James Swetnam, «The Crux at Hebrews 2,9 in Its Context», Vol. 91 (2010) 103-111
The note suggests that Heb 2,9 means that Jesus died physically so that he could die in the gaze of those who believe in him and thus be freed from the fear of death (2,15). It also suggests that Heb 2,8b-9 is a subsection about Jesus as the heavenly sacrificial victim and corresponds to Heb 2,14-16 which is about Jesus the earthly sacrificial victim. Heb 2,10-12 in turn is a subsection about Jesus as heavenly high priest and corresponds to Heb 2,17-18 which is about Jesus as earthly high priest.
See more by the same author
110 JAMES SWETNAM
high priest. The goal of becoming high priest seems presumed; the qualities
of merciful and faithful with regard to the things of God are the point of the
need by Jesus to become like these brothers and expiate their sins. The reason
for this necessity is given in 2,18: the brothers are being tested, hence Jesus
had to be tested.
The inversion of the phrase â€œflesh and bloodâ€ at the beginning of
2,13b-18 into â€œblood and fleshâ€ (aÄ±ma kaÄ± sarj â€“ 2,14) probably suggests
that the blood of Jesus will be emphasized in what follows 30. In its own verse
the inversion seems to lead to mention of Jesusâ€™ death in the same verse,
which suggests that the inversion is important for understanding that death.
In 2,17 there is the culmination of this part of the exposition with the
statement that Jesus became a merciful and faithful high priest for the
expiation of the sins of the people.
The expiation of sin by Jesus the earthly high priest mentioned in 2,17 is
relevant to blood from the standpoint of what is necessary in the Hebrew
faith-world for it to occur. But looking in 2,10-12 to the counterpart in what is
effected by Jesus the heavenly high priest, one notes the emphasis on
sanctification : â€œthe one sanctifying and those being sanctified are all from
one â€, i.e., are persons who have not only Abrahamic faith-trust but Christian
faith-trust as well. In Hebrews sanctification is linked with the shedding of
Jesusâ€™ blood either explicitly (9,13; 10,29; 13,12) or implicitly (10,10.14).
The present note has suggested that the crux in Heb 2,9 which seems to
say that Jesus died in order to die should be taken at face value: he died once
physically on the cross so that he could die repeatedly in the gaze of those
who believe in him and thus be liberated from the fear of death that dogs
them. Further, the note has taken the occasion of the apparent parallelism
The reason for the inversion is much discussed. Cf. ELLINGWORTH,
Hebrews, 171. Ellingworth thinks that sacrificial language is â€œconspicuously
absent in Heb 2,14-15â€. This, of course, is to beg the question: if the inversion
was caused by the desire to give a coloring involving Jesusâ€™ blood, i.e., a
coloring of sacrifice, to all that follows, 2,14 takes on the coloring of sacrifice.
But apart from this consideration, the word â€œdeathâ€ (uanatov) must be
interpreted as it is found elsewhere in the epistle, especially in Heb 2,9, and
2,13a. The three repetitions of uanatov in 2,14 and 2,15 indicate that death is
the crucial reality under consideration, and in the passage 2,5-18 (cf. the
thematic 2,13a) it is more plausible to hold that uanatov as undergone by Jesus
is being primarily considered in its sacrificial aspect.