A response to 5.9

Melchizedek, A god greater than Jesus?

For a short answer read Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum; for a detailed exposition, proceed with the below article.

Introductory remarks

In his chapter on Melchizedek, Al-Kadhi makes a few statements we need to adress before getting to the main issue: Melchizedek.

The first statement is an example of Mr Al-Kadhi's usual style of rhetoric:

Nobody is "correcting" anything or making any "excuses", nor demanding "blind faith".

Here is a classic example of a translator trying to "correct" a "mistake" in scriptures:
Sura 4:171 (Yusuf Ali)

The actual text says "three", the Qur'an thinks that Christians believe in three gods. Yusuf Ali was obviously embarrassed by what he thought to be a mistake in scriptures, so he translated it wrongly with "trinity" ("Trinity" has a totally different meaning than "three"!). I challenge any Muslim to produce evidence that these verses on Melchizedek were ever "corrected" in the same way!

The only reason there is any need to explain the obvious meaning of the texts on Melchizedek is because Mr. Al-Kadhi chooses to interpret it in a certain way, because of his agenda. No serious Bible scholar has ever interpreted the verses in question here in the way Mr. Al-Kadhi chooses to, or has had any problem with it. [Note that in this section Al-Kadhi does not bring any quotations from 'Christian scholars' or other scholars to back up his claims as he tries to do in many of his other sections. He is indeed quite alone in these strange readings]

The second statement is a bit of strategic positioning on his side: He sees the problem coming, so he tries to shoot the duck before it flies off the pond:

If he wants to interpret everything he reads literally, I would like mr Al-Kadhi to explain the following ayat to me when we read in Sura 32:4 (quoting from Pickthall):

I have it from an Arabic friend that the original verse is something like this: "Thumma Estawa Ala- Ala'arsh" which means "Then He sat (to rest) upon The throne". Should we now believe that God sits down after working? Of course not! This is not the intended meaning of the verse at all. Any sentence should be interpreted according to the meaning the writer intended, which is sometimes not the exact literal meaning of the words.

Very often you have to know the writer's frame of reference to arrive at the correct meaning, especially if you read the words centuries, culturally and (like mr Al-Kadhi) ideologically removed from the writer. This is a basic principle of communication science.

Whether an explanation is valid or not, the esteemed reader is free to decide. For me, it will be enough to show that there is an alternative interpretation to the verse than the one Al-Kadhi so eagerly proposes. My reader can be the judge.

Let us now look at the verses Mr. Al-Kadhi has a problem with:

Some background

To understand the intended meaning of the text, we must know what the writer's frame of reference was: The writer was a Jew, first and foremost. The whole book of Hebrews is based on Jewish scripture, theology and ritual. He was also a believer in Jesus as the Messiah.

So let us have a look at what Jesus and his followers taught about the Unity of God. In Mark 12:29 we read:

It is totally ridiculous to suggest that any follower of Jesus would even imply that there could be more that one God!! No Christian would ever ascribe equality with God to anything or anyone else than God! By making these statements Al-Kadhi displays a total lack of insight into Christian doctrine.

Historic figures as "prophetic metaphors" in holy scriptures
Prophesy in the Old Testament is not always in the form of specific utterances by a prophet, but often a historical event or figure is used as a symbolic pointer to something or someone similar but greater.

An example of a historic event that serves as a "prophetic metaphor" to someting similar but greater that was to come is the substitution of the life of Ibrahim's son for that of a ram. This is symbolic of the substitution of the life of the sin offering for that of a sinner, and ultimately the substitution of the life of the Messiah for that of sinners. (Please read the article at this link for more detail.)

A very good example (one of many) of a person being used as a "prophetic metaphor" is that of Cyrus. The Israelites were taken into exile by the Babylonians. They were only saved from their predicament and allowed to return to Jerusalem when a new king, Cyrus, came to power. When you read the book of Isaiah, you will see that the prophet uses Cyrus as a metaphor to point to the coming Messiah, and the release from exile in Babylon becomes a metaphor of the redemption from sin that the Messiah would bring. In Isaiah 45 we read:

We can see from verse 17 onward that more is at stake here than just temporal political salvation. The prophet speaks here of eternity, and salvation from sin and death:

To be justified means to be cleared of all guilt of sin.

One should really read the whole book of Isaiah to get the whole picture, but it really boils down to this:

The historical person of Cyrus brought political freedom to the Jews. In the prophetic book of Isaiah, he becomes a "prophetic metaphor" of the Messiah (remember Cyrus is called the "annointed one" which is the meaning of the word "messiah") that would bring salvaton from sin and death to everlasting life. This culminates in the prophesy of Isaiah 53, a passage that contains the totality of Christian doctrine, written centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ.

There are other examples of "prophetic metaphors" throughout the Bible, but this one example should suffice.

