Was Melchisedeck eternal in Hebrews 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. Hebrews 7:3 (NRSV)

Eternal means "lasting or existing forever; without end or beginning."

i. Reading the verse at face value, it appears that Melchisedeck was eternal. Is this really the meaning in the original context?

ii. If the reading was correct, then, does that also apply to Jesus since the verse said that Melchisedeck was resembling the Son of God.


There were Pre-Christian Jewish literature that showed Melchisedeck was at least a divine figure, as an angel. But the reference to him as eternal points to his divinity greater than that of the angels and he could be the Theophany of God himself, as the angel who had the name of YHWH in him in the Pentateuch [Exodus 23:21].

11QMelchizedek is preserved in a single, extremely fragmentary MS whose script places it in the first century B.C.E., so the date of composition must have been sometime earlier. The overall contents imply that it is a sectarian work.<3> Originally it consisted of at least three columns; the first is lost except for a line written perpendicularly in a margin, but much of the text of the second column is extant, as well as the beginnings of some lines in the third column. The narrative of col. 2 describes the eschatological conflict fought by the divine being Melchizedek and his angelic allies against Belial and the evil spirits of his lot. (http://otp.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/divine-mediator-figures-course/melchizedek-michael-and-war-in-heaven/).

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    I think this is intended merely as a type of Christ, else there would be some kind of demi-god.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 5:36
  • 1
    "Everyone else" positive in Genesis has a genealogy written; Melchizedek explicitly resembles the beginningless Son of God in not having one; i'd say the face-value reading is he's a type. Hebrews' unique style comes across in English
    – Walter S
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 7:20

6 Answers 6


While I am sure that Melchisedek is eternal in the sense that he is in heaven with Christ, Heb. 7:3 was not saying Melchisidek never had a mother or father. The understanding comes from knowing customary Jewish terminology. If they did not have the record of the genealogy to prove the lineage to Aaron, the priesthood was not legitimate, and they would say he had no father.

The key is to make all the list of things in vs. 3 equal: "without father" equals "without mother" equals "without genealogy" equals "having neither beginning of days nor end of life". Without genealogy there was no record they could verify.

Adam Clarke's Commentary on Heb. 7:3 offers some insight.

"He who could not support his pretensions by just genealogical evidences, was said by the Jews to be without father. ..."for a Gentile has no father;" i.e. his father is not reckoned in the Jewish genealogies. In this way both Christ and Melchisedec were without father and without mother; i.e. were not descended from the original Jewish sacerdotal stock. Yet Melchisedec, who was a Canaanite, was a priest of the most high God. This sense Suidas confirms under the word Melchisedec, where, after having stated that, having reigned in Salem 113 years, he died a righteous man and a bachelor, ....

"He is, therefore, said to be without descent or genealogy, because he was not of the seed of Abraham, but of Canaanitish origin, and sprung from an accursed seed; therefore he is without the honor of a genealogy." And he farther adds, "That, because it would have been highly improper for him, who was the most righteous of men, to be joined in affinity to the most unrighteous of nations, he is said to be απατορα και αμητορα, without father and without mother." This sort of phraseology was not uncommon when the genealogy of a person was unknown or obscure; so Seneca, in his 108th epistle, speaking of some of the Roman kings, says: De Servii matre dubitatur; Anci pater nullus dicitur. "Of the mother of Servius Tullus there are doubts; and Ancus Marcus is said to have no father." This only signifies that the parents were either unknown or obscure. Titus Livius, speaking of Servius, says he was born of a slave, named Cornicularia, da patre nullo, of no father, i.e. his father was unknown. Horace is to be understood in the same way: ....

