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This article is about the biblical figure. Alternatively, you may be looking for the article on Melchisédech Thévenot (ca. 1620-1692)
Image:Meeting of abraham and melchizadek.jpg
Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek — by Dieric Bouts the Elder, 1464–67

Melchizedek or Malki-tzédek (מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק / מַלְכִּי־צָדֶק, Standard Hebrew Malki-ẓédeq / Malki-ẓádeq, Tiberian Hebrew Malkî-ṣéḏeq / Malkî-ṣāḏeq), sometimes written Malchizedek, Melchisedec, Melchisedech, Melchisedek or Melkisedek, is a figure mentioned by the Bible, in the Book of Genesis, where he interacts with Abraham.


[edit] Name and titles

Melchizedek's name can be translated (from Hebrew) either as Zedek is my king or as My king is righteous. The former, which treats Zedek as a proper noun, is the translation favoured by most biblical scholars, and refers to a Canaanite deity with that name. In Genesis, Melchizedek is also referred to as king of Salem (generally believed to be ancient Jerusalem), and priest of El Elyon. Though traditionally El Elyon is translated as most high God, and interpreted as a reference to Yahweh (by tradition) or El (by some scholars), other scholars believe that it refers to Zedek - regarding El Elyon as referring to a most high god, and using Melchizedek's name as the indicator of who the deity was. <ref>Jewish Encyclopedia, Melchizedek</ref>

If the majority of scholars are right in taking the name as a reference to Zedek, then it would imply that Zedek was the main deity worshipped at Salem (i.e. Jerusalem) at that time. It is certainly the case that Jerusalem is plausibly referred to as city of Zedek (ir ha-zedek) in the Book of Isaiah<ref>Isaiah 1:21–26</ref>, as well as home of Zedek (neweh zedek) in the Book of Jeremiah<ref>Jeremiah 31:23</ref> and as gates of Zedek (sha'are zedek) in the Book of Psalms<ref>Psalm 118:19</ref>, though it is also true that in each of these cases zedek is traditionally translated as righteous (as in city of righteousness).<ref>Jewish Encyclopedia, ibid</ref>

[edit] Biblical Narrative

In the Tanakh, Melchizedek brought bread and wine to Abraham (then called Abram) after Abraham's victory over the four kings (led by Chedorlaomer) who had besieged Sodom and Gomorrah and had taken Abraham's nephew Lot prisoner. Melchizedek is also described as blessing Abraham in the name of El Elyon (see name and titles section for identification of El Elyon), and in return for these favours, Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe, from the spoils gained in the battle.<ref>Genesis 14:18-20</ref>

Proponents of the Documentary hypothesis view the Melchizedek narrative (Genesis 14:18-20) as a fragment from a once independent tradition concerning Jerusalem, that the Yahwist inserted awkwardly into the surrounding narrative concerning the battle. They believe that it would be more historically realistic for Melchizedek himself, as the king of Jerusalem, to have been involved in the battle, and to have had a legitimate right to the portion of the spoils by virtue of this, rather than just by virtue of the favours given to Abraham as the Genesis narrative would have it. They also believe that the Yahwist inserted Abraham into this tradition to symbolically portray the king of Jerusalem as being inferior to Abraham, by it being Abraham who gives a portion of spoils to the king rather than the other way round.<ref>Peake's commentary on the Bible, section 156d, 157c,d</ref> Of course, Abraham's actions could have indicated deference toward a superior; he apparently was not coerced into giving anything to Melchizedek.

[edit] Classical Rabbinical interpretation

In the Midrash, the Rabbis identified Melchizedek with Shem son of Noah. (E.g., B. Talmud Nedarim 32b; Genesis Rabbah 46:7; Genesis Rabbah 56:10; Leviticus Rabbah 25:6; Numbers Rabbah 4:8.) Rabbi Isaac the Babylonian said that Melchizedek was born circumcised. (Genesis Rabbah 43:6.) Melchizedek called Jerusalem “Salem.” (Genesis Rabbah 56:10.) The Rabbis said that Melchizedek instructed Abraham in the Torah. (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 Melchizedek’s descendants, but because Melchizedek blessed Abraham before he blessed God (in Gen. 14:19-20), God brought the priesthood forth from Abraham’s descendants. (B. Talmud Nedarim 32b; see also Leviticus Rabbah 25:6 (crediting Rabbi Ishamel).)

