Rebuild & Renew: The Post-Exilic Books
Beginning the Journey (for new Christians).
1, 2, and 3 John
1 & 2 Thessalonians
1 & 2 Timothy
2 Peter, Jude
7 Last Words of Christ
Christ Powered Life (Rom 5-8)
David, Life of
Glorious Kingdom, The
Jesus and the Kingdom
Lamb of God
Names of God
Names of Jesus
Sermon on the Mount
3. Jesus, the Giver of Rest (Hebrews 3:1-4:13)
As we have seen, the recipients of this Letter are strongly tempted to desert Christianity and return to their former Judaism. This passage is an impassioned exhortation to them to be faithful to Christ, to resist the rebelliousness shown by their ancestors, and to fear God who fully comprehends the wavering allegiance of the inner person.
This passage is a fairly complex and lengthy argument -- and very rich. Let's focus on the writer's four main sections here. The writer draws on his readers' understanding of Scripture to help his readers recall:
- God's Household. Compares Moses' role as steward over God's household with Christ's role as a Son in God's household (3:1-6)
- A Call to Faith rather than Rebellion. An exhortation to faith in Psalm 95:7-11 based on the negative example of the Israelites' rebellious refusal to enter the Promised Land when God told them it was time (3:6-4:7)
- Entering into the Christian's Rest. A meditation on what it means to enter God's place of spiritual rest, drawn from the promise of entering Canaan and of God's resting from his work on the Seventh Day (4:8-11)
- God's Discerning Word. The awesome and penetrating nature of both God's Word and his all-seeing Eye (4:12-13)
Before we begin, let me caution you that you'll find warnings in this passage that may trouble you. Are they merely hypothetical? The writer of Hebrews is writing with all earnestness to convince his readers not to turn away from Christ. The warnings are part of his pastoral urgency -- for them and for us! Now let's examine these verses in greater detail.
God's Household: Faithful as a Son Over God's House (3:1-6)
"1Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. 2He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. 3Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. 6But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast." (3:1-6)
First, the writer points to Jesus as our "apostle and high priest" -- the Sent One and the One who appeals to God on our behalf. "Fix your thoughts" (katanoeō1) on Jesus, says the writer. It's so easy to get our eyes elsewhere and lose our focus. People, churches, doctrine can distract us. It is on Jesus we must fixate!
Next, the writer compares Jesus to Moses. Both were "faithful" (pistos), that is "worthy of belief or trust, trustworthy, faithful, dependable, inspiring faith/trust."2 But "Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses" (3:3). Why? Moses acted as a servant over God's house or household, while Jesus was the Son.
Now the exhortation:
"And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast" (3:6b).
These Jewish Christians are tempted to return to their former Judaism. The writer gives them a stern warning -- you are only part of the Messiah's household if you continue firm in your faith in him. Paul says something similar: "... if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel" (Colossians 1:23). The writer uses four Greek words to underscore this:
- "Courage" (NIV) and "confidence" (KJV, NRSV) is parrēsia, "a state of boldness and confidence, courage, confidence, boldness, fearlessness."3 We see this word appear again and again in Hebrews. Confidence! Courage!
- "Hope" is elpis, "the looking forward to something with some reason for confidence respecting fulfillment, hope, expectation."4
- "Boast" (NIV), "pride" (NRSV), and "rejoicing" (KJV) is kauchēma, "act of taking pride in something or that which constitutes a source of pride, boast."5
- "Hold on to" (NIV), "hold firm" (NRSV), and "hold fast" (KJV) is the verb katechō, "to adhere firmly to traditions, convictions, or beliefs, hold to, hold fast, retain faithfully," in verses 6, 14, and 10:23.
Keep holding on! Don't let go! Continue in your faith and confidence in Jesus as the Messiah, he commands.
Q1. (Hebrews 3:6b) Why is the writer exhorting his readers to "hold on" to Christ? Why must we continue in our faith? According the writer of Hebrews, what happens if we don't?
A Call to Faith rather than Rebellion (3:7-4:7)
The next part is a lengthy section that consists of an exhortation to the readers based on a careful study of Psalm 95:7-11 and the story it tells of unbelieving Israel's rebellion.
