Volume. XXI, No. 13
Sunday, 24 September 2006

From the Pastors heart: Melchizedek and Qumran materials

When the Qumran materials were found in 1947 and in its subsequent years, some people hastily prophesied that these scrolls and writings would undermine Christian messages.  They questioned the validity of the New Testament teachings about Jesus, and hoped that the Qumran materials would refute Christian doctrines of Christ as God-man, or the Son of God.  The name of Melchizedek has been regarded as very important in relation to the high priesthood of Jesus Christ.  Even the Mormons are claiming his name to justify their priesthood.  Melchizedek is a character in the Old Testament who appeared in Genesis to the patriarch Abraham.  He is called "king of Salem" (believed to be ancient Jerusalem) and "priest of the most high God" in Genesis 14:18: “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.”  Abram had just returned from his victory over the four kings who had besieged Sodom and Gomorrah.  In return, Abram gave him a tenth, a tithe, of the spoils gained from the battle in Genesis 14:20.  Melchizedek’s name appeared one more time in the Old Testament.  Psalm 110:4: “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”  It is important for us to know that Melchizedek was a priest of the most high God from Genesis 14:18.  In addition to that, it is worthwhile to note that he produced an order of priesthood, from which a permanent priesthood was established.  It implies a few questions and problems.

The first question is about the person who has the eternal and permanent priesthood in Psalm 110:4.  The second question is related to the first: There was an Aaronic priesthood.  Is the eternal priesthood overshadowing the Aaronic priesthood?  Generally, the second question has posed some difficulties to the Jewish believers, while the first question has been dominated by Christian teachings.  Firstly, what we need to do in order to find some solutions is to go through some materials from Judaism and from the book of Hebrews.  Then, we shall go into Qumran materials to find out the pre-Christian era understanding of the issue within Palestine Judaism, by which we shall see whether a Christians’ view of Christ is superior to that of Judaism as the writer of the book of Hebrews did in his book.

First, Judaism does not provide any better ideas about Melchizedek in comparison to Christian teachings.  However, Judaism cannot accept the Christian view of Melchizedek without confessing Jesus as their Messiah, which is a problem to it.  Thus, they appeal to two sources in order to bring forth different ideas: (1) oral tradition, and (2) rabbinical writings.  We do have some problems with the second source because of its prejudices against Christianity.  As we have already studied, they were written a few centuries after Christianity was birthed.  Oral tradition is important in Judaism.  Abraham Cohen said, “A fundamental issue with the Rabbis was the acceptance of a traditional Torah, transmitted by one generation to another by word of mouth, side by side with the written text.  It was claimed that the Oral Torah, equallywith the Written Torah, goes back to the Revelation on Sinai, if not in detail at least in principle” (Everyman's Talmud, Schocken Books, 1949, 146).  Though we admit that oral traditions are important to Judaism, we must not forget that they were redacted in such works as the Talmud, Midrash, and Kabbalah on and around the 3rd century A.D.

As a result, Judaism has proposed different ideas about the identity of Melchizedek.  The most popular view is that Melchizedek was Shem, a son of Noah (E.g., B. Talmud Nedarim32b; Genesis Rabbah 46:7; Genesis Rabbah 56:10; Leviticus Rabbah 25:6; Numbers Rabbah 4:8).  “Melchizedek was Shem the son of Noah, a priest most high: (Pirke De Rabbi Eliezar 9A.i).  “And Melchizedek is Shem, the son of Noah” (Rashi, Commentaries, Genesis 14:18).  “And Melchizedek is Shem, the son of Noah” (Talmud, Tr. Nedarim 32).  Other views are as follows: Rabbi Isaac the Babylonian said that Melchizedek was born circumcised (Genesis Rabbah 43:6).  Rabbi Eleazar said that Melchizedek's school was one of three places where the Holy Spirit manifested itself. (B. Talmud Makkot 23b).  The Rabbis taught that Melchizedek acted as a priest and handed down Adam’s robes to Abraham. (Numbers Rabbah 4:8).  Rabbi Zechariah said on Rabbi Ishmael's authority that God intended to bring forth the priesthood through Melchizedek¹s descendants, but because Melchizedek blessed Abraham before he blessed God (in Gen. 14:19-20), God brought the priesthood forth from Abraham¹s descendants (B. Talmud Nedarim 32b).  There are so many mystical stories about him which go on and on.  However, none of them gives a biblical explanation.

