In a previous essay, I laid out the evidence demonstrating why Shem and the ancient high priest Melchizedek couldn’t have been the same person, contrary to popular Mormon belief. See Why Melchizedek wasn’t Shem, and Why it Does and Doesn’t Matter, elsewhere on this website. By reading further information on this subject, which was brought to my attention by a reader of this website, I have found what I consider to be another forbiddingly strong argument that further solidifies the case against Shem and Melchizedek sharing the same identity. At the end of this essay, I’ll explain why I think this new piece of evidence has important ramifications for our study and understanding of not only the Bible, but all other books that Mormons accept as scriptural.
The “new” (to me, at least) piece of evidence is that Shem had been dead for 570 years when Abraham was born, so he couldn’t have been present when Melchizedek later encountered Abraham as the latter returned from the slaughter of the kings. Continue reading
Many members of the LDS church believe Shem, the son of Noah and the father of all the Semitic races, and Melchizedek, the famous high priest to whom Abraham paid tithes, to be the same person. Indeed, a short essay on the LDS Church’s own website by Alma E. Gygi, a Salt Lake City businessman, entitled “Is it Possible that Shem and Melchizedek are the Same Person?” provides arguments in support of this conclusion, see here. This essay will attempt to demonstrate why Melchizedek was not Shem, but will also use this issue as a case study in how careless we can be in adopting religious beliefs. The Melchizedek-Shem issue is relatively trivial, but too often, the same failure to require solid foundations for our beliefs leads to other mistaken conclusions on far more consequential doctrinal matters.
The first major piece of evidence that Shem wasn’t Melchizedek is one that Mormons too often ignore–neither the biblical writers nor the more accurate Book of Mormon writers, though they were writing on the very subject of the greatness of Melchizedek, mentioned anything about him being Shem, or being the son of Noah. If a proponent of the Shem=Melchizedek theory is willing to ignore this point, she should first show that Bible and Book of Mormon writers commonly referred to one person using two different names without informing the reader that both names referred to the same person. But such a showing can’t be made; indeed, the opposite is true.