Messianic jews, Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. This Malki-Tzedek, king of Shalem, a cohen of God Ha‘Elyon, met Avraham on his way back from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him.
2. also Avraham gave him a tenth of everything (Genesis 14:17–20). Now first of all, by translation of his name, he is “king of righteousness”; and then he is also king of Shalem, which means “king of peace.”
Shalem — akin in Hebrew to the word shalem, which means not only "peace" but also "health, integrity, wholeness" (see Mt 10:12N) — is the city of Jerusalem. This is clear both from Psalm 76:3(2), where parallel lines of poetry identify Shalem (Salem) with Zion, and from traditional Jewish sources.
King of peace. In Isaiah 9:5-6(6-7), one of the most important Tanakh prophecies of the Messiah (see Lk 1:79N), he is called "prince of peace" (sar-shalom).
3. There is no record of his father, mother, ancestry, birth or death; rather, like the Son of God, he continues as a cohen for all time.
Not that Malki-Tzedek had no father, mother, ancestry, birth or death, hut that the Tanakh contains no record of them. This fact enables the author to develop the midrash that Malki-Tzedek continues as a cohen for all time, like the Son of God, Yeshua, who had no human father (Mt 1:18-25) and who existed as the Word before his birth (Yn 1:1, 14) and continues to exist after his death. The midrash may be stated thus: the Tanakh presents Malki-Tzedek in no other way than as ;i cohen; and since the Tanakh is eternally true, Malki-Tzedek's existence as a cohen may be thought of as eternal. Such mi'drcw/i-making is altogether Jewish in character; so thai it is irrelevant to point out, as do literal-minded critics, that Malki-Tzedek surely was born of parents and died like other men.
Traditional Jewish identification of Malki-Tzedek as a son of Shem (Babylonian Talmud, N'darim 32b) is likewise irrelevant; since the Tanakh is authoritative, while the traditions are not.
Note in passing a parallel the author does not use. presumably because it does not touch on his purpose: the use of bread and wine both by Malki-Tzedek and by Yeshua and all believers in communion (also see 13:11-14N).
4. Just think how great he was! Even the Patriarch Avraham gave him a tenth of the choicest spoils.
Ср. Деят. 20:35: «Больше радости в том, чтобы давать, нежели в том, чтобы получать».
5. Now the descendants of Levi who became cohanim have a commandment in the Torah to take a tenth of the income of the people, that is, from their own brothers, despite the fact that they too are descended from Avraham.
6. But Malki-Tzedek, even though he was not descended from Levi, took a tenth from Avraham. Also, he blessed Avraham, the man who received God’s promises;
7. and it is beyond all dispute that the one who blesses has higher status than the one who receives the blessing.
Compare Ac 20:35, "There is more blessing in giving than in receiving."
8. Moreover, in the case of the cohanim, the tenth is received by men who die; while in the case of Malki-Tzedek, it is received by someone who is testified to be still alive.
9. One might go even further and say that Levi, who himself receives tenths, paid a tenth through Avraham;
10. inasmuch as he was still in his ancestor Avraham’s body when Malki-Tzedek met him.
Yeshua "is to be compared with Malki-Tzedek" (Psalm 110:4, quoted at 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11, 17). He is also "king of Shalcm"; the meanings of both phrases are given correctly in v. 2. Except for Psalm 110 he appears in the Tanakh only at Genesis 14:17-20. The author quotes from that passage before giving a drash on how great he was (v. 4); this drash is a step toward showing how great Yeshua is. See Appendix, p. 934.
11. Therefore, if it had been possible to reach the goal through the system of cohanim derived from Levi (since in connection with it, the people were given the Torah), what need would there have been for another, different kind of cohen, the one spoken of as to be compared with Malki-Tzedek and not to be compared with Aharon?
If it had been possible to reach the goal. Greek teleiosis is often rendered "perfection," but here it means "reaching the goal" of being reconciled with God and able to be eternally in his presence, as Yeshua is now. (The same or a related Greek word appears atv. 19,2:10,5:9,6:1,9:9,10:1,10:14, 11:40, 12:23). In order for sinful human beings to reach this goal, they must indeed become "perfect" by having their sins forgiven by God. The author will later show that this can never come about through the Levitical priesthood but can come about through Yeshua's priesthood.
Some people might suppose that the goal can be reached through the Torah. This is why the author offers as an argument for the possibility of reaching it through the system of cohanim derived from L'vi that in connection with it, the Jewish people were given the Torah. But later, in v. 19, he destroys the validity of this argument by pointing out that "the Torah did not bring anything to the goal." This is the sam point as Sha'ul makes when he observes that mere possession of Torah or legalistic observance of its commandments does not make a person righteous in God's sight. able to enter God's presence; but that "what Torah really does is show people how sinful they are" (Ro 3:20).
These verses show five ways in which Malki-Tzedek is great (v. 4).
