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.
divine sonship and priesthood are elements of the ancient royal ideology. Indeed, such a convergence of sonship and priesthood has already been presented at 5,5-6, where the writer uses two OT quotations to speak of Jesuss installation as heavenly high priest. Here the pattern of sacral kingship is immediately recognisable, as the writer quotes Ps 2,7, where God declares his adoption of the monarch-to-be as his son, followed by Ps 110,4, where the new monarchs priestly prerogatives are bestowed upon him by divine oath5. It should therefore be no surprise to find royal elements in the more detailed exposition of Jesuss high priesthood in Heb 7, especially since the ancient royal ideology was a major defining component of messianism. The result is thus a presentation which despite its apparently overwhelmingly priestly character is consistent with the traditional messianic expectation of a son of David, that is, a royal figure, even if it is not expressed in terms of explicitly Davidic categories6. This comes out very clearly when a point-by-point comparison is made between the priesthood of the ancient monarchs as portrayed in the Old Testament and the description of Jesuss high priesthood in Heb 7. The present study is in two parts: first, a discussion of the significance of Melchizedek as a paradigm of royalty in Heb 7, and secondly, an examination of the features of Jesuss priesthood as they appear in Heb 7.
I. Melchizedek as a paradigm of royalty in Heb 7
When assessing the christological significance of the Melchizedek presentation in Heb 7, the most important point to note is that the writers choice of Melchizedek as the model for Christs priesthood has in itself royal overtones. This is not necessarily an obvious conclusion, since in view of the varied and sometimes supernatural presentations of Melchizedek in Jewish writings of the late Second Temple period7, it would not be surprising to