Hebrews 8:4 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Hebrews 8:4, NIV: If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law.

Hebrews 8:4, ESV: Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law.

Hebrews 8:4, KJV: For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:

Hebrews 8:4, NASB: Now 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;

Hebrews 8:4, NLT: If he were here on earth, he would not even be a priest, since there already are priests who offer the gifts required by the law.

Hebrews 8:4, CSB: Now if he were on earth, he wouldn't be a priest, since there are those offering the gifts prescribed by the law.

What does Hebrews 8:4 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

In this passage, the writer of Hebrews is connecting the unique priesthood of Jesus to the superiority of the new covenant. In order to do that, prior verses pointed out that Jesus' service occurs in a superior place: a God-created heaven, rather than a man-made tabernacle (Hebrews 8:1–2). This points to the idea that the rituals and objects of the Old Testament were intended to be symbols of God's ultimate plan, not the ultimate plan themselves.

Here, the writer of Hebrews again alludes to Jesus' descent from the tribe of Judah. This is the tribe of kings, but not of priests. So, if Jesus were serving on earth, under the old covenant, He could not be a priest at all. And yet, as the writer has already mentioned, God has promised to bring a figure who is both king and priest (Psalm 110:4), part of a priesthood greater than that of Aaron (Hebrews 7:11–19).

This verse also uses a present-tense description of the Jewish priests bringing offerings according to the law. In the prior verse, this seems to be contrasted to Jesus' once-for-all sacrifice for sin. Here, however, it serves as part of a prophecy. According to this statement, the temple sacrifices were ongoing. Later in this chapter, the Old Testament system is said to be "passing away." In AD 70, after this letter was written, the temple was destroyed and the ability to offer gifts and sacrifices under the old covenant was lost (Hosea 3:4).