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Monday, January 17, 2011

Is Melchizedek "a true Deity"? Hebrews 7:3 — part 2

In the the previous post: Is Melchizedek "a true Deity"? we saw how J. H. Neyrey's[1]  proposal actually creates a problem which did not exist in the more traditional reading of Hebrew 7:3. What we are calling the traditional reading[2] is the understanding that the alpha privatives ἀπάτωρ ἀμήτωρ ἀγενεαλόγητος "without father, without mother, without genealogy" are used in the same manner as Philo refers to Sarah as ἀμήτωρ because she appears in Genesis without a prior mention of her mother, on the principle that "nothing must be regarded as as having existed before the time of its first biblical mention" F. F. Bruce 1964:196, n.18[3].

Henry Alford[4] takes objection with the traditional reading. According to Alford, the solemn language employed in Heb 7:13 would seem "childish" if it meant nothing more than Melchizedek's father and mother were not recorded in the OT. For Alford the examples from Philo do not determine how we should read Hebrews while Neyery uses Philo and other Hellenistic philosophers to develop a refutation of the traditional reading. So Philo can be argued both ways, or better yet, multiple ways.

If we find J. H. Neyrey's[1]  proposal persuasive then we are left with a "true deity" on our hands named Melchizedek and we will need to find some exegetical/theological means of accommodating him who "... resembling the Son of God, remains a priest forever."

Heb. 7:3 ἀπάτωρ ἀμήτωρ ἀγενεαλόγητος, μήτε ἀρχὴν ἡμερῶν μήτε ζωῆς τέλος ἔχων, ἀφωμοιωμένος δὲ τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ, μένει ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸ διηνεκές.

Heb. 7:3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.    

[1] Jerome H. Neyrey, S.J. "Without Beginning of Days or End of Life" (Heb 7:3): Topos for a True Deity" CBQ 53 (1991) 439-55.

[2] What we are calling the traditional reading is really only one of several options  which date back to the first few centuries.

[3] F. F. Bruce, Epistle to the Hebrews, NICNT 1964. 

[4] Henry Alford, Greek Testament v. IV, pp.129-130.


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