Lesson 4: Chapter 2:5- 3:6: Redemption is Only Through Christ


Beloved in Christ, let us pray together the favorite prayer of the great Scripture scholar St. Augustine when teaching Scripture to his students: Turn we to the Lord God, the Father Almighty, and with pure hearts offer to Him, so far as our meanness can, great and true thanks, with all our hearts praying His exceeding kindness, that of His good pleasure He would deign to hear our prayers, that by His Power He would drive out the enemy from our deeds and thoughts, that He would increase our faith, guide our understandings, give us spiritual thoughts, and lead us to His bliss, through Jesus Christ His Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Then what is the purpose of the [Old Covenant] Law?  It was added to deal with crimes until the progeny to whom the promise had been made should come; and it was promulgated through angels, by the agency of an intermediary [Moses]. [...].  But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the Law, locked up to wait for the faith which would eventually be revealed to us.  So the Law was serving as a slave to look after us, to lead us to Christ, so that we could be justified by faith.  But now that faith has come we are no longer under a slave looking after us; for all of you are the children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus, since every one of you that has been baptized has been clothed in Christ. Galatians 3:19, 21-27


[Christians] are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh.  They spend their lives on earth, but are citizens of heaven. Ad Diognetum 5: PG2, 1173


If he whom the angels worship consented, out of love for us, to become for a time lower than them, you for your part should endure everything out of love for him.  St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Hebrews, 2.2


The exordium of the Letter to the Hebrews presents Jesus of Nazareth as the climax and pinnacle of God's plan of salvation.  The entire discourse will develop from the themes introduced in both the exordium and the next section, which in classical rhetoric is called the proposition—that the man Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal divine Son of God and as the firstborn is heir to the title of universal Covenant Mediator and eternal High Priest of the new covenantal order.  The Bishops of the Universal Magisterium quoted the opening verse of Hebrews in the Vatican II document Dei Verbum in their desire to remind the faithful of this truth:  The most intimate truth which this revelation gives us about God and the salvation of man shines forth in Christ, who is himself both the mediator and the sum total of Revelation. [Dei Verbum 2].  [...].  After God had spoken many times and in various ways through the prophets "in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son" (Heb. 1:1-2).  For he sent his Son, the eternal Word who enlightens all men, to dwell among men and to tell them about the inner life of God [...].  He did this by the total fact of his presence and self-manifestation, by words and works, signs and miracles, but above all by his death and glorious resurrection from the dead, and finally by sending the Spirit of truth.  He revealed that God was with us, to deliver us from the darkness of sin and death and to raise us up to eternal life. [Documents of Vatican II: Dei Verbum 2 and 4].


The inspired writer of Hebrews moves from professing the Son's divinity and superiority over the angels as the fulfillment of the promise of the Davidic covenant to affirming in chapter two the Son's superiority over angels in His humanity by virtue of:

  1. His Incarnation
  2. By the saving dimension of His suffering, death, and resurrection, and
  3. As the only power and means by which mankind can be redeemed. 


In chapter three, the inspired writer continues in the theme of the superiority of the Son by showing the Christ's superiority over Moses, the great prophet and mediator of the Sinai Covenant when God first established His Church [or kahal in Hebrew, meaning the "called out ones"] of those called out of the world and into a covenant family bond with Yahweh as the divine Father of the children of Israel.  Moses was the great lawgiver but now Christ surpasses Moses not only as the new lawgiver but as the divine High Priest of the new covenantal order.  Jesus is the promised One who is greater than Moses, and the only One who calls men and women through the supernatural rebirth in the Sacrament of Baptism to be not just corporate sons and daughters, like the children of Israel in the Sinai Covenant, but individual sons and daughters redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ and infused with divine grace in the life of the Most Holy Trinity.


Old Testament Scripture quoted in Hebrews 2:5-3:6

Bold type indicates verses from the passage quoted in Hebrews

Psalm 8:4-6 (LXX 8:4-6): What is man that you remember him or son of man that you watch over him?  You made him for a little while lower than the angels, you crowned him with glory and honor, and you established him over the works of your hands, you placed all things in subjection under his feet.

Psalm 22:22: (LXX 21:22) I shall proclaim your name to my brothers, praise you in full assembly (ekklesia = church): 23 You who fear Yahweh, praise him! All the race (seed) of Jacob, honor him!  Revere him, all the race (seed) of Israel!

Isaiah 8:17-18: 16 Bind up the testimony, seal the instruction in the heart of my disciples.  17 My trust is in Yahweh who hides his face from the House of Jacob; I put my hope in him.  18 Look, I and the children whom Yahweh has given me shall become signs and portents in Israel on behalf of Yahweh Sabaoth who dwells on Mount Zion.

Numbers 12:7 (LXX 12:7) 6 And he said to them, 'Hear my words: If there should be of you a prophet to the Lord, I will be made known to him in a vision, and in sleep will I speak to him.  7 My servant Moses is not so; he is faithful (trustworthy) in all my house. 8 I will speak to him mouth to mouth apparently, and not in dark speeches; and he has seen the glory of the Lord...

[The designation LXX indicates the quotation is from the Septuagint.  Quotes not designated LXX may also be from the Septuagint but there is not enough variation between the Hebrew and Greek texts to indicate which Biblical text is quoted by the inspired writer]


Please read Hebrews 2:5-13, The Proposition: Redemption is brought only by Jesus Christ:

5 It was not under angels that he put the world to come, about which we are speaking.      6 Someone witnesses to this somewhere with the words: "What are human beings that you spare a thought for them, a child of Adam that you care for him?  7 For a short while you have made him less than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 put all things under his feet." For in "putting all things under him" he made no exceptions.  At present, it is true, we are not able to see that "all things are under him," 9 but we do see Jesus, who was "for a short while made less than the angels," now "crowned with glory and honor" because he submitted to death; so that by God's grace his experience (literally = taste) of death should benefit all humanity.


