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Who was Melchizedek and Who was His God?


urroner

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On November 8, 2008,at the St Stephen's House of Oxford, there was a symposium about "Melchizedek in Scripture, Tradition and Liturgy." Margaret Barker gave a paper there, which is found here: WHO WAS MELCHIZEDEK AND WHO WAS HIS GOD?

Good stuff people. The more I read of her writings and thoughts, the more impressed I am.

Here are some excerpts from the paper without any of my comments, except the more I read, the more I can see that there were two priesthoods in the early OT, pre-exilic, the Aaronic and the Melchizedek which leaves a gaping hole in the Traditional Christian belief that only Christ held the MP.

Melchizedek was the centre of important claims about Christianity and its relationship to

Judaism, especially to the temple and its priesthood. Priesthood was an important matter for the

early Church â?? something that is often overlooked. The Christians claimed that Jesus was the

Melchizedek priest, and in the first century C E, this would have entailed a claim to the original

temple in Jerusalem. Josephus, who was presumably recording contemporary belief, said that

Melchizedek was a Canaanite who had built the first temple in Jerusalem and was the first to

serve there as a priest (War 6.438). Psalm 110 shows that the Davidic kings in Jerusalem

retained the Melchizedek priesthood, which was rooted in the phase of Hebrew history

represented by Abraham rather than by Moses. It is interesting here to observe that St Paul also

emphasised that Christianity was rooted in the pre-Mosaic era of Hebrew history - in the promise

given to Abraham long before the Law was given to Moses (Rom. 4). Even a surface reading of

the Old Testament raises several questions: Melchizedek was linked to Abraham and to the

monarchy, and in the second temple period, Moses took over the role of the Davidic king.2 He

was king, lawgiver, high priest and prophet' (Philo, Life of Moses II.292). We can only

speculate how the two priesthoods related to each other; that of Aaron and that of Melchizedek.

It was clearly a problem, as later developments in the tradition imply.

2 The extract from Ezekiel's play quoted by Eusebius Preparation 2.9, and the reference in Philo Life of Moses I.158

show that Moses was depicted as one enthroned in the presence of God and named as God and King.

Something on deification:

This Jewish-Christian debate is the context for discussing the various forms of the Melchizedek

text in Genesis 14, but this cannot be done without considering also Psalm 110. First, we note

that there are different forms extant of both the texts that mention Melchizedek and of other texts

relevant to the discussion e.g. Deuteronomy 32.8 which describes the sons of God to whom the

nations were allocated, and Deuteronomy 32.43 which described how the Lord emerges to atone

the land. The Hebrew of Psalm 110 is notoriously difficult to translate, especially verse 3, where

Yahweh makes someone a Melchizedek priest, but the process and the setting are obscured. The

Greek text is a little clearer than the Hebrew: 'In the glory of the holy onesâ?¦ I have begotten

you.' To this translator, and so to the early Christians who used the Greek text, becoming the

Melchizedek priest meant being born as the Son among the angels. In temple terms, this implies

a ritual in the holy of holies, the place of the angels, in which the human became divine. The

holy of holies represented the state of being that was both beyond and before the material

creation, and this was where the Melchizedek priest was 'born'. The rest of Psalm 110.3 has

become opaque in the Hebrew, and we have to ask why this might have happened8. I suggest it

was because this verse described the making of the ancient Melchizedek priests who were

described as Sons of God.

8 Something similar occurred recently in the translation of the Qumran texts. The Messianic Rule looks forward to

the time when God will father the Messiah, who will then preside at a meal of bread and wine (1QSa II). Some

people could not believe what they were reading and so offered another translation that was published in a popular

book and became the accepted reading for anyone who could not consult the original. Thus G Vermes The Dead

Sea Scrolls in English , London: Penguin 1962, 1982, 1987, and then, in The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English,

London Penguin 1997, we read that God was Father of the Messiah: 'This reading, which has been queried by many

including myself, seems to be confirmed by computer enhancement' p.159.

A similar fate has befallen the sons of God passage in Deuteronomy 32.8-9, where the Masoretic

Hebrew says that the Most High divided up the nations of the world according to the number of

the sons of Israel. The Qumran text, however, implies that the Most High allocated the nations

of the world among the sons of God, not the sons of Israel, and that Jacob was given to Yahweh.

In other words, Yahweh was a Son of the Most High, and he was appointed as the Guardian

Angel of Jacob. I suggest that the opacities and variants in the Hebrew text here are due to a

dispute over the nature of Yahweh: the older texts knew that Yahweh was a Son of the Most

High, what Christians would call the Second Person. Psalm 110.3, a key text for Christians,

describes the process by which the Davidic king became the Son, the process by which a human

became Yahweh. Becoming divine was described as birth, but the Hebrew yldtyk is ambiguous,

and is usually rendered in English as 'your youth'9. The Greek translator, and thus too the early

Christians, read the letters differently10 and understood it to mean 'I have begotten you',

exeg

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I don't know how we could get someone better for "our side" and it definitely helps that she is not LDS. Great stuff!

