Priests v. disciples?

Dear all;

An apologetics question here. Obviously many non-Catholic churches do not have ‘priests’ but a senior member of the community as minister.

I wonder where priests come from in terms of the bible or biblical times. I understand that the apostles are our current bishops; however are priests clearly communicated the authority to absolve sins, and administer the sacraments.

For example in the Eucharist- does Christ make a requirement that only priests and bishops can perform the consecration?


I don’t know if this helps or answers but the priesthood in the bible is mentioned as the “presbyters”. And the diaconate as the deacons.

Absolutely! What causes you to think otherwise?

Hi- I don’t think otherwise at all :slight_smile:
I’m just looking for references in the bible or otherwise where I can prove this responsibility was bestowed.

It started in the Old Testament when the sons of Aaron performed Sacrifices to the Lord, they were the High Priests and only them and them alone could perform the sacrifices, the Levites were next but they were not allowed to perform Sacrifices but rather they would be the modern day Sacristans , them and only them were allowed to touch the Holy Vessels and items belonging to the Lord.

Its only the Catholic Church and the Orthodox whether its Orthodox Catholic, or Orthodox non Catholic (not under Rome) that this tradition is still held, (The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass).

At the Reformation and all Protestant Church’s don’t offer a Sacrifice and don’t want to and don’t think they should, they proclaim the Lord by reciting what is in the New Testament, which was originally put together by the Catholic Church, which they seem to conveniently forget, and of course music of various kinds, which we all do, he who sings, prays twice.

Since the Jewish people lost the Temple of Solomon they also no longer offer any Sacrifice, but if the Temple was rebuilt no doubt it would resume.


Your not going to find it directly in scripture, it is a Church not biblical rule, stemming from the belief that in the sacraments, the priest acts “in persona Christi”, and it was Christ who instituted the Eucharistic sacrament, which is very much based in scripture.

Here is a 2-page PDF of verses in the Bible from the USCCB:

Just one…

John 20:21-23 “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”

Not everything is in the Bible, that is why we have the Magisterium, Tradition, The Catholic Church, its the 3 legged stool .

Where does it say in the Bible that we should do a Collection of money (in all denominations) after Service /Mass, it doesn’t.

That is why we have to listen to the Catholic Church as its divinely inspired by the Head of the Church- Our Lord Jesus Christ-

John 21-25

If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books .

Thanks Chef:

John 20:21-23 “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”

…This was my main point of reference. What I wondered was the practice of the Apostles ordaining ‘lesser apostles’ (if that’s the right terminology to use). I.e. the Apostles were bishops. They then lay on hands and ordain priests.

So to go to the early church- would the Apostles- say Peter, Paul; appoint priests in early parishes? There must have been a leader appointed in the new ‘parishes’ to celebrate Mass?

I think you will find the answers here…


Don’t forget that the Apostles weren’t just given a ministry – they were also given authority by Jesus! In other words, Jesus didn’t only say “do this in memory of me” and “whose sins you forgive”… He also said “I will you the keys to the kingdom – what you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”! Therefore, it’s not just a matter of what Jesus decreed, but also, given the authority Jesus gave Peter, it’s a matter of what Peter decreed, too!

So, how can we understand the priesthood? Well, imagine that you’re a husband and father, and in your house, you wash the car and mow the lawn. In other words, these are the tasks that have been given to you. But, you’re not just a ‘washer’ and a ‘mower’ – you’re also a person with authority in your household! So, when your sons get old enough, you assign some of your tasks (‘ministries’, if you will :wink: ) to them. It’s not like you’re creating the task out of nowhere; but, you have the authority to ask someone to share in that task!

So, does that mean that Peter & the apostles had no authority to share (parts of) the ministry that they’d been given? Of course not! We see that, Scripturally, they did have that ministry! And, we see that they exercised it! And, at the time that they felt was appropriate, they shared it with others who would likewise exercise priestly ministry, at their direction. So, the fact that they didn’t call them ‘priests’ per se, doesn’t mean that the ministry (and the office) didn’t exist. It also doesn’t mean that the authority to create a presbyterate that did not share in the episcopal ministry didn’t exist – it certainly did, and they certainly did exercise their prerogative in developing the priesthood as they saw fit!

It was a later development. Originally, only the apostles – and their successors, the bishops – celebrated the Eucharist. As the Church grew, it became impossible for the entire Church to gather for the Eucharistic celebration, and from that need, the priesthood developed. Really, it came down to the fact that pastorally, the Church saw the need to give Christians the opportunity to celebrate the sacraments, and in order to do so, the presbyterate was formed to provide the sacraments to the faithful. It really was a development over time…

Thanks for the link Pablope.

And Giorgias- thank you for the time you spent explaining. I enjoyed your explanation and likeness to my car washing! (A secret pleasure - I think I might even spare my future kids that one!).

God bless.

