Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17
Posted by Dim Bulb on December 21, 2016
This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of all of chapter 7. His commentary on today’s reading then follows. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.
ANALYSIS OF HEBREWS CHAPTER 11
The mention of Melchisedech in the last verse of the preceding chapter, affords the Apostle an opportunity of reverting to the subject of his priesthood, from which, after merely alluding to it (chap. 5), he digressed with a view of inspiring the Hebrews with a salutary fear of relapsing into sin, particularly into the hateful crime of apostasy (chap. 6). In the first three verses of this chapter, he points out the mystic relation which Melchisedech bore to Christ, in his name, place of residence, office, and genealogy (1–3).
In the next place, he proves the superiority of the priesthood of Christ over that of Aaron, and grounds this superiority on two circumstances: 1st, on the circumstance of Abraham giving Melchisedech, who was a mere type of Christ, tithes out of all his spoils, both for himself and all his descendants, and consequently, for Levi, who was then in Abraham’s loins, thus acknowledging the superiority of Melchisedech, as priest, over Aaron. The Apostle notes one feature of this decimation on the part of Abraham, as still more expressive of his inferiority; viz., its perfect voluntariety, without the requirement of any law to enforce payment, as in the case of the Levitical tithes. 2ndly, he founds the superiority on the circumstance of Melchisedech blessing Abraham, which the Apostle regards as an undoubted proof of this superiority of the former, as as priest, over the latter (4–10).
The Apostle proves, in the next place, the translation and total abrogation of the priesthood of Aaron. His first argument is founded on the difference of tribe to which he belonged, to whom God promised an eternal priesthood (11–14). His next argument in proof of the translation of the Aaronic priesthood is founded on the difference of the chiefs of both orders (15). His next argument is founded on the difference of the ordination and fundamental rules of both orders (16, 17). The Apostle then assigns the causes of the abrogation of the Levitical priesthood, as also of the entire Mosaic Law (18, 19). He adduces another proof of the superiority of Christ’s priesthood over that of Aaron, grounded on the difference of ceremonies employed by God in the institution of both (21, 22). A further proof of the superiority of Christ’s priesthood is derived from its eternal duration, and its incommunicability, by way of succession, to any other (23, 24). Another proof of the same is derived from the superior qualities of Christ, as Pontiff, over the Jewish High Priests.
Heb 7:1 For this Melchisedech was king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him:
This Melchisedech then (according to whose order Christ was High Priest), was king of the city of Salem, and priest of the Most High God, the same who went out to meet Abraham after the slaughter of the hostile kings (Genesis, 14:17, &c.), and, as Priest, blessed him:
One of the chief grounds on which the false teachers mainly relied, and one of the principal motives artfully advanced by them, for seducing the Hebrew converts from the faith, under the pressure of persecution, was the consideration of the efficacy and permanency of the priesthood of Aaron. Faith, it was alleged, might be an easier mode of obtaining justification; but, it was not indispensable; since, the Patriarchs and just of old had been justified without it, through the aids administered by the different parts of the Mosaic law, and among the rest, by the ministrations of the Aaronic priesthood. The Apostle, therefore, employs the four following chapters in showing the inefficacy, the inferiority, the total abrogation of the Aaronic priesthood and its sacrifices, together with the eternal duration and absolute superiority of the priesthood of Christ and his sacrifice. He devotes the 11th chapter to proving, that it was by faith, and not by the Sacrifices of the Old Law, the Patriarchs and just of old were sanctified.
“For this Melchisedech;” as if he said, I now revert to the subject of Melchisedech’s priesthood, to which I have briefly adverted already (chap 5) “Salem” most probably refers to Jerusalem, of which Melchisedech was king. “Priest of the most high God,” and not of the idols of the Chanaanites. “Who met Abraham,” &c. The Apostle refers to the history recorded, Genesis, 14:17, 18, &c. He dwells on these two circumstances, viz., the giving of tithes, and the receiving a blessing, as expressive of Abraham’s inferiority.
