Did Jesus Consciously Establish a New Testament Priesthood?


Opponents of the Catholic Church freqently claim that Jesus did not establish the institution of the ministerial priesthood as it exists within the Church today.

Yet, a comparison between the leadership of the New Testament Church and that of the nation of Israel suggests that Jesus was intentionally following the pattern of hierarchy established by God in the Old Testament.

Exodus 24:1-10
1 Then he said to Moses, "Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, 2 but Moses alone is to approach the LORD; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him."
3 When Moses went and told the people all the LORD’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.” 4 Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said.
He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, "We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey."
8 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words."
9 Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. 11 But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

Old Testament Leadership


Aaron, Nadab, Abihu

Leaders of the Twelve Tribes (cf. Numbers 1)

Seventy elders

New Testament Leadership


Peter, James, John

The Twelve Apostles

The Seventy (cf. Luke 10:1)

Is this parallel a mere coincidence? Or was Jesus consciously establishing the priesthood of the New Covenant?



Note how perfectly “the last shall be first in the Kingdom of God” is illustrated through the apostles: fishermen, tax collectors, the illiterate, the poor—all those considered “least” by the Pharisees.

What better tenants to replace the wicked ones of the parable?


Many Catholic scholars would also question this (of course, you may say that they “aren’t really Catholics”).

My own view is that it depends on what you mean by “as it exists today.” With that addendum, I would say that your argument fails, because the OT parallels you cite do not establish that Jesus intended to establish the priesthood as it exists today, but simply that He intended to establish a body of leaders that in some way paralleled the priesthood of the OT.

Of course, the scholars to whom I alluded above would doubt whether the NT describes events exactly as they happened!



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