Conversation: Priesthood in Scripture

Q. You say there are priests is in Acts 15? Where?

A. Acts 15:2,6, 22, & 23—Elders are the first priests. They are ordained to help the Bishop.

Q. Where is a Priest used in the N/T except to include all Christians as in Revelation 20:6?

A. And when they had ordained to them priests in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, in whom they believed. Acts 14:22 (Douay-Reims)

Acts 15:2
And when Paul and Barnabas had no small contest with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain others of the other side, should go up to the apostles and priests to Jerusalem about this question.

1 Timothy 4:14
Neglect not the grace that is in thee, which was given thee by prophesy, with imposition of the hands of the priesthood.

1 Timothy 5:17
Let the priests that rule well, be esteemed worthy of double honour: especially they who labour in the word and doctrine:

1 Timothy 5:19
Against a priest receive not an accusation, but under two or three witnesses.

Titus 1:5
For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and shouldest ordain priests in every city, as I also appointed thee:

James 5:14
Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Protestant Bibles of course do not translate these verses as priest but they use the word elder. Elder is the literal meaning of the Greek word. However, the Greek word, presbuteros, is the etymological root for the English word priest. So both translations are technically correct.

Naturally enough Protestant translators chose elder in stead of priest since they do not have a priestly office.

Q. Why then, is the word used for Priest in Revelation 20:6 a different word than what is translated elder in Acts 14:23 below?

A. Gk: hiereus “one who offers sacrifice and has the charge of things pertaining thereto,” is used

Presbuteros-an elder

No I can’t explain it but both can be translated priest. And the Greek for elder ( presbuteros) gave rise to the English word for priest etymologically. The reason is probably lost in the vagaries of the evolution of languages. It may very well have been to differentiate the Christian Priests from the Jewish Priests. For instance, when the Christians began to design their churches they chose for a design a basilica, a Roman public building rather than the typical Jewish synagogue.

Acts 14:23
And when they had ordained them elders/priests in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

Acts 15:2
When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders/priests about this question.

Acts 15:6
And the apostles and elders/priests came together for to consider of this matter.

Acts 15:22
Then pleased it the apostles and elders/priests with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brethren:

Acts 15:23
And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders/priests and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.

Acts 16:4
And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders/priests which were at Jerusalem.

1 Timothy 5:17
Let the elders/priests that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

1 Timothy 5:19
Against an elder/priests receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.

Titus 1:5
For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders/priests in every city, as I had appointed thee:

James 5:14
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders/priests of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

1 Peter 5:1
The elders/priests which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder/priest, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:

1 Peter 5:5
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder/priests. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

In the NT the Jewish elders are nearly always mentioned after the chief priests or high priest as a part of the Jewish hierarchy.

“Elders— A name frequently used in the Old Testament as denoting a person clothed with authority, and entitled to respect and reverence (Gen 50:7). It also denoted a political office (Num 22:7). The “elders of Israel” held a rank among the people indicative of authority. Moses opened his commission to them (Exo 3:16). They attended Moses on all important occasions. Seventy of them attended on him at the giving of the law (Exo 24:1). Seventy also were selected from the whole number to bear with Moses the burden of the people (Num 11:16, Num 11:17).” –Easton Bible Dictionary

“The Apostles appointed elders to take charge of each church (Acts 14:23). According to the Council of Trent, the elders mentioned by St. James as administrators of the sacrament of anointing (James 5:14) “does not refer to the older men nor to the more influential men in the community, but to the bishops or the priests duly ordained by the bishops through the laying on of hands of the Presbyterate” (Denzinger 1697) Modern Catholic Dictionary

And finally we have DEACONS. Stephen and others in Acts 6 and qualifications of deacons in I Timothy 3:8-12. There are many other NT passages also that talk about deacons.

Q. If it were the case that the pope was ordained by Christ to rule the Church, surely there would be more support for it than just one verse that can be interpreted variously.

A. Have you ever decided not to write something down because everyone already knew it?

You are assuming that the authors of the NT wrote with the knowledge and conviction that Christianity must be based on nothing but what they wrote. How can you know this? On what do you base it?

But John freely admits that the world could not contain all the books that would be needed in order to write all that Jesus did. If this was truly their idea that they were writing a comprehensive exposition of the Christian Faith, then all of the writers failed b/c not one of their writings is comprehensive.

The Jews had writings and oral Tradition also. We know they celebrated the Passover. But it is impossible, based on Scripture Alone, to ascertain exactly how to do this as the Jews do it.

Q. I understand your point that the fact that Peter’s position was never mentioned, other than possibly in the Mathew 16:18, does not mean it was not true because as you have pointed out it may have been something everyone already knew and it was therefore unnecessary to remind them, or perhaps that they just did not write down everything that was said or done (as John pointed out), so that this fact may have just been left out of the recorded


2 Responses to Conversation: Priesthood in Scripture

  1. Bob says:

    ἱερουργοῦντα is used in Rom 15:16 by St Paul.

    Romans 15:16
    Rom 15:16 (Paul is proud…) to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. NRSV

    Rom 15:16 εἰς τὸ εἶναί με λειτουργὸν Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ εἰς τὰ ἔθνη, ἱερουργοῦντα τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα γένηται ἡ προσφορὰ τῶν ἐθνῶν εὐπρόσδεκτος, ἡγιασμένη ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ. (na26)

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