Lectionary Year B
April 9, 2000
Hebrews 5:5-10

Step III: Composition

5:1-4 - Probably the extent of the previous pericope should be extended to 4:14-16 since the high priest identified as Jesus the son of God is introduced there. (Re: v. 5:1) Does the author see Jesus in his location "on behalf of mortals" and "offering...on behalf of sins" as a mere mortal intermediary? And does the author see Jesus performing acts and ceremonies as a levitical priest in accord with Jewish tradition? (Anticipating step IV?).

(5:2) Does the suffering "in a measured way" and "being surrounded (or clothed in) by weakness" also suggest an emphasis on utter mortality? Is Jesus acutally linked to a sinful human being (cf. contrast at 4:15b)? Does this high priestly office contribute to or detract from a confessional posture toward his divinity? (Anticipating step V?).

(5:3) The pronoun "autou" or "heautou" appears to be a critical issue! The 25th edition of the Nestle text reads "heautou" supported by the Alexandrian mss sinaiticus, alexandrinus, ephraemi rescriptus, 33, and the probable reading of "psi." The 26th and 27th editions read the non- reflexive "autou" supported by the Alexandrian mss p46, vaticanus (cf. the original vs. the editorial insertion in clarmontanus!). The grammarians suggest that in Hellenistic usage the two forms are virtually identical inasmuch as the non-aspirated form can function as an equivalent reflexive (cf. B.M. Metzger, "A Textual Commentary of the Greek NT," NY, 71, pp. 666 and 615f); the NRSV has accepted that norm, it would appear, since it translates "his own" (sins) - as does the RSV - even though the former is based on the 26 /27th eds while the latter is based on the 25th. If "his" or "his own" sins refers to Jesus then there is a conflict with the "choris hamartias" of 4:15. The antecedent can, of course, be the "laos" in this sentence as far as grammatical agreement is concerned. The translation would be something like: "and on account of it [weakness] he is obliged just as concerning the people (with respect to the weakness matter) so also on behalf of it [the people] to make offering concerning sins." This is a matter of no small consequence and demonstrates the importance of textual criticism in conversation with history- of-tradition analysis, redaction criticism, and theological interpretation.

(5:4) The disclaimer in this verse is: each one becomes high priest (Gr. "lambanei ten timen") not by self-appointment but by being called by God (ref. to Aaron). This becomes the bridge to v. 5, although the v. 4 the verb is "kaleo" while in v. 5 it is "laleo" (both in ptcp. form). K.Barth says that Jesus is the electing God and the elected human being (anticipating step V?).

Moving to the other side of immediate context, namely that which comes after the pericope, the following are thoughts pertaining to v. 11, though the section probably extends to at least v. 14 and perhaps even to the end of the chapter (or through 10:18??):

(5:11ff) These verses indicate an awareness on the part of the author that the previous pericope is the source of an important struggle..."all this is hard to explain" so to speak. Didactic responsibility is considerable. How can one teach what is "hard to explain" so that learner and teacher are both edified and advantage seeking is not the goal? The milk image is one of immaturity. Solid food is one of maturity, i.e. those who distinguish between good and evil and live accordingly. But where does one gain the ability and capability to distinguish such? How does one help others to move from the one to the other?

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