(1) He took a tithe of the spoils of battle from Avraham, even though
(a) Avraham was the Patriarch, the father of all the Jews and thus the greatest of them;
(b) Malki-Tzedek had no family connection with Avraham, whereas the Levitical priests receive tithes from their own brothers, from whom support is more naturally to be expected than from non-relatives; and
(c) Malki-Tzedek was not specifically entitled to receive tithes from anyone, whereas the Levitical cohanim have a commandment in the Torah to take a tenth of the income of the people (vv. 4-6a).
The comparison of the Levitical priests with Malki-Tzedek leads later to their comparison with Yeshua.
(2) Malki-Tzedek blessed Avraham, which implies that Malki-Tzedek was greater than Avraham (vv. 6b-7).
(3) The Levitical priests receive tithes even though mortal, whereas Malki-Tzedek is testified to be still alive, that is, the text of the Tanakh does not tell us that he died (v. 8; see v. 3&N).
(4) An ordering of greatness is set forth as follows: Greatest, Malki-Tzedek, who received a tenth from Avraham; second greatest, Avraham, who paid it; third, 1,'vi, who, even though he himself receives tenths, paid a tenth through Avraham, inasmuch as he was still in his ancestor Avraham's body when Malki-Tzedek met him; fourth, L'vi's descendents, the cohanim, who are the ones who actually receive tenths, rather than L'vi; and least, the people of Israel, who pay them (vv. 9-10).
(5) The Jewish people "were given the Torah" (Greek nenomothetitai, see 8:6b&N) in connection with the system of cohanim derived from L'vi. But this system was not the final one, nor was it possible through it to reach the goal of being eternally in God's presence; this will be demonstrated in the next four chapters.
This fact allows the possibility of and, more than that, shows the need for, another, different kind of cohen, to be compared with Malki-Tzedek, a cohen who by implication is greater than the greatest of the Levitical high priests, Aharon.
12. For if the system of cohanim is transformed, there must of necessity occur a transformation of Torah.
This is the only place where the New Testament speaks of a transformation of Torah (Greek nomou metathesis, which the Revised Standard Version renders, "a change in the law"). In Ac 6:14N I observed that the Tanakh itself records at least one change in the Torah, the addition of the festival of Purim; and also that a prominent Jewish tradition speaks of a change in Torah when the Messiah comes. The logical necessity for such a transformation is demonstrated by vv. 11-14; and the Scriptural basis for the transformation is found in Psalm 110:4, quoted at 5:6, 6:20 and v. 17 below.
The context makes it overwhelmingly clear that no change or transformation in Torah is envisioned other than in connection with the priesthood and the sacrificial system. The term "metathesis" implies retention of the basic structure of Torah, with some of its elements rearranged ("transformed"); it does not imply abrogation of either the Torah as a whole or of mitzvot not connected with the priesthood and the sacrificial system. As Yeshua himself said, "Don't think that I have come to abolish the Torah.... I have come not to abolish but to complete" (Mt 5:17&N).
13. The one about whom these things are said belongs to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar;
14. for everyone knows that our Lord arose out of Y’hudah, and that Moshe said nothing about this tribe when he spoke about cohanim.
Our Lord Yeshua the Messiah arose out of the tribe of Y'hudah, since Miryam his mother was a descendent of Y'hudah (if Lk 3:23-33 is her genealogy; see note there), and so was Miryam's husband Yosef (Mt 1:3-16).
15. It becomes even clearer if a “different kind of cohen,” one like Malki-Tzedek, arises,
16. one who became a cohen not by virtue of a rule in the Torah concerning physical descent, but by virtue of the power of an indestructible life.
17. For it is stated, "You are a cohen FOREVER, to be compared with Malki-Tzedek" (Psalm 110:4).
18. Thus, on the one hand, the earlier rule is set aside because of its weakness and inefficacy
19. (for the Torah did not bring anything to the goal); and, on the other hand, a hope of something better is introduced, through which we are drawing near to God.
The Torah did not bring anything to the goal. See v. 11N above.
A second reason for the "transformation of Torah" (v. 12) is thai the Levitical priesthood set up by the Torah in the form that Moses received it from God was based on a rule... concerning physical descent from L' vi's son Gershon in the case of cohanim in general, and from Gershon's great-grandson Aharon in the case of the cohen hagadol. While Pinchas, Aharon's grandson, was given "the covenant of an everlasting priesthood" (Numbers 25:13), Yeshua by himself has an everlasting priesthood by the power of an indestructible life (as suggested midrashically by the life of Malki-Tzedek, v. 3&N). This sets aside the need for a system of passing on the priesthood from generation to generation, as is stated explicitly in vv. 23-25 below.
The contrast between a powerless rule and power itself is restated explicitly in vv. 18-19 and echoed elsewhere in the New Testament, for example, at Ro 8:3ff. and Ga 3:2-5.
