Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary
says the following about Melchizedek:
A king of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of the Most High God (Gen.
14:18-20; Ps. 110:4; Heb. 5:6-11;
Melchizedek's appearance and disappearance in the Book of Genesis
are somewhat mysterious. Melchizedek and Abraham first met after
Abraham's defeat of Chedorlaomer and his three allies. Melchizedek
presented bread and wine to Abraham and his weary men, demonstrating
friendship and religious kinship. He bestowed a blessing on Abraham
in the name of El Elyon ("God Most High"), and praised God for
giving Abraham a victory in battle (Gen. 14:18-20).
Abraham presented Melchizedek with a tithe (a tenth) of all the
booty he had gathered. By this act Abraham indicated that he
recognized Melchizedek as a fellow-worshiper of the one true God as
well as a priest who ranked higher spiritually than himself.
Melchizedek's existence shows that there were people other than
Abraham and his family who served the true God.
In Psalm 110, a messianic psalm written by David (Matt.
Melchizedek is seen as a type of Christ. This theme is repeated in
the Book of Hebrews, where both Melchizedek and Christ are
considered kings of righteousness and peace. By citing Melchizedek
and his unique priesthood as a type, the writer shows that Christ's
new priesthood is superior to the old Levitical order and the
priesthood of Aaron (Heb. 7:1-10; Melchisedec, KJV). Attempts have
been made to identify Melchizedek as . . . an angel, the Holy
Spirit, Christ, and others. All are the products of speculation, not
historical fact; and it is impossible to reconcile them with the
theological argument of Hebrews. Melchizedek was a real,
historical king-priest who served as a type for the greater
King-Priest who was to come, Jesus Christ (p. 819).
The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary
gives this interpretation of the seventh chapter of Hebrews:
Within the interpretation of Ps. 110 that occupies much of the
epistle to the Hebrews, Heb. 7 builds on Gen. 14:18-20. Abraham's
acknowledgment of the legitimacy of Melchizedek's priesthood becomes
an argument for the priority of that priesthood over the
"descendants of Levi" (vv. 4-10). The messianic ruler of Ps. 110 is,
therefore, a priest of a line prior to the levitical priesthood
("after the order of Melchizedek"; Heb. 7:11-19; KJV "Melchisedec";
cf. 5:6, 10;
That the narrative of the king-priest Melchizedek is introduced so
abruptly into Genesis becomes an argument for Melchizedek's being
"without father or mother or genealogy," i.e., beginning or end
(7:3), and so not only a predecessor but also a type of Christ as "a
priest for ever" (cf. Ps. 110:4). The legitimacy of the levitical
priesthood depends on its descent from Levi; as it has a beginning,
so it has an end in the understanding of the author of Hebrews (p.
The caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found yielded a series of
thirteen fragments on Melchizedek. From these, it appears the belief
that Melchizedek was the Messiah was a strongly held conviction
among the Qumran community, as well as among some other Jewish and
Gnostic sects in the first century A.D.
Some branches of the
of God have also held this view. They have used the depiction of
Melchizedek in Hebrews 7 not only to connect him to Christ but also
as support for the co-eternality of Christ with God the Father in
the Binitarian model of the Godhead.
we find the premise of chapter 7 established, which is that Jesus
Christ is now our High Priest in heaven. As such, he is of the order
of Melchizedek, which is contrasted with the Levitical priesthood.
HEBREWS 6:20 Where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus,
having become High Priest forever according to [kata] the
order of Melchizedek. (NKJV)
The New Analytical Greek Lexicon says that kata
means "after the fashion or likeness of."
HEBREWS 7:1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, 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 translated "king
of righteousness," and then also king of Salem, meaning "king of
peace," 3 without father, without mother, without genealogy
[agenealogetos]1, having neither beginning of days
nor end of life2, but made like [aphomoiomenos]
the Son of God, remains a priest continually3. (NKJV)
The belief that Melchizedek was Christ rests on three erroneous
assumptions about Hebrews 7:3, shown by the superscripted numbers in
the passage above.
The first is the argument that since Melchizedek is said to be
without father, mother, and genealogy, he has to be eternal and
therefore the Son of God. However, many have failed to see that the
author does not use the terms "without father" (apatoor),
"without mother" (ametoor), and "without genealogy" (agenealogetos)
literally in this passage.