:thumbsup: Although I will say that while we as Catholics say and believe that, we should also recognize that the overhwelming majority of what we believe and our doctrines are in fact from the Bible and can be backed up by Scripture.

Briefly–I realize this doesn’t directly answer your question, but I offer it for context: I have written this often (as part of, and in the context of an apologetic I prepared in response to sola scriptura)–all of the Apostles were also disciples; but not all of the disciples, were Apostles. The Bible makes a pretty clear distinction there. ‘The Apostles’ refers to ‘the 12’ (then minus Judas, then plus his successor, Mathias, then plus St. Paul)–basically, a hierarchy.

The Apostles are the first bishops (as you noted); the priests, their helpers.

The sacrifice, as noted above, comes from Judaic tradition. The Last Supper, for instance, was a celebration of the Passover–which was commemorated with the sacrifice of a lamb, since the blood of a lamb was spread above the doorways of the homes of the Jews (according to the instructions given to Mosses, by God, who of course, passed it on to the Jews), in order to signify to the angel of death–when God sent it through Egypt, as a warning to the Pharaoh–that this house was to be spared.

NB: I’m going off memory here…so if anyone feels inclined to correct me, please, by all means, do–you have my thanks in advance.

Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary, dispensed with the need or propriety of a ‘sacrificial lamb’–or rather, he became the sacrificial lamb–so we offer Him, up to God the Father, as ‘the sacrificial lamb’, through the Eucharist, in the Mass.

This btw, is why we have an altar in our churches. An altar, by definition, is a table, or any similar structure, upon which a sacrifice is made. Without a sacrifice…you don’t have an altar–you just have a table–or whatever you would use for an altar.

…and priests–by definition (again)–are people who conduct a sacrificial ceremony. Conducting a sacrifice, is what makes a person a priest. Whether they be Wiccan, or Satanic, or what have you–when they say they are a ‘X priest’–it is implied that they are conducting a sacrifice.

So Catholic priests, are priests, because they conduct, or lead, a sacrificial ceremony (i.e.–one in which a sacrifice is offered)–the [unbloody] sacrifice of the Mass.


PS–I know it sounds a bit ‘icky’ on the surface–a bit…off putting–certainly our separated brethren react that way–but this IS the Tradition that the Church Fathers inherited from THE Apostles–because it IS, the Faith that Christ passed on to them (the Apostles).

Sorry for brevity- but thank you for this :thumbsup:

My pleasure–and I’m duly flattered that you found it helpful.

BTW/FWIW: Here is the rest of that ‘apologetic’ I referred to (had to do a little digging for it)–which I prepared in response to a sola scriptura/Reformation discussion–I’ve found it useful, and recycled it a few times (saves time):

Re-cap of what the Bible does/does not provide for:

  1. Christ did not hand his Apostles, a Bible.
  1. In fact, Christ didn’t write anything down, AT ALL. This is staggering, in light of the ‘lost/found in the Temple’ episode. Jesus Christ is found in the Temple–when he was 12 years old–lecturing the Church elders about scripture. Clearly, this child prodigy was learned and well read–and yet, Christ never wrote anything down at all–other than in the sand, with a stick.
  1. Christ never prophesied the Bible. Never mentions such a thing at all.
  1. Though he does prophesie His Church (e.g.–"…thou art Peter (Petros) and ***upon this rock I shall build my Churc***h").
  1. Christ passes his Faith system on to his followers–the Aposltes–orally. He expressly instructs them to do the same. They do. They expressly instruct their followers to do the same. They do. ***That is and yields, Tradition (Sacred Tradition)***.
  1. The Bible distinguishes between "Apostles’ and ‘disciples’. All Apostles are included as Christ’s disciples; not all disciples are Apostles. The Apostles are the 12–then minus Judas, then plus his successor, Matthias, then later, plus Paul. This distinction signifies a ‘hierarchy’. The replacement of Judas, and the later addition of St. Paul, signifies succession, and growth, respectively. This is the Church that Jesus Christ founded.
  1. There is no Bible at the time of the Pentecost, nor for centuries afterwards;
  1. ***Nor even mention of a thing known as a ‘bible’, in the Bible–let alone mention of a concept known as ‘sola scriptura’***. Not in the Gospels; not in the Acts of the Apostles; not in any letter by St. Paul, St. James, St. Peter, or anyone else. Hence the very concept of a ‘Bible’ at all, is the fruit of the Church that Christ founded–i.e.–the fruit of [Sacred] Tradition.
  1. Note: re. reference to ‘scripture’ in the Bible–this refers to then existing Scripture; there is no express reference to scripture which will come into being; that only becomes so, through [Sacred] Tradition.
  1. And of course, no prophecy whatsoever, of the reformation.

Ergo, still no divine authority for what has been horribly inaccurately dubbed, “the reformation.”

Perhaps you may find it useful as well.

