From prebuteros to iereus

One of the most interesting questions in Christianity is when and how the priesthood arose. Naturally, Catholics and Protestants differ on this point. But while Protestants usually propose the preposterous theory that Constantine corrupted Christianity, introducing the priesthood and many Jews pin the blame on Paul, claiming that he “invented” the eucharist, I have yet to find a good Catholic account that goes beyond the vague claim that the priesthood was the natural and obvious evolution and formaliztion of the apostolic practices described in the NT.

But the Catholic explanation is unsatisfying because it doesn’t take into account the fact that during the period of time that the NT was written there remained the Jerusalem temple and the temple priests. Very shortly after the end of Acts the Jews rebelled against the Romans which resulted in the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, and with it the Jewish priesthood.

Yet while we have a history of this period by Josephus which gives the Romand and Jewish perspectives, we have virtually nothing from the Christian perspective. We have nothing also from the Christian perspective during the later bar khoba rebellion which resulted in the final destruction of Israel and the establishment of “Palestine” (Syria Palaestina).

There was no “evolution” - the NT ministerial priesthood was a “special creation”… :wink:

“But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:15-16 NASB)

God bless.

Jesus said He didn’t come to abolish the Old Testament but to fulfill it. Why would God go from the Levitical priesthood arrangement - the festivals & sacrifices - into nothingness.

What were those festivals and sacrifices and priesthood foreshadowing?

Just throwing out some terms here: Judeo-Christian; the 12 Apostles (even so after Judus’ death); the 13th Apostle - Paul; the seven Churches; the letters to Jewish Christians; the instruction to Pagan converts to Christianity by the Apostles, the Holy Spirit being in St. Peter and St. Paul to heal and to forgive and to Baptise …

At the Last Supper, Jesus instructed the 12, “to do”.

How could they “do the remembrance” if He hadn’t given them the requirement to keep that New Covenant?

Could Jesus have left His Body with no central control, no development of the interpersonal Sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist, Baptism, Marriage?

No, He passed His authority on through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. The 12 Apostles understood that when they reelected Judas’ position.

The problem, as I understand it (and I am no expert in Greek or Hebrew) is that the translation is of prebuteros (elder) and not iereus (ceremonial priest).

That is just my point, though: the Levitical priesthood arrangement did not end during the period of Acts, much less during Jesus’ ministry, but upon the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, which occured shortly afterwards.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melchizedek_priesthood

Interpretations of the Melchizedek priesthood

Catholics find the roots of their priesthood in the tradition of Melchizedek. (CCC 1544)[3]

vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P4T.HTM

In Genesis 14:18, Melchizedek offers a sacrifice of bread and wine. Christ therefore fulfilled the prophecy of Ps 110:4, that he would be a priest “after the order of Melchizedek,” at the Last Supper, when he broke and shared bread with his disciples.

Catholics take seriously Christ’s command that the Apostles should “do this in memory of Me.”

As such, the Catholic Church continues to offer sacrifices of bread and wine at Mass, as part of the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Jesus in Scripture (and John the Baptist) had a very bold and accusatory way of treating the Levitical priesthood.

Here is more:

newadvent.org/cathen/10156b.htm

True enough, though accusing is not the same as ending.

Still, the Melchisedech vs. Levite is an interesting parallel to prebuteros vs. iereus and, indeed, Christian vs. (post-Christian) Jewish.

There are incidences in Scripture of the continuing persecution of “Judeo Christians” by the Levitical priesthood.

Peter and two other disciples are taken and scourged. Paul is almost killed by them in a coup, Stephen is stoned to death by them.

This quote from Acts Chapter 2 tells fairly vividly the who, what, when, where, why and how of the creation of the Apostolic Church.

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them, "You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words. These people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

‘It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says, 'that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy. And I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below: blood, fire, and a cloud of smoke.

The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and splendid day of the Lord, and it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.’

You who are Israelites, hear these words. Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.

But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it. For David says of him:

‘I saw the Lord ever before me, with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted; my flesh, too, will dwell in hope,
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

My brothers, one can confidently say to you about the patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day. But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld nor did his flesh see corruption.

God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you (both) see and hear.

For David did not go up into heaven, but he himself said: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified."

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?”

Peter (said) to them, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit.

For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call."

He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day. They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.

Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.

Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

No, the Greek word is hierourgeō; it has the same root as hiereus. It has nothing to do with presbuteros. That’s why I used a Protestant translation. It is variously translated as “ministering as a priest”, “priestly service”, etc.

