Hebrews 7:3
Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like to the Son of God; stays a priest continually.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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. Such an oracle as that of Psalm 110:4 must yield up to him its full significance. The divine words are not to be measured by the meaning which man may at first assign to them. The true import of the prophecy which declared that the future priesthood would bear the likeness of Melchizedek’s can only be known when all the characteristics of that priesthood have been traced. The narrative of Genesis was the basis of the prophecy; all that the history presented was taken up in the Psalm.

7:1-3 Melchizedec met Abraham when returning from the rescue of Lot. His name, King of Righteousness, doubtless suitable to his character, marked him as a type of the Messiah and his kingdom. The name of his city signified Peace; and as king of peace he typified Christ, the Prince of Peace, the great Reconciler of God and man. Nothing is recorded as to the beginning or end of his life; thus he typically resembled the Son of God, whose existence is from everlasting to everlasting, who had no one that was before him, and will have no one come after him, in his priesthood. Every part of Scripture honours the great King of Righteousness and Peace, our glorious High Priest and Saviour; and the more we examine it, the more we shall be convinced, that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.Without father - The phrase "without father" - ἀπάτωρ apatōr - means literally one who has no father; one who has lost his father; one who is an orphan. Then it denotes one who is born after the death of his father; then one whose father is unknown - "spurious. Passow." The word occurs often in these senses in the classic writers, for numerous examples of which the reader may consult Wetstein in loc. It is morally certain, however, that the apostle did not use the word here in either of the senses, for there is no evidence that Melchizedek was "fatherless" in any of these respects. It was very important in the estimation of the Jews that the line of their priesthood should be carefully kept; that their genealogies should be accurately marked and preserved; and that their direct descent from Aaron should be susceptible of easy and certain proof. But the apostle says that there was no such genealogical table in regard to Melchizedek. There was no "record" made of the name either of his father, his mother, or any of his posterity. "He stood alone."

It is simply said that such a man came out to meet Abraham - and that is the first and the last which we hear of him and of his family. Now, says the apostle, it is distinctly said Psalm 110:4, that the Messiah was to be a priest "according to his order" - and in this respect there is a remarkable resemblance, "so far as the point of his being a priest" - which was the point under discussion - "was concerned." The Messiah thus, "as a priest," StooD alone. His name does not appear in the line of priests. He pertained to another tribe; Hebrews 7:14. No one of his ancestors is mentioned as a priest; and as a priest he has no descendants, and no followers. He has a lonely conspicuity similar to that of Melchizedek; a standing unlike that of any other priest. This should not, therefore, be construed as meaning that the genealogy of Christ could not be traced out - which is not true, for Matthew Matt. 1, and Luke Luke 3, have carefully preserved it; but that he had no genealogical record "as a priest." As the reasoning of the apostle pertains to this point only, it would be unfair to construe it as implying that the Messiah was to stand unconnected with any ancestor, or that his genealogy would be unknown. The meaning of the word rendered "without father" here is therefore, "one the name of whose father is not recorded in the Hebrew genealogies."

Without mother - The name of whose mother is unknown, or is not recorded in the Hebrew genealogical tables. Philo calls Sarah - ἀμήτορα amētora - "without mother," probably because her mother is not mentioned in the sacred records. The Syriac has given the correct view of the meaning of the apostle. In that version it is, "Of whom neither the father nor mother are recorded in the genealogies." The meaning here is not that Melchizedek was of low and obscure origin - as the terms "without father and without mother" often signify in the classic writers, and in Arabic, (compare Wetstein) - for there is no reason to doubt that Melchizedek had an ancestry as honorable as other kings and priests of his time. The simple thought is, that the name of his ancestry does not appear in any record of those in the priestly office.

Without descent - Margin, "pedigree." The Greek word - ἀγενεαλόγητος agenealogētos - means "without genealogy; whose descent is unknown." He is merely mentioned himself, and nothing is said of his family or of his posterity. "Having neither beginning of days, nor end of life." This is a much more difficult expression than any of the others respecting Melchizedek. The obvious meaning of the phrase is, that in the "records of Moses" neither the beginning nor the close of his life is mentioned. It is not said when he was born, or when he died; nor is it said that he was born or that he died. The apostle adverts to this particularly, because it was so unusual in the records of Moses, who is in general so careful to mention the birth and death of the individuals whose lives he mentions. Under the Mosaic dispensation everything respecting the duration of the sacerdotal office was determined accurately by the Law. In the time of Moses, and by his arrangement, the Levites were required to serve from the age of thirty to fifty; Numbers 4:3, Numbers 4:23, Numbers 4:35, Numbers 4:43, Numbers 4:47; Numbers 8:24-25.

