The Eternal Life And Priesthood Of Melchisedek -- By: Henry A. Sawtelle

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 016:63 (Jul 1859)
Article: The Eternal Life And Priesthood Of Melchisedek
Author: Henry A. Sawtelle


The Eternal Life And Priesthood Of Melchisedek1

Rev. Henry A. Sawtelle

[Condensed from the German of Auberlen.]

Introduction; Historical Notice Of Opinions

The declarations concerning Melchisedek, in the seventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, have afforded interpreters much difficulty. Particularly has this been the case with the third and eighth verses. The peculiarity in the latter verse is, that the Priest-king of Salem, in the char-

acter of one who lives, is opposed to the Levitical priests who die, — a contrast unwarranted unless Melchisedek have a being superior to the ordinary existence of man. And this supposition is favored, if not in fact demanded, by the former verse, in which arises the new difficulty of a mysterious man possessing an eternal priesthood opposed to the Levitical, and like that of Christ.

In this matter even our better expositors have resorted to strange assumptions and expedients. There are two classes of the older opinions, — the one assuming for Melchisedek a nature in some way supernatural, the other escaping this by exegetical evasions. In the former class, Ambrose and others, held Melchisedek to be a manifestation of the Logos; Hierax, and others, of the Holy Spirit; while Origen supposed him to be an angel. If he were a man, still something supernatural must belong to him. Hulsius thought him the returning Enoch, and Kloppenburg considered him a man immediately created by God. He has been identified with some better known personage. Thus Jurieu hits upon Ham; while the Rabbinical opinion that it was Shem is favored even by Luther, Melanchthon, and others, and is not yet entirely discarded by Stier.

Among the exegetical evasions or shifts resorted to, is that of Storr and others, who assume that in v. 8 Christ is the one who lives; they supply in v. 3, before abides, a subject relating to Christ, and thus escape the difficulty of the only reasonable reference to Melchisedek. The view of L. Bos belongs here, namely, that the word “forever” expresses only the unbroken continuance of Melchisedek’s priesthood until his death; in which case he would be like others. But more than a mere evasion is the explanation of Theophylact, Oecumenius, Calvin, Bengel, and others, who say that the expression that Melchisedek lives, and the one about his being priest forever, both relate to the silence of scripture respecting his death, the end of his priesthood, his successor and the like. This accounts for the negative predicates (v. 3). But the positive expressions plainly refer to something about which scripture is not silent, but entirely ex-

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