“Melchizedek: Who Art Thou?” -- By: Jeffrey A. Stivason

Journal: Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal
Volume: RPTJ 006:2 (Spring 2020)
Article: “Melchizedek: Who Art Thou?”
Author: Jeffrey A. Stivason

“Melchizedek: Who Art Thou?”

Jeffrey A. Stivason

Adjunct Professor of Systematic Theology

Professor Elect of New Testament

Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Melchizedek is an enigmatic figure! If it were not so, then we would not be having this discussion of whether he is a type of Christ or an instance of Christophany. After all, the historical figure appears in only two Bible texts (Genesis 14:18–21 and Hebrews 7:1–10) and no more. Yes, there are four texts that mention the phrase in “the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6; 5:10; 6:20). Nevertheless, his entrée is as mysterious as his sortie. So, we are prone to ask, “Melchizedek: Who Art thou?”, and yet, how do we answer that question?

In this paper, we will propose to do the following. First, we will briefly explore the history of interpretation with regard to the identity of Melchizedek will be explored. Second, a method will be put forth by which the question regarding the identity of the person of Melchizedek will be answered. Third, the method will be applied to the Melchizedekian texts. And fourth and finally, conclusions will be drawn from this application and possible objections will be dealt with.

The History Of Interpretation

The vantage point of historical interpretation can help answer the perennial question, “Who is Melchizedek?” This brief foray into the exegetical wilds will provide a sense as to how Melchizedek has been understood by previous generations. So first, notice the strangely hostile attitude of rabbinic authors toward the person of Melchizedek. According to Jewish interpretation, the priesthood of Melchizedek was essentially Levitical and was communicated by him to Abraham and so down to Levi. The fact that rabbinic authors attribute1 the absence of his lineage to his being the son of a prostitute is remarkable, but perhaps even it pales in comparison to the belief that since the tithe paid by Abraham was merely the spoils of war, it was not the sign of homage from the lesser to the greater.2

Leaving the mysterious hostility of the rabbis behind, travel to the caves of Qumran, where in Cave 11, a fragment appropriately named 11Qmelchizedek is found. In an article titled, “Melchizedek as a Messiah at Qumran,” Paul Rainbow points out that Me...

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