20. What is more, God swore an oath. For no oath was sworn in connection with those who become cohanim now;
21. but Yeshua became a cohen by the oath which God swore when he said to him, "Adonai has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a cohen forever" (Psalm 110:4).
Adonai has sworn and will not change his mind. These verses must be read in the light of 6:13-20 (compare Ga 3:15-18).
The author approaches the Tanakh exactly as do the rabbis, singling out each word or phrase of the text of Psalm 110:4 to extract every ounce of significance. Here his attention is on "sworn"; in vv. 15-17, it was on "forever"; in vv. 11-14, on "to be compared with"; and in v. 1-10, on "Malki-Tzedek."
22. Also this shows how much better is the covenant of which Yeshua has become guarantor.
Why the new covenant, of which Yeshua has become guarantor, is superior to the covenant with Moses at Sinai will be explained at 8:5-!3&NN. On "better," see second paragraph of 1:2-3N and last paragraph of 1:4N.
23. Moreover, the present cohanim are many in number, because they are prevented by death from continuing in office.
24. But because he lives forever, his position as cohen does not pass on to someone else;
25. and consequently, he is totally able to deliver those who approach God through him; since he is alive forever and thus forever able to intercede on their behalf.
Isaiah 53:12 prophesies that the servant of Adonai (i.e., the Messiah) will "make intercession for the transgressors"; see 2:16-18&N. Romans 8:34 states that Yeshua is "at the right hand of God... pleading on our behalf; and 1 Yn 2:1 that he is "the Tzaddik" ("the Righteous One"), who "pleads our cause with the Father." Other verses stress Ihe uni ver-sal necessity of approaching God only through him (Yn 14:6, Ac 4:12, I Yn 2:22-23).
Another reason Yeshua is better lhan the Levilical cohanim is that he is alive forever, so that he does not need to be replaced; his position as cohen is permanent, it does not pass on to someone else.
26. This is the kind of cohen gadol that meets our need — holy, without evil, without stain, set apart from sinners and raised higher than the heavens;
27. one who does not have the daily necessity, like the other cohanim g’dolim, of offering up sacrifices first for their own sins and only then for those of the people; because he offered one sacrifice, once and for all, by offering up himself.
28. For the Torah appoints as cohanim g’dolim men who have weakness; but the text which speaks about the swearing of the oath, a text written later than the Torah, appoints a Son who has been brought to the goal forever.
What is more. In vv. 4—10 were given five ways in which Malki-Tzedek is greater than Avraham; in vv. 11-19 the author returned the focus from Malki-Tzedek to Yeshua, as he began to show how what Yeshua has brought is greater than what his predecessors brought. In vv. 20-28 he continues to show more ways in which Yeshua and what he has done is better (v. 22&N) than what has gone before him.
Yet another point of Yeshua's superiority to the Levitical cohanim is that the latter have the daily necessity of offering sacrifices for their own sins, whereas Yeshua offered one sacrifice, once and for all, by offering up himself on behalf of sinners (9:14; Isaiah 53:12). Since he was holy, without evil, without stain, set apart from sinners (Ro 8:3&N), he did not need to make an offering for himself. The sacrificial process, as described in the Torah, emphasizes the need for both the cohen and the offerer to identify with the sacrifice; bul here we see the ultimate identification; it is perfect, hence needs no repetition.
Jewish tradition condemns human sacrifice in the strongest language, recoiling in horror at the primitive notion that an innocent person should be put to death for the sake of an intangible supposed benefit to someone else. But the death of Yeshua breaks this rule by transcending its logic, as is so often the case when the supernatural events of Yeshua invade the natural world. It is true that the sacrifice of a sinful human being would be ineffective in paying even for himself, let alone for others, the just penalty of death which God demands for sin. (Or perhaps one should say that a sinner's own death does pay the just penalty for his own sin but still fails to restore him to fellowship with God in the 'olam haba; that is, to use the language of Ro 6:9, death has eternal authority over the sinner.) God indicates this by specifying that sacrifices must be "without blemish" (the phrase appears 29 times in Leviticus and Numbers). Because the sacrifice of a sinful human being would not meet this criterion it would be ineffective, hence pointless, and therefore all the more repugnant. But the sacrifice of Yeshua, since he was sinless, first, was not needed for himself at all ("death has no authority over him," Ro 6:9), and, second, was effective for others, since he was a sacrifice "without blemish," as the Torah requires. The subject returns in Chapter 9. Finally, the horror of his human sacrifice was negated, indeed reversed and transformed into glory, by his resurrection.
The text which speaks about the swearing of the oath — Psalm 110:4, cited in v. 21 above — was written centuries later than the Torah. Has been brought to the goal. See v. 11 N.
- chapter 1
- chapter 2
- chapter 3
- chapter 4
- chapter 5
- chapter 6
- chapter 7
- chapter 8
- chapter 9
- chapter 10
- chapter 11
- chapter 12
- chapter 13