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The Nature of Melchizedek’s Priesthood

Now this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him.[a] To him[b] also Abraham apportioned a tithe[c] of everything.[d] His name first means[e] king of righteousness, then king of Salem,[f] that is, king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, he has neither beginning of days nor end of life but is like the son of God, and he remains a priest for all time. But see how great he must be, if[g] Abraham the patriarch gave him a tithe[h] of his plunder. And those of the sons of Levi who receive the priestly office[i] have authorization according to the law to collect a tithe from the people, that is, from their fellow countrymen,[j] although they too are descendants of Abraham.[k] But Melchizedek[l] who does not share their ancestry[m] collected a tithe[n] from Abraham and blessed[o] the one who possessed the promise. Now without dispute the inferior is blessed by the superior, and in one case tithes are received by mortal men, while in the other by him who is affirmed to be alive. And it could be said that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid a tithe through Abraham. 10 For he was still in his ancestor Abraham’s loins[p] when Melchizedek met him.

Jesus and the Priesthood of Melchizedek

11 So if perfection had in fact been possible through the Levitical priesthood—for on that basis[q] the people received the law—what further need would there have been for another priest to arise, said to be in the order of Melchizedek and not in Aaron’s order? 12 For when the priesthood changes, a change in the law must come[r] as well. 13 Yet the one these things are spoken about belongs to[s] a different tribe, and no one from that tribe[t] has ever officiated at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord is descended from Judah, yet Moses said nothing about priests in connection with that tribe. 15 And this is even clearer if another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest not by a legal regulation about physical descent[u] but by the power of an indestructible life. 17 For here is the testimony about him:[v]You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”[w] 18 On the one hand a former command is set aside[x] because it is weak and useless,[y] 19 for the law made nothing perfect. On the other hand a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. 20 And since[z] this was not done without a sworn affirmation—for the others have become priests without a sworn affirmation, 21 but Jesus[aa] did so[ab] with a sworn affirmation by the one who said to him, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind,You are a priest forever’”[ac] 22 accordingly Jesus has become the guarantee[ad] of a better covenant. 23 And the others[ae] who became priests were numerous, because death prevented them[af] from continuing in office,[ag] 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently since he lives forever. 25 So he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26 For it is indeed fitting for us to have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need to do every day what those priests do, to offer sacrifices first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people, since he did this in offering himself once for all. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men subject to weakness,[ah] but the word of solemn affirmation that came after the law appoints a son made perfect forever.

The High Priest of a Better Covenant

Now the main point of what we are saying is this:[ai] We have such a high priest, one who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,[aj] a minister in the sanctuary and the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. So this one too had to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest, since there are already priests who offer[ak] the gifts prescribed by the law. The place where they serve is[al] a sketch[am] and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary, just as Moses was warned by God as he was about to complete the tabernacle. For he says, “See that you make everything according to the design[an] shown to you on the mountain.”[ao] But[ap] now Jesus[aq] has obtained a superior ministry, since[ar] the covenant that he mediates is also better and is enacted[as] on better promises.[at]

For if that first covenant had been faultless, no one would have looked for a second one.[au] But[av] showing its fault,[aw] God[ax] says to them,[ay]

Look, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will complete a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant[az] that I made with their fathers, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not continue in my covenant and I had no regard for them, says the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will establish with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will put[ba] my laws in their minds[bb] and I will inscribe them on their hearts. And I will be their God and they will be my people.[bc]
11 And there will be no need at all[bd] for each one to teach his countryman or each one to teach his brother saying, ‘Know the Lord,since they will all know me, from the least to the greatest.[be]
12 For I will be merciful toward their evil deeds, and their sins I will remember no longer.”[bf]

13 When he speaks of a new covenant,[bg] he makes the first obsolete. Now what is growing obsolete and aging is about to disappear.[bh]


