Melchizedek is not Jesus

Not long ago, I read a paper which defended the position that Melchizedek of the Old Testament was the ante-mortal Messiah. The paper made a great analysis, which included philology, legend, and canonical scripture.

Today, it seems reasonable to assemble my thoughts on why LDS teaching does not leave much room for this possibility.

The JST presents Melchizedek as a mortal

The JST for Gen 14:25-40 presents Melchizedek as a mortal man, even to the extent of having had a childhood (2000 years before Jesus’ childhood): “and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.”

If you would contend that these miracles could be presented as prophecy for the actual childhood of Jesus, about which little is known, I cannot definitely tell you otherwise, but John the Revelator, at least, did not think that Jesus did any such thing in his childhood: speaking of the miracle at the marriage in Cana, he said, ‘This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee.’ (John 2:11)

Other excerpts from JST Gen 14 which hint at Melchizedek’s life being mortal, though they are far from conclusive on their own, include:

  • Now Melchizedek was a man of faith (nowhere in canon is God called ‘a man’ or even ‘man’, except for the sobriquet ‘man of holiness’)
  • having been approved of God (unless we apply divine investiture to this text, it’s self-referential)
  • he was ordained … after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch (why would Enoch be treated as antecedent if Melchizedek were the ante-mortal God?)
  • his people … sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken

Names appear not to interchanged in writ

Scriptural writers may have many names for Jesus (e.g. Lamb of God, Son of God, Messiah, Christ, etc.), so if Jesus and Melchizedek were in fact the same person it is possible that a writer might interchange Melchizedek for any of the better-known names of Jesus. However, an interchange is not what we see. Rather, the names are compartmentalized in the scriptures, with the only intersection being ‘Prince of peace’.

The name ‘Prince of peace’ is nowhere (in canon, at least) actually used as a referrer for Melchizedek; rather, we read that he was king of Salem (whose name means ‘peace’) and “therefore he … was called the prince of peace.” (Alma 13:18; c.f. JST Gen 14:33) What’s more the term ‘prince of peace’ is not reserved for Melchizedek and Jesus alone but is applied also to Abraham. (Abr 1:2)

Moses, David, Alma, Paul, and Joseph Smith mention Melchizedek by name, but never refer to him by any other name in context. If Jesus and Melchizedek were one and the same, the scriptural writers either didn’t realize it or decided not to disclose it.

This is at least the case for Joseph Smith, who gave us D&C 107:

Why the first [priesthood] is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest. Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. (D&C 107:2-3)

If the writer knew that the two were one in the same and didn’t mind letting on, this language makes no sense.

God visited Abraham as Jehovah

Despite the segregation of the two personas in scripture, one might yet hold to an idea that Melchizedek was God but that Abraham failed to recognize the fact, which gave rise to Melchizedek’s treatment as a different character in later scripture. After all, did not the resurrected saviour keep company with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, yet they did not recognize him? (Luke 24:13-31) And did he not speak of himself in the third person, as though he were not the Christ? (vs. 26)

However, Abraham had already had dealings with the ante-mortal Jesus (Gen 18) and known him as God, which is something that his disciples appeared not to have grasped.

Without beginning of days or end of years…

A (ostensibly) compelling argument for the unity of Jesus and Melchizedek comes in a Paul’s (ostensible) description of Melchizedek:

Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God… (Heb 7:3)

However, the Joseph Smith Translation for that scripture places the description on the priesthood, not Melchizedek.

For this Melchizedek was ordained a priest after the order of the Son of God, which order was without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life. And all those who are ordained unto this priesthood are made like unto the Son of God, abiding a priest continually.

Day 4: Bedfordshire to Derbyshire

The previous post in this series on our visits through Britain detailed our family history calls for the Fenn family in Billington and Leighton Buzzard. In our travel northward through Bedfordshire, we created a few other memories, however.

Villages of Aldwincle & Wadenhoe

The beautiful small towns between the day’s first and final ports of call were numerous, and we made stops in two of them, Aldwincle and Wadenhoe, for footbound exploration.

 

 

Most houses were built of stone and had thatched or slate roofs. The village streets could be walked in entirety in the course of an hour or two (less if you’re Luther). When strolling through Aldwincle, we spoke wistfully of relocating permanently in order to rest amid the beauty, the quiet, and the slower pace of things.

