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John 1:1 KJV

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Hebrews 7:3 KJV

Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.

There has been a lot of discussion concerning the identity of Melchizedek and in most of them there has been a strong leaning towards identifying him as Christ.Based on that assumption how can one understand that in John(Christ) he seems to have a beginning whilst in Hebrews he is without beginning

How can we understand the above texts?

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    In the beginning - he was. But he, himself, has no beginning. I don't see a problem. He is eternal, without beginning. And when all else began (other than He, himself,) he was there - in the beginning. I do not understand your question. I suggest more clarity and detail is required, for a sensible answer to be forthcoming.
    – Nigel J
    May 29, 2023 at 15:54
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    Theological synthesis questions are generally off-topic. And if you want to reconcile it with the idea that Melchizedek is Christ, you'd best ask the people who say so. Contrary to your impression, I don't think that is a very common position at all. In fact I'm not sure I've even ever heard it before now.
    – curiousdannii
    May 31, 2023 at 2:23

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The opening of the Gospel of John is a midrash of Genesis 1:1. Bereshit bara Elohim - "when God started to create the heaven and the earth".  "In the begining" in both texts does not apply to God or Christ but to the heaven and the earth. God and His Word (Logos, Jesus Christ), through Whom He created the universe, are eternal. The heavens and the earth had a beginning.

On a side note, as has been already said, Melchizedek is a picture and a shadow of Christ.

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  • +ארקדיוס@ +1 Why the Latin name written in Hebrew?
    – Perry Webb
    May 29, 2023 at 15:26
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    @Perry Webb It is a long story. It seemed like a good idea. And it is my birth name too. May 29, 2023 at 19:54
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    @Arcadius -- In that case it sounds like a good idea.
    – Perry Webb
    May 29, 2023 at 21:47
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John 1:1 does not say the word began (γενεσθαι). It says the Word was (ἠν). Hebrews 7:3 supports the interpretation of the eternal existence of the Word in John 1:1.

Was (ἠν [ēn]). Three times in this sentence John uses this imperfect of εἰμι [eimi] to be which conveys no idea of origin for God or for the Logos, simply continuous existence. Quite a different verb (ἐγενετο [egeneto], became) appears in verse 14 for the beginning of the Incarnation of the Logos. See the distinction sharply drawn in 8:58 “before Abraham came (γενεσθαι [genesthai]) I am” (εἰμι [eimi], timeless existence). -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Jn 1:1). Broadman Press.

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Melchizidek was understood (by the Church Fathers) to be a type (τύπος) of Christ, but not Christ Himself. Without father or mother or genealogy and neither beginning of days nor end of life does not mean that he was without beginning or end, but rather that his origins and life history were not known (see, e.g. John Chrysostom's Homily XII on Hebrews)

That he was a distinct person from Christ is stated in the same verse: ἀφωμοιωμένος τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ Θεοῦ, translated by the KJV as made like unto the son of God, but perhaps better understood as resembling the son of God (e.g. RSV, ESV). Ἀφωμοιωμένος (haphōmoiōmenos) is the participle form of ἀφομοιόω (haphomoioō), meaning to make like or make similar to, which in turn is derived from the word for like or similar oμοιος (omoios).

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Not so fast - Heb 7:3 is NOT identifying Melchizedek with Christ - just using Melchizedek as a metaphor of Christ. There is a BIG difference.

According to Heb 7:3, we do not know anything about Melchizedek, we know nothing of his parents, nothing about his death or how long he lived; we know nothing about his descendants, etc. In these respects, he is like Christ, but Melchizedek was still a human being and in that regard, much less than Christ.

[There is an old rabbinic tradition that Melchizedek was actually Shem, but this cannot be established and is irrelevant for now.]

Ellicott addresses this question when he writes:

(3) Without father, without mother, without descent.—The last words, “without descent” (or rather, without genealogy), throw light on the meaning of those which precede. Not because we find no mention of the parents of Melchizedek is he thus spoken of as fatherless and motherless, but because he is suddenly introduced as priest, without any token whatever that he held the office by right of genealogy, the only claim familiar to Hebrew readers. It is not necessary to adduce proof of the care with which inquiry was made into the parentage of the Jewish priests (Nehemiah 7:64): in their marriages they were subject to strict restraints (Leviticus 21:13-14); their statement of pedigree (in which was given the name not of father only, but also of every mother) must be complete, ascending to Aaron, and containing no doubtful link. He who is a priest “like Melchizedek” holds a priesthood that rests on no such rights or claims. The words that follow are of similar character. No commencement and no close of priestly position or function are recorded in the sacred history. As the Scripture is silent as to his reception of the office, so also as to any transmission of it to another. In these respects “made like (as a divinely ordained type) unto the Son of God,” he bears perpetually the character of priest.