After the age of fifty, they were released from the more arduous and severe duties of their office. In later periods of the Jewish history they commenced their duties at the age of twenty; 1 Chronicles 23:24, 1 Chronicles 23:27. The priests, also, and the high priest entered on their office at thirty years of age, though it is not supposed that they retired from it at any particular period of life. The idea of the apostle here is, that nothing of this kind occurs in regard to Melchizedek. No period is mentioned when he entered on his office; none when he retired from it. From anything that "appears" in the sacred record it might be perpetual - though Paul evidently did not mean to be understood as saying that it was so. It "cannot" be that he meant to say that Melchizedek had "no beginning" of days literally, that is, that he was from eternity; or that he had "no end of life" literally, that is, that he would exist forever - for this would be to make him equal with God. The expression used must be interpreted according to the matter under discussion, and that was the office of Melchizedek "as a priest."

Of that no beginning is mentioned, and no end. That this is the meaning of Paul there can be no doubt; but there is a much more difficult question about the force and pertinency of this reasoning; about the use which he means to make of this fact, and the strength of the argument which he here designs to employ. This inquiry cannot be easily settled. It may be admitted undoubtedly, that it would strike a Jew with much more force than it would any other person, and to see its pertinency we ought to be able to place ourselves in their condition, and to transfer to ourselves as far as possible their state of feeling. It was mentioned in Psalm 110:4, that the Messiah was to be a "priest after the order of Melchizedek." It was natural then to turn to the only record which existed of him - the very brief narrative in Genesis 14. There the account is simple and plain - that he was a pious Canaanitish king, who officiated as a priest. In what point, then, it would be asked, was the Messiah to resemble him? In his personal character; his office; his rank; or in what he did? It would be natural, then, to run out the parallel and seize upon the points in which Melchizedek "differed from the Jewish priests" which would be suggested on reading that account, for it was undoubtedly in those points that the resemblance between Christ and Melchizedek was to consist. Here the record was to be the only guide, and the points in which he differed from the Jewish priesthood "according to the record," were such as these.

(1) That there is no account of his ancestry as a priest - neither father nor mother being mentioned as was indispensable in the records of the Levitical priesthood.

(2) There was no account of any descendants in his office, and no reason to believe that he had any, and he thus stood alone.

(3) There was no account of the commencement or close of his office as a priest, but "so far as the record goes," it is just "as it would have been" if his priesthood had neither beginning nor end.

It was inevitable, therefore, that those who read the Psalm, and compared it with the account in Genesis 14, should come to the conclusion that the Messiah was to resemble Melchizedek "in some such points as these" - for these are the points in which he differed from the Levitical priesthood - and to run out these points of comparison is all that the apostle has done here. It is just what would be done by any Jew, or indeed by any other man, and the reasoning grew directly out of the two accounts in the Old Testament. It is not, then, quibble or quirk - it is sound reasoning, based on these two points,

(1) that it was said in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek, and

(2) that the only points, "according to the record," in which there was "anything special" about the priesthood of Melchizedek, or in which he differed from the Levitical priesthood, were such as those which Paul specifies.

He reasons "from the record;" and though there is, as was natural, something of a Jewish cast about it, yet it was the "only kind of reasoning that was possible in the case."

But made like - The word used here means to be made like, to be made to resemble; and then to be like, to be compared with. Our translation seems to imply that there was a divine agency or intention by which Melchizedek was" made to resemble the Son of God," but this does not seem to be the idea of the apostle. In the Psalm it is said that the Messiah would resemble Melchizedek in his priestly office, and this is doubtless the idea here. Paul is seeking to illustrate the nature and perpetuity of the office of the Messiah by comparing it with that of Melchizedek. Hence, he pursues the idea of this resemblance, and the true sense of the word used here is, "he was like, or he resembled the Son of God." So Tyndale and Coverdale render it, "is likened unto the Son of God." The points of resemblance are those which have been already "suggested":

continued...

3. Without father, &c.—explained by "without genealogy" (so the Greek is for "without descent); compare Heb 7:6, that is, his genealogy is not known, whereas a Levitical priest could not dispense with the proof of his descent.

having neither beginning of days nor end of life—namely, history not having recorded his beginning nor end, as it has the beginning and end of Aaron. The Greek idiom expressed by "without father," &c., one whose parentage was humble or unknown. "Days" mean his time of discharging his function. So the eternity spoken of in Ps 110:4 is that of the priestly office chiefly.

