Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/187

This page needs to be proofread.




In the Epistle to the Hebrews the t.ypical character of Melcliisedech and its Messianic import are fully ex- plained. Christ is "a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech " (Heb., vii, 6; Ps., cix, 4); "a high priest forever", etc. (Heb., vi, 20), 'm^lvy, i. e. order or manner (Gesenius), not after the manner of Aaron. The ,\postle develops his teaching in Heb., vii : Melchisedech was a type by reason (a) of his twofold dignity as priest and king, (b) by reason of his name, "king of justice", (c) by reason of the city over which he ruled, " King of Salem, that is, king of peace " (v. 2), and also (d) because he "without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but likened unto the Son of God, continueth a priest forever" (v. 8). The silence of Scripture about the facts of Melchisedech 's birth and death was a part of the divine plan to make him prefigure more strikingly the mysteries of Christ's gen- eration, the eternity of His priesthood. Abraham, patriarch and father of nations, paid tithes to Melcliise- dech and received his blessing. This was all the more remarkable since the priest-king was a stranger, to whom he was not bound to pay tithes, as were the chil- dren of Israel to the priests of the Aaronic line. Abra- ham, therefore, and Levi "in the loins of his father" (Heb. vii, 9), by acknowledging his superiority as a type of Christ (for personally he was not greater than Abraham), thereby confessed the excellence of Christ's priesthood. Neither can it be fairly objected that Christ was in the loins of Abraham as Levi was, and paid tithes to Melchisedech; for, though descended from Abraham, he had no human father, but was con- ceived of the Holy Ghost. In the history of Melchise- dech St. Paul says nothing about the bread and wine which the "priest of the most High" offered, and on account of which his name is placed in the Canon of the Mass. The scope of the Apostle accounts for this; for he wishes to show that the priesthood of Christ was in dignity and duration superior to that of Aaron, and therefore, since it is not what Melchisedech offered, but rather the other circumstances of his priesthood which belonged to the theme, they alone are mentioned.

McEvlLLY, An Expos, of tlie Eps. of St. Paul (Heb., vii); Pl- CONlo. 7'ripiex Expositw (Heb., vii); Hoonacker, he Sacerdoce Levitique (1899), 281-287; Hastings, Did. of the Bible, s. v.; Rabbinic references in Jew. Ency., s. v.; St. Thomas, III, Q. xxii, a. 6; Hommel, The Ancient Heb. Tradition (tr. from the Ger., 1897), 146. JoHN J. TiEHNEY.

Melchisedechians, a branch of the Monarchians, founded by Theodotus the banker. (See Monahch- lANs.) Another quite distinct sect or party is refuted by Marcus Eremita, who seems to have been a disciple of St. John Chrj'sostom. His book Ei's rdv MeXxureS^K, or according to Photius "Against the Melchisedek- ites" (P. G., Ixv, 1117). speaks of these new teachers as making Melchisedech an incarnation of the Logos. They were anathematized by the bishops, but would not cease to preach. They seem to have been other- wise orthodo.x. St. Jerome (Ep. 73) refutes an anony- mous work which itlentified Melchisedech with the Holy Ghost. About A. d. 600, Timotheus, Presbyter of Constantinople, in his liook " De receptione Hcereticn- rum" (Cotelier, "Monumenta eccle8. Grsca", III, 392; P. G., LXXXVI, 34), adds at the end of his of heretics who need rebaptism the Melchisedechians, "now called Athingani" (Intangibles). They live in Phrygia, and are neither Hebrews nor Gentiles. They keep the Sabbath, but are not circumcised. They will not touch any man. If food is offered to them, they ask for it to be placed on the ground; then they come and take it. They give to others with the same precautions. Nothing more is known of this curious sect.

