Origin of Priestly Robes-Jewish/Temple or Secular?


#1

Just wondering, could anyone discuss the origins of the robes Catholic/Orthodox priests wear? I know that in the Biblical tabernacle and temple, the priests there wore special robes when ministering therein, but I’ve also heard that Catholic priestly robes actually find their origin in Roman society?

Thanks.


#2

There isn’t much definitive history on the subject. The first four centuries of Church documents offer quite scanty information, and even then there is no answer to any “where” or “why” questions we may have.

While some modern scholars when discussing the subject of vestments usually bring up what the Levitical priesthood wore at the Tabernacle/Temple, the connection is not direct as if to say the Church was trying to incorporate a similar practice. Such never seems to be the claim from academics.

The only “information” on origins I have ever come across came from non-Catholic/non-Orthodox sources. The information was stated in material meant to criticize the Church and was outright anti-Catholic. The claims made in this material was that as soon as the Church was made legal in Rome the Catholic clergy purposefully adopted garb that was once worn only by Roman officials. This appears to be a very old claim, stemming back to the Protestant Reformation and in particular the English Ritualist controversies of the 19th century.

There is some data that can be verified. First is that the Orthodox garments are rooted in its early history. Exactly what that history is, however, isn’t clear. Also many Roman Catholic vestments had in mind function over fashion in that there is some agreement that many of them were designed for warmth in an era when central heating was yet to be invented (which would explain a lot if you ask a priest how hot vestments can get).

I am sure there are all sorts of bits and pieces that can be offered as I’ve seen much over the decades, conflicting and lacking of substance. One thing I can offer, in my most humble opinion, is that there is no consensus about anything since the source, Christianity, didn’t make note of it in its own history. And it is hard to give weight to much that anti-Catholic sources offer because much of their data, when tested, doesn’t have support other than their claims get repeated over and over again by “experts” who never present the source of their “history.” Quoting or citing the same authorities over and over again in circular fashion doesn’t an argument make.


#3

Thanks, that was very helpful.


#4

In a sense, yes. As DelsonJacobs pointed out, in some books (mainly devotional ones) you might see the vestments connected with the garments Israelite/Jewish priests wore, but there’s really no concrete historical evidence linking the two. If anything, it kinda sounds like a carryover of the tendency of liturgists since the Middle Ages to give a spiritual or biblical meaning to every gesture the priest performs or every item of clothing that he wears - particularly to those which (as time went on) lost their original function and became purely symbolic - and wax eloquent about it.

Oh, and DelsonJacobs, can you elaborate about the part where you stated: “The only “information” on origins I have ever come across came from non-Catholic/non-Orthodox sources. The information was stated in material meant to criticize the Church and was outright anti-Catholic. The claims made in this material was that as soon as the Church was made legal in Rome the Catholic clergy purposefully adopted garb that was once worn only by Roman officials”?


#5

The source information I was referring to were anti-Catholic Evangelical/Fundamentalist websites, tracts, and books and several Watchtower publications (Jehovah’s Witnesses). Such claims often come in the same breath as claiming that Sunday Mass is a holdover of sun worship, and that the Catholic Church is the fulfillment of Revelation’s “whore of Babylon.” Most of these sources borrow from each other, providing little more than a circular argument.

All the cited “evidence” to these claims generally involves incorporating a logical fallacy technique known in apologetics as an “argument from authority,” selectively picking blurbs of information and claiming the blurbs provide proof to support their interpretation of Revelation. An “argument from authority” is illogical because citing an expert’s point of view does not conclude a raised argument. An expert opinion can be incorrect or need to be revised, and nothing prevents a non-specialist from uttering truth. Facts are proven through examination and verified by independent, disinterested testing, and not by quoting any type of authority on a subject, even in a person’s field of expertise.


#6

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