[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Melchizedek and Levi (long)

Date: Wed, 19 Mar 1997 11:26:49 +0000
From: Anders Aschim <Anders.Aschim@menfak.no>

>The non-appearance of Melchizedek in Jubilees 13:22-29 (which is the Jub
>parallel to Gen 14) is intriguing. Possible explanations include:
>a) Jub does not know the Melchizedek episode;
>b) Jub knows Melchizedek, but consciously eliminates him;
>c) The episode was part of the original text of Jub, but has been
>consciously omitted at some stage of the transmission of the book;
>d) or it has been omitted through a scribal lapse.
>Ian H. makes an interesting case for option a), and infers from the
>available evidence "that the Melchizedek passage in Genesis 14 was added
>under the rule of the Hasmonean priest kings", after the writing of
>Russ G. has given one possible argument for b): This may be an omission
>due to the anti-Samaritan stance of Jub. In spite of Ian's refutation, I
>still find it worth considering whether the omission may be a reaction
>against Hasmonean use of the Melchizedek figure as legitimation for their
>dynastic claims. This would, however, imply a rather late date for Jub.
>One might suggest that the passage has been excised from the text of Jub
>during Hasmonean times. A third possibility: Jub describes Levi with much
>of the same nomenclature that is used for Melchizedek in Gen 14 (more on
>this below). An elimination of M. might contribute to the elevation of L.
>After all, however, I consider option d) more plausible. The textual
>sequence of Jub 13:25 is linguistically very difficult. Further, the
>section includes the motif of Abraham giving the tithe, and even
>elaborates it into a halakhic lesson. The tithe needs a priest, as J.
>Kugel has demonstrated for the tithe of Jacob, Jub 32:2.9 (HTR 86 [1993]
>1-64), where this is one of the reasons for Levi's elevation to
>I want to pursue the Levi connection a little further. The title "priest
>for the Most High God" is used in Second Temple literature for the
>Hasmoneans, for Melchizedek - and for Levi (Jubilees 32:1; Aramaic Levi
>Document Oxford b 5. I shall leave the Greek Testament of Levi out of the
>discussion for now, because the questions of its date and provenance are
>highly disputed). Interestingly, in these very same contexts, Levi is
>connected with the tithe - as is Melchizedek in Gen 14. The correspondence
>Melchizedek - Levi must be something more than an incident. A considerable
>energy is spent in these texts on the legitimation of Levi as priest (cf.
>Kugel). In contrast, wherever Melchizedek turns up, his authority is taken
>for granted (2 En is an exception, the Nag Hammadi tractate IX/1 may be
>another). To me, this seems to imply that the picture of Levi is shaped by
>an earlier tradition about Melchizedek, rather than vice versa. Levi is
>even installed as priest "forever" (Jub 32:1) - in which he resembles the
>"priest according to the order of Melchizedek" of Ps 110:4.
>From these data, I would suggest:
>1) That Ar Levi and Jubilees give us a terminus ad quem for Gen 14:18-20;
>2) That Jub 32:1 probably combines information from Gen 14:18-20 and Ps
>110:4, thus giving a terminus ad quem also for the latter text (this is
>less certain; Ex 29:9 or Num 25:13 are other possible sources for the
>eternal priesthood, and Ps 110:4 may even be dependent on Jub 32:1. But
>again, I find the transfer Melchizedek > Levi easier to explain than the
>other way round).
>3) That the Hasmoneans (certainly in need of legitimation) activated
>earlier traditions about Melchizedek (and/or Levi) in support of their
>claims - traditions which were already shared by and acceptable to their
>Sorry for the length of this, just a few additional notes:
>1) Jim Davila has done some interesting work on Melchizedek, see SBL 1996
>Seminar Papers 259-272. In a recent lecture on Jubilees, he has also
>adressed the question the non-appearance of M. in Jub 13. He gives an
>interesting (though speculative) variant of option c, suggesting the
>possibility of a Christian deletion here. If Jub 13 contained a
>Melchizedek portrait with controversial traits (e. g. M. as a divine
>being), maybe this "was deliberately suppressed because it offended the
>Christian sensibilities of the tradents"
>2) The DSS mss of Gen are fragmentary (they may or may not have contained
>the Melchizedek episode; there is no extant text from Gen 14 at all). But
>so are the DSS mss of Jub. It strikes me that Ian shows much more
>confidence in the (15th century CE and later) Ethiopic mss of Jub
>representing the original shape of that work, than in the LXX and TM mss
>of Gen.
>3) BTW: Jub 13:28-29 IS aware of the interactions between Abraham and the
>king of Sodom, Ian!

Stipendiat Anders Aschim

Det teologiske Menighetsfakultet
(The Norwegian Lutheran School of Theology)
POB 5144 Majorstua
N-0302  OSLO, Norway
Odegardsliveien 7
N-1914  YTRE ENEBAKK, Norway

Tel. O: (+47) 22 59 06 12/H: (+47) 64 92 51 64
Fax: (+47) 22 69 18 90
e-mail: Anders.Aschim@menfak.no