made like—It is not said that he was asbsolutely "like." Made like, namely, in the particulars here specified. Nothing is said in Genesis of the end of his priesthood, or of his having had in his priesthood either predecessor or successor, which, in a typical point of view, represents Christ's eternal priesthood, without beginning or end. Aaron's end is recorded; Melchisedec's not: typically significant. "The Son of God" is not said to be made like unto Melchisedec, but Melchisedec to be "made like the Son of God." When Alford denies that Melchisedec was made like the Son of God in respect of his priesthood, on the ground that Melchisedec was prior in time to our Lord, he forgets that Christ's eternal priesthood was an archetypal reality in God's purpose from everlasting, to which Melchisedec's priesthood was "made like" in due time. The Son of God is the more ancient, and is the archetype: compare Heb 8:5, where the heavenly things are represented as the primary archetype of the Levitical ordinances. The epithets, "without father," &c. "beginning of days, "nor end," "abideth continually," belong to Melchisedec only in respect to his priesthood, and in so far as he is the type of the Son of God, and are strictly true of Him alone. Melchisedec was, in his priesthood, "made like" Christ, as far as the imperfect type could represent the lineaments of the perfect archetype. "The portrait of a living man can be seen on the canvas, yet the man is very different from his picture." There is nothing in the account, Ge 14:18-20, to mark Melchisedec as a superhuman being: he is classed with the other kings in the chapter as a living historic personage: not as Origen thought, an angel; nor as the Jews thought, Shem, son of Noah; nor as Calmet, Enoch; nor as the Melchisedekites, that he was the Holy Ghost; nor as others, the Divine Word. He was probably of Shemitic, not Canaanite origin: the last independent representative of the original Shemitic population, which had been vanquished by the Canaanites, Ham's descendants. The greatness of Abraham then lay in hopes; of Melchisedec, in present possession. Melchisedec was the highest and last representative of the Noahic covenant, as Christ was the highest and ever enduring representative of the Abrahamic. Melchisedec, like Christ, unites in himself the kingly and priestly offices, which Abraham does not. Alford thinks the epithets are, in some sense, strictly true of Melchisedec himself; not merely in the typical sense given above; but that he had not, as mortal men have, a beginning or end of life (?). A very improbable theory, and only to be resorted to in the last extremity, which has no place here. With Melchisedec, whose priesthood probably lasted a long period, the priesthood and worship of the true God in Canaan ceased. He was first and last king-priest there, till Christ, the antitype; and therefore his priesthood is said to last for ever, because it both lasts a long time, and lasts as long as the nature of the thing itself (namely, his life, and the continuance of God's worship in Canaan) admits. If Melchisedec were high priest for ever in a literal sense, then Christ and he would now still be high priests, and we should have two instead of one (!). Tholuck remarks, "Melchisedec remains in so far as the type remains in the antitype, in so far as his priesthood remains in Christ." The father and mother of Melchisedec, as also his children, are not descended from Levi, as the Levitical priests (Heb 7:6) were required to be, and are not even mentioned by Moses. The wife of Aaron, Elisheba, the mother from whom the Levitical priests spring, is mentioned: as also Sarah, the original mother of the Jewish nation itself. As man, Christ had no father; as God, no mother.

In this verse is a mystical description of the eternity of Christ’s person and priesthood, set out by the Spirit in the silence and omission of things that concerned Melchisedec and his glory; so that what here is represented to be typically and in shadow, that was Christ really and substantially; for he gives no account of his father, mother, genealogy, birth, or death; the Spirit either not revealing it to him, or ordering him to leave it out, that he might appear the more lively and perfect type of Christ, being represented in all things different from all the men that ever were, or shall be: such a priest therefore as he was, was Christ to be; not deriving his priesthood from any by birth, nor leaving it to any after him. As Melchisedec was without father, that was a priest before him, or is recorded, from whom he should derive, as the Levitical priesthood had; so Christ, as to his humanity, was without any human father, conceived only by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Without mother: as to any Scripture records of it, or to any title of the priesthood by her, as those of Aaron’s family had: so Christ, as to his Deity, was without a mother, being the eternal Son of the Father only, and without any title in his humanity to the priesthood from the virgin, she being of David’s family, and not of Aaron’s.

Without descent; there is no line of him described in the Scripture, mentioning from whence he descended, or by what genealogy he came to the priesthood, as the Aaronites did clear their right, Nehemiah 7:64. As to Christ, who shall declare his generation, or produce the lineal roll by which he claimeth the priesthood? Isaiah 53:8; compare Hebrews 7:12,15.

Having neither beginning of days, nor end life: there is no record of his birth or death, though he had a father or mother, as there is of Adam’s beginning and end, who had neither: so Christ, as to his priesthood, had no predecessor, nor shall have any successor, Hebrews 7:16,24,28. As a sacrifice and the Lamb of God, he had his time of entrance into the world, and of his leaving it; yet, as God’s Priest, he had neither beginning nor end of days. Pure eternity is its rise, and its end shall not be till God be all in all.

But made like unto the Son of God; afwmoiwmenov he was in these things the shadow, picture, and resemblance of what Christ should be in his royal priesthood; in these singular prerogatives a visible type of God-man; he was the sign likening, and Christ was the truth and substance of it.

Abideth a priest continually: these words are the key to all the description before. God made many other persons eminent types of his Son, but Melchisedec was the only type of the eternity of his royal priesthood; for which the Holy Ghost singled him out, dropped him down, as it were, from above, and then took him up again, without any further account of him in the Scripture, that he might convey this mystery to us. That which hath no beginning nor end of it recorded, is as abiding for ever; which this type had not, and so fully sets out the truth designed to be conveyed by it. Without father, without mother, without descent,.... Which is to be understood not of his person, but of his priesthood; that his father was not a priest, nor did his mother descend from any in that office; nor had he either a predecessor or a successor in it, as appears from any authentic accounts: or this is to be interpreted, not of his natural, but scriptural being; for no doubt, as he was a mere man, he had a father, and a mother, and a natural lineage and descent; but of these no mention is made in Scripture, and therefore said to be without them; and so the Syriac version renders it; "whose father and mother are not written in the genealogies"; or there is no genealogical account of them. The Arabic writers tell us who his father and his mother were; some of them say that Peleg was his father: so Elmacinus (d), his words are these; Peleg lived after he begat Rehu two hundred and nine years; afterwards he begat Melchizedek, the priest whom we have now made mention of. Patricides (e), another of their writers, expresses himself after this manner