Rabbi Judah said in Rabbi Nehorai's name that Melchizedek’s blessing yielded prosperity for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Genesis Rabbah 43:8.) Ephraim Miksha'ah the disciple of Rabbi Meir said in the latter's name that Tamar descended from Melchizedek. (Genesis Rabbah 85:10.)

Rabbi Hana bar Bizna citing Rabbi Simeon Hasida identified Melchizedek as one of the four craftsmen of whom Zechariah wrote in Zechariah 2:3. (B. Talmud Sukkah 52b; see also Song of Songs Rabbah 2:33 (crediting Rabbi Berekiah in the name of Rabbi Isaac).) The Talmud teaches that David wrote the Book of Psalms, including in it the work of the elders, including Melchizedek (in Psalm 110). (B. Talmud Baba Batra 14b-15a.)

The Zohar finds in “Melchizedek king of Salem” a reference to “the King Who rules with complete sovereignty,” or according to another explanation, that “Melchizedek” alludes to the lower world and “king of Salem” to the upper world. (Zohar 1:86b-87a.)

[edit] Representative of the priestly line

In some translations, Psalms names Melchizedek as representative of the priestly line through which a future king of Israel's Davidic line was ordained. Alternatively, it may be more accurate that this term was here intended to be treated as an agglutinated improper noun, and thus translated as rightful king rather than left as Melchizedek; this interpretation is taken by some modern translations, such as the New JPS Tanakh.

[edit] The Melchizedek Priesthood and Christianity

Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah spoken of as "a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek" (Ps. 110:4), and so Jesus plays the role of High Priest once and for all. Jesus is considered a priest in the order of Melchizedek because, like Melchizedek, Jesus was not a Levite, and thus would not qualify for the Levitical priesthood (Heb. 7:13-17). One must remember that a priesthood or other holy order implies that there is more than one holder or member, respectively.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament discussed this subject considerably, listing the following reasons for why the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to the Aaronic priesthood:

  1. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek; later, the Levites would receive tithes from their countrymen. Since Aaron was in Abraham's loins then, it was as if the Aaronic priesthood were paying tithes to Melchizedek. (Heb. 7:4-10)
  2. The one who blesses is always greater than the one being blessed. Thus, Melchizedek was greater than Abraham. As Levi was yet in the loins of Abraham, it follows that Melchizedek is greater than Levi. (Heb. 7:7-10)
  3. If the priesthood of Aaron were effective, God would not have called a new priest in a different order in Psalm 110. (Heb. 7:11)
  4. The basis of the Aaronic priesthood was ancestry; the basis of the priesthood of Melchizedek is everlasting life. That is, there is no interruption due to a priest's death. (Heb. 7:8,15-16,23-25)
  5. Christ, being sinless, does not need a sacrifice for his own sins. (Heb. 7:26-27)
  6. The priesthood of Melchizedek is more effective because it required a single sacrifice once and for all (Jesus), while the Levitical priesthood made endless sacrifices. (Heb. 7:27)
  7. The Aaronic priests serve (or, rather, served) in an earthly copy and shadow of the heavenly Temple, which Jesus serves in. (Heb. 8:5)

The epistle goes on to say that the covenant of Jesus is superior to the covenant the Levitical priesthood is under. Some Christians hold that Melchizedek was a type of Christ, and some heterodox Christians hold that Melchizedek indeed was Christ. Reasons provided include that Melchizedek's name means "king of righteousness" according to the author of Hebrews, and that being king of Salem makes Melchizedek the "king of peace." Heb. 7:3 states, "Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he (Melchizedek) remains a priest forever." Melchizedek gave Abraham bread and wine, which Christians consider symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the sacrifice to confirm a covenant.

[edit] See also

  • Adonizedek
  • Jesus
  • Zadok
  • Zedek
  • The Melchizedek priesthood is a prominent feature of Mormonism.
  • Melchizedek is a character in The Alchemist.
  • Melchizedek is the main brain of Salem in the Battle Angel Alita (GUNNM) graphic novel series.
  • The Urantia Book describes as non-fiction, among other things, the origin and purpose of a vast array of spiritual beings, including an order of beings called "Melchizedek". However, "The Urantia Book" blends Biblical allusion to Melchizedek into a book of fiction involving aliens.

[edit] Notes

<references />da:Melkisedek (Bibelen) de:Melchisedech es:Melquisedec it:Melchisedec he:מלכי-צדק nl:Melchizedek no:Melkisedek pl:Melchizedek pt:Melquisedeque sv:Melkisedek zh:麥基洗德


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