This next section of the address extending from Hebrews 2:5-9 is formally called the "proposition."  It consists of a further affirmation of Christ's superiority over the angels and contains a quotation from Psalms 8:4-6 followed by the interpretation of that text in the light of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.  At this juncture between the exordium and the main body of the speech, the inspired writer is turning his audience's attention from the divinity and glory of the exalted Christ and His rightful inheritance as firstborn Son in the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant, to Jesus' humanity and the significance of His suffering and death.   The themes of Christ's suffering on behalf of humanity and His exaltation by virtue of His suffering as the fulfillment of God's plan of salvation for mankind are themes that will be developed as the address continues.  For more on Jesus as true man and true God see CCC #464-69l 480-82.


Hebrews 2:5:  It was not under angels that he put the world to come, about which we are speaking.   By this statement the inspired writer identifies the "world to come" as the reality over which the Son reigns, the world which was promised by the prophets which is not yet realized in totality until Christ comes again to establish the new heavens and new earth:


And yet the "world to come" is not strictly speaking only a future reality to Christians because through Jesus Christ and the God the Holy Spirit we can experience in this present age the powers of the "world to come:"

·        As for those people who were once brought into the light, and tasted the gift from heaven, and received a share of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the goodness of God's message and the powers of the world to come...Hebrews 6:4

·        But now Christ has come, as the high priest of all the blessings which were to come. Hebrews 9:11

·        So for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old order is gone and a new being is there to see. 2 Corinthians 5:17

·        You have been buried with him by your baptism; by which too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead.  Colossians 2:12


Christians may still be in this present world but Christians are exiles here, their true home is the "world to come" in the reign of Jesus Christ and the heavenly Jerusalem: But our homeland is in heaven and it is from there that we are expecting a Savoir, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transfigure the wretched body of ours into the mould of his glorious body, through the working of the power which he has, even to bring all things under his mastery.  Philippians 3:20-21. See CCC# 1003; 2796


Verse 6 has a curious introduction to a quotation from Psalm 8:4-6.  The literal translation is "someone has testified (or witnessed) somewhere", which could be interpreted to suggest that he does not remember the exact passage in Scripture nor who wrote it.  For one so well versed in Scripture as this inspired writer, that interpretation seems unlikely.  Perhaps the writer is suggesting not that he doesn't know who wrote the text but that the Scriptural text is not written by a "someone" but it is God who is the true source and who the human writer is or where it is written is not important. There is evidence to support this interpretation in the writings of the 1st century Jewish philosopher and theologian Philo of Alexandria who uses the same expression in introducing Old Testament quotations but the context in which the quotation is used shows clearly that he knew exactly the identity of the writer and the passage where it is found in Old Testament Scripture [see Unchangeable 74; Planter 90; Drunkenness 61 in The Works of Philo]In Hebrews 3:6 the inspired writer will quote another Old Testament passage and in that case attributes the passage not to "a someone" but to God the Holy Spirit.


In quoting Psalm 8:4-6 the writer of Hebrews seems to be quoting from the Septuagint Greek translation rather from the Hebrew Massoretic text, rendering the Hebrew text line "lower than the gods", instead "lower than the angels", as it is found in the Septuagint and in Hebrews 2:6.  Turn to Psalms 8 and please read 8:4-6 in the context of the entire passage.  This psalm is a hymn of thanksgiving, extolling man and the exalted place God has made for human beings in the order of creation.


The Psalm begins by declaring the glory of the divine name of Yahweh and that to call on the divine name places the believer under God's protection.  Then the psalmist turns his attention to mankind in verses 4-6, and asks God the question [quoting from Psalms 8 verses 4-6: What are human beings that you spare a thought for them, a child of Adam (son of man) that you care for him?  For a short while you have made him less than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, put all things under his feet.


Compare the New Jerusalem translation with the Septuagint:

New Jerusalem Hebrew Text: Psalm 8:4-6

Septuagint Greek Text: Psalm 8:4-6

What are human beings that you spare a thought for them, or the child of Adam that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god, you have crowned him with glory and beauty, made him lord of the works of your hands, put all things under his feet. 

What is a man (human beings) that you are mindful of him? Or the son of man, that you visit him?  You made him a little less than angels, you have crowned him with glory and honor; and you have set him over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.


The phrase "a child of Adam" is more literally rendered son of Adam or son of man, in the singular, which the inspired writer of Hebrews applies to the man, JesusAlthough "Son of man" was Jesus' favorite title for Himself, it is not being used in this passage as Jesus used it of Himself.  In those passage where Jesus refers to Himself as "Son of man" the definite article "the" always precedes it, designating "the Son of man" not just Jesus in His humanity as other men, but also as a title for Jesus connected the messianic "Son of man" in Daniel 7:13-14.  The translation "son of man" in this quotation as a "human being" gives this passage two levels of meaning by referring both to mankind in general in the collective sense and to Jesus the man born of the woman Mary.  This link will become clear as the writer of Hebrews applies this passage to Jesus in His humanity.  The title "Son of Man" was used by Jesus in the Messianic sense 70 times in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and 12 times in the Gospel of St. John.  It was used of Christ in Acts 7:56 where St. Stephen refers to Jesus as the divine Son of Man in the context of Daniel 7:13-14 and in the same divine Messiah context by Jesus of Himself in Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69; and also in Revelation 1:13; and 14:14.


Question:  How is man a "little less than "a god" or as the inspired writer of Hebrews and the Septuagint scholars interpreted this passage, "a little less than the angels," and when did God put all things "under his feet"? See Hebrews 2:7 and CCC# 329-330; 343; 356-58.