  1. Hebrews 7:1 sn A series of quotations from Gen 14:17-19.
  2. Hebrews 7:2 tn Grk “to whom,” continuing the description of Melchizedek. Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.
  3. Hebrews 7:2 tn Or “a tenth part.”
  4. Hebrews 7:2 sn A quotation from Gen 14:20.
  5. Hebrews 7:2 tn Grk “first being interpreted,” describing Melchizedek.
  6. Hebrews 7:2 sn These words are repeated from the quotation of Gen 14:18 in the previous verse.
  7. Hebrews 7:4 tn Grk “to whom.”
  8. Hebrews 7:4 tn Or “a tenth part.”
  9. Hebrews 7:5 tn Or “the priesthood.”
  10. Hebrews 7:5 tn Grk “from their brothers.” See BDAG 18-19 s.v. ἀδελφός 2.b.
  11. Hebrews 7:5 tn Grk “have come from the loins of Abraham.”
  12. Hebrews 7:6 tn Grk “the one”; in the translation the referent (Melchizedek) has been specified for clarity.
  13. Hebrews 7:6 tn Grk “is not descended from them.”
  14. Hebrews 7:6 tn Or “a tenth part.”
  15. Hebrews 7:6 sn The verbs “collected…and blessed” emphasize the continuing effect of the past actions, i.e., Melchizedek’s importance.
  16. Hebrews 7:10 tn Grk “in the loins of his father” (a reference to Abraham). The name “Abraham” has been repeated in the translation at this point (cf. v. 9) in order to clarify the referent (i.e., what ancestor was in view).sn The point of the phrase still in his ancestor’s loins is that Levi was as yet unborn, still in his ancestor Abraham’s body. Thus Levi participated in Abraham’s action when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek.
  17. Hebrews 7:11 tn Grk “based on it.”
  18. Hebrews 7:12 tn Grk “of necessity a change in the law comes to pass.”
  19. Hebrews 7:13 tn Grk “shares in.”
  20. Hebrews 7:13 tn Grk “from which no one.”
  21. Hebrews 7:16 tn Grk “a law of a fleshly command.”
  22. Hebrews 7:17 tn Grk “for he/it is witnessed that.”
  23. Hebrews 7:17 sn A quotation from Ps 110:4 (see Heb 5:6 and 6:20).
  24. Hebrews 7:18 tn Grk “the setting aside of a former command comes to pass.”
  25. Hebrews 7:18 tn Grk “because of its weakness and uselessness.”
  26. Hebrews 7:20 sn The Greek text contains an elaborate comparison between v. 20a and v. 22, with a parenthesis (vv. 20b-21) in between; the comparison is literally, “by as much as…by so much” or “to the degree that…to that same degree.”
  27. Hebrews 7:21 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  28. Hebrews 7:21 tn The words “did so” are not in the Greek text, but are implied.
  29. Hebrews 7:21 sn A quotation from Ps 110:4 (see Heb 5:6; 6:20, and 7:17).
  30. Hebrews 7:22 tn Or “surety.”
  31. Hebrews 7:23 tn Grk “they on the one hand” in contrast with “he on the other hand” in v. 24.
  32. Hebrews 7:23 tn Grk “they were prevented by death.”
  33. Hebrews 7:23 tn Grk “from continuing” (the words “in office” are supplied for clarity).
  34. Hebrews 7:28 sn See Heb 5:2 where this concept was introduced.
  35. Hebrews 8:1 tn Grk “the main point of the things being said.”
  36. Hebrews 8:1 sn An allusion to Ps 110:1; see Heb 1:3, 13.
  37. Hebrews 8:4 tn Grk “there are those who offer.”
  38. Hebrews 8:5 tn Grk “who serve in,” referring to the Levitical priests, but focusing on the provisional and typological nature of the tabernacle in which they served.
  39. Hebrews 8:5 tn Or “prototype,” “outline.” The Greek word ὑπόδειγμα (hupodeigma) does not mean “copy,” as it is often translated; it means “something to be copied,” a basis for imitation. BDAG 1037 s.v. 2 lists both Heb 8:5 and 9:23 under the second category of usage, “an indication of someth. that appears at a subsequent time,” emphasizing the temporal progression between the earthly and heavenly There are two main options for understanding the conceptual background of the heavenly sanctuary imagery. The first is to understand the imagery to be functioning on a vertical plane. This background is Hellenistic, philosophical, and spatial in orientation and sees the earthly sanctuary as a copy of the heavenly reality. The other option is to see the imagery functioning on a horizontal plane. This background is Jewish, eschatological, and temporal and sees the heavenly sanctuary as the fulfillment and true form of the earthly sanctuary which preceded it. The second option is preferred, both for lexical reasons (see tn above) and because it fits the Jewish context of the book (although many scholars prefer to emphasize the relationship the book has to Hellenistic thought).
