The Holy See
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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 5


1 2 Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.


He is able to deal patiently 3 with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness


and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people.


No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.


In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: "You are my son; this day I have begotten you";


just as he says in another place: 4 "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."


In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, 5 and he was heard because of his reverence.


Son though he was, 6 he learned obedience from what he suffered;


and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,


declared by God high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.


7 About this we have much to say, and it is difficult to explain, for you have become sluggish in hearing.


Although you should be teachers by this time, you need to have someone teach you again the basic elements of the utterances of God. You need milk, (and) not solid food.


Everyone who lives on milk lacks experience of the word of righteousness, for he is a child.


But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties are trained by practice to discern good and evil.



1 [1-10] The true humanity of Jesus (see the note on Hebrews 2:5-18) makes him a more rather than a less effective high priest to the Christian community. In Old Testament tradition, the high priest was identified with the people, guilty of personal sin just as they were ( Hebrews 5:1-3). Even so, the office was of divine appointment ( Hebrews 5:4), as was also the case with the sinless Christ ( Hebrews 5:5). For Hebrews 5:6, see the note on Psalm 110:4. Although Jesus was Son of God, he was destined as a human being to learn obedience by accepting the suffering he had to endure ( Hebrews 5:8). Because of his perfection through this experience of human suffering, he is the cause of salvation for all ( Hebrews 5:9), a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek ( Hebrews 5:10; cf Hebrews 5:6 and Hebrews 7:3).

2 [1] To offer gifts and sacrifices for sins: the author is thinking principally of the Day of Atonement rite, as is clear from Hebrews 9:7. This ritual was celebrated to atone for "all the sins of the Israelites" ( Lev 16:34).

3 [2] Deal patiently: the Greek word metriopathein occurs only here in the Bible; this term was used by the Stoics to designate the golden mean between excess and defect of passion. Here it means rather the ability to sympathize.

4 [6-8] The author of Hebrews is the only New Testament writer to cite Psalm 110:4, here and in Hebrews 7:17, 21, to show that Jesus has been called by God to his role as priest. Hebrews 5:7-8 deal with his ability to sympathize with sinners, because of his own experience of the trials and weakness of human nature, especially fear of death. In his present exalted state, weakness is foreign to him, but he understands what we suffer because of his previous earthly experience.

5 [7] He offered prayers . . . to the one who was able to save him from death: at Gethsemane (cf Mark 14:35), though some see a broader reference (see the note on John 12:27).

6 [8] Son though he was: two different though not incompatible views of Jesus' sonship coexist in Hebrews, one associating it with his exaltation, the other with his preexistence. The former view is the older one (cf Romans 1:4).

7 [ 5:11- 6:20] The central section of Hebrews ( 5:11- 10:39) opens with a reprimand and an appeal. Those to whom the author directs his teaching about Jesus' priesthood, which is difficult to explain, have become sluggish in hearing and forgetful of even the basic elements ( Hebrews 5:12). But rather than treating of basic teachings, the author apparently believes that the challenge of more advanced ones may shake them out of their inertia (therefore, Hebrews 6:1). The six examples of basic teaching in Hebrews 6:1-3 are probably derived from a traditional catechetical list. No effort is made to address apostates, for their very hostility to the Christian message cuts them off completely from Christ ( Hebrews 6:4-8). This harsh statement seems to rule out repentance after apostasy, but perhaps the author deliberately uses hyperbole in order to stress the seriousness of abandoning Christ. With Hebrews 6:9 a milder tone is introduced, and the criticism of the community ( Hebrews 6:1-3, 9) is now balanced by an expression of confidence that its members are living truly Christian lives, and that God will justly reward their efforts ( Hebrews 6:10). The author is concerned especially about their persevering ( Hebrews 6:11-12), citing in this regard the achievement of Abraham, who relied on God's promise and on God's oath ( Hebrews 6:13-18; cf Genesis 22:16), and proposes to them as a firm anchor of Christian hope the high priesthood of Christ, who is now living with God ( Hebrews 6:19-20).

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