"they who say Melchizedek had neither beginning of days, nor end of life, and argue from the words of the Apostle Paul, asserting the same, do not rightly understand the saying of the Apostle Paul; for Shem, the son of Noah, after he had taken Melchizedek, and withdrew him from his parents, did not set down in writing how old he was, when he went into the east, nor what was his age when he died; but Melchizedek was the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Salah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah; and yet none of those patriarchs is called his father. This only the Apostle Paul means, that none of his family served in the temple, nor were children and tribes assigned to him. Matthew and Luke the evangelists only relate the heads of tribes: hence the Apostle Paul does not write the name of his father, nor the name of his mother.''

And with these writers Sahid Aben Batric (f) agrees, who expressly affirms that Melchizedek was , "the son of Peleg": though others of them make him to be the son of Peleg's son, whose name was Heraclim. The Arabic Catena (g) on Genesis 10:25, "the name of one was Peleg", has this note in the margin;

"and this (Peleg) was the father of Heraclim, the father of Melchizedek;''

and in a preceding chapter, his pedigree is more particularly set forth:

"Melchizedek was the son of Heraclim, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber; and his mother's name was Salathiel, the daughter of Gomer, the son of Japheth, the son of Noah; and Heraclim, the son of Eber, married his wife Salathiel, and she was with child, and brought forth a son, and called his name Melchizedek, called also king of Salem: after this the genealogy is set down at length. Melchizedek, son of Heraclim, which was the son of Peleg, which was the son of Eber, which was the son of Arphaxad, &c. till you come to, which was the son of Adam, on whom be peace.''

It is very probable Epiphanius has regard to this tradition, when he observes (h), that some say that the father of Melchizedek was called Eracla, and his mother Astaroth, the same with Asteria. Some Greek (i) writers say he was of the lineage of Sidus, the son of Aegyptus, a king of Lybia, from whence the Egyptians are called: this Sidus, they say, came out of Egypt into the country of the Canaanitish nations, now called Palestine, and subdued it, and dwelled in it, and built a city, which he called Sidon, after his own name: but all this is on purpose concealed, that he might be a more apparent of Christ, who, as man, is "without father"; for though, as God, he has a Father, and was never without one, being begotten by him, and was always with him, and in him; by whom he was sent, from whom he came, and whither he is gone; to whom he is the way, and with whom he is an advocate: yet, as man, he had no father; Joseph was his reputed father only; nor was the Holy Ghost his Father; nor is he ever said to be begotten as man, but was born of a virgin. Some of the Jewish writers themselves say, that the Redeemer, whom God will raise up, shall be without father (j). And he is without mother, though not in a spiritual sense, every believer being so to him as such; nor in a natural sense, as man, for the Virgin Mary was his mother; but in a divine sense, as God: and he is "without descent or genealogy"; not as man, for there is a genealogical account of him as such, in Matthew 1:1 and his pedigree and kindred were well known to the Jews; but as God; and this distinguishes him from the gods of the Heathens, who were genealogized by them, as may be seen in Hesiod, Apollodorus, Hyginus, and other writers; and this condemns the blasphemous genealogies of the Gnostics and Valentinians. It follows,

having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; that is, there is no account which shows when he was born, or when he died; and in this he was a type of Christ, who has no beginning of days, was from the beginning, and in the beginning, and is the beginning, and was from everlasting; as appears from his nature as God, from his names, from his office as Mediator, and from his concern in the council and covenant of peace, and in the election of his people; and he has no end of life, both as God and man; he is the living God; and though as man he died once, he will die no more, but lives for ever. It is further said of Melchizedek,

but made like unto the Son of God: in the above things; from whence it appears, that he is not the Son of God; and that Christ, as the Son of God, existed before him, and therefore could not take this character from his incarnation or resurrection:

abideth a priest continually; not in person, but in his antitype Christ Jesus; for there never will be any change of Christ's priesthood; nor will it ever be transferred to another; the virtue and efficacy of it will continue for ever; and he will ever live to make intercession; and will always bear the glory of his being both priest and King upon his throne: the Syriac version renders it, "his priesthood abides for ever"; which is true both of Melchizedek and of Christ.

(d) In Hottinger. Smegma Orientale, l. 1. c. 8. p. 269, 254. (e) In ib. p. 305, 306, 254. (f) In Mr. Gregory's Preface to his Works. (g) In ib. (h) Contra Haeres. Haeres. 55. (i) Suidas in voce Melchisedec, Malala, l. 3. Glycas, Cedrenus, & alii. (j) R. Moses Hadarsan apud Galatin. l. 3. c. 17. & l. 8. c. 2.

{2} 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.

