The Superiority Of Christ: The Identity Of Melchizedek In Hebrews -- By: R. Larry Overstreet

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 06:1 (Spring 2009)
Article: The Superiority Of Christ: The Identity Of Melchizedek In Hebrews
Author: R. Larry Overstreet


The Superiority Of Christ: The Identity Of Melchizedek In Hebrews

R. Larry Overstreet

Introduction1

Foundational to Baptist Christology is the superiority of Christ over all created beings, and foundational to Baptist ecclesiology is the headship of Christ over the church. Among the strongest biblical passages arguing for the superiority of Christ over all created beings and particularly the Levitical priesthood is Hebrews 1-10. In Hebrews 7, Jesus is described as a priest after the order of Melchizedek, and thus prior and superior to the Aaronic priesthood. Who was this Melchizedek referenced in Hebrews 7?

Even though the Old Testament references to Melchizedek are meager, their impact is substantial. The mysterious character of Melchizedek is seen in ancient Jewish writings and in many early church fathers, as well as in more contemporary commentators and authors. The author of Hebrews uses Melchizedek to build a substantial part of his argument on the superiority of Christ. A commonly advocated view asserts that Hebrews does this since Melchizedek was a “type of Christ.” This is seen in such statements as: he had “no recorded beginning or close” of his life; he is “without any recorded” genealogy; and he is “without recorded father” and “without recorded mother.” However, other views have been advocated, even asserting that Melchizedek is much more than a mere type of Christ.

This article’s purpose is not to give detailed exegesis of all the texts related to Melchizedek. Rather, it limits its emphasis to seeking an exegetically correct identification of him. In so doing, this article focuses on an exegetical examination of key elements of the texts describing Melchizedek, distinguishing suggested identifications.

Melchizedek In Historical Perspective

A brief survey of writers throughout history provides a glimpse into the variety of positions, which have been taken concerning Melchizedek’s identity. Although detailed volumes are written on this matter,2 only some key writers are briefly mentioned.

Jewish Writers

Philo

Philo assumes the historical reality of Melchizedek as one “who had received a self-instructed and self-taught priesthood,”3 but he also presents an allegorical interpretation contrasting a legitimate king with a despot, even finding the Ammonites and Moabites in

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