My question today is was Melchizedek a pre- incarnate Christ? I have seen many theories about who Melchizedek was and what was meant by ( the order of Melchizedek). Your thoughts as always are appreciated and eagerly awaited. Thankful for your help
People for centuries have been trying to argue that Melchizedek was a "pre-incarnation" of the Messiah. (For example Ambrose of Milan in the 4th century, CE, tried to show the same in his writings called "On the Mysteries". But Ambrose was already anti-semitic, and very Catholic in his thinking). However the whole point in the comparison of the Messiah to Melchizedek in Hebrews is not to suggest that at all. The idea is rooted in a complete lack of understanding the scriptures.
Hebrews 7 seems to paint a picture of Melchizedek as some sort of divine being with no parents and who still lives (Hebrews 7:8). This perception from Hebrews led to the idea that Melchizedek is some sort of "Pre-incarnate Messiah". But it's all wrong.
Look at it this way: Without Hebrews, the only thing we truly know of Melchizedek is from 4 verses in the Tanankh. Four! Three from Genesis 14:18-20, and one in the Psalms (110:4). Hebrews 7 has only these 4 verses to draw from, yet Hebrews 7 itself is 28 verses long! If, today, we read Hebrews only to conclude that Melchizedek was some sort of a pre-incarnate Messiah, we truly should stop right there and examine the issue because something is amiss.
The central problem, I believe, is that we, today, are trying to interpret scripture which has been translated from language to language and the original meaning has in many cases been lost. Here, we have the book of Hebrews which has been translated over and over with significant bias since at least the 4th century CE, and most of us can only read scripture in English using our English-only understanding of the meaning of any particular word or phrase. I make that last point because it causes a big problem here in this discussion.
Case in point:
Take Hebrews 5:6 and 7:15 which read (in the typical English translation) respectively:
"as he says also in another place, 'You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek'." (ESV).
"And it is still more abundantly clear because He said that another priest would arise according to the order of Melchizedek." (HRB).
But BOTH verses in Hebrews refer to Psalm 110:4: "The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, 'You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek'," (ESV).
The problem is that the English word "order" in these verses from Hebrews is NOT the same word from Psalms which is also translated into English as "order"!
In Hebrews 5 and 7, the Aramaic word translated as "order" is from the root word "d'ma", [dalet-mem-aleph], meaning "to resemble". We can see the same root word in Hebrews 1:1: "In days gone by, God spoke in many and varied ways to the Fathers through the prophets", (CJB), where the word is not understood as "order", but as "varied ways".
But in Psalm 110:4 which reads: "The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, 'You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek'," (ESV), the Hebrew word is "dibrah'ti" [dalet-bet-resh-tav-yod] meaning "a reason, suit or style: - cause, end, estate, order, regard." The importance of the verse in Psalm is to refer to the royalty, the "estate", the regard due Melchizedek - to compare to the one being elevated in the Psalm. And we see the one being elevated is not Melchizedek or David, but the Messiah.
Just to be clear, let's look at the intent of the phrase "after the order of Melchizedek" used in Hebrews and in Psalm 110. In Psalm 110, the intent is best seen in how other translations write the phrase, such as found in the JPS which reads: "Thou art a priest for ever after the manner of Melchizedek." (More on that in a moment).
But in Hebrews "after the order of Melchizedek", (where the original word for "order" was from a Aramaic root word meaning "to resemble"), we see that the author's purpose was only to compare the resemblance of Yeshua's Kingship to Melchizedek and not to suggest that Yeshua somehow "was" Melchizedek or replaced Melchizedek. So just what was the comparison? Was the author or Hebrews trying to say Melchizedek was a pre-incarnate Messiah, or did he intend something else?
He intended something else!
The meaning of Hebrews 7 is NOT that Melchizedek was like any sort of pre-incarnate Messiah or that Melchizedek had no mother or father or that he remains alive - that is nonsense. Rather, when the author of Hebrews wrote in 7:3 "He [Melchizedek] is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling* the Son of God he continues a priest forever", all he is saying is this:
Melchizedek was chosen not by his genealogy, but by divine appointment (Genesis 14:18, "he was priest of God the Most High" (JPS) - clearly not by blood, and not by the later Levitical line). Melchizedek was both a High Cohen and King, and that his "chosen" status never ended - the message is not that Melchizedek never died. The Messiah's role as King and Cohen is of that same origin, that is, divinely appointed. Therefore the Messiah is "of the order of Melchizedek", that is, his appointed reign is never ending.
The difference is that Melchizedek was but a mortal man, and though we have no record of his death, he no doubt died, but the type of kingship he had, by appointment from YHWH, did not "end". Yeshua's kingship on the other hand does not end since Yeshua was the one resurrected and is now sitting at the Right Hand of YHWH as Psalm 110 declares.
If we examine this further, we see that the author of Hebrews and the author of Psalm 110 were in complete agreement. I referred to the JPS version of Psalm 110:4 more correctly reads "after the manner of Melchizedek" instead of "of the order of Melchizedek". The author of Hebrews therefore correctly used Psalm 110 in Hebrew 7 arguing that it was the "manner" of the Messiah's kingship that is important, that of "being chosen" or appointed, and was certainly not trying to argue that Melchizedek was some sort of pre-incarnate Messiah.
And with that, I conclude that the problem is with Biblical interpretation and not that Melchizedek was a pre-incarnate Messiah.
*"Resembling" in Hebrews 7:3 is from the same root word in Hebrews 1:1, 5:6 and 7:15.