Friday, June 2, 2017

Hebrews 7:3 - Melchizedek and Jesus' Priesthood

Hebrews 7:3: without father or mother, without lineage, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest in perpetuity. (Montgomery)

Some, in reading the above scripture, see something in it that is not there, that Jesus has neither beginning of days, nor end of life. They do not seem to notice that when saying that he has neither beginning of days, Paul is speaking, not of Jesus, but of Melchizedek (also often spelled Melchizedec), and not literally, but figuratively, to show the difference between the priesthood of Jesus and the Aaronic priesthood. If one reads this literally then we must believe that Mechizedek was always a priest from eterity past and that he is still now a priest. Jesus, of course, did begin his priesthood, but not with a lineage or beginning of days here on earth, but in heaven. There is no earthly lineage, no earthly beginning, from which his priesthood is attached. There is nothing here that says that Jesus existed for eternity past; such has to be read into the text.

Paul says that Melchizedek resembles the Son of God. Yes, Jesus is Son of God [He is not the God of whom is Son], and yes, Jesus does live forever, having been given such power from his God, although this is not what is being spoken of in the verse, for it is concerning the priesthood that Paul is speaking, not existence. Paul is not saying that Jesus exists “from eternity”; this has to be imagined, assumed, and read into what he said. The only reason we can see for reading such an idea into the text is to promote the idea that Jesus is Jehovah.

What Paul did say is that Melchizedek is without father or mother or genealogy and has neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God Melchizedek continues to be a priest for ever.

Very few believe that Melchizedek is God Almighty himself, having lived for eternity past, having no beginning, no ending, etc. Very few believe that Melchizedek literally continues to be a priest even to this day and forever. And, of course, we know that Jesus had a father. But Jesus had no earthly father from which he obtained a priesthood. To take the view that Paul is speaking literally would make Melchizedek Jehovah, and not our Lord Jesus, who is called the “only-begotten” (John 1:14,18; 3:16,18; Hebrews 11:17; 1 John 4:9), “the Son of God” (Mark 1:1; Luke 1:32,35; John 1:34; 3:18; 5:25; 6:27; 9:35; 10:36; 11:4; 20:31; Acts 9:20, etc.), “the firstborn of every creature” (Colossians 1:15), “the beginning of the creation of God.” (Revelation 3:14) We believe that Jesus had an existence before he came into the world, that it was in glory, and that he left the celestial glory which He had with the Father “before the world was” to partake of another glory, a the crown of terrestrial, fleshly, human glory. (John 17:1,3,5; 1 Corinthians 15:27,39-41; Hebrews 2:9) We believe the Word to teach that since “his obedience unto death, even the death of the stauros,” “God (Jehovah) has highly exalted Him (Psalm 110:1), and given Him a name above every name,” etc. (Philippians 2:9); that now “all power in heaven and earth is given unto him” by Jehovah, his God. (Matthew 28:18; Daniel 7:14) We believe that ‘of His government there is no end,’ (Isaiah 9:7) and that his kingdom is an “everlasting kingdom.” (Daniel 7:27) But we cannot suppose that he, as the firstborn creature (Colossians 1:15), never had a beginning, since it is positively stated that he was “the beginning of the creation” (Revelation 3:14), the firstborn of every creature (Colossians 1:15). This, of course, involves the idea that the Heavenly Father and Son are no more one being than any earthly father and son could be one in being. There is a oneness, however, a unity, existing between them, the oneness of will, aim, etc., as it was written of Jesus, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.” (Hebrews 10:7,9) We remember further that Jesus prayed for us, his followers, that we might have the same kind of unity; not unity of person, but unity of purpose, aim, and interest. He prays “That they all may be ONE, even as Thou, Father, and I are one.” (John 17:11,21,22) This shows us clearly the kind of oneness existing between our Father and our Lord. If, then, the text, “without beginning of days, nor end of years,” as applied to Melchizedek, means that he never had a beginning nor end of life, it would prove not that he was Jesus (as some have assumed), but rather the God and Father of Jesus, Jehovah the Almighty.

It would scarcely be necessary to show that Christ was not without a Father. Call to mind his words: “Father forgive them;” (Luke 23:34) “Father, glorify Thou me with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” (John 17:5) It could not then refer to Christ in His pre-human state, nor can it apply to Him as “the man, Christ Jesus,” for Jesus was “born of a woman.” Wakefield’s version renders this (Hebrews 7:3) “Of whose father, mother, pedigree, birth, and death, we have no account.” There was a strict record kept of parentage, birth, death, &c., of every Levite, so that any one claiming to be a priest or Levite could prove it by the records.

