are the angels who visited Lot just before the destruction of Sodom.
The King James Version has “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers”. The Greek word is φιλοξενία, which according to Liddell & Scott means hospitality. The word comes from φίλος which may be dear or loved or in this case, friendly, and ξένος, which is often translated as stranger. But a stranger was not merely an alien, and in the large 9th edition of their Greek-English Lexicon, Liddell & Scott give the primary definition as a “guest-friend, applied to persons and states bound by a treaty or tie of hospitality...” and this is the way in which Paul’s words here must be interpreted. We cannot accept an interpretation which advances the idea that Paul is contradicting his own earlier statements concerning bastards, the fornication of Esau and the armies of the aliens.
As a digression, there are several words in the Hebrew language of the Bible which were all translated into English as stranger. Among these are geyr (1616), zuwr (2114), maguwr (4033), nekar (5236) or nokriy (5237), or towshab (8453), and they all had different nuances of meaning. One must also be careful, as it is apparent that the usage of these words was not entirely consistent throughout the Old Testament. The colloquial use of words in the books which were written a thousand years after Moses is not necessarily the same as it was in the time when the Pentateuch was written. But in the writings of the law of Moses, the word geyr, which signifies an acceptable sort of stranger, seems to be closest to the meaning of the Greek word ξένος. Here in Hebrews we must discern that Paul distinguishes the ξένος who is deserving of hospitality from the aliens who were turned to flight which he mentions in chapter 11 of the epistle, and the bastards which he despises in chapter 12. There are also several different Greek words translated as stranger, which do not have the meaning which ξένος has.
3 Remember prisoners as though being imprisoned together, those being mistreated as though yourselves in body also are.
Paul is writing at a time when Christians were being persecuted, even thrown to the lions in the arenas of Rome, simply for their profession. These persecutions occurred in the days of Claudius, and continued in the time of Nero during which Paul is writing this epistle. So the apostle Peter wrote some time later, in chapter 4 of his first epistle, that “14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.”
Likewise Christians today should expect to suffer on account of Christ, because the world once again has come to hate the truth. But we should nevertheless pity our less fortunate brethren who are caught up as the result of some sin, and especially those who are in prison merely for government infractions, things which are not crimes in the eyes of our God. As Christ said in the parable of the sheep and the goats, the sheep were commended because “I was a stranger (a ξένος, one to whom Christians are expected to offer hospitality), and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”
Speaking of persecutions, and as Paul is about to speak of the value of marriage in verse 4 of this chapter where he wrote that “marriage is valuable in every way”, we may be reminded of 1 Corinthians chapter 7 where Paul had seemingly advised against marriage. But Paul is not contradicting himself, as he is often accused, and once the circumstances are understood this becomes readily apparent. In 1 Corinthians chapter 7 Paul is advising against marriage in a time when the Christian assemblies of the West are suffering persecution at the hands of the Romans, as they were instigated by the Jews. So he says concerning the state of being unmarried, in verse 26 of the chapter where the King James translation falls short in some ways, that “Really then I suppose that to be such is good, because of the present violence, that it is well for a man to be so.” In verse 27 he therefore advises that single men not seek a wife, explaining in verse 28 that those who do “will have anxiety in the flesh, and for my part, of you I am merciful.” Writing the first epistle to the Corinthians some time in early 56 AD, Paul evidently expected the persecution of Christians to get worse, and thought it better that Christian men and women not try to raise families during that particular time. At other times and in other contexts, he extolled the virtues of marriage, and even told Timothy that an unmarried man who did not raise a family was unfit for the ministry of Christ.
Here where he is speaking of marriage, the Greek word τίμιος (5093), which we have rendered as valuable, may have been read as honorable where he says in verse 4:
4 Marriage is valuable in every way, likewise the undefiled bed: Yahweh will judge fornicators and adulterers.
So once again Paul admonishes against fornication and adultery, as throughout chapter 12 of this epistle in the context of sons and bastards he had used Esau and his losing of his birthright as an example, and attested that if any beast touches the mountain of God that it must be slain. Fornication is race-mixing as that was clearly the sin of Esau, and as Paul writes this epistle at least 25 years after the Passion of the Christ, such fornication is still a sin, as is adultery.
