Friday, July 29, 2005

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Hebrews

The latest book in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series recently came out, the volume on Hebrews, and I received my copy today. It's edited by Erik M. Heen and Philip D.W. Krey, both from Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The section quoting the fathers is 239 pages long, and a larger number of patristic sources is included than in some previous volumes. The index cites 51 patristic sources. They find some reflections of Hebrews in some of the earliest fathers, including Clement of Rome and Ignatius. Here are some excerpts.

Jerome on Hebrews 1:2 (from his Homilies on the Psalms, Alternate Series 66 [Psalm 88]):

"He, who first spoke through patriarchs and prophets, afterwards spoke in his own person. As the Song of Songs says, 'that he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.' He is saying, therefore, 'Now, in my own person, I speak of him of whom I spoke through the prophets.' The world could not hear him in his thundering, but may it hear him, at least, in his crying." (Erik M. Heen and Philip D.W. Krey, editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament X: Hebrews [Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2005], p. 9)

Theodore of Mopsuestia on Hebrews 1:3 (from his Fragments on the Epistle to the Hebrews 1.2-3):

"'Who, being the radiance of glory and the exact representation of his substance.' Quite appropriately he does not say 'God' but 'glory.' In this way he does not allow us to meddle in the things of that nature when we are thunderstruck by his name, since of course the only 'glory' worth mentioning is God's nature. Paul uses the analogy of 'radiance' for that which he deemed most essential, and by the next phrase he explicates the point of the analogy. For he says that Christ preserves an accurate representation of God's nature, so that whatever you would think God's nature to be, so you must also think Christ's nature to be, inasmuch as Christ's nature bears the accurate representation of God's nature since Christ's nature does not differ from God's in the least." (p. 10)

Augustine on Hebrews 4:12-13 (from his City of God 20.21):

"He did not come 'to bring peace on earth...but a sword,' and Scripture calls the Word of God a 'two-edged sword' because of the two Testaments." (p. 62)

Photius on Hebrews 10:3-11 (from his Fragments on the Epistle to the Hebrews 10.11):

"He calls them 'the same sacrifices' because they are always being offered for the same things, since those sacrifices and offerings which have taken place and are taking place are not strong enough to strip away any sin purely and completely." (p. 156)

Augustine on Hebrews 11:1-3 (from his Sermon 126.3):

"If they are not seen, how can you be convinced that they exist? Well, where do these things that you see come from, if not from one whom you cannot see? Yes, of course you see something in order to believe something, and from what you can see to believe what you cannot see. Please do not be ungrateful to the one who made you able to see; this is why you are able to believe what you are not yet able to see. God gave you eyes in your head, reason in your heart. Arouse the reason in your heart, get the inner inhabitant behind your inner eyes on his feet, let him take to his windows, let him inspect God's creation." (p. 174)

Oecumenius on Hebrews 12:7-10 (from his Fragments on the Epistle to the Hebrews 12.9):

"For human fathers do not always prevail to discipline us so that they can render us perfect, but God always disciplines us and makes us perfect. For the process of discipline stops when the father dies or the child comes of age." (p. 215)