More on Melchizedek and Abraham and More Old Testament Resources

Sorry about the odd title, but I just wanted to post some further musings I had on the hypothesis that Melchizedek, as a translated being, could have been (along with two others) the visitor to Abraham at Mamre. I would also like to alert you to some great resources that I have found to augment your study of the Old Testament.

In my last post, on (LDS) Old Testament Lesson 8, I speculated that perhaps, as a way of mediating the problem of Abraham’s angelic visitors performing physical acts (eating, getting their feet washed), we should consider the possibility that they were translated beings, who, as Joseph Smith taught, could be called as “ministering angels.” I wanted to expound further on this idea.

Before I continue, I would like to add to the discussion the fact, as was recalled to my attention by my friend Pierre Arnaudin, that the author of Hebrews seems to refer to Abraham’s visitors when he says that “some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:2).  If this is indeed one of the episodes he is thinking of, this is quite an authoritative statement that Abraham’s visitors were angels.  We should take into account, however, that the author was likely reading from the Greek, which would have read aggelos in Gen. 19, a word which, as we discussed, does not distinguish between human and divine “messengers.” It is interesting to note that in the LDS edition of the Bible, footnote c (on the word “angels”) to Heb. 13:2 refers readers to the subject “Translated Beings” in the topical guide!

Anyways, as we were studying chapter 18 in Sunday School this last Sunday, it struck me that there were a number of other passages in Gen. 18 that could be seen as supporting this idea that the three visitors, including even the one addressed as the Lord, were translated beings.  First of all, there are the “physical activities” they engage in, that I discussed in my last post: such as letting their feet be washed, eating, etc. These actions are performed only by mortals, translated beings, and resurrected beings — and not by spirits, as the resurrected Jesus informed his apostles (Luke 24:39).

We also have the idea that Abraham seemed to recognize that they were important people, but not (acc. to Heb. 13:2) that they were angels (as in spiritual beings). D&C 129:6–7 indicates that an angel who is a spirit and not a resurrected being can only appear in glory (which would have been clearly recognizable to Abraham) and will not perform physical acts. Therefore, Abraham’s visitors could not be spirits, nor could they be resurrected beings (for reasons discussed in my last post–they were pre-Christ).

This next factor is only speculation, as there could be a number of other explanations for the issue I will discuss. However, the sequence where the “Lord” begins to discuss with Abraham the state of Sodom and Gomorrah does seem to suggest that he is possibly not God.

In Gen. 18:20–21, the Lord says to Abraham:

Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;

21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.

I realize that this could very well be due to the literary style in which this narrative was written, but it does seem here that the Lord has only heard of the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah, and does not know of himself (as one might imagine God would) of the veracity of such claims. He says that he must “go down” to those cities to see if what he has heard is correct. If the speaker is a translated being, such as Melchizedek, this dialogue makes sense — whereas it doesn’t seem fitting for God to say these things.

Directly after this sequence is that of Abraham’s pleading with the Lord to not destroy the cities if fifty, forty-five, thirty, etc., righteous people are found there. Why do Abraham and the Lord go through this process — wouldn’t God be able to tell Abraham exactly how many righteous people there were in the city? We does he have to go see if there are ten good people there, and if there are, he’ll change his mind? Again, this issue may be due to the literary style of the author, but as it stands it is quite peculiar.

One last point on this note — I want to look at Gen. 19:24, where it says:

Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven;

Doesn’t this verse seem to indicate that there was someone on the earth that was called “the Lord” that was not the same as the Lord that was in heaven? Again, I must add that this could be a literary tool used to emphasize the idea that the fire and brimstone were coming from heaven, but otherwise it does seem to speak of two Lords. ((Margaret Barker, in her book The Great Angel, uses this verse (among others) as evidence that there were two Yahwehs–the Father and the Son.)) There seems to be one Lord who calls upon another heavenly Lord to rain fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. This supports the idea that there is an authoritative figure on the earth that the scripture is calling Lord, but his authority and power are only borrowed from the heavenly Lord.