Notice also, that Paul did not say “God will judge fornication and adultery” but rather that He will judge “fornicators and adulterers”. Likewise, Yahweh destroyed the Sodomites, and not sodomy. Today’s denominational churches expect Christians to hate the sin but then insist that they love the sinner – without a thought of repentance. And now they even frown at labeling or even distinguishing Sodomites and fornicators. But Paul said in Romans chapter 1 that “32 such as these who knowing the judgments of Yahweh, that they practicing such things are worthy of death, not only they who cause them, but also they approving of those committing them.” Christians should certainly not love fornicators, adulterers, or Sodomites, and all such sinners must be ostracized until they repent with sincerity.
Of course, the world loves its sodomites and race-mixers, and hates and punishes those who speak out against such sins. So Paul continues by speaking of something which those who love the Word of God must frequently learn out of necessity, if they choose to walk with Christ:
5 The way of life without love of money, being satisfied with the present circumstances; for He has said: “By no means would I leave you, nor in any way would I forsake you.”
Here Paul seems to be paraphrasing from Genesis 28:15 where we read of Jacob’s journey to Padanaram, and he stops in a place to sleep which he later calls Bethel: “12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. 13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; 14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. 16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.”
Later, in Deuteronomy chapter 31, we read in the words of Moses to Israel, speaking of the armies of the aliens which they were commanded to destroy: “5 And the LORD shall give them up before your face, that ye may do unto them according unto all the commandments which I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Similar words were later spoken personally to Joshua (1:5). So we see a promise for the children of Israel in these three accounts, that if they keep the commandments of Yahweh their God and seek to do His will, then they will be provided for in spite of their present circumstances.
But as Paul said in 1 Timothy chapter 6, “10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” And here is a fine line which is difficult to traverse, that Christians seek to do good for one another and desire the means by which to do good, but the love of money is not the way in which God wants for Christians to walk. Money itself is not evil, and even Paul made collections of it for the poor of the saints in Jerusalem – those whom the world was punishing for their stand in the truth. But the love of money is evil, and there is a difference.
So Paul says here, that Christians must also be “satisfied with the present circumstances”, where the King James Version has “be content with such things as ye have”. As Christians we want to do better, but in chapter 4 of his epistle, the apostle James warns his readers that “2 You desire, and you have not. You murder and strive and are not able to succeed. You fight and battle. You do not have for reason that you do not request. 3 You request and do not receive for reason that you request evil, in order that you may be consumed in your pleasures!”
Yahweh God knows what each and every one of His children yearn for, and also what they truly need, and He has promised to provide for them so long as they choose obedience to Him. That alone is a difficult thing for most Christians to accept, so they spend their lives striving for themselves rather than for their brethren or their kindred community. But Christians must be pleased with their present circumstances, and understand that ultimately they are right in the place where their God wants them to be. So if they are displeased, how can they expect to do better? If they are unhappy with the things which they have, how could they expect to be blessed? Being displeased and unhappy with one’s position in life, one is resentful rather than being focused on a proper dispensation of whatever it is that our God does provide for one. So where James warns that “You request and do not receive for reason that you request evil, in order that you may be consumed in your pleasures”, Christians must also understand that failure is God’s way of steering His children down a different path, so that they may eventually find the way in which He wants them to walk. Therefore Paul says:
6 So that courageously we are to say: “Yahweh is a helper to me, and I will not fear what man may do to me.”
The text of the Nestle-Alan Novum Testamentum Graece (NA27) punctuates the citation in this verse so as to read “The Lord is a helper to me, and I will not be afraid: what shall man do to me?” The Greek wording of the passage is precisely the same as the Septuagint at Psalm 117 (118):6, and our punctuation agrees with the manner of Brenton’s reading. The King James Version has verses 5 and 6 of the Psalm to read: “5 I called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place. 6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?”
Not only should Christians not be overly concerned with how they shall survive, being pleased with the present circumstances, but neither should they fear men. However this does not relieve Christians of their personal responsibility for themselves and their community. Yahweh is a helper, so if one wants to sit around on his ass and do nothing, surely Yahweh will assist him. There is truth in the adage that God helps those who helps themselves, but it is better to know that God is even more pleased with those who seek also to help their brethren. From Proverbs chapter 13: “4 The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.”
Paul continues offering his readers general advice, as he is about to close his epistle:
7 Remember your leaders, those who speak to you the Word of Yahweh; of whom, closely observing the discharge of their conduct, you imitate that faith.
