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What do we know about Melchizedek, king of Salem?

Who was he, and why is he said to be "without Father or Mother...without beginning of days or end of life" (Heb. 7:3.)

If he's Jesus, why is he said to be "like the Son of God," and if he's not Jesus, why does it say he "remains a priest forever" (when Jesus is said to be filling the role of High Priest now)?

Did Joseph ever reveal anything about who this being is?

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Melchizedek (Bible Dictionary)

Melchizedek. King of Righteousness. A notable prophet and leader who lived about 2000 B.C. He is called the king of Salem (Jerusalem), king of peace, and “priest of the most High God.” Unfortunately, information concerning him in the Bible is relatively scarce, being limited to Gen. 14:18–20; Heb. 5:6; 7:1–3. Mention of the priesthood of Melchizedek is given in several other instances, primarily in Psalms and in Hebrews. However, latter-day revelation gives us much more about him and his priesthood (see JST Gen. 14:17–40; JST Heb. 7:1–3; Alma 13:14–19; D&C 84:14; 107:1–4). From these sources we realize something of the greatness of this prophet and the grandeur of his ministry. See also Jebus; Jerusalem; Melchizedek Priesthood.

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What do we know about Melchizedek, king of Salem?

He was probably Shem, "the Great High Priest".

Shem, Noah's son, outlived Abraham, according to the Genesis record.

Who was he, and why is he said to be "without Father or Mother...without beginning of days or end of life" (Heb. 7:3.)

This is a "parenthesis" referring to his Priesthood, not to the man himself.

If he's Jesus, why is he said to be "like the Son of God," and if he's not Jesus, why does it say he "remains a priest forever" (when Jesus is said to be filling the role of High Priest now)?

He's not Jesus. He was a precursor to Him, and his life foreshadowed His.

Did Joseph ever reveal anything about who this being is?

Yes, but I don't have the references right now.

Lehi

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An interesting side note is that the Melchizedek Priesthood plays a role in one of the degrees of Scottish Rite freemasonry, I think its either the 14th or 18th degree, where the candidate is ordained a member of the Melchizedek Priesthood. I think they also say something about Melchizedek, I'll try to look it up in some of my books tonight to see if I can find out anything.

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Yes, but I don't have the references right now

Thank you Lehi.

Could you post what Joseph said on this subject when you have the references?

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Thank you Lehi.

Could you post what Joseph said on this subject when you have the references?

There was an article which appeared in the Nauvoo Times and Seasons which indicated that Shem was Melchizedek.

First, though Joseph's name appeared on these articles, that does not mean he actually wrote them.

Second, this was actually a Jewish tradition--this claim that Shem was Melchizedek is found in the Jewish Midrash as well as the Book of Jasher and other apocryphal writings, however there is nothing to support this in canonical scripture. At the time the article was written I believe there are a Jewish teacher in Nauvoo; he was teaching Hebrew classes and very likely this idea made it's way into the Times and Seasons article through information, books, writings he shared in the classes he was teaching.

You won't find many LDS who have any clue about this because it is, once again, not LDS doctrine and the Times and Seasons was not canon. It also contradicts other information we have on Melchizedek and Shem which can be found in scripture. Because of this, I believe most LDS who are aware of this, question it's veracity--I do.

Edited by alter idem

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There are some scriptures in D&C on Melchizedek which were revelations given to Joseph Smith and are part of the LDS canon.

D&C 84:14-15 Which Abraham received the Priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah. And from Noah till Enoch through the lineage of their fathers.
D&C 107:2 Why the first is called the Melchizedek priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest.

There are also a couple of references to Melchizedek in the Book of Mormon, also LDS canon and translated by Joseph Smith.

Alma 13:14-15 Yea, humble yourselves even as the people in the days of Melchizedek, who was also a high priest after this same order which I have spoken, who also took upon him the high priesthood forever.

And it was this same Melchizedek to whom Abraham paid tithes; yea even our father Abraham paid tithes of one-tenth part of all he possessed.

Alma 13:17-18 Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness;

But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.

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What do we know about Melchizedek, king of Salem?

Another thing, "Melchizedek" was most certainly not his name. It is a title (meaning "King of Righteousness"). He was also "The King of Salem" (later "Jerusalem" city of—) or the "Prince of Peace".

That's another reason that I, in opposition to Bruce R. McConkie, believe that Melchizedek was Shem.

You asked about things Joseph Smith wrote on Melchizedek. I point you to Alma 13:15, 17; Doc&Cov 76:57, 138:41 (not Joseph, but his successor and nephew, Joseph F. Smith).

