Arguments that Melchizedek Is Not the Pre-incarnate Christ

We see that Melchizedek is not the pre-incarnate second person of the Holy Trinity. Several reasons will be given for such a conclusion. The text being primarily dealt with is Hebr 7:3 though other verses will be dealt with in the broader context of Hebr 7.  
As preliminary remarks we want to mention that some scholars see the
Melchizedekian account in Hebrews stemming from a Hellenistic rather than a Jewish background.[1] We, however, will acknowledge Jewish background (especially Jewish background in the sense of Hebrew Scripture) but not to the extent that Second Temple Judaism was the foremost and basic influence on the writers approach to the Melchizedekian theme.[2]
The author of Hebrews uses a literary device called quod non in Thora, non in mundo.[3] This “argument from silence” will give us insight into how the Melchizedekian typology is to be taken. Bruce observes that even though the Genesis account does not mention a lot about this figure, the author of Hebrews finds significance in both what is said and what is left unstated.[4] That Melchizedek is “without father or mother or genealogy”[5] and that he has “neither beginning of days nor end of life”[6] has to be seen in the immediate context in order to draw an accurate conclusion. The context is about the comparison of the Levitical priesthood[7] to that of the order of Melchizedek (kata tēn taxin Melchisedek). Brooks observes that the meaning of taxis is quite clear since “the author offers a paraphrase [in 7:15], κατὰ τὴν ὁμοιότητα Μελχισέδεκ [kata tēn homoiotēta Melchisedek]. Jesus is a priest ‘in the same way as’ Melchizedek.”[8] The silence of the Genesis account of maternal or paternal heritage is additionally significant for the author “because of the contrast it posed with the Levitical priesthood, where recorded line of descent was required for accession to the priestly office (Exod 28:1; Lev 21:13-15; Num 3:10; 18:1; Ezra 2:61-63; Neh 7:63-65).”[9] 
Further, the word agenealogētos[10] gives further indication to the metaphorical use of the figure of Melchizedek.[11] It is not that he did not have any descents or ancestors, but that those are not recorded in the Genesis account. Such is significant enough to the author to elaborate on.[12] Philo interprets the word amētōr used of Sarah, for the same reason, i.e., for the reason that her mother is not mentioned in the Genesis account.[13]
            Further, it is said that Melchizedek “resembles” (aphōmoiōmenos) Jesus Christ. Moffat writes that this word means “‘resembling’ […], though it might even be taken as a strict passive, ‘made to resemble’ (i.e. in scripture).”[14] Lane takes this even a step further and argues for a divine passive.[15] This then means that Melchizedek had been made by God to resemble Christ; “the term presupposes God’s appointment of Melchizedek as an illustration of the higher priesthood that the writer [of Hebrews] finds
in the OT.”[16] Bruce concludes that the language being used here “rules out the idea that
Melchizedek was” the pre-incarnate second person of the Holy Trinity.[17]
That Melchizedek then “continues a priest forever” is seen as the logical conclusion of our previous reasoning concerning the method employed by the author of Hebrews. 
            In conclusion the main argument of Heb 7 is that Christ, though not of the tribe of Levi (cf. v. 14), is a high priest after the order of Melchizedek “by the power of an indestructible life” (v. 16) confirmed by an oath (vv. 20-21). M. J. Paul again argues that “[t]he meaning is: You are priest not by descent but by oath, as was the case with Melchizedek.”[18] The juxtaposition of the Levitical priesthood with that of Christ is positively compared to Melchizedek who is a type of our Messiah “resembling [or ‘being made by God to resemble’] the Son of God” (v. 3).

[See former post on the treatment of Hebrews 7:1-10 in general]

