St John Chrysostom on Hebrews:
‘For this Melchisedec, King of Salem, Priest of the most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the Kings, and blessed him: to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of Righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of Peace, without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, abides a Priest continually.’
1. Paul wishing to show the difference between the New and Old [Covenant], scatters it everywhere; and shoots from afar, and noises it abroad, and prepares beforehand. For at once even from the introduction, he laid down this saying, that ‘to them indeed He spoke by prophets, but to us by the Son’ c. i. 1, 2, and to them ‘at sundry times and in various manners,’ but to us through the Son. Afterwards, having discoursed concerning the Son, who He was and what He had wrought, and given an exhortation to obey Him, lest we should suffer the same things as the Jews; and having said that He is ‘High Priest after the order of Melchisedec’ Hebrews 6:20, and having oftentimes wished to enter into [the subject of] this difference, and having used much preparatory management; and having rebuked them as weak, and again soothed and restored them to confidence; then at last he introduces the discussion on the difference [of the two dispensations] to ears in their full vigor. For he who is depressed in spirits would not be a ready hearer. And that you may understand this, hear the Scripture saying, ‘They hearkened not to Moses for anguish of spirit.’ Exodus 6:9 Therefore having first cleared away their despondency by many considerations, some fearful, some more gentle, he then from this point enters upon the discussion of the difference [of the dispensations].
2. And what does he say? ‘For this Melchisedec, King of Salem, Priest of the Most High God.’ And, what is especially noteworthy, he shows the difference to be great by the Type itself. For as I said, he continually confirms the truth from the Type, from things past, on account of the weakness of the hearers. ‘For’ (he says) ‘this Melchisedec, King of Salem, Priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the Kings, and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all.’ Having concisely set down the whole narrative, he looked at it mystically.
And first from the name. ‘First’ (he says) ‘being by interpretation King of righteousness’: for Sedec means ‘righteousness’; and Melchi, ‘King’: Melchisedec, ‘King of righteousness.’ Do you see his exactness even in the names? But who is ‘King of righteousness,’ save our Lord Jesus Christ? ‘King of righteousness. And after that also King of Salem,’ from his city, ‘that is, King of Peace,’ which again is [characteristic] of Christ. For He has made us righteous, and has ‘made peace’ for ‘things in Heaven and things on earth.’ Colossians 1:20 What man is ‘King of Righteousness and of Peace’? None, save only our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. He then adds another distinction, ‘Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, abides a Priest continually.’ Since then there lay in his way [as an objection] the [words] ‘You are a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec,’ whereas he [Melchisedec] was dead, and was not ‘Priest for ever,’ see how he explained it mystically.
'And who can say this concerning a man?' I do not assert this in fact (he says); the meaning is, we do not know when [or] what father he had, nor what mother, nor when he received his beginning, nor when he died. And what of this (one says)? For does it follow, because we do not know it, that he did not die, [or] had no parents? You say well: he both died and had parents. How then [was he] ‘without father, without mother’? How ‘having neither beginning of days nor end of life’? How? [Why] from its not being expressed. And what of this? That as this man is so, from his genealogy not being given, so is Christ from the very nature of the reality.
See the ‘without beginning’; see the ‘without end.’ As in case of this man, we know not either ‘beginning of days,’ or ‘end of life,’ because they have not been written; so we know [them] not in the case of Jesus, not because they have not been written, but because they do not exist. For that indeed is a type, and therefore [we say] 'because it is not written,' but this is the reality, and therefore [we say] 'because it does not exist.' For as in regard to the names also (for there ‘King of Righteousness’ and ‘of Peace’ are appellations, but here the reality) so these too are appellations in that case, in this the reality. How then has He a beginning? You see that the Son is ‘without beginning,’ not in respect of His not having a cause; (for this is impossible: for He has a Father, otherwise how is He Son?) but in respect of His ‘not having beginning or end of life.’
‘But made like the Son of God.’ Where is the likeness? That we know not of the one or of the other either the end or the beginning. Of the one because they are not written; of the other, because they do not exist. Here is the likeness. But if the likeness were to exist in all respects, there would no longer be type and reality; but both would be type. [Here] then just as in representations [by painting or drawing], there is somewhat that is like and somewhat that is unlike. By means of the lines indeed there is a likeness of features, but when the colors are put on, then the difference is plainly shown, both the likeness and the unlikeness.
4. ‘Now consider’ (says he) ‘how great this man is to whom even the Patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.’ Up to this point he has been applying the type: henceforward he boldly shows him [Melchisedec] to be more glorious than the Jewish realities. But if he who bears a type of Christ is so much better not merely than the priests, but even than the forefather himself of the priests, what should one say of the reality? You see how super-abundantly he shows the superiority.
‘Now consider’ (he says) ‘how great this man is to whom even the Patriarch Abraham gave a tenth out of the choice portions.’ Spoils taken in battle are called ‘choice portions.’ And it cannot be said that he gave them to him as having a part in the war, because (he said) he met him ‘returning from the slaughter of the kings,’ for he had staid at home (he means), yet [Abraham] gave him the first-fruits of his labors.