Melchizedek, the King of Salem

February 17, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 4:30 pm   Category: Before Abraham,Theology

In my recent post on Abraham I brought up the enigmatic figure from scripture, Melchizedek. There is a tradition that claims Melchizedek is actually Shem, the son of Noah. I speculated, based on my reading of our scriptures, that Melchizedek might actually be the pre-mortal Christ himself rather than a mortal prophet. In this post I will briefly sketch out these two ideas.

Shem as Melchizedek

From Wikipedia:

In the Midrash, the Rabbis identified Melchizedek with Shem son of Noah. (E.g., B. Talmud Nedarim 32b; Genesis Rabbah 46:7; Genesis Rabbah 56:10; Leviticus Rabbah 25:6; Numbers Rabbah 4:8.)

From the Ensign (and quoted in the OT student manual):

Living contemporary with Shem was a man known as Melchizedek, who was also known as the great high priest. The scriptures give us the details of Shem’s birth and ancestry but are silent as to his ministry and later life. Of Melchizedek, however, the opposite is true. Nothing is recorded about his birth or ancestry, even though the Book of Mormon states that he did have a father. (Alma 13:17-18.)

The article goes on to list several reasons why Shem and Melchizedek are the same person.

1. The inheritance given to Shem included the land of Salem. Melchizedek appears in scripture as the king of Salem, who reigns over this area.
2. Shem, according to later revelation, reigned in righteousness and the priesthood came through him. Melchizedek appears on the scene with a title that means “king of righteousness.”
3. Shem was the great high priest of his day. Abraham honored the high priest Melchizedek by seeking a blessing at his hands and paying him tithes.
4. Abraham stands next to Shem in the patriarchal order of the priesthood and would surely have received the priesthood from Shem; but D&C 84:5-17 says Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek.
5. Jewish tradition identifies Shem as Melchizedek.
6. President Joseph F. Smith’s remarkable vision names Shem among the great patriarchs, but no mention is made of Melchizedek.
7. Times and Seasons (vol. 6, p. 746) speaks of “Shem, who was Melchizedek. …”

The authors of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article on Melchizedek are more skeptical of the Shem connection, however:

It was asserted by some early LDS leaders that Melchizedek was Shem, son of Noah (see, e.g., T&S 5:746). Though Shem is also identified as a great high priest (D&C 138:41), it would appear from the Doctrine and Covenants 84:14 that the two might not be the same individual (MD, p. 475), and Jewish sources equating Melchizedek and Shem are late and tendentious.

Pre-mortal Christ as Melchizedek

The theory I suggested earlier this week was that Melchizedek was actually God appearing to Abraham rather than a mortal prophet. While I independently came up with the idea from reading the scriptures, it is evident that I am not the first person to wonder if this was the case. Apparently Christian and Jewish scholars and religious thinkers have speculated on this idea for a long time. A quick Web search turned up several Christian Web sites dealing with the question and defending the idea that Melchizedek was a “theophany” or the “pre-incarnate of Christ” (see here, here, and here).

Several Jewish sources also provide interesting evidence in favor of this notion. Again, from Wikipedia:

The Zohar finds in “Melchizedek king of Salem” a reference to “the King Who rules with complete sovereignty,” or according to another explanation, that “Melchizedek” alludes to the lower world and “king of Salem” to the upper world. (Zohar, Bereshit, 1:86b-87a:)

In the Tanakh, Melchizedek brought bread and wine to Abraham (then Abram) after Abraham’s victory over the four kings who had besieged Sodom and Gomorrah and had taken his nephew Lot prisoner (described in Genesis 14). (Gen. 14:18.) Melchizedek blessed Abraham in the name of “God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.” (Gen. 14:19.) In return, Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth, a tithe, of the spoils gained from the battle. (Gen. 14:20.) In some translations, Psalm 110:4 names Melchizedek as representative of the priestly line through which a future king of Israel’s Davidic line was ordained.

It is easy to find LDS sources pointing out the obvious fact that that the story of Melchizedek is at least a type and shadow of Christ. However, I have not yet found any that go as far as to claim that Melchizedek actually was the pre-mortal Christ appearing to Abraham. (If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.)

The idea that Melchizedek was another name for Shem and the notion that Melchizedek was not a mortal man but rather God appearing to Abraham both have a long histories. The obvious third choice is that Melchizedek was an separate mortal prophet. I currently am leaning toward the God as Melchizedek model (but I reserve the right to change my mind later). Which do you like?

[Associated songs (I went with a “king” theme and couldn’t choose between two good ones): Roger Miller – King of the Road … and … The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – The Rascal King]


  1. I would think that Shem makes a pretty good case for being Melchizedik

    Comment by Rob Osborn — February 17, 2006 @ 7:19 pm

  2. I have read of those who believe in multiple mortal probations saying that their belief is that Christ and Melchizedek are one and the same. I like the Shem or Christ theories the best, but perhaps the premortal (or prior-mortal) Christ theory the best. Thanks for providing this most interesting information.

    Comment by Curtis — February 17, 2006 @ 9:43 pm

  3. I did some research and came up with a very strange idea. Here goes-

    Melchizedik could be Peleg. Peleg’s name is translated to division or to divide which just might mean that it was not his real name. There is mention of the power given to Melchizedek to divide the seas and to divide the land (JST GEN 14). Now it could be that Peleg was given the authority (high priesthood power) to divide the land and seas. Peleg also would have lived long enough to meet Abraham as an adult.

