Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. This
Melchisedech. If we look for the construction, Melchisedech may be joined with what follows, (ver. 3.) continueth
a priest for ever. (Witham) --- The excellency of this personage was so transcendent, that some of the ancients took him
to be an Angel, and some the Holy Ghost. This the Fathers condemn; for had he not been a man, a king, and a priest, he would
not have been so worthy a type of our Saviour.
Ver. 2. King
of justice, according to the signification of the word Melchisedech, and of peace, signified by the place
Salem, of which he was king. By Salem is commonly expounded Jerusalem, though St. Jerome thinks it was a town
in Samaria afterwards called Sichem. This king was also a priest of the Most High; i.e. of the true God. He blessed Abraham,
after he had defeated Chodorlahomor and the other kings; (Genesis xiv.) and Abraham gave him the tithes of all things which
he had taken from his enemies. He is said (ver. 3.) to have been without father, without mother, without any genealogy,
without beginning of days or end of life, inasmuch as we have no account in the Scripture of these particulars.
He is said in Genesis to have brought out, inasmuch as he was a priest, that is, to have offered up a sacrifice to God of
bread and wine. The apostle here shews two things, that Melchisedech was greater than Abraham, and that he is a figure of
Christ, who is a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech. (Psalm cix. 4.) (Witham)
Ver. 3. Without
father, &c. Not that he had no father, &c. but that neither his father, nor his pedigree, nor his birth, nor his
death, are set down in Scripture. (Challoner) --- Not that he was without father and mother, says St. Jerome, (ep. cxxxvi.)
for Christ himself was not without a Father according to his divinity, nor without a Mother in his humanity; but because his
genealogy is not given in Genesis, as that of the other patriarchs is, but he is abruptly introduced without any mention of
either his birth or death. In Melchisedech all was prophetical and figurative of Jesus Christ; and Abraham undoubtedly in
this patriarch saw Jesus Christ in spirit, and exulted that all the nations of the earth were to be blessed in him. Abraham,
your father, greatly desired, says our Lord to the Jews, to see the day of my coming: he saw it, and was filled
with joy. (John viii. 56.)
Ver. 4. Consider
how great this man (Melchisedech) was, and greater than our great patriarch, Abraham: 1. Because
Abraham, of his own accord, paid tithes to this priest of all the chief things he had: which was to own himself inferior to
him: as the rest of the Jewish people are inferior to the sons of Levi, the descendants of Aaron, who being raised to the
dignity of the priesthood by the command of God, have a right to take tithes or tenths of the people; and so are honoured
above the rest. 2. This Melchisedech blessed, or gave a benediction to our great father Abraham, to whom
the promises of blessing all nations was made. Now he that gives a blessing to another, must be better or greater than he
to whom the blessing is given; therefore Melchisedech was greater than Abraham. 3. To shew another pre-eminence
of the priesthood of Melchisedech (which was a figure of the eternal priesthood of Christ) above the priesthood of Aaron,
the apostle takes notice that the sons of Levi, the priests of the ancient law, to whom tithes were to be paid, were no more
than mortal men, always dying, whereas the Scripture only witnesseth of Melchisedech that he liveth; he is represented as
one that hath neither beginning nor end of his days. This agrees chiefly with Christ, who by the psalmist is called, a priest
for ever. And, though Christ also died for us, for it was chiefly by his death that he offered his sacrifice, yet he presently
rose again, and continues for ever a priest, without a successor as to his priesthood, and as to the sacrifice of expiation
for the sins of mankind. His priesthood, his sacrifice, and oblation for our redemption, lasts for ever. 4.
