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Melchizedek as Exemplar for Kingship in Twelfth-Century Political Thought
By Evan Kuehn
History of Political Thought, Volume 31, Number 4 (2010)
Abstract: This article examines the use of Melchizedek as an exemplar for kingship in the twelfth century, considering interpretations offered in the Norman Anonymous, Bernard of Clairvaux’s de Consideratione and John of Salisbury’s Policraticus. While the Norman Anonymous provides a Christological and royalist reading of Melchizedek’s roles as king and priest, de Consideratione offers a more nuanced explanation of papal power without significant regard for disputes of secular and ecclesiastical liberties. The Policraticus, on the other hand, advances a theory of divinely elected, non-hereditary kingship on the basis of Melchizedek’s being ‘without genealogy’. The interpretation of the Policraticus stands in tension with a prominent rabbinic teaching that Melchizedek is identical to Shem, the son of Noah, and so possessive of a lineage that raises interesting (though not insurmountable) challenges for the non-hereditary kingship theory advanced in the Policraticus.