Deborah W. Rooke, «Jesus as Royal Priest: Reflections on the Interpretation of the Melchizedek Tradition in Heb 7», Vol. 81 (2000) 81-94
In Hebrews’ portrayal of Jesus as a high priest, not according to the line of Aaron but of Melchisedek, there is no reinterpretation of traditional messianic categories. Rather, inasmuch as Hebrews has shown Jesus to be an exalted figure of sacral monarchy, it has depicted him as a truly messianic figure, in whose person the lines of both priesthood and monarchy converge. This is, in turn, entirely consistent with the emphases in Hebrews on Sonship and priesthood, since taken together these are the two major elements of the royal ideology out of which messianism grew. There should, therefore, be allowed more room in Hebrews for royal ideology than traditionally seems to have been the case.
In a recent essay1 I compared the priesthood of the monarch in ancient Israel with that of the high priest as he is presented in the Priestly writings of the Pentateuch2, and came to the conclusion that the two priesthoods were of a different order. Whereas the priesthood of the high priest was what might be termed a functional priesthood, that of the monarch I termed ontological. That is to say, the high priesthood according to its depiction in P was a more intense version of the ordinary priesthood, and the significant characteristics of the ordinary priesthood were that those who bore the title of priest were men employed at a sanctuary where they actually functioned on a day-to-day basis as attendants of the deity. Their priesthood was effectively a job of work, hence the designation functional to refer to it. There is no evidence in P that the high priest, any more than any other priest, had to be endowed with the Spirit of God in order to enable him to function in his particular priestly role, nor is there evidence that the high priest enjoyed a relationship of especial intimacy with the deity. Rather, although he undoubtedly had a mediating role in cultic contexts on behalf of his people, this mediatory function arose out of his position as the priest par excellence, which meant that he was the functionalist par excellence. Above all, it was his supreme tie to the sanctuary rather than any sense of friendship with the deity which made his mediation efficacious, since his task was to ensure that the sanctuary was cleansed from the defilement of sin, thereby ensuring the continuation of the divine presence in the shrine and so among the people3. By contrast, however, the priesthood undertaken by the monarch arose from his being understood as the son of God in some sense, and this did not merely link him to the sanctuary but actually gave him a privileged relationship with the deity (cf. Ps 89,27-28 [Eng. 89,26-27]). Additionally, in order for the monarch to fulfil his kingly duties, which