(2) Another type: Melchizedek is set before us to be considered as one without beginning and without ending, for neither his father, mother, ancestors, or his death are written of. Such a one is indeed the Son of God, that is, an everlasting Priest: as he is God, begotten without mother, and man, conceived without father.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Hebrews 7:3. Ἀπάτωρ, ἀμήτωρ, ἀγενεαλόγητος] without father, without mother, without pedigree, i.e. of whom neither father, nor mother, nor pedigree stands recorded in Holy Scripture. This is the usual interpretation of the words, which has been the prevalent one in the church from early times to the present. Less natural, and only in repute here and there, is the explanation: who possessed neither father nor mother, etc., according to which the sacred writer must have recognised in Melchisedec a higher, superhuman being, who had only for a time assumed a human form. The latter view was taken by Origen and Didymus, who would maintain that Melchisedec is to be regarded as an angel; in like manner the unknown authority in Jerome, ad Evagr.; Hilary, Quaestt. in V. T. quaest. 109, and the Egyptian Hieracas in Epiph. Haeres. 67, who saw in him an ensarcosis of the Holy Ghost; as also the Melchisedecites, a section of the Theodotians, who described him as μεγάλην τινὰ δύναμιν θείαν, surpassing in exaltedness even Christ Himself, since Christ appeared after the likeness of Melchisedec; finally, single individuals in the orthodox church, in Epiphanius, Haer. 55. 7; as also afterwards, P. Molinaeus, Vates, Hebrews 4:11 sq.; P. Cunaeus, l.c.; J. C. Hottinger, de Decimis Judaeorum, p. 15; d’Outrein, Starck, and others, who supposed that in Melchisedec the Son of God Himself had appeared in human form. This whole method of interpretation has against it the fact that ἀγενεαλόγητος—for not ἀγένητος is placed—can be understood without violence only of the neglect to cite the genealogical table of Melchisedec in the narrative of the Book of Genesis [comp. Hebrews 7:6]; and ἀπάτωρ, ἀμήτωρ must be taken conformably with the elucidatory ἀγενεαλόγητος, thus are likewise to be explained merely of the father and mother being passed over unnamed in the historic account, not of their actual nonexistence. The characteristics ἀπάτωρ, ἀμήτωρ, ἀγενεαλόγητος, moreover, are to be referred—since ἀφωμοιωμένος δὲ τῷ νἱῳ τοῦ θεοῦ cannot yet be brought into correspondence therewith—only to Melchisedec, without our being obliged to seek for them a special point of comparison with Christ, as is done by Chrysostom, Theodoret, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Cornelius a Lapide, Jac. Cappellus, Bisping, al. (comp. also Kurtz ad loc.), in applying the ἀπάτωρ to Christ’s humanity, the ἀμήτωρ to His divinity, and the ἀγενεαλόγητος either likewise to His divinity or to His New Testament high priesthood. Comp. e.g. Theodoret: Ἀμήτωρ μὲν γάρ ἐστιν ὡς θεός· ἐκ μόνου γὰρ γεγέννηται τοῦ πατρός· ἀπάτωρ δὲ ὡς ἄνθρωπος· ἐκ μόνης γὰρ ἐτέχθη μητρός, τῆς παρθένου φημί· ἀγενεαλόγητος ὡς θεός· οὐ γὰρ χρήζει γενεαλογίας ὁ ἐξ ἀγεννήτου γεγεννημένος πατρός.

By means of ἀπάτωρ, ἀμήτωρ, ἀγενεαλόγητος, Melchisedec appears as presenting a contrast to the Levitical priests, since in the case of these scrupulous attention was paid to the descent.

The expression ἀγενεαλόγητος only here in all Greek literature.

μήτε ἀρχὴν ἡμερῶν μήτε ζωῆς τέλος ἔχων] without beginning of days and without end of life, namely, in that nothing is related in Holy Scripture either of his birth or his death. The statement is quite a general one. To limit it to the beginning and end of the priesthood (Cameron, Seb. Schmidt, Limborch, Whitby, Kuinoel, Hofmann, al.) is arbitrary. Nor is the meaning of the words, that Melchisedec was not born in the ordinary human way, and, something like Enoch and Elijah, was taken up to heaven without experiencing death (Hunnius, Braun, Akersloot; comp. also Bleek, p. 322 ff.; Nagel: “On the significance of Melchisedec in the Epistle to the Hebrews,” in the Stud. u. Krit. 1849, H. 2, p. 332 ff.; Nickel in Reuter’s Repertor. 1858, Feb. p. 102 f.; Alford), a sense which conflicts with the right apprehension of the opening words of the verse.

ἀφωμοιωμένος δὲ τῷ υἱᾷ τοῦ θεοῦ] on the contrary (therein) made entirely like unto the Son of God, namely, as type of the same. The words do not belong to μένει ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸ διηνεκές (Peshito, Grotius, al.). For with justice does Theodoret already observe: ἐν μέντοι τῇ ἱερωσύνῃ οὐ Μελχισεδὲκ μεμίμηται τὸν δεσπότην Χριστόν, ἀλλʼ ὁ δεσπότης Χριστὸς ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸν αἰῶμα κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισεδέκ. They form, by means of the closely combining δέ, a more precise positive defining to the negative μήτε ἀρχὴν ἡμερῶν μήτε ζωῆς τέλος ἔχων. Chrysostom: Ἀφωμοιωμένος δέ, φησί, τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ποῦ ἡ ὁμοιότης; Ὅτι καὶ τούτου κἀκείνου τὸ τέλος ἀγνοοῦμευ καὶ τὴν ἀρχήν· ἀλλὰ τούτου μὲν παρὰ τὸ μὴ γεγράφθαι, ἐκείνου δὲ παρὰ τὸ μὴ εἶναι.