For the Monarchian Melchisedechians the ancient authorities are Pseudo-Tertuluan, Prcescript., liii; Philastrius, H(Er., Ui; Epiphanius, Hcbt., Iv; Adgustine, Hcer., xxxiv; PR.«r)Es- TiNATDS, Hixr., xxxiv; Theodoret, H(Er. Fab., II, vi. Alsosee KuNZE. Marcus Eremita (Leipzig, 1896) ; Idem in Realencycl., 8. v. (See Monarchians.) John Chapman.

Melchites (Melkites). I. Origin and Name. — Melchites are the people in Syria, Palestine, and Egypt who remained faithful to the Council of Chalcedon (451) when the greater part turned Moiiophysite. The original meaning of the name therefore is an oppo- sition to Monophysism. The Nestorians had their communities in eastern Syria till the Emperor Zeno (474-491) closed their school at Ede.ssa in 489, and drove them over the frontier into Persia. The people of western Syria, Palestine, and Egypt were either Melchites who accepted Chalcedon, or Monophysites (called also Jacobites in Syria and Palestine, Copts in Egypt) who rejected it, till the Monothelete heresy in the seventh century further complicated the situation. But Melchit« remained the name for those who were faithful to the great Church, Catholic and Orthodox, till the Schism of Photius (867) and Cerularius (1054) again divided them. From that time there have been two kinds of Melchites in these countries, the Catholic Melchites who kept the communion of Rome, and schismatical ("Orthodox") Melchites who fol- lowed Constantinople and the great mass of eastern Christians into schism. Although the name has been and still is occasionally used for both these groups, it is now commonly applied only to the Catholic Uniates. For the sake of clearness it is better to keep to this use ; the name "Orthodox" is sufficient for the others, whereas among the many groups of Catholics, Latin . and Uniate, of various rites, we need a special name for this group. It would be, indeed, still more convenient if we could call all Uniates of the Byzantine rite Mel- chites. But such a use of the word has never ob- tained. One could not with any propriety call Ru- thenians, the Uniates of southern Italy or Rumania, Melchites. One must therefore keep the name for those of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, all of whom speak -Arabic.

We define a Melchite then as any Christian of these lands in communion with Rome, Constantinople, and the great Church of the Empire before the Photian schism, or as a Christian of the Byzantine Rite in communion with Rome since. As the word implied opposition to the Monophysites originally, so it now marks the distinction between these people and all schismatics on the one hand, between them and Latins or Uniates of other rites (Maronites, Armenians, Sy- rians, etc.) on the other. The name is easily ex- plained philologically. It is a Semitic (presumably Syriac) root with a Greek ending, meaning imperialist. Melk is Syriac for king (Heb. mclck, .\rab. malik). The word is used in all the Semitic languages for the Roman Emperor, like the Greek ^airiXevs. By adding the Greek ending-i-rTjs we have the form iieXKlT-n^, equal to /SaffiXiKis. It should be noted that the third radical of the Semitic root is kaf: there is no guttural. Therefore the correct form of the word is Melkile, rather than the usual form Melchite. The pure Syriac word is malkoyo (Arab, malakiyyu; vulgar, milkiyiju).

II. Hlstory before the Schism. — The decrees of the Fourth General Council (Chalcedon, 451) were unpopular in Syria and still more in Egypt. Mono- physism began as an exaggeration of the teaching of St. Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444), the Egyptian national hero, against Nestorius. In the Council of Chalcedon the Egyptians and their friends in Syria saw a betrayal of Cyril, a concession to Nestorianism. Still more did national, anti-imperial feeling cause opposition to it. The Emperor Marcian (450-457) made the Faith of Chalcedon the law of the empire. Laws passed on 27 February and again on 13 March, 452, enforced the decrees of the council and threatened heavy penalties against dissenters. From that time Dyophysism was the religion of the court, identified with loyalty to the emperor. In spite of the compromising concessions of later emperors, the Faith of Chalcedon was always looked upon as the religion of the state, demanded and enforced on all subjects of Ca)sar So the long-smoul-