Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Priesthood is About the Blood





Alice C. Linsley

Speaking from the perspective of Biblical Anthropology, the priesthood of the Church stands in continuity with the Hebrew priesthood that was known to Abraham and his ancestors. The priest's office is unique, very ancient, and stands as an ensign of the hope for immortality.

Melchizedek attended to Abraham's spiritual needs after the battle of the kings (Genesis 14). It appears that he performed a cleansing ritual to diminish Abraham's blood guilt. After that, there was a communion of bread and wine.

The priesthood has always been about the Blood. Priests sacrificed animals because blood is the sign of the Covenant. Jesus exhorts His own to drink His blood in the Sacrament. The priest stands at altar as a divinely appointed agent of that Blood. Life is in the Blood!

Redemption and eternal life require that we have that Blood as our "covering" just as the skins of rams dyed red formed the covering over the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 26:14).

The Hebrew priests kept sheep and cattle to offer as sacrifices. These were often kept in a stone sheep cote (naveh) that had a beehive shape. The sheep cotes were sacred places. With the exception of red heifers, rarely were the females sacrificed. The sacrifice of the red heifer was to be a perpetual sacrifice for Israel (Numbers 19:9). It was for cleansing. 

The earliest ritual burials suggest a priestly office associated with blood. The burial of nobles in red ochre (a blood symbol) was the custom among Abraham's R1b people for at least 40,000 years. It expressed the hope of life after death through the blood.

In the ancient world the community was represented by its chief or ruler. Hope of life after death was pinned on the ruler. If the ruler rose from the grave he would lead his people to immortality. This royal procession language is found more than once in the Bible. Psalm 68:18 says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” (Also Ephesians 4:8; Colossians 2:15) Messiah Jesus leads the royal procession to the Father from Calvary's bloody hill.

Paul writes that we who are baptized into Christ "have been brought near in the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). We enter with boldness into the Most Holy Place "by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is His body..." (Hebrews 10:19, 20)

In this we follow Jesus, our great High Priest, who "did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood..." (Hebrews 9:12)

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times, He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth." (Ephesians 1:7-10)

This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it is to be signified by every priest of the Church whether at the altar or in the confessional.


1 comment:

Alice Linsley said...

Christians who have priests should be circumspect in our talk of the priesthood because it points to the Blood of Jesus. We should avoid saying things that lack sufficient Scriptural warrant: women priests and the "priesthood of all believers" are examples.

When do Christians offer themselves together as a "living sacrifice" to God? In the Eucharist. Without the priest, there is no Eucharist. That is what Anglicans believe and it is central to the catholic Faith.

The continuity between the the Old and New Covenants is expressed in the unchanged essence of the priest as a mediator between the faith community and God. The Greek word for priest in the New Testament is ἱερεύς (hiereus). It is derived from the ancient Egyptian word for sacrificing priest - harwa - and is also related to the word hierogylph, meaning priest script.

Using I Peter to support the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, as Luther did, creates distortion. (I'm not sure Luther even believed this, since he insisted that confession be made to a priest.) The Epistle is addressed to Hebrews in the Dispersion (1 Peter 1:1). To speak of Gentiles in the Diaspora makes no sense. The epistle seems to be addressed to Karaite Jews who were disliked by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem because the Karaites accepted only the Tanach/Hebrew Bible as their authority. They did not accept Misrach and Talmud (oral Torah). I Peter appears to be a welcoming the Karaites, many of whom were very receptive to the Gospel. Many became Christians, or what we would call "Messianic" Jews.

The conflict between the "orthodox" Jews in Jerusalem and the Karaite Jews in the Diaspora is well known among Jews, yet strangely missing in most Christian commentaries. It is important because the receptivity of the Karaites to the Gospel came from their insistence that the Hebrew Scriptures alone were their authority. They did not accept the "oral torah" of the Jerusalem rabbis. The midrash and Talmud often take the clear meaning of Messianic passages that point to fulfilment in Jesus and interpret them to apply to the nation of Israel. See this article: http://biblicalanthropology.blogspot.com/2017/11/biblical-anthropology-is-work-of.html

The OT references for I Peter 2:9 are Isaiah 43:20,21 which is about doing a new thing... making a new way for God's chosen ones. Also Isaiah 28:16 which refers to the orthodox Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, telling them that God is laying a new foundation. Are we to generalize the historical reality of a sacrificing priest caste to all Christians on the basis of this one passage, which some scholars see as a parting of ways between two groups of Jews?

The Karaites did not observe all the Temple holidays and they were less strict about the dietary laws. The Epistle refers to Abraham and Sarah (1 Peter 3:6 ) and contains many tenets of Hebrew thought and history which Gentiles would not have known. In places, it echoes Galatians 4:22-25, and the "slave girl" refers to Jews who bound their hearts to their own traditions and oral torah.

It appears that there is insufficient warrant of Scripture to embrace the innovation of the "priesthood of all believers" because this alludes to Jews living outside of Palestine who are in the R1b Haplogroup. Their families had been living in Southern Europe for many generations. Their ancestors had dispersed widely before Abraham.