I won’t use the term ‘quaint’ to describe the villages, for that suggests to me a creature living after a simple manner because it knows of no alternative; I rather think that familiarity with the alternatives might drive a person to adopt a way of life offered by such a village as Aldwincle.

Froth ‘n’ Elbow

Because I never saw a pub in London (at least not any that looked like the English free houses I had encountered on the previous excursion), lunch at the Froth ‘n’ Elbow (Dunstable) was our first call to a pub on this visit. The cook and the other guests were polite and helpful, but the tapstress was decidedly unfriendly.

 

Scattered about the interior were painted quotations. One by Andy Warhol, “Being born is like being kidnapped and sold into slavery,” stayed with me.

Our second pub deserves comment and praise: The King’s Head (Wadenhoe), a beautiful, slate-roofed, grey-stone free house. We only stepped in to use the loo, but the service people were exquisitely courteous, and there were tablecloths and candles on the tables. Full marks.

King's Head Wadenhoe 2011
King's Head Free House, Wadenhoe

Hartington Hall Hostel

The only youth hostels I recall from previous experience had lice or were in the middle of nowhere, with no electricity. Hartington Hall, where we stayed the night, bills itself as a hostel but is actually an opulent manor house with (comparatively) spacious grounds.

Hartington Hall Hostel front 2011

There were animals (rabbits, chickens, goats, etc.) and a garden and games. It appeared distantly akin to a summer camp, but adjacent to a town.

Cait and Brad on grounds of Hartington Hall Hostel  

The only thing that made this experience resemble a hostel stay was that we were to bring our own towels.

Genesis 35 and 37 are out of order

The writer no longer holds the following position (having been disabused of it by Luther). The post remains in place due to pack-rat compulsions.

Last week’s discussion of Joseph’s second dream only bears merit if Genesis chapters 35 and 37 don’t fall in chronological order. Their anachronlogy has long been my unexamined supposition, but since it has been challenged, I am obliged to investigate and explain the point.

Anachronology in chapters 35–37

  • Gen 35: Rachel gives birth to Benjamin. The sons of Jacob are listed. Jacob and Esau bury Isaac at Mamre.
  • Gen 36: The descendency of Esau is listed.
  • Gen 37: Joseph’s brothers sell him to Ishmeelites.

Chronology between 35 and 37 is clearly discontinuous because chapter 36 lists multiple generations that follow Esau, generations that existed after the characters in chapter 37 were all dead.

There is plenty of logical room, then, to allow that chapter 37 takes up a new thread in the narrative, one which begins before the events of Gen 35. From that footing, lets see what evidence there is:

Location, location, location

The most significant argument for the anachronology of chapters 35 and 37 is where Jacob’s flocks are located at the time that Joseph was sold by his brothers:

And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Schechem? come, and I will send thee unto them…

(Gen 37:13)

The name Shechem rings a bell because Jacob and his family lived there until Gen 35:1, when God instructed them to move to Bethel. Why did they have to move? Presumeably because they weren’t safe in Shechem after Simeon and Levi killed the prominent people of the area for defiling their sister, Dinah.

Jacob certainly thought they weren’t safe:

And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me stink among the inhabitants of the land… they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me…

(Gen 34:30)

Two verses later, God instructs Jacob to move to Bethel. Why would Joseph’s brothers be grazing their flocks in Shechem (Dothan, to be specific) in chapter 37, unless the events of chapter 35 (and 34) had not happened yet?

Little clues

There are a few little clues to suggest that Gen 37 occurred before Gen 35. They don’t weigh much on their own, but adding them together provides further support for the precedence of chapter 37.

  • Jacob mentions Rachel in chapter 37. “Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?” (Gen 37:10)
  • Gen 37:3 says Joseph was “the son of [Jacob’s] old age,” an exclusive title.
  • In chapter 37’s multiple references to Joseph’s brethren and their treachery, never is any exclusion made of Benjamin, though Reuben and Judah are each mentioned by name for their unique performances. If Benjamin were alive, his absence (or abstinence) was surely more divergent from the pack than Reuben or Judah’s behaviour; it should have earned him mention.
  • Jacob witholds Benjamin from going down into Egypt, as though Benjamin were too vulnerable. But if he were alive when Joseph was sold into Egypt, he must have been at least 20 years old by then.

