Hebrews 5:14

But solid food belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
All Commentaries on Hebrews 5:14 Go To Hebrews 5

Thomas Aquinas

AD 1274
258. – Having listed three things which pertain to a high priest and showed that two of them were verified, namely, the office and the proper way of attaining it, the Apostle now considers the third thing which a high priest should have, namely, mercy and compassion. In regard to this he does two things: first, he shows what He suffered; secondly, what benefits accrued even to others (v. 9). 259. – He says, therefore: I have stated that a high priest should be such as to be able to have compassion. But Christ is such a high priest. For since He is the Son of God from all eternity, and, therefore, could not suffer or have compassion, He assumed a nature in which He would suffer and even have compassion. And this is what He says, namely, although he was a Son from all eternity, He learned obedience from time. But only the ignorant can learn; whereas Christ, being God from all eternity, had fullness of knowledge from the very instant of His conception as man. Therefore, He was not ignorant of anything; consequently, He could not learn. I answer that knowledge is of two sorts: the first is that of simple recognition, according to which the objection is valid, because He was not ignorant of anything. But there is also the knowledge gained by experience, according to which He learned obedience; hence, he says, He learned obedience through what he suffered, i.e., experienced. And the Apostle speaks thus, because one who learns something comes voluntarily to learn it. But Christ accepted our weakness voluntarily; consequently, he says that ‘he learned obedience’, i.e., how difficult it is to obey, because He obeyed in the most difficult matters, even to the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8). This shows how difficult the good of obedience is, because those who have not experienced obedience and have not learned it in difficult matters, believe that obedience is very easy. But in order to know what obedience is, one must learn to obey in difficult matters, and one who has not learned to subject himself by obeying does not know how to rule others well. Therefore, although Christ knew by simple recognition what obedience is, He nevertheless learned obedience from the things He suffered, i.e., from difficult things, by suffering and dying: ‘By the obedience of one many shall be made just’ (Rom. 5:19). 260. – Then when he says, and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, he mentions the fruit of His Passion, namely, in Christ and in His members. In Christ the fruit was glorification; hence, he says, and being made perfect, for from the instant of His conception He was perfectly consummated as to the happiness of His soul, inasmuch as it was drawn to God; but he still had a nature that could suffer, although after His Passion He could not suffer. Therefore, because in this respect He was altogether perfect, He could perfect others. For it is the nature of a perfect thing to be able to engender its like. Therefore, he says that He was perfect. For since He arrived at that consummation by the merit of obedience: ‘The obedient man shall speak of victory’ (Pr. 21:28), he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, not temporal salvation but eternal: ‘Israel is saved by the Lord with an eternal salvation (Is. 45:17). 261. – Therefore he says, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedech. 262. – Then (v. 11) he prepares the souls of his hearers for what is to follow. In regard to this he does two things: first, he shows their slowness; secondly, his intention (chap. 6). In regard to the first he does two things: first, he shows the importance of what is to be said; secondly, their slowness to understand (v. 11b). 263. – He says, therefore: Thus I have said that He was called a high priest: About this we have much to say: ‘Hear, for I will speak of great things’ (Pr. 8:6). They are great, because they deal with the salvation of souls: ‘A faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Tim. 1:15). About this we have much to say which is hard to explain, meaning that it cannot be perfectly explained, for no words can express the things of Christ: ‘Glorify the Lord as much as you ever can, for he will yet far exceed, and his magnificence is wonderful. Blessing the Lord, exalt him as much as you can, for he is above all praise’ (Sir. 43:32). Or, we have much to say which is hard to explain, i.e., it needs to be interpreted because of its height and magnitude and depth: ‘He shall understand a parable and the interpretation, the words of the wise and their mysterious saying’ (Pr. 1:6). For the interpretation of Scripture is listed among the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:10). 