  40. Hebrews 8:5 tn The word τύπος (tupos) here has the meaning “an archetype serving as a model, type, pattern, model” (BDAG 1020 s.v. 6.a). This is in keeping with the horizontal imagery accepted for this verse (see sn on “sketch” earlier in the verse). Here Moses was shown the future heavenly sanctuary which, though it did not yet exist, became the outline for the earthly sanctuary.
  41. Hebrews 8:5 sn A quotation from Exod 25:40.
  42. Hebrews 8:6 sn The Greek text indicates a contrast between vv. 4-5 and v. 6 that is difficult to render in English: Jesus’ status in the old order of priests (vv. 4-5) versus his superior ministry (v. 6).
  43. Hebrews 8:6 tn Grk “he”; in the translation the referent (Jesus) has been specified for clarity.
  44. Hebrews 8:6 tn Grk “to the degree that.”
  45. Hebrews 8:6 tn Grk “which is enacted.”
  46. Hebrews 8:6 sn This linkage of the change in priesthood with a change in the law or the covenant goes back to Heb 7:12, 22 and is picked up again in Heb 9:6-15 and 10:1-18.
  47. Hebrews 8:7 tn Grk “no occasion for a second one would have been sought.”
  48. Hebrews 8:8 tn Grk “for,” but providing an explanation of the God-intended limitation of the first covenant from v. 7.
  49. Hebrews 8:8 sn The “fault” or limitation in the first covenant was not in its inherent righteousness, but in its design from God himself. It was never intended to be his final revelation or provision for mankind; it was provisional, always pointing toward the fulfillment to come in Christ.
  50. Hebrews 8:8 tn Grk “he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  51. Hebrews 8:8 tc ‡ Several witnesses (א* A D* I K P Ψ 33 81 326 365 1505 2464 al latt co Cyr) have αὐτούς (autous) here, “[in finding fault with] them, [he says],” alluding to Israel’s failings mentioned in v. 9b. (The verb μέμφομαι [memphomai, “to find fault with”] can take an accusative or dative direct object.) The reading behind the text above (αὐτοίς, autois), supported by P46 א2 B D2 0278 1739 1881 M, is perhaps a harder reading theologically, and is more ambiguous in meaning. If αὐτοίς goes with μεμφόμενος (memphomenos, here translated “showing its fault”), the clause could be translated “in finding fault with them” or “in showing [its] faults to them.” If αὐτοίς goes with the following λέγει (legei, “he says”), the clause is best translated, “in finding/showing [its] faults, he says to them.” The accusative pronoun suffers no such ambiguity, for it must be the object of μεμφόμενος rather than λέγει. Although a decision is difficult, the dative form of the pronoun best explains the rise of the other reading and is thus more likely to be original.
  52. Hebrews 8:9 tn Grk “not like the covenant,” continuing the description of v. 8b.
  53. Hebrews 8:10 tn Grk “putting…I will inscribe.”
  54. Hebrews 8:10 tn Grk “mind.”
  55. Hebrews 8:10 tn Grk “I will be to them for a God and they will be to me for a people,” following the Hebrew constructions of Jer 31.
  56. Hebrews 8:11 tn Grk “they will not teach, each one his fellow citizen…” The Greek makes this negation emphatic: “they will certainly not teach.”
  57. Hebrews 8:11 tn Grk “from the small to the great.”
  58. Hebrews 8:12 sn A quotation from Jer 31:31-34.
  59. Hebrews 8:13 tn Grk “when he says, ‘new,’” (referring to the covenant).
  60. Hebrews 8:13 tn Grk “near to disappearing.”