Melchizedek (More Dave) (Peter's response)

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at
Thu Dec 23 09:00:17 EST 1999

>>>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.
>PK: Your theory relies on this Genesis 14 passage being 2nd century. 
>You have completely failed to prove that. In principle you could prove 
>it by proving that at this point Genesis depends on GenAp (and that 
>GenAp is 2nd century),

Sadly we have to work with the data we have. I can't just do the "we don't
know so let's leave it as it is until someone puts an undebatable fact in
our laps" routine. This only favours the status quo whether it is right or
wrong and that may only survive through its user base to justify its
existence regarding any particular case.

The situation however is relatively simple. We have a number of documents
that are principally before the second century BCE. We also have others
that are clearly from the second century (or later), eg Ben Sira, Daniel,
Judith, Jubilees, and various DSS. Whereas in those from the second century
we have a relatively frequent use of the term "Most High God", those
biblical texts that are depended on in second century literature (ie are
earlier than the second century) do not use that terminology. Although we
don't have an exact science, we have a good dating indication with the use
of el elyon in the Hebrew literary tradition. We have no tradition before
the second century for the use of the particular term. One might argue that
there are isolated earlier cases, but no-one has done so, one has only
suggested that isolated cases from earlier times exist. 

>but you have not been able to prove it, 

I don't think you are able to say anything at all about proof, Peter. 

>only to 
>show that perhaps this synoptic problem is insoluble. If your theory 
>depends on an unprovable solution to an insoluble problem, it is 

This is laden with the hidden assumption that there is a clear resolution
to this synoptic problem. Am I not correct? Have you looked at the various

>>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.
>PK: That would prove you wrong. 

No, it wouldn't. It would indicate that I don't have a strong argument for
my analysis regarding Melchizedek based on the usage of el elyon. It
doesn't mean that the el elyon argument is incorrect. It means that it's
not very useful for dating.

>All you require to prove yourself 
>right is the proof I mentioned above. 

Hypotheses are hypotheses, some more probable than others. I have put
forward what I consider a valid hypothesis. You have attempted to treat it
as something it isn't. 

>Since neither proof is 
>forthcoming, you are wandering in the land of unprovable speculation.

You're wandering into the realms of polemic when you claimed at the start
that you were trying to deal with arguments only.

>>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.
>>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.
>PK: Perhaps "Israelites" was a loose term which I used. I mean that 
>the subject of much of Genesis is Abraham and his descendants, and (in 
>the author's view) these people did not use the term "God Most High", 
>but Melchizedek did. 

You seem to be working under the assumption that there was just one author
of the text when all indications we have of religious texts is that they
have been through long periods of development. I would think that to hold
such a view you should attempt to justify it. For example, is the book of
Isaiah the work of one perso -- the same person alive at the time of Ahaz
being the same alive at the time of Cyrus? Not that many books supply such
obvious indications of multiplicity of authorship, but we fortunately have
a number of DSS that show works in different phases of development. In
other cultures we have good examples as well. So, if you want to talk about
one author, you need to justify it against the odds.

If we have a multiplicity of authorship then your logic above has little
relevance unless you can identify the author and his timeframe.

Is it not true that just prior to the Melchizedek episode the king of Sodom
went out to meet Abraham (v17) and spoke to him in v21 as though v17 was
immediately before?

>So the term is used only in the short passage in 
>which Melchizedek appears. 

Yup. This king from (conveniently forgotten pagan) Jerusalem, who appears
in the middle of a scene in which the king of Sodom meets Abraham.
Hallmarks of later insertion.

>Rather obvious, really, and whether Genesis 
>is fact or fiction is irrelevant to the argument.
>>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.
>PK: I'm not sure who you mean by this. If you are talking about dates 
>verifiable by your methods, it would be impossible to prove any book 
>older than Genesis as you can prove no earliest date for Genesis. 
>Well, I suppose it must postdate the foundation of Egypt! If you tell 
>me which books you are referring to, I will tell you whether the term 
>is found in them, if you can't read those books yourself.
>>I don't think of any other books as older than Genesis.
>Well, can you provide anything verifiable?
>PK: You were the one who used the words "thought of as older" in your 
>question. Now you are adding to the question.
>>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.
>PK: The term is used in several books whose dates cannot be verified 
>by your methods. You cannot prove that these books do not belong 
>together. I'm not quite sure how it would help your argument if you 
>(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.)
>PK: And what date does Briggs give for this psalm? Try looking at a 
>modern commentary - is this sort of metrical analysis still accepted 
>as useful?
>>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.
>PK: If you mean "No speculation has been found in MSS datable to 
>before the second century", yes. 

That's what I mean, Peter. The importance of this is that we work with what
we have to make hypotheses, not with what we don't have.

>If you mean "There is no speculation 
>in books which were written before the second century", my answer is, 
>no, there is such speculation in Genesis 14 and Psalm 110. 

All you have to do is date those texts in a verifiable manner, otherwise
your statement has no value.

>I may not 
>be able to prove their dating before the second century, but you 
>cannot disprove it either. If you are insisting on provable datings, 
>are there any Jewish books datable to before the 2nd century which do 
>NOT evidence Melchizedek speculation?

If I understand you correctly, Deuteronomy does not evidence Melchizedek
speculation. But I think there is something that didn't work in the
transmission of your idea here.

>>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...
>PK: Never? What about David? 

What about David? He clearly had his priests according to tradition. When
was the bit you want to quibble about brought into conflict with the
priestly information?

>What about the historical Melchizedek? 

What historical Melchizedek?

>I can't prove their existence, but you can't disprove it.

You can't disprove Robin Hood or King Arthur, but we usually don't mention
them in historical analyses. Such analyses go on as though those figures
didn't exist. But then you couldn't disprove some form of Atlantis or
Gilgamesh's mate Humbaba, the single breasted Amazons, Zeus, Utnapishtim,
etc, etc.

>.. <snip> ... We see that before Qumran times there is no Melchizedek 
>PK: No we don't, you speculate about it.

The operative word in my statement is "see". If you can see Melchizedek
speculation before Qumran times all you have to do is show it, otherwise
you also cannot see such speculation before Qumran times. I think the
latter is true and you're dealing with linguistics.



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