Ministers of the New Covenant: Why Christian Ministers Are Priests

Ordination of priests

Why do Catholics call their ministers priests? Is this concept of priests as ministers of the New Covenant of Christ valid and scripturally sound? In my last post, I demonstrated that the English word “priest” derives etymologically from, and was originally a translation of, the Greek word πρεσβύτερος [presbyteros]), attested in the New Testament Scriptures (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1:5,7) and translated in Latin as presbyter, and is thus an appropriate term for the Christian ministry. That the ministers of the Old Testament are also called “priests” in English is mostly the result of a linguistic accident: originally כֹּ֣הֲנִ֔ים [cohenim] in Hebrew, and translated in Greek as ἱερεῖς [hiereis] and Latin as sacerdotes, at some point in the history of transmission these terms became synonymous with Christian priests. The terms became synonymous, apparently, because Christians saw the offices to be synonymous, or at least analogous to one another.

Ministers of the New Covenant

Fr. Charles Merrill, Ash Wednesday 2014

Fr. Charles Merrill, at Ash Wednesday 2014, Annunciation of the Lord Church, Decatur, Alabama. (The Decatur Daily)

The New Testament does not refer to Christian ministers as ἱερεῖς or sacerdotes. It is evident that Jesus did not explicitly institute a formal, liturgical priesthood akin to the Aaronic priesthood: He did not command the Apostles to don ephods or breastplates or robes (or albs or chasubles or stoles, as the case may be); He did not formally anoint them as a new priesthood as Aaron and his sons were anointed (Exodus 28). Yet nonetheless, Jesus did appoint the Twelve to have special roles in His ministry, and invested them with His authority, to preach with His voice, to cast out demons, to heal the sick, to forgive sins (Mark 3:13-18, Matthew 10, Luke 9:1-6, John 20:19-23). This was more than just a casual charge to all Christians, but a formal office for which the Apostles were selected and which they saw the need to fill in replacement of Judas (Acts 1:15-26). These Apostles did appoint elders (presbyters) in every church they founded, to carry on their ministry after they departed (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5). We see the outlines of this ministry in the offices of bishop, priest (presbyter), and deacon, with their roles, duties, and requirements (1 Timothy 3). Thus Scripture demonstrates that Christ did institute, and the Apostles did perpetuate, a new order of ordained Christian ministry, ministers of Christ’s New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6).

A “Priesthood of All Believers”

Bishop, priest, and deacon

Bishop, priest, and deacon.

To answer a common charge of Protestants, a distinction should be made between the universal priesthood in which every believer is called to participate (e.g. 1 Peter 2:5,9, Revelation 1:6), and the ministerial priesthood, the official roles and offices of Christian ministry and service to which individual believers are specially called. St. Paul is clear that not every believer is called to the same ministry, function, or role (1 Corinthians 12:27-30, Ephesians 4:11-12), but that every member in every role is essential to the working of the body and none essentially “higher” or “better” than any other (1 Corinthians 12:4-26). While the New Testament people of God are a “royal priesthood,” called to exercise Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king (CCC 1546-1547), this does not detract from the necessity that not all are called to serve in ministerial roles. An analogy is made to the Old Testament people of God, who were likewise called “a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6), but who nonetheless had an order of men specially called to serve as priests.

Priests by Analogy

Pompeo Batoni, St. Paul (c. 1740)

Pompeo Batoni, St. Paul (c. 1741). (the-athenaeum.org)

But if the New Testament does not call Christian ministers sacerdotes (or ἱερεῖς in Greek) — in fact, it seems to make efforts not to equate them with the old order of sacerdotes — why should they come to be referred to as such? — and why should calling them thus be accepted as scripturally sound? Given the evidence that God constituted an order of priests (sacerdotes) for the Jews in service of His Old Covenant, and that Jesus appointed a new order of ministers in service of His New Covenant, it seems natural that Christians should see their ministry as being in some sense analogous to the priestly ministry of the Old Testament. In fact, St. Paul applied this analogy explicitly even within Scripture:

Because of the grace given me by God, [I am] a minister (λειτουργός, [leitourgos]) of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service (ἱερουργοῦντα [hierourgounta], literally serving as a priest, i.e. sacerdos) of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:16).

