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.
quotation from Ps 110,431. Such an understanding certainly seems to be nearer the meaning of the Hebrew original than does the traditional English rendering. The relevant Hebrew phrase from Ps 110,4, qdc-yklm ytrbd-l(, is a rather obscure construction, but on balance it most probably means because of Melchizedek or for the sake of Melchizedek rather than strictly after the order of Melchizedek. As applied in Ps 110 to the Israelite monarch, the thought seems to be that because Melchizedek was both king and priest in Jerusalem, the king who is now being installed in Jerusalem in his place will similarly fulfil both functions. Hence, Melchizedek serves as the model for sacral kingship and as its definition, rather than being some sort of progenitor or ancestor figure from whom the kings claim descent, which is what after the order of Melchizedek would imply. Therefore, when the writer of Hebrews glosses the phrase after the order of Melchizedek with the phrase after the likeness of Melchizedek in Heb 7,15, he recalls the usage of Ps 110,4 in the MT in a way which is highly appropriate for Jesus. Jesus is by no means a direct descendant from this pagan priest-king; however, his priesthood is shown as corresponding to that of Melchizedek, inasmuch as like Melchizedek he is a priest who comes not from the normal Levitical line but from the line of royalty. He is priest by virtue of his identity as king (or Messiah), and the fact that he is not only a king but also a priest makes him a sacral king.
3. Jesus, Priest by the Power of an Indestructible Life (Heb 7,16)
The third area of correspondence between the priesthood of Jesus and that of the ancient sacral monarchs is the way in which such priesthood is bestowed. According to Heb 7,16, Jesus is said to have obtained his priesthood not according to a legal requirement concerning bodily descent but by the power of an indestructible life. In the context of the argument of Heb 7, this is an exegesis of the phrase for ever in Ps 110,4. The writer takes the phrase to imply that the person upon whom the Melchizedek priesthood is bestowed must be immortal or, as he himself says, indestructible (a)kata/lutoj), since that person is to be a priest for ever. Jesus fits this criterion perfectly, since by his resurrection he has been shown not to be subject to the normal processes of mortality and destructibility. Hence, the phrase power of an indestructible life is a reference to his resurrection and perpetual life, which is presumably accomplished by the power of God32. Now it is true that the ancient sacral kings were not regarded as being immortal or as the possessors of indestructible life, but it is equally true that their priesthood was not bestowed as a result of them fulfilling the criterion of bodily descent in the sense of being members of the normal priestly tribe of Levi. Instead, it appears to have been granted as a result of their becoming king, and becoming king involved being anointed and receiving the power of the spirit of God as a sanctifying and enabling force (1 Sam 16,13; cf. 2 Sam 1,14-16; Ps 89,21-22 [Eng. 89,20-21]). Hence, the priesthood of the sacral monarch could be regarded as stemming from the power of an indestructible life, since the spirit of God which sanctified