    Comment by Rob Osborn — February 17, 2006 @ 10:43 pm

  4. Be wary using the Zohar here. While it is making use of earlier myths and legends the primary theme relates to various potencies in a neoPlatonic set of emmanations. The Melchezedek information in the Zohar is interesting for sure. But one has to be very, very careful when examining primarily mystic texts.

    I won’t go off on a tangent here, but one can’t really proof-text easily with Kabbalistic texts or often even Merkabah texts. (Even though the Merkabah texts in particular are extremely interesting here with respect to both Enoch and Melchezedek)

    Comment by clark — February 17, 2006 @ 10:50 pm

  5. Yeah, I can see going for either model. Here are some good quotes from those sites I linked to promoting the idea of Melchizedek as the pre-incarnate Christ. I didn’t want to make the post too long, but I’ll use some excerpts from one of them here…

    1) His titles fit the Son of God more than they fit a mere man.
    a. He is the priest of the most high God (Hebrews 7:1). In Mark 5:7, Jesus is called the “son of the most high God.”
    b. He is the King of Righteousness (Hebrews 7:2). Of Christ it is prophesied that “a king shall reign in righteousness” (Isaiah 32:1).
    c. He is also called the King of Salem (Hebrews 7:1-2; Gen.14:18). Salem is another name for Jerusalem (Psalm 76:1-2) and means peace. Hebrews 7:2 makes a strong point of the fact that Melchizedek is “first” the King of righteousness and “after that” the King of peace.

    By themselves, these titles do not prove that Melchizedek was Christ. However, they do show that his work matches closely the work of Christ. But there is more-much more.

    2) His eternity proves Melchizedek to be Jesus Christ.
    Hebrews 7:3 makes several statements about Melchizedek that strongly point to a divine identity.
    a. He is said to be without father (certainly in reference to an earthly father).
    b. He is without mother. This is historically true if Melchizedek is a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ (Christ did not have an earthly mother at that time), but it is untrue if he is a man who becomes a type of Jesus later (Matthew 1:18; 2:11).
    c. He is without descent. This does not fit a type of the earthly Jesus since Jesus had an earthly genealogy (Matthew 1:1-17) Therefore, it must refer to a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ.
    d. He is without beginning of days. Does this fit a mere mortal? All explanations of this that deny his identity with Jesus make light of the meaning of these words. Without mother does not mean he had no mother; without descent does not mean that he had no descent; without beginning of days does not mean without beginning; without end of life does not mean his life did not end. They all simply mean that we are not told of these matters in the biblical record. Of course, this could be said of many people in the Bible who make a brief appearance. But why not take scripture at its word? If we do this, it reads like an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ (see Micah 5:2; John 8:58). He is the only one who matches all the qualifications.
    e. He is without end of life. As such, he “abideth a priest continually” (Hebrews 7:3). Where is Melchizedek abiding as a priest today, unless Melchizedek can be identified with Jesus Christ? Hebrews 7:8 says that of him “it is witnessed that he liveth.” Who can this be but Jesus Christ Himself?

    3) He must be Christ because He is “like unto the Son of God” (Hebrews 7:3). Though many teachers use this as a proof that Melchizedek was not Jesus Christ, it does the very opposite. It is a strong argument that the two are the same.

    An almost identical phrase is used one other time in scripture. It occurs when Nebuchadnezzar says of the fourth man in the fiery furnace that “the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25). The term “like” is used to remind us that this One who appears as a man is also God.

    4) He must be Christ because of His Superiority to Abraham (Hebrews 7:4, 6-7). We see this superiority in the following:
    a. He received tithes of Abraham (Hebrews 7:4, 2; Genesis14:14-17).
    b. He blessed Abraham (Hebrews 7:6-7). According to the argument of this passage, Abraham had the promises (Hebrews 7:6; Galatians 3:16). Then, Melchizedek blessed Abraham (Hebrews 7:6; Genesis 14:19).

    Now while this certainly doesn’t prove anything, I think the case being made in these points is certainly reasonable.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 17, 2006 @ 10:56 pm

  6. Rob: Peleg also would have lived long enough to meet Abraham as an adult.

    The assumed date of Shem’s death was a reason one guy at one of the sites I skimmed today said he didn’t go for the Shem-Melchizedek thing. Besides the date overlap I’m not sure that matching Melchizedek with Peleg does us much good though — we know even less about Peleg than we do about M.