Thus, in explicit language, Paul relates his ministry as an Apostle of Christ to the ministry of a priest (sacerdos), one who aids the Gentiles in making an offering of themselves to the Lord.

That he sees himself as a member of an order of ministers is also evident:

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:4–6).

That Paul is speaking with reference to himself and his apostolic associates, and not to all believers, is also evident from the context. Writing to the Corinthian Church, he makes plain distinction between the first person “we” and the second person “you,” asking, “Do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?” To this he answers to the Corinthians that You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2–3).

Contradictions?

Our recent commenter complained that the idea of there being a new order of “priests” in the New Testament is contradictory to Scripture, especially to the Epistle to the Hebrews. Is this true? Hebrews does argue that Jesus as our high priest supersedes the old order of Aaronic priests, and with His once and for all atoning sacrifice on Calvary, makes their repeated sacrifices obsolete and unnecessary (Hebrews 7:27, 8:6–8, 13, etc.). But is this relevant?

I have not yet approached the question of the ministerial priesthood’s role in the Christian Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, the presentation of the Lord’s Supper. This is directly relevant to the Book of Hebrews and will have to be addressed. But this post is already long, and I will have to save the sacramental element of the priesthood for another post or posts. Suffice it to say, by way of preview, that the Eucharist is a sacrifice: not a repetition or a continuation of Christ’s once and for all sacrifice at every Mass, as Protestant critics allege, but a re-presentation of that one sacrifice, a making present for all time, just as Jesus Himself commanded his ministers to re-present it: “Do this in memory of me.”

For the aspects of the priesthood discussed here — the fact that priests are ministers of Christ’s New Covenant, appointed to carry out roles of ministry in the Church — the passages in Hebrews are not relevant at all. The Old Covenant is obsolete and passing away, superseded by a New Covenant; but nothing about this understanding would exclude the idea that the New Covenant should have its own ministers. In fact, such an understanding would contradict the scriptural passages already discussed above.

Priests by Prophecy

Prophet Isaiah (Bible card)

The Prophet Isaiah, from a Bible card, c. 1904. (Wikipedia)

Not only did the ministers of the New Covenant see their roles in ministry as analogous to the priests (sacerdotes) of the Old Covenant, but the Old Testament prophets prophesied that with the coming of the Messiah, a new order of priests would be ministers of God and shepherds of His people. The prophet Isaiah foretold that in the coming of the Messiah, an order of priests would serve him:

You shall be called the priests of the LORD,
men shall speak of you as the ministers of our God.
(Isaiah 61:6)

For I know their works and their thoughts, and I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and shall see my glory. … And they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their cereal offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites,” says the LORD. (Isaiah 66:18, 20–21)

The prophet Jeremiah prophesied that just as the royal throne of David would never be empty, the Lord God would be perpetually served by priests making sacrifices:

For thus says the LORD: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn cereal offerings, and to make sacrifices for ever. … As the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David my servant, and the Levitical priests who minister to me. (Jeremiah 33:17–18, 22)

Jeremiah also foretold that the Lord would give His people shepherds:

And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. (Jeremiah 3:15)

I will set shepherds over [my people] who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, says the LORD. Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. (Jeremiah 23:4–5)

Jeremiah clearly associates these shepherds with the coming of the Messiah also; and also with the former leaders of Israel who have led the Lord’s flock astray (Jeremiah 23:1-2), especially with priests and prophets (Jeremiah 23:9-11, 33, etc.). Therefore the new shepherds of the Lord’s flock will take the place of these.

