Priesthood Essay, Research Paper


The position of priesthood in the church has been evident since the

earliest existence of the church. Jewish priests first were established in the

seventh century BC performing religious ceremonies. They were even more

established around 950 BC due to the establishment of the Temple in Jerusalem.

The major role of the traditional Jewish priest was to perform

sacrificial rituals. According to the Bible, the Temple was built as a place for

God to live with the people. It was the holiest building that existed, and

needed to be kept holy by the priests. Their role of the priests was to perform

animal sacrifices to God as an offering. The priests performed these sacrifices

as specialists on behalf of a community or congregation in order to restore the

holiness of the community and of the Temple. It was believed that if there was

sin among the people then God would not come and be with them.

After the Temple was destroyed during the war with Rome, these animal

sacrifices were stopped, and there were no more active Jewish priests. The

religious leadership in the synagogue was led by the rabbis.

In the Protestant religion there exists a “priesthood of all

believers”(”Priesthood”, 529). This meant that each member in the community

serves as his or her own priest, with direct access to communication with God.

Protestants believe that the role of the priest is an “officiating

mediary”(”Priesthood”, 529), rather than a one who performs ritual sacrifices.

This stems from the Protestant belief that Jesus Christ served as “the ultimate”

sacrifice, and therefore there is no use in animal sacrifices. Protestants also

do not call their religious leaders “priests” because the name itself implies

that he is of a higher level than his fellow man or that he has more access to

God than others.

There exists two different forms of priesthood: hereditary and

vocational priests. A hereditary priest is a limited position in that it can

only be held by a person who a direct descendent of the tribe of Levi. This

tribe is one of the original 12 tribes of Israel as set forth in Genesis 49.

There exists among this tribe one High Priests who head of the other priests. He

is the only priest who was allowed to view the holy Ark of the Covenant during

the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem. These hereditary priests, unlike most

priests in today’s society, were allowed to marry in order to carry on the line

of priesthood.

The vocational priests are those which have been “called” to the

ministry by God himself. A “calling” is an “impulse by God that attracts

certain persons to a life of ministry”(”Calling”, 176). This area of priesthood

is beneficial in that it has the “potential advantage of selectivity for

devotional, intellectual, or moral qualities”(”Priesthood”, 530). The problem

with hereditary priests was that there often existed priests which were not very

holy men, but they were given the position due to their family name. Vocational

priests are only men who became priests because the felt thats what God wanted

them to do.

There are certain requirements which must be kept by preists in order

for them to be able to continue doing the work of God. One of these

requirements is that he is of sound mind. “Apart from practical reasons of

cumminity leadership, this requirement is frequetnly supported by a notion of

perfection as appropriate to the sacrificial ritual. Just as a cacrificial

animal is expected to be whole and without blemish, so should the sacrificer

himself be. Traditional Roman Catholic custom has required in particular that

the hands of a priest, which perform the sacrament, be without

deformity”(”Priesthood”, 530)

The tradition of celibacy is something that may be required, as the

Roman Catholic church does, but it is not required by all denominations with


Some other interesting requirements of a priest is that he be a good

speaker and good and pronunciation. This is essential for the prayers of the

priest. Priests which were required to do animal needed to be trained as a

veterinary surgeon. Lastly, priests must also have background in theology and

history in order to also minister to the intellectual life of their congregation.

As you can see there are many aspects of priesthood. They provided the

church with the proper leadership and knowledge which is needed to be able to

serve God in the proper manner. They have been previlant throughout religious

history and they will surely continue to play a major role in modern religion

today and in the future.

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