    Clark – Intersting point about the Zohar. I don’t think I’ve put too much emphasis on it here though — just one passing (but interesting) reference from the Wikipedia article.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 17, 2006 @ 11:08 pm

  7. Just a couple of other quotes. This link provides a short rundown of theories on the identitity of Melchizedek:


    1) Some have suggested that he was:
    a. An angel (Origen, Didymus)
    b. Enoch (Husius, Calmet)
    c. Shem (Jerome, Luther)

    2) Others have taken the statements in v.3 to suggest that
    Melchizedek was a “theophany” (a pre-incarnate appearance of
    Christ), for the following reasons:
    a. The name Melchizedek, meaning “king of righteousness” (v.2)
    b. The designation “king of peace” (v.2)
    c. The possibility that the lack of recorded genealogy
    mentioned in v.3 is due to actual lack of ancestors, rather
    than the mere absence of historical record
    d. He is said to remain “a priest continually” (v.3c)
    e. He is contrasted with “mortal men” (v.8a)
    f. Of him “it is witnessed that he lives” (v.8b)

    3) Most take that he was simply a man (note v.4), but because he
    appears suddenly in Scripture as a priest…
    a. With no mention of parentage or genealogy
    b. With no mention of his birth or death
    c. With only a mention of him as a priest of “God Most High”
    …that he is a “type” of Christ, and what His priesthood
    would be like

    Comment by Geoff J — February 17, 2006 @ 11:22 pm

  8. You’re a wild, man, wild!

    Melchizedek = God?

    Sure, why not.

    Comment by Ronan — February 18, 2006 @ 8:54 am

  9. I’m not sure why the date of death of Shem would make the Melchizedek/Shem theory implausible. According to my calculations Shem, who lived to 600, died after Abraham died in spite of their being 9 generations separated!

    Comment by Curtis — February 18, 2006 @ 9:17 am

  10. Hehe. I aim to please, Ronan.

    Curtis – Yeah that seemed like a weak objection about the Shem theory. I was just repeating what some random dude had written at some Christian site. (The bigger problem is the notion that Shem lived for 600 years on this planet — or with the reported ages of the patriarchs in general, IMO)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 18, 2006 @ 9:48 am

  11. John Taylor definitely thought that Melchizedek is Shem (Times and Seasons, December 15, 1844). In the quote he qualified that opinion as reported history instead of revelation.

    But D&C 84:14 definitely throws doubt on the Shem theory.

    But the important thing to know, as stated in the Ensign (Feb. 1998), is that Melchizedek’s people were “translated and taken up into heaven”. This is based on the authority of Bruce R. McConkie, who in turn probably got it from John Taylor’s “The Mediation and Atonement of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”, who got it from Genesis JST, which says Melchizedek’s people “obtained heaven”.

    ALso on the authority of John Taylor’s “The Mediation and Atonement of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (written when was the Prophet), there were many other people in antediluvian times who were translated (see Moses 7:27).

    Also, John Taylor stated that sometime in the last days this gift of translation would come again to the earth (JD, 26, February 12th, 1882):
    “We are told in the Scripture-which is a meagre account of it, that-“Enoch was not, for God took him. And we may add, Enoch’s city and Enoch’s people were not, for God took them; they were translated. The principle of translation was a principle that at that time existed in the Church, and is one of the principles of the Gospel, and which will exist in the last days.”

    He also goes on to say other people in antediluvian times were translated (see Moses 7:27).

    Comment by cadams — February 18, 2006 @ 11:03 am

  12. I am warming up to this one GeoffJ. I’m sure this has been stated somewhere, but changing the name of the higher priesthood from the holy priesthood after the order of the son of God to the Melchizedek priesthood itself shows an equivalent of sorts.

    If this is the case Geoff, why the mild mannered alter ego? Why go by Mechizedek instead of Jehova? To frequent repetition of the name?

    Comment by Eric — February 18, 2006 @ 12:02 pm

  13. While I’m opposed to the allegorizing route Geoff is taking, I should note the obvious that Alma 13 treats him as a historic figure and a type of priesthood. I also think if one thinks of the temple and other places that we become like Christ, and thus Melchezedek guides us there as well. Also Mosiah 13 is pretty significant here as well.

    Comment by Clark — February 18, 2006 @ 9:12 pm

  14. I believe that Shem was Melchizedek (“king of righteousness” -a king and priest). I think Salem was a place (Jerusalem?). I understand D&C 84:14 to mean that the Melchizedek priesthood was conferred by Adam upon his son Seth, upon Enos by Seth, upon Cainan by Enos, upon Mahalalaeel by Cainan, upon Jared by Mahalalaeel, upon Enoch by Jared, upon Methuselah by Enoch, upon Lamech by Methuselah, upon Noah by Lamech, and upon Shem by Noah. Evangelical Christians like the idea that Melchizedek was Christ since they don’t believe in our concept of Melchizedek priesthood. Was Christ a High Priest after the order of himself, or made like unto himself? The JST clarifies the part about being without father, mother, etc. – it shows that it refers to that order of priesthood rather than to Melchizedek himself.

    Comment by James D. — February 18, 2006 @ 10:41 pm

  15. Well it looks like Shem is winning the unofficial poll here so far. But I must admit to being pleased to see out own Eric tossing me a bone on this one (#12). Better watch out Eric, if you give up a literal Melchizedek will Noah be next? ;-)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 18, 2006 @ 11:56 pm

  16. Well, it’s mighty hard for Melchizedech to be the son of an allegory, but it seems plausible.
    Although I must admit, Geoff, that your ideas are seeping in. Today while I was being set apart as nursery leader :-0 the member of the branch presidency said something like,”by the power of the priesthood..” and the branch prez stopped him and whispered, Melchizedech, you forgot to say Melchizedech! the thought of your last post flashed through my head, “yes, by the power of Christ’s priesthood.”

    Comment by meems — February 19, 2006 @ 3:10 am

  17. Geoff, this stuff is really funny!

    I think Noah would have to have been the pre-incarnate Chris Columbus; both built a large boat and sailed in them for extended periods of time.

