Chrysostom He 700
700 He 4,11-16
lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick [i.e. living] and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to l the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight, but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”
[1.] Faith is indeed great and bringeth salvation, and without it, it is not possible ever to be saved. It suffices not however of itself to accomplish this, but there is need of a right conversation also. So that on this account Paul also exhorts those who had already been counted worthy of the mysteries; saying, “Let us labor to enter into that rest.” “Let us labor” (he says), Faith not sufficing, the life also ought to be added thereto, and our earnestness to be great; for truly there is need of much earnestness too, in order to go up into Heaven. For if they who suffered so great distress in the Wilderness, were not counted worthy of [the promised] land, and were not able to attain [that] land, because they murmured and because they committed fornication: how shall we be counted worthy of Heaven, if we live carelessly and indolently? We then have need of much earnestness.
And observe, the punishment does not extend to this only, the not entering in (for he said not, “Let us labor to enter into the rest,” lest we fail of so great blessings), but he added what most of all arouses men. What then is this? “Lest any man fall, after the same example of unbelief.” What means this? It means that we should have our mind, our hope, our expectation, yonder, lest we should fail. For that [otherwise] we shall fail, the example shows, “lest [&c.] after the same,” he says.
702 [2.] In the next place, lest hearing [the words] “after the same [example],” thou shouldest think that the punishment is the same, hear what he adds; “For the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and pierceth even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” In these words he shows that He, the Word of God, wrought the former things also, and lives, and has not been quenched.1
Do not then when hearing the Word, think of it lightly. For “He is sharper,” he says, “than a sword.” Observe His condescension; and hence consider why the prophets also needed to speak of saber2 and bow and sword.3 “If ye turn not,” it is said, “He will whet His sword, He hath bent His bow and made it ready.” (Ps 7,12). For if now, after so long a time, and after their being perfected,4 He cannot smite down by the name of the Word alone, but needs these expressions in order to show the superiority [arising] from the comparison [of the Gospel with the law]: much more then [of old].
“Piercing,” he says, “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit.” What is this? He hinted at something more fearful. Either that He divides the spirit from the soul, or that He pierces even through them disembodied, not as a sword through bodies only. Here he shows, that the soul also is punished, and that it thoroughly searches out the most inward things, piercing wholly through the whole man.
“And is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight.” In these words most of all he terrified them. For do not (he says) be confident if ye still stand fast in the Faith, but without full assurance. He judges the inner heart, for there He passes through, both punishing and searching out.
And why speak I of men? he says. For even if thou speak of Angels, of Archangels, of the Cherubim, of the Seraphim, even of any “creature” whatsoever: all things are laid open to that Eye, all things are clear and manifest; there is nothing able to escape it; “All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him, with whom we have to do.”
But what is “opened”5 ? [It is] a metaphor from the skins which are drawn off from the victims. For as in that case, when a man has killed them, and has drawn aside the skin from the flesh, he lays open all the inward parts, and makes them manifest to our eyes; so also do all things lie open before God. And observe, I pray thee, how he constantly needs bodily images ; which arose from the weakness of the hearers. For that they were weak, he made plain, when he said that they were “dull,” and “had need of milk, not of strong meat.” “All things are naked,” he says, “and opened unto the eyes of Him, with whom we have to do.” (c. 5,11, 5,12).
703 [3.] But what is, “after the same example of unbelief”? As if one should say, why did they of old not see the land? They had received an earnest of the power of God; they ought to have believed, but yielding too much to fear and imagining nothing great concerning God, and being faint-hearted,—so they perished. And there is also something more to be said, as, that after they had accomplished the most part of the journey, when they were at the very doors, at the haven itself, they were sunk into the sea. This I fear (he says) for you also. This is [the meaning of] “after the same example of unbelief.”
For that these also [to whom he is writing] had suffered much, he afterwards testifies, saying, “Call to mind the former days, in which after that ye had been enlightened, ye endured a great fight of afflictions.” (c. x. 32). Let no man then be faint-hearted, nor fall down near the end through weariness. For there are, there are those who at the beginning engage in the fight with the full vigor of zeal; but a little after, not being willing to add to all, they lose all. Your forefathers (he says) are sufficient to instruct you not to fall into the same [sins], not to suffer the same things which they suffered. This is, “After the same example of unbelief.” Let us not faint, he means (which he says also near the end [of the Epistle]. “Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees”): “lest any man,” he says, “fall after the same example.” (c. 12,12). For this is to fall indeed.
Then, lest when thou hearest, “any man fall after the same example,” thou shouldest conceive of the same death which they also underwent, see what he says: “For the Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword.” For the Word falls upon the souls of these [men] more severely than any sword, causing grievous wounds; and inflicts fatal blows. And of these things he need not give the proof, nor establish them by argument, having a history so fearful. For (he would say) what kind of war destroyed them? What sort of sword? Did they not fall simply of themselves? For let us not be careless because we have not suffered the same things. While “it is called. To-day,” it is in our power to recover ourselves.
For lest on hearing the things that belong to the soul we should grow negligent, he adds also what concerns the body. For then it is as a king, when his officers are guilty of some great fault, first strips them (say) of their command, and after depriving them of their belt, and their rank, and their herald,6 then punishes them: so also in this case the sword of the Spirit works.
