Notes on the KJV of Hebrews
Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in his house.
For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.
For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.
And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;
But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,
Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.
Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.
So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end;
While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.
But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?
So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Nowadays we would expand verse 1 to say “holy brothers and sisters.” This a correction of the text, not a translation, as the patriarchal language of the time addressed only men. It’s a necessary correction prompted by the Holy Spirit.
The members of the believing community are called “holy”, Greek hagioi, which means they are consecrated to God, like priests or the offerings they made to God. The community as a whole and as individuals is seen as taking over the status of the Jewish priesthood.
Jesus himself is called “Apostle” (sent by God) and High Priest (representative of the people to God and on occasion of God to the people). The apostolic and priestly functions of the believing community are derived from Jesus.
Moses is designated as a faithful servant in God’s house (hold), that is in God’s people. He is nevertheless part of the household, whereas Jesus is the builder of the household, which is the believing community. This would identify Jesus with God were he not given a special place in the household as the Son of God who shares in building it. The community keeps this identity if it holds firm the “boldness (parresia) and the boasting (kauchema) of hope” Both words are used by St Paul also, to designate the scandalous lack of fear towards God and the joyful self-confidence of these believers. We might translate, “if we remain bold and boastful in our hope” -yes, that’s a bit extreme, but it defines an unusual, almost irreligious, temperament.
The quotations from Psalm 95 and Numbers14 reflect a strand of Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness in which they were tested by God but also by their disobedience put God to the test. The key incident is that of the golden calf, that is, an act of deliberate idolatry. This is called “provocation” (Greek parapikrasmos) which indicates bitter rebellion, and testing (Greek peirasmos). The author puts these together and analyses their cause as a-pistia, meaning unbelief, idolatry.
The Psalm and the passage from Numbers provide a very negative interpretation of the wilderness story- the first generation of wilderness Jews are depicted as hardened in heart, impervious to God’s pleading, and therefore deprived of entry into the land of promise, which is called “God’s rest.” The KJV well translates the consequence, “their carcasses fell in the wilderness”
The word “today” in the Psalm is given prominence as the present moment of turning towards the God who calls. This “today” is similar to St. Paul’s statement that “now is the day of salvation”, but it is qualified by the condition “if you hear his voice”; those who do not hear and turn may find their hearts hardened against the living God, and may “depart from him”. Believers are admitted to God’s household, to share boldly in his goodness, but those who depart should recognise the seriousness of what they are doing: they will forfeit the “rest” promised by God. Today is the joyful moment of the gospel call but it won’t last for ever.
Verse 14 is important as it states the positive condition which believers may lose if they neglect the living God and turn to idols. KJV translates “we are partakers of Christ” but the word metochos in Greek was often used of commercial partnerships, and this commercial flavour may be continued in the Greek hupostaseos, which was used of the financial undertaking involved in a commercial rental. Perhaps we could translate: “we are partners with Christ if we hold to the undertaking we made at the start until the end.” This partnership is with the one who as the Son builds the household of God. It is the result of faith and is a prerequisite for entering the rest which God has provided.