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Doesn't Barker believe that Melchizedek was Christ? You don't believe that, do you?

No, she saw Jesus as Melchizedek, which was the high priest title.

see: Temple Theology Intro

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 Melchizedeks temple was the world of the first Christians.
Seems to me that this is parallel to speaking of Christ as the "last" Adam (1 Cor 15:45)

More clear:

The letter to the Hebrews explained the role of Jesus as the new Melchizedek (Heb.7.11), the one who

had attained the priesthood by ascent, being raised up, not by descent from Aaron

http://74.125.155.132/search?q=cache:lCJ6F...lient=firefox-a
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There is at least one problem for Mormon theology. The author writes that Melchizedek was believed to be a Canaanite. However, the Pearl of Great Price tells us that the Canaanites were cursed, as descendants of Ham, and unable to hold the priesthood:

Abraham 1:21-22, 27

Now this king of Egypt was a descendant from the loins of Ham, and was a partaker of the blood of the Canaanites by birth. From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land.

...

Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry;

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There is at least one problem for Mormon theology. The author writes that Melchizedek was believed to be a Canaanite. However, the Pearl of Great Price tells us that the Canaanites were cursed, as descendants of Ham, and unable to hold the priesthood:

Oh no! A respected non-Mormon scholar's research suggests that the two orders of priesthood which Joseph Smith supposedly just made up in order to consolidate his power in Kirtland have exact ancient parallels, right down to their names, but in one point her research contradicts Latter-day Saint doctrine. That's it. I give up! Only now do I understand that it really was all a fraud....

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Oh no! A respected non-Mormon scholar's research suggests that the two orders of priesthood which Joseph Smith supposedly just made up in order to consolidate his power in Kirtland have exact ancient parallels, right down to their names, but in one point her research contradicts Latter-day Saint doctrine. That's it. I give up! Only now do I understand that it really was all a fraud....

Strawman.

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I think Margaret Barker's writings, taken along with some of Nibley's insight (such as in the fantastic paper 'The Enoch Figure') shed some amazing insight on the ancient worldview. What I've basically learned is that names are not fixed to individuals. When one acts in a role or office associated with one figure, the Name is often taken. Hence, acting in (or taking upon oneself) the name of YHWH. YHWH acting in (or taking upon) the name of El. Joseph's understanding of the office and power of Elias fits here, too. For a while, even Joseph used the code name Enoch. We use 'Melchizedek Priesthood', but anciently, perhaps Melchizedek (and others later as well) viewed himself as having "the Enochian Presthood", a priest after the order of Enoch.

I would also guess that even though we know Adam is Michael and Noah is Gabriel, that Michael isn't always Adam, and Gabriel isn't always Noah. The prototypes aren't always what are meant by the names/titles.

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No, she saw Jesus as Melchizedek, which was the high priest title.

see: Temple Theology Intro

...

Have you read THIS paper by Barker?

God forbid that Margaret Barker should be wrong about something.

edit: Wow, I missed that the same paper was linked in the OP. Anyway, it seems pretty clear to me what she was trying to say in the paper. Maybe I'm misreading it though.

Could someone who is more familiar with Barker's ideas let me know if she believes that Melchizedek was Christ?

That's what I got out of reading the paper, but I read it pretty fast. I believe that Melchizedek was Shem, BTW.

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Have you read THIS paper by Barker?

God forbid that Margaret Barker should be wrong about something.

edit: Wow, I missed that the same paper was linked in the OP. Anyway, it seems pretty clear to me what she was trying to say in the paper. Maybe I'm misreading it though.

Could someone who is more familiar with Barker's ideas let me know if she believes that Melchizedek was Christ?

That's what I got out of reading the paper, but I read it pretty fast. I believe that Melchizedek was Shem, BTW.

To me, it's not matter of Margaret Barker being right or wrong, what fascinates me is the new light she is casting of the context of the Bible.

In the article, Margaret said:

In Genesis 14 and Psalm 110, however, Melchizedek is written as two words, suggesting that it was not a name but a title: Malki Zedek perhaps King of Righteousness or Righteous King.

I agree with this, that while Melchizedek could be a name, it was probably more of a title.

She also mentioned something very interesting in her book "The Great Angel":

In all probability, then, Melchizedek represented the priesthood of El Elyon as distinguished from that of Yahweh.
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Doesn't Barker believe that Melchizedek was Christ? You don't believe that, do you?

I was at her paper at SBL in San Diego and one of her conclusions was that Melchizedek was Christ. I don't agree with that, and I think she retrojects a lot of Second Temple angelology and theology into First Temple Judaism. While I think some of her conclusions deserve credit, her methodologies are often a little uncritical, in my opinion.

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Strawman.

Not at all!. Here Joseph gets all of this right, mutiple items, and you latch onto the one item that is debatable. Do you think it is remotely possible that Baker was wrong that Melch. was a Cannanite? The one item that does NOT cohere perfectly, and there you are picking it out!