μένει ἱερεὺς εἶς τὸ διηνεκές] remains priest for ever, in that, as of his end of life so also of the cessation of his priesthood, nothing is recorded. He remains so in the reality of his office, but only as a figure and type of Christ. Against the view of Auberlen (l.c. p. 497), that Melchisedec is termed an everlasting priest in no other sense than as, according to the Apocalypse, all the blessed in heaven are so, see the observations of Riehm, Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 202 f., Remark. The subject, moreover, in μένει is naturally the Melchisedec of Genesis, not, as Wieseler contends (Schrr. d. Univ. zu Kiel aus d. J. 1860, VI. 1, p. 40): “the Melchisedec of the passage in the Psalms just mentioned (Hebrews 6:20), or the true antitypal Melchisedec or Messiah.” For it is not grammatically allowable, with Wieseler, to take the words βασιλεὺς Σαλὴμἀφωμοιώμενος δὲ τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ as an apposition merely to ὁ Μελχισεδέκ, and not to the whole expression οὗτος ὁ Μελχισεδέκ, and in connection with οὗτος ὁ Μελχισεδέκ to rest the emphasis exclusively upon οὗτος.

εἰς τὸ διηνεκές] of the same import as εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, Hebrews 6:20. Comp. Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 10:14.Hebrews 7:3. ἀγενεαλόγητος, resolved in Hebrews 7:6 into μὴ γενεαλογούμενος, does not occur in classical nor elsewhere in Biblical Greek. The dependence of Levitical priests on genealogies and their registers is illustrated by Nehemiah 7:64. μήτε ἀρχὴν ἡμερῶν … “having neither beginning of days nor end of life,” i.e., again, as he is represented in Scripture. No mention is made of his birth or death, of his inauguration to his office or of his retirement from it. The idea is conveyed that so long as priestly services of that particular type were needed, this man performed them. He is thus the type of a priest who shall in his single person discharge for ever all priestly functions. ἀφωμοιωμένος δὲ τῷ υἱῷ τ. Θεοῦ “but made like to the Son of God”. δὲ attaches this clause to the immediately preceding, “having neither etc.,” but in this respect made like to the Son of God, see Hebrews 1:2, Hebrews 9:14 and Hebrews 1:10; Hebrews 1:12. “Such a comparison is decisive against attributing these characteristics to Melchisedek in a real sense. They belong to the portrait of him, which was so drawn that he was “made like” the Son of God,—that by the features absent as well as by the positive traits a figure should appear corresponding to the Son of God and suited to suggest Him” (Davidson). μένει ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸ διηνεκές “abideth a priest continually”. This statement, directly resting upon the preceding clause, is that towards which the whole sentence (Hebrews 7:1; Hebrews 7:3) has been tending. It is the permanence of the Melchisedek priesthood on which stress is laid. See below. εἰς τὸ διηνεκές is not precisely “for ever,” but “for a continuance,” or permanence. Appian (De Bell. civ., i. 4) says of Julius Cæsar that he was created Dictator εἰς τὸ διηνεκές, permanent Dictator. “The permanent character of the priesthood is here described, not its actual duration” (Rendall). It was not destined to be superseded by another. Bruce is not correct in saying: “The variation in expression (εἰς τὸ διηνεκές instead of εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, Hebrews 6:20) is probably made out of regard to style, rather than to convey a different shade of meaning”. But he gives the sense well: “If he had had in history, as doubtless he had in fact, a successor in office, we should have said of him, that he was the priest of Salem in the days of Abraham. As the case stands, he is the priest of Salem.”3. without father, without mother, without descent] Rather, “without lineage” or “pedigree” as in Hebrews 7:6. The mistake is an ancient one, for in consequence of it Irenæus claims Melchisedek as one who had lived a celibate life (which in any case would not follow). The simple and undoubted meaning of these words is that the father, mother, and lineage of Melchisedek are not recorded, so that he becomes more naturally a type of Christ. In the Alexandrian School, to which the writer of this Epistle belonged, the custom of allegorising Scripture had received an immense development, and the silence of Scripture was regarded as the suggestion of mysterious truths. The Jewish interpreters naturally looked on the passage about Melchisedek as full of deep significance because the Psalmist in the 110th Psalm, which was universally accepted as a Psalm directly Messianic (Matthew 22:44) had found in Melchisedek a Priest-King, who, centuries before Aaron, had been honoured by their great ancestor, and who was therefore a most fitting type of Him who was to be “a Priest upon his Throne.” The fact that he had no recorded father, mother, or lineage enhanced his dignity because the Aaronic priesthood depended exclusively on the power to prove direct descent from Aaron which necessitated a most scrupulous care in the preservation of the priestly genealogies. (See Ezra 2:61-62; Nehemiah 7:63-64, where families which could not actually produce their pedigree are excluded from the priesthood.) The idiom by which a person is said to have no father or ancestry when they are not recorded, or are otherwise quite unimportant, was common to Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. In a Greek tragedy “Ion” calls himself “motherless” when he supposes that his mother is a slave (Eurip. Ion, 850). Scipio taunted the mob of the Forum as people “who had neither father nor mother” (Cic. De Orat. ii. 64). Horace calls himself “a man sprung from no ancestors” (Hor. Sat. i. 6, 10). In the Bereshith Rabba we find the rule “a Gentile has no father,” i.e. the father of a proselyte is not counted in Jewish pedigrees. Further the Jews mystically applied the same sort of rule which holds in legal matters which says “that things not producible are regarded as non-existent.” Hence their kabbalistic interpretation of particulars not mentioned in Scripture. From the fact that Cain’s death is nowhere recorded in Genesis, Philo draws the lesson that evil never dies among the human race; and he calls Sarah “motherless” because her mother is nowhere mentioned. There is then no difficulty either as to the idiom or its interpretation.

