Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2015

Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)

Degree In

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Cargill, Robert R

First Committee Member

Dilley, Paul C

Second Committee Member

Smith, Jordan A


The study of Melkisedeq has been highly fragmentary among modern scholars, proving to be difficult to discuss over the long Second Temple Period. This study will focus on the social memory of Melkisedeq to understand the evolution of the tradition surrounding his character among sectarian groups in the Second Temple Period. Through an analysis of the components from the Hebrew Bible that compromise the social memory of Melkisedeq a deeper understanding of how his memory is used by later groups can be made. The redaction and expansion of his character changes greatly over time.

The study of social memory allows scholars to understand how different memories form within a collective group, thus exploring the societal and ideological elements of disparate groups that form the over-arching memory of Melkisedeq. In order to properly identify these memories, redactional, historical, and textual criticisms will be employed to analyze the texts of Melkisedeq, answering such questions as: Who is Melkisedeq? What is the relationship between Melkisedeq and the king of Sodom? What is a priest-king? Did Abram tithe to Melkisedeq? This study will address the Near Eastern context of Melkisedeq in Genesis 14, in order to examine which features of his social memory are accentuated or excluded in Second Temple literature.

Public Abstract

Individuals remember things differently. This is a fact of life; different people remember different aspects of events, people, and ideas, but this does not necessarily make any single memory the correct memory. This aggregate of individual memories contributes to a collective, creating a social memory. The present thesis addresses the social memory of the biblical priest-king Melkiṣedeq from Genesis 14:18-20. Throughout the Second Temple Period (530 BCE-70 CE), Jewish groups interpreted the Hebrew Bible to further their own agenda. Melkiṣedeq was one of the most popular interpretive points for priestly purposes because of his role in Genesis 14 and Psalm 110.

Second Temple groups such as the Qumran community, the early rabbinic movement, early Christians, and other Jewish philosophers of the time adapted the already present social memory of Melkiṣedeq to fit their societal needs. These various groups needed to provide legitimization for their ideologies and looked back through their memories of biblical characters to find one that would provide the precedent needed to promote their theology. Melkiṣedeq was able to provide precedent for the role of priest-king, tithing, and a priestly alternative to the Jerusalem priesthood for these new groups arising in Second Temple Palestine. This work will demonstrate the complete social memory of Melkiṣedeq’s character and how it was reinterpreted over time.


publicabstract, Genesis 14, Melchizedek, Second Temple Period, Sedeq, Social Memory


vii, 101 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 91-101).


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Copyright © 2015 Cale Alexander Staley

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