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|New American Bible|
2002 11 11
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1 This "Melchizedek, king of Salem and
priest of God Most High," 2 "met Abraham as he
returned from his defeat of the kings" and "blessed him."
3 And Abraham apportioned to him "a tenth
of everything." His name first means righteous king, and he was also
"king of Salem," that is, king of peace.
Without father, mother, or ancestry, without
beginning of days or end of life, 4 thus made to resemble
the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.
5 See how great he is to whom the patriarch
"Abraham (indeed) gave a tenth" of his spoils.
The descendants of Levi who receive the office
of priesthood have a commandment according to the law to exact tithes from the
people, that is, from their brothers, although they also have come from the
loins of Abraham.
But he who was not of their ancestry received
tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had received the promises.
Unquestionably, a lesser person is blessed by a
In the one case, mortal men receive tithes; in
the other, a man of whom it is testified that he lives on.
One might even say that Levi 7
himself, who receives tithes, was tithed through Abraham,
for he was still in his father's loins when
Melchizedek met him.
8 If, then, perfection came through the
levitical priesthood, on the basis of which the people received the law, what
need would there still have been for another priest to arise according to the
order of Melchizedek, and not reckoned according to the order of Aaron?
When there is a change of priesthood, there is
necessarily a change of law as well.
Now he of whom these things are said 9
belonged to a different tribe, of which no member ever officiated at the altar.
It is clear that our Lord arose from Judah, 10
and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
11 It is even more obvious if another priest is
raised up after the likeness of Melchizedek,
who has become so, not by a law expressed in a
commandment concerning physical descent but by the power of a life that cannot
be destroyed. 12
For it is testified: "You are a priest
forever according to the order of Melchizedek."
On the one hand, a former commandment is
annulled because of its weakness and uselessness,
for the law brought nothing to perfection; on
the other hand, a better hope 13 is introduced, through
which we draw near to God.
14 And to the degree that this happened not
without the taking of an oath 15 - for others became priests without an oath,
but he with an oath, through the one who said
to him: "The Lord has sworn, and he will not repent: 'You are a priest
to that same degree has Jesus (also) become the
guarantee of an (even) better covenant. 16
Those priests were many because they were
prevented by death from remaining in office,
but he, because he remains forever, has a
priesthood that does not pass away.
17 Therefore, he is always able to save those who
approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.
It was fitting that we should have such a high
priest: 18 holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from
sinners, higher than the heavens. 19
He has no need, as did the high priests, to
offer sacrifice day after day, 20 first for his own sins and
then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself.
For the law appoints men subject to weakness to
be high priests, but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law,
appoints a son, who has been made perfect forever.
1 [1-3] Recalling the meeting between
Melchizedek and Abraham described in ⇒ Genesis
14:17-20, the author enhances the significance of this priest by providing
the popular etymological meaning of his name and that of the city over which he
ruled (⇒ Hebrews 7:2). Since Genesis gives no
information on the parentage or the death of Melchizedek, he is seen here as a
type of Christ, representing a priesthood that is unique and eternal
(⇒ Hebrews 7:3).
2  The author here assumes that
Melchizedek was a priest of the God of Israel (cf ⇒ Genesis
14:22 and the note there).
3  In Genesis 14, the Hebrew text
does not state explicitly who gave tithes to whom. The author of Hebrews
supplies Abraham as the subject, according to a contemporary interpretation of
the passage. This supports the argument of the midrash and makes it possible to
see in Melchizedek a type of Jesus. The messianic blessings of righteousness
and peace are foreshadowed in the names "Melchizedek" and
4  Without father, mother, or
ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life: this is perhaps a quotation
from a hymn about Melchizedek. The rabbis maintained that anything not
mentioned in the Torah does not exist. Consequently, since the Old Testament
nowhere mentions Melchizedek's ancestry, birth, or death, the conclusion can be
drawn that he remains . . . forever.
5 [4-10] The tithe that Abraham gave
to Melchizedek (⇒ Hebrews 7:4), a practice later
followed by the levitical priesthood (⇒ Hebrews 7:5),
was a gift (⇒ Hebrews 7:6) acknowledging a certain
superiority in Melchizedek, the foreign priest (⇒ Hebrews
7:7). This is further indicated by the fact that the institution of
the levitical priesthood was sustained by hereditary succession in the tribe of
Levi, whereas the absence of any mention of Melchizedek's death in Genesis
implies that his personal priesthood is permanent (⇒ Hebrews
7:8). The levitical priesthood itself, through Abraham, its ancestor,
paid tithes to Melchizedek, thus acknowledging the superiority of his
priesthood over its own (⇒ Hebrews 7:9-10).