There have from the first been many who have been dissatisfied with such an explanation of these remarkable words, and have understood them to ascribe to Melchizedek a mysterious and superhuman existence and character. It has been maintained that he was the Son of God Himself, or the Holy Spirit,—an angel or a Power of God. The last tenet was the distinguishing mark of a sect bearing the name of Melchizedekians in the third century. The feeling that the most startling of the expressions here used must surely be intended to point to more than the silence of Scripture on certain points, is not at all unnatural; but perhaps it is not too much to say that every such difficulty is removed by the consideration that here the writer is simply analysing the thought of the inspired Psalmist.

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  • Shem was not Melchizedek. It is possible according to Genesis 11 in the MT, but a virtual impossibility according to the Septuagint. There are suggestions that the MT genealogy of Genesis 11 was corrupted after the Christians had started identifying Melchizedek with Jesus. To fit the rabbinic tradition you mentioned. May 29, 2023 at 11:42
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As Dottard pointed out, Hebrews 7 does not identify Jesus as Melchizedek.

A. Who was Melchizedek?

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

  1. That he was the pre-incarnate Christ. This is perhaps the most popular notion. Unfortunately, it happens to be incorrect.

  2. That he was the Holy Spirit.

  3. That he was an angel.

  4. That he was Enoch. This will not work because by the time Abraham meets Melchizedek, Enoch had been gone for more than a thousand years.

  5. That he was Shem, the son of Noah.

  6. That he was an extra-ordinary emanation of deity. (Whatever that means.)

  7. And, he may very well have been none of these.

The problem is that there is absolutely no supporting evidence from scripture for any of these theories. They are merely speculations. All of this plays to the mystery that surrounds the man. The only one of these speculations that bears any kind of merit is that he may have possibly been Shem the son of Noah out of whose linage Abraham came. This is physically possible because 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, and nothing more.

B. Melchizedek is not a proper name; it was a title.

It would seem the ancient kings of pre-Israel Jerusalem were called the Tzedeks. We do not know if there were Tzedeks prior to Melchizedek, but there were certainly Tzedeks who came after him. This means that Melchizedek was part of a line of Tzedeks.

Melchizedek is from Melchi meaning King and Tzedek 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. More than 500 years later in Joshua 10:1, we encounter another Tzedek of Salem called Adoni-Tzedek, meaning lord of righteousness. So, this line of Tzedeks seem to have ruled Salem for quite a number of years.

Sometime between the reigns of Melch-Tzedek and Adoni-Tzedek, Salem appears to have experienced a decline in the worship of the true God. While Melchizedek was a priest of the Most-High God, Adoni-Tzedek was the evil king who gathered the Canaanite kings in a campaign against the Gibeonites with whom Joshua had made a peace treaty in Joshua 10:1, Joshua defeated Adoni-Tzedek and the other Canaanite kings and had them executed and their bodies hung from a tree, Joshua 10:22-26.

C. The nature of Melchizedek – He was a man.

  1. “Now see how great this one is....” (YLT).

  2. “See how great this man was….” (ESV).

  3. “See how great he is….” (NAB and NRSV)

The word "man" is not represented in the text by either ἄνθρωπος or ἀνήρ. The gender is however, provided by the pronoun οὗτος which is nominative masculine singular for ‘this one.’ Technically, this does not make Melchizedek a flesh and blood man. It merely represents him in the masculine. God is also referred to in the masculine, but that does not mean he is a man.

  1. However, the fact that Melchizedek is a High Priest of God demands that he be of the human race because in 5:1, we learn that every high priest is taken “from among men.” As a type, since Jesus was taken from among men, then Melchizedek must also be taken from among men. This is the nature of being a high priest of God.

  2. As a man, Melchizedek had a genealogy.

This is certainly suggested by the fact that he was one of a line of kings. Typically, the throne is passed from father to son, though not always. Regardless, the throne had to be passed from him to some relative which means he was part of a human family unit. His priesthood on the other hand, is something else entirely. Unlike his throne, his priesthood did not pass to another. “Whose genealogy was not derived from them (the Levites).” Since this is stated in the possessive, the first thing this says about Melchizedek’s genealogy is that he had one, but that it was not traced from the priestly tribe of Levi.

II. Melchizedek is Both King and Priest, 1-3

“For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most-High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated ‘king of righteousness,’ and then also king of Salem, meaning ‘king of peace,’ without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.”

Melchizedek is only one of many shadows or symbols of Christ in the Old Testament. It is important to remember that what serves as a symbol of a thing is never the thing itself.

Melchizedek is the example of how the function of both offices of king and priest are fulfilled in one man. The two offices of king and priest are manifestly contrary to one another in as much as the administration of the one, stands in stark opposition to that of the other. As king, he is the administrator of justice to the offender. As priest, he is the administrator of mercy. Mercy cannot satisfy the demands of justice because the sinner goes unpunished. On the other hand, the administration of justice to the sinner is a complete absence of mercy because the penalty for sin is death. So, how can both offices be affected in one man to render both justice and mercy at the same time?