It is understandable, then, that Christian exegetes reading these texts, understanding Christ and the Church to be the fulfillment of these prophecies, should understand that their ministers, ministering to the Lord and shepherding His people, were analogous to priests.

Conclusion

We have discussed how the New Testament itself presents that Christ appointed His Apostles to specific roles within His ministry, as ministers of His New Covenant, and how they ordained other ministers to carry on their ministry; and how these ministers of the New Covenant saw themselves to be in some sense analogous to the priests (sacerdotes) of the Old Covenant. We have explored how the prophets of the Old Testament perceived that God would institute a New Covenant, and employ a new order of priests and shepherds in service of that covenant and His people, and that Christ and His Church are understood to be the fulfillment of these prophecies. Now we must return to a third and perhaps most crucial aspect of whether the ministers of the New Covenant should be considered priests: Do these ministers make sacrifices? And if, in the Christian understanding, they do make sacrifices, is this not contradictory to the teachings of the scriptural Epistle to the Hebrews, which declares that Jesus, our High Priest, has made a final, once and for all sacrifice and thus made obsolete the repeated sacrifices of the Old Covenant? Next, I will examine these questions, and show how the idea of the Eucharist as a sacrifice is presented by Scripture and received by tradition.

21 thoughts on “Ministers of the New Covenant: Why Christian Ministers Are Priests

  1. Being Lutheran, my doctrine identifies the pastoral office as a calling within the priesthood of all believers to the administration of Sacraments and public proclamation of the Word. We agree that not all roles within the royal priesthood are the same. I’m interested to see where you go with sacrifices since we do believe that the priesthood (the Body of Christ) offers sacrifices, but the pastoral office does not. So, I’m interested in the distinctions as I know that we differ on the nature of such.

    As to the evangelicals and charismatics and various gnostic strains of Christianity objecting to the use of priest or a proper calling within the priesthood to the pastoral office, I think the point is moot. They have no sacraments to administer, make a hash of sola scriptura, and, in a sense, conflate biblical with scriptural. How can they understand even their own calling to the royal priesthood in the context of their non-creedal, non-liturgical faiths? I am sure you’ve read their anti-apostolic notions of what a “New Testament” church is?

    Where I live, we don’t encounter much of this. There are a handful of megachurches in our area and we get some refugees starving Christ, now and then. But even the non-denoms in the area are fairly ecumenical. Of course, even Protestants, Episcopalians and Lutherans are distinct minorities in a largely RC area, here.

    Look forward to your next installment.

    • Thanks for your kind comment, H. I’m looking forward to discussing the distinctions also.

      I am not quite so harsh on Evangelicals — having been one for most of my life, and having many friends and loved ones whom I know sincerely, faithfully, and fruitfully believe. I would argue that most Evangelicals do have a sense of calling to the pastoral office (being “called to preach,” in fact, is common Evangelical language) and most do have some framework of ordination and ordained ministry. Further, many of them do have at least some sense of the sacraments — at the very least, Baptism and on occasion, the Lord’s Supper — even if they do not call them such (“ordinances” is usually the euphemism) or deny their efficacy. Most do have some articulated statement of beliefs, even if they do not call it a “creed,” and some sense of structure to their worship, even if they do not call it a “liturgy.” They cleave to the Word of God in Scripture, even if they have a limited understanding of it. All of these, the Catholic Church believes, are “significant elements and endowments … which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, [and] belong by right to the one Church of Christ” (Second Vatican Council [1965], Unitatis Redintegratio [Decree on Ecumenism] 3).

      God bless you, and His peace be with you!

      • You say: I would argue that most Evangelicals do have a sense of calling to the pastoral office.

        Me: Not only a “sense”, but a “certainty, as did Spurgeon.

        You say: They cleave to the Word of God in Scripture, even if they have a limited understanding of it.

