Hebrews 7: Verses 15 and 3 (Jesus and Melchizedek and the Son of God)
In yesterday's study of Hebrews that takes place weekly among a small group of us in my church, we noticed a puzzle. The anonymous author of Hebrews goes far toward intimately identifying Jesus as priest with Melchizedek as priest, even asserting of each that his priestly status is eternal (7:3, 17, 21) and that each is immortal (7:8, 16), and our study group had wondered if the writer were alluding to the figure of Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18-20 as a pre-incarnate appearance of the Son of God.
However, we then came Hebrews 7:15, which refers to Jesus as a priest "in the likeness of Melchizedek" (κατὰ τὴν ὁμοιότητα Μελχισέδεκ), which would seem to treat the two as different figures. I noted that this seems odd, for it would appear to imply two heavenly priests of the same status existing eternally. Furthermore, though I didn't point this out in the group discussion, the verse would appear to set up a hierarchical relationship, in which the one (Jesus) who is likened to the other (Melchizedek) is also therefore subordinated to him, as the likeness is to the original.
Later, as my wife and I discussed the issue, I reflected again on Hebrews 7:3, which states of Melchizedek that he is "likened to the Son of God" (ἀφωμοιωμένος . . . τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ), which sets up the same sort of hierarchical distinction, except that this time, Melchizedek is the one being subordinated, namely, to the Son of God.
But this sets up a circular hierarchical comparison in which Jesus is subordinated to Melchizedek, who is subordinated to God's Son, of whom Jesus is the incarnate manifestation.
This raises a question for me: Is the author of Hebrews using "likeness" (ὁμοιότητα) and "likened" (ἀφωμοιωμένος) in special senses, not to compare two figures in a hierarchical arrangement but to imply an identity?
Are either of these two Greek terms (or similar terms) used in this way elsewhere?