Answer: In Genesis 1:26-30 God created man in His image, blessed man and gave him superiority and dominion over all the creatures of the earth.  It is a blessing that will be repeated to Noah and his family in Genesis 9:1.  Made in the image and likeness of God, man was created to be a sinless and immortal being, full of the grace, the divine life of God and therefore, associated with God's sovereignty and given dominion over the earth:


It is a special relationship with God which no other creature on earth enjoys and yet man was, after the fall of Adam, in a fallen dis-graced state [deprived of divine grace through the sin of Adam and Eve] and separated from intimate communion with God, became "a little less than the angels" who exist in the presence of God in the heavenly domain. 


Notice the phrase in Psalm 8:5 as translated in the Hebrew text: "a little less than a god."

It is interesting that sometimes, by virtue of their presence within the Beautific vision, and the supernatural powers God has given them as His messengers, that angels are sometimes referred to in Scripture as "gods," which in no way suggests that they are in any way equal to God but only that their powers surpass those of fallen man; however, their superiority over man was only to be a temporary condition.  In the New Covenant man's status is changed in relation to the angels.  In Revelation 22:8 St. John kneels at the feet of an angel who promptly rebukes him saying: Do not such thing: I am your fellow-servant and the fellow-servant of your brothers the prophets and those who keep the message of this book.  God alone you must worship.  It is unlikely that John was offering worship to the angel; it is more likely that he only wanted to give honor to one he considered to be a superior, as men knelt before Kings and their representatives.  But the angel rebukes John so there is no misunderstanding—only God receives worship; angels are never to be worshipped [also see Colossians 2:18]. 


Even if he was only showing honor to a superior, John's subservient posture is no longer appropriate as it was for man in the Old Covenant.  The superiority of God's heavenly messengers was only intended to be temporary and came about after Adam, through his sin, forfeited his position as priest-king of God's Sanctuary in Eden [see Genesis 2:15; 3:24] which resulted in the gates of heaven being closed to humanity [see CCC# 536].  With Jesus Christ's exaltation and ascension to His throne in the heavenly kingdom, His Covenant people now have access to eternal life with Him in His Kingdom [CCC# 1026].  They are now Saints who serve as God's counselors and intercessors for the prayers of believers [Revelation 4:4; 8] and as fellow servants with the angels.  In fact, it is the Saints who are destined, according to St. Paul, to rule not only the earthly kingdom but to rule over angels as well: Do you not realize that the holy people of God are to be the judges of the world?  And if the world is to be judged by you, are you not competent for petty cases?  Do you not realize that we shall be the judges of angels?...then quite certainly over matters of this life. 1 Corinthians 6:2-3.  


Question: Before the coming of Christ, did man ever possess divine life?

Answer: Yes, however, man, by virtue of Adam's fall from grace, became deprived of divine son-ship and without the grace of divine life lost his status as a sinless and immortal son of God and became lower than the angels. 

Question: Has this status changed for human beings who have been reborn by water and the Spirit [John 3:5-8] into the life of the Most Holy Trinity?  See 2 Peter 1:4.

Answer: Yes, because God now lives in the soul of the believer who now shares in divine nature through the fullness of divine life in Jesus Christ which is the communication by God of a life which is His own [see John 1:12; 14:20; 15:4-5; Romans 6:5; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:3; CCC# 257; 260; 787; 1020; 1023-26; 1694].


The inspired writer uses the text from Psalm 8, which expresses the glory God intends for mankind, and by applying the passage to Jesus' humanity, shows that through Jesus, not just as a "son of Adam but in fulfilling the role as the "new Adam", and accepting the suffering that led to His glory, God will also glorify all sons and daughters who see their salvation in Jesus the Messiah [CCC#411; 504].  Believers in Jesus the Messiah will be able to return to the exalted state in which God originally created man before his fall from grace.  The inspired writer begins by stating that like all men Jesus had dominion over the earth in the human sense but also in a greater sense in that He is both man and God, and then adding cryptically, At present, it is true we are not able to see that all things are under him... meaning that even though God the Son has entered into His glory, Christians must still be bound to the suffering in this world and must continue to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ until Christ comes again in His glory, in the meantime our vision of the risen and exalted Christ is limited by our earthly bonds and the sin and suffering that are still part of this world.  


Using Jesus' name for the first time in verse 9, the writer states that the Son of God was for a little while made lower than the angels by becoming full man when he says, but we do see Jesus, who was for a short while made less than the angels, and then reassures the faithful by applying Psalms 8:5-6, which was meant to be God's will for all men, to Jesus by saying that Jesus is now crowned with glory and honor because he submitted to death; so that by God's grace his experience of death should benefit all humanity.

The literal translation of the phrase "experience of death" is "taste of death," using the primary verb geuomai  [pronounced ghyoo'-om-ahee] meaning "to taste" and by implication "to eat", or figuratively as "to experience."  But using the literal translation because he submitted to death; that that by God's grace he might taste of death to benefit all humanity" gives a deeper symbolic meaning and applies a richer imagery to the text.


In the symbolic language of the Old Testament prophets, images of God's "winepress" and "drinking the cup of God's wrath" were some of the expressions used for receiving under God's judgment deserved punishment for rebellion and other sins.  The prophets sternly warn if God's Covenant people choose to reap His gifts without acknowledging Yahweh as Lord they will experience a harvest of regret  as in Joel 4:13 "Ply the sickle for the harvest is ripe; come and tread, for the winepress is full; the vats are overflowing, so great is their wickedness!"   Those transgressors will be crushed in God's great winepress or forced, in the drunkenness of their rebellion, to drink to cup of God's holy wrath!

