Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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HEBREWS - Chapter 1

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Hebrews i.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. At different times,[1] and in many ways. The first word signifies that God revealed the incarnation of his Son, as it were, by parcels, and by degrees, at different times, and to different persons, to Adam, to Abraham, to Moses, to David, &c. The latter word expresseth the different ways and manners, as by angels, by immediate inspirations, and revelations, by types, figures, and ceremonies.[2] --- Last of all, by his Son, this true, natural, eternal Son, of whom we must always take notice, that being both true God, and true man, by the union of the divine and human nature to one and the same divine person, St. Paul speaks of him sometimes as God, sometimes mentions what applies to him as man, sometimes as our Redeemer, both God and man. This must necessarily happen in speaking of Christ; but when we find things that cannot be understood of one that is a pure or mere man only, or that cannot be true but of him, who is truly God, these are undeniable proofs against the errors of the Arians and Socinians. (Witham)

Ver. 2. Whom he hath appointed heir of all things. Heir is here not taken for one that succeeds another at his death, but for the same as Master or Lord. And though Christ be inseparably God and man, yet this applies to him, as man, because, as God, he was not constituted in time, but was always from eternity, Lord of all things, with the Father and the Holy Ghost: by whom also he made the world. That is, all created beings, and in such a manner, that all creatures were equally produced by the three divine persons. See John i. 3. and the annotations on that place. (Witham)

Ver. 3. Who being the spendour,[3] or brightness of his glory, not as beams or rays are derived from a lightsome body, but by a necessary and eternal communication of the same substance, and of the whole light; in which sense the council of Nice[Nicaea] understood the eternal Son of God to be light of light. This partly helps us to conceive the eternal generation of the Son from the Father, because the brightness is at the same time with the sun, though all comparisons fall short of this mystery. (Witham) --- We may here observe the two natures of Christ. As God, he is the Creator of all things; as man, he is constituted heir of the goods of God. Not content to possess the inheritance of his Father in his own person, he will have us as coheirs to share it also with him. May we so live as to hear one day that happy sentence: Come, ye blessed of my Father, &c. --- And the figure of his substance.[4] In the Greek is the character of his substance; which might be translated, the express image. There are different ways by which a thing may be said to be a figure or image of another: here it is taken for such a representation of the substance of the Father, that though the Father and the Son be distinct persons, and the Son proceed from the Father, yet he is such a figure and image, as to have the same nature and substance with the Father, as the Catholic Church always believed and declared against the ancient heretics, and particularly against the Arians. Their words may be partly seen in Petavius, lib. ii. de Trin. chap. 11.; lib. iv. chap. 6.; lib. vi. chap. 6., being too prolix for these short notes. And this may be understood by the following words concerning the Son: and upholding or preserving all things by the word of his power. As he had said before, that all things were made by him, so all things are preserved by him, equally with the Father. See Colossians i. 16, 17. See also ver. 10. of this chapter, and the annotations on John i. 3. (Witham) --- Figure. This does not exclude the reality. So Christ's body in the eucharist, and his mystical death in the mass, though called a figure, image, or representation of Christ's visible body and sacrifice upon the cross, yet may be and is the self-same substance. (Bristow) ---Sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high. This also may be taken to express the equality of the Son with the Father, if considered as God; but this sitting on the right hand of God, both here, in St. Mark, chap. xvi. and in the apostles' creed, express what agrees with Christ, as our Redeemer, God made man by his incarnation, and who as man is made the head of his Church, the judge of the living and of the dead; and so St. Stephen said, (Acts vii.) I see the heavens open, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God. (Witham)

Ver. 4. Being made so much better, &c. The Arians pretended from hence that Christ was made, or created. But the apostle speaks of Christ as man, and tells us that Christ, even as man, by his ascension was exalted above the Angels. --- As he hath inherited a more excellent name. That is, both the dignity and name of the Son of God, of his only Son, and of his true Son. See 1 John v. 20. (Witham)

Ver. 5. Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. These words, though commonly expounded of the eternal generation of the Son of God in the day or moment of eternity, yet may be truly applied either to Christ made man by his incarnation, or to Christ risen from the dead, as they are used by St. Paul, (Acts xiii. 33.) because the same Christ both these ways is the Son of God. It was the only true and natural Son of God, who was made flesh, who was made man, who rose from the dead; and the eternal Father manifested his eternal Son by his incarnation, and shewed him triumphing over death by his resurrection. --- I will be to him a father, &c. Although these words might be literally spoken of Solomon, yet in the mystical sense (chiefly intended by the Holy Ghost) they are to be understood of Christ, who in a much more proper sense is the Son of God. (Witham)

Ver. 6. Let all the Angels of God adore him. These words seem to be cited out of Psalm xcvi. 7., according to the Septuagint. And they seem to be an invitation, and a command to the Angels to adore Jesus Christ, when at the end of the world he shall come to judgment. This is one of the proofs which St. Paul here brings, to shew that the Angels are inferior to Christ, because they are commanded to adore him. (Witham) --- God shews the superiority of his divine Son over the Angels, in ordering the latter to adore him. Wherever the person of Christ is, there it ought to be adored by both men and Angels, therefore in the blessed sacrament [of the Eucharist].