The King James Version has “remember them which have the rule over you”, but according to Liddell & Scott the verb ἡγέομαι (2233) means “to go before, lead the way”, and the example in the Book of Acts and the epistles of Paul is that Christian assemblies choose their own leaders, who function as servants of the assemblies. Preferably they are chosen under the principles which Paul had outlined in his first epistle to Timothy. Paul is not speaking of worldly rulers, which have never governed according to the Law of God, at least since the time of David. Paul goes on to make a declaration which insists to his readers that the Word of Yahweh is consistent:
8 Yahshua Christ: the same yesterday, and today, and for the ages.
The Codex Claromontanus (D) appends the word ἀμήν, amen or truly, to the end of this verse.
Even in spite of what may be perceived as His Own interests, the Word of God does not change. So when the children of Israel were all deserving of death there were still the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and therefore Yahweh said in Malachi chapter 3: “6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” As it says in Proverbs 15:4, the upright man keeps his oaths even when they are to his own disadvantage.
Because the Word of God does not change, He keeps His promises as they were spoken, and His Law does not change, and it is still in force in the New Covenant as Christ commanded His disciples to keep His commandments, referring to the commandments of the Old Testament. As Paul explained in his epistle to the Romans, in chapters 2 through 8, Christians should strive to keep the law all the more because they have been granted mercy by their God. So he wrote in Romans chapter 3: “31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” Yahshua Christ, being God incarnate, is the same God who gave the law to the children of Israel. So we read in Revelation chapter 22: “14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”
Paul then warns against the errors of those who stray from the Word of God and he says:
9 Do not be carried away with strange and diverse teachings, for the good heart is confirmed by favor, not foods, by which those who walk have no advantage.
Referring to teachings, or as the King James Version has it, doctrines, the Greek word ξένος (3581) is strange here, where in such a context it may have been read foreign or even unusual. The word ποικίλος (4164) is diverse, and most literally it means many-colored, so it may have been rendered as various.
On the one hand there are examples of so-called Christians who use food as a litmus test for faith, and they reject as Jews anyone who would not eat swine or other unclean animals. Paul explained in Romans chapter 14, and in 1 Corinthians chapter 10, that Christians should not test their brethren in such a way over food. But here in this context Paul goes on to refer to those who reject Christ, and especially the Judaizers:
10 We have an altar from which to eat; they serving the tabernacle have no [D has “not”] authority.
The Judaizers, as Christ had admonished them in Mark chapter 7 for example, would only eat certain foods washed a certain way from vessels and with hands that had been cleansed in a certain manner of ritual. Christ criticized them for being hypocrites, paying close attention to washing the outside of a bowl or cup while the inside was full of robbery.
The word tabernacle here seems to be a purposeful double entendre. On the one hand it refers to the Judaeans who continue the rituals in the temple, and Paul spoke of the futility of seeking justification under the law in chapter 9 of this epistle. On the other hand, those who serve the tabernacle in this aspect also serve their own bellies, their personal tabernacle, since they seek to live off of men through the dispensation of rituals which they sell to them. In this regard Paul wrote in chapter 3 of his epistle to the Philippians: “18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) 20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ”. Salvation is not from works, or rituals, but from Christ alone. Those who seek to dispense rituals to men have no authority in Christ.
11 For those of whom the blood of animals for sin is brought into the holy places by the high priest, the bodies of them are burned outside the encampment.
So for that reason the carcasses of the animals sacrificed at the temple were despised. But this was also used as a type for Christ, who was also despised by men, which was foretold in Isaiah chapter 53:
12 On which account Yahshua also, that He would sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.
The third century papyrus P46 has encampment, or camp rather than gate, evidently recollecting the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.
Now Paul also uses this situation as an analogy:
13 Accordingly we should go out to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.
As the apostle John had written in his first epistle (5:19): “We know that we are from of Yahweh and the whole Society lies in the power of the Evil One.” In this manner Christ had also said, in John chapter 12: “25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” Likewise James had written in chapter 4 of his epistle: “4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
Christians come out of the world by detaching themselves from their interests in the world, and testifying against the world for its sin as Christ also had. It is His desire for Christians to pick up their crosses and follow Him.
And in this respect Paul continues here and says:
14 For here we have no lasting city, but we are seeking that which is coming.
In his discourse on the faith of the Old Testament saints Paul had explained that they had all acted in anticipation of something better, of a City from God, because they knew that they had no real and permanent settlement in this world. Thus Paul wrote in his first epistle to the Corinthians, which was actually the second of the letters that he had written to them, as the earliest was evidently lost, that: “9 I had written to you in the letter, not to associate with fornicators: 10 not at all with the fornicators of this Society, or with the covetous, or rapacious, or idolaters, seeing that you are therefore obliged to come out from the Society.”