The Negative Example of Unbelieving Israel in the Wilderness (3:7-11)
"6And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast." 7So, as the Holy Spirit says:
'Today, if you hear his voice,
8do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the desert,
9where your fathers tested and tried me
and for forty years saw what I did.
10That is why I was angry with that generation,
and I said, "Their hearts are always going astray,7
and they have not known my ways."8
11So I declared on oath9 in my anger,
"They shall never enter10 my rest."' (3:6b-11, quoting Psalm 95:7-11)
The writer quotes Psalm 95 in order to illustrate his point ("so"), which is that we remain part of the Messiah's household only if we hold onto our faith and courage. The Psalmist recounts the sad story of Israel's 40-year sojourn in the wilderness. Under Moses they had been brought out of Egypt and seen the Egyptian army destroyed by God's mighty hand. But then the complaints began. No food. God provided manna. No water. God directed Moses to strike a rock and water gushed forth at Massah and Meribah (Exodus 17:7).
The crucial test,11 however, took place on the brink of entering the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14). Twelve spies had been sent north from the Israelite camp at Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land of Canaan prior to the conquest. When they returned, ten reported that they would not be able to defeat the walled cities and giants in the land. Only two -- Caleb and Joshua -- reported that through trust in God: "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it." (Numbers 13:30).
At that point the people of Israel rebelled. They were filled with fear from the negative report of the ten spies. There was talk of selecting another leader to take them back to Egypt. This wasn't just resistance against the authority of Moses, whom God had appointed, but unbelief of God himself. It was ugly! The Psalmist calls it "rebellion, revolt" (parapikrasmos)12 (Psalm 95:8b). It constituted treason against both Moses and God.
God's response was anger at the unbelief of the entire generation. His oath in this passage begins "as surely as...." He responded:
"As surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times -- not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it." (Numbers 14:21-23)
None of the men and women 20 years old and older would enter the Promised Land and rest from their sojourn. They would die in the desert; only their children would enter the land. Why? Because they would not continue in faith -- the same temptation the Jewish Christian readers were struggling with. That is why the writer spends quite a bit of time in Psalm 95 looking at the implications of their unbelief.
Keep from Being Hardened by Sin's Deceitfulness (3:12-14)
Now he drives the lesson home:
"12See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. 14We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first." (3:12-14)
He warns them to realize their own weakness. He describes the kind of heart that commits apostasy:
- "Sinful" (NIV) and "evil" (KJV, NRSV) is ponēros, "pertaining to being morally or socially worthless, wicked, evil, bad, base, worthless, vicious, degenerate."13
- "Unbelieving" (NIV, NRSV), "unbelief" (KJV) is apistia, "unwillingness to commit oneself to another or respond positively to the other's words or actions, lack of belief, unbelief."14
This kind of heart, he says, is liable to turn away from the living God just as the Israelites did at Kadesh-barnea in the wilderness. "Turns away" (NIV, NRSV) and "departs" (KJV) is aphistēmi, "To distance oneself from some person or thing ... go away, withdraw, fall away, become a backslider."15 This is a compound verb, apo, "away from" + histēmi, "to stand." In the Septuagint the term becomes almost a technical one for religious apostasy.16 Indeed, our English word "apostasy" comes from this word.
The writer realizes that it is possible for Christians to "be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." One's heart can become gradually hardened,17 if one gives in continually to sin. He recognizes that sin is "deceitful." The word is interesting. "Deceitfulness," apatē, can mean both "deception, deceitfulness" and "pleasure, pleasantness."18 Thus it seems to carry the idea of seductiveness, seduction. The sin seems pleasurable at the time (Hebrews 11:25), but it is deadly. The writer of Proverbs observes, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12). Vincent says, "Apatē is rather a 'trick, stratagem, deceit,' than the quality of deceitfulness. The warning is against being hardened by a trick which their sin may play on them."19
An important antidote to sin's trickery is Christian fellowship:
"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (3:13).
How can we expect not to fall for sin's false face if we isolate ourselves from our brothers and sisters? We aren't that strong. We need each other! We need one another's encouragements and exhortations20 to live for Christ!
