Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Notes On The Development Of The Catholic Priesthood

  • This Excerpt From Christian Apologist William Webster Gives Us Insight Into The Historical Development Of The Roman Catholic Priesthood:
           -"...in the early writings of the Church no mention is made of priests in Christian ministry. There is a parallel sometimes drawn between the offices of the New Testament and the ministerial functions of the priesthood in the old dispensation — as found in the writings of Clement and Ignatius, for example — but they do not teach that New Testament ministry and ministers are the same as in the Old Testament. Clement in 1 Clement 40-41 uses the Old Testament priesthood as an illustration of a principle of divine calling and orderliness. At that time, God specifically called and appointed certain men to perform a specified ministry which was to be done in a particular way. He then applies that principle to his readers under the New Testament dispensation, to warn them that God still calls and appoints men to fulfill the role of pastor, elder and deacon, and that believers must be careful to submit to the authorities that God has established in the Church.

           Clement never uses the term ‘priest’ to describe a Christian minister. This is true of all the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement and The Didache all use the terms ‘bishop’ or ‘presbyter’ and ‘deacon’ when referring to those responsible for Christian ministry. These are the terms employed by the New Testament itself. When these and other writers do use the Greek term for ‘priest’ (hiereus), it is always in reference to the Old Testament or to the person of Christ. The first use of the word to refer to Christian ministers is from the writings of Origen the third century Greek Father. Clement of Alexandria, writing in the latter part of the second century, uses the word to describe all Christians in general.

           It is with the fourth century Greek Fathers that we find the word hiereus universally applied to describe a Christian minister.4 And it is with Tertullian in the West that the beginnings of a sacerdotal function in the Christian ministry began to become evident, for he uses the Latin term sacerdotium (priesthood) to describe a Christian minister. It is clear that by the beginning of the third century Christian ministers were beginning to be viewed as priests similar to those of the Old Testament."

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