Joseph Fielding Smith, quoting his father, Joseph F., said "Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation of the righteous were Father Adam, the Ancient of Days and father of all, and our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshipped the true and living God. Abel, the first martyr, was there, and his brother Seth, one of the mighty ones, who was in the express image of his father Adam. Noah, who gave warning of the flood; Shem [whom the Prophet Joseph identified as Melchizedek], the great High Priest; Abraham, the father of the faithful; Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, the great law-giver of Israel; Isaiah, who declared by prophecy that the Redeemer was anointed to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound, were also there." See Doc&Cov 138:41.

And there's this.

Who Melchizedek is, of course, is more or less obscure, but he was not a mysterious character, but a mortal man, who ruled as king of Salem (Jerusalem) under his father. It may be possible that he is Shem, for Shem was living five hundred years after the flood, and of that time, three hundred and fifty years with his father. Shem, therefore, was living in the days of Abraham, and Abraham was one hundred and fifty years old when Shem died. Elias (who lived in the days of Abraham, and who held the keys of that dispensation, and conferred them on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, may be another name for, or title of, Melchizedek. However this may be, and it matters little to us, we know that Melchizedek was a righteous High Priest before the Lord, who turned his people from iniquity to righteousness. Modern revelation has furnished us some valuable information concerning Melchizedek.

Lehi

Edited by LeSellers

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That's another reason that I, in opposition to Bruce R. McConkie, believe that Melchizedek was Shem.

Thank you Lehi.

But who did Mcconkie think Melchizedek was?

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Referring back to the female prophetess of Mormonism, Margaret Barker, she has written some pretty nifty things about Melchizedek including this:

Temple Theology:

Jesus was described and remembered as a great high priest (Heb.4.14), the Melchizedek raised up by the power of an indestructible life (Heb.7.16) who had offered the final atonement sacrifice to fulfil and supersede the temple rites (Heb.9.1-14). Melchizedek’s priesthood was more ancient than Aaron’s, and the Letter to the Hebrews argues that the Melchizedek priesthood is superior to the Aaronic (Heb.7.11-19). Now Aaron was the brother of Moses, but Melchizedek was priest in Jerusalem in the time of Abraham. Melchizedek represented the older faith. The Jerusalem kings had been priests in the manner of Melchizedek (Ps.110), but there had been no place for an anointed king, a Messiah, in the religion of Moses. Deuteronomy set strict limits on the role and powers of the king (Deut.17.14-20), but these rules had been elaborated with the wisdom of hindsight, and inserted after the demise of the monarchy. Paul knew where the roots of Christianity lay; he argued that Christianity looked to the faith of Abraham (and by implication Melchizedek), and so was rooted earlier than the Law given to Moses (e.g. Rom.4).

Since the discovery of the Melchizedek text among the Dead Sea Scrolls (11Q13), we can see the significance of this claim that Jesus was Melchizedek. One damaged line of the text seems to describe teachers who have been kept hidden and secret, and the whole text clearly celebrates the return of the divine Melchizedek to rescue his own people from the power of the Evil One. Melchizedek was expected to appear exactly when Jesus began his public ministry, and the description of the role of Melchizedek is exactly how Jesus is presented in the gospels. Jesus as Melchizedek was formerly thought to be peripheral to the understanding of his ministry, something claimed by the early Christians because it was known that Jesus had no family claim to the priesthood of Aaron. Jesus as Melchizedek can now be seen as the key to the New Testament, and the implication of this is that Melchizedek’s temple was the world of the first Christians.

I believe that in Josiah's purge, anything relating to the older religion was stomped out as much as possible which included multiple gods and the religion of El which I believe had the Mel. Priesthood. I can be totally wrong here.

Edited by urroner

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The Doctrine & Covenants reports: "Which Abraham received the Priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah. And from Noah till Enoch through the lineage of their fathers."

This leads me to think that this is Shem. Shem just kind of vanishes after the flood and Melchizedek appears about the time Shem vanishes. Melchizedek was a title and his priesthood went uninterrupted from Adam even unto Noah. Many Christians believe that he had no father nor mother, but Joseph Smith brought sense to a lot of nonsense.

I think many of us don't appreciate the priesthood we have now.

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I believe that in Josiah's purge, anything relating to the older religion was stomped out as much as possible which included multiple gods and the religion of El which I believe had the Mel. Priesthood

I've seen comments like this here before, and the idea always seems to be that monotheism was an uninspired innovation.

If that's true (if the true religion of Israel involved the worship of El, His consort, and lesser deities), why don't latter day saints worship Heaveny Mother, Peter, James, John, Mary, Moroni, and Joseph?

Because latter day revelation says we should only worship Heavenly Father?

But then why would the original, God-given religion of Israel involve the worship of lesser deities (until Josiah messed it all up)?