264. – It also needs to be interpreted because of our slowness: you have become dull of hearing. Those who are weak of intellect cannot understand profound things, unless they are explained in detail: ‘I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now’ (Jn. 16:12); ‘I could not speak to you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal’ (1 Cor. 3:1). 265. – Then (v. 12) he shows that their slowness is culpable. In regard to this he does three things: first, he mentions the sin of slowness; secondly, he applies a simile (v. 12c); thirdly, he explains it (v. 13). 266. – For it is a sin, when a person has listened a long time, if he is still slow; but not if he is a recent hearer. For negligence is not without sin; hence, he says, for though by this time you ought to be teachers, namely, of others, for this time during which they had heard the law and the prophets: ‘Search the Scriptures, for you thing in them to have life everlasting’ (Jn. 5:31); and Christ Himself and the apostles and many converted by them: ‘Have I been so long a time with you, and have you not known me?’ (Jn. 14:9), you need someone to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. For the principles are the first things taught in grammar, i.e., the letters themselves. Therefore, the beginnings of the words of God, the first principles and elements, are the articles of faith and the precepts of the Decalogue. If a person, therefore, had studied theology a long time and failed to learn these, time would be running against him. Therefore, he says, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of God’ word, i.e., the elements: ‘Ever learning and never attaining to the knowledge of the truth’ (2 Tim. 3:7); ‘For the child shall die one hundred years old, and the sinner being a hundred years old shall be left accursed’ (Is. 65:20). 267. – Then (v. 12b) he describes their situation with a smile. Therefore, it should be noted that sacred doctrine is, as it were, the food of the soul: ‘With the bread of life and understanding she shall feed him’ (Sir. 15:3) and in (24:29): ‘They that eat me shall yet hunger, and they that drink me shall yet thirst.’ Sacred doctrine, therefore, is food and drink, because it nourishes the soul. For the other sciences only enlighten the soul, but this one enlightens: ‘The commandment of the Lord is lightsome, enlightening the eyes’ (Ps. 18:9) and nourishes and strengthens the soul. But in bodily food there is a difference: for children make use of one food and the perfect of another. For children use milk as being thinner and more connatural and easily digestible; but adults use more solid food. So in Sacred Scripture, those who are beginners should listen to easy things, which are like milk; but the learned should hear more difficult things. Therefore, he says, you need milk, namely, as children: ‘As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile, that thereby you may grown unto salvation’ (1 Pt. 2:2); ‘I give you milk to drink, not meat’ (1 Cor. 3:2). And this is what follows, and not solid food, i.e., lofty doctrine, which is concerned with the mysteries and secrets of God, which strengthen and confirm. 268. – Then (v. 13) he explains the simile: first he explains what he said about milk; secondly, about solid food: (v. 14). In regard to the first he does two things: first, he gives the explanation; secondly, the reason behind the explanation (v. 13b). 269. – He says, therefore: So I say that you need milk as little children: for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, i.e., everyone that must be nourished with milk is unskillful, i.e., cannot have part in understanding the words of justice perfectly: ‘unless your justice about more than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt. 5:20); ‘In abundant justice there is the greatest strength’ (Pr. 15:55). But children are not partakers of such things: ‘Whom shall he teach knowledge’ and whom shall he make to understand the hearing? Them that are weaned from the milk, that are drawn away from the breasts’ (Is. 28:9). 270. – But the Apostle had delivered many difficult things to them, namely, the mystery of the Trinity and the sacrament of the Incarnation, and many other lofty things. Therefore, either they were not children, or such things ought not have been delivered to children. I answer, according to Augustine, that in the teachings of faith we should not suppose that some things are taught to the perfect and other things to the imperfect, for there is not such a difference between them: for the same things should be delivered to both. But they should be merely proposed to little ones and not explained or enlarged upon, because their minds would falter instead of being elevated. 