Open main menu

Melchizedek

Connected with Abraham is Melchizedek. This mysterious figure interested many early thinkers, as it did the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and a sect who identified him with the Holy Spirit was either christened or christened itself Melchizedekian. Legend, both Jewish and Christian, was busy with him, identifying him sometimes with Shem, sometimes with a son of Shem, and sometimes finding other pedigrees for him. Though we do not hear from other writers of books specially concerned with him, we have two stories of Melchizedek which almost rank as independent apocrypha. One is in Greek, printed with the works of St. Athanasius, and setting forth that Melchizedek was the son of King Melchi and Queen Salem, and how he was converted to a belief in the true God, and at his prayer his whole kindred was swallowed up in the earth at the moment when his heathen father was about to sacrifice his other son Melchi to idols; how Melchizedek then lived as a solitary on Mount Tabor until Abraham, divinely guided, found him.

The other is a long episode attached in some MSS. to the Slavonic Secrets of Enoch. It will be found, in English, in Dr. Charles's edition, pp. 85–93. It is of great interest. It tells first of the succession of Mathuselam to the priesthood vacated by Enoch, then of his death and the accession of Nir, son of Lamech, and next of the miraculous birth of Melchizedek from Sopanima, wife of Nir. Melchizedek, like the mysterious Child of Rev. xii., is caught away to Paradise forty days after his birth, and thus saved from the Flood. Nir dies, and the priesthood remains vacant. A short account of Noah and the Flood ends the whole. Little attention has hitherto been paid to this story. Both it and the Greek one described above are, in their present form, Christian.