And if the original religion of Israel was polytheistic, why is the Book of Mormon so monotheistic?

The biblical record shows that the people of Israel often worshiped Caananite deities (before and after Josiah's reform), and it seems to me that this practice was clearly condemned by the prophets.

I just don't get what some latter day saints hope to gain by condemning Josiah's reform (for which he's praised in scripture.)

Edited by inquiringmind

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And if the original religion of Israel was polytheistic, why is the Book of Mormon so monotheistic?

I don't think the righteous in the BofM were monotheistic. I believe there were aware of the separation of the Father and the Son. So, being the psycho psychic that I am, you will ask why is the Son called the Father in the BofM. That is a good question. I had problems with that also until I read this Monotheism, Messiah, and Mormon's Book.

There can be no doubt nor confusion that the person referred to here is Jesus Christ, and this Christ is the person that Nephi declares to be "the very God of Israel." This meaning is also essential to Abinadi's argument in Mosiah 15:1:

And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.

For the entire Book of Mormon, Yahweh is the God of Israel, and Yahweh is the Messiah. Those equivalencies are absolute and important to Nephite theology. However, there is still an understanding that Yahweh was the Son of God, in the context of El Elyon, or the Most High God.

We now have one remaining explanatory task. If the Nephites understood the separate nature of El Elyon and Yahweh, why is it also true that the text frequently equates the Messiah and the Father? While this is the stuff that led to the Christian arguments about trinitarianism and modalism, there is a much different process at work in the Book of Mormon. The problem begins with our good friend Nephi, who seems to personally present us with every possible confusing statement about God:

And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father!16

If you haven't noticed, we are only a couple of verses later than verse 18 where the virgin is the mother of God. Now we have a new identification. The Lamb of God is a title that is particularly symbolic of the atoning function of the Messiah, and here we have the Messiah declared to be the Eternal Father. This is not the only location where this happens. In other texts, the Messiah is not only Father, he is also Son. Mormon writes a thousand years after Nephi:

...And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son; and because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man.17

The explanation for this conflation of Father and Son is not to be found in post-Christian theology, because that perspective cannot explain all of the various references to God in the Book of Mormon. Returning to our historical perspective, however, we can replace the cultural contexts that allowed Nephi to hold what appear, to modern readers, to be contradictory beliefs about God.

When Margaret Barker describes the nature of the heavenly council, she also notes the key that resolves our problems in understanding Nephi and the subsequent Nephite theology.

There are those called sons of El Elyon, sons of El or Elohim, all clearly heavenly beings, and there are those called sons of Yahweh or the Holy One who are human.18

There are two "fathers" here, and the difference is that in the stories, or myths--to use the anthropological term--the sons of one father are heavenly, and the sons of the other are human. This creates a distinction in the realm of operation of the two fathers, a conceptual space that might be described as either horizontal or vertical. In the horizontal conception, we are in the heavens, and the heavenly father begets heavenly sons. In the vertical conception, we now have a heavenly being focusing on earth, a vertical relationship that crosses the boundaries that separate heaven and earth. This second "father" is defined by this vertical deity-to-human sphere. (Bolding is mine.)

Brant A. Gardner presented this in 2003. I was but a wee lad at the time. Here are four videos that cover this presentation:

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I'm fond of the suggestion that, lore attributed to him besides, Melchizedek, originally, was the eponymous figurehead of the indigenous Jebusite Zadokite king/priests, who eventually were rivals to the later Aaronid priests, and somewhat 'absorbed' into them in later propagandistic historical redaction.

Edited by nackhadlow

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who did Mcconkie think Melchizedek was?

I haven't seen anything by Elder McConkie on that, so I can't say. He just seemed convinced that whoever it was, it was not Shem, but that there was at least one generation between them. I don't see it that way.

Lehi

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Referring back to the female prophetess of Mormonism, Margaret Barker, she has written some pretty nifty things about Melchizedek including this:

Temple Theology:

I believe that in Josiah's purge, anything relating to the older religion was stomped out as much as possible which included multiple gods and the religion of El which I believe had the Mel. Priesthood. I can be totally wrong here.

"the female prophetess of Mormonism" ??? When was this title earned?

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What do we know about Melchizedek, king of Salem?

Who was he, and why is he said to be "without Father or Mother...without beginning of days or end of life" (Heb. 7:3.)

If he's Jesus, why is he said to be "like the Son of God," and if he's not Jesus, why does it say he "remains a priest forever" (when Jesus is said to be filling the role of High Priest now)?

While that "without Father or Mother... without beginning of days or end of life" part throws me for a loop, here is a bit more circumstantial evidence in favor of Shem:

In Joseph F. Smith's vision of the redemption of the dead (D&C 138), in a list of some of the "big guns" from the Old Testament working in the Spirit World, Melchizedek (the great high priest) is omitted but we do have "Shem, the great high priest" (verse 41).

