Where the world comes to study the Bible

Hebrews 8



The High Priest of a New and Better Covenant The New Priestly Services The Heavenly Sanctuary and the New Covenant Jesus, Our High Priest The New Priesthood and a New Sanctuary
8:1-6 8:1-6 8:1-7 8:1-2 8:1-5
      8:3-6 Christ is the Mediator of a Greater Covenant
  A New Covenant     8:6-13
8:7-13 8:7-13   8:7-13  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. This is part of a unified context related to the reader's need for maturity. This section runs from 5:11-10:18 with a parenthesis of warning from 5:12-6:20.


B. As chapter 2 develops using Psalm 8, chapters 3 and 4 develop using Psalm 110, and chapter 8 uses Jer. 31:31-34 (chapter 10 will use Psalm 40).


C. The true tabernacle in heaven which was alluded to in 6:19-20 and 8:2 will not be fully developed until chapter 9.



 1Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. 3For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. 4Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; 5who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, "See," He says, "that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." 6But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. 7For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. 8For finding fault with them, He says,
 "Behold, days are coming, says the Lord,
 When I will effect a new covenant
 With the
house of Israel and with the house of Judah;
  9Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers
 On the day when I took them by the hand
 To lead them out of the land of Egypt;
 For they did not continue in My covenant,
 And I did not care for them, says the Lord.
"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
 After those days, says the Lord:
 I will put My laws into their minds,
 And I will write them on their hearts.
 And I will be their God, And they shall be My people.
 11"And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen,
 And everyone his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,'
 For all will know Me,
 From the least to the greatest of them.

  12"For I will be merciful to their iniquities,
 And I will remember their sins no more
 13When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.


NRSV"main point"
TEV"the whole point"
NJB"the principle point"

This is a from a form of the Greek term "head," (kephalē) used metaphorically for the sum total of monies (cf. Acts 22:28). The Ancients added their figures upward instead of downward. This term had the additional figurative sense of (1) the most important point of the argument of the book so far or (2) a summary of an argument already given.

"high priest" This title for Jesus is only found in Hebrews (cf. 2:17; 3:1; 4:14-15; 5:10; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1,3; 9:11,25). The priestly nature of the Messiah is revealed in Psalm 110 and Zechariah 3 and 4. He is both priest and sacrifice (cf. Isaiah 53). He stands before God on mankind's behalf and offers Himself as the solution to the sin problem.

"who has taken His seat" This is the continuing use of Psalm 110 (i.e., v. 2). It refers to the finished work of Christ. However, it has a royal, not priestly, connotation. No priest ever sat down, only kings (cf. 1:3).

▣ "at the right hand" This is an anthropomorphic phrase for the place of authority and power (cf. 1:3,13; 8:1; 10:12-13; 12:2; Acts 2:33-35).

▣ "of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens" God does not have a physical throne because He is a spirit. This is an anthropomorphic phrase describing God in human terms and categories. It is a circumlocutionary or periphrastic way of referring to God without mentioning His name (cf. 12:2).

The term "heavens" is plural as it is in the OT. It is plural because it refers to several levels

1. the atmosphere above the earth where birds fly and clouds form (cf. Gen. 1:1)

2. the starry sky, the realm of the heavenly lights, sun, moon, stars, and planets (cf. Gen. 1:14)

3. the personal presence of God and the angelic realm

The rabbis often debated whether there were three heavens (cf. II Cor. 12:2) or seven heavens (i.e., not in the Bible, but first century rabbinical sources). This concept of several levels can be seen in Deut. 10:14; I Kgs. 8:27; and Ps. 68:33; 148:4. The Gnostics used this concept of multiple heavens to assert levels of angelic authority. However, Jesus has passed through them (cf. 4:14). The plural versus singular of ouranos (heaven) seems to have no theological significance in Hebrews (cf. 9:23 versus 9:24).

8:2 "tabernacle" This is a reference to the ideal tabernacle in heaven (cf. 6:19-20), of which the one revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai and constructed during the wilderness wandering period (cf. Exod.25-40) was a mere copy (cf. 9:11,24).

▣ "which the Lord pitched, not man" This may be an allusion to the Septuagint (LXX) translation of Exod. 33:7 (a special place to meet God) or it could be just another way of referring to the heavenly tabernacle made by God (cf. 11:10).

8:3 "to offer" This is the emphasis on the substitutionary atonement of Christ's sacrifice. His offering will be His life.

8:4 "if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all" This is a second class conditional sentence, which is called contrary to fact (cf. 4:8; 7:11; 8:4,7; 10:2; 11:15). Jesus was not of the priestly Levitical tribe, but from the royal tribe of Judah. Jesus' priestly ministry was ultimately performed in heaven.

8:5 "a copy and shadow of the heavenly things" The use of the terms "copy" and "shadow" are reminiscent of the writings of Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish writer and philosopher who lived from 20 b.c. to a.d. 42 and followed Plato. He allegorized the OT in an attempt to make it relevant to Greek society and to advocate Platonism as a means of elucidating YHWHism.

However, this passage does not reflect Philo, but the ancient Jewish tradition that Moses was given on Mt. Sinai a copy of the heavenly sanctuary—the tabernacle of the wilderness wandering period. This same type of reasoning is present in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which shows it was not unique to Plato (i.e., Greek philosophy). It is interesting that the author of Hebrews never discusses either Solomon's or Herod's Temple (nor their procedures). These were never commanded by God as was the tabernacle (cf. Exod.25-40), although I Chr. 28:19 comes close to claiming that Solomon's plans were divinely inspired.

