Monday, May 27, 2013

Hebrews 7, Melchizedek, and Tithing (Response to DeYoung part 6)

DeYoung does a fine job putting Hebrews 7 in context. He recognizes that the author of Hebrews is really trying to prove that Jesus is a superior high priest and that Jesus was in the order of Melchizedek and not of Aaron or the Levites. Then DeYoung says this: “And though the chapter is not about tithing, I think there is a fair implication that if the people of God tithed to the Levitical priests, and if Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, a king and a priest, would not Christians now tithe to the high priest and king of the church? The analogy is not that you tithe to your pastor, but you tithe to the Lord Jesus Christ who is a superior priest.”

DeYoung believes this is a “fair implication,” therefore he seems to agree that this is not the point of the passage. However, let's look at his specific argument that it is a “fair implication.”
- people of God tithed to Levitical priests
- Abraham tithed to Melchizedek (a priest)
- Christians tithe to Jesus (a superior priest)

The problem here is three-fold:
1) When the people of God “tithed” to the Levitical priests, how much of their income did they give? Think about this for a minute: how much of their income did they give? If you know the answer to that, you are smarter than I am! They did give about 23% yearly from their crops and cattle, but if they made any income by other means (fishing, arts, building, etc.) they were not required to give anything from that. And since the animal tithe probably was only rarely actually 10% (read Leviticus 27:30-32 closely), no one really knows how much was required in this “tithe”.
2) How much of his regular income did Abraham tithe to Melchizedek? The answer: we don't know. We read of one story of Abraham giving 100% of the bounty of war away, with 10% of that going to this priest/king Melchizedek. But we don't know that Abraham EVER gave 10% to any priest again. There is no indication that this was a pattern or habit.
3) If we are to follow this pattern, then which one should we follow? Give 23% of our crops and cattle? Give 10% from the spoils of war? Neither of these examples is “10% of income,” so how is this a “principle” or “pattern” for us today?

I think DeYoung's “fair implication” has some significant problems. He then cites New Testament scholar Reggie Kidd saying that the biblical story seems to include “tithing principally” even if there will be adjustments “in the New Covenant situation.” I honestly have no problem with the idea of a tithing principle, but the content of that principle is the issue. Why is the principle “10% of income” when that was never practiced regularly by anyone in Scripture? It seems to me that each of the tithes in the Mosaic Law may have their own principles. For example, if the Festival Tithe was given to teach the “fear of the Lord,” (Deuteronomy 14:23) then that is the underlying principle: fear the Lord in the area of your finances and you've kept the underlying principle to the Festival Tithe. What would make someone think that the “10% of regular income” concept would continue, when that is not present in the Abraham narrative nor the Mosaic Law?

Next we'll briefly look at DeYoung's discussion on how tithing fits into one's view of biblical theology.

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