My understanding is that "Melchizedek" is a title which can be translated as "king of righteousness" or "my king is righteousness". Perhaps Voldagon will clarify.

stYro

Edited by stYro

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"the female prophetess of Mormonism" ??? When was this title earned?

When I decided so. There are just some things you must never question nor doubt. This is one of them. :morg:

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John Welch wrote a good essay on the Mechizedek material in Alma 13.

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=109&chapid=1260

More recently, Margaret Barker has a chapter on "The High Priesthood" in her book The Hidden Tradition of the Kingdom of God. She also spoke on "Who was Melchizedek and Who was His God?" at SBL a couple of years ago, as part of the LDS interest section.

Kevin Christensen

Bethel Park, PA

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Far too much is attributed to Seixas. In this case it is obvious that the Shem = Melchizedek tradition once very much in vogue in LDS circles comes from the English translation of the Book of Jasher. Joseph Smith read it, and in later years it was even published in SLC, IIRC.

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Far too much is attributed to Seixas. In this case it is obvious that the Shem = Melchizedek tradition once very much in vogue in LDS circles comes from the English translation of the Book of Jasher. Joseph Smith read it, and in later years it was even published in SLC, IIRC.

It was also a given in the popular and influential 1823 Antiquities of Freemasonry.

"Shem settled in Salem and was afterwards its monarch under the name of Melchizedek He lived to an old age and preserved the principles of Masonry amongst his descendants until he ultimately committed them unsullied into the custody of Abraham who was upwards of one hundred and fifty years old when Shem died "

Edited by nackhadlow

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It was also a given in the popular and influential 1823 Antiquities of Freemasonry.

"Shem settled in Salem and was afterwards its monarch under the name of Melchizedek He lived to an old age and preserved the principles of Masonry amongst his descendants until he ultimately committed them unsullied into the custody of Abraham who was upwards of one hundred and fifty years old when Shem died "

Thanks for the reference, should be an interesting read.

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What do we know about Melchizedek, king of Salem?

Who was he, and why is he said to be "without Father or Mother...without beginning of days or end of life" (Heb. 7:3.)

If he's Jesus, why is he said to be "like the Son of God," and if he's not Jesus, why does it say he "remains a priest forever" (when Jesus is said to be filling the role of High Priest now)?

Did Joseph ever reveal anything about who this being is?

History knows little or nothing about Melchizedek accept that which has already been acknowledged. The major question is to what God Melchizedek prayed to. The following passage from the Anchor Bible Dictionary might help...

Melchizedek’s being the priest of God Most High (˒ēl ˓elyôn) does not necessarily point to

the pre-Israelite, Canaanite character of both the priest and his cultus, as is often assumed

(cf., e.g., IDB 2: 407–17; Speiser Genesis AB, 105, 109). It is true that in the late Phoenician

theogony by Philo Herennius of Byblos the deity Eliun (explained in Greek as Hypsistos, “most

high”) appears as the oldest god, grandfather of Elos (˒ēl) and his brothers, and that in the much

older Aramaic treaty from Sfire (mid-8th century B.C.), stele I:A:11, one finds ˒l w ˓lyn (˒ēl and

˓elyōn) among the divine witnesses of the treaty. But in both cases, El and Elyon are two distinct

entities. The combined divine name ˒ēl ˓elyôn is found in the OT (besides Gen 14:18–20; in Ps

78:35, cf. ˒elōhı̂m ˓elyôn, v 56); in 1 QapGen 21:20, where Abram built an altar in the oaks of

Mamre and sacrificed on it to ˒l ˓lywn; and in 4 QPrNab, which uses ˒l ˓lywn throughout. In all

of these passages God Most High is a synonym of Yahweh, as is the more common shorter

epithet ˓elyôn, which is especially frequent in the Psalms. The assumption that the inclusion of

yhwh before ˒ēl ˓elyôn in Abram’s reply to the king of Sodom, v 22, reflects a religious difference

between the Hebrew Abram and the Canaanite Melchizedek (IDB 2:412; Speiser Genesis AB,

109) is disproved by its absence from LXX, Syr, and the Genesis Apocryphon (which follows

very closely the text of Genesis 14); it should be considered a late editorial gloss.

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While that "without Father or Mother... without beginning of days or end of life" part throws me for a loop

Could "without beginning of days or end of life" be speaking of Jesus Christ?

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Could "without beginning of days or end of life" be speaking of Jesus Christ?

I'm open to that possibility, but really haven't thought it through. If you have, could you elaborate?

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