The concept presented by the author is not that Melchizedek lacked
an actual father, mother, or family tree, but that there is no
record of his parents and lineage. The Mosaic law required that all
priests be descendants of the tribe of Levi. Those who were not
Levites could not be priests under the law. Melchizedek is
introduced in Genesis 14:18-20 as priest of the Most High God, but
no details are given about him. Under the law, he was not qualified
to be a priest.
Nehemiah 7:61-64 shows that priests had to be able to trace their
lineage when the priesthood was reestablished after the Babylonian
captivity. Those who were unable to do so were disqualified from the
NEHEMIAH 7:61 And these were the ones who came up from Tel Melah,
Tel Harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer, but they could not identify
their father's house nor their lineage, whether they were of Israel:
62 the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, the sons of Nekoda, six
hundred and forty-two; 63 and of the priests: the sons of Habaiah,
the sons of Koz, the sons of Barzillai, who took a wife of the
daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called by their name.
64 These sought their listing among those who were registered by
genealogy, but it was not found; therefore they were excluded
from the priesthood as defiled. (NKJV)
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
(ISBE) comments: "The argument of He. 7 is similar to
the rabbinic argument from silence, which assumed that nothing
exists unless Scripture mentions it. Since Genesis says nothing of
Melchizedek's parents, genealogy, birth, or death, he serves as a
type representing the eternal Son of God (v. 3)" ("Melchizedek,"
vol. 3, p. 313).
In rabbinical logic and reasoning, statements could be made which
were "arguments from silence." If the Bible didn't specifically say
something about a person, place, or incident, various conclusions
could be drawn for the sake of the claim or discussion being
presented. The author of Hebrews (probably Paul) was obviously
familiar with the law, the Temple service, and forms of rabbinical
discourse. He uses the rabbinical method of argument from silence in
Harper's Bible Commentary
says of this passage:
Formally, the chapter [Hebrews 7] constitutes an exegetical
discussion of Ps. 110:4 based upon the only other OT text that
mentions Melchizedek, Gen. 14:17-20. This exegesis, emphasizing the
heavenly character of Christ's priesthood, may have been inspired by
the abundant contemporary speculation on Melchizedek as a heavenly
figure, examples of which are found in the Alexandrian Jewish writer
and in Gnostic sources. Whatever the inspiration, Hebrews is quite
restrained in its comments on Melchizedek, utilizing only what is
necessary to make the Christological point (p. 1265).
goes on to say that "from the pregnant silence of Scripture is
deduced Melchizedek's status as 'fatherless, motherless, without
genealogy' (v. 3)" (p. 1265). Thus, Melchizedek could be said to be
"without father, without mother, and without genealogy" because the
Scriptures didn't identify his lineage. While this argument might
seem unconvincing to the modern mind, it would have been
understandable and reasonable to a first century Jew.
The second mistaken assumption is that Melchizedek had no beginning
or end, and therefore must be the immortal Son of God. The term
"beginning of days and end of life" refers to the lack of
information in the Scriptures regarding his origin or demise. The
Abingdon Bible Commentary says that in Hebrews 7:3, the
author "makes a very remarkable use of the argument from silence.
Nothing is said in Genesis about the parentage of Melchizedek. We
are not told anything about his father or his mother. There is no
reference to the beginning of his life or to its end - to his birth
or to his death . . . In view of the writer the silences of
Scripture are as significant as its statements . . ." (p. 1310).
About Hebrews 7:3, Halley's Bible Handbook says:
What is the meaning of 'without father, without mother, without
genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life'? Not
that it was actually so, but that it appeared so in the Old
Testament Records. Levitical Priests were Priests Because of their
Genealogy. But Melchizedek, Without Genealogy, was the Recognized
Priest of the Human Race at that time. Hebrew tradition is that
Shem, who was still alive in the days of Abraham, and, as far is as
known, Oldest Living Man at the time, was Melchizedek. A mysterious,
solitary picture and type, in the dim past, of the Coming Eternal
Priest-King (p. 652).
