Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Hebrews 9:15-22 - Last will and testament

The second half of Hebrews tackles the problem of why Jesus had to die.

Hebrews 9:15-17
Thus, through his intervention, a new covenant has been bequeathed to us; a death must follow, to atone for all our transgressions under the old covenant, and then the destined heirs were to obtain, for ever, their promised inheritance. Where a bequest is concerned, the death of the testator must needs play its part; a will has no force while the testator is alive, and only comes into force with death. 
Et ideo novi testamenti mediator est: ut morte intercedente, in redemptionem earum prævaricationum, quæ erant sub priori testamento, repromissionem accipiant qui vocati sunt æternæ hæreditatis. Ubi enim testamentum est, mors necesse est intercedat testatoris. Testamentum enim in mortuis confirmatum est: alioquin nondum valet, dum vivit qui testatus est. 
Aquinas:

The new covenant is the will of Christ: ...in order that a will [testament] be in force, the death of the testator must be established. Therefore, the New Testament would have no strength, unless the death of Christ had come in: ‘It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people’. But the death of the testator is necessary for two reasons: first, that the testament might be valid, because, since it expresses the last will, it can always be changed before death; hence, he says, a testament takes effect only at death, i.e., after death. That is the way the New Testament has been confirmed by the death of Christ: ‘this is my blood of the new Testament,’ namely, its confirmer and dedicator. Secondly, the death of the testator is necessary, in order that the testament be in force and be efficacious; hence, he says, otherwise it is yet not in force, because no one can seek anything, nor an heir his inheritance by reason of the testament, till after the death of the testator. Therefore, Christ willed to interpose his death for our sake.

Hebrews 9:18-22
Thus the old covenant, too, needed blood for its inauguration. When he had finished reading the provisions of the law to the assembled people, Moses took blood, the blood of calves and goats, took water, and scarlet-dyed wool, and hyssop, sprinkled the book itself, and all the people, and said, This is the blood of the covenant which God has prescribed to you. The tabernacle, too, and all the requisites of worship he sprinkled in the same way with blood;  and the law enjoins that blood shall be used in almost every act of purification; unless blood is shed, there can be no remission of sins.
Unde nec primum quidem sine sanguine dedicatum est.  Lecto enim omni mandato legis a Moyse universo populo, accipiens sanguinem vitulorum et hircorum cum aqua, et lana coccinea, et hyssopo, ipsum quoque librum, et omnem populum aspersit, dicens: Hic sanguis testamenti, quod mandavit ad vos Deus. Etiam tabernaculum et omnia vasa ministerii sanguine similiter aspersit. Et omnia pene in sanguine secundum legem mundantur: et sine sanguinis effusione non fit remissio.
Prefigured in the Old Testament: ...neither was the first testament ratified, i.e., confirmed, without blood. But that blood prefigured the blood of Christ: ‘All these things happened to them in figure’...
the Apostle alludes here to history, which is recorded in Exodus that after Moses had read God’s commandments to the people and they had answered: ‘All things that the Lord has spoken we will do, we will be obedient’, he took the blood which he had ordered them to save of the twelve calves, and sprinkled the book of the Law and the people, as though in confirmation of the covenant... that blood was a figure of Christ’s blood...

The meaning of the symbolism: ...therefore, Christ used the words in Matthew: This is the blood of a goat because of its likeness to sinful flesh, and of a calf because of courage. But it is mixed with water, because baptism derives its efficacy from the blood of Christ. It is sprinkled with hyssop, which cleanses the breast, by which faith is signified: ‘By faith purifying their hearts’; and with purple wool, which is red to signify charity: ‘My beloved is white and ruddy’, because the people are cleansed by faith and the love of Christ. The book of the Law is sprinkled, because the passion of Christ fulfilled the Law: ‘It is consummated’; ‘I have not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it’.

The tabernacle:..And these two things are necessary for sanctification, namely, the power of Christ’s blood and the oil of mercy, by which the tabernacle, i.e., the Church, and the vessels, i.e., the saints, are sanctified.

Other cleansings in the Law: But cleansings were of two kinds: one from bodily stain, as leprosy, the other from spiritual, namely sin. The first could pertain to inanimate things, as the leprosy of houses: and the cleansing from that uncleanness was done with the blood of an immolated animal, or with the water of expiation, which was mixed with blood of a red calf. Hence, he says, almost all things, and not absolutely all...But for the cleansing from the stain of sin the shedding of blood is necessary, because it was required for the sacrifice; hence he says, without shedding of blood there is not forgiveness of sins. This showed that the forgiveness of sin was to be accomplished by the blood of Christ. Hence, in the Old Law, sins were forgiven not by virtue of a sacrament, but by virtue of faith in Christ. Hence, it is frequently stated there: ‘The priest shall pray for him and for his sin, and it shall be forgiven him’.

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