without mother] The mention of this particular may seem to have no bearing on the type, unless a contrast be intended to the Jewish Priests who were descended from Elisheba the wife of Aaron (Exodus 6:23). But “Christ as God, has no mother, as man no Father.” The early Church neither used nor sanctioned the name Theotokos “Mother of God” as applied to the Virgin Mary.

without descent] Rather, “without a genealogy.” Melchisedek has no recorded predecessor or successor. Bishop Wordsworth quotes “Who shall declare His generation?”

having neither beginning of days, nor end of life]. The meaning of this clause is exactly the same as that of the last—namely that neither the birth nor death of Melchisedek are recorded, which makes him all the more fit to be a type of the Son of God. Dean Alford’s remark that it is “almost childish” to suppose that nothing more than this is intended, arises from imperfect familiarity with the methods of Rabbinic and Alexandrian exegesis. The notion that Melchisedek was the Holy Spirit (which was held by an absurd sect who called themselves Melchisedekites); or “the Angel of the Presence;” or “God the Word, previous to Incarnation;” or “the Shechinah;” or “the Captain of the Lord’s Host;” or” an Angel;” or “a reappearance of Enoch;” or an “ensarkosis of the Holy Ghost;” are, on all sound hermeneutical principles, not only “almost” but quite “childish.” They belong to methods of interpretation which turn Scripture into an enigma and neglect all the lessons which result so plainly from the laws which govern its expression, and the history of its interpretation. No Hebrew, reading these words, would have been led to these idle and fantastic conclusions about the super-human dignity of the Canaanite prince. If the expressions here used had been meant literally, Melchisedek would not have been a man, but a Divine Being—and not the type of one—and he could not therefore have been “a Priest” at all. It would then have been not only inexplicable, but meaningless that in all Scripture he should only have been incidentally mentioned in three verses, of a perfectly simple, and straightforward narrative, and only once again alluded to in the isolated reference of a Psalm written centuries later. The fact that some of these notions about him may plead the authority of great names is no more than can be said of thousands of the most absolute and even absurd misinterpretations in the melancholy history of slowly-corrected errors which pass under the name of Scripture exegesis. Less utterly groundless is the belief of the Jews that Melchisedek was the Patriarch Shem, who, as they shewed, might have survived to this time (Avodath Hakkodesh, iii. 20, &c. and in two of the Targums). Yet even this view cannot be correct; for if Melchisedek had been Shem (1) there was every reason why he should be called by his own name; and (2) Canaan was in the territory of Ham’s descendants, not those of Shem; and (3) Shem was in no sense, whether mystical or literal, “without pedigree.” Yet this opinion satisfied Lyra, Cajetan, Luther, Melanchthon, Lightfoot, &c.

Who then was Melchisedek? Josephus and some of the most learned fathers (Hippolytus, Eusebius, &c), and many of the ablest modern commentators, rightly hold that he was neither more nor less than what Moses tells us that he was—the Priest-King of a little Canaanite town, to whom, because he acted as a Priest of the True God, Abraham gave tithes; and whom his neighbours honoured because he was not sensual and turbulent as they were, but righteous and peaceful, not joining in their wars and raids, yet mingling with them in acts of mercy and kindness. How little the writer of this Epistle meant to exaggerate the typology is shewn by the fact that he does not so much as allude to the “bread and wine” to which an unreal significance has been attached both by Jewish and Christian commentators. He does not make it in any way a type of the shewbread and libations; or an offering characteristic of his Priesthood; nor does he make him (as Philo does) offer any sacrifice at all. How much force would he have added to the typology if he had ventured to treat these gifts as prophecies of the Eucharist, as some of the Fathers do! His silence on a point which would have been so germane to his purpose is decisive against such a view.