    Adam was a pre-incarnate Neil Armstrong because both of them walked and talked on new worlds.

    Solomon was a pre-incarnate Henry VIII — both prone to marry a lot.

    Etc. Etc.

    Here’s a shocking hypothesis — Melchizedek was a local Canaanite king (he blessed Abraham in the name of a Canaanite deity, El Elyon) over the city that would one day be called “JeruSALEM” (or maybe Shechem) and Abraham received a blessing from his hand because Abraham felt obligated to pay the spoils of his victory to the local king in effort to avoid trouble akin to his previous troubles with pharoah in Egypt. On second thought, nevermind. That’s too far-fetched.

    Comment by David J — February 19, 2006 @ 4:29 pm

  18. Ummm… Are you trying to be funny or just obnoxious, David J? You are half successful if you were going for both.

    So that hypothesis you suggest is fairly radical from an LDS perspective because it seems to reduce Melchizedek to a rather mundane position in the grand scheme — the opposite of the exalted position modern prophets and apostles have suggested (starting with Joseph Smith). Are you mocking them as well as us? Further, are you really implying that all the scriptures and revelations about Melchizedek are in fact completely wrong and that he was just another yutz to whom Abraham was paying a 10% commission? If so, you are a radical Mormon indeed, David J!

    Comment by Geoff J — February 19, 2006 @ 7:01 pm

  19. There’s an interesting footnote on page 422 of Hyrum Andrus’ book Principles of Perfection that addresses the D&C 84:14 question:

    “…In discussing this issue, students of Joseph Smith’s thought refer to a revelation which states: ‘Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah.’ — D&C 84:14. Depending upon the meaning of the word ’till,’ this statement may suggest that there were “fathers” between Melchizedek and Noah. If so, Shem could not have been Melchizedek. However, Webster’s New International Unabridged Dictionary gives the following as one of the definitions of ’till’: ‘…during the whole time from the starting point up to; up or down to [a specified time].’ Taking this definition of the word ’till’ into consideration, it may be that the above statement should be understood to mean, ‘Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even [from Adam] till Noah.’ This view is supported by the next statement in the revelation which reads: ‘And from Noah till Enoch, through the lineage of their fathers [i.e., the fathers of both Enoch and Noah].’ — D&C 84:15. If this interpretation is correct, it is possible that Shem could have been Melchizedek. The writer is indebted to Dr. Ellis T. Rasmussen of the Brigham Young University and Thomas G. Truitt of the Church Historian’s Library for supplying arguments which support the latter interpretation.” —Principles of Perfection by Hyrum L. Andrus, Bookcraft, SLC 1970, p. 422.

    Also I thought it was interesting that Abel is mentioned in D&C 84:16 in connection with the priesthood of people from Seth’s line, because I had assumed that they had all been ordained by their fathers. Abel must’ve ordained one of his nephews before he was slain.

    Comment by James D. — February 20, 2006 @ 2:52 am

  20. Geoff,

    I’ve been thinking of why I am finding it easier to accept this possibility than the others. For me Melchizedek has always been a mysterious figure, one that it seems we were intended to draw parallels between him and Christ. It seems a baby step to consider this a literal thing (Melchizedek being Christ).

    As for Noah and/or Adam I have too much baggage to make what I consider a giant leap of considering them symbolic. To many details and secondary teachings to throw out for me.

    Comment by Eric — February 20, 2006 @ 6:39 am

  21. James D,

    The iterpretation would not seem to make much sense if we used the word “till” to go back clear to Adam everytime it is used. I like the approach however. The logic seems to point to not making the shoe fit but to seeing who can fit the shoe. There is one piece of evidence that is quite interesting.

    The geneologies of Noah through Shem until Abraham imply that all of these fathers died after a certain age including Shem. On the other hand Melchizedek is seen as not seeing death but being of the type who are so Holy they are Translated. Now if this be the case, one could argue that Melichizedik was not Shem or any of those mentioned in the geneologies in genesis until Abraham.

    Comment by Rob Osborn — February 20, 2006 @ 10:24 am

  22. radical Mormon

    Thank you, Geoff. I’m not calling anybody stupid. I am saying that the lines of similarity between Melchizedek and other Biblical noteworthies are close, but to take the extra step and actually equate Melchizedek with those others is… interesting.

    Are you mocking them as well as us?

    Not mocking anyone. Just being silly, that’s all. I’m Joseph Smith’s biggest fan.

    Comment by David J — February 20, 2006 @ 12:17 pm

  23. Geoff J: but to take the extra step and actually equate Melchizedek with those others is… interesting.

    You’re still feeling snide I see. If the alternative you provide in #17 is the best you have then I can’t imagine what you have to be snide about. Or, in (Mormon PG-rated) gorilla dunkball smack talk terms — “Is that all you got?? Don’t bring that weak stuff ’round here!” ;-)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 20, 2006 @ 12:28 pm

  24. is that all you got??

    Well, the Biblical/archaeo-historical model (#17) is my favorite, but as you pointed out above, I’m responsible for dealing with what “modern prophets and apostles” have said about it because, after all, I am a Mormon. But I like that you recognize that the secularized version is a stretch–first I’ve ever heard of that!

