Maccabean priesthood and the Melchizedek priesthood


The Jewish apocryphal book of Jubilees and the Assumption of Moses, as well as Josephus (Ant. 16. 6. 2), identify the non-Zadakite priesthood of the Maccabees as belonging to the “priesthood of Melchizedek”. R.H. Charles (editor of the Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament) states the Maccabean high-priests co-opted the title “Priest of the Most High God” in imitation of Melchizedek:

“Now the Maccabean high-priests were the first Jewish priests to assume the title ‘priests of the Most High God’—the title anciently borne by Melchizedek, and applied to the Maccabean high-priests in Jubilees, the Assumption of Moses, Josephus, and the Talmud. A kindred title of the same significance is applied according to a growing body of expositors to Simon the Maccabee in Ps. 110. In due accord with these facts our text (T. Lev. 8:14) declares that a new name should mark the new priesthood.” (1)

This is huge because it indicates that at beginning the Maccabean revolt a Jewish tradition arose with the assertion that a Zadokite priesthood could be displaced by a Melchizedek priesthood! The Melchizedek priesthood of the first-born is the original form of Abrahamaic priesthood. Second Temple Israelites had developed an implicit understanding that the priesthood of offering one’s own body and blood on Mount Moriah (Abraham offering his body and blood (Isaac) > Jesus offering his body and blood) as the efficacious priesthood.

(1) Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament. Edited by R. H. Charles (2004), 2: 289.

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