The Jewish tradition that the early tabernacle was a copy of the true tabernacle in heaven can be seen in (1) Exod.25:9, 40; (2) Rev. 11:19; 13:6; 15:5; (3) II Baruch 4:5; (4) Martydom and Ascension of Isaiah 7:10; (5) Wisdom 9:8; (6) Flavius Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews 3:6:1

This passage cannot reflect Platonism because the Tabernacle in heaven had substance or reality. In Platonism the heavenly was an ideal, a mental, spiritual reality, but in the Bible it is a physical reality. Heaven is not just ideals/concepts/archetypes, but a true aspect of creation (cf. Col. 1:16).

This heavenly tabernacle will one day cease to exist (cf. Rev. 21:22). It served its purpose during this age, but will not be needed in the eschaton!

▣ "He says" This is a quote from Exod. 25:40. The tabernacle was not the plan of Moses, but the revelation of God.

8:6 "He has obtained a more excellent ministry" This is a Perfect active indicative. This same description of Jesus' excellence is used in connection with the angels in 1:4.

▣ "He is also the mediator of a better covenant" All the verbs in v. 6 are perfects. Like the previous one, this one is a perfect active indicative.

The term "mediator" is a legal term denoting an arbitrator. As a priest stands between a holy God and sinful mankind, so too, Jesus as a mediator (cf. 9:15; 12:24; I Tim. 2:5). This is another way of denoting the work of a High Priest.

▣ "better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises" This is a perfect passive indicative. The author of Hebrews' presentation of Jesus' authority over the Mosaic covenant is revealed by his use of the term "better" (see note at 7:7).


8:7 "if" This is another second class conditional sentence, which is called contrary to fact (cf. v. 4). This is a major point of the argument. An obviously false statement is used to make a theological point. The first covenant did not produce the desired result of restoration and righteousness.

8:8 "For finding fault with them" Not the Law, but human weakness was the problem (cf. Rom. 7:12,16; Galatians 3).

"He says" Verses 8-12 are a sustained quote from Jer. 31:31-34. Notice "He" refers to YHWH; however, in 10:15 this same phrase is attributed to the Holy Spirit. The inspiration of the OT is sometimes ascribed to the Spirit and sometimes to the Father.

▣ "new covenant" This passage in Jeremiah (cf. 31:31-34) is the only mention in the OT of a "new" covenant, but it is described in Ezekiel 36:22-38. This would have been very shocking to Jews.

▣ "house of Israel" This implies the reuniting of the people of God. After the United Monarchy (Saul, David, Solomon) split in 922 b.c., the northern tribes under Jeroboam I were called Israel and the southern tribes under Rehoboam were called Judah.

8:9 "not like the covenant" The difference is not in essence or goal but in methodology.

"On the day when I took them by the hand" This refers to YHWH as Father (cf. Hosea 11:1-4).

"And I did not care for them" This follows the Septuagint (LXX) translation. The Masoretic Text (MT) has "although I was a husband to them."

8:10 "minds" This follows the Septuagint (LXX) but the Masoretic text (MT) has "within them." This is how the old covenant differs from the new. The old is characterized by Ezek. 18:31, the new by Ezek. 11:19; 36:26-27.

"Hearts" This refers to the entire person (cf. Deut. 6:6; 11:18; 30:6,14). See Special Topic at 3:8.

"And I will be their God and they shall be my people" This is the covenantal formula of the OT.

8:11 There is a Greek manuscript variation in the term "citizen" versus "neighbor." In light of the Hebrew understanding of covenant brother the variation makes no interpretive difference. As far as the older and more reliable Greek texts are concerned, "citizens" is the best choice (cf. P46, א, A, B, D, K, L, and most later minuscule manuscripts).

8:12 This is the equality of the new covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34). It is mentioned in the NT in Luke 22:20; I Cor. 11:25; II Cor. 3:6; and Heb. 8:8; 9:15. There will be no need for leaders, all will know the Lord and His will and ways. The sins that God forgives, God forgets (strong double negative). The OT promises of complete forgiveness are quite wonderful (cf. Ps. 103:3,8-14; Isa. 1:18; 38:17; 43:25; 44:22; Micah 7:19).


NASB"But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear"
NKJV"Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away"
NRSV"And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear"
TEV"Anything that becomes old and worn out will soon disappear"
NJB"And anything old and aging is ready to disappear"

This phrase requires several comments. First, remember the historical setting. There is a group of people who are clinging to the Mosaic Law and another group who are contemplating returning to the Mosaic Law.

Second, this only has to do with the Law as a means of salvation. The OT surely was, and is, God's revelation (cf. Matt. 5:17-19). The Mosaic Law still has a purpose in God's plan (cf. Gal. 3). It brings people to Christ by showing fallen humanity their sinfulness and need for salvation. It helps us understand God and His ways. It is related to the new covenant as promise to fulfillment. It was incapable of bringing salvation because of the weakness and sinfulness of fallen mankind.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is the author of Hebrews emphasizing so strongly the superior high priesthood of Jesus?

2. Is the book of Hebrews influenced by Greek philosophy (Platonism)?

3. Why is Jeremiah 31:31-34 quoted?

4. Why is verse 12 such a precious promise?

5. How is the Mosaic covenant related to the new covenant Christians?


Report Inappropriate Ad