" 'without beginning of days or end of life.' For as he was a mortal man he had both. He was assuredly born, and did no less certainly die than other men. But neither of these is recorded concerning him. We have no more to do with him, to learn from him, nor are concerned in him, but only as he is described in the Scripture; and there is no mention therein of the beginning of his days, or the end of his life. Whatever therefore he might have in himself, he had none to us. Consider all the other patriarchs mentioned in the writings of Moses, and you shall find their descent recorded, who was their father, and so up to the first man; and not only so, but the time of their birth, the beginning of their days, and the end of their life, are exactly recorded."

" Melchisedec was without father and mother, having neither beginning of days nor end of life. His genealogy is not recorded; when he was born and when he died, is unknown. His priesthood, therefore, may be considered as perpetual. In these respects he was like to Jesus Christ, who, as to his Godhead, had neither father nor mother, beginning of time nor end of days; and has an everlasting priesthood. The priesthood of Melchisedec is to abide continually on the same ground that he is said to be without father and mother; i.e. there is no record of the end of his priesthood or life, no more than there is any account of his ancestry." Source: StudyLight

  • +1 this is a good answer.
    – R. Brown
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 13:31
  • Who is the person Suidas?
    – Walter S
    Commented Jul 4, 2020 at 9:00

There have been many speculations as to who exactly this Melchizedek was. The speculations range from the possible to the absurd. Here is a list of some of those speculations.

  1. He was the pre-incarnate Christ. This is a popular notion.

  2. He was the Holy Spirit.

  3. He was an angel.

  4. He was Enoch. By the time Abraham meets Melchizedek, Enoch had been gone for more than a thousand years.

  5. He was Shem, the son of Noah.

  6. He was an extra-ordinary emanation of deity.

The only one of these speculation that bears any kind of merit is that he may have possibly been Shem the son of Noah. This is physically possible for Shem and Abraham were contemporaries. In fact, Shem did not die until after Isaac married. As far as any of the rest of the speculations as to the manner of being Melchizedek was, the Hebrew writer leaves no room for speculation. He was a man.

Melchizedek in not a proper name. It is a title. The ancient kings of pre-Israel Jerusalem were called the Tsedeks. Melchizedek is from Meleck meaning King and Tsedek meaning righteousness. Thus, king of righteousness. He was the King of Salem meaning peace. This Salem would later be called Jerusalem meaning foundation of peace. In Joshua 10:1 we encounter another Tsedek of Salem called Adoni-Tsedek meaning lord of righteousness. The difference between these two men is the deterioration of the worship from the time of Melch-Tsedek to Adoni-Tsedek.

The nature of Melchizedek - He was a man.

"Now consider how great this man was... ."

The word "man" is not represented in the text by either ἄνθρωπος nor ἀνήρ. It is provided by the gender of the pronoun οὗτος which is nominative masculine singular for "this one," thus, "this man."

  1. The fact that he was a High Priest of God demands that he was of the human race. In 5:1 we learn that every High Priest is taken from among men.

  2. As a man, he had a genealogy. "Whose genealogy was not derived from them" (the Levites). This is in the possessive which declares that he had a genealogy, but that his genealogy was not traced from the priestly tribe of Levi.

He was a high priest without genealogy.

"Without father, mother, or genealogy." Like Jesus, Melchizedek does not receive his priesthood from his a predecessor. In the Levitical system, the high priest was descended only through the line of Aaron, 1 Chronicles 6:50-52. But the office of the high priest was not passed on to Melchizedek by his father, nor did he in turn pass it on to his heir. In other words, his was a one-man-forever-priesthood.

"Having neither beginning of days nor end of life."

In this there are three possibilities.

  1. That this refers to the person of Melchizedek the man. Some argue from this that Melchizedek was not a man but some supernatural being who was neither born of human parents nor had a beginning or end of life. But as the text says, he was a man and as such, he had a past, verse 6. Some view this with the preceding statement as simply a Hebraism which stresses the obscurity of his genealogy and posterity. Perhaps.