704 [4.] Next he discourses of the Son, “with whom we have to do,” he says. What is “with whom we have to do”? To Him (he would say) we have to render account for the things we have done? Even so. How then [must we act] that we fall not, nor be faint-hearted?
These things indeed (he would say) are sufficient to instruct us. But we have also “a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.” Because he added [it], for this reason he went on, “For we have not an High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” Therefore he said above, “In that He hath suffered Himself being tempted, He is able to succor them which are tempted.” See then how here also he does the same. And what he says is to this effect: He went (he says) the road which we also [are going] now, or rather even a more rugged one. For He had experience of all human [sufferings].
(He had said above “There is no creature that is not manifest in His sight,” intimating His Godhead; then, since he had touched on the flesh, he again discourses more condescendingly, saying (He 4,14), “Having then a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens”: and shows that His care is greater and that He protects them as His own, and would not have them fall away. For Moses indeed (he says) did not enter into the rest, while He [Christ] did enter in. And it is wonder fill how he has nowhere stated the same, lest they might seem to find an excuse; he however implied it, but that he might not appear to bring an accusation against the man,7 he did not say it openly. For if, when none of these things had been said, they yet brought forward these [charges], saying, This man hath spoken against Moses and against the law (see (Ac 21,21 Ac 21,28); much more, if he had said, It is not Palestine but Heaven,8 would they have said stronger things than these.
705 [5.] But he attributes not all to the Priest, but requires also what is [to come] from us, I mean our profession. For “having,” he says, “a great High Priest, who is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession” [or “confession”9 ]. What sort of profession does he mean? That there is a Resurrection, that there is a retribution: that there are good things innumerable; that Christ is God, that the Faith is right. These things let us profess, these things let us hold fast. For that they are true, is manifest from the fact, that the High Priest is within. We have not failed of [our hopes], let us confess; although the realities are not present, yet let us confess: if already they were present they were but a lie. So that this also is true, that [our good things] are deferred. For our High Priest also is Great.
He 4,15.“For we have not an High Priest, who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” He is not (he means) ignorant of what concerns us, as many of the High Priests, who know not those in tribulations, nor that there is tribulation at any time. For in the case of men it is impossible that one should know the affliction of the afflicted who has not had experience, and gone through the actual sensations. Our High Priest endured all things. Therefore He endured first and then ascended, that He might be able to sympathize withus.
But was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Observe how both above he has used the word “in like manner,” 10 and here “after the likeness.” (c. 2,14). That is, He was persecuted, was spit upon, was accused, was mocked at, was falsely informed against, was driven out, at last was crucified.
“After our likeness, without sin.” In these words another thing also is suggested, that it is possible even for one in afflictions to go through them without sin. So that when he says also “in the likeness of flesh” (Rm 8,3), he means not that He took on Him [merely] “the likeness of flesh,” but “flesh.” Why then did he say “in the likeness”? Because he was speaking about“sinful flesh”: 11 for it was “like” our flesh, since in nature it was the same with us, but in sin no longer the same.
706 [6.] He 4,16. “Let us come then boldly [with confidence] unto the throne of His grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
What “throne of grace” is he speaking of? that royal throne concerning which it is said, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand.” (Ps 110,1).
What is “let us come boldly”? Because “we have a sinless High Priest” contending with the world. For, saith He, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16,33).; for, this is to suffer all things, and yet to be pure from sins. Although we (he means) are under sin, yet He is sinless.
How is it that we should “approach boldly”? Because now it is a throne of Grace, not a throne of Judgment. Therefore boldly, “that we may obtain mercy,” even such as we are seeking. For the affair is [one of] munificence, a royal largess.
“And may find grace to help in time of need [for help in due season].” He well said, “for help in time of need.” If thou approach now (he means) thou wilt receive both grace and mercy, for thou approachest “in due season”; but if thou approach then, 12 no longer [wilt thou receive it]. For then the approach is unseasonable, for it is not “then a throne of Grace.” Till that time He sitteth granting pardon, but when the end [is come], then He riseth up to judgment. For it is said, “Arise, O God, judge the earth.” (Ps 82,8). (“Let us come boldly,” or he says again having no “evil conscience,” that is, not being in doubt, for such an one cannot “come with boldness.”) On this account it is said, “I have heard thee in an accepted time and in a day of salvation have I succored thee.” (2Co 6,2). Since even now for those to find repentance who sin after baptism is of grace.
But lest when thou hearest of an High Priest, thou shouldst think that He standeth, he forthwith leads to the throne. 13 But a Priest doth not sit, but stands. Seest thou that [for Him] to be made High Priest, is not of nature, 14 but of grace and condescension, and humiliation?
This is it seasonable for us also now to say, “Let us draw near” asking “boldly”: let us only bring Faith and He gives all things. Now is the time of the gift; let no man despair of himself. Then [will be] the time of despairing, when the bride-chamber is shut, when the King is come in to see the guests, when they who shall be accounted worthy thereof, shall have received as their portion the Patriarch’s bosom: but now it is not as yet so. For still are the spectators assembled, still is the contest, still is the prize in suspense.