Another reason that shews the priesthood of Melchisedech (and of our Saviour, Christ) to be above the Aaronical priesthood,
is, that not only Abraham, but even Aaron and Levi, and all their successors, may be said in the person of Abraham to have
paid tithes to Melchisedech, because we may consider them as yet in the loins of Abraham, from whom they descended; though
it cannot be said, in like manner, that Christ himself was in the loins of Abraham, because though he was Son of Abraham,
yet his conception was not in the ordinary way of human generation, but by the operation of the Holy Ghost. See St. Augustine,
lib. x. de Gen. ad lit. chap. 20. tom. 3. p. 270. nov. edit. 5. St. Paul (ver. 11.) brings another reason
to shew that the priesthood according to the order of Melchisedech was more perfect, because true justice and sanctification
could not be given either by the priesthood of Aaron or by the law of Moses, which began as it were together; for if the former
law and sacrifices offered by the priests of Aaron, had been sufficient for man's justification and salvation, there would
have been no necessity of a new priesthood according to the order of Melchisedech. Of this St. Paul speaks elsewhere to the
Romans. And, as there is a new priesthood, so there is a new law, by which the former is no longer in force. 6.
He takes notice of this difference from the former priesthood, that they were priests of the tribe of Levi, but that Christ,
the priest according to the order of Melchisedech, is of the tribe of Juda. 7. Another difference is, that
the former law, and all belonging to it, consisted of carnal precepts, (ver. 16) in outward ceremonies and sacrifices,
with promises of temporal blessings and a long life in this world; but the new law and sacrifice of Christ, is according
to the power of an indissoluble and never-ending life, conferring inward graces, with the remission of sins, by
which men are justified and saved, with promises of eternal happiness. 8. He tells us that Christ's priesthood
was confirmed by God himself with an oath: not so the priesthood of Aaron. This second testament therefore is much better,
and more excellent. 9. The former testament brought nothing to perfection. (ver. 19.) It had nothing
but types and figures of what was to be fulfilled under the priesthood of Christ. The priests died, and succeeded one to another;
and there was need of different sacrifices, which they were to offer daily for their own sins and for the sins of the people;
but Christ was innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, (ver. 26) could not sin, but by suffering once has redeemed
all, has satisfied for the sins of all mankind, and by this one sacrifice can save all that come to him by faith, hope, and
love; he lives for ever to make intercession for us, as our Mediator and Redeemer. As he remains for ever, he is a priest
for ever; and by virtue of that one sacrifice on the cross, all that believe in him and obey him may be may be saved, and
be happy for eternity. Christ's sacrifice and oblation on the cross, is that one sacrifice of the new law which remains and
will be continued by his ministers, the priest of the new law, to the end of the world, the manner only being different, but
not the sacrifice. This is the doctrine of the Catholic Church, delivered to the faithful in the Council of Trent, (session
22. cap. 2.) where it is declared, that in the Mass is continued the same sacrifice and oblation which Christ offered, who
is still the chief priest, in whose name only his ministers, the bishops and priests, speak and act as his instruments. The
Victim that is offered is also the same, to wit, the body and blood of Christ, after a spiritual and unbloody manner, according
to his command at his last supper. The oblation at the Mass is indeed a true and proper sacrifice, yet not a new or different
sacrifice of expiation for the sins of mankind, but an application of Christ's satisfactions and merits, which, though of
infinite value, and more than sufficient to satisfy for the sins of the whole world, yet by the will of God are to be applied
to us by faith, by the sacraments, by the same sacrifice of Christ's body and blood, offered at the mass, &c. (Witham)
Ver. 12. After
giving a decided preference to Melchisedech, and his priesthood, over the Levitical priesthood, St. Paul proves the abrogation
of the latter, and even of the law, by the introduction of a new priesthood, according to the order of Melchisedech.
Ver. 20. The
old law was good in itself, being established by God, who does nothing in vain; but it was weak and imperfect, and the shadow
and figure of that which was to come. It was preparatory to a more perfect dispensation under Jesus Christ, who, as our new
high priest, was to finish by the gospel what Moses began by the law.
Ver. 23. Many
priests, &c. The apostle notes this difference between the high priests of the law, and our high priest, Jesus Christ:
that they being removed by death, made way for their successors: whereas our Lord Jesus is a priest for ever, and hath no
successor; but liveth and concurreth for ever with his ministers, the priests of the New Testament, in all their functions.