        Me: This is condescending. To begin with, Evangelicals reject the RC canon with all those extra books, so stop saying we cleave to it. Second, as only one example, Spurgeon’s knowledge and scope of writings TOWER above any RC priest in the pulpit today, as do so many others which cannot be named here….and their knowledge of that word was and is, BY NO MEANS, “limited”.

        You say: [Protestants] belong by right to the one Church of Christ [here at Rome] CCC #834.

        Me: This is like giving credibility to Hitler’s belief that the Jews were a sub-human race. We may thank him for his opinion, but it is a joke. Likewise, it’s hilarious beyond words that the RCC takes it upon herself to say that all Prots who reject her are simply being misbehaving children to their Roman Catholic pedigree! Excuse me, but precisely BECAUSE we adamantly reject all claims of Roman superiority, makes arguing that we are simply rebellious brats at the Vatican adoption agency, ridiculous on its face.

        • My, you really are the contrary one, aren’t you? Even when I’m striving to be generous and agreeable, defending Evangelicals, you seize on those very words to attack — and, as usual, words I haven’t even said. Notably, you appear to have nothing at all relevant to say to the actual topic of the post.

          Evangelicals do cleave to Scripture, to their benefit and credit, regardless of any deficiencies in their understanding of the canon. I should have clarified that Evangelicals have a limited understanding of Scripture’s place in the revelation of God. I make no apology of the fact that I consider the Catholic view of Scripture to be a fuller understanding of the truth than “sola scriptura.” I am not one of those at all who say “all forms of Christianity are equal” — and obviously neither are you. Protestant exegesis and thought can be quite good (and I do respect Spurgeon a lot and have read him most fruitfully) — but the excesses of “sola scriptura” — which not every Protestant or Evangelical falls into, but only some — cause some to discard the essential context of Scripture and consequently to overlook important meanings and connections. I believe even you will admit that those who interpret “sola scriptura” to mean that “all one needs is Scripture and nothing else” have left far behind even the intentions of the Reformers.

          I said nothing at all about “the Church of Christ here at Rome,” or “brats at the Vatican adoption agency,” or about “Protestants belonging by right” to any such thing. You should perhaps re-read the sentence. “All of these … ‘significant elements and endowments’ belong by right to the one Church of Christ.” The “elements and endowments” belong to the Church; I did not say that “Protestants belong to the Church.”

          I’ll say again, your insulting and inflammatory language (bringing in comparisons to Hitler and even indirect anti-Semitic slurs) is not welcome here. Please tone it down. Thanks.

  2. You say: Is this concept of priests as ministers of the New Covenant of Christ valid and scripturally sound?

    Me: No one is arguing that it isn’t. But to use these foundational arguments to buttress a sacerdotal ***Catholic*** priesthood to oversee the spectacle where, “Christ daily offers Himself upon our altars for our redemption” and where, on those altars, “the work of our redemption is carried out”…is utter nonsense
    —Pius XII, Mediator Dei, # 73; CCC #1367.

    You say: The New Testament does not refer to Christian ministers as ἱερεῖς or sacerdotes.

    Me: One wonders then why you believe in a new testament sacerdotal priesthood!
    Let’s cut to the quick: We read on-line that,
    “Sacerdotalism is the belief that propitiatory sacrifices for sin require the intervention of a priest. That is, it is the belief in a special, segregated order of men, called the priesthood”.
    Scripture says nothing of this.

    You say: Jesus did appoint the Twelve to have special roles in His ministry, and invested them with His authority, to preach with His voice, to cast out demons, to heal the sick, to forgive sins (Mark 3:13-18, Matthew 10, Luke 9:1-6, John 20:19-23). This was more than just a casual charge to all Christians, but a formal office for which the Apostles were selected and which they saw the need to fill in replacement of Judas (Acts 1:15-26).

