Misunderstandings about Jesus and Melchizedek

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question: How can Jesus be both a king of the tribe of Judah and a priest of the Order of Melchizedek which is tribe of Levi? Don't both come through the male line? Now, no fudging on an answer saying God can change things.

Answer: You’ve had me scratching my head for a few minutes with this question, but I finally figured out what was bothering me. You created a false dilemma.

You see, your question is based on three purported Bible facts that you got wrong… and this gets both God and me off the hook. As for me, I won’t have to fudge anything, and as for God, he won’t have to change anything… not that he would change anything that’s sealed in his word. But what this means is that I can’t answer your question as you asked it. So instead, I’ll point out the differences between the common understandings of three issues and your personal takes on them.

First, Jesus was not the king of the tribe of Judah denominatively. He was from the tribe of Judah. Indeed, he was the Lion of the tribe of Judah! (Revelation 5:5)… and we need a pause here because I’m not saying that Jesus was not the king of Judah. He was… but there is no saying or special biblical designation to that effect. No one (then or now) calls Jesus the king of the tribe of Judah.

My point here is that his kingship was not restricted to Judah in any way, and your question requires this to be so. Jesus was known as the king of the Jews… not Judah. This is who Pilate considered him to be, and this is who Jesus confirmed himself to be.

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “You have said so,” Jesus replied.” (Mark 15:2, NIV)

Now, because Judah is a subset of “the Jews,” he is technically the king of Judah too… along with the other tribes. It’s just not a thing people would say about him… so, let’s not get the issues mixed up. The fact that Jesus was from the tribe of Judah was critical for him to fulfill the messianic prophecies. But that’s to do with lineage, not rulership. Jesus was the king of the Jews and not the king of Judah per se (Matthew 2:2).

Second, I don’t know where you got the notion that Melchizedek was descended from Levi, and there are two main pieces of evidence why this cannot be true.

First, Melchizedek interfaced with Abram — Levi’s great-grandfather (Genesis 14:18-20) … so, sans time travel, there is no way Melchizedek could be in the Levitical line. A great-grandson cannot sire his own father.. and he his… and he his… because no entity can create itself by causing its own causes. But second, the Bible goes out of its way to tell us that Melchizedek is not a descendant of Levi… either physically or spiritually.

“This man [Melchizedek], however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.” (Hebrews 7:6, NIV, emphasis mine)

Scripture also goes out of its way to tell us that Melchizedek’s ancestry is not known (or should not be considered)… so, how do you know it?

[Said of Melchizedek that he is] “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.” (Hebrews 7:3, NIV)

Now, Melchizedek only shows up in three passages of Scripture, so the contexts of his appearances are pretty well defined. We meet him as he blessed Abram in Genesis 14:18-20, his name is evoked in Psalm 110:4 in a messianic passage and his priesthood is extolled and linked to Jesus’ priesthood in Hebrews 5, 6 and 7… so, I don’t know where you got these ideas, But it will only take a few minutes to look at the biblical data (again?).

Third, although it is true that the Bible usually describes lineage through the male line, it doesn’t always… and this is a good thing. Jesus had no male lineage! So, how did Scripture handle this?

Matthew followed the lineage of Joseph — who was not Jesus’ blood father — but whose lineage was still important because family is important irrespective of blood (Matthew 1:1-17). In Luke, we have Jesus’ lineage through Mary — who was Jesus’ blood relative (Luke 3:23-37) … but who represented a decidedly non-male terminus for Jesus’ lineage. Therefore, although the male lineage is commonly emphasized in the Bible and is important to know, God does not use it exclusively.

So, that’s it for my non-answer. If you feel at all drawn to the logic and comprehensive nature of the Scripture, you might want to review my article An Alternative to Death. You see, God can and does change things… like a guaranteed death sentence into life everlasting… and it’s not fudging on my part when I agree with how he says things will work. Mercy and pardon change death into life, and it’s logical when they do.

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