Now the writer zings home another warning. See its similarity to what we've just read:
"We have come to share in Christ if we hold (katechō) firmly till the end the confidence we had at first." (3:12-14)
"And we are his house, if we hold on to (katechō) our courage and the hope of which we boast" (3:6b).
This is the writer's main point. To fall away from Jesus as Messiah is not just "too bad." It is spiritually perilous, it is spiritually deadly. Without faith or "confidence"21 we are no longer "sharers" or "partners" in Christ. Metochos, "sharing, participating in," 22 was used in commercial correspondence as a standard technical term for "business partner."23 We cannot just take our faith in Christ for granted, says the writer, we must hold it "firmly."24
Q2. (Hebrews 3:12-14) What is the importance of faith in our relationship to Christ? How does sin trick us? How does it harden us? What is the value of Christian fellowship to keep our faith strong?
Rebelliousness and Unbelief Made It Impossible for Israel to Enter the Promised Land (3:15-19)
Now the writer continues his argument for faithfulness based on Psalm 95:
"15As has just been said:
'Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion.'
16Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? 18And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed ? 19So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief." (3:15-19)
Combining the Message with Faith (4:1-3a)
"1Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. 3Now we who have believed enter that rest..." (4:1-3a)
Now the writer asserts that "the promise of entering his rest still stands," that is, is still left open25 as a promise to all Christians. Why? Because this was not just a promise to the Israelites in the wilderness to enter into the Promised Land, but has a spiritual application to all Christians who trust in Christ. We'll consider this "rest" in a moment.
But first, notice the writer's point. The Israelites in the wilderness had the promise of rest in Canaan declared to them, "but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith." "Combine" (NIV), "united" (NRSV), and "mixed" (KJV) is sunkerannumi, literally, "to bring about a blend by mixing various items, blend, unite," then figuratively "to effect a harmonious unit, compose."26
The equation is:
Promise of God + faith = receiving fulfillment of the promise
Again, the writer is exhorting his readers to continue in faith.
Rest in the Old Testament
So what is this "rest" that the writer is talking about? Our interpretation of this word is important to our understanding of the entire passage, so let's begin with the Old Testament.
"So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" (3:11)
In our passage, katapausis, "rest,"27 translates the Hebrew word for "rest," menūhā, "resting-place, rest," which occurs 21 times in the Old Testament. The root nûah "signifies not only absence of movement, but being settled in a particular place (whether concrete or abstract) with overtones of finality, or (when speaking abstractly) of victory, salvation, etc.... Basically the root nûah relates to absence of spatial activity and presence of security."28 "Rest, resting-place" is used in the Old Testament speaking of the Promised Land, Canaan as the final land where Israel can settle (Genesis 49:15; Deuteronomy 12:9, 28:65; 1 Kings 8:56). It is used of having one's own permanent house or dwelling place (Ruth 1:9a; Isaiah 32:18). Finally, it is used the temple in Jerusalem, God's permanent "home" following the tabernacle (Psalm 132:8, 13-14 = 2 Chronicles 6:41; Isaiah 66:1). In these and other passages "rest" refers to settling down in one's own home, one's own land, after a period of sojourning. It certainly bears that meaning in Psalm 95:11.
In all likelihood, it carries a similar idea for the writer of Hebrews, who seems to be building an analogy between Israel's sojourn in the wilderness and entry into the Promised Land, and the Christian's experience. Bruce notes,
"The New Testament bears witness, in a number of places, to a primitive and widespread Christian interpretation of the redemptive work of Christ in terms of a new Exodus."29
It Remains for Some to Enter God's Rest (4:3b-7)
The writer of Hebrews continues:
"3bNow we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
'So I declared on oath in my anger,
"They shall never enter my rest."'
And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. 4For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: 'And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.' 5And again in the passage above he says, 'They shall never enter my rest.'
6It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. 7Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before:
'Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.'" (4:3b-7)
He calls on God resting the Seventh Day (Genesis 2:2) to buttress his argument for the future nature of this "rest." The Rabbis argued that for the first six days there was morning and evening. But for the Seventh there is no mention of an end at all. They reasoned that the day of God's rest had no ending, it was eternal and everlasting.30 Using this argument might suggest that the writer of Hebrews is equating "rest" with eternal life.