    So, I would probably sit in the middle on this one then (since you asked me where I really am on this). No, he’s not a pre-incarnate incarnated being (proto-Jesus or what have you), the evidence for that is lacking, and it would create doctrinal problems, but he is a spiritual and religious figure which gets LOTS of attention in the Talmud and related literature, which tells you something (that ancient Jews really liked him, for whatever reason). Bottom line: the best I can bring is that he was an important (spiritual?) leader of Canaan who would later be the subject of intense adoration and speculation in Jewish lore (and Mormon too). I don’t think any rational mind could negate the minimalist response.

    Does that work?

    Man, this seriousness stuff requires a lot of work. I don’t know how you guys do it all the time. ;)

    Comment by David J — February 20, 2006 @ 12:54 pm

  25. Yeah that works. It’s nice to see a solid vote for the third option I outlined in the last paragraph of the post.

    I don’t know how you guys do it all the time.

    Hehe. Well, sticking with the hoops analogy, we’re the theological equivalent of gym rats or street ballers around here. If you play all the time and your stamina increases…

    Comment by Geoff J — February 20, 2006 @ 1:17 pm

  26. David J’s model in #17 is the one that conforms best to the scholarship, IMO. The invocation of El Elyon is the clincher. So, I’m gonna have to support my Bible buddy here….

    …but, that doesn’t totally explain the prominence of Melchizedek in later tradition. Then again, minor historical characters can achieve historical acclaim beyond their due sometimes (Tutankhamun?)

    Comment by Ronan — February 20, 2006 @ 1:22 pm

  27. The best explanation I’ve seen so far is post #19: connecting the meaning of the word ’till’ to D&C :14-15. Thanks for the quote!

    Comment by cadams — February 20, 2006 @ 1:46 pm

  28. Thanks Ronan. Alright, then here’s another thought I think is worth exploring: Maybe we’ll find that Abraham received the priesthood directly through Christ (perhaps in experiences similar to the visitations Joseph Smith or the Brother of Jared had in scriptures) and that experience was later conflated in the traditions with Abraham’s experience with a rather mundane king of Salem. The hitch there is still the modern revelations that don’t jibe with it, of course.

    I’ll post later on why I think God could have allowed Joseph to hold some incorrect (albeit popular) historical/theological assumptions along the way and only disabused him of them incrementally over time — line upon line and precept upon precept. If that is the case then the conflation of Christ and a mundane king of Salem theory would be a viable candidate to explain what is going on with Melchizedek too.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 20, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

  29. Rob Osborn (#21),

    Good point about Shem’s life span in Genesis Chap. 11. Of course Moses is supposed to have died according to Deut. 34:5-7, but we know he was translated (Alma 45:19)and later appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration in bodily form to restore priesthood keys. Adam is also said to have died, but that doesn’t seem to hinder some from believing in Adam-God ideas.

    Comment by James D. — February 20, 2006 @ 8:52 pm

  30. I wonder why none of our latter day prophets have been translated? interesting, especially if they have that calling of the great high priest.

    Comment by Rob Osborn — February 20, 2006 @ 10:46 pm

  31. RE post #17:
    A few months ago, I attended a fireside by the LDS Genesis Group and the speaker, former president Darius Gray, presented the many influences of black peoples in the Bible. One of the suggestions he made was that Melchizedek, living in the land of Canaan, quite possibly was a black man. Some of us thought that was an interesting idea; others were extremely bothered by it.

    Comment by BrianJ — February 21, 2006 @ 7:42 am

  32. BrianJ,

    Believe me, it doesn’t take much speculation to get lots of Mormons extremely bothered.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 21, 2006 @ 8:47 am

  33. I’ve done a little more homework on this. Couple of things that stood out:

    1. Gen. 14:18-20 could be construed as what Biblical experts call “intercalation.” Intercalation is when a text is inserted into another text, but neither text is modified outside of the new intrusion. The proof for this shows itself if one removes vs. 18-20. In the Hebrew, if one reads Gen. 14 without these verses, the text reads seamlessly, without disruption in meaning and thought flow of the original author. This could indicate a later scribal addition to the original text. Too bad, because these verses are present at Qumran….

    2. However, the Qumranites also mythologized and created their own Melchizedek traditions, utilizing the familiar pesher form of exegesis concomitant with Qumran writings. Since they claimed a Zadokite priesthood tradition (you can see the Hebrew word for “righteousness,” zedek, in both names) Melchizedek logically plays a role in that. So, the big question which Ronan raised above…

    3. Nobody knows for sure, but the most sound reason I could find for the mythologization and quasi-deification of the Melchizedek tradition (which, incidentally, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews also picks up) is not because of anything inherent in the person of Melchizedek per se, but rather because of the place of Abraham in Jewish tradition. For those who don’t know, Abraham is pretty much where the story of Israel begins (the first to receive the covenant from Yahweh). Because of Abe’s prominance as the “father” (read: patriarch) of Judaism, anything that comes to him, by him, or about him naturally receives (talmudic) attention. That said, the ancient commentators most likely viewed Melchizedek, according to biblical experts, as the regal authority who sanctioned Abraham’s presence in the land (Canaan), which again, is central to Jewish hope (even to today). So the best hypothesis I could find, and the one which I think best responds to the question posed by Ronan (et al), is that Melch. gets a load of attention in Jewish commentary because he accepted Abraham’s booty which thereby allowed Abe to peacefully dwell in Canaan.

