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Melchizedek ("King of Justice" in Hebrew) is mentioned in Genesis 14 as receiving the dime from Abraham, and breaking bread with him:

18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.

19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:

20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

Psalm 110:4 depicts Jesus as a priest after the order of Melchizedek:

4 The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

Paul mentions Melchizedek in Hebrews 7 and associates Jesus to him again:

1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;

2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;

3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.

4 Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.

5 And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:

6 But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.

7 And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.

8 And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.

9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.

10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.

11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?

12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.

13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.

14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.

15 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest,

16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.

17 For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

18 For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.

19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest:

21 (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)

So who is Melchizedek? Is he Jesus?

If he is not, how could there be priests of God before God chose himself a nation and defined priesthood after the Hebrews left Egypt?

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Can you state any exact verses? –  Corey Ogburn Aug 24 '11 at 19:36
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You took the very verses I used to answer and inserted them into your question. What is the point of that? Does your question not now answer itself? –  John Aug 24 '11 at 20:04
    
Sorry about that @John. As a matter of fact, after Corey posted his comment, I began to edit the question and added these verses. I only saw your answer after adding them. –  ℝaphink Aug 24 '11 at 20:07
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It is anachronistic to say that Psalm 110 depicts Jesus in any way. But it does depict the long-hoped-for Messiah as a priest of the eternal order. As we Christians discern Christ-shaped holes in the Hebrew Bible and fill them with Christ, it's respectful to remember that our sister and brother Jews do not. –  user116 Aug 26 '11 at 22:25
    
@Ollie Jones: It's not me saying it, it's Jesus, in Matthew 22:43-45. –  ℝaphink Aug 26 '11 at 23:03

7 Answers 7

Who is he? Hebrews gives a few clues.

2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;

3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.

So he was the king of righteousness (forget the caps, it won't work for now). Next he was the king of Salem, which many say means Jerusalem. I'm not going to cover that here. Verse 3 says he has no father, no mother, no record of ancestry, no beginning day, no end of life, made like the Son of God (a copy or facsimile!), and stays a priest for ever.

Now, I know a lot of people just point blank say who they think it is, but I'm just going to throw this out, and maybe someone can use it. Ok, Jesus definitely has a mother (Mary), but at this point he wouldn't have yet. However, he has always had a Father (God). "Thou are my Son, this day have I begotten thee." Furthermore, I just realized that that verse says that Jesus had beginning of days (at least that's what it sounds like). No, Jesus has no end of life (unless you count his crucifixion, which wasn't a permanent end of life).

Next, if he is a copy (made like) of the Son of God (once again, Jesus has a father), he can't also be the Son of God, because then you technically get a circular reference. OK, granted, he could predate the original (nothing's impossible with God)! But he can't be a copy of the original if he is also the original.

To illustrate this point, God is the standard of good. That means that he neither has a copy of the standard as part of his being, or that he "lives by the standard", since he is the standard. [1]

Finally, some people argue that he couldn't be high priest at the same time as Jesus, but the Bible says he is a priest forever. I'm not actually sure that it says he was high priest, but I guess that is implied since Jesus is and he is in the Melchizedek line. So he doesn't have to be a high priest forever.

So now that I have stated why he might not be Jesus, I will mention that some people think he is Shem, since Shem outlived Abraham, and he certainly would have seemed to fit all those things. But I'll leave that at that and just say that it's a bit plausible. Also some say that that was a nickname for shem (no idea about whether that is fact).

Given all that, there are two ideas which they could be, I think. The first would be the Holy Ghost. That may or may not be the case, it's just a thought I have. The second would be an angel who was delegated to fill the role of priest on earth. However I don't think this is the case.

Actually as I'm writing this (and reading some online), there does seem to be some support to the idea of Shem being Melchizedek. Especially if it simply means there is nothing recorded. I don't know. I do believe that scripture is the inerrant, inspired word of God. I also believe that people can misunderstand and mistranslate it (who doesn't?!?!). The Jewish tradition is exactly that, that Melchizedek was a nickname for Shem. And Paul allegedly uses the Jewish tradition quite a few times, so it may have some weight, but I'm not sure.

In a somewhat counter argument, one more thing to note is that all three books of Enoch refer to him as Jesus in different ways. So, all this for what it's worth. I'm not claiming that I know.


  1. This is why he says "Thou shalt not kill" and then kills people himself. He knows who to kill and when in order to hurt as little wheat as possible (The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares). People don't know that, and while he uses people to do it sometimes, it's not unknown for him to do it himself.
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3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.

If he is still abiding as a priest, and has neither a beginning nor ending of days, how can he not be Jesus?

I think the answer is pretty clear (simple logic really) - He is Jesus, just in a pre-incarnate form.