·         "Awake, awake!  To your feet, Jerusalem!  You who from Yahweh's hand have drunk the cup of his wrath.  The chalice, the stupefying cup, you have drained to the dregs." Isaiah 51:17

·        "The Lord has rejected all my warriors within my walls, he has summoned a host against me to crush my young men; in the winepress the Lord trampled the young daughter of Judah." Lamentations 1:15

·        "For Yahweh, the God of Israel, said this to me, 'Take this cup of the wine of wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it; they will drink and reel and lose their wits, because of the sword I am sending among them.  I [Jeremiah] took the cup from Yahweh's hand and made all the nations to whom Yahweh sent me drink it..." Jeremiah 25:15-17

·         "You will say to them, 'Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel, says this: Drink! Get drunk! Vomit! Fall, never to rise again, before the sword that I am sending among you! Jeremiah 15:27

·        "Why are your garments red, your clothes like someone treading the winepress?  I have trodden the winepress alone; of my people, not one was with me.  So I trod them down in my anger, I trampled on them in my wrath. Their blood spurted over my garments and all my clothes are stained.  For I have decided on a day of vengeance, my year of retribution has come." Isaiah 63:2-3


For more passages on drinking the cup of wrath see: Joel 4:13; Isaiah 51:17; 63:2-3; Jeremiah 13:12-14; 25:15-31; 48:26; 25:27-30; and for more information on the "cup of wrath" imagery see the Agape Bible Study, "How to Study the Books of the Old Testament Prophets" in the Bible Study section.


In His mission to free mankind from the judgment man rightly deserved for sin, Jesus willingly tasted death from God's cup of wrath.

Question: When did Jesus use similar imagery concerning His impending death?  See Matthew 26:39-42; Mark 14:26-42; Luke 22:42-46; John 18:11.

Answer: In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed that the Father might "let this cup pass me by"...that He might not drink of the cup of God's wrath filled with the bitter "taste" of death, and yet He submitted Himself to God's will and prayed: 'My Father,' he said, 'if this cup cannot pass by, but I must drink it, your will be done!'  In his commentary on Hebrews, St. John Chrysostom states that the use of this expression in Hebrews 2:9 is deliberate.  He writes: it is very precise.  It does not say 'that by the grace of God he might die', for the Lord once he tasted death delayed there only for a moment and immediately rose [...].  All men fear death; therefore, to enable us to take death in our stride, he tasted death even though it was not necessary for him to do so [Homilies on Hebrews, 4].  The Church Fathers in their writings have always seen the words "tasting death" in association with Jesus' Passion as affirming that Jesus willingly accepted His Passion to atone for the sins of mankind and that he accepted death without ceasing to be the Lord of life.


Jesus uses the same Greek word in association with death in Matthew 16:28: In truth I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming with his kingdom [repeated in Mark 9:1 and Luke 9:27], and in John 8:52-53 the Pharisees challenge Jesus by saying: Now we know that you are possessed.  Abraham is death, and the prophets are dead, and yet you say, "Whoever keeps my word will never know the taste of death."  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead?


St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that using the imagery of "tasting death" the inspired writer is alluding to Passion of the Christ in three ways:

  1. It is a reference to the cause of His death when the text says "by the grace of God" - God willed His death as His plan to save humanity from eternal death.
  2. It is a reference to the usefulness of His death when the text says He died for the salvation of "everyone / humanity."
  3. It is a reference to Christ as the willing author of our salvation in that He willing tasted death that we might not drink death eternally.

[see Aquinas: Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, pages 62-63].


The Navarre scholars write: Jesus did indeed, by the will of the Father, experience or "taste" death.  His death is described as being like a bitter drink which he chose to take in sips, as if savoring it. [Navarre Commentary on Hebrews, page 68]. 


Jesus "drank the cup of God's wrath" for us, as St. Paul wrote in:

·        Colossians 2:13-14, You were dead, because you were sinners and uncircumcised in body: he has brought you to life with him, he has forgiven us every one of our sins.  He has wiped out the record of our debt to the Law, which stood against us; he has destroyed it by nailing it to the cross..

·        And in Philippians 2:6-11, Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped.  But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.  And for this God raised him high, and gave him the name which is above all other names; so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the same of Jesus and that every tongue should acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


Question: What is the cup that we drink and the food that we taste that has the power to give us the courage to face death unafraid?

Answer: Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he handed it to them saying 'Drink from this, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins' [Matthew 26:27-28].  We can face death unafraid because we drink from the cup of Jesus' precious Blood and eat the Bread from heaven, which is His Body, in the Most Holy Eucharist, uniting us both physically and spiritually to the life of Jesus Christ.


Question: What does the inspired writer of Hebrews identify as the reason Jesus was glorified by God the Father?  What does this mean to us?  See Ephesians 1:19-23 and Philippians 3:21; CCC# 626; 629.

Answer: Jesus was glorified by the Father because He willingly suffered and offered Himself up as an unblemished sacrifice for the sins of man [1 Peter1:18-19].  His triumph over sin and death seals the redeeming value of his sacrificial death.   It is this victory that gives Jesus in His humanity as the son of man and in His divinity as the Son of God, true dominion over the earth as St. Paul declares quoting from Psalm 8:6 in Ephesians 1:19-23:.. and how extraordinarily great is the power that he has exercised for us believers; this accords with the strength of his power at work in Christ, the power  which he exercised in raising him from the dead and enthroning his at his right hand, in heaven, far above every principality, ruling force, power or sovereignty, or any other name that can be named, not only in this age but also in the age to ;come.  He has put all things under his feet, and made him as he is above all things, the head of the Church, which is his Body, the fullness of him who is filled, all in all.  What this means to us is what Paul wrote to the church at Philippi in Philippians 3:21: But our homeland is in heaven and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transfigure the wretched body of ours into the mould of his glorious body, through the working of the power which he has, even to bring all things under his mastery.   Jesus' Resurrection and Ascension to glory anticipates the future glory of God's sons and daughters of the New Covenant.   See CCC#1002-3.


The concept of Hebrews 2:9b: now "crowned with glory and honor" because he submitted to death; so that by God's grace his experience(taste) of death should benefit all humanity, was introduced in the exordium in Hebrews 1:1-14 when the inspired writer announced that the Son was exalted because He suffered death and unlike the rule of an ordinary king which ended with death, Jesus began His reign with His self-sacrificial death on the Cross, it is Christ's suffering and death that opens the path to glorification.  This is a theme that is continued and developed in the next section.