707 [7.] Let us then be earnest. For even Paul saith, “I so run not as uncertainly.” (1Co 9,26). There is need of running, and of running vehemently. He that runneth [a race] seeth none of those that meet him; whether he be passing through meadows, or through dry places: he that runneth looketh not at the spectators, but at the prize. Whether they be rich or whether they be poor, whether one mock at him, or praise him, whether one insult, or cast stones at him, or plunder his house, whether he see children, or wife, or anything whatever. He is occupied in one thing alone, in running, in gaining the prize. He that runneth, never standeth still, since even if he slacken a little, he has lost the whole. He that runneth, not only slackens nothing before the end, but then even especially straineth his speed.
This have I spoken for those who say; In our younger days we used discipline, 15 in our younger days we fasted, now we are grown old). Now most of all it behooves you to make your carefulness more intense. Do not count up to me the old things especially done well: be now youthful and vigorous. For he that runneth this bodily race, when gray hairs have overtaken him, probably is not able to run as he did before: for the whole contest depends on the body; but thou—wherefore dost thou lessen thy speed? For in this race there is need of a soul, a soul thoroughly awakened: and the soul is rather strengthened in old age; then it is in its full vigor, then is it in its pride.
For as the body, so long as it is oppressed by fevers and by one sickness after another, even if it be strong, is exhausted, but when it is freed from this attack, it recovers its proper force, so also the soul in youth is feverish, and is chiefly possessed by the love of glory, and luxurious living, and sensual lusts, and many other imaginations; but old age, when it comes on, drives away all these passions, some through satiety, some through philosophy. For old age relaxes the powers of the body, and does not permit the soul to make use of them even if it wish, but repressing them as enemies of various kinds, it sets her in a place free from troubles and produces a great calm, and brings in a greater fear.
For if none else does, it is said, yet they who are grown old know, that they are drawing to their end, and that they certainly stand near to death. When therefore the desires of this life are withdrawing, and the expectation of the judgment-seat is coming on, softening the stubbornness of the soul, does it not become more attentive, if one be willing?
708 [8.] What then (you allege) when we see old men more intractable than young ones? Thou tellest me of an excess of wickedness. For in the case of madmen too, we see them going over precipices, when no man pushes them. When therefore, an old man has the diseases of the young, this is an excess of wickedness; besides not even in youth would such an one have an excuse: since he is not able to say, “Remember not the sins of my youth, and my ignorances.” (Ps 25,7). For he who in old age remains the same, shows that even in youth, he was what he was not from ignorance, nor from inexperience, nor from the time of life, but from slothfulness. For that man may say, “Remember not the sins of my youth, and mine ignorances,” who does such things as become an old man, who changes in old age. But if even in age he continue the same unseemly courses, how can such an one be worthy of the name of an old man, who has no reverence even for the time of life? For he who says, “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my ignorances,” utters this, as one doing right in his old age. Do not then, by the deeds of age, deprive thyself also of pardon for the sins of youth.
For how can what is done be otherwise than unreasonable, and beyond pardon? An old man sits in taverns. An old man hurries to horse-races—an old man goes up into theaters, running with the crowd like children. Truly it is a shame and a mockery, to be adorned outside with gray hairs, but within to have the mind of a child.
And indeed if a young man insult [him], he immediately puts forward his gray hairs. Reverence them first thyself; if however thou dost not reverence thy own even when old, how canst thou demand of the young to reverence them? Thou dost not reverence the gray hairs, but puttest them to shame. God hath honored thee with whiteness of hairs: He hath given thee high dignity. Why dost thou betray the honor? How shall the young man reverence thee, when thou art more wanton than he? For the hoary head is then venerable, when it acts worthily of the gray head; but when it plays youth, it will be more ridiculous than the young. How then will you old men be able to give these exhortations to the young man when you are intoxicated by your disorderliness?
709 [9.] I say not these things as accusing the old, but the young. For in my judgment they who act thus even if they have come to their hundredth year, are young; just as the young if they be but little children, yet if they are sober-minded, are better than the old. And this doctrine is not my own, but Scripture 16 also recognizes the same distinction. “For,” it says, “honorable age is not that which standeth in length of time, and an unspotted life is old age.” (Sg 4,8-9).
For we honor the gray hair, not because we esteem the white color above the black, but because it is a proof of a virtuous life; and when we see them we conjecture therefrom the inward hoariness. But if men continue to do what is inconsistent with the hoary head, they will on that account become the more ridiculous. Since we also honor the Emperor, and the purple and the diadem, because they are symbols of his office. But if we should see him, with the purple, spitted on, trodden under foot by the guards, seized by the throat, cast into prison, torn to pieces, shall we then reverence the purple or the diadem, and not rather weep over the pomp itself? Claim not then to be honored for thy hoary head, when thou thyself wrongest it. For it ought indeed itself to receive satisfaction from thee, because thou bringest disgrace on a form so noble and so honorable.
We say not these things against all [old persons], nor is our discourse against old age simply (I am not so mad as that), but against a youthful spirit bringing dishonor on old age. Nor is it concerning those who are grown old that we sorrowfully say these things, but concerning those who disgrace the hoary head.
For the old man is a king, if you will, and more royal than he who wears the purple, if he master his passions, and keep them under subjection, in the rank of guards. But if he be dragged about and thrust down from his throne, and become a slave of the love of money, and vainglory, and personal adornment, and luxuriousness, and drunkenness, anger, and sensual pleasures, and has his hair dressed out with oil, and shows an age insulted by his way of life, of what punishment would not such an one be worthy?
