(c. 2000 b.c.e.)

by T. Apiryon

Priest-king mentioned in Genesis 14:18-20 as having served as priest to Abraham: “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God (El Elyon, אל עליון). And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.”

Melchizedek is mentioned in Psalm 110 in connection with the ordination of a high priest by a king of Jerusalem in the line of David: ““The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

In the Book of Hebrews, this same order of priesthood is claimed for Jesus, and the following is said of Melchizedek in Hebrews 7:1-3: “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.”

There appears to have been a school of Gnostics known as “Melchizedekians,” who revered Melchizedek as an avatar of Seth (third son of Adam) and Shem (second son of Noah, progenitor of the Semitic peoples). A gnostic tractate included in the Nag Hammadi Library bears the name of Melchizedek. This tractate elaborates on the role of Melchizedek as eschatological high priest, messianic warrior, and previous incarnation of Jesus Christ.

The name Melchizedek (מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶֿק) can be translated as “Righteous King” or “My King is Justice.” Melchizedek was the “king of Salem,” and “Salem” was probably Uru-Salim, an old name of Jerusalem, whose king during the Israelite invasion of Canaan had the strikingly similar name of Adonizedek. As the priest of Abraham, Melchizedek can be considered the progenitor of the Abrahamic religions– Judaism, Christianity, Islam and their derivatives. Based in Genesis 14:18, he is sometimes credited with having substituted the sacrifice of bread and wine for that of animals. Many sacerdotal lineages, including the Roman Catholic, Mormon and Masonic Royal Arch, are traced in legend to Melchizedek.

For various reasons, many historians believe that Genesis 14:18-20 was inserted into the Book of Genesis at a later date, possibly to help justify the ordination of a non-Levite high priest by King David. Also, it should be kept in mind that Jerusalem in the time of Abraham was inhabited by the Jebusites, a tribe of Canaanites which probably decended from the Hittites and Amorites. As priest-king of the Jebusites, Melchizedek would certainly have been a polytheist; and deities named Elyon and Zedek are both to be found in the Canaanite/Phoenecian pantheon. The name Melchizedek could be translated “My King is (the god) Zedek” as easily as “My King is Justice.”

Aside from historical questions, the Hebrew word salem, שׁלם, means “peace”; thus “Melchizedek king of Salem” could be interpreted “King of Righteousness, King of Peace.” The Hebrew word zedek, צדק, “justice” or “righteousness,” is also the name of the planet Jupiter. Thus, in a Qabalistic sense, Melchizedek, the jovian priest-king of righteousness and peace, is the embodiment of the divine image of the sephirah Chesed. A “priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” would thus be a fitting description for an Adeptus Exemptus.


The Bible, Authorized Edition

Jackson, Samuel McCauley (Ed. in Chief); The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI 1953

Mackenzie, Kenneth; The Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia [1877], Aquarian Press, Wellingborough 1987

Mackey, Albert G.; Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Masonic History Co., NY 1909

McDonald, William J. (Ed. in Chief); New Catholic Encyclopedia, McGraw Hill, NY 1967

Robinson, James M. (Ed.); The Nag Hammadi Library, Harper & Rowe, San Francisco, 1978

Original Publication Date: 5/11/95

Originally published in Red Flame No. 2 – Mystery of Mystery: A Primer of Thelemic Ecclesiastical Gnosticism by Tau Apiryon and Helena; Berkeley, CA 1995 e.v.