    Me: All of that is true enough, but in typical RC fashion, you must go outside of Scripture to support your ultimate aim of proving the sacerdotalism of Catholicism; namely, (as I told you last time) Trent informs us that at the Last Supper, Jesus endowed the apostles with the power to consecrate and offer His body and blood in the Sacrifice of the Mass! A gaudy display of eisegesis if you ask me. Have fun on Judgment Day when trying to explain that none of these doctrines makes you guilty of the sin of adding to God’s word. I wouldn’t want to be you.

    You say: the evidence [is] that God constituted an order of priests (sacerdotes) for the Jews in service of His Old Covenant, and that Jesus appointed a new order of ministers in service of His New Covenant…

    Me: Yes. But as I told you last time, the new order of ministers consists of offering
    SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES (i.e., the sacrifice of our bodies per Romans 6:13, 12:1; the sacrifice of praise per Hebrews 13:15, Eph 5:19; and the sacrifice of service per 1 Peter 2:5, Phil 4;18, Heb 13:16, James 1:27). You will say, “oh yes, I believe that, BUT…”
    However, there are no buts about it. The verses I just listed ARE the sacrifices we offer in the new covenant, and to go beyond that, is heresy.

    You say: Thus, in explicit language, Paul relates his ministry as an Apostle of Christ to the ministry of a priest (sacerdos), one who aids the Gentiles in making an offering of themselves to the Lord (Romans 15:16).

    Me: Paul’s priestly ministry is only sacerdotal in the sense that he was endeavoring to present to God an offering of a multitude of Gentile converts (!!!). Your Implications that this verse aids in your apologetic for the sacerdotal RC priesthood, is entirely anachronistic.

    • Hi, Trevor.

      No one is arguing that it isn’t. But to use these foundational arguments to buttress a sacerdotal ***Catholic*** priesthood to oversee the spectacle where, “Christ daily offers Himself upon our altars for our redemption” and where, on those altars, “the work of our redemption is carried out”…is utter nonsense…

      Haven’t we already talked about this? Once again, you are “jumping the gun.” I have not made any such argument here. Why don’t you wait until I do?

      One wonders then why you believe in a new testament sacerdotal priesthood! Let’s cut to the quick: We read on-line that,
      “Sacerdotalism is the belief that propitiatory sacrifices for sin require the intervention of a priest. That is, it is the belief in a special, segregated order of men, called the priesthood”. Scripture says nothing of this.

      Once again (what is this, this fifth or sixth time I’ve said this?), you are arguing against positions that I have not advanced and have no intention of advancing. The definition that you’ve quoted is a generic definition from Wikipedia, one from a Protestant source, not one that the Catholic Church advances or supports. The very article explains how the Catholic understanding differs. Now, I’ve been careful in my articles so far to explain that the priests of the New Testament are not the same thing as the sacerdotes of the Old Testament. Are you going to continue to ignore my arguments and stand up your own straw men?

      I do believe — as Scripture itself presents, and as I’ve argued here — that the Apostles, and the bishops, priests, and deacons they ordained after them, represent an order of men. They are part of the Body of Christ, ministering in, with, and among all the rest of the faithful, not “segregated” from them.

      In typical RC fashion, you must go outside of Scripture to support your ultimate aim of proving the sacerdotalism of Catholicism…

      Please stop presuming that you know what my “ultimate aim” is, or how I plan to get there. You are arguing vehemently against what you understand to be “typical” Catholic arguments — but these are not the arguments I am making nor intend to make. I want to ask again that you wait until I actually argue something before you unleash all your guns on me.

      Paul’s priestly ministry is only sacerdotal in the sense that he was endeavoring to present to God an offering of a multitude of Gentile converts (!!!). Your Implications that this verse aids in your apologetic for the sacerdotal RC priesthood, is entirely anachronistic.

      I argued that Paul was relating his ministry to the Old Testament priesthood by analogy or metaphor. I have not argued (or implied) anything else.

      The new order of ministers consists of offering SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES…

      Please just wait until I get there.

      No one is arguing that it isn’t… All of that is true enough… Yes.