710 [10.] But may ye not be such, O young men! for not even for you is there the excuse for sinning. Why so? Because it is possible to be old in youth: just as there are youths in old age, so also the reverse. For as in the one case the white hair saves no one, so in the other the black is no impediment. For if it is disgraceful for the old man to do these things of which I have spoken, much more than for the young man, yet still the young man is not freed from accusation. For a young man can have an excuse only, in case he is called to the management of affairs, when he is still inexperienced, when he needs time and practice; but no longer when it is necessary to display temperance and courage, nor yet when it is needful to keep his property.
For it sometimes happens that the young man is blamed more than the old. For the one needs much service, old age making him feeble: but the other being able, if he will, to provide for himself, what sort of excuse should he meet with,when he plunders more than the old, when he remembers injuries, when he is contemptuous, when he does not stand forward to protect others more than the old man, when he utters many things unseasonably, when he is insolent, when he reviles, when he is drunken?
And if in the [matter of] chastity he think that he cannot be impleaded, 17 consider that here also he has many helps, if he will. For although desire trouble him more violently than it doth the old, yet nevertheless there are many things which he can do more than an old man, and so charm that wild beast. What are these things? Labors, readings, watchings through the night, fastings.
711 [11.] What then are these things to us (one says) who are not monastics? Sayest thou this to me? Say it to Paul, when he says, “Watching with all perseverance and supplication” (Ep 6,18), when he says, “Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” (Rm 13,14). For surely he wrote not these things to solitaries only, but to all that are in cities. For ought the man who lives in the world to have any advantage over the solitary, save only the living with a wife? In this point he has allowance, but in others none, but it is his duty to do all things equally with the solitary.
Moreover the Beatitudes [pronounced] by Christ, were not addressed to solitaries only: since in that case the whole world would have perished, and we should be accusing God of cruelty. And if these beatitudes were spoken to solitaries only, and the secular person cannot fulfill them, yet He permitted marriage, then He has destroyed all men. For if it be not possible, with marriage, to perform the duties of solitaries, all things have perished and are destroyed, and the [functions] of virtue are shut up in a strait.
And, how can marriage be honorable, which so hinders us? What then? It is possible, yea very possible, even if we have wives, to pursue after virtue, if we will. How? If having “wives,” we “be as though we had none,” if we rejoice not over our “possessions,” if we “use the world as not abusing it.” (1Co 7,29 1Co 7,31).
And if any persons have been hindered by marriage state, let them know that marriage is not the hindrance, but their purpose which made an ill use of marriage. Since it is not wine which makes drunkenness, but the evil purpose, and the using it beyond due measure. Use marriage with moderation, and thou shall be first in the kingdom, and shalt enjoy all good things, which may we all attain by the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen).
1 [St. Chrys. here understands the lovgo" of the Second Person of the Trinity. It is now generally interpreted as a personification of the spoken or written word sent forth by Him.—F. G.]
4 meta; teleivwsin, i.e. by Baptism). [The meaning of teleivwsi" can hardly here be restricted to the baptism of the individual, but rather refers to the perfection of the means of salvation under the Gospel, which the Apostle so often expresses in this Epistle byteleivwsi".-F. G.]
6 Having a khvrux was a special mark of dignity, belonging to certain offices. See Mr. Field’s notes.
7 i.e. Moses.
8 There are two points of superiority over Moses implied in the words “that is passed into the Heavens.” 1. That Christ entered into the rest which He promised His people, while Moses did not. 2. That that rest is Heaven, not the earthly Canaan.
9 oJmologiva used of the Creed [and more generally of the profession of a Christian.—F. G.]).
11 The words of Rm 8,3, to which St. Chrys. alludes, are “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,” &c.
12 tovte, “at the Day of Judgment,” opposed to “now.” “in this life”; as ejkei`, “there,” “yonder,” is the usual expression for the future state, opposed to ejntau`qa, “here,” “in this world.”
13 “The throne of grace,” as he has said, is that of Christ, on which He sits at the right hand of the Father.
14 The Arians maintained that our Lord was Priest in His Divine Nature antecedent to the Incarnation. See the Oxford translation of St. Athanasius against Arianism p. 292, note m). [add p. 267. note l.; cf also S. Cyril, Book 3 against Nestorius]).
16 [hJ grafhv, the same form of quotation as in the case of the canonical Scriptures.—F. G.]
17 that is, if he have fallen into sin in this respect.
800 He 5,1-14
is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can have compassion on1 the ignorant and on them that are out of the way, for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity; and by reason hereof he ought, as for the people so also for himself to offer for sins.”
[1.] The blessed Paul wishes to show in the next place that this covenant is far better than the old. This then he does by first laying down remote considerations. For inasmuch as there was nothing bodily or that made a show,2 no temple for instance, nor Holy of Holies, nor Priest with so great apparel, no legal observances, but all things higher and more perfect, and there was nothing of bodily things, but all was in things spiritual, and things spiritual did not attract the weak, as things bodily; he thoroughly sifts this whole matter.
And observe his wisdom: he makes his beginning from the priest first, and continually calls Him an High Priest, and from this first [point] shows the difference [of the two Dispensations]. On this account he first of all defines what a Priest is, and shows whether He has any things proper to a Priest, and whether there are any signs of priesthood. It was however an objection in his way that He [Christ] was not even well-born, nor was He of the sacerdotal tribe, nor a priest on earth. How then was He a Priest? some one may say.