    4. This takes us back to the purported intercalation. Peaceably dwelling in Canaan is important, at first, so that the Israelites lay claim to Canaan (via Abraham) without having to defer to the conquest narratives (book of Joshua) as their reason for dwelling in the land. So the ancient scribe who stuck the Melchizedek verses into Genesis 14 did so in order to show that Israel’s claim upon the land was not necessarily made by military force, but rather through mutual agreement. Only later did Israel have to “re-take” the land via violent means. And the argument over the occupation of the land rages to today.

    Does any of this make sense?

    Comment by David J — February 21, 2006 @ 8:51 am

  34. David J,

    Love it. LOVE IT. Thanks for chipping in with some of your expertise here.

    Ok, so this info again points toward the idea I hinted at in #28 — namely that Melchizedek himself might have been just a local king and that Abraham may have received the priesthood directly from a heavenly visitor (as did Joseph Smith) but that those two events became melded into one in the ancient traditions.

    The monkey wrench is that Joseph Smith assumed the ancient traditions were accurate (they are in the Bible after all) so when he prophesied and received revelations related to Melchizedek that assumption was retained. The obstacle that remains then is defending the notion that God would still give Joseph real revelations about the priesthood even if Joseph clung to inaccurate assumptions and traditions about Melchizedek. I’ll post on that subject this week.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 21, 2006 @ 10:32 am

  35. Regarding #29, with Adam’s ‘death’, I’ve assumed the word to have different meanings: for example, ‘death’ to a translated being is different than it would be for a regular mortal. One goes six feet under or becomes shark bait; the other changes in the twinkle of an eye.

    Death seems to also have other meanings too, like spiritually and temporally. I think overall death can mean to move from one state of existence to another.

    Regarding Melchizedek and translation, I found John Taylor’s “Mediation and Atonement” online at Here’s first the relevant JST verses about translation, then Pres. Taylor’s comments about Melchizedek and his people:

    (1) “And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven. And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken; separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter-days, or the end of the world, and hath said, and sworn with an oath, that the heavens and the earth should come together; and the sons of God should be tried so as by fire. And this Melchizedek, having thus established righteousness, was called the king of heaven by his people, or, in other words, the King of peace.”

    (2) “From the above it would seem that this people possessed the power of Translation, and that they ‘obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken,’ or which was before translated.”

    Comment by cadams — February 21, 2006 @ 3:49 pm

  36. Geoff,

    It seems like in comment #34 you’re doubting the accuracy of Joseph Smith’s revelations regarding Melchizedek. Am I understanding you right? Why not seek your own revelation from God about Melchizedek, or about the meaning of a particular scriptural passage, or about the accuracy of Joseph’s revelations?

    Comment by James D. — February 22, 2006 @ 12:39 am

  37. Geoff,

    You’re welcome. The only real question for me is, “Where/when did the priesthood ordination thing come into the picture?” Genesis 14 says nothing of priesthood. Indeed Abraham is blessed of Melch, but that does not necessarily carry with it any form of priesthood ordination. I wonder where JS would have picked that up (revelation?).

    That said, the priesthood in the OT isn’t something that’s “conferred” upon people. It’s patrilineal, which means that one is born with it. Only when the gospel began to go to gentiles (via Paul and to some extent Peter) did they have to come up with a way to include us (yes, I’m gentile!) into the “fold,” and that was by conferral. BUT, if Abraham wasn’t born with it (being from southern Mesopotamia this is likely), then he had to get it from somewhere, and Melch. is a pretty good source, according to the text. Again, this may be yet another reason why the ancient scribe put the intercalation there to begin with (which brings our count of reasons why that was put there up to two).

    James D. — Joseph got a few things wrong in his lifetime (he wasn’t perfect). For example his take on the biblical word “elohim” is text-book of this. It doesn’t mean what he said it meant in Genesis 1, and requires a lot of textual emendation and/or hermeneutical acrobatics to arrive at his conclusions. That said, I like his conclusions, I just don’t like that he had to get there by misreading the Hebrew in Genesis 1.

    Comment by David J — February 22, 2006 @ 7:00 am

  38. Yeah, good points again David. I hope to get that follow up post up by tomorrow.

    James – What specific revelations are you talking about? In general what I am saying is that Joseph was not infallible and that he learned the same ways that all of us do; line upon line and precept upon precept. Even Jesus Christ himself followed this pattern in mortality. That means it is not unlikely that he held some incorrect assumptions even as truth was being revealed to him on occasions. I don’t question the revealed truth, but I do question some of the preconceptions he might have had. Jsseph himself readily stated that he was constantly discarding former assumptions as he gained greater light and truth. That is what I will post on as a follow up.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 22, 2006 @ 9:48 am

  39. David J.,

    “I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught.” -Joseph Smith (TPJS p. 368)

    Do you agree?

    In regard to the King Follett Discourse, rosh sheeth bara elohim, and all that, I believe that Joseph mentioned that there was some uninspired emendation (i.e. addition of the “bet”) and implied that there was more.

    Geoff J.,

    You mentioned “revelations related to Melchizedek” and I’m not sure which ones that you referred to, but it sounded like you were saying that they were based on some erroneous belief or another.

