"Priest" - one who offers sacrifice?

In a recent homily, the celebrant suggested that he was a priest, in contrast to various protestant ministers, because he offered a sacrifice rather than just leading a religious service. And that this was what the word means, such as the Jewish priests at the temple.

There are voodoo priests, Shinto priests, Wiccan priests, and no doubt priests in other religions - do they all offer sacrifices? That didn’t seem to be a part of the definition in Merriam-Webster.

this is the traditional understanding of priests in the old testament. read the letter to the hebrews.

i have never heard of these other priests, but no doubt that is a different use of the word.


Your priest is correct, actually. He is a sacrificer, sacerdos, and a priest. Ministers view the Eucharist as memorial and offerings of just thanksgiving are not priestly. The priest works in persona christi and make sacrifices as per Hebrews. Your priest is correct.

Actually, the English word “priest” is a cognate and contraction of the Greek word “presbyter”, through the Middle English form “prester”.

Your priest was quite correct!

You see, there is no such thing, strictly speaking, as a “non-sacrificing” priest, since the very definition (Biblically speaking) of a priest is “one who offers sacrifices.”

See also: Priest, at Wikipedia.

And although not all Christians belong to the *ministerial * priesthood, nevertheless, all are, in fact, very much priests.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” 1 Peter 2:9.

But if priests, they must have something to sacrifice. And indeed they do!

“I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1.

Notice that St. Paul here equates “spiritual worship” with the priestly offering of sacrifice!

Recall also the words of Christ:

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” John 4: 23-24

Do you see the connection? Christ says Christians must worship God in “spirit and truth?” St. Paul says that the Christian’s “spiritual worship” consists in the priestly offering of their bodies as a living sacrifice!

Priestly sacrifice. *That *is the essential element of true New Testament worship, not bible reading! And it is the *Eucharist *which is the Great sacrifice of the New Testament (i.e. Catholic) Church.

Listen to St. Augustine:

“And He designed that there should be a daily sign of this in the sacrifice of the Church, which, being His body, learns to offer herself through Him. Of this true Sacrifice the ancient sacrifices of the saints were the various and numerous signs; and it was thus variously figured, just as one thing is signified by a variety of words, that there may be less weariness when we speak of it much. To this supreme and true sacrifice all false sacrifices have given place.”

City of God, Bk. 10, 20.

And in his Encyclical letter, MYSTERIUM FIDEI (Mystery of Faith), Pope Paul VI, echoing the words of Augustine, said:

"It is also only fitting for us to recall the conclusion that can be drawn from this about “the public and social nature of each and every Mass.” For each and every Mass is not something private, even if a priest celebrates it privately; instead, it is an act of Christ and of the Church. In offering this sacrifice, the *Church learns to offer herself as a sacrifice *for all and she applies the unique and infinite redemptive power of the sacrifice of the Cross to the salvation of the whole world."


Finally, just to broaden the subject a bit, you might also want to take a look at this.

[quote="raumzeitmc2]Your priest was quite correct! You see, there is no such thing, strictly speaking, as a “non-sacrificing” priest, since the very definition (Biblically speaking) of a priest is “one who offers sacrifices.”

Yes obviously my priest is a sacrificer. The question is whether it’s true that all priests (including those outside the Judeo-Christian tradition) are sacrificers.

The Wikipedia entry suggested by raumzeitmc2 was helpful and suggests that sacrificer is the more common understanding of priest.

[quote=bpbasilphx]Actually, the English word “priest” is a cognate and contraction of the Greek word “presbyter”, through the Middle English form “prester”.

Which means elder. So I suppose the real question is when the word for elder came to mean anyone who sacrifices, whether Christian or pagan. Although I’m wondering about the English, I suspect the first use of the word for a non-Christian religious leader was in Latin, Greek, or French.

And I’m still wondering what priests do not offer sacrifices. Do Wiccan priests and priestesses sacrifice?

The English term itself does refer to “presbyter” and the literal translation is “elder” as used in the Jewish culture of those days. The term itself doesn’t have a priestly connotation. Sacerdos would be better but it is what it is. We know that the term presbyter took on a sacrificial priestly overtone in the first century already after reading the Early Fathers.

This is a little linguistic conundrum. Priest is a modern english word, unknown to early Christians, Jews or Pagans. The other big word in the discussion is ‘sacrifice’. Sacrifice means ‘sacred work’ in latin, and that word itself does not refer to the offerings of food, drink, incense etc that often were part of sacrificial ritual. “Sacrifice” refers to the ritual itself, in which the offerings play a part. So any ritual leader who does ‘sacred work’ is doing ‘sacrifice’.

The modern connotations of sacrifice as either ‘giving something up’ (which has zero to do with ancient religion) or of slaying an animal to make a food offering to the deity (which was part of almost every ancient religion) have little to do with how ancient Jews or (recently converted) first century Christians would have understood the term.


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