And just as in the Epistle to the Romans having taken up an argument of which they were not easily persuaded, that Faith effects that which the labor of the Law could not, nor the sweat of the daily life, he betook himself to the Patriarch and referred the whole [question] to that time: so now here also he opens out the other path of the Priesthood, showing its superiority from the things which happened before. And as, in [the matter of] punishment, he brings before them not Hell alone, but also what happened to their fathers,3 so now here also, he first establishes this position from things present. For it were right indeed that earthly things should be proved from heavenly, but when the hearers are weak, the opposite course is taken.
802 [2.] Up to a certain point he lays down first the things which are common [to Christ and their High Priests], and then shows that He is superior. For comparative4 excellence arises thus, when in some respects there is community, in others superiority; otherwise it is no longer comparative.
“For every High Priest taken from among men,” this is common to Christ; “is ordained for men in things pertaining to God,” and this also; “that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for the people,” and this too, [yet] not entirely: what follows however is no longer so: “who can have compassion5 on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way,” from this point forward is the superiority, “inasmuch as himself also is encompassed with infirmity; and by reason hereof he ought as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.”
Then also [there are] other [points]: He is made [Priest] (he says) by Another and does not of Himself intrude into [the office]. This too is common (He 5,4), “And no man taketh this honor to himself, but he that is called of God as was Aaron.”
Here again he conciliates6 them in another point, because He was sent from God: which Christ was wont to say throughout to the Jews. “He that sent Me is greater than I,” and, “I came not of Myself.” (Jn 12,49 Jn 14,28 Jn 8,42).
(He appears to me in these words also to hint at the priests of the Jews, as being no longer priests, [but] intruders and corrupters of the law of the priesthood; (He 5,5) “So Christ also glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest.”
How then was He appointed (one says)? For Aaron was many times appointed as by the Rod, and when the fire came down and destroyed those who wished to intrude into the priesthood. But in this instance, on the contrary, they [the Jewish Priests] not only suffered nothing, but even are in high esteem. Whence then [His appointment]? He shows it from the prophecy. He has nothing [to allege] perceptible by sense, nothing visible. For this cause he affirms it from prophecy, from things future; “But He that said unto Him Thou art My Son, to-day have I begotten Thee.” What has this to do with the Son? Yea (he says) it is a preparation for His being appointed by God).
He 5,6. “As He saith also in another place, Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedech.” Unto whom now was this spoken?
Who is “after the order of Melchisedech”? No other [than He]. For they all were under the Law, they all kept sabbaths, they all were circumcised; one could not point out any other [than Him].
803 [3.] He 5,7-8. “Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, to Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” Seest thou that he sets forth nothing else than His care and the exceeding greatness of His love? For what means the [expression] “with strong crying”? The Gospel nowhere says this, nor that He wept when He prayed, nor yet that He uttered a cry. Seest thou that it was a condescension? For he could not [merely] say that He prayed, but also “with strong crying.”
“And was heard,” (he says), “in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He, obedience by the things which He suffered.” (He 5,9-10), “And being made perfect He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him: called of God an High Priest after the order of Melchisedech.”
Be it with “crying,” why also “strong [crying] and tears”?
“Having offered,” (he says), “and having been heard in that He feared.” What sayest thou? Let the Heretics7 be ashamed. The Son of God “was heard in that He feared.” And what more could any man say concerning the prophets? And what sort of connection is there, in saying, “He was heard in that He feared, though He were Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered”? Would any man say these things concerning God? Why, who was ever so mad? And who, even if he were beside himself, would have uttered these things? “Having been heard,” (he says), “in that He feared, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” What obedience? He that before this had been obedient even unto death, as a Son to His Father, how did He afterwards learn? Seest thou that this is spoken concerning the Incarnation?
Tell me now, did He pray the Father that He might be saved from death? And was it for this cause that He was “exceeding sorrowful, and said, If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me”? (Mt 26,38-39). Yet He nowhere prayed the Father concerning His resurrection, but on the contrary He openly declares, “Destroy this temple and within three days I will raise it up.” (Jn 2,19). And, “I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again. No man taketh it from Me, I lay it down of Myself.” (Jn 10,18). What then is it; why did He pray? (And again He said, “Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death. And they shall deliver Him to the Gentiles, to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him; and the third day He shall rise again” (Mt 20,18-19), and said not, “My Father shall raise Me up again.”) How then did He pray concerning this? But for whom did He pray? For those who believed on Him.
And what he means is this, ‘He is readily listened to.’ For since the), had not yet the right opinion concerning Him, he said that He was heard. Just as He Himself also when consoling His disciples said, “If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice, because I go to My Father” (Jn 14,28), and “My Father is greater than I.” But how did He not glorify Himself, He who “made Himself of no reputation” (Ph 2,7), He who gave Himself up? For, it is said, “He gave Himself” up “for our sins.” (See Ga 1,4). And again, “Who gave Himself a ransom for us all.” (1Tm 2,6). What is it then? Thou seest that it is in reference to the flesh that lowly things are spoken concerning Himself: So also here, “Although He were Son, He was heard in that He feared,” it is said. He wishes to show, that the success was of Himself, rather than of God’s favor. So great (he says) was His reverence, that even on account thereof God had respect unto Him.
