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.
the description of a primarily priestly figure. Certainly, attention to context is an important hermeneutical principle which acts as a control against atomistic and distorting exegesis of isolated passages. However, the priestly context of chapter 7 need not preclude the reading of that chapter which has just been offered, for two reasons. First, although the writer does use a priestly analogy for his exegesis in chapters 89, the analogy is not consistent. Rather, there is a mixture of metaphors in order to bring out the the multivalence of Christs saving work. Christ is certainly portrayed in terms reminiscent of an Aaronic high priest; but he is also portrayed as the sacrificial victim, at the same time as he is shown functioning as high priest (9,11-14). If Christ can be both victim and priest at the same time in the exegetical scheme of Hebrews, there seems to be no reason why he should not also be both king and high priest, especially since there is more correspondence between the roles of king and priest than there is between the roles of priest and victim.
Secondly, the shift from royal motifs in chapter 7 to priestly motifs in chapters 89 can be understood on the basis that chapter 7 describes who this priest is, while chapters 89 describe what he does in his capacity as priest. His priestly duties are naturally expressed in terms of the Jewish cultus, because that is what the writer is familiar with, but that need not exclude the possibility that he is a different kind of priest from the usual cultic servants. Thinking back to the sacral monarch and the high priest of old, both served as mediators for their people in cultic contexts before the deity, despite the different bases of their priesthood. However, the point of the argument in Hebrews is that even though the same duties are carried out by Christ and by the earthly priests and high priests, there is a qualitative difference between the duties carried out by the earthly priests and those performed by Christ in his capacity as high priest: Christs ministrations are definitively efficacious in a way that those of the ordinary priests are not (9,13-14.24-26; 10,11-14). Hence, just as in chapter 7 the priesthood of Christ was set over against the Levitical and Aaronic priesthood as being of a different order, in chapters 8 and 9 the priestly ministry of Christ is set over against that of the earthly cultic personnel as being of a different order. When viewed in this light, the link between chapters 7 and 89 becomes clear: all three chapters use the earthly cult as a foil for their descriptions of Jesuss work in terms of a new and better priesthood. It is true that the appeal made here to sacral kingship in order to explain the different order of priesthood in chapter 7 could not be sustained as a paradigm for the different order of ministry in chapters 89. Nevertheless, this should not obscure the important point that in chapters 79 the cult is not the norm to which Jesuss ministry is being assimilated, but the element with which it is being contrasted; and those contrasts take whatever form the writer deems appropriate for conveying his understanding of Jesuss person and work. Hence, supposed discontinuity between the royal and priestly paradigms need be no barrier to adopting the reading of chapter 7 proposed in this paper.