The children of Israel were chosen out of the world to serve Yahweh their God and establish His kingdom. At the same time, in their period of punishment the society is given over to the devils. So those who truly seek to follow Christ should disassociate themselves with the sinful world and denounce it for its evil ways. In this respect, coming out from the society means that Christians should not engage themselves with the sinners and the sinful practices of the society, but rather denounce them and seek to maintain themselves apart and endeavor to live by the laws of their God.
Doing this they also look forward to the coming of His kingdom, and show themselves to be worthy of it. As Christ had said in John chapter 14: “14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” For this reason Paul continues:
15 Therefore through Him we should offer sacrifices of praise to Yahweh continually. That is fruit of the lips, professing His name.
The fruit of the lips is important, as the world should know that the Kingdom of Yahweh is among them. Christ said in Matthew chapter 12 “28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” We should think on those same terms every time we separate ourselves from sinners, and especially from the fornicators of this world. But as Paul continues, he stresses the need for Christians to care for one another as well as for the commandments of Christ:
16 But be not forgetful of beneficence and of sharing, for with such sacrifices Yahweh is well pleased.
The King James Version has this verse to read “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” But the Greek word εὐποιία (2140) describes not merely doing good such as in the sense of not sinning, but rather it describes acts of beneficence, good things which Christians should do for one another. As the apostle James said in chapter 2 of his epistle, “14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” These are the kinds of beneficence of which Paul speaks, and when we do well by our brethren we may expect our God to do well by us.
Likewise, where the King James Version has communicate, Paul is not telling his readers merely that they should speak with one another. The Greek word is κοινωνία (2842), which is a sharing of things in common. Christ said in Matthew chapter 5: “41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” As the law says in Deuteronomy chapter 15: “7 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: 8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.”
But of course, only Christians warrant such beneficence and communication, and must therefore show themselves to be worthy. In chapter 12 of the Wisdom of Sirach we read: “5 Do well unto him that is lowly, but give not to the ungodly: hold back thy bread, and give it not unto him, lest he overmaster thee thereby: for [else] thou shalt receive twice as much evil for all the good thou shalt have done unto him. 6 For the most High hateth sinners, and will repay vengeance unto the ungodly, and keepeth them against the mighty day of their punishment. 7 Give unto the good, and help not the sinner.” Neither can Christians expect their brethren to impart things which are beyond their means.
We must remember that when we are blessed with wealth, that is for a purpose: Yahweh dispenses wealth to His people as a means of furthering His kingdom and keeping the promises made to the fathers. This is evident in Deuteronomy chapter 8 where it says: “13 And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied… 17 And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. 18... thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.”
17 Have confidence in and comply with your leaders, for they are being watchful in behalf of your lives, as though repaying [D has “they repay”] an account, that they should do this with joy and not moaning, for you this [moaning] is unprofitable.
The last line is an allusion to the fact that men should be happy to repay their own debts. So to this Paul compares the leaders of the Christian community, that they labor as though striving to repay Christ in exchange for the mercy that they themselves have been given.
The Greek word ψυχή, which is frequently translated as soul, is lives in the plural here. The apostles usually, but not always, used the word to distinguish life in the body as opposed to the spirit, which continues to exist after the body. So Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:20 of the flood of Noah that “eight souls were saved by water”, using this same term. Likewise Paul mentioned “spirit and soul and body” in 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
Once again, where the King James Version has “them that have the rule over you”, we have “your leaders”, and the word for leaders comes from the Greek verb ἡγέομαι (2233), which means “to go before, lead the way” but which does not necessarily refer to rulers of worldly governments. Rather, it refers to those who “speak to you the Word of Yahweh”, as Paul says in verse 7. While Christians may at times be compelled to obey secular governments, which is part of the chastisement of Israel and for which Christ had said “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's”, Christ also said “and unto God the things that are God's.” So Christians organize themselves into assemblies and appoint leaders fitting for the responsibility, who should guide them by the Word of God. These are the presbyters, bishops and pastors which the assembly appoints for itself, to see not only to the weekly gatherings, but to all of the needs of the Christian community.
The assemblies of Christ were never intended to be governed over by any central authority, or by any secular authority. Those corruptions came about three hundred years after Christ, when the worldly governments realized that they could not extinguish the Christian flames, so they sought to use them for their own benefit. There is an essay at Christogenea entitled Misconceptions Concerning Paul and the Church which explains these aspects of Christian assembly and others, but which we do not have time to repeat here.
