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Bible Commentaries

Bengel's Gnomon of the New TestamentBengel's Gnomon

- Hebrews

by Johann Albrecht Bengel


MANY anonymous writers, though unknown, endeavour to be useful to their readers; but the writer of this Divine Epistle shows, that he was known to those to whom he writes: Hebrews 13:19 . And the Apostle Paul is said to be the writer of the epistle, with the general consent of antiquity. Above all, Peter, writing to the elect strangers scattered through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, praises the letters of Paul, which he wrote to them also. But the other epistles of Paul were sent to Gentile converts; this one alone to the Hebrews , although he himself does not call them Hebrews; and in the title, no doubt old, but not prefixed by the hand of Paul, they are with less propriety called Hebrews , instead of Judaico-Hellenistic Christians , to whom we have observed below that he wrote, Hebrews 6:10 . Moreover the method and style of Paul may be easily recognised: for he puts the proposition and division before the discussion, Hebrews 2:17 . He distinctly and separately subjoins the practical to the doctrinal part: he puts the practical part at greater length at the end of the epistle. He quotes the same words of the Old Testament which he does elsewhere, ch. Hebrews 2:8 , Hebrews 10:30 ; Hebrews 10:38 ; also, Hebrews 1:6 : he uses the same ideas and expressions. See note on Hebrews 1:3 ; Hebrews 1:6 ; Hebrews 2:2 ; Hebrews 2:5 ; Hebrews 2:8-10 ; Hebrews 2:14-15 ; Hebrews 3:1 ; Hebrews 3:6 ; Hebrews 3:12 ; Hebrews 3:16 ; Hebrews 4:9 ; Hebrews 4:16 ; Hebrews 5:6 ; Hebrews 5:11 , etc.; Hebrews 6:1 ; Hebrews 6:9-12 ; Hebrews 7:2 ; Hebrews 7:5 ; Hebrews 7:18-19 ; Hebrews 7:22 ; Hebrews 7:25-26 ; Hebrews 7:28 ; Hebrews 8:1 ; Hebrews 8:6 ; Hebrews 8:11 ; Hebrews 8:13 ; Hebrews 9:1 ; Hebrews 9:10-11 ; Hebrews 9:15 ; Hebrews 9:28 ; Hebrews 10:5 ; Hebrews 10:39 ; Hebrews 11:7 ; Hebrews 11:11 ; Hebrews 11:13 ; Hebrews 11:19 ; Hebrews 11:35 ; Hebrews 11:37 ; Hebrews 12:1 ; Hebrews 12:4 ; Hebrews 12:10 ; Hebrews 12:12 ; Hebrews 12:22-23 ; Hebrews 12:27 ; Hebrews 13:1 ; Hebrews 13:5 ; Hebrews 13:9-10 ; Hebrews 13:14 ; Hebrews 13:18 ; Hebrews 13:20-21 ; Hebrews 13:23 ; Hebrews 13:25 . In former times, some thought that Barnabas , or Luke , or Clemens Romanus was the author: in fact, because every one of them had this epistle without the author’s name in his hands, each of them was considered as the author himself. But why did not Paul prefix to this one epistle his name, which, from ch. Hebrews 13:19 , was evidently dear to those to whom he was writing? He did not prefix it, because he did not use an inscription; for men in former times did not always use it in accordance with primitive simplicity. Comp. 2 Kings 5:6 ; 2 Kings 10:2 ; 2 Kings 10:6 , where the word לאמר , placed before them, scarcely permits us to believe that excerpts are given rather than the epistles themselves. And also the ardour of spirit in this epistle, alike as in the First Epistle of John, bursting forth at once into the subject, the more effectively strikes the hearers; but he compensates at the conclusion of the epistle for the absence of salutation and thanksgiving, which were usually placed by Paul at the beginning of the other epistles. This epistle of Paul, and the two of Peter (to which may be added those of James and Jude, which are very similar), were written to the same believing Israelites, scattered abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, and much about the same time. Three years before the destruction of Jerusalem, Paul and Peter were put to death at Rome; therefore this epistle was also written to them when the temple was standing, ch. Hebrews 8:5 . Peter wrote both of his epistles a little before his martyrdom; and in the second, praises the epistles of Paul this one by name (expressly), which was then new (recently sent), many of the first hearers of the Lord being by this time dead; Hebrews 2:3 .

As Peter, James, Jude, wrote in Greek, not in Hebrew, so Paul did the same here; for he quotes the Greek translation of Moses and the Psalms, where the reading is different from that of the Hebrew, ch. Hebrews 1:6 , Hebrews 10:5 . He comprehends in one Greek word, κατάπαυσις , the meaning of the two Hebrew words, שבת and מניחה , ch. Hebrews 4:4-5 . He translates the Hebrew words into Greek, ch. Hebrews 7:2 ; and insists upon the proper idea attached to the Greek word διαθήκη , ch. Hebrews 9:16 .

