December 09, 2002 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works and faith in God,
- instruction about baptisms 1 and laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.
- And we shall do this, if only God permits.
- For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift 2 and shared in the holy Spirit
- and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 3
- and then have fallen away, to bring them to repentance again, since they are recrucifying the Son of God for themselves 4 and holding him up to contempt.
- Ground that has absorbed the rain falling upon it repeatedly and brings forth crops useful to those for whom it is cultivated receives a blessing from God.
- But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is rejected; it will soon be cursed and finally burned.
- But we are sure in your regard, beloved, of better things related to salvation, even though we speak in this way.
- For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones.
- We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end,
- so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises. 5
- 6 When God made the promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, "he swore by himself,"
- and said, "I will indeed bless you and multiply" you.
- And so, after patient waiting, he obtained the promise. 7
- Human beings swear by someone greater than themselves; for them an oath serves as a guarantee and puts an end to all argument.
- So when God wanted to give the heirs of his promise an even clearer demonstration of the immutability of his purpose, he intervened with an oath,
- so that by two immutable things, 8 in which it was impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to hold fast to the hope that lies before us.
- This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil, 9
- where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner, becoming high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
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1  Instruction about baptisms: not simply about Christian baptism but about the difference between it and similar Jewish rites, such as proselyte baptism, John's baptism, and the washings of the Qumran sectaries. Laying on of hands: in Acts 8:17; 19:6 this rite effects the infusion of the holy Spirit; in Acts 6:6; 13:3; 1 Tim 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim 1:6 it is a means of conferring some ministry or mission in the early Christian community.
2  Enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift: this may refer to baptism and the Eucharist, respectively, but more probably means the neophytes' enlightenment by faith and their experience of salvation.
3  Tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come: the proclamation of the word of God was accompanied by signs of the Spirit's power (1 Thes 1:5; 1 Cor 2:4).
4  They are recrucifying the Son of God for themselves: a colorful description of the malice of apostasy, which is portrayed as again crucifying and deriding the Son of God.
5  Imitators of those . . . inheriting the promises: the author urges the addressees to imitate the faith of the holy people of the Old Testament, who now possess the promised goods of which they lived in hope. This theme will be treated fully in Hebrews 6:11.
6  He swore by himself: God's promise to Abraham, which he confirmed by an oath ("I swear by myself," Genesis 22:16) was the basis for the hope of all Abraham's descendants.
7  He obtained the promise: this probably refers not to Abraham's temporary possession of the land but to the eschatological blessings that Abraham and the other patriarchs have now come to possess.
8  Two immutable things: the promise and the oath, both made by God.
9  Anchor . . . into the interior behind the veil: a mixed metaphor. The Holy of Holies, beyond the veil that separates it from the Holy Place (Exodus 26:31-33), is seen as the earthly counterpart of the heavenly abode of God. This theme will be developed in Hebrews 9.
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