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CONTRIBUTORS TO THE MONTHLY INTERPRETER.
The Ven. Archdeacon F. W. FARRAR, D.D., F.G.S.
The Monthly Interpreter.
CHRIST'S EXALTATION IN THE EPISTLE
TO, THE HEBREWS.
HEB. II. 9.
This is undoubtedly a very diffieult passage. The difficulty does not lie, as some seem to think, in the obscurity that rests over its grammatical construction; it resides purely in the thought. Two different modes of punctuation have been proposed, each of which is supposed to involve a different meaning. Some read thus: We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour. In this case the suffering of death is made the final cause of the incarnation, and Christ is said to have become human instead of angelic in order that He might be able to die. Others, again, read thus: We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, on account of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour. In this case the suffering of death is said to be the cause of Christ's resurrection, and He is declared to have received a crown of glory because He was able to endure a crown of thorns.
We do not ourselves accept either of these readings; we agree with the latter form of punctuation, but we object to the fact that it has not rested in a change of punctuation. The word translated “ for” in our authorized version has been
made to undergo a complete change of meaning. In the first instance it explained a purpose ; Christ was made less than the angels with a view to or for the sake of the suffering of death. Here it no longer expresses a purpose, but points out an instrumentality or agency ; Christ receives a crown of glory on account of or by reason of the magnanimity He displayed in the suffering of death. We intend in the present paper to advance a view of this passage which will preserve the first meaning of the word “ for” with the second form of punctuation—a view which, so far as we know, has not hitherto been suggested. There is one point to which at the outset we shall do well to direct our attention, a point which seems to us to constitute the centre of the whole discussion. The central question of this passage is not the disputed position of its opening clauses, but the meaning to be assigned to its closing statement. It appears to us that the key to the exegesis of the passage lies solely in the solution of the question, What was that crown of glory and honour which Christ is here said to have received ? Now, strange to say, this is the only point in the passage on which there has never been any controversy, the only question which has never presented itself as a difficulty at all. It seems to have been universally assumed that the crown of glory and honour of which the writer speaks could have been nothing else than Christ's resurrection. But how then are we to explain the statement: “We see Jesus crowned with glory and honour that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” In what sense can it be said that the glory and honour conferred on the Son of man by the resurrection were a preparation for the efficacy of His death? We are aware that the common theological answer is not far to seek. We are told that the resurrection of Christ was that which gave efficacy to His atonement, put as it were God's imprimatur upon His work, and declared it to be accepted and sealed. Now we have no doubt whatever that in the system of the