THE GOD OF JESUS: PART TWENTY-FOUR
The Melchizedek Issue
Because of the manner in which Melchizedek is portrayed in Scripture, some believe Melchizedek is one and the same with a pre-incarnate Christ. It is believed it was Jesus Christ who appeared to Abraham as the priest Melchizedek.
Genesis 14:18-20: Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Melchizedek is seen as bringing bread and wine. Bread and wine were used by Christ to represent His body and blood at the Passover meal He shared with His disciples prior to His crucifixion. Melchizedek, as priest of the Most High God, is seen blessing Abraham. Abraham is seen as giving a tenth of everything to Melchizedek. In Psalm 110:4, the LORD (YHWH) is seen as declaring to the lord (adoni), “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” As earlier discussed, adoni pertains to Christ and YHWH is God the Father.
The writer to the Hebrews discusses the issue of Christ becoming a priest after the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 5:5-6, 9-10: So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father." And he says in another place, "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." Verse 9-10: Once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:20: He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 7:1-4: This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness"; then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace." Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever. Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Verse 8: In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living.
The writer explains the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness” and “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Some believe “king of righteousness” and “king of peace” are designations applied to Christ in Scripture. These designations, however, only appear in Scripture in association with Melchizedek. The passages, “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever” and “by him who is declared to be living” are seen by some as referring to Christ since Christ is believed to reflect the properties here associated with Melchizedek. The Greek for “remains” and the Greek for “is living” are both in the present tense and therefore signify an ongoing existence for Melchizedek.
In view of all this, Melchizedek is believed to have existed eternally and since the Son of God is believed to have existed eternally (without beginning of days or end of life) and the writer says, “like the Son of God remains a priest forever,” it is believed Melchizedek and Christ are one and the same.
The phrase, “without genealogy” is translated from the Greek word agenealogeetos. Thayer's Greek to English Lexicon defines this word as “of whose decent there is no account,” which means there is no recorded genealogy. The Greek for “without Father” is apithia and according to Thayer's Lexicon means, “whose father is not recorded in the genealogies.” The phrase, “without mother” is the Greek ameetor which Thayer's defines as “born without a mother” and “whose mother is not recorded in the genealogy.” Jesus has a recorded genealogy and a mother of record as found in Matthew and Luke. Since Jesus has a recorded genealogy and mother of record and Melchizedek does not, it becomes problematical that Melchizedek and Christ are one and the same. The Scripture says he was like the Son of God in relation to being a priest forever and not that he was the Son of God. The relationship between Melchizedek and Christ is further defined in Hebrews 7:14-17.
Hebrews 7:14-17: For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like (after the similitude) Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."
The Greek word translated “like” (“similitude” in the KJV and “likeness” in many other versions) is homoioteta. This word indicates being similar or like something but not being identical with that something. Melchizedek represented an eternal priesthood that can never die out. The writer compares this to the temporal priesthood under Moses that had to be continually replenished as priests died. The writer did not say Jesus is Melchizedek but that Jesus’ priesthood is similar to Melchizedek's. The writer speaks of another priest like Melchizedek appearing, one who becomes a priest, not on the basis of ancestry but on the basis of living forever. Christ is seen as becoming this priest. Becoming a priest presupposes not having been a priest at some time in the past.
Melchizedek was a priest. If Jesus was Melchizedek, He would already be the priest Melchizedek. He would not have to become the priest Melchizedek or a priest like Melchizedek. The writer clearly shows that Jesus became a priest like Melchizedek. It is contradictory to conclude Jesus became who He already was. Some will argue the Son set aside being Melchizedek when He became the human Jesus. As already discussed, the idea that the Son was able to divest Himself of eternal properties or add temporal properties to eternal properties to become the human Jesus and still die as the eternal God is highly problematical.
It is much more Scriptural to conclude that Jesus, as the humanly begotten Son of God the Father, became a priest in the order of Melchizedek upon completing His earthly mission. This happened in association with His receiving authority, power and glory and an everlasting Kingdom as pictured in Daniel. Admittedly, this doesn’t define or identify Melchizedek other than what we see in Genesis and Hebrews. To conclude, however, that Melchizedek is the Jesus, the Son of God, runs contrary to what we see the writer to the Hebrews recording and therefore becomes nothing more than speculations based on assuming the thing to be proved.
Those who hold to the position that Christ is Melchizedek often hold to the position Christ is YHWH. In Psalm 110:1-4, YHWH is seen as addressing Christ (adoni). As covered in Chapter Three, the Hebrew adoni is not a reference to deity but to man unto whom power and authority is granted. This passage of Scripture shows YHWH granting adoni the right to be at His right hand and declaring adoni to be a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. If YHWH is granting adoni (Christ) authority and power and declaring adoni to be a priest in the order of Melchizedek, how can Christ be YHWH? Trinitarians often argue that Scriptures showing YHWH speaking to the Son are showing YHWH the Father speaking to YHWH the Son in a Trinitarian indwelling of Father, Son and Spirit. Psalm 110 makes this argument untenable in so much as YHWH is not addressing Jesus as Adonai (Lord) but as Adoni (lord). YHWH is not addressing Jesus as YHWH but as a glorified servant of YHWH to whom YHWH has granted great power and authority and the privilege of being at YHWH’s right hand as a priest.
In Genesis 14:18-20, Melchizedek is called the priest of God Most High. If Melchizedek is a priest of God Most High, how can he be the God Most High he is priest of?. In Luke 1:31-35, Mary is told she will be with child and give birth to a son, who will be called the Son of the Most High. Throughout Scripture, the Most High is identified as YHWH. There can only be one Most High. Melchizedek is shown as a priest of the Most High and Jesus is called the Son of the Most High. This clearly shows both Melchizedek and Jesus are subservient to YHWH who alone is the Most High God. YHWH, as the Most High God, is not God the Son but is the God of the Son as has been clearly shown throughout this discussion.