Hebrews 5-8

Jesus did not glorify himself in becoming high priest, but was rather appointed by God to be high priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4).  He prayed and cried to God, and because of his submission, he was made perfect and became a source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.  I want to explain more, but you have become dull in understanding.  You should be teachers by now, but instead need me to teach you basic theology–baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  Do not go astray, for former believers who have fallen away can never be restored to repentance.  We have confidence in you, however; we trust that you will be saved.  Remember God’s promise to Abraham: that applies to you!

King Melchizedek of Salem, priest of the Most High God, was without father or mother, without genealogy, and without birth or death.  As such, he remains priest forever; he was so great that even Abraham gave him a tithe.  The Levites, whose job it is to collect tithes, gave him a tithe too because they were in Abraham’s groins at the time.  Jesus is a high priest in the order of Melchizedek–when he came, the law was abrogated and a better hope introduced.  Jesus always lives, while the Levite priests must die; Jesus is blameless while the Levites are not.  By sacrificing himself, he had no more need for further sacrifices.  Further, the Levites only minister on Earth, whereas Jesus ministers in heaven; he is a mediator of a better covenant to replace the first.

Commentary:

  • Melchizedek is an enigmatic figure that is only mentioned twice in the Hebrew Bible: once in Genesis 14:18-20, and once in Psalm 110:4.  The Psalm 110 reference is disputed because Melchizedek literally means “righteous king”, and the context allows for this literal reading.  Because the Bible doesn’t mention Melchizedek’s birth, death, or ancestry, the author of Hebrews assumes he had none–he was immortal and heavenly, not a human being.
  • According to this author’s understanding of biology, miniature versions of Abraham’s descendents were contained within Abraham’s genitals.  Hence, the Levites already existed inside of his groin when he tithed to Melchizedek.
  • Note that in this chapters, the author seems to embrace an adoptionist theology.  In 5:5, he interprets Psalm 2:7 as saying “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”.  Jesus begged to be saved from death (5:7), and having learnt obedience, God made him perfect and designated him high priest.  In 1:2, however, God created the worlds through Jesus, and Jesus is said to be “the exact imprint of God’s very being”.
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