Please read Hebrews 2:10-18, Perfection and glory through suffering and Resurrection:

10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should in bringing many sons to glory, make perfect through suffering the leader of their salvation.  11 For consecrator and consecrated are all of the same stock; that is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers 12 in the text: 'I shall proclaim your name to my brothers, praise you in full assembly'; or in the text: 13 'I shall put my hope in him'; followed by 'Look, I and the children whom God has given me.'  14 Since all the children share the same human nature, he too shared equally in it, so that by his death he could set aside him who held the power of death, namely the devil, 15 and set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. 16 For it was not the angels that he took to himself; he took to himself the line [literally = seed] of Abraham.  17 It was essential that he should in this way be made completely like his brothers so that he could become a compassionate and trustworthy high priest for their relationship to God, able to expiate the sins of the people.  18 For the suffering he himself passed through while being put to the test enables him to help others when they are being put to the test.


Hebrews 2:10, It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should in bringing many sons to glory, make perfect through suffering the leader of their salvation.

It is not that Jesus needed to be made more perfect than He already was but by suffering and dying on the Cross to fulfil the will of God, Jesus became the One perfect Savior. He is then, by His suffering, responsible for the entry of human beings into the perfection of the glory of God. The verb "makes perfect" is used frequently in the Letter to the Hebrews to denote the various effects of Christ's work on the relationship between man and God (see 11:40).


Question: In what statement does the inspired writer declare his definitive argument concerning Jesus' superiority over the angels?

Answer: The inspired writer's definitive claim of Christ's superiority over angels comes in the statement: 16  For it was not the angels that he took to himself; he took to himself the line [literally seed] of Abraham.  God chose to save humanity through the Incarnation of the Son who becomes a man born of the line of the promised "seed" of Abraham.  In the covenant formed with Abraham and his descendants, Yahweh promised that all mankind would be blessed through him; (see Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 44:19-21; Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:8, 14) this promise is fulfilled in the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of the descendant of Abraham who is God enfleshed, Jesus of Nazareth.  Abraham, the great ancestor of a host of nations, no one was ever his equal in glory.  He observed the Law of the Most High, and entered into a covenant with him.  He confirmed the covenant in his own flesh, and proved himself faithful under ordeal.  The Lord therefore promised him on oath to bless the nations through his descendants... Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 44:19-21


Jesus' perfect sacrifice has set free all men and women of all ages who where held captive by sin and death.  Because He has gained victory over both sin and death, those who believe in Him have the power to share in His triumph and receive the glory God intended for man as promised in Psalm 8.  Again the writer turns to Sacred Scripture to prove his argument, quoting from Psalm 22:22 (21:23 LXX); and from Isaiah 8:17 & 18 (LXX).  It was the opening verse from Psalm 22 which was the third of seven statements Jesus made from the Cross: And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'  [see Matthew 27:46-47; Mark 15:33-34; ].  The 22 Psalm is what the Old Covenant Church and Jews today call a toda Psalm; toda means thanks or thanksgiving in Hebrew, a word which would be translated eucharistia in the Greek.   A toda psalm begins with the supplicant expressing great suffering and calling out to Yahweh for deliverance and ends in a hymn of praise to God for His faithfulness and mercy in saving the petitioner from destruction.  Other examples of toda psalms can be found in Psalm 40; 51; 69; etc.  In a toda Psalm the supplicant offers up his suffering as a sacrifice to Yahweh only to end in a song of praise believing his sacrifice has been accepted and that Yahweh will come to his salvation.  This experience of temporal salvation was accompanied by the offering of a toda sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem.


In the Old Covenant sacrificial system a toda sacrifice was a communion sacrifice [see Leviticus 7:11-15].  It could only be offered after a sinner had offered the appropriate sin or trespass sacrifice.  The communion sacrifice signified the restoration of fellowship with God.  In his book, Feast of Faith,  Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) wrote about the toda psalm and the toda communion sacrifice: ...the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus is toda.  It is the real fulfillment of the words of these psalms at a new depth [page 54].  And later adds: The toda [communion sacrifice] is not restricted to a bloody sacrifice of flesh but also embraces the unbloody offering of bread; toda is the only form of sacrifice which is concerned with unleavened bread.  Thus in the context of toda, bread and wine acquire a special significance; the one becomes part of the sacrifice itself, the other plays a constitutive role in proclamation." [page 56]. In the Old Covenant, a man who had experienced extreme suffering and had been saved by God's intervention offered up a toda "thanksgiving" sacrifice in the Temple; the man or woman who had experienced deliverance recognizing that God had given them back their lives and a new life had begun.  In Feast of Faith Cardinal Ratzinger skillfully draws the reader's attention to the fact that the Eucharist is our Toda sacrifice in which we thank God for our renewed life in the Body and Blood of Christ whose unbloody sacrifice we receive through the miraculous transformation of the bread and the wine.  The rabbis in proclaiming the coming of the Messiah taught in ancient times and today that "In the coming (Messianic) time, all sacrifice will cease except the toda sacrifice.  This will never cease in all eternity.  All (religious) song will cease too, but the songs of toda will never cease in all eternity."[page 58 quoting H. Gese, Zur biblischen Theologie, Minich, 1977, page 122]. This rabbinic prophecy has been fulfilled in the sacrifice of the Mass—our Toda or Eucharistic (Thanksgiving) sacrifice.


Why does the inspired writer of Hebrews quote from this particular psalm?  Psalms 22:1-21 is a cry of a man enduring physical and emotional suffering.  These verses are also an accurate description of the kind of suffering one would experience during crucifixion.  The psalm is a description of crucifixion centuries before the Persians developed this excruciating form of execution—in fact the etymology of the word "excruciating" is derived from the word "crucify—it was a form of execution that was the ultimate in suffering.  In quoting from Psalm 22, Jesus applied this psalm to Himself as He hung on the altar of the Cross. 


