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.
king, the qualities of righteousness and peace were closely associated in ancient times with the rule of the ideal king, as is evident from a psalm such as Ps 72, where the two qualities are listed together in a prayer for the king: In his days may righteousness flourish, and peace abound till the moon be no more! (Ps 72,7)
Coming as they do, therefore, right at the start of the exposition in Heb 7, the etymologies of Melchizedeks name set a definite royal tone which is all too easily overlooked in the rush to concentrate on the priestly aspects of the exposition18.
2. Melchizedek in Ps 110,4 (Heb 7,11-22)
The second aspect of the OT Melchizedek tradition to be expounded in Hebrews is that of Ps 110,4, the famous divine oath: You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. The question of whether this reference can be regarded as having royal significance in the context of Heb 7 is more complicated than it was for the Gen 14 reference. From the point of view of modern scholarship, it is clear that Ps 110,4 does have royal significance. Although some have argued that Ps 110 dates from the Maccabaean period and was written to legitimate the kingship of the high priest Simon Maccabee, the more compelling conclusion is that it is an early royal psalm which legitimises the priestly prerogative of the monarch. In other words, it is not about a priest who is being made king but about a king who is also being declared a priest. It addresses a king in the first verse (110,1), and then goes on to swear in this royal figure as a priest for ever, citing Melchizedek the king who is also a priest as the model for the priesthood of the monarch (110,4)19. However, it is questionable whether the writer of Hebrews would have regarded the psalm in this way, and perhaps more importantly, whether it would have made any difference to the exegesis even if he had, given his exegetical technique whereby OT texts are used as proof-texts and their original context and meaning are not necessarily determinative. The genre of Ps 110 as determined by twentieth-century scholarship cannot therefore be appealed to in support of a royal interpretation of its use in Heb 7. Nevertheless, it seems that the psalm was regarded by both Jews and the early church as messianic20, which implies the recognition of elements of royal ideology in it. The writer of Hebrews certainly seems to be aware of this messianic character, since he uses Ps 110,1 as one of his proof-texts about the superiority of the Son to the angels (Heb 1,13), and alludes to the same verse on three other occasions in his argument (Heb 1,3; 8,1; 10,12). But while Ps 110, 1 is used elsewhere in