The third erroneous assumption is that Melchizedek continues as a
priest to this day. One might conclude from the statement
"Melchizedek remains a priest continually" that he is still alive
and holding the office of priest. Again, this is not the point the
author of Hebrews is trying to make. In effect, he is using the
argument from silence to say that "since the Bible is silent about
the death of Melchizedek, we can figuratively contend that he is
alive and remains in the office of priest." In this way he is an
appropriate type of the priesthood of the Jesus Christ.
Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
says this word "denotes 'without recorded pedigree' . . ."
Vine's goes on to say that "the narrative in Gen. 14 is so
framed in facts and omissions as to foreshadow the person of Christ"
(NT, p. 262).
The abridged Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
(TDNT) says agenealogetos "occurs only
in Heb. 7:3, where Melchizedek is said to be 'without genealogy.'
Unlike the Aaronic priests, he has no traceable descent" (p. 114).
Word Meanings in the New Testament
states that this word "is compounded of alpha-negative and the verb
genealoge§ (found in NT only in v. 6), 'to trace ancestry.'
So it clearly means 'without genealogy' (NASB, NIV) that is, without
a recorded pedigree. We should not assume, as some have wrongly
done, that Melchizedek was without human ancestry" (p. 424).
The Life and Epistles of St. Paul,
Conybeare and Howson write that this word means "without table of
descent." They go on to explain, "The priesthood of Melchisedec was
not, like the Levitical priesthood, dependent on his descent,
through his parents, from a particular family, but was a personal
office" (p. 800).
says that "this verb [the root aphomoiˇ§] means 'to copy,'
rarely 'to compare,' and in the passive 'to be or become like' or
'make oneself out to be like'" (p. 686).
states: "Some have thought that Melchizedek was a Christophany
rather than a historical character and thus understood vv. 2b-3
literally rather than typologically. A major objection to such an
interpretation is the statement that Melchizedek resembled (Gk.
aphomoiomenos) the Son of God (v. 3). The verb aphomoioo
[from which aphomoiomenos is derived] always assumes two
distinct and separate identities, one which is a copy of the other.
Thus Melchizedek and the Son of God are represented as two separate
persons, the first of which resembled the second" ("Melchizedek,"
vol. 3, p. 313).
The use of genealogoumenos in verse 6 shows that
Melchizedek has lineage, but it is not through Levi.
says of this word: "'to reckon or trace a genealogy' (from genea,
'a race,' and leg§, 'to choose, pick out'), is used, in the
passive voice, of Melchizedek in Heb. 7:6, RV, 'whose genealogy (KJV,
'descent') is not counted" (NT, p. 262).
says "this derives from genealogos, 'one who draws up a
genealogy.' It occurs . . . in the NT only in Heb. 7:6: Melchizedek
does not 'derive his descent' from the descendants of Levi" (p.
The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (EDNT)
says this word means to "trace one's descent. In Heb. 7:6 of
Melchizedek, who 'does not trace his descent' (NEB)
to the sons of Levi" (vol. 1, p. 242).
Allos and heteros
Verses 11 and 15 clearly state that Christ is another,
different priest of the order originated by Melchizedek. There
is no suggestion here that Melchizedek and Christ are the same
entity. If they were, the writer of Hebrews surely would have
stressed that point. But the use of heteros plainly
indicates that Christ, although he came in the likeness of
Melchizedek, was not Melchizedek.
found in verses 11 and 15. TDNT says: "In the NT
heteros is used in much the same way as allos . . . It
denotes the new member in a series that either continues (Lk.
14:18ff.) or concludes it (Acts
It may denote others either of the same kind (Acts
4:34) or of another kind (Lk. 23:32) . . . " (p. 265).
says that allos and heteros "have a
different meaning, which despite a tendency to be lost, is to be
observed in numerous passages. Allos expresses a numerical
difference and denotes 'another of the same sort'; heteros
expresses a qualitative difference and denotes 'another of a
different sort'" (NT, p. 29).
says of this word that "approximately half of the occurrences have
the connotation of something additional: a further or additional
instances of a type. . . . Passages that speak of another as a
replacement or successor also have an adversative association (Acts
7:18; Rom 7:4; Heb
13, 15)" (vol. 2, p. 66).
Genealogy of Patriarchs
FC = From Creation BC = Before Christ
Shem Outlived Abraham by 35 years.
Shem lived contemporary with Isaac and Jacob.