Please read Psalm 22:1-21.

The 22 verse of Psalm 22 begins the hymn of thanksgiving. Please read Psalm 22:22-31, looking for the promise of the Messianic banquet which we celebrate in the Mass.

Question: What is the "full assembly" and who are the "brothers"?

Answer: Prior to the Babylonian captivity which began in 587/6BC, the full assembly was the assembly of liturgical worship in the Temple of Yahweh and "brothers" and "sisters" where Israelite kinsmen and women who were part of the Covenant family of Yahweh.  After the return from exile "assembly" could also refer to the Synagogue where Sacred Scripture was studied but worship, which is sacrifice, only took place in the Temple in Jerusalem. 


Question: In the New Covenant in Christ, how did Jesus redefine our understanding of "brother" and "sister"? 

Answer: Just as in the Old Testament, covenants are formed between Yahweh and men or people [as in the case of the children of Israel] by oath swearing and divine covenants form family affiliation.  This formation of covenant was the same in the New Testament but in the new covenantal order Jesus intensified, internalized, and internationalized our understanding of covenant.  In one sense all members of the human family are our brother and sisters to love and to bring to salvation, but there is still only one Church, just as there was in the old order.  Our New Covenant assembly of believers, however, expands beyond ethnic divisions and national borders to embrace the universal kingdom of Jesus Christ in which we share in the Body and Blood of Christ and by virtue of His inheritance become through Him true "blood" brothers and sisters in God's family.


The Fathers of the Church saw Psalm 22:25-26 as an allusion to the Messianic banquet in the Communion of Saints and verses 27-31 as a prophecy fulfilled in the Universal Kingdom of the Church. 

Question: But why does the inspired writer draw his audience to this Psalm?

Answer: The first half of this psalm is at the time the address was given was linked to Jesus the Messiah in the minds of the audience of Jewish Christians from Jesus' third statement from the Cross.  In proclaiming Jesus' superiority and through Him the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old, the inspired writer now proclaims that it is the destiny of the descendants of Jacob/Israel to praise Him as the promised Messiah in order to partake of the Messianic banquet promised in this psalm.  Jesus is the leader (or pioneer) of their [the Jew's] salvation (Hebrews 2:10) because consecrator and consecrated are all of the same stock (Hebrews 2:11) the stock of Abraham and Jacob, the flesh that the Son took to Himself, and salvation was promised first to them: Jesus to the woman of Samaria: Salvation comes from the Jews [John 4:22].  But more than just the Jews—God chose to come enfleshed as man to lead all men to salvation, first the Jews and through them as His emissaries, to lead the whole of mankind to salvation.  He used flesh to save flesh.


The next two quotes come from Isaiah 8:17 and 18.  Please turn to Isaiah chapter 8.  Isaiah is the 8th century prophet whose mission was to prophesize God's judgment on the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah—judgment for their unfaithfulness to the covenant in following after false gods.  In Isaiah 8:11-20 the prophet explains his mission to his disciples and instructs them that they will become witness to Israel on behalf of Yahweh and if their kinsmen claim the right to practice the sin of divination [see Isaiah 2:6] they are to tell them to do as they will, sow the seeds of idolatry and apostasy but destruction is all they will reap, hence there will be no dawn for them. 

Question: How does the inspired writer of Hebrews use these passages?  What is the significance of the next section in chapter 9?

Answer: Just as God gave "children" or disciples to Isaiah, so too has He given "children" to Jesus the Messiah.  However, the reference to children might also refer to Isaiah's own two children, whose names symbolize God's divine plan for salvation.  God told Isaiah to name his sons Shearjashub, which in Hebrew means "a remnant shall return"; and Mahershalal-hashbaz, which means "the spoil speeds, the prey hastens"names associated with the prophetic pronouncements in Isaiah 7:3 and 8:3  and which can also be applied to the Jews of the New Covenant who are the faithful remnant of Israel who form the New Covenant Church and to the judgment that would fall on those who refused to believe in Jesus the Messiah in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70AD.


But the next passage in Isaiah 9 is the significant passage.  It is a message of hope and the promise of the restoration of Israel by the Davidic Messiah.  Parts of Isaiah 9:1-6 are quoted or referenced in Matthew 4:13-16 and 28:18; Luke in 2:14; and John in 8:12.  Jesus is the Messiah promised during the time of the great prophet Isaiah. He is the One in whom to put our hope.


Hebrews 2: 14-18 stresses Christ's union with humanity in His flesh and blood and it is in offering the perfect sacrifice of His human flesh and blood that He conquered the devil and set humanity free from the fear of death.

Question: How did death come into the world?  Did God create death?  See Wisdom 1:13-14; 2:23-24; CCC# 635.

Answer: Through the devil.

Question: How has Christ set humanity free from the fear of death?  See Romans 5:12-18; 8:11; CCC# 402.

Answer: Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men [Romans 5:18]. Through His death and Resurrection Jesus has set humanity free.  The promised resurrection of all Christians is intimately connected to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ [see Romans 6:5; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 15:20; 2 Corinthians 4:14; 13:4; Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 1:18; 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; 2 Timothy 2:11].  We have the promise of our own resurrection, a guarantee He has given to all believers and as we await His Second Coming and the fulfillment of that promise, we have already been prepared for that promise by being given new life as sons and daughter of God through the Sacrament of Baptism and being incorporated into the Body of the risen Christ by faith and by the Eucharist.


The final statement of Jesus' superiority over the angels is that only Jesus Christ has the power to redeem mankind (Hebrews 2:16) a redemption He accomplished by becoming a man from the seed of the prophet Abraham and fulfilling the promise of a world-wide blessing, bring universal salvation to those who accepted God's gift of grace through Christ Jesus. 