“He learned,” he saith, to obey God. Here again he shows how great is the gain of sufferings. “And having been made perfect,” he says, “He became the Author of salvation to them that obey Him.” (Cf. supra, pp. 384, 391). But if He, being the Son, gained obedience from His sufferings, much more shall we. Dost thou see how many things he discourses about obedience, that they might be persuaded to it? For it seems to me that they would not be restrained. “From the things,” he says, “which He suffered He” continually “learned” to obey God. And being “made perfect” through sufferings. This then is perfection, and by this means must we arrive at perfection. For not only was He Himself saved, but became to others also an abundant supply of salvation. For “being made perfect He became the Author of salvation to them that obey Him.”
804 [4.] “Being called,” he says, “of God an High Priest after the order of Melchisedech”: (He 5,11) “Of whom we have many things to say and hard to be uttered [or explained].” When he was about to proceed to the difference of the Priesthood, he first reproves them, pointing out both that such great condescension was “milk,” and that it was because they were children that hedwelt longer on the lowly subject, relating to the flesh, and speaks [about Him] as about any righteous man. And see, he neither kept silence as to the doctrine altogether, nor did he utter it; that on the one hand, he might raise their thoughts, and persuade them to be perfect, and that they might not be deprived of the great doctrines; and on the other, that he might not overwhelm their minds.
“Of whom,” he says, “we have many things to say and hard to be explained, seeing ye are dull of hearing.” Because they do not hear, the doctrine is “hard to be explained.” For when one has to do with men who do not go along with him nor mind the things that are spoken, he cannot well explain the subject to them.
But perhaps some one of you that stand here, is puzzled, and thinks it a hard case, that owing to the Hebrews, he himself is hindered from hearing the more perfect doctrines. Nay rather, I think that perhaps here also except a few, there are many such [as they], so that this may be said concerning yourselves also: but for the sake of those few I will speak.
Did he then keep entire silence, or did he resume the subject again in what follows; and do the same as in the Epistle to the Romans? For there too, when he had first stopped the mouths of the gainsayers, and said, “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” (Rm 9,20), he then subjoined the solution. And for my own part I think that he was not even altogether silent, and yet did not speak it out, in order to lead the hearers to a longing [for the knowledge]. For having mentioned [the subject], and said that certain great things were stored up in the doctrine, see how he frames his reproof in combination with panegyric.
For this is ever a part of Paul’s wisdom, to mix painful things with kind ones. Which he also does in the Epistle to the Galatians, saying, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you?” (Ga 5,7). And, “Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain” (Ga 3,4), and, “I have confidence in you in the Lord.” (Ga 5,10). Which he says also to these [Hebrews], “But we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompanysalvation.” (c. vi. 9). For these two things he effects, he does not overstrain them, nor suffer them to fall back; for if the examples of others are sufficient to arouse the hearer, and to lead him to emulation; when a man has himself for an example and is bidden to emulate himself, the possibility follows at the same time. He therefore shows this also, and does not suffer them to fall back as men utterly condemned, nor as being alway evil, but [says] that they were once even good; (He 5,12) for “when for the time ye ought to be teachers,” he says. Here he shows that they had been believers a long while, and he shows also that they ought to instruct others.
805 [5.] At all events observe him continually travailing to introduce the discourse concerning the High Priest, and still putting it off. For hear how he began: “Having a great High Priest that is passed into the heavens” (c. iv. 14); and omitting to say how He was great, he says again, “For every High Priest taken from among men, is appointed for men in things pertaining to God.” (c. 5,1). And again, “So Christ also glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest.” (c. 5,5) And again after saying, “Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedech” (c. 5,6), he again puts off [the subject], saying, “Who in the days of His Flesh offered prayers and supplications.” (c. 5,7). When therefore he had been so many times repulsed, he says, as if excusing himself, The blame is with you. Alas! how great a difference! When they ought to be teaching others, they are not even simply learners, but the last of learners. (He 5,12), “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one8 teach you again which be the first principles9 of the oracles of God.” Here he means the Human Nature [of Christ]. For as in external literature it is necessary to learn the elements first, so also here they were first taught concerning the human nature.
Thou seest what is the cause of his uttering lowly things. So Paul did to the Athenians also, discoursing and saying, “The times of this ignorance God winked at: but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, because He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained, whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.” (Ac 17,30-31). Therefore, if he says anything lofty, he expresses it briefly, while the lowly statements are scattered about in many parts of the Epistle. And thus too he shows the lofty; since the very lowliness [of what is said] forbids the suspicion that these things relate to the Divine Nature. So here also the safe ground was kept. 10
But what produces this dullness? This he pointed out especially in the Epistle to the Corinthians, saying, “For whereas there is among you envy and strife and divisions, are ye not carnal?” (1Co 3,3). But observe, I beseech you, his great wisdom, how he always deals according to the distempers before him. For there the weakness arose more from ignorance, or rather from sin; but here not from sins only, but also from continual afflictions. Wherefore he also uses expressions calculated to show the difference, not saying, “ye are become carnal,”but“dull”: in that case“carnal,” but in this the pain is greater. For they [the Corinthians] indeed were not able to endure [his reproof], because they were carnal: but these were able. For in saying, “Seeing ye are become dull of hearing” (c. 5,11), he shows that formerly they were sound in health, and were strong, fervent in zeal, which he also afterwards testifies respecting them.