Second, we need to turn our attention to the New Testament.  Hebrew 7:1-3 tells of Melchizedek in the following way: “For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; 2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; 3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.”  Hebrews 7:15-16, “And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, 16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.”  Hence the writer of the book of Hebrews relates Melchizedek to Jesus Christ and justifies His high priesthood.  

Then, what is the solution?  If we know the pre-Christian Jewish view of Melchizedek, we may compare it with both modern Judaic and Christian views.  Thankfully, cave 11 produced scrolls called 11QMelch.  It depicts Melchizedek.  “It tells of the tenth or last jubilee year, which is given an eschatological interpretation as the year when Melchizedek will bring about release for the sons of light and the men of his lot by expiating their sins.  The text portrays Melchizedek not as an earthly king . . . but as a heavenly figure, performing a priestly act of expiation” (Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S. J., The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins, Eerdmans, 2000, 38).  One amazing fact is that it calls Melchezedek, Elohim, which literally means “god”.  Thus, he is portrayed as a heavenly redemption figure.  Melchizedek was without genealogy, which puzzled the Jews.  They ask, how could a priest of God be without a genealogy?  They even talk about “Cohen Modal Haplotype” which is a DNA signature consisting of specific genetic markers on the Y chromosome of the Cohens (priests).  If we reckon that pre-Christian Jews believed in a heavenly redemption figure who performed a priestly function (atonement) as we find from the Dead Sea Scrolls, then it makes perfect sense when the book of Hebrews says about Christ without beginning of the days of end of life” and “a priest according to the order of Melchizedek.”  We have the missing link that the Jews have missed.  It is Jesus Christ who is our redeemer and Saviour.


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Shorter Catechism Question No. 64: What is required in the fifth commandment? The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honour, and performing the duties, belonging to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.

Please pray for health & God’s healing: Ps Ki, Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren, Rev Peter Clements, Rev David Koo, Rev Timothy Tow, Dr S H Tow, Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan; Bros S Dhamarlingam, Makoto Kobayashi, Raphael Ng’s father, & Winston Selvanayagam; Sisters Sheila George, Myung Ki, Alice Lee’s father, Aranka Rejtoe, Iris Surman, Sally Teng, Juanita Tong, Susan Veradi, & Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law; Auntie Oei & others in affliction. "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped:” (Ps 28:7a).

Please pray for – a) Cambodia Missions - Preacher Zhang & Ministry (Sihanoukville); b) Laos Missions - Bro S Dhamarlingam; c) Pastors & believers in India & Pakistan; d) Sketch n’ Tell Ministry - Bro H S Lim; e) Journey Mercies - Bros Joseph Selvanayagam (Adl) & Tony Tong (M’sia); Sisters Shirley Tong (Adl) & Bindu George (Adel); f) Jobs for - Mr Leo Xeng & Sis Yee Min Tee; others travelling during university vacation; g) YAF members - Evangelism event “September 30 in 30” & salvation of all who received tracts; h) Transport ministry - for more to come forward to help in this important ministry.

Praise and Thank God for – a) YAF Bible Study, Joy & Maranatha Bible Study & Prayer, & Ladies’ “Hymn & Tea” Meetings b) Journey mercies - Rev Peter Clements & family (Adl & Cootamundra); Bro Tony & Sis Shirley Tong (Syd), Bro Checkie (Alice Springs); Sisters Amber Aw (Alice Springs), Peng Ha Yeo (Adl) & Charlotte Lin; Miss Bernice Tan (Melb & Adl); c) Working Bees - for the hard work and many things done; d) AFG Dinner last night.

RPGs for the next QTR available on the literature table. Junior RPGs available from Sis Purdee Yeo. Donation: $ 1 per copy appreciated.

Please pray for The Lord to provide $8,925 for Pastor’s car fund.

Greetings from Sister Amy Leow and family, Singapore.

Service Roster for the next QTR available for pick-up on the literature table.

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