I connect this idea now to our hypothesis that it is possibly Melchizedek (perhaps now a translated being) that is visiting Abraham and being called Lord. Gerald Smith of Joel’s Monastery made the following comment on my last post:

Melchizedek is equated to both El Elyon and Yahweh in ancient tradition (e.g., 11QMelchizedek). Since the mortal Melchizedek represented God, imagine how a translated Melchizedek would equal God!
In his journal, George Laub said that Joseph Smith explained that Enoch’s City was still visible during the time of the Tower, and that Nimrod built the tower to overthrow Heaven/Enoch’s City, and to toss out God – we should realize that the god of Zion was Enoch/Metatron! And when Melchizedek was translated with his people, he also became god incarnate (note the little ‘g’). They both represented El and Yahweh through Divine Investiture, and so when Abraham saw the Lord, he could easily have seen Melchizedek as Lord.

Is it possible that whenever the Lord is mentioned in Gen. 18, we should imagine that it is Melchizedek that is present? Could later bible editors have replaced references to Melchizedek with the name YHWH in these passages (unless YHWH was originally understood here to refer to Melchizedek). As Gerald mentions and as scholars such as Jim Davila and Margaret Barker have argued, Melchizedek was considered an angelic figure and even a god, not only in later Judaism, but likely in the First Temple period as well (perhaps especially in this period). The more I learn about the development of the biblical text, the more convinced I am of the likelihood that later editors could have altered the original text they had to cover up such notions that they didn’t agree with theologically. Thus, an idea such as this–that Melchizedek could have been seen as representing the Lord– is quite unprecedented in the Hebrew Bible, although it does come through in occasional passages such as Ps. 45:6 (where the king seems to referred to as “God”), and Ps. 110 (where the king is addressed as “my Lord”).  The view that the king (including Melchizedek) was the representative of Yahweh, the “presence” of God on earth, is a recognized part of the ancient Israelite kingship ideology.

While some scholars (like Barker), following Christian tradition, see Melchizedek as a pre-mortal theophany of Christ, I think it makes just as much sense to place him in the context of this kingship ideology of the First Temple.  While Barker argues extensively for the “deification” of the Israelite kings and for the idea that they were the “incarnation” of Yahweh, why argue that Melchizedek was pre-Incarnation manifestation of Jesus? He could have just as easily been a mortal king who was believed to have been “deified” like the others. Personally, I have always liked the later Jewish idea ((see e.g., B. Talmud Nedarim 32b; Genesis Rabbah 46:7; Genesis Rabbah 56:10; Leviticus Rabbah 25:6; Numbers Rabbah 4:8)) that Melchizedek was Shem, the son of Noah.  “Melchizedek” should be seen as a title, meaning “King of Righteousness” or something similar. According to Jewish tradition (according to Wikipedia!), Shem was the founder of Jerusalem, and so was likely seen as the first priest-king of that city.  Scholars generally consider Melchizedek to have been a Jebusite king, as the Jebusites were the inhabitants of Jerusalem before the time of David, but to me, that conclusion is founded on the fact that we don’t know exactly who was there before the Jebusites and that the existence of the biblical character Shem (along with the other patriarchs) is not taken to be historical fact.  To me, if we take the biblical narrative seriously, it doesn’t make sense to conclude that the Davidic monarchy would follow the example of Melchizedek so closely if they saw him as merely a great Jebusite (pagan) king.

Anyways, these are fun topics to muse about, but please don’t hold me to any of these conclusions! 🙂 This is a very complex and muddy topic and one upon which we can only speculate — even Joseph Smith generally avoided pinning Melchizedek down to a specific historical individual.

——————————————–

As I mentioned in the beginning, I wanted to also post here some further online resources for your study of the Old Testament that I hope you’ll find useful.

I’m sure I’ve pointed this out before, but I’ve been following the adventures of BYU Professor William Hamblin as he has been living and teaching in Jerusalem for the past several months. Dr. Hamblin has done a wonderful job of taking pictures and making videos of a number of the sites he has visited with his students, and has been so gracious as to share these with us.  They are produced with and provided through the most recent technologies, making them a real treat for the eyes. These images can help you get a better feel for the places and culture of the Old Testament.

You can see his videos at his YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/HamblinOfJerusalem

(please notice especially his new series of commentaries on the text of the Bible)

Check out his most recent photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hamblinofjerusalem/

See also these incredible, state-of-the-art gigapans, including amazing photos of the Temple Mount that you can zoom in on: http://gigapan.org/profiles/21252/

For all his latest news and updates, check out his Hamblin of Jerusalem blog at: http://hamblinofjerusalem.blogspot.com/

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5 Comments

  1. Posted February 25, 2010 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    David,

    I really appreciate your insights. They give us a new way to look at ancient religion, but also a new way to consider modern LDS belief, as well. When we consider Divine Investiture such as the angel in Revelation representing Christ to the point that John tries to worship him, and the fact that D&C 132 and other verses state that we can become gods, it truly becomes a new way to consider these stories. God is making mortals divine, occasionally by translating them. Enoch and Melchizedek were kings of their people, and as such reigned as mini-gods in their portions of heaven.

