12:18 For you have not come to something that can be touched, 1 to a burning fire and darkness and gloom and a whirlwind 12:19 and the blast of a trumpet and a voice uttering words 2 such that those who heard begged to hear no more. 3 12:20 For they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” 4 12:21 In fact, the scene 5 was so terrifying that Moses said, “I shudder with fear.” 6 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion, the city 7 of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the assembly 12:23 and congregation of the firstborn, who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous, who have been made perfect, 12:24 and to Jesus, the mediator 8 of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks of something better than Abel’s does. 9
1 tn This describes the nation of Israel approaching God on Mt. Sinai (Exod 19). There is a clear contrast with the reference to Mount Zion in v. 22, so this could be translated “a mountain that can be touched.” But the word “mountain” does not occur here and the more vague description seems to be deliberate.
2 tn Grk “a voice of words.”
3 tn Grk “a voice…from which those who heard begged that a word not be added to them.”
5 tn Grk “that which appeared.”
6 tn Grk “I am terrified and trembling.”
sn A quotation from Deut 9:19.
7 tn Grk “and the city”; the conjunction is omitted in translation since it seems to be functioning epexegetically – that is, explaining further what is meant by “Mount Zion.”
8 tn The Greek word μεσίτης (mesith", “mediator”) in this context does not imply that Jesus was a mediator in the contemporary sense of the word, i.e., he worked for compromise between opposing parties. Here the term describes his function as the one who was used by God to enact a new covenant which established a new relationship between God and his people, but entirely on God’s terms.