[1] See e.g. Jerome H. Neyrey, “‘Without Beginning of Days or End of Life’ (Hebrews 7:3): Topos for a True Deity,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 53.3 (July 1991) 439-455. He writes, “Investigations of the Jewish background of Heb 7:3, however, entirely miss the sense of Hellenistic technical terminology used there” (439) arguing for a Hellenistic usage of Hebr 7:3.
[2] Again Neyrey seems quite extreme when he writes that the 11QMelch fragment found among the Dead Sea Scrolls “adds nothing to the interpretation of Heb 7:3.” Neyrey, Topos, 439. We rather see valid significance in the summary on Second Temple Judaism where Longenecker writes “the person and significance of Melchizedek seem to have been hotly disputed in various quarters.” Richard N. Longenecker, Studies in Hermeneutics, Christology and Discipleship (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2004) 202. Ellingworth further notes that some of these were “speculative and nonbiblical” and that we do not know to what extant (if any) the writer of Hebrews was influenced by those writings. Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 352.
[3] Cf. Bruce A. Demarest, A History of Interpretation of Hebrews 7, 1-10 [Seven, One to Ten] from the Reformation to the Present, Beiträge zur Geschichte der biblischen Exegese, 19 (Tübingen: Mohr, 1976) 101.
[4] Bruce, Hebrews, 157. Ellingworth comments accordingly, “His [the writer of Hebrews] main interest in the passage is that it points, by what it does not say (quod non in Thora, non in mundo) as well as by what it says, to a priesthood different in kind from that of the levitical priests (cf. v. 11, ἕτερον), held by one who is superior to Abraham and thus to his descendant Levi.” Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 351.
[5] Expressed by the author with the alliteration ἀπάτωρ ἀμήτωρ ἀγενεαλόγητος.
[6] Gr., μήτε ἀρχὴν ἡμερῶν μήτε ζωῆς τέλος ἔχων.
[7] The Melchizedekian typology, which was already employed in Ps 110, furthers the writer’s argument “for the supremacy of the priesthood of Jesus the Messiah to that of Levites.” Chad L. Bird, “Typological Interpretation within the Old Testament: Melchizedekian Typology,” Concordia Journal 26.1 (Jan 2000) 52 [36-52]. Bird argues that the writer of Hebrews “was building upon an already established typological tradition” namely that of David in Ps 110 (49; emphasis original).
[8] Walter Edward Brooks, “Perpetuity of Christ’s Sacrifice in the Epistle to the Hebrews,” Journal of Biblical Literature 89.2 (Je 1970) 205 [205-214]. BDAG defines τάξις as astate of being similar to someth., likeness, similarity, agreement” (707).
[9] William L. Lane, Hebrews 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary, v. 47A. (Dallas: Word Books, 1991) 165. Here we might note that the author also takes the name and title of Melchizedek to be important. First, his name (or part of it; i.e., zedek) is associated with the Hebrew ṣeḏek which means “righteousness” and secondly also the place of his sacerdotal and royal ministry is Salem in association with “peace” (Hebr. šālôm). These characteristics of this figure are of importance because they also prefigure the Messiah to come – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Ps. 72:7; Isa. 9:6f; Zech. 9:9f) and further Melchizedek was a priest-king which makes him even more a type of Christ. “[D]as Besondere an diesem Malki-Zedek war doch, daß er in seiner Person König- und Priestertum vereinigt habe.” Stefan Schreiner, “Psalm CX und die Investitur des Hohenpriesters,” Vetus Testamentum 27.2 (April 1977) 217 [216-222]. For messianic implications of δικαιοσύνη and εἰρήνη see also James Moffatt, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Edinburgh: Clark, 1948) 92.  
[10] Lane defines this word as “without recorded descent” (165; see also BDAG “without genealogy” p. 9).
[11] One might ask why the author of Hebrews chooses Melchizedek as a type in his high Christological theology. Farrow thinks that he does so “because […] it is the most comprehensive typology available and the only one which does justice to the new thing that God has done in Christ.” Douglas Farrow, “Melchizedek and Modernity,” in The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology, ed. Richard Bauckham, et al. (Grand Rapids: Eerdman, 2009) 287. Another reason is that “the milieu in which the author of Hebrews wrote” was full of Melchizedekian accounts “which conceived of this ancient figure as more than a mere man.” Bird, “Typological Interpretation,” 51. Further, the writer of Hebrews does stress Jesus as high priest “with the Melchizedek argument, but also culminating his portrayal of the superiority of the Son to angels in chapters 1 and 2—all with an eye to what his addressees may have held in great esteem prior to their conversion.” Richard N. Longenecker, Studies in Hermeneutics, Christology and Discipleship (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2004) 206-207.
[12] M. J. Paul argues on the basis of v. 6 that the point the writer is making is that “he [Melchizedek] did have a genealogy, though not the required one” which to him “seems more likely […] on the basis of the parallel with Christ in ν 14: he too had a genealogy, but not the required one.” M. J. Paul, “The Order of Melchizedek (Ps 110:4 and Heb 7:3),” Westminster Theological Journal 49.1 (Spring 1987) 205 [195-211]. This then has a slightly different nuance but still argues against a literalistic reading of the Melchizedekian account in Hebrews
[13] Ibid.,166.
[14] Moffatt, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary, 93.
[15] Lane, Hebrews 1-8, 166.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Bruce, Hebrews, 160-161, n. 22.
[18] Paul, “The Order of Melchizedek,” 209.  

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