271. – According to a Gloss, an example of milk would be that the Word was made flesh. But that seems to be just as hard to understand as that the Word was with God. Hence Augustine says that the latter is found in Plato’s works, but not the former. But he, said Augustine, could not have suspected something contained in the mystery of the Word made flesh. I answer that to know by simple faith that the Word was made flesh is quite easy, because it can be imagined and to a certain extent sensed; but that the Word was with God is something that transcends all sensing and can be grasped by reason alone, and that with great difficulty. 272. – Then he assigns the reason when he says, for he is a child, not in age but in sense: For someone is a little child in humility: ‘You have revealed them to little ones’ (Mt. 11:25); in age: ‘As long as the heir is a child, he differs nothing from a servant’ (Gal. 4:1); in sense: ‘Do not become children in sense, but in malice be children and in sense be perfect’ (1 Cor. 14:20). This is the way children is taken here. 273. – Then when he says, but solid food is for the mature, he explains what he had said about solid food. For this is evident in bodily food: when a man reaches maturity, he uses stronger and nobler and more solid food. But a spiritual man, when he has reached spiritual perfection, should have a more solid doctrine proposed to him. But perfection is of two kinds: one is perfection of intellect, when a person has the wisdom to discern and judge correctly about matters proposed to him; the other is perfection of love, which charity produces, and it is present when a person adheres entirely to God. Hence, after laying down the precepts of charity, the Lord continues: ‘Be you, therefore, perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect’ (Mt. 5:48). But perfection of charity, as Augustine says, is present when there is no covetousness. For the closer a person comes to God, the more he scorns temporal things: ‘For what have I in heaven? and besides you what do I desire upon earth. For you my flesh and my heart have fainted away: you are the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion for ever’ (Ps. 73:25-26). For the doctrine of Sacred Scripture contains matters not only for speculation, as in geometry, but also matters to be accepted by the will; hence it is stated in Matthew (5:19): ‘He that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’ Therefore, in the other sciences it is enough that they perfect man’s intellect, but in this one it is required that he be perfected in intellect and will. Therefore, lofty mysteries should be proposed to the perfect: ‘Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect’ (1 Cor. 2:6). For a person judges things according to his condition; thus, an angry person judges things one way when he is angry, and another way when he is calm. Similarly, an incontinent person judges that something is good when he is passionate, and otherwise when the passion has subsided. Consequently, the Philosopher says that a person is, so his end appears to be. And because the things taught in Sacred Scripture pertain to the will and not only to the intellect, a person must be perfect in both. Consequently, the Apostle, desiring to show who are the mature, to whom solid food should be given, says that they are the ones who have their faculties trained [senses exercised]. 274. – And he is speaking properly, because, as the Philosopher says, the intellect, inasmuch as it judges about things to be desired and to be done, is considered a sense, because it is related to something particular. Hence the word, sense, is not taken here as referring to an external sense. Therefore, one who senses the things of God is perfect: ‘Let us, therefore, as many as are perfect, be thus minded’ (Phil. 3:15); ‘But we have the sense of Christ’ (1 Cor. 2:16) But those who sense only carnal things cannot be pleasing to God, as is clear in Rom. (chap. 8). The second thing to be considered is the disposition of the one in whom it is, because he should be exercised: ‘Exercise yourself unto godliness’ (1 Tim. 4:7). For one who is not exercised cannot form a correct judgment, which is required for perfection: ‘A man that has much experience shall think of many things’ (Sir. 34:9); on the other hand, one who is inexperienced knows few things. Thirdly, the cause of this exercise is custom, not idleness but abundance of activity; hence, he says, by custom, namely, of acting properly: ‘A young man according to his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it’ (Pr. 22:6). Therefore, if you wish to be perfect, do not give yourself to idleness, but accustom yourself to what is good from your youth. Fourthly, the end of this exercise, namely, to distinguish good from evil. For a person is perfect, when he discerns between good and evil, between good and better, and between evil and worse. For many things seem good but are really evil: ‘There is a way which seems just to a man: but the ends thereof lead to death’ (Pr. 14:12). It is in these matters, therefore, that correct judgment is needed.
13 mins

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation - 2 Peter 1:20

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