The Dead Sea Scrolls and God’s Uniplurality

Some Observations on Melchizedek

Sam Shamoun

Between 1947 and 1956, roughly 870 documents were discovered in eleven caves in and around the Wadi Qumran (near the ruins of the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea) in the West Bank. The texts contained the only known surviving copies of the OT composed before 100 AD, making them the oldest copies of the Hebrew Bible to date. These documents became known as the Dead Sea scrolls.

One of the scrolls found in cave 11 was a document concerning the role that Melchizedek, a figure mentioned in Genesis 14:18-20 and Psalm 110:4, plays in end time events. This scroll has become known as the Melchizedek Scroll (11QMelchizedek).

This particular document is interesting in that it sheds some light on the beliefs of the community (believed to be the Essenes, otherwise this group is commonly referred to as the Qumran community or covenanteers) which composed it. Specifically, it gives us an idea as to what these individuals believed concerning the nature of God and monotheism, and helps shed some light on the historical and cultural background of the NT.

Here, we will provide two English translations of the Melchizedek scroll and then follow this up with a discussion of its contents.

1 […] your God … […] 2 […] And as for what he said: Lev 25:13 <<In this year of jubilee, [you shall return, each one, to his respective property>>, as is written: Deut15:2 <<This is] 3 the manner (of effecting) the [release: every creditor shall release what he lent [to his neighbour. He shall coerce his neighbour or his brother when] the release for God [has been proclaimed]>>. 4 [Its inter]pretation for the last days refers to the captives, about whom he said: Isa 61:1 <<To proclaim liberty to the captives.>> And he will make 5 their rebels prisoners […] and of the inheritance of Melchizedek, for […] and they are the inheri[tance of Melchi]zedek, who 6 will make them return. He will proclaim liberty for them from the [debt] of all their iniquities. And this will [happen] 7 in the first week of the jubilee which follows the n[ine] jubilees.

And the day [of atone]ment is the end of the tenth jubilee 8 in which atonement will be made for all the sons of [God], and for the men of the lot of Melchizedek. [And on the heights] he will decal[re in their] favour according to their lots; for 9 it is the time of the <<year of graces>> for Melchizedek, to exa[lt in the tri]al the holy ones of God through the rule of judgement, as it is written 10 about him in the songs of David, who said: Ps 82:1 <<Elohim will stand up in the assem[bly of God,] in the midst of the gods he judges>>.

And about him it says: Ps 7:7-8 <<Above it 11 return to the heights, God will judge the peoples>>. As for what he sa[id: Ps 82:2: <<How long will yo]u judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked? Selah.>> 12 Its interpretation concerns Belial and the spirits of his lot, who were rebels [all of them] turning aside from the commandments of God [to commit evil]. 13 But, Melchizedek will carry out the vengeance of God's judgements [on this day, and they shall be freed from the hands] of Belial and from the hands of all the sp[irits of his lot.] 14 To his aid (shall come) all <<the gods of [justice>>; he] is the one [who will prevail on this day over] all the sons of God, and he will pre[side over] this [assembly].

15 This is the day of [peace about which God] spoken of old [through the words of Isa]iah the prophet who said: Isa 52:7 <<How beautiful 16 upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger, who announces peace, of the mess[enger of good who announces salvation,] saying to Zion: ‘Your God [reigns>>.] 17 Its interpretation: the mountains are the pro[phets …] 18 And the messenger is [the ano]inted of the spirit, whom Dan[iel] spoke [… and the messenger of] good who announces salv[ation is the one about whom it is written that [he will send him Isa 61:2-3 <<to comfo[rt the afflicted, to watch over the afflicted ones of Zion>>.] 20 <<To com[fort the afflicted]>>, its interpretation:] to instruct them in all the ages of the worl[d…] 21 in truth […] 22 […] it has been turned away from Belial and it […] 23 […] in the judgements of God, as it is written about him: Isa 52:7 <<Saying to Zion" "Your God rules">>. [<<Zi]on>> is 24 [the congregation of all the sons of justice, those] who establish the covenant, those who avoid walking [on the pa]th of the people. <<Your God>> is 25 [… Melchizedek, who will fr]ee [them] from the hand of Belial. And as for what he said: Lev 25:9 <<You shall blow the hor[n in every] lands>>. (Florentino Garcia Martinez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English [William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids MI 1996], pp. 139-140)

And here is the alternate translation:

II … And concerning that which He said, In [this] year of Jubilee [each of you shall return to his property (Lev. xxv, 13); and likewise, And this is the manner of release:] every creditor shall release that which he has lent [to his neighbour. He shall exact it of his neighbour and his brother], for God’s release [has been proclaimed] (Deut. xv, 2). [And it will be proclaimed at] the end of days concerning the captives as [He said, To proclaim liberty in the captives (Isa. lxi, I). Its interpretation is that He] will assign them to the Sons of Heaven and to the inheritance of Melchizedek f[or He will cast] their [lot] amid the po[rtions of Melchize]dek, who will return them there and will proclaim to them liberty, forgiving them [the wrong-doings] of all their iniquities.