      It seems to me that you agree with the argument I am actually making. Why don’t you try to say something constructive about what I did say instead of having a conniption over what you think I’m going to say?

      Grace and peace be with you, brother.

      • Trevor said – All of that is true enough, but in typical RC fashion, you must go outside of Scripture to support…

        me – I laugh almost every time a Protestant says this. Much of the canon of the bible came from outside of written Scripture. Using your bible alone, can you verify which books even belong or don’t belong in the bible? Can you even point to a verse in your bible, which was put together mostly from Oral Sacred Tradition, that says one must explicitly rely on written Scripture? Can you point to written Scripture where it says, Wisdom, Maccabees 1 & 2, etc.. don’t belong in the bible? These were removed by Luther (tradition of men) under the influence of men who denied the divinity of Jesus. This same Luther wanted to remove James, Hebrews, etc.. I can’t think of any Pope that removed books from the bible or wanted to throw out New Testament books because it didn’t agree with their theology.

        You rely on Oral Sacred Tradition to identify written Scripture and then run around and tell everyone else Oral Sacred Tradition must not be used for anything else. Your support for this isn’t even in Written Scripture!

        One more thing. Why do you spend so much time misrepresenting Church teaching? It takes away your credibility for those of us that actually have some basic understanding of Church teaching.

        Joseph knows what he’s talking about and you disagree with his view regardless of whether or not the Church teaches it. Heck if he were Protestant he could take his interpretations and start his own church and it would, I would assume, still be heretical to you. So accept that Joseph is not trying to trick anyone and prove his interpretations are in error and by default you will have proven Rome wrong. Win, win for you!!

        Joseph – sorry for the rant and off topic comment. I had to get it out of my chest.

        You do some great work and I’m learning tons more about my faith thanks to you.

        • Trevor – Sorry, I used “trick” when I meant trick. I did not want to imply that you “said” Joseph is trying to trick anyone.

        • Thanks for the kind comment and support, and God bless you, C! I’m glad what I’ve written is helpful and informative.

          We already got into it with Trevor last thread over the scriptural canon (as off-topic as that was). I don’t think that’s going to be fruitful here.

          And in fact, my arguments are just my own best attempt to articulate the truth as I understand it. Proving me wrong doesn’t prove the whole Catholic tradition wrong. I don’t know everything and am bound to make mistakes.

          The peace of Christ be with you!

        • CK: I laugh almost every time a Protestant says this. Much of the canon of the bible came from outside of written Scripture. Using your bible alone, can you verify which books even belong or don’t belong in the bible?

          Me: Of course, all of what you’re saying is off-topic, but let’s just take your this one hummdinger that non-catholics have no idea what belongs in the Bible by using the Bible alone:

          Alert: Those who believe that Jesus was trustworthy, realize that He Himself “canonized” many of the books by mentioning all the martyrs from Abel (Genesis) thruuuuuu Zechariah (2 Chron). He also left no room to doubt the Psalms (Luke 24:45), Jonah (Matt 12:40), Daniel (Matt 24:15), and that very same Daniel records reading Jeremiah (Dan 9:2). Joel is mentioned in Acts 2:16; Job in James 5:11; and in the synagogue, Jesus read from Isaiah (Luke 4:17). Peter quotes from Proverbs (2 Pet 2:2), and the chief priests quote from Micah in Matt 2:5. Also, the many resemblances to the book of Ezekiel in Revelation would be too numerous to mention. Hence your above argument that Protestants are clueless as to what would belong in the canon–without the RCC telling us, is D.O.A.

          • Trevor – I’m surprised you aren’t Jewish. You provided no verses from written Scripture supporting the NT. I’ll just ask for one. Can you point me to a verse in your bible that gives me assurance that Hebrews is inspired? Heck, we aren’t 100% sure who wrote it. Scholars “think” it’s Paul.