Secondly, that no one priest of the law, not all of them together, could offer that absolute sacrifice of everlasting redemption,
which our one high priest, Jesus Christ, has offered once and for ever. (Challoner)
Ver. 25. Make
intercession. Christ, as man, continually maketh intercession for us, by representing his passion to his Father. (Challoner)
Ver. 27. Jesus
Christ offered himself but once in a bloody manner on the cross; but, besides this bloody offering, he still continues
to offer himself in an unbloody manner. This he does both in heaven and upon earth; in heaven, by presenting his sacred
humanity continually to his Father; and on earth, by daily offering himself, under the appearances of bread and wine, on our
altars. Hence this eucharistic sacrifice is both a commemoration and continuation of the sacrifice of the cross. To understand
this, it must be observed, that the essence of a sacrifice includes several actions, the principal of which are the immolation
of the victim, and the oblation of the victim when immolated. Now the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, ended
only as to the bloody immolation; the same victim is still immolated mystically, by the separate consecration of the
bread and wine, and continues as the oblation. Jesus Christ, in quality of the eternal high priest, has carried his victim,
i.e. his body, into heaven, and there offers it continually to his Father. He continues also his sacrifice here on earth,
by the ministry of his priests: who to the end of time will offer to God the same immolated victim, present on our altars
under the appearance of bread and wine---a sacrifice infinitely perfect, since a God is the priest, and a God the victim.
The chief-priest who offers it is a God-man; the victim offered is a Man-God: a God the victim, offered by a God the priest!
Behold a sacrifice truly worthy of God---a sacrifice capable of atoning not only for our sins, but for the sins of ten thousand
worlds. What confidence then ought Christians to have in such a sacrifice! How solicitous ought they to be to assist daily
at these awful, or, to use St. Chrysostom's expression, these tremendous mysteries! Let us now examine the sentiments of learned
Protestant divines: "It is certain," says Dr. Grabe, "that Irenĉus and all the Fathers, either contemporary with the apostles,
or their immediate successors, whose writings are still extant, considered the blessed Eucharist to be the sacrifice of the
new law, and offered bread and wine on the altar, as sacred oblations to God the Father; and that this was not the private
opinion of any particular Church or teacher, but the public doctrine and practice of the universal Church, which she received
from the apostles, and they from Christ, is expressly shewn by Irenĉus, and before him by Justin Martyr and Clement of Rome."
(Nota in Irenĉum. p. 323.) --- "The elements being really changed from ordinary bread and wine into the body and blood of
Christ, mystically present, as in a sacrament, and that by virtue of the consecration, not by the faith of him that receives,
I am to admit and maintain whatsoever appears duly consonant with this truth, viz. that the elements so consecrated are truly
the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross, inasmuch as the body and blood of Christ are contained in them. ... And the sacrifice
of the cross being necessarily propitiatory, and impetratory both, it cannot be denied that the sacrament of the Eucharist,
inasmuch as it is the same sacrifice with that upon the cross, is also both propitiatory and impetratory." (Thorndike Epil.
p. 44 and 46.) --- "The holy Fathers frequently say, that in the Eucharist is offered and sacrificed the very body of Christ,
as is evident in almost innumerable places." (Bp. Forbes' de Euch. lib. iii. chap. 2. sect. 10.) --- "The sacrifice of the
supper is not only propitiatory, and may be offered up for the remission of our daily sins, but likewise is impetratory, and
may be rightly offered for the obtaining all blessings. Although the Scripture does not plainly and in express words teach
this, yet the holy Fathers with universal consent have thus understood the Scripture, as has been demonstrated by many; and
all the ancient liturgies prescribe, that in time of the oblation, prayers be offered for peace, &c. as is evident to
all." (Bp. Forbes' de Euch. lib. iii. chap. 2. sect. 12.) --- "The Church, commemorating the sacrifice of Christ with the
usual rites and words, in this also sacrificeth and offereth that which is her own, given to her by Christ; that she placeth
before the eyes of God; by that she beseecheth God; and it is the same sacrifice that Christ offered; the same one, true,
and singular sacrifice, as St. Augustine calls it; a sacrifice of memory according to Eusebius; a spiritual sacrifice, according
to others. After that the faithful offer themselves according to the example of Christ, &c. In all this what is there
new, what deformed, what hurtful? But minds once distracted, distract all things into a depraved meaning, and then are glad
to find a hint for it in any of the schools." (Grotius of Christian sacrifice.) --- To these we may add the authority of Ed.