  2. That this refers not to the man himself, but to his priesthood. This priesthood is unlike that of the Levitical system. We can look back at Sinai and see where the Levitical priesthood had its beginning of days with the anointing of Aaron and his sons, Exodus 28:1ff. We can then look forward from there to the cross and see where this priesthood saw its end of life. Now, a new and greater covenant is inaugurated in Jesus "according to the power of an endless life." But this may not apply to just the priesthood apart from the man because this is a one man priesthood, and apart from the man, there is no priesthood.

  3. That this refers to the man as a high priest. As a man he had a beginning of days and an end of life. As high priest, he had neither, but remains a priest continually. This contrasts the priests of the Levitical system whose "beginning of days" began at the age of twenty-five when they began to serve as priests. They reached their "end of life" at the age of fifty when they completed their appointed time of priestly service, Numbers 8:24-25.

"But made like the Son of God."

Here, the order is reversed. In 6:20, Christ is presented as a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. Now, Melchizedek is said to be a High Priest who was made like the Son of God. Like everything else that is type, Melchizedek was the shadow of the reality. This is like the building of the tabernacle in Exodus 25:40 being built according to the "pattern shown to you on the mountain." Everything that is shadow must be patterned according to the substance it represents. The substance ALWAYS precedes the type. It must reflect the reality.

He "remains a priest continually." His priesthood is uninterrupted even by death. He left his office to no one else. Although Melchizedek has been dead for many centuries, he is still the central figure in that one man forever priesthood. Like the Son of God, he carries his priest beyond the grave. His priesthood, in contrast to that of the Levites is not bound by the physical - "not according to the law of fleshly commandment," 15-16. This fleshly commandment says that the Levitical priest must end his days of service at the age of 50. The High Priest ended his days of service at his death. In contrast, the priesthood of Melchizedek is greater. He continues as the High Priest of his priesthood even though he is dead, 8.

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    There is of course one more option, that he's some other human man of unknown genealogy. Though the Shem theory does intrigue me as well.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 12:35
  • Yes, that is a possibility.
    – oldhermit
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 17:05

The writer in Hebrews draws conclusions from what scripture chooses not to state (a genealogy) thus the original expresses a spiritual concept which the writer to the Hebrews picks up on.

It does not mean that the person in Genesis did not have a genealogy : just that he is represented as such as a demonstration and as a spiritual allusion.

But the figure is mysterious and open to speculation.

Was it a manifestation of Christ ?

Was it a mortal man ?

This is a mystery and cannot be answered solely by the bare text of scripture.


He may also have actually been a theophany of God the Father. There are some problems with that idea, but it also makes sense in some ways. If he was simply a man who was a priest, this raises the question as to why his genealogy was "somehow" not recorded. How common was it for the genealogy of a priest to have somehow slipped through the cracks and never have been recorded, as if he had just been some nameless vagabond?

  • To "Why...?" i'd think it's precisely for to be a type of Christ
    – Walter S
    Commented Jul 4, 2020 at 9:01
  • I suppose that's possible. Now that I think about it, that could be the answer. But something tells me the controversy will nevertheless rage on.
    – moron
    Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 10:08

Melchisedek was the christ. Because Jesus is the only one without the genology but he was revealed in the new testament books. Remember Abraham saw 3 men in genesis18 :1-3 but on the way escorting them he started interceding for Sodom In chapter 19:we are hearing the Bible saying that the two angels arrived in Sodom now where was the other angel. This shows that Melchisedek was Jesus

  • I don't see, myself, that you have stated enough to make a substantial claim as to your thesis.I am not saying your thesis is wrong : just that you have not done enough - here - to substantiate it. Welcome to BH. Please see the Tour and the Help as to the purpose and the functioning of the site.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 3:59

Melchisedek was the christ. Because Jesus is the only one without the genology but he was revealed in the new testament books. Remember Abraham saw 3 men in genesis18 :1-3 but on the way escorting them he started interceding for Sodom In chapter 19:we are hearing the Bible saying that the two angels arrived in Sodom now where was the other angel. This shows that Melchisedek was Jesus enter image description here

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