Note C.

On Hebrews 2:9, 16.

The possibility of the recovery of fallen angels is said to be absolutely negatived by the Apostle's words, in Heb. 2:16, that our Lord "took not on Him the nature of angels." Angels therefore, it is argued, cannot be restored.

But is it true that our Lord has never taken the nature of angels? What then is taught in such Scriptures as Gen. 22:15-16; 48:16; Judges 6:12-14, 22-23; 13:21-22; Isa. 63:9; Zech. 3:1; Mal. 3:1; Acts 7:38; Col. 2:10; &c.; where our Lord is shewn to have appeared before His Incarnation as an angel?

In the next place, is it true that the verse in question really says that our Lord "took not on Him the nature of angels?" To answer this we have only to turn to the Original, where (as the marginal note of our Authorized Version shews even to an English reader,) the words, οὐ γὰρ ἐπιλαμβάνεται, translated in the Authorized Version "took not on Him the nature of," are seen to be simply, "is not laying hold of"; the statement being, that Christ is not now laying hold of angels, but only of the seed of Abraham.

That this is the meaning of ἐπιλαμβάνεται may be shewn from countless passages, such for example as Matt. 14:31; Luke 9:47; Acts 16:19; 23:19; Heb. 8:9. See also the LXX. in Gen. 25:26; Exod. 4:4; Judges 16:3, 21, &c. This verse therefore gives no support whatever to the doctrine based on the translation (corrected in the margin) of our Authorized English Version.

There is however a passage in the same second chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which, if we take what appears to have been the original reading, teaches, as Bengel and others have shewn, a very different doctrine. I allude to the 8th and 9th verses (Heb. 2:8-9), where our Version reads, "that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man." It is not generally known that an older reading is, "that He should taste death for all excepting God"; χωρὶς θεοῦ instead of χάριτι θεοῦ. This is the way Ambrose, a.d. 370, quotes the verse; and long before his time, when Origen wrote, a.d. 203, this was the usual reading, though in his Commentary on S. John (tom. i. § 40,) he allows that "in some copies," (ἐν τισι ἀντιγράφοις,) the other reading was also then to be met with. The ancient Syriac Version too has followed the reading χωρὶς θεοῦ. The following notes on the passage, from Cornelius a Lapide,—who gives us Ambrose's exposition,—from Origen, and lastly from Bengel, shew how strong the evidence is in favour of χωρὶς θεοῦ.

Cornelius a Lapide's note is as follows:—"Nota. Pro χάριτι, id est, gratia Dei, Theodoretus, Theophylactus, et Oecumenius legunt χωρὶς θεοῦ, id est, sine Deo, vel excepto Deo, adduntque, ita corruptum esse hunc locum a Nestorianis; hinc enim illi probant in Christo duas fuisse personas, et Deum ab homine fuisse separatum. Verum ante Nestorium Ambrosius, (lib. de fide, cap. 4,) legit quoque τὸ sine Deo; sicque explicat: 'Christus pro omnibus sine Deo, id est, excepto Deo, mortem gustavit, q.d. Christus pro omnibus, etiam angelis, non autem pro Deo ipso, (Deum enim excipio,) mortuus est. Non quasi angelos redemerit Christus, sed quod angelos hominibus reconciliarit, eorumque laetitiam et gloriam auxerit, dum sedes eorum, ex quibus collapsi erant daemones, per homines restauravit et replevit.'" Which explanation of the words shews that Ambrose accepted the reading, χωρὶς θεοῦ, though he would draw another conclusion from it.

Origen constantly quotes the passage, with the reading χωρὶς θεοῦ; e.g. Comment. in Johan. tom. i. § 40; (vol. iv. p. 41. Ed. Delarue, Paris, 1733-59;) and again tom. xxviii. § 14, (vol. iv. pp. 392, 393.) And again in his Comment. in Epist. ad. Rom. lib. iii. § 8; (vol. iv. p. 513.) And again lib. v. § 7, of the same; (p. 560.) In quoting the verse in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, (lib. v. § 7. pp. 559, 560,) he says, "Requiritur sane, si in solis hominibus superabundet gratia, in quibus abundavit aliquando peccatum; et an in nullo superabundet gratia, nisi in quo abundavit peccatum; an et in aliquibus potest superabundare gratia, in quibus nunquam vel abundaverit vel fuerit peccatum. Et si quis illud aspiciat quod dicit Apostolus, quia pacificavit Christus per sanguinem suum non solum quoe in terris sunt, sed et quoe in coelis, et illud, Ut sine Deo pro omnibus gustaret mortem, putabit et ibi similiter aliquem abundantiem fuisse peccati, ut nihilominus etiam gratiae superabundantia fieret."

Bengel too evidently prefers the reading χωρὶς. Having pointed out, (Gnomon, in loco,) how nearly identical the teaching of verses 8 and 9 is with that of 1 Cor. 15:27, where, as he observes, "in treating of the same Psalm, the same verse, and the same words, 'All things put under Him,' the Apostle states, that the 'All' admits of one most evident and proper exception, saying, 'It is evident that He is excepted which did put all things under Him,'"—Bengel goes on to say, that "the same exception is made in this passage, only here it is as to those for whom He tasted death. 'For all, excepting God.'" He then thus sums up in favour of the reading χωρὶς θεοῦ:—"Nunc quaeritur, utra lectio genuina est. Non ignoro, χάριτι plausibilius esse, quam χωρὶς. Et sine labore ullo a me impetrarem, ut hoc missum facerem, et illud amplecterer. Sed ubi de verbo Dei, ubi de unico Dei verbulo agitur, nil temporis causa statuere debemus. Facilius χωρὶς in χάριτι, quam χάριτι in χωρὶς librariorum sedulitas, planiora omnia quaerens, mutavit: et tamen χωρὶς remanet in monumentis antiquis, multis, gravibus. Neque lectionem hanc, neque interpretationem hic a nobis propositam, quisquam, ut spero, exagitabit· lectori tamen integrum est, rem amplius expendere."

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