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
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
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.