            I’m not even saying that RCC is the one that gave us the assurance that every book in the bible is the inspired Word of God. What I am saying is that a bunch a guys got together around 400 AD (in your case 400 and 1500 AD) and decided this for you and me. The assurance that you have that the NT is inspired came from outside written Scripture, unless of course you can show me those verses.

            There were many books that early Christians thought were inspired. Those books quoted OT, taught the “the Way” etc.. during the 1st century and most did not make it into the cannon. This was decided by a group of men who claimed to have the authority which you accept today and the irony for you they went outside written Scripture which you seem to believe is heretical.

            BTW, the NT refers to passages in the Deuterocanonical books and Esther is not referred at all. Using your logic, some Deuterocanonical books are inspired and Esther is not.

            Check out this prophecy from the book of Wisdom written 50 yrs before the coming of Christ. It brings me nearly to tears every time I read it.

            WIS 2:12-20 ‘Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected’.

            You can see why Jews didn’t think this was inspired!

            God Bless!

            PS I’m done being off topic here. If there’s somewhere else you’d like to continue let me know. Not sure if there’s a thread on this blog we can go to. If not that’s ok.

    • Trevor, I don’t know if you’ve seen it yet, but the next post in my series on the priesthood is up. Some of the things you’ve been champing at the bit about are, I think, addressed. I am still planning at least one more post in the series.

      God bless you and His peace be with you.

  3. C.K….I’m done being off topic here…[but]
    You provided no verses from written Scripture supporting the NT.

    T. Much to your shock, I answered your previous challenge, and instead of thanking me, you just go on to issue me another one. Needless to say, I will not comply.

    C.K. What I am saying is that a bunch a guys got together around 400 AD (in your case 400 and 1500 AD) and decided this for you and me.

    T… Those circa 400 & 1500 included the Apocrypha, which I reject as inspired, so your argument fails.

    C.K. I can’t think of any Pope that removed books from the bible

    T….Pope Gregory said:
    With reference to which particular we are not acting irregularly, if from the books, though not Canonical, yet brought out for the edification of the Church, we bring forward testimony. Thus Eleazar in the battle smote and brought down an elephant, but fell under the very beast that he killed (1 Macc. 6.46)
    —Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, vol. II, Parts III and IV, Book XIX. 34 (Oxford: Parker, 1845), p. 424.

    • To briefly answer your quote: As we discussed at length in another thread: Until the canon of Scripture was defined for the whole Church, the acceptable canon was set by each local bishop (of which Gregory was one). A bishop cannot have “removed” something from the Bible that he didn’t consider to be part of it in the first place. And Gregory is just as capable of being wrong, in his homiletic and exegetical writings, as any one of us.

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  5. Joseph, I’d like to add that the writer of Hebrews states that Jesus is a priest forever after the order Melchizedek. My understanding is that this is a spiritual priesthood and therefore doesn’t necessitate a physical bloodline. Being a spiritual priesthood, much of our Christian walk exists on a spiritual plane. While in the Old Testament God focused much more on physical liturgy, the New Testament focuses much more on the heart attitude and the spiritual battles we face. Still in the New Kingdom, the physical and spiritual will meet and we will be both kings and priests quite literally.

    • Thanks for the comment, Josh! Yes, all of that’s true. The Catholic Church also holds that all Christian believers participate in the spiritual priesthood of Christ; that through our baptism into Christ, we all share in His mission as Priest, Prophet, and King (CCC 1546–1547). But it’s also clear from Scripture that Christ set some apart — the Twelve especially — to serve as ministers of His New Covenant in a way over and beyond other believers; and that they continued to appoint other such ministers to continue in their service. We are told that not every believer fulfills the same role. So these are the outlines of what Catholics call the ministerial priesthood.

