Father Boylan’s Commentary on Hebrews 12:14-24

Text in red are my additions.

Heb 12:14  Follow after peace with all, and after holiness — without which no one shall see the Lord, 
Heb 12:15  taking care that no one hold himself far from the grace of God, that no root of bitterness shoot forth and cause trouble, and the many be tainted thereby;
Heb 12:16  that no one be an adulterer or a common fellow like Esau, who gave up his birthright for a single meal. 
Heb 12:17  For ye know that afterwards, when he wished to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for rescinding, though he sought with tears.
Heb 12:18  For ye have not approached unto a mountain which one may touch, and which burns With fire, unto mist and darkness, and storm-wind, 
Heb 12:19  unto the clang of trumpets, and the sound of words — whereat the listeners prayed ‘that no word more be
spoken to them, 

Heb 12:20  for they endured not the command: ‘If even a beast touch ‘the mountain, let it be stoned;’ 
Heb 12:21  and — so dreadful was that which appeared — Moses said: ‘I am full of fear and trouble.’

Peace with all Christians is to be sought. Holiness is the true ideal of the Christian life. Not one of the brethren can be suffered to go astray. Such a one might become a root of bitterness, i.e. a source of infection, for the rest. No one of the brethren must be permitted to turn away from God, for such a one would then become an ‘adulterer’ in the Old Testament sense (one who turns aside from the service of God), and would sell his birthright of Christian nobility for ‘the passing , advantage of escaping the troubles pf the Christian life. A sinner of that kind would become, in the end, like Esau, and would have to share in Esau’s bitter and hopeless regrets.

A βέβηλος (bebēlos in verse 16) is one who thinks only of common, or material, advantages — one
who is unspiritual, godless, worldly The word basically denotes one who steps over a threshold. The word came to be used pejoratively to designate a Jew who dare enter a pagan temple or household, thereby entering the profane. A πορνος (pornos, verse 16) is one who sells himself for money unto evil things. πορνος (pornos) is derived from πέρνημι (pernēmi), to sell or traffic in goods.

Esau found no means of rescinding the affair, i, e., the decree of his own rejection. μετανοιας (mentanoias, verse 17), is not here necessarily ethical conversion. The meaning may be that Esau could not induce his father to chatige his mind. There is no suggestion that God rejected a repentance of Esau.

The Old Testament was giyen in circumstances of dread and fear (cf. Ex 19:16—19; Deut 4:1 ff.; 5:22 ff) Not so the New. On the one side is terror and tumult: on the other rest and peace. The words of the people praying that they might no more have to listen to the actual voice of God are in Deut. 5:22. The saying here attributed to, Moses, is not to be found in Scripture. The author must have derived it from tradition.

Heb 12:22  But ye have approached unto Mt. Sion, and the City of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to the myriads of angels, a festive throng, 
Heb 12:23  to the community of the first-born who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of the perfect just, 
Heb 12:24  and to the Mediator of the New Testament, and to that Blood of Sprinkling which speaketh better than Abel.

Mt. Sion is thought of as the permanent dwelling of God, and as the source whence comes every blessing for Israel. The writer speaks here, however, of the heavenly Sion — of which Jerusalem is a symbol. The ‘community of the first-born’ –the men of the New testament community — who have the right of primogeniture as compared with the rest of men. Even though they are not yet in heaven their names are inscribed there. ‘Judge’ means here rather one that rescues and rules than one that condemns and punishes. Note that the New Testament is here Called νεας (neos) aud not as usual καινός (kainos): it is a covenant that has taken the place of the Old Testament. The word καινός (kainos) used in passages such as Heb 8:13 tends to emphasize the quality of a thing in comparison to something worn out or obsolete. νεας (neos) tends to emphasize the idea of replacement as primary.  The glory of the New Testament suggested here and in the following verses appears as a motive for not falling away from it. The blood of Christ calls for mercy: that of Abel for vengeance.

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One Response to Father Boylan’s Commentary on Hebrews 12:14-24

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C | stjoeofoblog

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