Status
Not open for further replies.

Haeralis

Puritan Board Freshman
It seems to me that the biblical evidence against the institution of any "priesthood" is enormous. The very idea harkens back to the Old Covenant, in which time the people of God needed mediators to communicate with Him. We know from the book of Hebrews, however, that the Old Covenant has found its supreme fulfillment in Jesus Christ, who "lives forever" to be our eternal High Priest by which we can communicate with God.

So, my question is, how is it that such an extraordinarily unbiblical idea of a "Christian Priesthood" crept into the Church? The Roman priesthood to this day retains tabernacles and altars; the former to house the "body of Christ" in the Eucharist and the latter to actually offer up to God a "re-presentation" of Christ's sacrifice. Apparently, these ideas originated fairly early, perhaps even as early as Tertullian.

Is anyone here familiar with the development of the Christian Priesthood? Was the role of the very early priests any different than the current, blasphemous priesthood of the Church of Rome?
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Is anyone here familiar with the development of the Christian Priesthood? Was the role of the very early priests any different than the current, blasphemous priesthood of the Church of Rome?

The first thing is to avoid thinking of the early church as a monolithic bloc. We have everything from Copts to Assyrians to Greeks to Latins.

The papacy became strong simply by default because everything in the West collapsed. The church was simply the only game in town.

As to the eucharist. That's tricky. There were big changes at the time of Ratrammnus (or rather, clarifications) and even bigger at Aquinas.

I strongly recommend John Chrysostom's book on the priesthood
 

Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
Is anyone here familiar with the development of the Christian Priesthood? Was the role of the very early priests any different than the current, blasphemous priesthood of the Church of Rome?
The letter First Clement, attributed to Clement in the manuscripts and also by Dionysius of Corinth about 170 (Eusebius, Church History 4.23.11). The date of the letter is usually assigned to the reign of Domitian, about 96, but this is not absolutely certain, and some have argued for an earlier date of about 70.

The letter makes the first mention of the description of the organization of the church with bishops and deacons as having been instituted by the apostles with provision for this arrangement to continue (“presbyters” and “bishops” are used interchangeably). It also appears to be the first use of a clergy-laity distinction and of priestly terminology for the ministry of the church (in reference to Old Testament institutions but as analogous to the need for good order in the church).

Sacerdotal language became increasingly common during the third century for the bishop and his functions. With the transfer of the bishop’s role in worship to presbyters in “parish” churches, the priestly interpretation began to be extended to them as well.

In the first two centuries Christian apologists like Justin Martyr noted the difference from pagan religions in the absence of temples, altars, images, and material sacrifices. In the third century, as part of an increasing distinction between the clergy and the laity, the language of priesthood began to be more regularly applied to Christian ministers (perhaps more comparatively by Origen but in a straightforward way by Cyprian). The Christian assimilation to the environment in cultic terminology increased throughout the third century and became standard in the fourth century. By then, ministers were priests, church buildings were temples, communion tables were altars, and sacred art was common.

Although he did not create the terminology, Cyprian was among the first extensively to speak of the bishop as a priest, the eucharist as a sacrifice, and the Lord’s table as an altar.

See: Ferguson, Everett. Church History, Volume One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context: Zondervan.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
In the later middle ages the Gregorian/Hildebrandian revolution sort of consolidated the papacy as the bureaucratic apparatus that we see today.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Was the role of the very early priests any different than the current, blasphemous priesthood of the Church of Rome?
Rather than address your question directly, I think it is helpful to indicate that, contrary to some Roman apologists, Peter the apostle was not the founder of the Roman communion, or I should say Roman communities of churches at the earliest stages. Thus it's my intention to address briefly the founding of the Church in Rome.

