Higher Priesthood of Melchizedek

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Biblical Teachings

  • The name Melchizedek means “my king is righteous,” or “King of Righteousness.”
  • He was introduced as the king of Salem.
  • The consonants for Salem – sh-l-m – could also spell the Hebrew word Shalom, meaning peace. (Hebrew consonants were not added until much later.) It could be translated, then, that he was King of Peace.
  • Melchizedek appeared to Abraham in Gen 14:18-20 when Abraham had just returned from rescuing his nephew Lot.
  • Melchizedek offered bread and wine to Abraham, and then blessed him in the name of El Elyon ("God Most High"). He also praised God for giving Abraham a victory in battle.
  • He is also called a priest of “God Most High.”
  • After receiving the blessing, Abraham offered a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedek.
  • The existence of someone like Melchizedek shows that there were other worshippers and followers who served the true God.
  • Even though the lineage of priests was highly significant (in order to maintain their purity), nothing is known about the genealogy of Melchizedek. It has been said of him, “he is ‘without father, without mother, without genealogy….’” (See Heb 7:3)
  • In one midrash, however, a rabbi claimed he was a descendant of Shem, son of Noah.
  • In Psalm 110, which is a messianic psalm, Melchizedek is seen as a type of Christ. David says to this individual: "Yahweh has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek'." This kingly figure described in Ps 110:1-3 is also a priest, not from Aaron’s line, but in the order of Melchizedek. This line would be separate from the Levites.
  • One of the early Gnostic scripts found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi states that Melchizedek was Jesus. In fact, as Jesus, Melchizedek lived, taught, died, and was resurrected.
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls have thirteen fragments on Melchizedek.
  • They refer to him as the heavenly eschatological “Redeemer Figure,” the Messiah. “He is a warrior who is chief of the heavenly armies, and who will execute judgment, one who protects the faithful people of God, and opposes the chief demon Beliel.” (See Duling and Perrin, p289)
  • In these texts, there are references to two angels, one good and the other evil. Beliel is one of the names for the evil angel; one name for the good angel is Melchizedek. The other two are likely Michael and Prince of Light.
  • Given his identification with these two angels, there is a good chance that he would have been understood as the presiding priestly angel, the heavenly high priest.
  • Their role in heaven paralleled the activity of the priests of the earthly temple.
  • One of their duties in heaven was to bring about the possibility of forgiveness for those who repent and turn from sin.
  • Though the practice is not spelled out, it is assumed that the priests in heaven accomplished this like the priests on earth – through sacrifice.
  • Melchizedek, then, is given a role in the salvation of the righteous and in the judgment of the wicked. How this all works is not made clear.
  • The writer of Hebrews insists that Christ’s priesthood is superior to the old Levitical order, primarily because his is of the order of Melchizedek’s.
  • Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek and this foreshadowed the later laws that would require the Israelites to pay tithes to the Levites. The precedent was set by Melchizedek.
  • Melchizedek was the one who blessed Abraham and the one who blesses is always greater than the one being blessed. Thus, Melchizedek was greater than Abraham.
  • If the priesthood of Aaron had been effective, God would not have needed to call a new priest from a different line.
  • The basis of the Aaronic priesthood was ancestry; the basis of the priesthood of Melchizedek was everlasting life.
  • Christ, being sinless, did not need sacrifices for his own sins.
  • The priesthood of Melchizedek is more effective because it required a single sacrifice once for all (Jesus), while the Levitical priesthood made endless sacrifices on a daily basis.
  • The Aaronic priests serve (or, rather, served) in an earthly copy and shadow of the heavenly Temple, which Jesus serves in.
  • Jesus was like Melchizedek in that neither was from the traditional Levitical line of priests.
  • According to Hebrews (see 7:1-17), Jesus is the greatest High Priest, even exceeding that of Melchizedek.


Duling, Dennis and Norman Perrin. The New Testament. Proclamation and Parenesis, Myth and History. Philadelphia, PA: Harcourt Brace College Publishers. 1994.

Bible Characters