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If he is not, how could there be priests of God before God chose himself a nation and defined priesthood after the Hebrews left Egypt?

Hebrews 7, which you quoted, makes it fairly clear: the Order of Melchizedek is a higher order of priesthood than the order of Aaron, which the Levites operated under. It had the power of administering the "schoolmaster law," but not the full power and authority of the higher ordinances of the Gospel, and so by the Aaronic order alone, nothing could be made perfect. But the order of Melchezidek, which predates the Aaronic order, is the priesthood order of Christ himself.

Think back to Exodus, when the Levites, under Aaron and his family, were established as priests in Israel. It's not unreasonable to think that after the fledgling nation of newly-freed slaves demonstrated that God literally couldn't leave them alone long enough for Moses to go up the mountain, get the stone tablets, and come back down again without them falling into rites of heathen fertility-worship, that God decided they were not ready for the fulness of the Gospel. How were they going to deal with the high spiritual concepts taught in the Sermon on the Mount, for example, when they couldn't even grasp basic fidelity to God? So instead he gave them a lesser law to keep them in line, and a lesser priesthood to administer it. ("For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.")

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Nitpick: I believe the correct term is actually the Levitical priesthood, named for the tribe of the Levites, not Aaronic. –  Lawrence Dol Nov 11 '11 at 2:25

Hebrews 5:6, which quotes Psalms 110:4, is a bit more specific:

6 And in another passage God said to him, “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”

So if Jesus is a priest in the order of Melchizedek, he's obviously not Melchizedek.

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How's that? :) I was just thinking of it more like a running thread than single thought –  Andrew Aug 24 '11 at 21:36
    
Good point. Together, we answer this question nicely. Upvoted. –  John Aug 24 '11 at 21:37
    
Hmm, you edited you comment. I guess this means that you're ok with me copying what I didn't have from yours into my answer? Shall we make a CW answer combining ours? –  John Aug 24 '11 at 21:41
    
sure! all the better for those who come after us. –  Andrew Aug 24 '11 at 21:42
    
I have posted one from parts of your answer and mine. –  John Aug 24 '11 at 21:51

Melchizedek was the King of Salem and a high priest of God.

Genesis 14:18-20

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High,

19 and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.

20 And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Although he was a priest of God, he was not Jesus.

Hebrews 5:6, which quotes Psalms 110:4, is a bit more specific:

6 And in another passage God said to him, “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”

So if Jesus is a priest in the order of Melchizedek, he's obviously not Melchizedek.

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Note to readers: We (the answerers) started coping each other because no one of us answered the whole question sufficiently, so we started a CW answer. Feel free to edit. –  John Aug 24 '11 at 21:51

Yeah, well no... He prefigures Jesus, the same way lots and lots of OT people do.

  • Job/Suffering Servant from Isaiah - for suffering
  • Moses - for leadership out of bondage
  • Abraham/Noah - for trusting in God's providence
  • David - for kingship
  • Melchizedek/Aaron - for priesthood
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I'm afraid this answer doesn't quite completely answer the question (like the other 2 originally did not) please, feel free to add your information to the CW answer below! –  John Aug 24 '11 at 21:59
    
yeah I agree while this doesn't answer the question completely it does sort of round out who he was. –  Andrew Aug 24 '11 at 22:01

Melchizedek was the King of Salem and a high priest of God.

Genesis 14:18-20

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High,

19 and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.

20 And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Although he was a priest of God, he was not Jesus.

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Can you be a bit more explicit in your basis for claiming he was not Jesus? –  RolandiXor Aug 24 '11 at 21:15
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@Ronald: That should be self-evident: Melchizedek was a man living on the earth at that time, and Jesus had not been born yet. –  Mason Wheeler Aug 24 '11 at 21:26
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@Mason: I have heard some argue that he was a Christophany, based on Abram's reaction to and treatment of him. God is not constrained by our temporal limits any more that he is constrained by our limits in the other 3 dimensions we experience (3, that is, discounting the posited 6 or 7 dimensions of quantum mechanics). –  Lawrence Dol Aug 25 '11 at 7:52
    
As @SoftwareMonkey said, there are some occultist communities and ancient heresies that claim that Melchizedek was Jesus himself. Although, I consider this non-trivial it seems difficult to convince these people that Melchizedek is not Jesus. Check out this article: near-death.com/experiences/origen042.html –  deps_stats Nov 6 '11 at 17:18
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@deps_stats: This is not an occultist idea - it's actually widely believed by many in mainstream Christianity. And a Christophany does not imply that Jesus was reincarnated - it's an appearance of Christ in our dimensional universe before his incarnation in our dimension of time. –  Lawrence Dol Nov 7 '11 at 6:02

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