And this thing will [occur] in the first week of the Jubilee that follows the nine Jubilees. And the Day of Atonement is the e[nd of the] tenth [Ju]bilee, when all the Sons of [Light] and the men of the lot of Mel[chi]zedek will be atoned for, [And] a statue concerns them [to prov]ide them with their rewards. For this is the moment of the Year of Grace, for Melchizedek. [And h]e will, by his strength, judge the holy ones of God, executing judgement as it is written concerning him in the Songs of David, who said, ELOHIM has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgement (Psalms lxxxii, I). And it was concerning him that he said, (Let the assembly of the peoples) (Psalms vii, 7-8). As for that which he s[aid, How long will judge] judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah (Psalms lxxxii, 2), its interpretation concerns Belial and the spirits of his lot [who] rebelled by turning away from the precepts of God to … And Melchizedek will avenge the vengeance of the judgements of God … and he will drag [them from the hand of] Belial and from the hand of all the s[pirits of] his [lot]. And all the ‘gods [of Justice’] will come to his aid [to] attend to the de[struction] of Belial. And the height is … all the sons of God … this … This is the day of [Peace/Salvation] concerning which [God] spoke [through Isa]iah the prophet, who said, [How] beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who proclaims peace, who brings good news, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion: Your ELOHIM [reigns] (Isa. lii, 7). Its interpretation; the mountains are prophets … and the messenger is the Anointed one of the spirit, concerning whom Dan[iel] said, [Until an anointed, a prince (Dan. ix, 25)] … [And he who brings] good [news], who proclaims [salvation]; it is concerning him that it is written … [To comfort all who mourn, to grant to those who mourn in Zion] (Isa. lxi, 2-3). To comfort [those who mourn: its interpretation], to make them understand all the ages of t[ime] … In truth … will turn away from Belial … by the judgement[s] of God, as it is written concerning him, [who says to Zion]; your ELOHIM reigns. Zion is… , those who uphold the Covenant, who turn from walking [in] the way of the people. And your ELOHIM is [Melchizedek, who will save them from] the hand of Belial.

As for which He said, Then you shall send abroad the trump[et in] all the land (Lev. xxv, 9) … (The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, translated by Geza Vermes [Penguin Books, Revised edition 2004], pp. 532-534; underline emphasis ours)

A careful analysis of the scroll provides numerous indications that the author(s) pictured Melchizedek as being both identical with and distinct from Yahweh God. For instance, the God (Elohim) of Psalm 82:1 who takes his stand in the assembly of God (El) to judge the other gods (Elohim) is said to be Melchizedek. The document also applies Psalm 7:7-8, which speaks of Yahweh judging, to Melchizedek thereby identifying him as Yahweh God (El)! The statement in Isaiah 52:7, "Your God (Elohim) reigns," is interpreted by the author(s) of the scroll to be a reference to Melchizedek reigning as God. Additionally, Melchizedek is said to atone for the sins of the righteous. These actions of atoning and judging are normally associated with God himself.

The renowned Jewish scholar Geza Vermes realizes this but tries to soften the implication:

The heavenly deliverer is Melchizedek. Identical with the archangel Michael, he is the head of the ‘sons of Heaven’ or ‘gods of Justice’ and is referred to as elohim and el. The same terminology occurs in the Songs for the Holocaust of the Sabbath. These Hebrew words normally mean ‘God’, but in certain specific contexts Jewish tradition also explains elohim as primarily designating ‘judge’… (Vermes, p. 532)

The main problem with Vermes’ assertion is that the scroll doesn’t simply call Melchizedek Elohim and El, but identifies him as such by quoting OT texts which in context speak of the one true God Yahweh. Here are the specific OT passages which are applied to Melchizedek:

"Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you; over it return on high. The LORD (YHVH) judges the peoples; judge me, O LORD (YHVH), according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me." Psalm 7:7-8

"God (Elohim) has taken his place in the divine (El) council; in the midst of the gods (elohim) he holds judgment:" Psalm 82:1

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God (Elohim) reigns.’" Isaiah 52:7

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD (YHVH)’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified." Isaiah 61:1-3

The foregoing clearly demonstrates that Melchizedek isn’t merely called Elohim or El in the sense of being a judge or an angel. The writer(s) of the scroll has(have) actually identified Melchizedek with Yahweh, just as this next source admits:

… For our author Melchizedek is an enormously exalted divine being, to whom are applied names that are generally reserved for God alone, the Hebrew names el and elohim. In the author’s citation of Isaiah 61:2, which speaks of "the year of the LORD’s favor," "Melchizedek" is substituted even for the most holy name of Israel’s God, Yahweh. Yet more remarkably, Melchizedek is said to atone for the sins of the righteous and to execute judgment upon the wicked – actions usually associated with God himself. By the power of Melchizedek, dominion on earth shall pass from Satan (here called Belial) to the righteous Sons of Light. (Michael Wise, Martin Abegg Jr. & Edward Cook, Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation, translated and with commentary [HarperSanFrancisco 1996], 130. The Coming Of Melchizedek, p. 455; underline emphasis ours)

The writer seems to further identify Melchizedek as the one anointed by the Spirit in Isaiah 61:1 to preach good news:

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;"

The scroll then connects this anointed figure with the Anointed One or Messiah of Daniel:

"Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed." Daniel 9:25-26

It should be noted that the Dead Sea scrolls indicate that the Qumran community was expecting at least two Messiahs, one from the stock of David and the other from the line of Aaron. This would seem to suggest that the author(s) believed that Melchizedek was either the Davidic Messiah or the priestly one from Aaron. The latter may seem to be more probable in light of the fact that Melchizedek is pictured as performing priestly functions such as making atonement.(1)

Yet the only way for Melchizedek to function as either one of these Messiahs is if the community believed that he was a human being, a descendant of either king David or of Aaron.

But the main problem with such a view is that the scroll clearly presents Melchizedek as a heavenly figure, as the God who presides in the heavenly assembly. This suggests that the Qumran covenanteers may have envisioned a time in which Melchizedek had taken or would take on a human nature.

There is additional evidence furnished by some other scrolls indicating that the Qumran members were aware that this Melchizedek was a historical figure since they knew that he was a priest-king on earth during the time of Abraham. The following, taken from an Aramaic interpretation of the Biblical book of Genesis, supports this view:

Abram camped in the in the valley of Shaveh, which is the valley of the king, the valley of Beth-ha-Kerem; and Melchizedek king of Salem brought out food and drink to Abram and to all the men who were with him. He was the Priest of the Most High God. And he blessed Abram and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by the Most High God, Lord of heaven and earth! And blessed be the Most High God who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ And Abram gave him the tithe of all the possessions of the king of Elam and his companies. The Genesis Apocryphon (1QapGen [1Q20]), 22:14-15 (Vermes, p. 490)

This provides additional corroboration that some, if not all, of the members who were responsible for composing these specific texts believed that Melchizedek was both Divine and human, a God-man of sorts. In other words, it is conceivable that the community which produced the scrolls actually believed that Melchizedek was originally a heavenly Divine being who came down to the earth as a man to rule in Salem.

Now if this is a correct assessment of the scroll’s implications then this would imply that certain members of the community had no problem believing that a person could be Divine and human at the same time, a kind of God-man. At the very least, the Melchizedek scroll furnishes evidence that a certain sect of Judaism believed that the unity of God did not preclude there being a plurality of Divine Personalities. After all, the people that produced this text didn’t feel that they were compromising their commitment to biblical monotheism by identifying Melchizedek as Yahweh God, which implies that they had come to conclude that God’s unity was so complex that it could and did encompass a multiplicity of Persons functioning together as a unit.

At this point we want to make it clear that we do not agree with the position held by these specific Jews regarding the role Melchizedek plays in end time events. Rather, our appeal to the scroll is to solely illustrate the fact that the NT teaching regarding God’s uni-plurality wasn’t something completely foreign to the Judaism of Jesus’ day, or at least to a certain strand or type of Judaism.

The belief that Jesus is in some sense both identical with and distinct from Yahweh God, or that he is both Divine and human, wouldn’t have been totally shocking or alien to the beliefs of some Jewish sects. What would have been surprising to these Jews is not that God’s unity was so complex as to include a plurality of Divine Persons but that a historical Jew named Jesus was actually God in the flesh. It would have taken something earth shattering to convince Palestinian Jews like the disciples of Christ to embrace Jesus as Incarnate Deity, something of the magnitude of a bodily resurrection to immortality:

"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him… But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."’ Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." Acts 2:22-24, 30-36

"The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord," Acts 3:13-19

"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 1:1-4

In other words, it is not the belief in God’s uni-plurality which would have been a stumbling block to the Jews living at the time of Christ. Their problem would have been with Jesus being God since they thought he was merely a man:

"‘I and the Father are one.’ Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’" John 10:30-33

Yet Christ’s glorious resurrection to immortality proved that he isn’t an ordinary human being, a mere mortal, but that he is indeed God who chose to become man for the redemption of his people.