A Sabbath-Rest -- Resting from Your Own Work (4:8-11)
The writer reasons that God wouldn't have spoken of this rest in Psalm 95, if it had already been fulfilled. The "today" in Psalm 95:7 suggests that there is still a future promise of rest. Now comes a crucial passage for interpreting the meaning of "rest" in this passage:
"8For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience." (4:8-11)
The writer uses the word "sabbath-rest" (NIV, NRSV) or "rest" (KJV), sabbatismos, which means, "sabbath rest, sabbath observance."31 He isn't trying to do away with the sabbath by this statement, but to compare the believer's "rest" to God's Seventh Day rest.
The writer introduces the explanatory phrase, "for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his" (4:10). Is this some kind of Pauline faith-righteousness vs. works-righteousness transplanted into this passage? Some commentators seem to think so.32
But the phrase could just as well mean that in that "rest," we too can relax in God's eternal Day, in the sense it is spoken of in Revelation:
"Then I heard a voice from heaven say, 'Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'
'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.'" (Revelation 14:13)
Many commentators see it in this latter sense, which compares "rest" in the Promised Land to eternal "rest" in our heavenly home.33 This kind of theme underlies many African-American spirituals built on the spiritual analogy of "crossing Jordan" into "Beulah land." I tend to agree. Here "God's rest" = "heaven," our final settling place, our spiritual home.
When the writer's argument is so consistent that Christians must hold onto their faith in Christ and not let it go lest they miss out on the promise, why would some interpreters read the passage as if it meant "ceasing from self-righteous works" and resting in "the finishing work of Christ"? I think one of the reasons is that some find if difficult doctrinally to accept the writer's warnings at face value. So instead of making heaven dependent upon continuing in faith, they would rather see this as a "resting in faith." (Resting in faith in Christ for our salvation is, of course, the privilege of all true believers.)
The writer doesn't let us conclude there, but urges us again:
"Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience." (4:11)
"Make every effort" (NIV, NRSV) and "labour" (KJV) is spoudazō, "to be especially conscientious in discharging an obligation, be zealous/eager, take pains, make every effort, be conscientious."34
Q3. (Hebrews 4:8-11) What do you think the writer of Hebrews means by this promise of "rest" for the believer? Why does the writer urge us: "Make every effort to enter that rest"? What is the difference between apostasy from Christ and the kind of falling into sin that all Christians experience from time to time?
Finally, the writer points us to the seriousness of the Word of God. This is the second of the five warning passages in Hebrews. If ignoring and rebelling against the Word kept the Israelites out of the Promised Land, we must take it seriously. Moreover, the Word has a way of uncovering our tendencies to go astray and our weaknesses.
"12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (4:12-13)
Our author describes the Word as "living" and "active." "Living" (NIV, NRSV) and "quick" (KJV) is from zaō, "to live." Here it could mean, "to live in the transcendent sense," "to be full of vitality, be lively," or may carry the idea "to be life-productive, offer life."35 "Active" (NIV, NRSV) and "powerful" (KJV) is energēs, from the same root as our word "energy." It means, "pertaining to practical expression of capability, effective, active, powerful."36
Then our author compares the Word to a razor-sharp37 sword (machaira), "a relatively short sword or other sharp instrument, sword, dagger."38 It is not only sharp, but double-edged,39 that is, powerful and dangerous.
It also penetrates or pierces (diikneomai40) deep into the person, "even to dividing soul and spirit, joints41 and marrow.42" The soul (psuchē) is the seat of the inner life,43 while the spirit seems to be that part of the human personality that contains the "breath" of life and relates to the Divine Spirit.44 Only here and in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 are they distinguished from each other. The idea, therefore, may be that God's Word is so powerful that it can separate the inseparable and scrutinize the inscrutable.
While the Hebrew Christians may justify themselves -- and we may justify our actions before God -- it is God's Word that will be the ultimate Judge, since it can discern45 what cannot be seen from the outside -- the hidden thoughts46 and intentions47 of the heart.
In other words, Hebrews is saying, don't ignore the message of salvation, the Word of God to you. For if you do, God's Word will pierce through all your defenses and expose your true motives.
Q4. (Hebrews 4:12-13) What do these two verses have to do with what precedes them? How is the Word described? What effect does the Word have on us? Why do we need to continually expose ourselves to the Word of God?