A. As King, he renders the sentence of death to the sinner. “The person who sins, will die.” Ezekiel 18:20. Because the demand for justice must be met for God's holiness to be satisfied, someone must die for sin. It is God's justice that protects his holiness. So, for God to allow sin to go unpunished would be a violation of his nature.

B. As High Priest, he must supply mercy to the sinner for this is the function of the office. The sinner is guilty, and it is imperative that the sin be punished, but as Priest, he must pardon the offender and allow him to go unpunished, 4:14-16. How then does he both demand justice and extend mercy to the sinner? This suggest that there was a sacrificial system observed by Melchizedek which had the approval of God.

Jesus himself paid the penalty for all sin for all men for all time. Calvary is the satisfaction of God to extradite the sins of humanity to his justice. Thus, as High Priest, he is able to extend mercy and pardon all who will appropriate to themselves the blood of atonement, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9.

III. Melchizedek is a High Priest Without Genealogy, 3.

“For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most-High God… without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.”

In chapter Seven, we are going to find both comparison and contrast. Jesus' priesthood will be compared to that of Melchizedek and contrasted to that of Aaron.

A. “Without father, mother, or genealogy.” In other words, with no predecessor and no successor.

Since this is typology, then whatever is said of Melchizedek as high priest must also be said of Jesus as high priest. Whatever is said of Jesus as High Priest must also be said of Melchizedek as high priest. This is the nature of typology. Verse 17 informs us that Jesus was made a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. However, verse 3 tells us that Melchizedek was

“made like the Son of God, without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.”

Here, the order is reversed. So, how are we to understand these rather perplexing statements?

As High Priest, Jesus was taken out of man just like every other high priest, including Melchizedek. This means he had a mother and a father, and so did Melchizedek. He had a “beginning of days and an end of life.” He was born in Bethlehem and died in Jerusalem. According to Matthew, he had a genealogy that was traced all the way back to Adam. Both were men, both had a mother and a father, and both had a genealogy. So, how can the writer say, “without father, mother, or genealogy?”

We must remember that the focus is not on Melchizedek the man. The focus is on the priesthood. This is the context. It was Jesus’ priesthood that had no “father, mother, or genealogy?” Just like the priesthood of Melchizedek, Jesus’ priesthood is a one-man-forever-priesthood with no predecessor and no successor.

In the Levitical system, all priests were descended through the line of Aaron, 1 Chronicles 6:50-52. To the contrary, the office of the high priest was not passed on to Melchizedek by his father, nor did he pass it on to his heir. In other words, his is also a one-man-forever-priesthood “without father, mother, or genealogy.”

B. “Having neither beginning of days nor end of life” seems to offer three possibilities.

  1. That this refers to the man Melchizedek.

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. Since this does not fit the reality of Jesus as the antitype, we know this explanation simply is not possible. Some view this and the preceding statement as simply a Hebraism which stresses the obscurity of his genealogy and posterity. Perhaps that is true, but since the type must always reflect the antitype, this theory simply does not reflect typology.

  1. “Having neither beginning of days nor end of life” 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 that 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 Jesus did die which means this is not referring just to the man himself. This also may not apply to just the priesthood apart from the man. Since this is a one-man-forever priesthood, then apart from the man, there is no priesthood.

  1. That this refers to the man as a high priest.

I believe this more to the point. As men, both Jesus and Melchizedek had a beginning of days and an end of life. Both were born and both died. As high priests however, they have neither “beginning of days nor end of life.” They remain priests continually. Death does not interrupt their status as high priest. This stands in contrast to the priests of the Levitical system whose “beginning of days” began at the age of twenty-five. They reached their “end of life,” which was the end of their priestly function, at the age of fifty when they completed their appointed time of priestly service, Numbers 8:24-25. Actually, this is what applied to the three families of the Levites who served the tabernacle in a variety of ways. Since the priests were also Levites of the family of Kohath, we can only assume this law applied to them as well.

C. “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 is 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 thing it represents. The substance ALWAYS precedes the type, and the type must always reflect the reality.

D. He “remains a priest continually.”

His priesthood is uninterrupted even by death. He leaves 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 priesthood beyond the grave. He does not leave it to another. His priesthood, in contrast to that of the Levites, is not bound by the physical. It was “not according to the law of a 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.

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No contradiction,

because “in the beginning” is implied the begin-less beginning, for the Logos was with the Father “in the beginning”, just like the Father was with the Logos “in the beginning”. Not that there was Father before beginning and then, when He decided to create the universe, before that beginning, He created Logos and only then, through the Logos, He created the world. It is absurd, for then the Logos also would be before “beginning”, not “in the beginning”.

If Logos was always with the Father, then “beginning” is the name of this always.

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