Question: Hebrews 2:17 says that It was essential that he should in this way be made completely like his brothers...  Why was this plan the necessary plan?  See Matthew 16:24; Luke 24:26-27; 44-45; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2:21; Romans 3:25-26; CCC# 612; 614-15; 618.

Answer: There are essentially 3 reasons:

  1. That the Son should become a man to suffer for men was the plan God set in motion from the beginning, and through the prophets God revealed the plan: Jesus told the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory?  Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the Scriptures that were about himself  [for example see Deuteronomy 18:17-20; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Ezekiel 34:11-24; Daniel 7:13-14; Zechariah 9:11-17; etc.].
  2. Justice was served through the death of the man Jesus in atonement for the accumulated sins of humanity: God appointed him as a sacrifice for reconciliation, through faith, by the shedding of his blood, and so showed his justness; first for the past, when sins went unpunished because he held his hand; and now again for the present age, to show how he is just and justifies everyone who has faith in Jesus.  Romans 3:25-26.
  3.  But also, for Jesus to be the definitive covenant mediator, humanity's representative to God, He best serves that role having lived and died as a man Himself so that no human being can claim that God does not understand human suffering and human longing for restoration and peace, For the suffering he himself passed through while being put to the test enables him to help others when they are being put to the test. And He has left an example for us to follow, an example of perfect self-sacrificial love.  This love is the healing salve for a wounded world in which we are called to love as He loved: He calls his disciples to "take up [their] cross and follow [him]," for "Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps." CCC# 618 quoting Matthew 16:24 and 1 Peter 2:21.


Question: What promise is made to us concerning trials and testing so long as we put our faith in Christ Jesus?  See 1 Corinthians 10:13


Please read Hebrews 3:1-6, Jesus' superiority over Moses:

1That is why all of you who are holy brothers and share the same heavenly call should turn your minds to Jesus, the apostle and the high priest of our profession of faith.  2 He was trustworthy to the one who appointed him, just like Moses, who remained trustworthy in all his household; 3 but he deserves a greater glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house is more honored than the house itself.  4 Every house is built by someone, of course; but God built everything that exists.  5 It is true that Moses was trustworthy in the household of God, as a servant is, acting as witness to the things which were yet to be revealed, 6 but Christ is a trustworthy as a son is, over his household.  And we are his household, as long as we fearlessly maintain the hope in which we glory.


Question: Why does the inspired writer call Jesus an "apostle"?  What does the word mean and how is it applied to Jesus?

Answer: In Greek the word apostolos means one who is "sent out" or an emissary.  Jesus is sent by God to redeem the human race [see John 3:17, 34; 5:36; 9:7; Romans 1:1; 8:3; Galatians 4:4].


Hebrews 3:1 is the second reference to Jesus as the High Priest of the new order; the first reference was in Hebrews 2:17 where he also used the word "trustworthy" or "faithful", so that he could become a compassionate and trustworthy high priest for their relationship to God, able to expiate the sins of the people.

Question: What was the role of the High Priest in the Old Covenant of Sinai?  What were the necessary conditions of his high office?

Answer: He was the people's representative to God and it was his duty to offer sacrifice on God's holy altar for the sake of the people in order that fellowship with God be restored.

Question: How does Jesus become the High Priest of the New Covenant?

Answer: The irony is that Jesus is both perfect sacrificial victim and the New Covenant High Priest and covenant mediator who represents the whole of humanity before the throne of God by continually offering up Himself as the perfect sacrifice in atonement for the sins of mankind, continually making it possible for mankind to enter into God's divine fellowship [also see Hebrews 4:14; 5:5, 10; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1; 9:11; 10:21].


In Hebrews 3:2-4 the inspired writer compares Jesus to the prophet Moses, claiming Christ to be superior to Moses.  Both Jesus and Moses were tested and remained faithful to God's plan and both received honor and glory but Jesus received a different kind of glory - a greater glory [see Hebrews 3:3].

Question: What special honor and glory did God give Moses that was not extended to other prophets?  See Exodus 7:1; Exodus 34:29-30, 35; Numbers 12:8; Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 45:2-3, and 2 Corinthians 3:12-18.


  1. God told Moses that He had made him like "God" to the Egyptian Pharaoh
  2. God spoke to Moses face to face
  3. Moses saw and reflected the divine glory of God
  4. God made Moses equal in glory to the angels


Question: How does the inspired writer distinguish Jesus' superiority over Moses in Hebrews 3:3-6?

Answer: The inspired writer distinguishes Jesus' superiority over Moses by associating Moses with the created order, a part of the "house" contrasted with Jesus, the "builder of the house"; associating Jesus with the Godhead [Hebrews 3:3-6].



Constructed house (vs. 2)

Builder (vs. 3)

Part of created order (vs. 3)

Creator of cosmos (vs. 4)

Servant (vs. 5)

Son (vs. 6)

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2007 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.


Question: This is a significant comparison.  To further understand Jesus superiority over Moses, how can Moses' mission be compared to Jesus' mission?  Why in the context of the mission is Jesus' mission similar and yet superior to Moses' mission?




Moses led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt in the Exodus experience

Jesus is the new Moses who led the New Exodus, delivering mankind from bondage to sin and death

In crossing the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds) the children of Israel were "baptized" unto Moses, leaving a life of slavery behind for a new life of freedom.

In Christian baptism, the Christian receives "new life" in Christ, being freed from a life of slavery to sin and being resurrected to new life in Christ.

Moses gave the Law to the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai

Jesus is the new lawgiver of the New Covenant in His blood

Through Moses God established liturgical worship of the One True God based on the necessity of the shedding of animal blood for the temporary atonement of sins and the reestablishment of divine fellowship with God through the eating of the communion sacrifice.

Through Jesus Christ God revealed Himself in the full revelation of His Trinitarian nature and established liturgical worship based on the on-going sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ for the atonement of sin and for the forgiveness which reestablishes divine fellowship with God through the eating of His flesh and blood.