806 [6.] “And are become such as have need of milk, not of strong meat.” He always calls the lowly doctrine “milk,” both in this place and in the other. “When,” he says, “for [i.e. “because of”] the time ye ought to be teachers”: because of that very thing, namely the time, for which ye ought especially to be strong, for this especially ye are become backsliding. Now he calls it “milk,” on account of its being suited to the more simple. But to the more perfect it is injurious, and the dwelling on these things is hurtful. So that it is not fitting that matters of the Law should be introduced 11 now or the comparison made from them, [such as] that He was an High Priest, and offered sacrifice, and needed crying and supplication. Wherefore see how these things are unhealthful 12 to “us”; but at that time they nourished them being by no means unhealthful to them.
(So then the oracles of God are true nourishment. “For I will give unto them,” he saith, “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but a famine of hearing the word of the Lord.” (Am 8,11).
“I gave you milk to drink, and not meat” (1Co 3,2); He did not say, I fed you, showing that such [nourishment] as this is not food, but that [the case is] like that of little children who cannot be fed with bread. For such have not drink given them, but their food is to them instead of drink.
Moreover he did not say, “ye have need,”but “ye are become such as have need of milkand not of strong meat.” That is, ye willed [it]; ye have reduced yourselves to this, to this need.
He 5,13. “For every one that partaketh of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.” What is “the Word [doctrine] of righteousness”? He seems to me here to hint at conduct also. That which Christ also said, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees” (Mt 5,20), this he says likewise, “unskilled in the word of righteousness,” that is, he that is unskilled in the philosophy that is above, is unable to embrace a perfect and exact life. 13 Or else by “righteousness” he here means Christ, and the high doctrine concerning Him.
That they then were“become dull,” he said; but from what cause, he did not add, leaving it to themselves to know it, and not wishing to make his discourse hard to bear. But in the case of the Galatians he both “marveled” (Ga 1,6) and “stood in doubt” (Ga 4,20), which tends much more to encourage, as [it is the language] of one who would never have expected that this should happen. For this is [what] the doubting [implies].
Thou seest that there is another infancy, Thou seest that there is another full age. 14 Let us become of “full age” in this sense: It is in the power even of those who are children, and the young to come to that “full age”: for it is not of nature, but of virtue.
807 [7.] He 5,14. “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age [perfect], even them who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Those had not “their senses exercised,” nor did they “know good and evil.” He is not speaking now concerning life [conduct], when he says “to discern good and evil,” for this is possible and easy for every man to know, but concerning doctrines that are wholesome and sublime, and those that are corrupted and low. The babe knows not how to distinguish bad and good food. Oftentimes at least it even puts dirt into its mouth, and takes what is hurtful; and it does all things without judgment; but not [so] the full grown man. Such [babes] are they who lightly listen to everything, and give up their ears indiscriminately: which seems to me to blame these [Hebrews] also, as being lightly “carried about,” and now giving themselves to these, now to those. Which he also hinted near the end [of the Epistle], saying, “Be not carried aside by divers and strange doctrines.” (c. 13,9). This is the meaning of “to discern good and evil.” “For the mouth tasteth meat, but the soul trieth words.” (Jb 34,3).
808 [8.] Let us then learn this lesson. Do not, when thou hearest that a man is not a Heathen nor a Jew, straightway believe him to be a Christian; but examine also into all the other points; for even Manichaeans, and all the heresies, have put on this mask, in order thus to deceive the more simple. But if we “have the senses” of the soul “exercised to discern both good and evil,” we are able to discern such [teachers].
But how do our “senses” become “exercised”? By continual hearing; by experience of the Scriptures. For when we set forth the error of those [Heretics], and thou hearest today and to-morrow; and provest that it is not right, thou hast learnt the whole, thou hast known the whole: and even if thou shouldest not comprehend to-day, thou wilt comprehend to-morrow.
“That have,” he says, their “senses exercised.” Thou seest that it is needful to exercise our hearing by divine studies, so that they may not sound strangely. “Exercised,” saith he, “for discerning,” that is, to be skilled.
One man says, that there is no Resurrection; and another looks for none of the things to come; another says there is a different God; another that He has His beginning from Mary. And see at once how they have all fallen away from want of moderation, 15 some by excess, others by defect. As for instance, the first Heresy of all was that of Marcion; this introduced another different God, who has no existence. 16 See the excess. After this that of Sabellius, saying that the Son and the Spirit and the Father are One. 17 Next that of Marcellus and Photinus, setting forth the same things. Moreover that of Paul of Samosata, saying that He had His beginning from Mary. Afterwards that of the Manichaeans; for this is the most modern of all. After these the heresy of Arius. And there are others too.
And on this account have we received the Faith, that we might not be compelled to attack innumerable heresies, and to deal with them, but whatever any man might have endeavored either to add or take away, that we might consider spurious. For as those who give the standards do not oblige [people] to busy themselves about measures innumerable, but bid them keep to what is given them; so also in the case of doctrines.