Interestingly enough, the Roman commentator Joseph Fitzmyer, in his commentary on Paul's epistle to the Romans observes...
In any case, Paul never hints in Romans that he knows that Peter has worked in Rome or founded the Christian church there before his planned visit (cf. 15:20-23). If he refers indirectly to Peter as among the “superfine apostles” who worked in Corinth (2 Cor 11:4-5), he says nothing like that about Rome in this letter. Hence the beginnings of the Roman Christian community remain shrouded in mystery. Compare 1 Thess 3:2-5; 1 Cor 3:5-9; and Col 1:7 and 4:12-13 for more or less clear references to founding apostles of other locales. Hence there is no reason to think that Peter spent any major portion of time in Rome before Paul wrote his letter, or that he was the founder of the Roman church or the missionary who first brought Christianity to Rome. For it seems highly unlikely that Luke, if he knew that Peter had gone to Rome and evangelized that city, would have omitted all mention of it in Acts. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., Romans, A New Translation with introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible Series (New York: Doubleday, 1993), p. 30.
Fitzmyer gives us his view of the probable origin of the Church at Rome,stating...
“...we know nothing of its evangelization by an apostle, even though a later tradition associated that with Mark the evangelist (Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica 2.16.1).” Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., Romans, A New Translation with introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible Series (New York: Doubleday, 1993), p. 30.
Fitzmyer points out that the anonymous commentator we presently refer to as Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384) stated...
It is evident then that there were Jews living in Rome....in the time of the apostles. Some of these Jews, who had come to believe (in Christ), passed on to the Romans (the tradition) that they should acknowledge Christ and keep the law....One ought not to be angry with the Romans, but praise their faith, because without seeing any signs of miracles and without any of the apostles they came to embrace faith in Christ, though according to a Jewish rite” (ritu licet iudaico, a phrase found only in cod. K; In ep. ad Romanos, prol. 2; CSEL 81.1.5-6). Ambrosiaster speaks of the Gentile Christians of Rome, who were associated with the original Jewish converts of the Roman community. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., Romans, A New Translation with introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible Series (New York: Doubleday, 1993), pp. 30-31. See also In Epistolam Ad Romanos, Prologus, PL 17:45-46.
The most exhaustive study of the founding of the Roman community of churches that I've read is that of Peter Lampe's From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries, trans. Michael Steinhauser (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003).
I think Lampe demonstrates very carefully his thesis, which is as follows...
Peter Lampe: Thesis: The fractionation in Rome favored a collegial presbyterial system of governance and prevented for a long time, until the second half of the second century, the development of a monarchical episcopacy in the city. Victor (c. 189-99) was the first who, after faint-hearted attempts by Eleutherus (c. 175-89), Soter (c. 166-75), and Anicetus (c. 155-66), energetically stepped forward as monarchical bishop and (at times, only because he was incited from the outside) attempted to place the different groups in the city under his supervision or, where that was not possible, to draw a line by means of excommunication. Before the second half of the second century there was in Rome no monarchical episcopacy for the circles mutually bound in fellowship. Peter Lampe, From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries, trans. Michael Steinhauser (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), p. 397.
You may find it helpful to read Hans Von Campehausen's Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power in the Church of the First Three Centuries.
 

Gforce9

Puritan Board Junior
Not to detract from the O.P., but Dr. Horton has said broad evangelicalism (rightly) protests the papacy while, at the same time, operates apart from the God-given offices, lives by "the still small voice (special revelation) and has 10,000,000 popes.

If I declare myself "Pope", can I count on you guys to pay homage?
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
I'm not clear if you are referring to priest in the sense of a sacrificial system or the issue of the supremacy of the bishop at Rome.
 

Haeralis

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm not clear if you are referring to priest in the sense of a sacrificial system or the issue of the supremacy of the bishop at Rome.

I'm speaking of the sacerdotal priesthood, not the papacy, though I realize that the two probably developed simultaneously.

I guess I'm just trying to figure out when / how it was that early Christians decided to institute a priesthood despite the fact that there is absolutely nothing in the New Testament to suggest that we should have priests. Instead, it gives us rules for pastors, deacons, elders, etc.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
I've been puzzling over the priest concept too because it came to affect church architecture and furnishings like "altar" cloths. I have a great deal of interest in church linens, but don't want to invoke error.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top