made like unto the Son of God] Lit. “having been likened to the Son of God,” i.e. having been invested with a typical resemblance to Christ. The expression explains the writer’s meaning. It is a combination of the passage in Genesis with the allusion in Psalms 110, shewing that the two together constitute Melchisedek a Divinely appointed type of a Priesthood received from no ancestors and transmitted to no descendants. The personal importance of Melchisedek was very small; but he is eminently typical, because of the suddenness with which he is introduced into the sacred narrative, and the subsequent silence respecting him. He was born, and lived, and died, and had a father and mother no less than any one else, but by not mentioning these facts, the Scripture, interpreted on mystic principles, “throws on him a shadow of Eternity: gives him a typical Eternity.” The expressions used of him are only literally true of Him whose type he was. In himself only the Priest-prince of a little Canaanite community, his venerable figure was seized upon, first by the Psalmist, then by the writer of this Epistle, as the type of an Eternal Priest. As far as Scripture is concerned it may be said of him, that “he lives without dying fixed for ever as one who lives by the pen of the sacred historian, and thus stamped as a type of the Son, the ever-living Priest.”

continually] The Greek expression is like the Latin in perpetuum.Hebrews 7:3. Ἀπάτωρ, ἀμήτωρ, ἀγενεαλόγητος, without father, without mother, without genealogy [descent]) The parents, ancestors, children, posterity of Melchisedec are not descended from Levi, as was required to be the case with the Levites, Hebrews 7:6, and they are not even mentioned by Moses; and this silence is full of mystery, which is immediately unfolded. There are even few of the Levitical priests whose mothers are mentioned in Scripture; but yet their Levitical sanctity (as to their wives) is universally enjoined, Leviticus 21:13-14; and, at all events, the wife of Aaron, from whom all the priests are descended, is mentioned, Exodus 6:23 : and Sarah, the wife of Abraham himself, Isaiah 51:2.—μήτε ἀρχὴν, nor beginning) The eternity of the Son of God is intimated.—ἔχων, having) with Moses, who nevertheless relates the death of Aaron.—ἡμερῶν, of days) It was not so suitable to say, the beginning of life or the end of days, Hebrews 7:16, where power is mentioned along with life.—ἀφωμοιωμένος δὲ τῷ Υἱῷ τοῦ Θεοῦ, but made like to the Son of GOD) δὲ, but, properly has respect to the opposition between the negatives, which precede, and the positive, which follows, and takes the former for granted. The likeness of Melchisedec to the Son of God refers both to the former and the latter; but it is also more directly connected with the latter, because it has more reference to the purpose in hand. The Son of GOD is not said to be made like to Melchisedec, but the contrary (vice versa); for the Son of GOD is more ancient, and is the archetype; comp. Hebrews 8:5, [where in like manner heavenly things are set forth as more ancient than the things belonging to the Levitical priesthood.—V. g.]—μένει, remains) The positive for the negative in respect of Melchisedec: he remains and lives, Hebrews 7:8 : i.e. nothing is mentioned of his decease or succession. But it holds good in its strict meaning from Christ.Without father, without mother, without descent (ἀπάτωρ, ἀμὴτωρ, ἀγενεαλόγητος)

The three adjectives N.T.o, olxx. The meaning is that there is no record concerning his parentage. This is significant as indicating a different type of priesthood from the Levitical, in which genealogy was of prime importance. No man might exercise priestly functions who was not of the lineage of Aaron.

Having neither beginning of days nor end of life

That is to say, history is silent concerning his birth and death.

But made like unto the Son of God (ἀφωμοιωμένος δὲ τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ)

The verb N.T.o. Made like or likened, not like. "The resemblance lies in the Biblical representation, and not primarily in Melchisedec himself" (Westcott). Son of God, not Son of man, for the likeness to Jesus as Son of man would not hold; Jesus, as man, having had both birth and death. The words likened unto the Son of God stand independently. Not to be connected with the following sentence, so as to read abideth a priest continually like the Son of God; for, as a priest, Melchisedec, chronologically, was prior to Christ; and, therefore, it is not likeness with respect to priesthood that is asserted. The likeness is in respect to the things just predicated of Melchisedec. Christ as Son of God was without father, mother, beginning or end of days; and, in these points, Melchisedec is likened in Scripture to him.

Abideth a priest continually (μένει ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸ διηνεκές)

Διηνεκής from διαφέρειν to bear through; born on through ages, continuous. Only in Hebrews. There is no historical account of the termination of Melchisedec's priesthood. The tenure of his office is uninterrupted. The emphasis is on the eternal duration of the ideal priesthood, and the writer explains the Psalm as asserting eternal duration as the mark of the Melchisedec order. Accordingly, he presents the following characteristics of the ideal priesthood: royal, righteous, peace-promoting, personal and not inherited, eternal. Comp. Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:4, Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 32:17; Isaiah 53:7. It is, of course, evident to the most superficial reader that such exposition of O.T. scripture is entirely artificial, and that it amounts to nothing as proof of the writer's position. Melchisedec is not shown to be an eternal high priest because his death-record is lost; nor to be properly likened unto the Son of God because there is no notice of his birth and parentage.

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