809 [9.] But no man is willing to give heed to the Scriptures. For if we did give heed, not only should we not be ourselves entangled by deceit, but we should also set others free who are deceived, and should draw them out of dangers. For the strong soldier is not only able to help himself, but also to protect his comrade, and to free him from the malice of the enemy. But as it is, some do not even know that there are any Scriptures. Yet the Holy Spirit indeed made so many wise provisions in order that they might be safely kept.
And look at it from the first, that ye may learn the unspeakable love of God. He inspired the blessed Moses; He engraved the tables, He detained him on the mount forty days; and again as many [more] to give the Law. And after this He sent prophets who suffered woes innumerable. War came on; they slew them all, they cut them to pieces, the books were burned. Again, He inspired another admirable man to publish them, Esd I mean, and caused them to be put together from the remains, And after this He arranged that they should be translated by the seventy. They did translate them. Christ came, He receives them; the Apostles disperse them among men. Christ wrought signs and wonders.
What then after so great painstaking? The Apostles also wrote, even as Paul likewise said, “they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (1Co 10,11). And again Christ said, “Ye do err not knowing the Scriptures” (Mt 22,29): and again Paul said, “That through patience and comfort of the Scriptures we may have hope.” (Rm 15,4). And again, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable.” (2Tm 3,16). And “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” (Col 3,16). And the prophet, “he shall meditate in His Law day and night” (Ps 1,2), and again in another place, “Let all thy communication be in the law of the Most High.” (Si 9,15). And again, “How sweet are Thy words unto my throat.” (He said not to my hearing, but to my “throat”); “more than honey and the honeycomb to my mouth.” (Ps 119,103). And Moses says, “Thou shalt meditate in them continually, when thou risest up, when thou sittest, when thou liest down.” (Dt 6,7). “Be in them” (1Tm 4,15), saith he. And innumerable things one might say concerning them. But notwithstanding, after so many things there are some who do not even know that there are Scriptures at all. For this cause, believe me, nothing sound, nothing profitable comes from us.
810 [10.] Yet, if any one wished to learn military affairs, of necessity he must learn the military laws. And if any one sought to learn navigation or carpentry or anything else, of necessity he must learn the [principles] of the art. But in this case they will not do anything of the kind, although this is a science which needs much wakeful attention. For that it too is an art which needs teaching, hear the prophet saying, “Come, ye children, hearken unto me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” (Ps 34,11). It follows therefore certainly that the fear of God needs teaching. Then he says, “What man is he that desireth life?” (Ps 34,12). He means the life yonder; and again, “Keep thy tongue from evil and thy lips from speaking guile; depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.” (Ps 34,13-14).
Do you know indeed who said these things, a prophet or a historian, or an apostle, or an evangelist? For my own part I do not think you do, except a few. Yea and these themselves again, if we bring forward a testimony from some other place, will be in the same case as the rest of you. For see, I repeat the same statement expressed in other words. “Wash ye, make you clean, put away your wickedness from your souls before Mine eyes, learn to do well, seek out judgment. Keep thy tongue from evil, and do good: learn to do well.” (Is 1,16-17). Thou seest that virtue needs to be taught? For this one says, “I will teach you the fear of the Lord,” and the other, “Learn to do well.”
Now then do you know where these words are? For myself I do not think you do, except a few. And yet every week these things are read to you twice or even three times: and the reader when he goes up [to the desk] first says whose the book is, [the book] of such a prophet, and then says what he says, so that it shall be more intelligible to you and you may not only know the contents of the Book, but also the reason of the writings, and who spake these things. But all in vain; all to no purpose. For your zeal is spent on things of this life, and of things spiritual no account is made. Therefore not even those matters turn out according to your wishes, but there also are many difficulties. For Christ says, “Seek ye the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt 6,33). These things He said, shall also be given in the way of addition: but we have inverted the order and seek the earth and the good things which are in the earth, as if those other [heavenly] things were to be given us in addition. Therefore we have neither the one nor the other. Let us then at last wake up and become coveters of the things which shall be hereafter; for so these also will follow. For it is not possible that he who seeks the things that relate to God, should not also attain human [blessings]. It is the declaration of the Truth itself which says this. Let us not then act otherwise, but let us hold fast to the counsel of Christ, lest we fail of all. But God is able to give you compunction and to make you better, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost be glory, power, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.
3 c. 3,7, &c.
4 hJ kata; suvgkrisin.
5 (St. Chrys. has not drawn attention to the nice distinction between metriopaqei;n equal “to bear reasonably with,” applied to the earthly High Priest, and sumpaqei;n equal “to sympathize with,” applied to Christ.—-F. G.]
7 Heretics who denied the reality of our Lord’s human nature).
8 tina. The common editions have tivna, “that one teach you which be,” &c., as is read in the received version of the Epistle, where Lachman adopts the reading tivna.
9 “the elements of the beginning.”
10 That is, he took care to provide against being understood to refer to His Divine Nature, when he said lowly things concerning Christ).
11 The allowing the observances of the law, as well as the dwelling thus on the human characteristics of our Lord, were suited for the beginners, but would be injurious to us.
12 prosivstatai. Said of that which cannot be digested or causes nausea.
13 a[kron kai; hjkribwmevnon.
15 ejx ajmetriva".
16 Cf. St. Irenaeus, 4,33. 2, p. 405, O. T.
17 e(n. The common texts add provsopon, “one person.”
Chrysostom He 700