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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Melchizedek ὁ θεὸς ὁ ὕψιστος & the Divine Identity

After several days of reading secondary literature about Melchizedek I decided it might be worthwhile to take another look at Gen. 14:18-20 in the MT and LXX OG[1].

How do you suppose that Abram and Melchizedek mutually understood that they worshiped the same Elohim ‏אלהים θεὸς? What do we see in the text that signifies the Divine Identity? It should just jump off that page, if you are looking for it.

Gen. 14:18‏ ומלכי־צדק מלך שלם הוציא לחם ויין והוא כהן לאל עליון

‎Gen. 14:19‏ ויברכהו ויאמר ברוך אברם לאל עליון קנה שמים וארץ

‎Gen. 14:20‏ וברוך אל עליון אשר־מגן צריך בידך ויתן־לו מעשר מכל

Gen. 14:18 And Mel-chizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High.
Gen. 14:19 And he blessed him and said,  “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth;
Gen. 14:20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
         — RSV

Gen. 14:18 καὶ Μελχισεδεκ βασιλεὺς Σαλημ ἐξήνεγκεν ἄρτους καὶ οἶνον ἦν δὲ ἱερεὺς τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ὑψίστου  19 καὶ ηὐλόγησεν τὸν Αβραμ καὶ εἶπεν εὐλογημένος Αβραμ τῷ θεῷ τῷ ὑψίστῳ ὃς ἔκτισεν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν  20 καὶ εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς ὁ ὕψιστος ὃς παρέδωκεν τοὺς ἐχθρούς σου ὑποχειρίους σοι καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ δεκάτην ἀπὸ πάντων

Verse 18 tells us that Melchizedek was a priest of τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ὑψίστου Theos Hypsistos ‏אל עליון El Elyon "God Most High" and that he invoked God by that title when he blessed Abram but not by that title alone, he also appended ‏  קנה שמים וארץ which the LXX OG renders with a relative clause ὃς ἔκτισεν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν "who is the made/founded/created[2] heaven and earth". The title ὁ θεὸς ὁ ὕψιστος אל עליון "God Most High" in and of itself would not provide a unique identifier. The qualifying clause is the key to the Divine Identity. What exactly the qualifying clause says needs some further exploration. Note that ESV renders it differently than the RSV.

Gen 14:19  And he blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20  and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” 

It looks like the RSV followed the LXX OG ἔκτισεν where as the ESV has followed the older English translation tradition of the KJV, ASV, NASB (1970). A quick glance in HALOT ‏ קנה — it looks like the evidence for create is substantial and J.W. Wevers (Notes on Greek Text Gen) states without qualification that the Greek translators got it right. Both G. Wenham (Gen. WBC) and V.P. Hamilton (Gen. NIOTC) appear to agree with Wevers, Hamilton presents some detailed evidence from Ugaritic. 

[1]LXX OG, Septuagint Old Greek

[2] LEH κτίζω o found, to build, ... to make, to create  [τι] Gn 14:19; 
 A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, ed. by J. Lust, E. Eynikel, and K. Hauspie, in cooperation with G. Chamberlain.
© 1992, 1997 by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.


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