    Comment by James D. — February 22, 2006 @ 4:52 pm

  40. Do you agree?

    Yes, only tacitly. Again, I think the revelation or theology he obtained is correct, I just don’t think the Hebrew of Genesis 1 shows it like he thinks it does (cf. my last sentence in #37). Does that make sense? I’m totally down and in love with the doctrine he puts out in that speech (KFD, right?), but I’m just a bit queesy with his take on that portion of scripture (and his take on “elohim” in general). I wince a lot during the endowment.

    mentioned that there was some uninspired emendation (i.e. addition of the “bet”) and implied that there was more.

    Indeed he did mention that. The only problem is that there’s no proof for it. We have no textual variants to compare with on that. The engine which drives biblical textual criticism is textual variants between the manuscripts. I suspect he and Joshua Seixas got into it one evening, and Seixas whipped out Rashi on him or something, and he got a lot of his take on Genesis 1 from him (Rashi via Seixas), or at least went to God with what he learned from Seixas and got his revelation on the “bet” preposition and all that from there. But he paints it up like there’s a bona-fide textual variant out there that backs him up, and to this day, we don’t have one that does. Again, it may have been revealed to him, we just don’t have proof for this on paper (or parchment, or papyrus, or plates, or tablets, etc.), which seems to be the gist of his remarks.

    Comment by David J — February 23, 2006 @ 12:04 am

  41. Or maybe it was Alexander Neibaur who could’ve whipped out Rashi, since Seixas only taught Joseph Jan. to Mar. 1836.

    Comment by James D. — February 23, 2006 @ 8:53 am

  42. I have somewhat to say concerning these things:

    Book of the Cave of the Treasures:
    “Give ye me Melchisedek [Fol. 21a, col. 1], that he may go up with me, and be a consolation for me on the road.” And Mâlâkh and Yôzadhâk, his mother, said unto Shem, “Take [him] and go in peace.”

    [NOTES.–The Book of the Bee devotes a chapter (xxi) to Melchisedek, and says that neither the father nor mother of this Melchisedek were written down in the genealogies; not that he had no natural parents, but that they were not written down. The greater number of the p. 128 doctors say that he was of the sect of Canaan, whom Noah cursed. In the Book of Chronography, however (the author), affirms and says that he was of the seed of Shem, the son of Noah. Shem begot Arphaxar, Arphaxar begot Cainan, and Cainan begot Shâlâh and Mâlâh. Shâlâh was written down in the genealogies; but Mâlâh was not, because his affairs were not sufficiently important to be written down in the genealogies. The Book of Adam (iii. 16) says that Cainan was the father of Melchisedek, and that the Angel of the Face, or Michael, appeared to him, and told him that he was going to send away his son from him. This same angel also appeared to Melchisedek and told him to go with Shem, and to minister before the body of Adam in the centre of the earth, and also to Shem….]

    (Click here to read)

    The Practical Mormon

    Comment by The Practical Mormon — February 25, 2006 @ 2:03 pm

  43. In order to avoid too frequent repetition of his name, we’re going to use his older and more original name? I’m not sure ;-)

    And I thought I was speculative!

    Comment by Jeff Day — May 27, 2006 @ 1:14 am

  44. I think the idea that Melchizedek was the pre-mortal Christ is ridiculously untenable. What do we know about him from the scriptures?

    1. He was the King of Salem
    2. Abraham paid tithes to him
    3. Abraham received the priesthood from him
    4. Paul considered Melchizedek to be a type or foreshadowing of Christ
    5. Melchizedek held a higher priesthood than Levi
    6. Melchizedek was a great high priest
    7. Melchizedek had his name attached to the high priesthood to avoid too frequent repetition of the phrase “the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God”

    King of Salem who accepts tithes sounds like a mortal to me.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 27, 2006 @ 1:41 am

  45. There are a number of traditions and information through various early sources. First, Melchizedek was a Canaanite priest and king. The word Melchizedek means, “Amy king is righteousness,” and Salem, “peace.” He blessed Abraham in the name of a Canaanite God, EL. EL was known as the Father of the gods, the father of mankind, the Bull, and the Creator of creatures. – He was a Pagan God. The Hebrew translation was Most High” – Hebrew El Elyon, well-known as a Canaanite deity.
    Being a Canaanite, he was probably black.

    In Gnostic and Kabbalistic texts (Book of Enoch, Gospel of St. Thomas, and several Nag Hammadi texts) he was a mystic who taught Abraham Magic. He was not Christ, but was the incarnation of one of the arch- angels. This mysticism and magic was originally given to Adam, but it was subsequently lost. It was given to Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham and Moses.

    The tithe paid was the normal booty paid by a conqueror to the king over an area. This was paid when Abraham displaced the people living in the area in order to settle his people. A standard practice in that area of the world at that time.

    Joseph Smith studied Kabbalism while in Nauvoo with Alexander Niebaur. Alexander Niebaur wrote two extensive articles on Kabbalism and Jewish Mysticism for the Times and Seasons newspaper in Nauvoo and presented them as Judaism, however the quotes he used were from known Kabbalah texts(at least 15 texts positively identified). Please note this was considered mysticism, magic and Christian practicioners were considered heritics. Niebaur was an ancestor of Hugh Nibley for those who are interested.

