Melchizedek as a Messiah at Qumran -- By: Paul Rainbow

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 07:1 (NA 1997)
Article: Melchizedek as a Messiah at Qumran
Author: Paul Rainbow

Melchizedek as a Messiah at Qumran

Paul Rainbow

North American Baptist Seminary

Contrary to many scholars who argue or assume that the mysterious figure Melchizedek in 11QMelchizedek should be identified as an angel, perhaps as the angel Michael, this paper argues that he is a messianic figure perhaps even the Davidic Messiah. The angelic interpretation is problematic at several points, while the messianic interpretation coheres with Qumran’s apparent expectation of a Messiah of Israel who would serve faithfully alongside an anointed priest. These two figures were perhaps thought of as counterparts to the “wicked king” (melki-resha) and the “wicked priest” (hak-kohen ha-rasha), arch enemies of the Qumran community.

Key Words: Melchizedek, Melkî-Rešhaʿ , messianism; Isa 52:7; 61:1-2

A manuscript found in Qumran Cave 11 in the year 1956, numbered 11Q13, and first published by A. S. van der Woude in 1965,1 contains several occurrences of the name Melchizedek, and so is named 11QMelchizedek, even though Melchizedek may or may not have been as central in the work as he seems to be in the preserved portion. The manuscript consists of thirteen badly mutilated fragments representing parts of a column of text (and a few words of perhaps two other columns) from a document of unknown length. So little of the text can be established that not only are many readings of words and lines in question, but even the relative placement of some fragments has yet to be agreed, thirty years after publication.2 Only so-called column two is well enough preserved to offer useful data, but

I am grateful to Professor Christopher Rowland for an invitation in 1995 to present my thoughts on the present subject to the New Testament Graduate Seminar in Oxford; and to Dr. William Horbury of Cambridge for several helpful comments and corrections to the paper.

enough can be read or guessed to assign the original composition of the work to around 120 bce, tentatively on literary grounds.3 What exists of column two may be translated as follows.

1 [3.4cm] °° your God °°° °° [8.5cm]

2 [2.6cm] And what he said, In [this] year of jubilee [7.4cm] °

3 [1.8cm] of the release: every creditor shall release what he has l[ent] [6.8cm] the release

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