Day 4: Billington and Leighton Buzzard

Father John Fenn

We visited Billington in search of the home of an ancestor, John Fenn, (called “Father” John Fenn, perhaps to distinguish him from a great-grandson, also named John).

The story of Father John Fenn is amusing and worth your acquaintance:

Quite late in life, he converted from Methodism to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (That was January 1847; he was 70 years old!) Father John was, in fact, the first in Eaton Bray (where he then lived) to open his house to the LDS missionaries.

Now, the Church of England was rather bound up with the law of the land, and even if a person appertained to a different church, he was still obliged to leave a tithe (one tenth of his produce) in his fields for the church to collect. Some time after his conversion to the LDS church, John Fenn determined that he had done with paying tithes to the Anglican Church and of a consequence, was arrested for non-payment. It was indignation at this incident that resolved aged Father John to emigrate to America.

Little Hill, Billington

The house that John Fenn quitted for America was called Little Hill and received a reservation order from the National Trust in 1966. We didn’t find the house, though we used the address (a street named Little Hill) and photo from the National Trust as a guide. We don’t know what to make of it; here’s how it played out.

The Little Hill we encountered was not a house but a single, short road in a very sparsely-populated place. We found no house to match the photograph from the National Trust and so inquired at a house near the dead end of said road.

A pleasant, grey-haired woman in a sweater informed us that she had lived in present house all her life and that all the houses there had been in place at least as long as she, with the exception of two which were torn down but fifteen years earlier. Two other houses yet remained which dated to the 1500s, or so she said. Perhaps Father John Fenn’s house was one of those demolished and built over.

That’s right, she was wearing a sweater in July! Just about everywhere north of London, it was more common than not to see people in long trousers and sweaters or long-sleeves. Even down in London it was not unusual. I imagined that the people would think their July weather was hot and dress accordingly.

Alas that something less pretty and of much less character went up in its place, but at least the newer constructions are probably more efficient to heat and maintain.

Churchyards and graves

Just across the way and down the street from Little Hill was a churchyard, about which we poked, looking for graves naming persons from our genealogy. We peeled vines and moss away from gravestones which could not have been more occluded if they had been props in a film. Although they were, most of them, quite legible underneath the growth, Alas, we made no finds.

Here Lyeth ye Body of Ioan Higton ... March 172 2/4

Later in the day, a country stroll took us through another churchyard, where we admired headstones and monuments, the oldest of which was marked 1648 (but must have been built 1649 or after). It was remarkable to us that, through the several graveyards we visited while in Britain, that some markers less than 100 years old were far more dilapidated than some over 3 centuries old (including said stone casket marked 1648).

George Fenn and Leighton Buzzard

Sounds like a terrible name for a village, doesn’t it? “Leighton Buzzard.” Why so? It happens that there were two Leightons within a single diocese, so in the 12th century, the dean of Lincoln differentiated the two by appending the name of each’s prebendary (a canon who receives a stipend called a ‘prebend’). The prebendary of this Leighton at this time was Theobald de Busar.

Just three miles north of Billington stands Leighton Buzzard, where Father John Fenn worshipped in his days as a Wesleyian Methodist. But that’s not where the oddly-named town drops out of our history. Recall that Father John emigrated to America. With him went his wife, two of their children, and grandson George (aged 21).

A year after settling down in Manti, UT, George was commissioned by the LDS church to return to England to preach the restoration of Jesus’ church. (Oh, the irony!) He travelled back to Bedfordshire, specifically, to Leighton Buzzard. While a missionary there, George married Eliza Ann Dyer of Eaton Bray, and they had a son, John (born on English soil just two days before they re-emigrated to America). (This is the other John, perhaps the reason why the elder is called “Father” John.)

Our stop in Leighton Buzzard

Tuesdays are market days in Leighton Buzzard. Cait, Mum, and I visited a chocolatier and tried some horrid basil-flavoured white chocolates. That’s right—basil! Horrid! Cait and Brad donned chocolate moustaches, as you can see in the photo.

chocolate moustaches

More history

The foregoing details about Father John Fenn and his family come from this text, assembled by my mother prior to our trip. For interesting details about Bedfordshire, Leighton Buzzard, Father John, et al., read on.