Burke, in his speech to the electors of Bristol: "The mass is church service in the Latin tongue, not exactly like our liturgy,
but very near, and contains no offence whatever against the laws of good morals." (p. 29.)
 Ver. 4. Una eademque est Hostia, idem nunc offerens sacerdotum ministerio,
qui seipsum tunc in cruce obtulit, solâ offerendi ratione diversa. (Sess. 22. cap. 2.) Canon 1. Si quis
dixerit in missa non offerri verum et proprium sacrificium, &c. anathema. Canon 3. Si quis dixerit missĉ sacrificium tantum
esse laudis, et gratiarum actionis, aut nudam commemorationem sacrificii in cruce peracti, non autem propitiatorium, vel soli
prodesse sumenti, &c. Anathema sit.
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The priesthood of Christ, according to the order of Melchisedech,
excels the Levitical priesthood, and puts an end both to that and to the law.
1 For *this Melchisedech, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who
met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him:
2 To whom also Abraham divided the tithes of all: who indeed first by interpretation
is king of justice: and then also king of Salem, that is, king of peace,
3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning
of days, nor end of life, but likened unto the Son of God, continueth a priest for ever.
4 Now consider how great this man is, to whom also Abraham, the patriarch,
gave tithes out of the chief spoils.
5 And indeed they of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, *have
a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is to, of their brethren: though they themselves also
came out of the loins of Abraham.
6 But he, whose pedigree is not numbered among them, received tithes of
Abraham, and blessed him, who had the promises.
7 And without all contradiction, that which is less, is blessed by the
8 And here indeed, men who die, receive thithes: but there he of whom it
is testified, that he liveth.
9 And (as it may be said) even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes through
10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedech met him.
11 If then perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the
people received the law) what further need was there that another priest should rise, according to the order of Melchisedech,
and not be called according to the order of Aaron?
12 For the priesthood being translated, it is necessary that a translation
also be made of the law.
13 For he, of whom these things are spoken, is of another tribe, of which
no one gave attendance at the altar.
14 For it is evident that our Lord sprung out of Juda: in which tribe Moses
spoke nothing concerning priests.
15 And it is yet far more evident: if, according to the similitude of Melchisedech,
there arise another priest,
16 Who is made not according to the law of a carnal commandment, but according
to the power of an indissoluble life:
17 For he testifieth: *Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order
18 There is indeed an abrogation of the former commandment, because of
the weakness and unprofitableness thereof:
19 For the law brought nothing to perfection: but the introduction of a
better hope, by which we approach to God.
20 And inasmuch as it is not without an oath, (for the others indeed were
made priests without an oath:
21 But he with an oath, by him that said to him: *The Lord hath sworn,
and he will not repent: thou art a priest for ever:)
22 By so much is Jesus made a surety of a better testament.
23 And the others indeed were made many priests, because they were prevented
by death from continuing:
24 But he, because he continueth for ever, hath an everlasting priesthood,
25 Whereby he is able also to save for ever them that approach to God by
himself: always living to make intercession for us.
26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent,
undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens:
27 Who needeth not daily as the priests, *to offer sacrifices first for
his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, by offering up himself.
28 For the law maketh men priests, who have infirmity; but the word of
the oath, which is after the law, the Son who is perfected for evermore.
1: Genesis xiv. 18.
5: Deuteronomy xviii. 2.; Josue xiv. 4.
17: Psalm cix. 4.
21: Psalm cix. 4.
27: Leviticus xvi. 6.