    Other Kabbalah teachings include:
    *Jesus was married
    *Man may become Gods
    *Degrees of Glory
    *Robes of the Priesthood

    Lost of recognized sources in this. I will answer any questions on the information. There are a number of good books on this subject.

    Comment by Jim Huston — August 7, 2006 @ 7:06 am

  46. Interesting comments Jim. I’ll have to dig deeper into my understanding of Kabbalah.

    BTW – was that “Amy” you wrote supposed to be “Any” or “My” or something else?

    Comment by Geoff J — August 7, 2006 @ 8:39 am

  47. hello

    Comment by john — August 14, 2006 @ 6:46 am

  48. Hey People,

    Melchizedek is a one Machiventa Melchizedek, He was an emergency Son.

    Revealed truth was threatened with extinction during the millenniums which followed the miscarriage of the Adamic mission. Though making progress intellectually, the human races were slowly losing ground spiritually. About 3000 B.C. the concept of God had grown very hazy in the minds of men.

    93:2.1 It was 1,973 years before the birth of Jesus that Machiventa was bestowed upon the human races of Urantia. His coming was unspectacular; his materialization was not witnessed by human eyes. He was first observed by mortal man on that eventful day when he entered the tent of Amdon, a Chaldean herder of Sumerian extraction. And the proclamation of his mission was embodied in the simple statement which he made to this shepherd, “I am Melchizedek, priest of El Elyon, the Most High, the one and only God.”

    93:2.2 When the herder had recovered from his astonishment, and after he had plied this stranger with many questions, he asked Melchizedek to sup with him, and this was the first time in his long universe career that Machiventa had partaken of material food, the nourishment which was to sustain him throughout his ninety-four years of life as a material being.

    93:2.3 And that night, as they talked out under the stars, Melchizedek began his mission of the revelation of the truth of the reality of God when, with a sweep of his arm, he turned to Amdon, saying, “El Elyon, the Most High, is the divine creator of the stars of the firmament and even of this very earth on which we live, and he is also the supreme God of heaven.”

    You dont have to believe me, It’s just my opinion.
    I have to say that Mel is definately NOT Shem, and he is not pre-mortal Christ. Please also remember that the reason why Melchizidek is written about as being King of Salem, and all other such titles of grandeur is because he was believed to be a God by the primitives like Abraham.
    Dont get me wrong, he deserved alot of the titles, but he was not the Universe Father.

    Hope this helps some people out there honestly seeking for answers, without biased and prejudice.


    Comment by Jay — September 30, 2006 @ 4:04 am

  49. Have you seen the references to King Melchizedek of Salem in Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”? Interesting book to re-read.

    Comment by Antonia Stuart-James — November 27, 2007 @ 5:27 am

  50. It seems that many here spend so much time studying other texts and trying to dream up their own ideas, that they forget to refer back to the scriptures they quote from… Both the D&C and BoM Alma accounts of Melchizedek refer to him as an actual person with a history and struggles and achievements worthy of note with lineage, etc. Go back and read the entire section 84 and Alma 13.

    There is a really good article on who Melchizedek was at from an ensign by Dennis A. Wright, “‘None Were Greater’: A Restoration View of Melchizedek,” Ensign, Feb 1998, 30:

    As to whether or not he was Shem… I guess we’ll never know, but would go for Shem’s son or grandson…

    Comment by Ryan — May 2, 2010 @ 10:27 pm

  51. Oh and also review what abraham desires and how that relates to this topic–Abr 1:1-5. Also along with D&C 84 and Alma 13 we need to look at the JST of Genesis where it talks about Melchizedek’s life…

    I don’t see how most of the arguments on this post hold water… A few good points were made and a few interesting texts and excerpts that I hadn’t read before like 48 from Jay, but 50 by ron, for example, didn’t make sense to me at all.

    Finally, in comment 40 and others like it–it’s suggested that things taught by Joseph Smith are not necessarily reliable because we don’t have comparable documents…. While I’ll admit that Joseph was mortal and prone to mistakes, I still believe he was a prophet of God and able to recieve accurate and correct revelations. The JST and Pearl of Great Price, for example, add information either included or intended in the original text that was lost or forgotten durring subsequent translations and copies… The Book of Mormon for one doesn’t have ANY copies to compare to…

    I would rather trust the speculations and mistakes of a Prophet of God who saw, talked to and spent time with God, translated and ressurected beings of the actual times and events we are speculating about than any speculation or doubly documented and proven ideas of any scholar now living–no matter how well read or educated.

    Comment by Ryan — May 2, 2010 @ 10:57 pm

  52. but 50 by ron, for example, didn’t make sense to me at all

    Good point. I just deleted it. It looked like crazy-talk spam to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 3, 2010 @ 10:08 am

  53. It’s definitley jesus. have u read any of the nag hamadi library. i’m not really sure wich one of the books, but it does speak of it. it states that crist came down three times.

    Comment by LA VERNE — August 10, 2010 @ 1:58 am


    Melchizede was an immortal created by God, to forever be the highest priest of God. At this state, he can enter and leave dimensions at will, he is not limited to barriers humans are used to…he is incomprehendable just like God. Simple.

    Comment by Arash — October 23, 2010 @ 7:49 am

  55. I love how many wackos this thread attracts.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 23, 2010 @ 10:06 am