It is testified of Melchizedek that he had no end of years, yet we do not see him living today; and it is testified of Christ that he did die, but he was made alive. This same Paul could say of Christ: “Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man.” (Hebrews 2:9) We conclude, then, that as Christ, in the days of his flesh, had a Father existing on the spiritual plane, and a mother who exsited on the earthly plane. Jesus did die for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:30, “even the death of the cross [stauros]” (Philippians 2:8), therefore we have to conclude that Paul is not speaking literally about either the lack of father, birth or death of either Melchizedek or Jesus in a literal sense, but rather he is illustrating the lack of genealogy of the order of the Christ’s priesthood as shown by the account of Melchizedek, and thus Jesus’ priesthood is after the order of Mechizedek, not being of Aaronic genealogy, not having any earthly beginning or end.

When is Jesus made priest after the order of Melchizedek? Has he always been such a priest? No, but while this priesthood has no earthly beginning — the scripture tells us that he could not even have been such a priest while on earth, while in the days of his flesh, nor did Jesus have an earthly father from whom he could claim a priesthood — he was made such a priest after his return to heaven. (Hebrews 8:1-4; 9:11; 10:11-12) Thus like Melchizedek, Jesus’ priesthood does have a beginning in the heavens, but it is not seen on earth, nor is it given as a result of any earthly inheritance of the law and its priesthood. Like Mechizedek, Jesus does not literally have “no beginning of days”, but his heavenly priesthood has no beginning of days on earth, but more importantly, his priesthood cannot be accounted for by human descent.

Likewise, the fact that Jesus is not made a priest after the order of Melchizedek until after his ascension proves that Melchizedek of old was not what many call a “Christophy”, an alleged appearance of Christ in the flesh in the Old Testament. (Hebrews 8:1-4; 9:11; 10:11,12) The very fact that Jesus is spoken of as having become such a High Priest after his ascension shows that he was not such a high priest from all eternity past, and thus he was not such a priest in the days of Abraham. (Hebrews 5:9,10; 6:20; 8:4) The fact that Jesus “arises” after the Old Law Covenant as a priest after the manner of Melchizedek further shows that Melchizedek of old is not a “Christophy”. (Hebrews 5:7-10; 7:15) It is only after Jesus possesses endless life so that he will never die again, that he becomes a priest after the manner of Melchizedek for all eternity; he was never such a priest back in the days of Abraham. — Romans 6:9; Hebrews 7:8,16,24,25; Revelation 1:18.

To interject a meaning into Hebrews 7:3 that Jesus is God Almighty because of the description given to Melchizedek is to derive such a meaning out of context, and detract from what Paul was actually saying.

Nor did Jesus glorify himself as priest, for we read: “Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest.” (Hebrews 5:5) It is Jehovah himself that speaks to the Messiah saying: “You are a priest forever according the order (manner, Hebrew Dibrah, Strong’s Hebrew #1700) of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4) Thus Paul says that Jesus is “named by God a high priest after the order (fashion, Greek, Taxis, Strong’s Greek #5010) of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:6,10; 6:20; 7:11,17,21) And it is Jehovah, the God and Father of Jesus, who speaks to the Messiah, saying: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” — Psalm 110:1

Thus there is nothing in Hebrews 7:3 that proves that Jesus is Jehovah, who only has existed for all eternity past.

Objection 1

It has been claimed that we are ignoring the context of Hebrews 7:3 in our treatment as presented above, and it is further claimed that Hebrews 7:3 presents “undeniable” testimony to Christ’s eternity.

There is nothing at all anywhere in Hebrews 7:3 that is an undeniable testimony to Christ’s eternity, as the term is defined by trinitarians. Such an idea has to be read into what Paul says, as we have already shown.

However, it does in context speak of Jesus as being made by God Almighty (Hebrews 7:15,16) a perpetual priest (Hebrews 7:21), thus this, while it relates a beginning of Jesus’ priesthood, could also be seen as proof his eternal future. Even as Jesus is made a perpetual priest, Melchizedek is made by Jehovah in the prophecy of Psalm 110:4 (Hebrews 5:6,10; 6:20; 7:11,15.21) like the Son of God pertaining to the priesthood of the Son of God, so that Jesus becomes a priest after the likeness of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 7:15,21) It does not prove anything, however, about the definition that trinitarians would like to give to eternity (as having no beginning), for Jesus has not always been such a priest, and as the scriptures show, he certainly was not Melchizedek of old, since Jesus was not made a priest until after he ascended.

Objection 2

It has been claimed that our conclusion is not supported by the text which plainly states that Melchisedec was *like* [in type only] the Son of God Who had neither beginning of days or end of life.

Actually, the above turns the text around to make it say what is does not say. It does not say that Melchizedek was like the Son of God who had neither beginning of day or end of life, but the expression “having neither beginning of days nor end of life” applies directly to Mechizedek (the type, the shadow), not Jesus (antitype, the reality). If this is read to mean that mean that Jesus (the antitype) had no beginning, that it would most certainly also mean that Melchizedek, who is the one directly being spoken of, would have no beginning. The fact that Melchizedek is made like the Son of God does not do away with the fact that it is of Melchizedek that Paul says that he is without beginning of days and or end of life.