    • David Larsen
      Posted February 26, 2010 at 4:30 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Gerald!

      I agree with your assessment and understanding of this process of divine investiture and deification. I looked at an interesting aspect of this in a post I did on Orson Hyde’s explanation of the hierarchy of gods/kingdoms and similar ideas from the Dead Sea Scrolls. If you’d like, you can see that post here: http://www.heavenlyascents.com/2009/03/09/orson-hyde-the-dead-sea-scrolls-and-the-hierarchy-of-the-gods/ Your thought regarding the kings ruling as gods over their own portion of heaven (their kingdom) is very much in line with ancient religious tradition and also Joseph Smith’s view of human destiny.

  2. dennis brody
    Posted July 17, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Very very interesting indeed. Either you are a genius spiritual Sherlock Holmes or you are a Urantia book reader.

    Your insight “Is it possible that whenever the Lord is mentioned in Gen. 18, we should imagine that it is Melchizedek that is present? Could later bible editors have replaced references to Melchizedek with the name YHWH in these passages”

    is virtually word for word taken from the Urantia book.

    93:9.6 The teaching of Melchizedek was full and replete, but the records of these days seemed impossible and fantastic to the later Hebrew priests, although many had some understanding of these transactions, at least up to the times of the en masse editing of the Old Testament records in Babylon.

    93:9.7 What the Old Testament records describe as conversations between Abraham and God were in reality conferences between Abraham and Melchizedek. Later scribes regarded the term Melchizedek as synonymous with God. The record of so many contacts of Abraham and Sarah with ” the angel of the Lord ” refers to their numerous visits with Melchizedek.

    93:9.8 The Hebrew narratives of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph are far more reliable than those about Abraham, although they also contain many diversions from the facts, alterations made intentionally and unintentionally at the time of the compilation of these records by the Hebrew priests during the Babylonian captivity. Keturah was not a wife of Abraham; like Hagar, she was merely a concubine. All of Abraham’s property went to Isaac, the son of Sarah, the status wife. Abraham was not so old as the records indicate, and his wife was much younger. These ages were deliberately altered in order to provide for the subsequent alleged miraculous birth of Isaac.

    93:9.9 The national ego of the Jews was tremendously depressed by the Babylonian captivity. In their reaction against national inferiority they swung to the other extreme of national and racial egotism, in which they distorted and perverted their traditions with the view of exalting themselves above all races as the chosen people of God; and hence they carefully edited all their records for the purpose of raising Abraham and their other national leaders high up above all other persons, not excepting Melchizedek himself. The Hebrew scribes therefore destroyed every record of these momentous times which they could find, preserving only the narrative of the meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek after the battle of Siddim, which they deemed reflected great honor upon Abraham.

    93:9.10 And thus, in losing sight of Melchizedek, they also lost sight of the teaching of this emergency Son regarding the spiritual mission of the promised bestowal Son; lost sight of the nature of this mission so fully and completely that very few of their progeny were able or willing to recognize and receive Michael when he appeared on earth and in the flesh as Machiventa had foretold.

    93:9.11 But one of the writers of the Book of Hebrews understood the mission of Melchizedek, for it is written: ” This Melchizedek, priest of the Most High, was also king of peace; without father, without mother, without pedigree, having neither beginning of days nor end of life but made like a Son of God, he abides a priest continually. ” This writer designated Melchizedek as a type of the later bestowal of Michael, affirming that Jesus was ” a minister forever on the order of Melchizedek. ” While this comparison was not altogether fortunate, it was literally true that Christ did receive provisional title to Urantia ” upon the orders of the twelve Melchizedek receivers ” on duty at the time of his world bestowal.

    http://urantiabook.org/newbook/papers/p093.htm#paper93section7

    • Dennis Brody
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      So, David Larsen,
      How are you doing with your Melchizedek/ Abraham research?
      You ‘ve had about 6 years now since you were introduced to the Urantia revelation. 🙂
      How are you doing with that??

  3. William Andresen
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Wow David Larson and Dennis Brodie are two very sharp cookies. I never grow tired of the cross-references between the Urantia Book and the Bible.

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