Ver. 7. Maketh his Angels,[5] spirits: and his ministers, a flame of fire. St. Augustine, on Psalm ciii., and St. Gregory, hom. xxxiv. in Evang., would have the sense and construction of the words to be, who maketh the blessed spirits to be also his Angels, or messengers to announce and execute his will: (messengers and Angels signify the same in the Greek) Calvin and Beza by spirits, here understand the winds, as if the sense was only, who maketh the winds and flames of fire, that is, thunder and lightning, the messengers and instruments of his divine will, in regard of men, whom he punisheth. But this exposition agrees not with the rest of the text, nor with the design of St. Paul, which is to shew Christ above all the Angels, and above all creatures. St. Paul therefore is to be understood of Angels or angelic spirits: but then the sense may be, who maketh his Angels like the winds, or like a flame of fire, inasmuch as they execute his divine will with incredible swiftness, like the winds, and with a force and activity not unlike that of fire. (Witham)

Ver. 8-9. But to the Son. That is, to his Son Jesus Christ, he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, and lasts for eternity. --- A sceptre, or rod of equity, is the sceptre of thy kingdom. That is, O Christ, God and man, head of thy Church, judge of all mankind, thou shalt reward and punish all under thee with justice and equity, as thou hast loved justice, and hated iniquity: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee. Many here understand God first named, to be in the vocative case, and that the sense is: therefore thee, O God, thy God, hath anointed: thus Christ is called God. Others take God in both places to be in the nominative case, and to be only a repetition of God the Father; and the sense to be, thee Christ, God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above them that are partakers with thee: by which spiritual unction, some understand graces infused into Christ's soul at his incarnation, by a greater plenitude of graces than was ever given to any saints whom he made partakers of his glory in heaven; others expound it of an unction of greater glory given to Christ in heaven as man, because by his sufferings and merits he had destroyed and triumphed over sin. See Estius, Cornelius a Lapide, &c. (Witham)

Ver. 10, &c. And again: thou in the beginning, O Lord, hast founded the earth, &c. The text, as well as the authority of interpreters, shew these words to be still spoken of the Son of God, of Christ, who was both true God and man. And though part of Psalm ci., from which these words are taken, contain a prayer to God for the restoring of the city of Jerusalem, yet in this psalm is chiefly signified the glory of Christ, and of his Church, which will be spread over all nations. See St. Chrysostom, Estius, Cornelius a Lapide, &c. --- As a vesture shalt thou change them, &c. The apostle, in the second verse of this chapter, had said that the world was made by the Son of God: now he tells us that all created things shall wax old like a garment, shall decay and perish, (at least from their present state and condition) shall be changed; but thou, who art both God and man, art always the same, without decay or change. (Witham) --- The apostle here applies the work of the creation to the Son of God, and thus furnishes a clear and striking proof of his divinity, against the Unitarians. To elude this proof, some of them pretend that these verses have been fraudulently added; but they are found in all the Greek copies, and in all ancient versions of this epistle. Others try to give forced interpretations to these verses, but the words are convincingly clear to all who do not purposely shut their eyes.

Ver. 13-14. Sit on my right hand, &c. The ancient Jews themselves understood this 109th psalm of their Messias, nor could they answer Christ's words, (Matthew xxii. 45.) when he shewed them by these same words, that their Messias was not only the Son of David, but also the Lord of David, of whom it was said: the Lord said to my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool. See also 1 Corinthians xv. 25. and in this epistle, Chap. x. 13. --- Are they not all ministering spirits? &c. The apostle, in this chapter, not only shews how much the dignity of Christ is superior to that of the highest Angels, but also his divinity; and that he is both true God and true man, as the ancient Fathers took notice against the Arians. (Witham) --- The holy Angels, says St. Augustine, to whose society we aspire, help us without difficulty, because their notion is pure and free. (De Civit. lib. 11. chap. xxxi.) Having then Jesus Christ for our advocate and mediator at the right hand of God, and his Angels for our guardians, ministering spirits, what can we wish for more?

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[1] Ver. 1. Multifariam, polumeros; which signifies, that God revealed the coming of his Son as it were by parts and parcels, or by degrees, first revealing some things and then others.

[2] Ver. 1. NovissimŔep echatou, which reading Dr. Wells prefers before that in the ordinary Greek copies, which have ep echaton ton emeron, followed by the Protestant translation and Mr. N.

[3] Ver. 3. Splendor gloriŠ, apaugasma, refulgentia, effulgentia, &c.

[4] Ver. 3. Figura substantiŠ, charakter tes upostaseos. Hypostasis signifies persona, subsistentia, and also substantia.

[5] Ver. 7. O poion tous Aggelous autou pneumata, not ta pneumata, the Greek article being put before Angels, and not before spirits, may seem to favour that exposition, which compares Angels to the winds and to a flame of fire.


Bible Text & Cross-references:

God spoke of old by the prophets, but now by his Son, who is incomparably greater than the Angels.

1 God having spoken at different times and in many ways, in times past, to the fathers, by the prophets: last of all,

2 In these days hath spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world:

3 *Who being the splendour of his glory, and the figure of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, making purgation of sins, sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high:

4 Being made so much better than the Angels, as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they.

5 For, to which of the Angels hath he said at any time: *Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again: *I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?

6 And again, when he introduceth the first begotten into the world, he saith: *And let all the Angels of God adore him.

7 And to the Angels indeed he saith: *He that maketh his Angels, spirits: and his ministers, a flame of fire.

8 But to the Son: *Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of justice is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

9 Thou hast loved justice, and hated iniquity: therefore, God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy partners.

10 And: *Thou in the beginning, O Lord, hast found the earth: and the heavens are the works of thy hands.

11 They shall perish, but thou shalt continue: and they shall all grow old as a garment:

12 And as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the self-same, and thy years shall not fail.

13 But to which of the Angels said he at any time: *Sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool?

14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for those, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?

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*

3: Wisdom vii. 26.

5: Psalm ii. 7. --- ** 2 Kings vii. 14.

6: Psalm xcvi. 7.

7: Psalm ciii. 4.

8: Psalm xliv. 7.

10: Psalm ci. 26.

13: Psalm cix. 1.; 1 Corinthians i. 25.