Well, this is all very interesting. I have a line of reasoning to offer, but I’m afraid it is incomplete as an exercise in apologetics due to lack of citations. However, there’s a beneficial adjustment to be made.
This threw me a little, but helped clarify what was bothering me. Why did it throw me? Because offering sacrifice is what is essential to priesthood itself, both the priesthood of the Old Testament and the New. So this was not some enhancement over time, as though sacrifice only emerged gradually as germaine to priesthood.
What was at the heart of the Old Testament priesthood was the bloody sacrifice. It was required by God, for the salvation of the people, and could only be offered by a priest at the altar, acting on the behalf of the people. There is no sacrifice without the priest, and sacrifice, the OT teaches, is what God demands for salvation.
The priesthood of the New Testament, because it is the fulfillment of the priesthood of the Old Testament, continues essentially sacrificial. The sacrifice is now unbloody, it is once and for all, and it is effective rather than symbolic. It is eternally offered by the Perfect Victim, the Lamb, Himself, once and for all, on the altar of Calvary, for forgiveness of the sins of the people. His earthly priest, standing in His place at the altar, on behalf of the people, offers that Sacrifice in time.
The other functions of the new priesthood are also participations in Christ’s Sacrifice. So priests extend the forgiveness of sins He accomplished on the cross. Full priests (bishops) use their apostolic succession to pass on the power to offer the Sacrifice.
After all, the word “priest” in the sacrificial sense (like Jewish or Pagan priests) was not used in the New Testament for Christian ministers. Rather, presbyters/elders/bishops.
Yes, but the idea of Sacrificer On Behalf of the People was integral in the NT to whatever word (presbyteros) they used for their annointed leaders. For we know that the New Sacrifice was offered continuously from the moment it replaced the Old.
I would think that the new Christians didn’t use the old word for priest because at the cultural moment of transition it was appropriate to emphasize the difference between the Old and New Sacrifices.
It was not to de-emphasize sacrifice itself, for sacrifice itself was taken for granted in that context.
But the bloodiness, the purely symbolic character of the old sacrifices: these aspects, believed so integral to proper sacrifice before God, had to be relinquished, in fact untaught.
Instead, the true nature of Sacrifice was revealed; and the unbloodiness and lived humility of the Real Sacrifice was underlined. So you use a different word, presbyter, to highlight the important difference when in so doing you risk no confusion as to what is essential.
What is essential is at risk now, as the sacrificial essence of priesthood is minimized, and the lay priesthood is elevated.
Soft pedalling Sacrifice as the kernel of priestness confuses what is Catholic. All the rest of a priest’s ministry is but various extensions from that kernel; just as all of Christian belief is but the living out of Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross.
The priesthood of the laity is what we all can do, without being annointed priests–and we can do it all but the Sacrifice (and the sin-forgiving and the passing on of received priesting power). That’s why anybody in Protestantism can achieve priestliness, because there is the priesthood of the laity, which is what all the unordained have. (Protestantism uses the word ordination without having the thing ordination.)
Hope this is a clarification for the thread, rather than a distraction… Thanks for the topic.