Continuing with subject of my previous post about special Christian sacrifices which one might expect to be mentioned in the Bible if there was a special priesthood in the churches…
The author of Hebrews says, “We have an altar, from which they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle.” (Hebrews 13:10) On this verse, the Catholic Biblical Association’s 1942 publication, A Commentary on the New Testament, page 605, says:
10. Altar in this verse has been interpreted variously of the altar of Calvary, the Eucharistic altar, or the altar of the heavenly sanctuary. All three are but different aspects of the one supreme sacrifice of Christ. From which they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle, indicates that Christians “eat” of their altar, and the reference seems to be to the Holy Eucharist. See also 1 Cor. 10, 20 f; 11, 23-28. (source)
I know this goes beyond the scope of the original question which only asked for Biblical support for a special priesthood in the churches but, just so you don’t think that a special priesthood offering the Eucharistic sacrifice in the churches is a late invention, an examination of writings of second-century Christians shows that it was well established even then. Justin Martyr, who converted to Christianity about 130 and writing about 155, says:
Hence God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you [Jews]: ‘I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands: for, from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, My name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure offering: for My name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord: but ye profane it.’ [Malachi 1:10-11] [So] He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us [Christians], who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist, affirming both that we [Christians] glorify His name, and that you [Jews] profane [it]. (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 41) (source)
Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp who himself was a disciple of the Apostle John, writing about 189, similarly says:
- Again, [Jesus] giving directions to His disciples to offer to God the first-fruits of His own, created things—not as if He stood in need of them, but that they might be themselves neither unfruitful nor ungrateful—He took that created thing, bread, and gave thanks, and said, “This is My body.” [Matthew 26:26, etc.] And the cup likewise, which is part of that creation to which we belong, He confessed to be His blood, and taught the new oblation of the new covenant; which the Church receiving from the apostles, offers to God throughout all the world, to Him who gives us as the means of subsistence the first-fruits of His own gifts in the New Testament, concerning which Malachi, among the twelve prophets, thus spoke beforehand: “I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord Omnipotent, and I will not accept sacrifice at your hands. For from the rising of the sun, unto the going down [of the same], My name is glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure sacrifice; for great is My name among the Gentiles, saith the Lord Omnipotent;”—indicating in the plainest manner, by these words, that the former people [the Jews] shall indeed cease to make offerings to God, but that in every place sacrifice shall be offered to Him, and that a pure one; and His name is glorified among the Gentiles.
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- The oblation of the Church, therefore, which the Lord gave instructions to be offered throughout all the world, is accounted with God a pure sacrifice, and is acceptable to Him; not that He stands in need of a sacrifice from us, but that he who offers is himself glorified in what he does offer, if his gift be accepted. For by the gift both honour and affection are shown forth towards the King; and the Lord, wishing us to offer it in all simplicity and innocence, did express Himself thus: “Therefore, when thou offerest thy gift upon the altar, and shalt remember that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then return and offer thy gift.” [Matthew 5:23-24] (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4:17-18) (source)
And, Ignatius of Antioch, taught by the Apostles and writing shortly before his death about 110, indicated a special priesthood, saying, “Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it.” (Ignatius of Antioch, To the Smyrneans, 8) (source)