For context–the point I was developing in the discussion this one was taken from (and conformed further), was that for ‘sola scriptura’, and ‘the Reformation’ to have been valid within the framework of the Bible itself, it would have to be able to claim divine revelation–i.e. prophesy–within the Bible itself–just as the New Covenant is prophesied by the Old Testament. To claim as radical a change to the Church that Christ left us with as the Reformation claims to have been (to Christ’s actual Church), required some sort of divine revelation within the Bible which it purports to hold esteem so highly–(else whatever it is or was, must have occurred outside of His Church). Alas, it fails miserably in this regard, and exposes itself as error, according to its own standard.


It may not be “directly” stated like a catechism but when you take scripture in it’s whole there seems to be a necessity for priesthood.

But first let me say that there are apostles (bishops) and priests. St. Paul calls himself an apostle which would make him a part of the magisterium. In scripture, he ordains Titus and Timothy to be priests who are not apostles or bishops at the time of ordination. So the Church makes a distinction between the two. Every organization needs headship and the priesthood gives the Church the headship needed to guide it in it’s ministry.

But back to the topic of priests vs disciples issue.

When looking at all of scripture it is seen that God is slowly revealing Himself to us in a series of covenants. Each covenant supersedes the one it replaces and tends to perfect the properties of the replaced one. For example, an eye for an eye is replaced with love, the ten commandments are not replaced but raised up to the values given by Christ in the sermon on the mount. The sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant are replaced by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Since there is a new sacrifice there needs to be a new priesthood which I think is mentioned in the book of Hebrews. This new priesthood is the priesthood of Christ the High Priest who shares this priesthood with those ordained to offer the new and everlasting sacrifice which is the Eucharist…

For protestants, they believe that with the new covenant there is no more need for a new sacrifice or new priesthood. All the externals of the covenant are not needed because of what Christ has done. But this does not make sense for past characteristics that have to be shown as being perfected. It is not right to get rid of them all and say they are not needed anymore and we just have to have faith and follow scripture. That is not the perfection of the past covenant. That is why our liturgy has been perfected from old covenant liturgies. Again, we cannot throw out the perfected liturgies, sacrifice, and priesthood as well as other things and have nothing in their place. This to me is the fallacy of the protestant revolution in that they don’t see what they have done.

So I say yes, yes. It is shown in scripture that priesthood is relevant and necessary.

In looking toward the Eucharist, you have hit upon the key to the ministerial priesthood and the consecration of the Eucharist. Please note that Jesus was transforming the Last Supper Passover when he said “this is my body…this is my blood.” Jesus is referred to as our High Priest in the Book of Hebrews. No other NT book says that about Jesus, but it is clear that by offering himself he became our High Priest. We have clear evidence, however, that Jesus was acting as a priest at the Last Supper because he was wearing a “priestly garment.” We are tipped off to this at the crucifixion when Jesus was stripped and his vestiture is described as a “seamless” garment. This is the priestly garment known as an ephod as described in the OT in regards to the priests.

Therefore, at the Last Supper when Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me”, he is acting as priest in transforming the bread and wine into his body and blood. He is likewise telling the apostles to do what he did which is to perform this priestly activity. That explains why priests wear vestments. Moreover, Paul speaks of the Christian altar/table vis-a-vis the Jewish and pagan altars in 1 Cor chapter 10. We have an altar. Altars are the places where sacrifices are offered and priests offer sacrifices. The biblical picture would be incomplete without a ministerial priesthood that flows from our High Priest, Jesus.

I hope that helps and God bless.

Undoubtedly – the cataclysmic difference as against the O.T. was the institution by Christ, at the Last Supper, of bishops and priests able, through the mandate of Christ to His Apostles, to change bread and wine to His Body and Blood in the Blessed Eucharist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, under the appearances of bread and wine: “Do this in memory of Me.” (Lk 22:19). The clarity and directness of Christ – “This IS My Body” at the Last Supper after carefully teaching in Jn 6:51: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh," establishes the reality.

Jn 6:55: For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. And many walked no more with Him. (Jn 6:66). Did he say “you misunderstood Me”? No, He let them go – take note.

Then, to make absolutely certain there was no mistaking what He was saying, Jesus said to the Twelve, “What about you, do you want to go away too?” To which Simon Peter replied, “Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe” (John 6:59-68).

The first purely human priests of the New Covenant were the Apostles, whose priesthood was conferred at the Last Supper, which was the First Mass. All will understand Christ’s institution of the priesthood at the Last Supper only when they understand that as only the Apostles could confer the priesthood established by Christ, no other men can be real priests without that sacrament from Christ through His Apostles.

The command of Christ is crystal clear at the Last Supper, and St Paul himself attested to the realty of the Sacrifice in 1 Cor: 23-34:
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
“Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup unworthily will be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor: 26,27).

The priesthood was initiated by Christ the High Priest when He commanded: “Do this in memory of Me.” (Lk 22:19).

The Hebrew verb that Christ used at the last supper was to “sacrifice” - thus, “Sacrifice this in remembrance of Me”

Great post, Pax. :thumbsup:

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