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I think Margaret Barker's writings, taken along with some of Nibley's insight (such as in the fantastic paper 'The Enoch Figure') shed some amazing insight on the ancient worldview. What I've basically learned is that names are not fixed to individuals. When one acts in a role or office associated with one figure, the Name is often taken. Hence, acting in (or taking upon oneself) the name of YHWH. YHWH acting in (or taking upon) the name of El. Joseph's understanding of the office and power of Elias fits here, too. For a while, even Joseph used the code name Enoch. We use 'Melchizedek Priesthood', but anciently, perhaps Melchizedek (and others later as well) viewed himself as having "the Enochian Presthood", a priest after the order of Enoch.

I would also guess that even though we know Adam is Michael and Noah is Gabriel, that Michael isn't always Adam, and Gabriel isn't always Noah. The prototypes aren't always what are meant by the names/titles.

And of course Adam itself is also a title, as in Christ as the second Adam. Suddenly from this perspective, the Adam-God theory starts looking almost respectable.

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I was at her paper at SBL in San Diego and one of her conclusions was that Melchizedek was Christ.

As in "reincarnation"? Interesting view for a Anglican (or is she something else, I knew once, but forgot).

Why the references to the "new Melchizedek" then?

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As in "reincarnation"? Interesting view for a Anglican (or is she something else, I knew once, but forgot).

Why the references to the "new Melchizedek" then?

I think it would be more like the premortal Christ appearing using Melchizedek as a title.

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I think it would be more like the premortal Christ appearing using Melchizedek as a title.

Does she see the 'original' Melchizedek as a spiritual being then (I haven't read anything of her stuff for a long time and either missed this the first time around or have forgotten it)?

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Not at all!. Here Joseph gets all of this right, mutiple items, and you latch onto the one item that is debatable. Do you think it is remotely possible that Baker was wrong that Melch. was a Cannanite? The one item that does NOT cohere perfectly, and there you are picking it out!

Hamba Tuhan's strawman argument was against this proposition, which I highlighted in the post:

...that the two orders of priesthood which Joseph Smith supposedly just made up in order to consolidate his power in Kirtland

It is a strawman since no one in the debate was proposing this thesis. Arguing against an absurd proposition that you put in the mouth of your opponent is the very definition of a strawman argument.

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Hamba Tuhan's strawman argument was against this proposition, which I highlighted in the post:

It is a strawman since no one in the debate was proposing this thesis. Arguing against an absurd proposition that you put in the mouth of your opponent is the very definition of a strawman argument.

I actually agree with you. It was a strawman argument, since you were not arguing about 2 priesthoods and such. Interesting. What if Mel was a Cannanite? Then what?

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Not at all!. Here Joseph gets all of this right, mutiple items, and you latch onto the one item that is debatable. Do you think it is remotely possible that Baker was wrong that Melch. was a Cannanite? The one item that does NOT cohere perfectly, and there you are picking it out!

If we are going from the posted information, it says this:

Josephus, who was presumably recording contemporary belief, said that

Melchizedek was a Canaanite who had built the first temple in Jerusalem and was the first to

serve there as a priest (War 6.438)

I think she's not saying he was a Canaanite, she's merely reporting what Josephus claimed. He could have been wrong--I believe he has been wrong about other things. And maybe there's another explanation. Maybe not all called "Canaanites" were the descendents of Ham. Maybe they were people who lived in Canaan.

Either way, I'm not sure Barker was saying it--I think she was just reporting on what the records says.

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Maybe they were people who lived in Canaan.

Which adds even another variable. There is no way that there is any conflict here with Joseph saying Canaanites could not hold the priesthood, there are multiply layers of ambiguity. Baker could be wrong, Josephus could be wrong, Melch's ancestry could have been different, and not a descendent of Ham, or maybe he just lived in Canaan.

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Is it just me or is Barker using LDS vernacular?

"As a result, the meaning and significance of the Melchizedek priesthood are yet more of the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Masoretic text of the Old Testament." (11)

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Is it just me or is Barker using LDS vernacular?

"As a result, the meaning and significance of the Melchizedek priesthood are yet more of the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Masoretic text of the Old Testament." (11)

Holy cow! No question! That line could have been written by a GA!

Edit/Addition: On the other hand, pardon my cynical nature, but she knows where her audience is to sell books. It's the American way, nothing wrong with that. The scholarship is still what it is, but if you can sell more books and appeal to a wider audience, why not?

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Holy cow! No question! That line could have been written by a GA!

Edit/Addition: On the other hand, pardon my cynical nature, but she knows where her audience is to sell books. It's the American way, nothing wrong with that. The scholarship is still what it is, but if you can sell more books and appeal to a wider audience, why not?

Was this audience where this paper delivered comprised of Latter-day Saints?

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Was this audience where this paper delivered comprised of Latter-day Saints?

I honestly don't know, but I think it is clear who her audience in general is: us! I am sure she didn't write it for her audience where it was delivered only.

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