Did Melchizedek write Genesis 1:1-2:4?

Another discussion on this forum asked whether Moses wrote the Pentateuch. At the risk of being even more controversial, can a smaller question be asked? Did Melchizedek write Genesis 1?

Few clues hint at who authored Genesis 1. To many, the Book of Genesis is considered a work of Moses, at least in part, although the method and circumstances of Moses’ receipt of the content can only be speculated upon. Formulated in the 19th century by Julius Wellhausen, the documentary hypothesis attributes Genesis 1 to a post-exilic priestly author in the order of Aaron (Levi) due to its distinct concerns and style when compared to the rest of the book of Genesis. The competing Wiseman hypothesis based on the analysis of cuneiform clay tablets supports a very early date of authorship consistent with an Abrahamic-era or earlier origin. Following Wiseman, a speculative deduction can be entertained.

Jesus is a priest in the order of Melchizedek. (Heb. 7:17)
Jesus is the Creator. (Col. 1:16)
The Creator revealed Genesis 1:1-2:4. (Job 38:4)
Genesis 1:1-2:4a is a genealogy of the heavens and earth. (Gen. 2:4)
The genealogy of the heavens and earth is possessed by God. (Gen. 2:4 is a colophon)
Melchizedek worshiped God, the possessor of heaven and earth. (linking Gen. 14:19, 2:4)
Melchizedek’s priesthood was not based on human genealogy. (Heb. 7:3)
Biblical priesthood is based on genealogy. (Ex. 29:9, Ex. 40:15, Heb. 7:11)
Jesus’ priesthood allows believers to enter God’s rest. (Gen. 2:2, Heb. 4:3-4)
Melchizedek is greater than Abraham (Heb. 7:7), Levi (Heb. 7:9), and presumably Moses.

Melchizedek’s priesthood offered entry into God’s holy rest mentioned in Genesis 2:2.
Jesus revealed Genesis 1:1-2:4 to establish the priesthood of Melchizedek.
Melchizedek’s priesthood was established on the genealogy of the heavens and earth.
Abraham recognized Melchizedek as a legitimate priest because of Genesis 1:1-2:4.
Abraham offered Melchizedek a tithe for a blessing, possibly including copy rights.
Melchizedek allowed Abraham to copy Genesis 1:1-2:4.
Abraham inserted “Yahweh” into 2:4b in his copy. (as in Gen. 14:22)
Genesis 1:1-2:4 as passed down through Abraham became source material for Moses.

Interested in your thoughts.

Can’t argue that. Literally - I wouldn’t know where to start. :wink:


Hi Dan. Thanks for reading the post. Perhaps it would be better if the deductive part of the argument was stated as a set of syllogisms, and the inductive part be more clearly identified.

A1. Priesthoods must be based on genealogy.
B1. Melchizedek did not have a human-lineage genealogy.
C1. Therefore, Melchizedek’s priesthood must be based on a non-human-lineage genealogy.

A2. Melchizedek’s priesthood must be based on a non-human-lineage genealogy.
B2. Genesis 1:1-2:4 is a non-human-lineage genealogy.
C2. Therefore, Melchizedek’s priesthood “could be” based on Genesis 1:1-2:4

C2 is a “could be”, not a “must be”.

A3. Jesus priesthood allows entry to God’s Sabbath rest.
B3. Jesus priesthood is based on Melchizedek’s priesthood.
C3. Therefore, Melchizedek’s priesthood allows entry to God’s Sabbath rest.

A4. Melchizedek’s priesthood allows entry to God’s Sabbath rest.
B4. Only Genesis 1:1-2:4 taught about God’s Sabbath rest (at the time Melchizedek lived).
C4. Therefore, Melchizedek must have been aware of Genesis 1:1-2:4.

C4 moves C2 from a “could be” to a “likely was”. (Induction)

I’m rejecting 5.5 premises, all the conclusions about Abraham (they’re not related to the premises), and the misuse of Heb 7.7.

No, I mean I don’t have the background to make heads or tails out of this. Why should priesthoods be based on genealogy? What’s a non-human lineage? etc…

Note: I’m not asking you to answer these questions, just saying that you aren’t starting from a place I can understand or agree. Your syllogism could be just fine, but it doesn’t help me understand the premise. It’s also not a topic for which I am likely to be a good student! :wink:

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I see a lot of wild speculation and little support - and even less when the cited passages are examined.

On what do you base that, since Hebrews 7 seems to deny it? Hebrews 7:11 certainly doesn’t support it. Exodus 29:9 is about the Aaronic priesthood. So is Exodus 40:15. Hebrews 7:12 says that the law regarding the priesthood must change - so we certainly can’t take anything from Exodus as necessarily binding on this new priesthood.


Regarding the original post, seems clear that Genesis has a redaction history and roots in oral history. We don’t have many good ways of identifying most of the individuals that were part of the chain of custody.

Though if there was a Melchizedek that contributed, most likely I’d say it was part of the oral history. So he didn’t “write” gen 1, almost certainly, but perhaps he helped compose and transmit it.


Yes, that is thoughtful. The patterned structure of Gen 1 definitely lends itself to reliable oral transmission. It seems Abraham would have met many priests in his travels. Perhaps he found with Melchizedek that they shared a common oral tradition regarding the creation of the world, and therefore regarded him as uniquely legitimate.