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This passage is a sober exhortation, a sober reminder, of the consequences of unbelief. Dear brothers and sisters, lay hold of Christ and his word -- and hang on -- that you might finally enter his rest, the "Promised Land," heaven where Christ dwells.
Father, we so need to enter into the rest of faith now -- and look forward to entering into your rest in heaven. We trust you. Keep us from straying and pull us back when we get off the path. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
"But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast." (Hebrews 3:6)
"There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience." (Hebrews 4:9-11)
"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:12-13)
- "Fix your thoughts" (NIV) and "consider" (NRSV, KJV) is the verb katanoeō, "notice, observe," then "look at in a reflective manner, consider, contemplate." Here the meaning is probably "to think about carefully, envisage, think about, notice," here and in 10:24 (BDAG 522).
- Pistos, BDAG 820-821, 1.a.α.
- Parrēsia, BDAG 781, 3.b.
- Elpis, BDAG 319-320.
- Kauchēma, BDAG 537
- Katechō, BDAG 532-533, 2.b.
- "Go astray" (NIV, NRSV), "err" is the verb planaō (from which we get our word "planet"), "to proceed without a sense of proper direction, go astray, be misled, wander about aimlessly" (BDAG 821-822, 2.c.α.).
- "Ways" is hodos, "way, road, highway," then figuratively, "course of behavior, way, way of life, way of acting, conduct" (BDAG 691, 3.b.)
- "Declare on oath" (NIV), "swore" (NRSV, KJV) in Psalm 95:11 and Hebrews' quotation of it is the verb omnuō, "to affirm the veracity of one's statement by invoking a transcendent entity, frequently with implied invitation of punishment if one is untruthful, swear, take an oath." It is used several times in Hebrews in verses 11 and 18, as well as 4:3, 6:13, 16; 7:21.
- "Enter" is eiserchomai, is used figuratively, "to enter into an event or state," used of person, "come into something = share in something, come to enjoy something," found in 3:11, 18 and 4:1,3,5-6, 10-11, quoting Psalm 94:11 (BDAG 293-294, 2.).
- The Septuagint version of Psalm 95 uses thee words for testing. The first is used for God's test of the Israelites: "testing" (NIV, NRSV) or "temptation" (KJV) is peirasmos, "an attempt to learn the nature or character of something, test, trial" (BDAG 793, 1.). The second and third refer to the Israelites' testing of God: "Tested" (NIV), "put ... to the test" (NRSV), "tempted" (KJV) is the verb peirazō, "to endeavor to discover the nature or character of something by testing, try, make trial of, put to the test" (BDAG 792-793, 2.c.). "Tried" (NIV), "proved" (KJV) is dokimasia, "an examination for genuineness, testing examination" (BDAG 256).
- "Rebellion" (NIV, NRSV) and "provocation" (KJV) is parapikrasmos "revolt, rebellion" (BDAG 770). "Rebellion" is parapikrasmos, used in Psalm 95:8, probably in the sense of "rebellion" than of "bitterness," from para, "with" + pikros, "pointed, bitter" (Wilhelm Michaelis, pikros, TDNT 6:122-127).
- Ponēros, BDAG 851-852, 1.a.β.
- Apistia, BDAG 103.
- Aphistēmi, BDAG 157-158, 2.a.
- Heinrich Schlier, aphistēmi, TDNT 1:512-514.
- Sklērunō, "to harden," is primarily a medical term, but is used figuratively, linked with unbelief (Karl Ludwig Schmidt and Martin Anton Schmidt, pachunō, ktl., TDNT 5:1022-1031).
- Apatē, BDAG 99.
- Vincent, in loc.
- "Encourage" (NIV) and "exhort" (NRSV, KJV) is parakaleō, "to urge strongly, appeal to, urge, exhort, encourage" (BDAG 765).
- "Confidence" here is hupostasis, "Plan, project, undertaking, endeavor." The lexicographer explains, "To emphasize the importance of steadfast 'commitment to professed obligation,' the author of Hebrews 3:14 uses hupostasis in a way that invites an addressee to draw on the semantic component of obligation familiar in commercial usage of the term, an association that is invited by use of metochos, a standard term for a business partner." This word is also used in the famous passage of Hebrews 11:1, but there probably has the meaning "guarantee of ownership/entitlement, title deed" (BDAG 1040-1041).