Moses led the children of Israel on their journey to the Promised Land

Jesus leads all Christians on their journey of faith to the Promised Land of heaven

Moses was God's covenant mediator for the Sinai Covenant

Jesus is God's covenant mediator of the New Covenant in His Blood.

Moses could only offer temporal salvation and the promise of a future redeemer

Jesus offers eternal salvation and the promise of a bodily resurrection

Moses was a trustworthy servant

Jesus is the trustworthy Son/King*

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2007 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

* in Revelation 3:14 Jesus announces to St. John, Here is the message of the Amen, the trustworthy, the true witness, the Principle of God's creation.."  In this verse Jesus uses the Hebrew word, "amen" as a title.  We understand the word "amen" to mean "I believe" or "it is true," or "so be it;" but this meaning is not indicated in this passage.  Instead Jesus is using the words most literal meaning.  In Hebrew "amen" is an acrostic, a word formed from the words of a sentence or series of words.  "Amen" or "emen" is the acrostic formed from the first letter of three the Hebrew words, God (is a) trustworthy King, "El Melech Ne'eman." The word "amen" appears for the first time in Scripture in Numbers 5:22.  Moses was a trustworthy servant but Jesus is the great Amen, the Trustworthy King.  [see The Talmud: Shabbat 1196].


Repetition in Scripture is like underlining. In Hebrews 3:2-5 the inspired writer repeats the word "house" or "household" six times. Verse 2 is probably a reference to Numbers 12:6-8 which would serve as a warning to the Jewish Christians who are listening to this address, a warning that will become more fully developed in the Old Testament Scripture quotations from Numbers that will follow.  Please read Numbers 12:1-10—Miriam and Aaron's challenge to Moses' authority.


This passage provides the warning that even God's elect will not be exempt from His wrath if they dare to challenge His covenant representative, a fitting warning for 1st century Christians and for Christians today who challenge the authority of the Pope and the Universal Magisterium.

Question: In Numbers 12:7 Yahweh says He has trusted Moses with His whole household.  What is the "household" that is referenced in this passage?

Answer: A father has authority over his "household" all those within his family which in ancient times also included slaves.  In the formation of the Sinai Covenant God became the divine Father of the children of Israel, they became part of God's "household", which also included the angels in the heavenly realm.  The Church of the Sinai Covenant is imaged in Scripture as both the corporate family or household of God and as Yahweh's Bride [see Jeremiah 2:2-3; Hosea 2:16-17; also see 1 Chronicles 17:14; 1 Samuel 2:35].


Hebrews 3:6, but Christ is trustworthy as a son is, over his household.  And we are his household, as long as we fearlessly maintain the hope in which we glory.

Question: What is Christ's household and what is our "hope in which we glory?"  See 1 Corinthians 3:9; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1Timothy 3:15.

Answer: The Church of the New Covenant, the universal Kingdom of Heaven on earth and in heaven is Christ's household, which is the Bride of Christ [Revelation 19:7-8].  St. Paul called the Church on earth the pillar and support of the truth.  But Christ's household is also our physical bodies which, from the time of our Baptism, become the temples of the Holy Spirit.  As Jesus' "household," His personal possession, our hope is founded in Jesus Christ; in everything He taught and promised to us, the ultimate promise being our eternal salvation if we remain faithful and true.


Question for group discussion:

Question: #1: Hebrews 2:9 tells us that Christ submitted to death so that God's grace should benefit all humanity.  And in 2:10 that, It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should in bringing many sons [and daughters] to glory, make perfect through suffering the leader of their salvation.  Jesus told us to take up our crosses and follow Him daily if we want to be His true disciples.  Does He also expect us to drink from His cup of suffering?  See Matthew 20:23; 2 Corinthians 1:5-7; Colossians 1:24.

#2: What did St. Paul write about Christ's suffering and Christ's glory and the Christian's duty to live out the life of Christ in our own faith journeys as we look forward to the hope of resurrection in Romans 8:14-17?  According to St. Paul how can Christians, as true sons and daughters of God expect to share in Christ's glory? 


Possible answer: Jesus suffered in order defeat sin and death and to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and anyone who professes to be His disciple and continues His work on earth be willing to share in His suffering.  If it is God's plan, we must all be willing to face suffering and to offer up that suffering united to Christ's suffering in the name of our Savior who suffered and died for us.  In Romans St. Paul taught:  All who are guided by the Spirit of God are sons of God; for what you received was not the spirit of slavery to bring you back into fear; you received the spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry out, 'Abba, Father!'  The Spirit himself joins with our spirit to bear witness that we are children of God.  And if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, provided that we share in his suffering, so as to share his glory.


Question: How do you feel about Paul's statement in Romans?  How does Paul's statement impact your walk of faith toward salvation? What is his message for you personally?


Catechism references for Hebrews 2:5-3:6


624; 629*


407*; 636




1520*; 2602*






2777; 2795*








Resources used in this Lesson:

  1. The Documents of Vatican II: Dei Verbum
  2. The Navarre Bible: Hebrews, Four Courts Press, 1991.
  3. Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine's Press, South Bend, Indiana 2006
  4. Hebrews, St. John Chrysostom, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, first series, Hendrickson Publishers, 1995.
  5. Kinship by Covenant: A Biblical Theological Study of Covenant Types and Texts in the Old and New Testaments, Dr. Scott Hahn, UMI Dissertation Services, 1995
  6. The Anchor Bible Commentary: To the Hebrews, George Wesley Buchanan, Doubleday, New York, 1972.
  7. The Anchor Bible Commentary: Hebrews, Craig R. Koester, Doubleday, New York, 2001.
  8. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Hebrews, InterVarsity Press, 2005
  9. The Jewish Talmud
  10. The Catechism of the Catholic Church
  11. The Works of Philo, Hendrickson Publishers, 1998
  12. Feast of Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Ignatius Press, 1986.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.