6  A lesser person is blessed by a
greater: though this sounds like a principle, there are some examples in the
Old Testament that do not support it (cf ⇒ 2 Sam
14:22; ⇒ Job 31:20). The author may
intend it as a statement of a liturgical rule.
7  Levi: for the author this name
designates not only the son of Jacob mentioned in Genesis but the priestly
tribe that was thought to be descended from him.
8 [11-14] The levitical priesthood
was not typified by the priesthood of Melchizedek, for ⇒ Psalm
110:4 speaks of a priesthood of a new order, the order of
Melchizedek, to arise in messianic times (⇒ Hebrews
7:11). Since the levitical priesthood served the Mosaic law, a new
priesthood (⇒ Hebrews 7:12) would not come into
being without a change in the law itself. Thus Jesus was not associated with
the Old Testament priesthood, for he was a descendant of the tribe of Judah,
which had never exercised the priesthood (⇒ Hebrews
9  He of whom these things are
said: Jesus, the priest "according to the order of Melchizedek."
According to the author's interpretation, Psalm 110 spoke prophetically of
10  Judah: the author accepts the
early Christian tradition that Jesus was descended from the family of David (cf
⇒ Matthew 1:1-2, ⇒ 16,
⇒ 20; ⇒ Luke 1:27;
⇒ 2:4; ⇒ Romans 1:3). The
Qumran community expected two Messiahs, one descended from Aaron and one from
David; Hebrews shows no awareness of this view or at least does not accept it.
Our author's view is not attested in contemporaneous Judaism.
11 [15-19] Jesus does not exercise a
priesthood through family lineage but through his immortal existence (15-16),
fulfilling ⇒ Psalm 110:4
(⇒ Hebrews 7:17; cf ⇒ Hebrews
7:3). Thus he abolishes forever both the levitical priesthood and the
law it serves, because neither could effectively sanctify people
(⇒ Hebrews 7:18) by leading them into direct
communication with God (⇒ Hebrews 7:19).
12  A life that cannot be
destroyed: the life to which Jesus has attained by virtue of his resurrection;
it is his exaltation rather than his divine nature that makes him priest. The
Old Testament speaks of the Aaronic priesthood as eternal (see
⇒ Exodus 40:15); our author does not explicitly
consider this possible objection to his argument but implicitly refutes it in
⇒ Hebrews 7:23-24.
13  A better hope: this hope
depends upon the sacrifice of the Son of God; through it we "approach the
throne of grace" (⇒ Hebrews 4:16); cf
⇒ Hebrews 6:19, ⇒ 20.
14  An oath: God's oath in
⇒ Psalm 110:4.
15 [20-25] As was the case with the
promise to Abraham (⇒ Hebrews 6:13), though not with
the levitical priesthood, the eternal priesthood of the order of Melchizedek
was confirmed by God's oath (⇒ Hebrews 7:20-21); cf
⇒ Psalm 110:4. Thus Jesus becomes the guarantee of
a permanent covenant (⇒ Hebrews 7:22) that does not
require a succession of priests as did the levitical priesthood
(⇒ Hebrews 7:23) because his high priesthood is
eternal and unchangeable (⇒ Hebrews 7:24).
Consequently, Jesus is able to save all who draw near to God through him since
he is their ever-living intercessor (⇒ Hebrews
16  An [even] better covenant:
better than the Mosaic covenant because it will be eternal, like the priesthood
of Jesus upon which it is based. ⇒ Hebrews 7:12
argued that a change of priesthood involves a change of law; since
"law" and "covenant" are used correlatively, a new covenant
is likewise instituted.
17  To make intercession: the
intercession of the exalted Jesus, not the sequel to his completed sacrifice
but its eternal presence in heaven; cf ⇒ Romans
18  This verse with its list of
attributes is reminiscent of ⇒ Hebrews 7:3 and is
perhaps a hymnic counterpart to it, contrasting the exalted Jesus with
19 [26-28] Jesus is precisely the high
priest whom the human race requires, holy and sinless, installed far above
humanity (Hebrews 1:26); one having no need to
offer sacrifice daily for sins but making a single offering of himself
(Hebrews 1:27) once for all. The law could only
appoint high priests with human limitations, but the fulfillment of God's oath
regarding the priesthood of Melchizedek (⇒ Psalm
110:4) makes the Son of God the perfect priest forever
(⇒ Hebrews 7:28).
20  Such daily sacrifice is
nowhere mentioned in the Mosaic law; only on the Day of Atonement is it
prescribed that the high priest must offer sacrifice . . . for his own sins and
then for those of the people (⇒ Lev 16:11-19). Once
for all: this translates the Greek words ephapax/hapax that occur eleven times
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