In this respect Paul concludes his epistle, except for the rather informative salutation which follows his conclusion:
18 Pray for us, for we have confidence that we have a good conscience, in all things wishing to conduct ourselves well. 19 And more exceedingly I encourage to do this, that more quickly I would be restored to you.
Here we learn that Paul’s intended recipients for this letter knew him personally, but even though it should be obvious that Paul had written this epistle, which beyond doubt is revealed in the salutation which follows, he never mentioned his own name, and never even indirectly revealed his identity until now.
Here it is also evident that this entire epistle was written by Paul as a defense against those accusations which were made of him by the Judaeans that were repeated by James in chapter 21 of the book of Acts. There Paul was told “Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: 21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.”
However this statement also reveals for us that this epistle was written to the Judaean Christians at Antioch, as Paul had described in his epistle to the Galatians how they were beset with Judaizers, and it is the Judaizers whom Paul expressly targets throughout this epistle, those who would seek their justification from the law, which is in itself a rejection of Christ.
As Paul wrote in Galatians chapter 2, he had confronted the apostles at Antioch who had been led astray by the Judaizers on the basis of “16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” This understanding reveals the entire basis and purpose of this epistle to the Hebrews, although Paul certainly must have had other recipients in mind, such as the group in Jerusalem who were with James.
So this passage informs us that Paul is under arrest, and it also must be noted that there is no mention of Rome or of his pending trials before Caesar. As we shall see, and contrary to popular but ignorant opinions, that is because Paul is not yet in Rome. However it is unlikely, while he was hoping to be released, that Paul wanted to be restored to Jerusalem. In 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 Paul expressed the understanding that Satan was seated in the temple of God, imagining himself to be God, which was a reference to the Edomite Jew high priests in Jerusalem, and shortly before writing this epistle he had written to the Romans that “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly”, referring to the impending destruction of Jerusalem itself. Now, after his arrest in Jerusalem and the knowledge that the Judaeans there sought to kill him, which Luke writes of in detail in the corresponding chapters of the Book of Acts, Paul is most likely hoping to be released to return to Antioch.
Next he prays for the intended recipients of his letter:
20 And Yahweh of peace, who led up the Great Shepherd of the sheep from among the dead, in the blood of the eternal covenant, our Prince Yahshua, 21 may He restore you in all good [C, 0285, and the MT have “in all good work”; A has “in every good work and word”; the text follows א and D, and P46 which varies slightly] for which to do His will,
The God of Israel is the God of peace “among approved men”, as the text of Luke 2:14 should properly be read: “Honor to Yahweh in the heights, and peace upon the earth among approved men.” The promise of Christ, as it says in the words of Zecharias which are recorded in Luke chapter 1, is “71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; [of which are the armies of the aliens that the ancients had at one time turned to flight] 72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, 74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, 75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.”
making [P46 has “Himself making”; א, A, and C have “with Himself making”; the text follows D, 0285, and the MT] in us [C has “in you”; the text follows P46, א, A, D, and 0285] that which is well pleasing before him, through Yahshua Christ to whom is honor for the ages. Truly.
When Christians turn to obedience to Christ, Yahweh God is their helper, and provides them with the things which are necessary so that He may employ them to do His will. One place where this is expressed is in Isaiah chapter 49, a Messianic prophecy to which all Christians should aspire: “3 And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. 4 Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God. 5 And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength. 6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Nations, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.”
22 Now I encourage you, brethren, uphold the Word of encouragement, for also in humbleness I have written to you.
The phrase διὰ βραχέων may mean “in few words”, as the King James Version has it here, but it may just as well mean “in humbleness” as it is rendered in our translation, which better seems to fit the context. Liddell & Scott explain the idiom in their Lexicon at the entry for βραχύς (3. and 4.), which is short, of size or of time, low, of stature, or humble or insignificant, of quality.
23 You know that Timotheos our brother [the MT has “the brother Timotheos”; the text follows P46, א, A, C, D, and 0285] has been released, with whom - if he would come sooner - I will see you.
And here we learn that Paul of Tarsus is indeed the author of this epistle to the Hebrews. As we may see in the Book of Acts, Timothy is with Paul and the others who were about to sail with him to Jerusalem, which is recorded in Acts chapter 20. There we read of Paul’ s departure from Greece and travel through Makedonia, and it says: “4 And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These going before tarried for us at Troas. 6 And we [meaning Luke and those who were with him in Philippi] sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.” From there the group sails to Miletus and on to Judaea, which Paul had wanted to reach in time for the Pentecost seven weeks later, and where Paul is eventually arrested.