Moreover, this was prophesied:

“Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the LORD, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the LORD, "just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. “I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,” says the LORD. (Isaiah 66:20-21)

You’re correct in your translation actually

Hmmm. Which is it?

Presbyter meant “elder” and Episkopos meant “overseer”

Right, but Luke65 claimed that the passage he quoted used a derivation of the more literal word iereus rather than the more commonly used prebuteros or presbyter. See above.

The question I am raising is whether the apostles conceived of a literal priesthood before the destruction of the Jerusalem temple and the end of the levite priesthood.

In other words, did the priesthoods overlap or did the apostles adopt the more literal priesthood after the end of the end of the levite priesthood.

I’ve often pondered the questions you’re asking. Obviously the early Christians lived out their spiritual lives in the synagogue and the temple. The Synagogue was more liturgy of the word, the temple more sacrificial and spiritually other-worldly. These got synthesized into the Christian liturgy early on.

I would say to go check out the Didache. Are you familiar with it? It’s very priestly, sacrificial, etc. I think the elders were all in a priestly role and they shared power with the episkopos after a while due to population size. They shared in the episkopoi ministry but not in his level of power. I think early early early on the presbyters and episkopoi were similar jobs or there was ambiguity. Why? Because Paul and Peter call themselves different things in the NT. Peter and Paul call themselves presbyters and heck, deacons, and ministers, and episkopoi!?

The priesthood had to be a part of the whole deal with the apostles because we see a monespiscopacy so early and the entire east and west had a priesthood with bishops. That couldn’t have been an accident…

Yes, the Apostles knew that they were priests of the New Covenant. They used the word “presbyters” to distinguish Christian priests from Jewish priests and for other reasons (e.g. 2 Cor. 4:3). But St. Paul let us know, in one place, that they indeed were priests. Here is the word:

strongsnumbers.com/greek/2418.htm

Yes, exactly. (In addition, they were “breaking bread” in home gatherings per the last supper commandment.)

I would say to go check out the Didache. Are you familiar with it? It’s very priestly, sacrificial, etc. I think the elders were all in a priestly role and they shared power with the episkopos after a while due to population size. They shared in the episkopoi ministry but not in his level of power. I think early early early on the presbyters and episkopoi were similar jobs or there was ambiguity. Why? Because Paul and Peter call themselves different things in the NT. Peter and Paul call themselves presbyters and heck, deacons, and ministers, and episkopoi!?

The priesthood had to be a part of the whole deal with the apostles because we see a monespiscopacy so early and the entire east and west had a priesthood with bishops. That couldn’t have been an accident…

The question, though, is how early? The Didache comes much later than the period I’m looking at here. In other words, it is consistent with the idea that the apostles adopted the more literal priesthood after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Didache

This is not a problem. You are right, presbyteros is not the same word as hierus. Not sure what you mean by “ceremonial priest” in this context.

Rom 15:15-16
because of the grace given me by God 16 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.

If you mean one who makes an “offering to God”, then it also applies here, as Paul is claiming that he is ministering in the priestly service of the Gospel, and the Gentiles are the offering.

The Gk. used here for “minister” is “leitourgón”, which is the same root where we get our word “liturgy” .

The Gk. used for “priestly” is a transliteration of the Hebrew “hierourgeo”. As you correctly note, this is the term used for temple-worker, or to officiate as a priest.

During the celebration of the Mass (liturgy) the faithful (Gentiles) are offered to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. The form and manner of the Divine Liturgy retains the same elements that the Apostles used.

Also, during the last supper, Jesus commanded the Apostles “do this” in memory of me.
The Gk. word used there is from poieo - to make or do.

Since the context of the Last Supper is the Passover sacrifice, it is understood that the priest is to “make or do” the Eucharist in the same way. The other indiciation of this is the word for “in memory”, which is anamnesis. The Passover is anamnesis. It is a ceremony that makes the Exodus present to the current generation, and they present to it. In the same way, the Eucharist makes us present at the sacrifice of the Lamb, who was slain for our sins.

From the earliest times, a valid Eucharist was one that was conducted with the successor of the Apostle, the Bishop, or one he appointed (an elder).

No. John did not find any fault with the priesthood. He was talking to persons. And he confronted everyone, regardless of their state.

Since Paul was writing about himself as having a priestly (hieros) ministry before the destruction of the Temple, and all the other Aposltes were training their disciples to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, it seems clear that the priesthood was understood and practiced quite literally from the beginning. It was understood not to be Levitical, but Melchizedekian.

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