Melchisedec, a prophetic metaphor of the Messiah

In the Taurat, Genesis 14, we read:

Melchizedek is really a mystery character in the Bible: We know only two things of him:

In the Taurat, the Levitic priesthood was only formally established by Moses (Musa), with Aaron (Imran) as the first high priest. This happened some three hundred years after Abraham. So where does the priestly order of Melchizedek come from? We don't know, but the Bible regards his order as the most primitive or first priestly order on earth, the implication is that it was established by God himself in the time of Adam and Eve. This order is also not limited to a specific people (the Israelites) since Melchizedek lived before God called Abraham to establish a chosen people, the Israelites. It is therefore for all the peoples of the earth.

So these are the two important points of Melchizedek's priestly order:
- It is eternal
- It is universal

It is with this in mind that prophet David (Daoud) writes in the Zabur about the coming Messiah (Masih), Psalm 110:

The Messiah would be "a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." This underlines the eternality of the priestly order but also of the office and reign of the Messiah.

In the passage Al-Kadhi refers to from the Injil, the writer of Hebrews (We do not really know who it was) talks about the atonement the Messiah brought between God and man, and to explain it to the Jews he writes to, he says that Jesus was a Priest. (Let me quickly explain that the function of a priest in the Old Testament was to bring sacrifices on the behalf of the people to atone for their sin (Please read the article on Ibrahim's sacrifice to get more detail!) The priest slaughtered an animal, and the life of the animal was substituted for the life of the sinner, the animal took the punishment that the sinner should have received so that the sinner could be reunited with God.) Not only a Priest, but one after the order of Melchisedec: Eternal and Universal.

This is in contrast to the priesthood established by Moses (Called here the "sons of Levi") of which the priests were mortal, sinfull humans, who needed atonement themselves. They were also called just for their own people, the Jews. Melchizedek came before Moses, his priestly order is therefore greater.

The writer uses the person of Melchizedek as a prophetic metaphor to describe the Son of God:

Hebrews 7:

He says Melchizedek is the king of peace, (referring to the meaning of the place name Salem) in the same way the Messiah is the King of Peace.

He extends this metaphor to what we know (or rather, DON'T know) about about Melchizedek: We do not know who his ancestors were, or his parents, or when and where he was born, or when and where he died. These things were all very important to the history writers of the ancient middle east: the genealogogy of a king was his most important claim to his throne. Of the king of Salem, however, we know nothing. It is AS IF he was never born, and AS IF he never died. In other words, if you read the history books, he seems to be an eternal being. The writer of Hebrews DOES NOT say that he was indeed unborn and never died, but uses this SEEMING eternality of Melchizedek as a metaphor to explain the fact of the eternality of the Messiah.

The Messiah is High Priest eternally, and universally, for all people.

Mr. Al-Kadhi has once more proven that he understands very little about the Scriptures that he so passionately wants to discredit. It is obvious from the context and background of this verse that the writer never intended to present Melchizedek as an eternal, uncreated being. The key to the verse is exactly the words Mr. Al-Kadhi quotes above:

Just as the word "God" is only a symbol that conveys a specific meaning, and not the person the symbol refers to, so the person of Melchizedek is simply a symbol of somebody else. The word "God" is not God, Melchizedek fulfills the same function to the Son of God.

When the first chapter of Genesis states that mankind is created "in the likeness of" God, nobody would think that man is therefore God. It only says there are some characteristics, some attributes that God gave to mankind which we share to a certain extent with the attributes of our Creator. Melchizedek was "made like unto the Son of God", because he appears in scripture (is made to look) like the Son of God regarding those attributes that are mentioned or omitted as the writer of Hebrews and even David in his Psalm have pointed out. Melchizedek was not the Son of God, but God in the scriptures purposefully gave information about him in a way that made him a prophetic metaphor, a type pointing forward to the reality of the one to come. Melchizedek was not eternal but he was made (at a certain time) after the model (like unto) of the (eternal) Son of God.

We have to conclude, Mr. Al-Kadhi has it all backwards again. He titled this section "Melchizedek, A god greater than Jesus?" yet Melchizedek is only the symbol, a shadow, of the great reality of Jesus. Al-Kadhi could see "divine attributes" even in Melchizedek. When will he recognize this reality in the one this symbol testifies to? How will he respond to the one who is greater than Melchizedek, Jesus?


Whether you, dear Muslim reader, accept this explanation or not is your decision. Please do not get bogged down in peripheral issues and rethorics as this only serves the intent to evade the main issue: In this case, the person of Jesus Christ. The important question here, my friend, is: What do you think. Is Jesus really the Eternal and Universal High Priest that can bridge the gap between you and God, as the writer of Hebrews wants to show with these verses on Melchizedek, or not?

Know this: your eternal destiny may well depend on your answer!

Further reading: Melchizedek: A Picture of Christ

The Rebuttal to "What Did Jesus Really Say?"
Answering Islam Home Page