As has already been shown, the point is that there is no genealogical record of Melchizedek, his priesthood had no genealogical record of its beginning of days and no record of its ending of life. Paul is, of course, speaking symbolically, and not literally. Nevertheless, this is how his priesthood is a type of the priesthood of Jesus. We know that Melchizedek’s priesthood actually did have a beginning, and we know that Melchizedek himself did have a beginning, even though we do not know who his father and mother were, nor when he was born, when his priesthood began, etc. Nevertheless, his priesthood was not one that had a heritage from a lineage of priests, and in this Melchizedek is like Jesus. This is Paul’s argument in Hebrews chapters 3 through 10. “After the likeness of Melchizedek there arises another priest” (Hebrews 7:15), a priesthood superior to that of the Aaronic priesthood; Jesus did not receive a lineage as a priest from Aaron. Thus Melchizedek — is made, rendered similar, by the expression of Jehovah (Psalm 110:4), to the priesthood of Jesus. In saying “another priest”, the scripture lets us know that Jesus was not Melchizedek of old. We also know that Jesus was not such a priest while on earth — thus he did not become a priest after the order of Melchizedek until after he was raised from the dead. He did not become a perpetual priest until after his ascension.

http://bible.crosswalk.com/Lexicons/Greek/grk.cgi?number=871

Objection 3:

Hebrews 7:1-3 - For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God Most High, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,[2] to whom also Abraham divided a tenth part of all (being first, by interpretation, King of righteousness, and then also King of Salem, which is King of peace;[3] without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God), abideth a priest continually.
 -- American Standard Version.

The claim is made that Hebrews 7:1-3 shows that no one can be "divine" except that one has eternal existence. By man's tradition, the word "eternal" has come to include an eternal past and eternal future, or as existing outside of time. It there anything in these verses, however, that substantiates the claim?

Verse 3 in the Syriac renders, "Of whom neither his father nor his mother are written in the genealogies; nor the commencement of his days, nor the end of his life; but, after the likeness of the Son of God, his priesthood remaineth for ever.." -- Murdock's Syriac New Testament Translation.

Genesis 14:18-20 - And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was priest of God Most High.[19] And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth:[20] and blessed be God Most High, who hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him a tenth of all.


"God" in these verses apply to only one person, that is the same "one God" that Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 8:6, the God and Father of Jesus who exalted Jesus. (Ephesians 1:3,17-23) The word "God" is not applied either to the man, Melchizedek, nor is the word "God" applied to he who is that antitype of Melchizedek, "the Son of God". Nevertheless, Jesus, now being exalted far above the angels, who are "gods" -- hence divine -- is also certainly "a god" -- a divine (mighty) spirit being.

{Psalm 8:5} For you have made him a little lower than gods [Hebrew, ELOHIM: divine beings, angels -- Hebrews 2:7], and crowned him with glory and honor.

NRSV 1989 - "you have made them A LITTLE LOWER THAN GOD", but footnotes: 'or than divine beings or angels'

The Common English Bible 2011 - "You’ve made them ONLY SLIGHTLY LESS THAN DIVINE."

The International Standard Version of 2014 has "You made him A LITTLE LESS THAN DIVINE"

The discussion in Hebrews 1:1-3 is regarding the Jesus' priesthood and how it is different from the priesthood under the Law. It is like the priesthood of the man, Melchizedek, who was definitely not God, but his priesthood was not due to any lineage from father or mother, or from genealogy, and the Bible records no beginning or end of Melchizdek's priesthood. What is said is definitely not saying that the man, Melchizedek, himself, has always existed from eternity past, and that he is still now walking around on earth today, and will be for all eternity.

And Melchizedek, king of Salem - A thousand idle stories have been told about this man, and a thousand idle conjectures spent on the subject of his short history given here and in Heb. vii. At present it is only necessary to state that he appears to have been as real a personage as Bera, Birsha, or Shinab, though we have no more of his genealogy than we have of theirs. -- Adam Clark.

Adam Clarke:

The object of the apostle, in thus producing the example of Melchisedec, was to show,

That Jesus was the person prophesied of in the 110th Psalm; which psalm the Jews uniformly understood as predicting the Messiah.
To answer the objections of the Jews against the legitimacy of the priesthood of Christ, taken from the stock from which he proceeded.

There is nothing in Hebrews 7:1-3 that gives any thought that no one can be divine (a mighty one) unless that one has always been in existence. Even Moses was made a divine one to Pharaoh (Exodus 7:1), and the sons of the Most High who accepted the Messiah (who received special powers but most of whom fail to live up to the goal of their high calling -- Philippians 3:12-14) are divine ones even while human beings. (Psalm 82:6,7; John 10:34-36) However, in Psalm 8:5, it is evidently referring to divinity as being mighty spirit beings (angels -- Hebrews 2:7), spirit sons of God (Job 38:4-7), a level above that of human beings.

Although we do not necessarily agree with every statement in the studies linked to below, we recommend for further study:

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