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.
and empowered the monarch is quite clearly the life-force which animates and re-animates, and is an expression of the primary characteristic of God as a being of indestructible life. In the context of the present comparison, this endowment with the Spirit can be seen as being echoed in the manifestation of divine power which was centred on the person of Jesus in and through the events of Easter. Jesuss priesthood by the power of an indestructible life (Heb 7,16) can therefore be seen as an alternative expression of the concept of priesthood by the power of the Spirit, so that in this respect too there is an important correspondence between the nature of the ancient royal priesthood and the messianic priesthood of Jesus as portrayed in Heb 7.
4. Jesus, Priest Addressed with an Oath (Heb 7,20-22)
Finally, the priesthood of Jesus is granted with an oath, which ensures its permanency (Heb 7,20-22). This too is a major characteristic of the priesthood of the sacral monarch, who will remain a priest until the day of his death due to the oath which has been sworn to him, and the responsibility which has therefore been laid upon him, by God. The oath is an expression of what was described above as the ontological priesthood of the monarch, in other words, the identity of being which the monarch bears as priest. It does not simply make it possible for him to function as a priest, and carry out the duties of attendance at a sanctuary; it makes it impossible for him not to be a priest, since his divinely appointed destiny is to be such. It means that his very nature is to be a priest and that he is designated as a permanent representative and mediator for his people before the deity33.
The net result of Jesuss priesthood being described in terms of these four characteristics is that it is shown as being of a different order from that of the Levitical priests. It is qualitatively different from theirs34, just as the priesthood of the monarch was qualitatively different from the priesthood of the Levitical priests, including the high priest the former was ontological, the latter functional. Hence, the correspondence between the priesthood of Jesus as described in Heb 7 and the priesthood of the ancient sacral monarchs is complete; and the picture of Jesus as both Son and High Priest can be regarded as being well within what might be called messianic norms.
A potential difficulty for this reading of Heb 7 is that having supposedly described Jesus in terms of a sacral monarch, the writer then goes on in Heb 89 to describe Jesuss priestly function in terms of that of the Levitical (Aaronic) high priest, making particular use of the analogy of the Day of Atonement (9,6-14.24-26). In other words, the sacral monarch theme is not continued throughout the priestly analogy, which as remarked earlier is probably one reason why commentators have so consistently read chapter 7 as