Heb 7:2 To whom also Abraham divided the tithes of all: who first indeed by interpretation is king of justice: and then also king of Salem, that is, king of peace:
To whom Abraham also paid tithes out of all his spoils; this same Melchisedech, looking to the etymology of the term, signifies “king of justice” (a title admirably suited to Christ, his antitype); the words “king of Salem,” also signify “king of peace” (a title equally applicable to Christ).
“Melchisedech” is compounded of Malak, a king, and Sadek, justice. “Salem,” signifies “peace.”
Heb 7:3 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 for ever.
3. Without father, without mother, i.e., neither his father, nor his mother, nor genealogy, is mentioned in SS. Scripture. (Christ has neither a father on earth, nor mother in heaven, and his “genealogy who shall declare?”) Neither have we any account of his birth, nor of his death; hence, he is said to have neither beginning of days nor end of life. Our Lord neither had a beginning nor will he have an end. In all these things, Melchisedech has been a type of the Son of God; but his resemblance to Christ is particularly marked in the eternal duration of his priesthood—respecting the beginning and end of which the Scriptures are equally silent.
It is not difficult to see how, in the etymology of his name, and of the place over which he ruled; in the omission of his genealogy, which was passed over in Scripture for mystical reasons; in the omission of all mention of his birth and death, designed by the Holy Ghost for the purpose of typifying eternity, as well as in the omission of the beginning and end of the exercise of his priesthood, Melchisedech was a figure of Christ; and, as such, assimilated to him. He bore as near a resemblance to Christ, as the type could bear to the thing typified. But it is in the eternal duration of his priesthood, regarding the beginning and end of which the Scripture is silent, that this resemblance is particularly marked.
Heb 7:15 And it is yet far more evident: if according to the similitude of Melchisedech there ariseth another priest,
And this translation of the Aaronic priesthood will become still more evident, if there arise another priest, after the likeness of Melchisedech,
The Apostle founds another argument in favour of the translation of the Jewish priesthood, on the difference of the chiefs, and the fundamental rules of both orders. (The preceding argument is founded on the difference of tribe, from that of Levi). “If, according to the similitude of Melchisedech.” The Apostle uses “similitude,” in preference to “order” of Melchisedech, to show us, that, although according to the Psalmist, Melchisedech was a type of Christ, and Christ a priest, according to his order; still, this consisted merely in the likeness of Melchisedech’s priesthood to that of Christ, the priesthood of Christ being in reality of a more exalted character.
Heb 7:16 Who is made, not according to the law of a law of a carnal commandment, but according to the power of an indissoluble life.
Who is not regulated in his priestly office or power by the rules or law of the carnal mandate, attaching the priesthood to carnal descent and succession; but who is established in the priestly dignity, by the power or efficacy of an immortal life; which excludes the idea of succession.
“Carnal commandment,” according to which the sons of Aaron, by their descent from him, are made priests, one succeeding the other. “According to the power of an indissoluble life,” i.e., by the divine power, which grants him immortal life, excluding all grounds for succession. In these words, is contained an allusion to Melchisedech’s apparent perpetuity (verse 8).
Heb 7:17 For he testifieth: Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.
Now, that there was to arise another priest, or rather the chief of another priesthood different from Aaron, also admitting of no succession, is clear from Psalm 109, wherein he is said to be “a priest according to the order of Melchisedech,” therefore, distinct from Aaron, and “a priest for ever;” therefore, having no successor.
That the chief of this order is different from Aaron, and that there is no succession of chiefs, one to another—one of the fundamental rules of the order of Aaron being, that one high priest was to succeed another when defunct—are both proved from Psalm 109. (vide Paraphrase). This is all true of Christ. He is a priest according to the order of Melchisedech, in the sense already assigned. Melchisedech’s priesthood was a type of his. Secondly, he has no successor, all other priests are only his vicars and the dispensers of his mysteries.