Melchizedek (More Dave) (Peter's response)

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at
Wed Dec 22 07:41:38 EST 1999

At 15.18 22/12/99 -0500, peter_kirk at wrote:
>Let me take the heat off Dave by trying my own answers to the 
>following questions.

Dear Peter, 

I don't particularly like tag-team matches, especially when I don't have a
partner and the fellah who's being relieved has been shooting all the big
guns and using dirty warfare. I would have thought that it was better that
Dave not put so much wood on the fire. (I get the feeling that living here
for too long I don't know how to deal with subjunctives anymore.)

>Let me ask:
>1) is the earliest form of the Melchizedek episode that of the
>   Genesis Apocryphon?
>PK: Earliest surviving, perhaps, but this could well be because of the 
>chances of preservation. 

This is true.

>If you wish to demonstrate your theory rather 
>than just rubbish counter-arguments, 

This I haven't just done. You are attempting to deal with the demonstration
of my theory.

>you need to show either than 
>GenAp is older than Genesis 

I don't have to show that GenAp is older than Genesis generally. All I have
to do is to point out the unsupported assumption that GenAp is based on
Genesis. We actually have a synoptic problem here.

>or that the Melchizedek passage is a later 

This is the argument based on the usage of el elyon which is found nowhere
else in the Pentateuch. In the OT/HB it is only found in Daniel and an
Asaph psalm (one of which shows knowledge of a destruction of Jerusalem
that I would argue was that of Antiochus IV -- note the people remain in
the land and are derided by their neighbours). All the argument requires to
be put in doubt is an example in the Hebrew literary or epigraphic
tradition that uses el elyon considerably before the second century.

>So far you have shown neither. Unfortunately, in 
>history (unlike perhaps in natural science) a theory is not proved 
>true by the failure to prove that it is false. If there is neither 
>positive nor negative proof, it has to be relegated to the large pile 
>of "perhaps, but we cannot be sure" theories.
>2) is the use of the means to refer to God in GenAp as "God Most
>   High" a normal means?
>PK: What does "normal" mean? It was an epithet known to have been in 
>normal use in Hasmonean times. 

Just as the section of Gen14, but there it is unique in the Pentateuch.

>We know very little about its use in 
>earlier times, especially if we follow your datings.
>3) is it a normal means in Genesis?
>4) is it true that in a space of only five verses in Genesis the
>   term is used four times and found nowhere else in the book?
>PK: Probably. Of course this is the only passage in Genesis which 
>refers to a person who worships God Most High, so it would be out of 
>place elsewhere, among stories of Israelites who did not use this 

Which Israelites and how do you know? The assumptions here are based on an
epistemological nightmare.

>5) is the term found in other books commonly thought of as older?
>PK: Commonly thought of by whom? 

By those who have attempted to provide verifiable datings.

>I don't think of any other books as older than Genesis. 

Well, can you provide anything verifiable?

>Others might well date Psalm 110 earlier 
>than Genesis. (OK, no "God Most High", but Melchizedek is 

Your answer is clearly "no". You are therefore arguing for my point:
although the phrase is used a lot in the second century it is quite unique
in Genesis.

(One of the interesting things to read in the very old commentary on the
Psalms by Briggs ["Int. Crit. Commentary" Vol 2, T&T Clark] is that the
psalms were based on meters and one can see interpolations in the psalm
when the meter has been broken. According to the analysis, the line about
Melchizedek breaks the metrical pattern.)

>6) is Melchizedek speculation evidenced anywhere prior to the era
>   of the Qumran documents (ie late or post biblical)?
>PK: By "evidenced", I can only assume that you mean that datable 
>manuscripts survive. So, of course not, because nothing in Hebrew 
>(except for a few scratchings) is evidenced prior to the era of the 
>Qumran documents.

Qumran acknowledges a book of the law. It was obviously around prior to the
Qumran documents for it to have the priviledged position.

But your answer is clear again. There is no speculation to be found prior
to the second century.

>7) is it true that the Hasmonean rulers who flourished around that
>   time were known as the "priests of the Most High God", the 
>   epithet found in Genesis only in the Melchizedek episode?
>PK: Maybe, but this tells us nothing except for the obvious suggestion 
>that the Hasmonean rulers valued the Melchizedek tradition. Of course 
>that does not imply that they invented it.

Given the emergence of a Melchizedek literature that appeared in Qumran
times, the times of the Hasmoneans, and that they were in fact
priest-kings, hinted at in the name Melchizedek, -- the amalgamation of
roles that had never been *institutionalized* before -- it is very hard not
to make the strong connection between the emergence of Melchizedek
speculation, the Hasmonean regime and the actual production of the figure
as an alternative rhetoric to that of the Zadokite Michael rhetoric. The
Hasmoneans had usurped the high priestly office, though they were not of
the high priestly family and could not pretend to be, so there was need of
another means to justify their holding of the high priestly office.
Melchizedek's priority in the literature puts his claims to the office
before that of the Aaronid line through Zadok. It is that claim that would
justify the Hasmonean usurpation of the high priestly office. We see that
before Qumran times there is no Melchizedek speculation, yet can you
imagine that something as pregnant with significance as that would lie
dormant? It's uniqueness in Genesis is what gives it away, both in content
(immaculate priest of the Most High God who appears out of *Jerusalem* --
when Jerusalem was in the hands of those dirty Canaanites -- why
Jerusalem?) and rhetoric (use of "el elyon").



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