Furthermore, not only does the NT ascribe Deity to Christ the inspired writers also believed that the Lord Jesus performs the very roles that the scroll assigns to Melchizedek. For example, it is Christ who comes with his angelic hosts to judge both angels and men:

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’ … Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’" Matthew 25:31-34, 41

"In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." Acts 17:30-31

"I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.’ Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh." Revelation 19:11-21

Christ is the One who comes to destroy Satan and his works:

"Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness." 2 Thessalonians 2:3-11

"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." Hebrews 2:14-15

"He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work." 1 John 3:8

Christ is also the One who makes atonement for the people of God, functioning as their High Priest before the Father:

"For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." Hebrews 2:16-18

"It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." Hebrews 9:23-28

Moreover, some of the very OT texts which the scroll cites, such as Isaiah 52:7 and 61:1-3, are applied to Christ and his Apostles whom he sent forth to proclaim his Gospel, the Good News:

"He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’" Luke 4:16-21

"That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message? Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." Romans 10:9-17

It is abundantly clear from the foregoing that the writers of the NT were convinced that Jesus, not Melchizedek, is God’s appointed Agent who ushers in the last days and fulfills the promises of the Hebrew Bible.


(1) At the very least this would imply that some of the Qumran members were expecting three Messiahs to appear in the latter days.

Noted Catholic scholar Joseph A. Fitzmyer, while commenting on references to the Messiah found throughout the Dead Sea scrolls, seems to suggest this in his discussion of the Melchizedek document. Fitzmyer concedes that it is quite possible that Melchizedek is identified as a Messiah, but not the Davidic one:

… the title, derived from Dan 9:25, is being extended to someone called … "messenger, herald" of good news, which is an echo of Isa 52:7 that is quoted in the foregoing lines of 15-16 of this text. It is debated whether … ["messenger, herald"] is applied to Melchizedek himself in the text, which has a definite eschatological thrust and in which Melchizedek is conceived of as an heavenly being, an agent of expiation on the Day of Atonement at the end of the tenth jubilee. Still more important is the way this text cites a verse of Daniel, most likely 9:25 (so restored in the official edition of DJD), and makes of it a clear "messianic" usage in the technical sense.

68. See P. Rainbow, "Melchizedek as a Messiah at Qumran" BBR7 (1997) 179-94. He rightly objects to Melchizedek in this text being called an angel, and even the angel Michael, as did van der Woude and others who followed him. In Qumran literature, Melchizedek is known otherwise as a priest-king (1QapGen 22:14-15); here he becomes a heavenly figure, and probably a messianic figure such as Dan 9:25 envisaged, but not necessarily "the Davidic Messiah"! (Fitzmyer, S.J., The One Who Is To Come [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI 2007], p. 98; comments within brackets and underline emphasis ours)

If Fitzmyer is right that he is not the Davidic Messiah then the Qumran members may have believed that Melchizedek is the priestly Messiah from Aaron, especially when Melchizedek is pictured as making atonement for the people of God. However, what makes this position rather unlikely is the fact that the community knew that Melchizedek functioned as a priest during the days of Abraham, long before God had set up the Levitical priesthood.

This leaves us with one other Messiah, namely the Davidic one, which means that Fitzmyer may actually be incorrect concerning Melchizedek not being the Davidic Messiah. The community may have believed that he was indeed that particular Messiah.

But this view also has problems since the same objection applies here as it did with Melchizedek being a Messiah from the line of Aaron, i.e. the fact that he existed centuries before David was born would seem to rule out his being the Messiah from his seed.

The only option remaining is to see in Melchizedek another Messianic figure altogether, one who is distinct from the Messiahs of David and Aaron. This is why we said that the community may have anticipated the arrival of three distinct Messiahs: a heavenly one, a royal one, and a priestly one. Either that or the individuals who produced these scrolls held to conflicting views and/or were simply confused as to what to believe about Melchizedek and the Messiah!

One thing that is clear, however, is that the NT authors assigned all of these messianic and eschatological roles to a single historical figure, namely, Jesus of Nazareth. According to the NT record, Jesus is the heavenly divine Messiah, the royal Davidic Messiah, the priestly Messiah (albeit from a line other than that of Aaron and therefore of a different priestly order [cf. Hebrews 7:14-16]), and also the "Prophet like Moses," another figure which the Qumran community was expecting to come (cf. Deuteronomy 18:15-19; John 1:19-21, 25, 45; 5:45-47; Acts 3:20-24; 7:37, 52).

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