      It seems to me that what upsets Evangelicals most about the Catholic concept of the ministerial priesthood is largely the fruit of some misconceptions. The first is a linguistic one, which I’ve addressed in these posts, because, especially in English, we use the same word, priest, for ministers of both the Old and New Covenants. No, Catholics don’t argue that the New Testament priesthood is substantively the same as the Old, or that the same Law still holds. I argue that the New Testament ministry came to be called a priesthood largely by analogy, because the Lord calls priests (presbyters) to be servants of the New Covenant just as the cohenim were servants of the Lord in the Old Covenant.

      And here’s the thing: Protestants, Evangelicals, also believe in ordained ministry. They believe that the Lord specially calls men to be ministers, to serve Him in a special way over and above the call on all believers. Even the terminology used — ordination — acknowledges that they are in some way set apart, and that some oversight by the Church ought to be exercised in investing ministers with that kind of authority. In the matter of whether there is a ministerial role that some believers are called to serve in and not others, to serve the flock of God as pastors, or teachers, or evangelists, I think we substantially agree.

      Another major sticking point that I see is what we mean by “set apart.” Does the ministerial priesthood, apart from serving in a different role, constitute a separate class of believers, distinguished in any fundamental and spiritual way from other believers? This was Luther’s main complaint as I understand it, that the Catholic Church treated priests and religious (by which we mean monks and nuns) as somehow a different spiritual body than the laity, fundamentally “more spiritual” than the rest, even though, it’s true, some were corrupt. I admit I haven’t read very deeply into either what Luther wrote about it or into what the medieval Catholic Church was actually teaching on the matter. But I would say that today, both in teaching and in practice, Catholic priests are called from the number of the faithful, to serve the faithful and among the faithful, and are just as subject to sin and the need for grace as the rest of us.

      The third sticking point, and one I haven’t actually written about here yet, but I think was planning to before school got so crazy, is the question of the sacramental role of the priesthood. Yes, Catholics believe there are some functions in the Church that only priests can serve in and no one else can: namely, celebrating the Eucharist and absolving sin in Confession. Does this mean that priests are, in some fundamental way, necessary as moderators or intermediaries in the New Covenant? Do we have to “go through a priest” to commune with God, to have a relationship with Him, or to receive His grace? I would say unequivocally, absolutely not. We all are participants in Christ’s priesthood; the way is open for any one of us to approach to God on our own terms. But there are still functions, as part of the role of the ministry, that only priests are called and authorized to perform. As ministers of His grace, there are ways in which only they can minister. There is a lot more I can get into on this, and I want to, and I think your comment has kicked me out of my math-induced stupor and elicited the beginnings of my next article. Thanks. 🙂

      God bless you, brother, and His grace and peace be with you!

    • Admittedly, I poached the image from Google Image Search (I probably searched for “ordination catholic priests”), where it has been poached numerous times before on numerous blogs and other articles, such that the source and credit for the image are not clear.

  6. Hi Joseph, thanks for some great articles and insight!

    Your patience with certain protesting commenters is laudable.

    I just wanted to added something I came across when researching this very topic, when defending it, helping a friend who is now back in union with the RCC.

    This is how I presented it:

    Here is a warning from Scripture: Jude 11:”“Woe to them! For they walk in the way of Cain, and abandon themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error, and perish in Korah’s rebellion.”

    What was Korah’s rebellion? And how can God warn us against this rebellion if there is no separate, God ordained priesthood?

    See Num 6:1-11 “You have gone too far, sons of Levi! . . . [I]s it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel . . . would you seek the priesthood also? Therefore it is against the LORD that you and all your company have gathered together”

    It is against this sin that the book of Jude warns us, because the same thing can happen in the New Testament age. We cannot confine the warning against Korah’s rebellion to the Old Testament age. Jude tells us it was going on in his day as well. Just as Korah, Dathan, and Abiram came along and said, “Hey, in Exodus 19 God said we are all priests, so we don’t need a ministerial priesthood; we can do that ourselves!” today people come along and say, “Hey, in 1st Peter God said we are all priests, so we don’t need a ministerial priesthood; we can do that ourselves!”

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