But the accounts of Luke are written very concisely, and generally he only follows the central character, which in this case is Paul himself. Two years later, when Paul remained under arrest and was sent to Rome, we learn from Luke that Aristarchus is still with him, where we read in Acts chapter 27: “1 And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus' band. 2 And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.”
Now here it is evident, that Timothy was also arrested along with Paul and Aristarchus in Jerusalem. But in the end, as Paul is sent to Rome, it is apparently only himself, Luke and Aristarchus aboard the ship, as Luke mentioned Aristarchus but did not mention Timothy, who was a figure who was much more important to the conduct of Paul’s ministry. Perhaps Paul and Aristarchus both felt compelled to appeal to Caesar, as both were evidently Roman citizens, Aristarchus being a Makedonian, while those with Paul who were not Roman citizens were ultimately released. That may compel us to date this epistle to follow Paul’s speech before Herod Agrippa II, recorded in Acts chapter 26, although such an interpretation is not entirely necessary. Timothy’s release may also have happened as early as the original hearing before Felix (Acts 24), where Paul being a Roman citizen exercised his right not to surrender himself to the judgment of the Judaeans.
Furthermore, while Aristarchus is mentioned in the salutations in Paul’s prison letters written from Rome, Timothy is not there initially, but Paul summons him to come to him in a letter which we now know as 2 Timothy. Then after Timothy rejoins him voluntarily to visit with him in Rome, Paul writes his last few prison epistles from both himself and Timothy, thereby associating Timothy with him in his ministry. These letters are Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. While Aristarchus is mentioned in the salutations, and Paul calls him “my fellow prisoner”, Timothy was a free man and was released before Paul was sent to Rome, for which reason Paul later had to write to him and ask to see him. So this epistle to the Hebrews was written as Paul was under house arrest in Caesareia, because Timothy was released before Paul was sent to Rome, and probably nearer to the beginning of the two years which Paul had spent in bonds there.
With that in mind, the next verse leads many commentators to think that Paul wrote this epistle from Rome, however it does not say what they imagine it to say:
24 Greet all of your leaders, and all the saints. They from Italy greet you.
The King James Version has this sentence to read “They of Italy salute you”, as if Paul is in Italy as he writes. If this were the case, the genitive form of the noun would have been sufficient, or a different preposition such as in, they in Italy, with the dative form of the noun. But here the preposition is ἀπό, which means from or away from, far from, or apart from. It describes people who had come from Italy and had visited with Paul, and not people who were in Italy when Paul was writing. While Paul had never been in Rome, he had friends among the Romans. Priscilla and Aquila had spent considerable time with Paul on several occasions, and they were in Rome once again when he wrote his epistle to the Romans shortly before this epistle was written. So Paul is most certainly referring to friends who were visiting him from Rome. While he was under arrest in Caesareia, speaking of Felix the governor Luke wrote in Acts chapter 24 that “23... he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him.”
Thus Paul concludes his epistle with the encouragement that:
25 Favor is with you all.
The third century papyrus P46 has “Favor is with all”, the Codex Claromontanus (D) “Favor is with all of the saints”. The Codices Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C), Claromontanus (D), Coislinianus (H) and the Majority Text have ἀμήν, amen or Truly at the end of the verse; the text follows the third century papyrus P46, and the Codices Sinaiticus (א) and Freerianus (I).
In our opinion, the epistle to the Hebrews was the expression of Paul of Tarsus, but the eloquence of its Greek reveals that it was written by Luke. The epistle is an excellent work of inspired Christian literature, and is without fault in its interpretation of the Old Testament in the light of the incarnation of Yahshua the Messiah.
However it seems to have fallen on deaf ears, so to speak, as the Ebionite tradition which came to dominate Christian thought in Palestine and Syria in the centuries immediately after Christ had actually despised Paul of Tarsus. Among earlier Christian writers in the region, Justin Martyr does not even cite Paul’s epistles in any of his own writing, nor he was mentioned by Theophilus of Antioch who, contrary to the claims of some commentators, is not the Theophilus, or general “lover of God” to whom Luke addressed his other writings. It is said that Ignatius of Antioch was aware of Paul’s epistles, and he may have even known Paul, but some of his writings seem alien to those of Paul. Justin Martyr described the conflict over the laws of Moses which existed among the Christians of the east, in spite of what Paul had explained here in Hebrews. In the end, Paul’s ministry was far more successful in the West, among the scattered nations of Israel where it most evidently belonged.
This concludes our presentation of Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews, and the 104th podcast in our series of commentaries on the epistles of Paul.