The whole application of the discourse is, to confirm the faith of the brethren in Jesus Christ, ch. Hebrews 13:8-9 . Moreover, he confirms it, by demonstrating His glory . He calls this the sum (the principal point), ch. Hebrews 8:1 . Hence all the divisions of the epistle, abounding in the sharpest admonitions, and the most powerful incitements, are set forth in one and the same form of discourse; and doctrine and practice are everywhere connected by the word, therefore .

This is the SUM:

The glory of Jesus Christ shines forth

I. From a previous comparison with the Prophets and Angels, Hebrews 1:1-14 ;

Therefore we ought to give heed to what He says, Hebrews 2:1-4 .

II. [His glory shines forth] principally from a comparison of His suffering and His consummation. We must here observe

1. The proposition and sum from Psalms 8:5-9 .

2. The discussion: We have the Author of salvation and glory perfected [ consummated ]; who suffered first for our sakes, that He might become (1) a Merciful, and (2) Faithful (3) High Priest, 10 18. These three things are one by one explained, being most suitably from time to time interwoven with His passion and His consummation.

A. He has the virtues of the priesthood:

I. He is faithful:

Therefore be ye not unfaithful. Hebrews 3:1-2 ; Hebrews 3:7 Hebrews 4:13 .

II. He is merciful:

Therefore let us draw near with confidence, Hebrews 4:14 ; Hebrews 5:3 .

B. He is called of God a priest. Here

I. The sum (of His priesthood) is set forth from Psalms 2, 110, and from His actual performance of the duties of the office, Hebrews 5:4-10 ;

And hence the hearers are summarily roused to action, Heb 5:2 to Hebrews 6:20 .

II. The fact itself is copiously

(1.) Explained. He is to us

α . A great High Priest,

I. Such as Psalms 110:0 describes;

1. According to the order of Melchisedek, Hebrews 7:1-19 :

2. With an oath, Hebrews 7:20-22 :

3. For ever, Hebrews 7:23-24 ; Hebrews 7:26-28 .

II. And therefore peculiarly excellent;

1. A Heavenly Priest, Hebrews 8:1-6 :

2. And that of the New Covenant or Testament, Hebrews 8:7-13 .

β . The entrance into the Sanctuary, Heb 9:1 to Hebrews 10:18 .

(2.) It is turned to a practical exhortation. Therefore

I. Evince your faith, hope, love, Hebrews 10:19-39 .

These three things are urged more at large:

(a) Faith with persevering endurance, which is to be exercised according to the example of the old saints, Hebrews 11:1-40 ; Hebrews 12:1 : And of Jesus Himself, 2, 3; And it ought to be exercised, Heb 12:4-11 Cheerfully, peacefully, holily, Hebrews 12:12-17 .

(b). Hope,Hebrews 12:18-29; Hebrews 12:18-29 .

(c). Love, Hebrews 13:1-6 .

II. For improvement in these graces, call to remembrance your former ministers, Hebrews 13:7-16 :

And make use of the watchfulness of your present ministers, Hebrews 13:17-19 .

The prayer, the doxology, and the calm conclusion are suitable to this paragraph, and to the whole epistle, Hebrews 13:20-25 .

The addresses to those to whom he writes for example, Brethren are not inconsiderately used, but indicate either a new division of the epistle, or an outburst of affection. Therefore the apostle for the first time addresses them in ch. Hebrews 3:1 ; Hebrews 3:12 : and says, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling , and simply, brethren: and so again not until ch. Hebrews 10:19 . For two principal and special exhortations begin at these passages. Besides, he calls them brethren at the Conclusion, ch. Hebrews 13:22 ; and beloved , after that sharp admonition, ch. Hebrews 6:9 . He who will weigh well, in this Synopsis of the epistle, these addresses, and the Divisions marked by them, ch. Hebrews 2:17 , Heb 10:19-21 the one of which is followed immediately by its own discussion in the text, whilst the other is preceded by it, and also the particle therefore , will readily perceive that this very Synopsis is not a thing of our invention, but is drawn from the epistle itself; and he will derive profit from it.

In the same Synopsis we have noticed some comparisons; but the epistle itself has many more, which, however, may be generally referred to two heads. I. There are great prophets, angels, Moses, Joshua, Aaron, etc.; but Jesus infinitely greater. The opinion of the old Hebrews is, King Messias is greater than Abraham and the patriarchs, than Moses and the ministering angels . This opinion is quoted in this connection by Schoettgenius, whose ‘Horæ’ on this epistle is an especially profitable work. II. The condition of the ancient believers was good, but the condition of Christians is better; and this second fact is chiefly treated of in ch. 11. But everywhere bad and wretched examples also are interspersed among those that are good and blessed. We find, then, in this epistle the recapitulation of the whole of the Old Testament, and at the same time the setting aside of Judaism as obsolete, and the promulgation of the New Testament carried to its ἀκμὴ and utmost height, at the very boundary of the fourth and fifth thousandth year. See Ord. temp., p. 288. [Ed. 2., p. 247, 248.]

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