Melchizedek, Carson, and the Tar Baby

Yeah, this next Sunday we get to study Melchizedek! (Said almost no one ever.) Yes, it’s true: If you use the Christian Light Publications curriculum for Sunday School, this Sunday’s lesson will be from Hebrews 7, about the mysterious OT king-priest named Melchizedek (or “Melchisedec” in the KJV). And yes, some of us actually do get excited about Melchizedek.

Everyone seems to agree that Melchizedek is a confusing character. Beyond that, there often isn’t a lot of agreement! Some have suggested that the fact that he “is without father or mother or genealogy” means that he was not descended from Adam, and that he therefore did not have a sinful nature. Christ, too, was born without a sinful nature, right? Some seem to think he was a manifestation in the flesh of the pre-incarnate Christ, a rather self-contradictory idea. (If he was “in the flesh” this means he was incarnate, not pre-incarnate. And last time I checked Scripture suggests that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” only once–“when the fullness of time had come”–not twice, and that he did have a mother. See John 1:14; Galatians 4:4.)

I think these ideas are bunny trails into the briar patch. But it is pretty understandable if folks get hung up in the briars with Mr. Mel. Like Brer Rabbit, he was “bred and born in the briar patch,” and he’s about as sticky as Brer Fox’s Tar Baby.

How can we disentangle ourselves? Thankfully, there is help. I suggest we let the Reformed super-hero NT scholar1 Don Carson do “some fast thinking” for us.

Last night my wife reminded me of a superb presentation from Carson, one we have watched together. (Yes, ladies, this is for you, too.) This talk by Carson traces Melchizedek through Old and New Testaments, ending in Hebrews. It makes more sense out of Mr. Mel than anything else I’ve seen. And beyond that, it is an excellent example of how to read Scripture, paying attention to textual and historical details in order to reap a rich theological harvest.

So here it is. Carve out some time before next Sunday’s class to watch (or read) this. This is your chance to not only “get” but also “get excited about” Melchizedek.

Getting Excited About Melchizedek

Do you want to comment on this video? Or do you have other resources for this studying Melchizedek? Share your insights below.


PS: I’m actually excited enough about this presentation from Carson that this is now the second time I’ve shared it here.

PPS: The fact that I began writing this post at 3:30 a.m., while monitoring a passing thunderstorm, might help explain how Tar Baby got into the mix.

  1. If you aren’t into super-heroes, or if you tend to prefer non-Reformed or non-scholarly types, please don’t let the handle scare you. Can anything good come out of Samaria Reformed scholarship? Yes, it can. See for yourself.

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