- "Share in" (NIV), "partners" (NRSV), "made partakers of" (KJV) is the adjective metochos, "sharing, participating in," found in verses 1 and 14, but verse 14 is perhaps the substantive "partner, companion." (BDAG 643).
- On hupostasis, BDAG 1041, meaning 2.
- "Firm(ly)" (NIV, NRSV) and "steadfast" (KJV) is bebaios, "pertaining to having continuity or being unwavering and persistent, abiding," in this verse, "hold firm the original commitment." It is used of an anchor in 6:19 in the sense of "reliable, unshifting" (BDAG 172, 2.)
- "Still stands" (NIV), "is still open" (NRSV), "being left" (KJV) is kataleipō, "to cause something to remain in existence or be left over, leave over," in our verse, "a promise that is still open" (BDAG 520-521, 4.)
- Sunkerannumi, BDAG 952. Verse 2 has a great variety of early textual readings, "with a variety of ancient conjectures vainly striving to heal a primitive corruption" (Bruce, Hebrews, p. 103, n. 4, citing G. Zuntz, The Text of the Epistle (London, 1953), p. 16). Bruce renders the phrase, "but the message which they heard did them no good since it was not combined with faith on the part of the hearers."
- Katapausis, means 'resting' (active) or 'rest' (passive)" (Otto Bauernfeind, katapauō, TDNT 3:627-628; BDAG 523-524).
- Leonard J. Coppes, nûah, TWOT #1323f.
- Bruce, Hebrews, p. 96.
- Barclay, Hebrews, p. 31.
- Sabbatismos, BDAG 909.
- Stedman, Hebrews, p. 58; Guthrie, Hebrews, pp. 115-116.
- Bruce, Hebrews, p. 110.
- Spoudazō, BDAG 939.
- Zaō, BDAG 426, meanings 2, 4 and 5. Danker places this verse with meaning 5. Thayer sees the meaning as, "having vital power in itself and exerting the same upon the soul" (Thayer 273-274, 2.).
- Energēs, BDAG 335.
- Tomōteros, comparative of tomos, "pertaining to having the capacity to cut efficiently, cutting, sharp" (BDAG 1010).
- Machaira, BDAG 622.
- "Double-edged" (NIV) or "two-edged" (NRSV, KJV) is distomos, literally "having a double mouth." As stoma is used of the edge of a sword and of other weapons, so distomos has the meaning "two-edged" (here and in Revelation 1:16; 2:12). (Thayer 152-153). In the Septuagint, always used of a sword (Judges 3:16; Psalm 149:6; Proverbs 5:4). Twice in the New Testament stoma, "mouth," is used of the "edge" of a sword (Luke 21:24; Hebrews 11:34) (Vincent, in loc.).
- "Penetrates" (NIV), "piercing" (NRSV, KJV) is diikneomai, "to move through a three-dimensional space, pierce, penetrate" (BDAG 245).
- "Joints" is harmos, "joint," from harmosō, "fit, join." (BDAG 132).
- "Marrow" is muelos, "marrow," metaphorically of the inmost part. (BDAG 660).
- "Soul" (psuchē) is difficult to define precisely from the New Testament since it is used in different ways in different passages. It is often used for the "seat and center of the inner human life in its many and varied aspects, soul" (BDAG 1099, 2.f.). It is combined with pneuma, "spirit," and sōma, "body" in 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
- "Spirit" (pneuma) comes from the idea of "breath, (life-)spirit." Here it refers to "a part of the human personality, spirit" (BDAG 832-836).
- "Judge" (NIV, NRSV), "discerner" (KJV) is the adjective kritikos, "able to discern/judge" (BDAG 570).
- "Thoughts" is enthumēsis, "the process of considering something, thought, reflection, idea" (BDAG 336). Thayer sees the sense as "a thinking, consideration" (Thayer 216).
- "Intents" (KJV), "intentions" (NIV), and "attitudes" (NRSV) is the noun ennoia, "the content of mental processing, thought, knowledge, insight" (BDAG 337).
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