I think P J Wiseman provides grist for arguments favoring the early capture of Gen 1 (in some form) on a clay tablet. While the documentary hypothesize wants a post-exilic priest to largely compose Genesis 1, it seems to me more likely that Gen 1 (or something very similar) may have existed pre-mosaic. The most extraordinary pre-mosaic priest in Scripture is Melchizedek. Not enough evidence to convict him, but seems like a prime suspect to me. :wink: Now how best to frame him?

Perhaps, as you point out, assigning redactive attribution is too speculative to bear fruit.

Thank you for interacting with me on this topic.

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Thanks for your thoughts, Paul.

To pull on this thread just a little more, do you think following line of reasoning has any merit?
A. Jesus’ priesthood (Order Melchizedek) allows believers to enter God’s rest. (Gen. 2:2, Heb. 4:3-4)
B. Therefore, Melchizedek’s priesthood offered entry into God’s holy rest.
C. Therefore, Melchizedek must have had some familiarity with a creation story a bit like Genesis 1:1-2:4

No, it does not. The spiritual properties ascribed to the priesthood do not have to be based on the knowledge of the priests. The “rest” of Hebrews 4:3 does not have to mean the same “rest” as Genesis 2:2. Knowledge of God’s rest does not entail knowing when it began.

I appreciate your willingness to dialog on this, Paul.

It does not have to I suppose, but it seems to refer to the same rest. Hebrews 4:3 states, “And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world,” which is a clear allusion to Genesis 2:2 “God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work”.

The following verse directly ties the promised rest to the creation rest of Genesis 2:2, does it not?

Hebrews 4:4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works. 5 And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”

Furthermore, Hebrews 4:3 is quoting Psalm 95 which invokes God’s work as the creator:
“3 For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.”

The book of Genesis begins with the the creation story and the next we hear about the heavens and the earth are on the lips of Melchizedek.

Genesis 14:19 “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth."

If Genesis has any kind of normal construction, it seems that the author/compiler/redactor would assume that the astute reader would conclude that Melchizedek was a priest of the creator God introduced at the beginning of the book.

Also, I don’t see how this objection can stand:

Malachi 2:7 states, “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth.”

So Melchizedek would have had to have something non-trivial to teach about God and His relationship to creation, and especially something distinct from pagan creation stories. Wouldn’t he?

There are two ways to error: missing an obvious connection and seeing one that isn’t there. I prefer to avoid both if possible. Open to your further feedback, with much appreciation.

One point to consider. The “rest” referred to in Hebrews is directly connected to the Sabbath. I do not see how Melchizedek could teach it without teaching the observance of the Sabbath. Yet Abraham is never mentioned as observing the Sabbath, nor are his family. (Nor is Melchizedek, but his appearance is to brief to place much weight on that).

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That is a good point, Paul. Observing the Sabbath would be the most direct way of teaching about a Sabbath rest. I do find it interesting that Moses gives the Lord’s command to observe a Sabbath rest with respect to gathering manna in Exodus 16 prior to giving the commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” as part of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. So, observance of the Sabbath does predate the Ten Commandments, but not by much in this example. In Exodus 20:11, Moses appeals to the creation account of Genesis 1, with which I have always supposed the Israelites were already familiar. Unless this is a redaction, it would seem to be an allusion to a prior text.

Still, I grant there is a marked silence in Genesis about this topic. After all, the very important word “holy”, which becomes very popular in the Bible from Exodus 3:5 onward, is only mentioned once in Genesis, and that in Genesis 2:3. So God’s “holy rest” is not developed in the book of Genesis, and difficult to trace origins on. Even if it were known to Abraham that God rested on the seventh day, it would not follow that he necessarily would try to emulate that. Still, this amounts to an argument from silence on my part which is notoriously weak.

Thank you for your thoughts.

Obviously if you assume Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, then Moses knew the story anyway - which leaves no evidence of an earlier origin.

Although there are a few anachronisms in Exodus which suggest - at the least - later redaction (e.g. Exodus 13:7 refers to “the land of the Philistines” and presumably was written well after the Philistines arrived - the writer apparently assumed that the Philistines would have been living in that region at the time of the Exodus).

Redaction of the Pentateuch by Samuel is one theory I have heard which seems to have plausibility.

How Moses knew the story is precisely the question: was is based on earlier sources, or did he “whole cloth” it?

On the basis of Berossos and Manetho, Russell Gmirkin argues that the Hebrew Pentateuch was composed in its entirety about 273-272 BCE by Jewish scholars at Alexandria along with the Septuagint. No one ever mentioned it before then. Also no one ever mentioned any of the New Testament until the second half of the Second Century.

The idea that the Pentateuch was composed in the Hellenistic period is at least possible, has a few convincing arguments, and is accepted by some (minimalist/Copenhagen) scholars. The idea that the New Testament was entirely composed after AD 150 is incredible. The first fragment of John (P52), which is considered the latest gospel by the majority of NT scholars, has been dated to the mid-2nd century. Can you point to any NT scholars who accept that the whole NT was written in the second half of the 2nd century or later?

If the first fragment of John (P52), which is considered the latest gospel by the majority of NT scholars, has been dated to the mid-2nd century where do you get the notion any of the NT was written before then? The majority of NT “scholars” also believe Jesus actually existed. That belief is based on faith not any physical evidence.