Is Priesthood Abrogated in the New Testament? image

Is Priesthood Abrogated in the New Testament?

Is the priesthood abrogated in the New Testament? In my fascinating discussion with Jonathan Leeman, which started off being about dancing and ended up being about hermeneutics, it became a key point of disagreement. The reason is that, for the Baptist argument, priesthood becomes a crucial (the only?) example of an Old Testament practice which is not explicitly repudiated in the New Testament, yet which we nevertheless no longer continue. For Jonathan, this indicates that we should only use worship practices which are explicitly authorised in the New Testament (which, as you will know by now, does not include dancing -- or handing out bulletins or giving notices, as it happens, but that's another story).

Anyway: I disagree.

The reason is simple: priesthood isn’t abrogated in the NT (Rom 15; 1 Pet 2; Rev 5; etc). What is abrogated is the Levitical priesthood as a means of mediating between God and man within the tabernacle/temple setup, which clearly is abrogated in Christ (Heb 7-10 etc). As such, although Baptists like Jonathan might use it as an example of “something all Christians believe doesn’t continue in the new covenant even though the NT never says that”, I don’t think it is that at all. Rather, it is an office which is explicitly and radically redefined in the NT in such a way as to abolish all of the things we no longer associate with it, and retain all of the things we do:

- The priest as exclusively male, circumcised, Jewish, Levitical or Aaronic is abolished (e.g. 1 Pet 2).
- The priest as mediator between God and men is abolished (e.g. 1 Tim 2).
- The priest as offerer of animal sacrifices in the temple/tabernacle is abolished (thus Hebrews).
- The priest as the definitive human agent through whom forgiveness for sin and absolution take place is abolished (thus all the texts about the priestly work of Christ etc).

However, at the same time:

- The priest as representative of God’s message and offer of forgiveness is retained (e.g. Rom 15).
- The priest as one who offers spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God is retained (1 Pet 2).
- The priest as one who is called and set apart for fellowship with God, in order to serve and bless the world, is retained (Rev 5).

So I agree that priesthood is a great case study for this discussion. But I don’t think it helps the Baptist case at all.

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