There are now a few versions on the net of a lecture Bishop Geoffrey Robinson has given which seeks to address the underlying systemic failings that have led to the entire clerical abuse scandal. The latest one to appear is on the Elephants in the Living Room website in the United States which is a transcript of the address he gave at the Mercy Center, Farmington Hills, MI on 27th March this year. (We also have on our website a video of where Bishop Robinson outlines his arguments made at the ACARP Conference in Sydney in November 2010. See the links in the article where you can view, or read Bishop Robinson's arguments.) Scripture researcher Brian Pitts has been highly taken with a section of Bishop Robinson's lecture where Robinson challenges The Mystique of Priesthood based on scripture references in Hebrews. Brian Pitts seeks to expand on what Geoff Robinson has written with a wider analysis of the sections the bishop refers to.
Challenging the Mystique of Priesthood...
This is a comment on Part 7: The Mystique Of The Priesthood of the lecture of Geoff Robinson that my attention was drawn to on the "Elephants in the Living Room" website. I state this clearly to separate it from another terribly confusing reference to a string on "Elephants" wrongly attributed to Bishop Robinson.
From the outset I am extremely grateful for Geoff's thorough exposure of the underlying Catholic culture, sexual doctrine and beliefs that together provide fuel for the sexual abuse of children by male clergy. This is my first time to understand the interlinking. It is also a good example of how screwed up theology influences attitudes, power and practice.
Having said that, I just wish to comment on a small part of this excellent lecture. I also applaud Geoff's exposure of the Vulgate error of Hebrews 5:1 and its consequences, and I wish to add to it. I am merely trying to bring attention to the teaching in the epistle of the Hebrews that mitigates against the Catholic doctrine of: (a) The priesthood; and (b) The Mass as a sacrifice.
I say this because there is much focus today on the dysfunctional Catholic priesthood and plans about how it can be fixed.
These comments are welcomed because they apply to the leaders of the local parishes (who happen to be priests). This leadership is scandalous and in tatters for all the reasons mentioned in Geoff's lecture. The 'priests' are victims of the system. Even if they were not priests, but still loaded with celibacy and all the institutional crap, the result would be the same.
Was there a "priesthood" in Apostolic times?
Was there a "priesthood" in Apostolic times? Was it part of the Good News? This Epistle to the Hebrews is addressed to Jewish believers and followers of Yeshua Messiah. It contains some startling teaching about this "priesthood and mass thing".
Its useless to paint a rust bucket, patch-up a priesthood invented by theology, or put new wine into old wine skins.
Here's the opening quote from article 7 of Geoff Robinson's signed lecture:
7. THE MYSTIQUE OF THE PRIESTHOOD
Number Seven: The mystique of the priesthood. Now I'm getting to really interesting things. It will change things in this way. I understand there are a lot of priests in the audience here. Now they will perhaps have some difficulty with number seven and number eight. I don't think the laity present will. Let's see! The mystique of the priesthood.
The letter to the Hebrews, 5:1 says, "Every high priest, chosen from among human beings, is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf." Now in the Greek original, it's every high priest taken from among human beings. The implication is you have a hundred human beings here; you take one to be a teacher, one to be a bus driver, one to be this, one to be that, and one to be a priest. And he's one like all the others.
But along came St. Jerome, who did the Vulgate translation into Latin of the Bible; and he translated that phrase, which simply says taken, and he translated it as taken up, as ex iminibus assumptus, taken up from human beings; implying taken up to some higher level, taken out of humanity somehow, and taken up to this higher level.
Brian Pitt's commentary...
Since Isaiah, I have spent a lot of time trawling through the New Testament to investigate if, and to what extent Isaiah's "Suffering Servant" of chapters 52 and 53 comes through the message of the Gospels and Epistles. When I got to Hebrews, I was careful to rid my brain of all post first century theology and read it in its original time slot.
The writer I found was at pains to demonstrate to his Jewish readers from within their own Jewish writings (Tanakh), just how Yeshua of Nazareth was a true "High Priest". Hebrews compares the sacrifice of Yeshua's sacrifice on Calvary with the sacrifice of the young bull (along with 14 sheep or goats) slaughtered by the High Priest in the temple each year on the "Day of Atonement".
The "Day of Atonement" sacrifices were the only ones that were offered to God for the sins of all the people, and those of the High Priest himself. It was only on this day that the High Priest entered the "Holy of Holies" where the "Arc of the Covenant" was originally housed, which was they believed, the throne of God . To enter there unlawfully was they believed to risk being struck dead by God.
Before I continue though, I will replace belief with a reality check at the time of Yeshua. The "Holy of Holies" was most likely empty. The Ark was long gone, either pillaged by Sheshack King of Egypt around 927BC or by the Babylonians in 583BC.
No matter, its the belief we are looking at here. The belief that the presence of God, the Shekinah, hovered over mount Zion, from within the "Holy of Holies". This Day of Atonement sacrifice included the High Priest having to enter that holiest place inside the temple and sprinkle the blood of that young bull there to atone for his sins as well as those of the people .
This complicated ceremonial sacrifice and its specific meaning is detailed in "The Temple" ch 16 by Alfred Edersheim.
The trap for Catholics here is to interpret Hebrews through their belief about the Catholic priesthood as they have been taught to do. This also forces a "mea culpa" out of me here. The scripture quote I chose for my ordination cards was "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedek". I knew it applied to Yeshua in the NT but believed Catholic teaching that every priest is an "alter Christus" (another Christ), as it remains to this day.
The Epistle to the Hebrews, uses the High Priest's "Day of Atonement" sacrifices, which were familiar to his readers, as a paradigm to explain Yeshua the messiah's sacrificial death as THE sacrifice that forgave the sins of all people.
For me the outstanding challenge to our beliefs about priesthood, and the mass as a sacrifice, Hebrews which makes a few enlightening statements, here are a few of them:
For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. [Heb 9:24]
Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. [Heb 9:25]
Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. [Heb 9:26]
But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, [Heb 9:27]
so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. [Heb 9:28]
Down a bit further Hebrews repeats the same idea...
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. [Heb 10:11]
My Note: The author is referring to Jerusalem Temple priests, not Catholic priests.
But when this priest [Yeshua] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. [Heb 10:12] [The job was done.]
Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, [Heb 10:13]
because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. [Heb 10:14]
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: [Heb 10:15]
"This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds." [Heb 10:16]
Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." [Heb 10:17]
And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. [Heb 10:18]
All the above quotes are from: The Holy Bible, New International Version®. Pradis CD-ROM. Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, ©1973, 1978, 1984.
The sitting down and footstool images are mythopoeist, taken from Psalm 110, and the quotes from Jeremiah are messianic, but the underlying teaching of the apostles is clear. Yeshua's sacrifice is a one off event never to be repeated.
Catholic theology about "priesthood" and
Catholic theology about priesthood, and Mass as sacrifice really have to return to Hebrews. The last supper and the agape were memorial, NOT sacrificial. There was no priesthood as presented by our theology in the first century.
Historically "priest" and "mass" are children produced by later theology. The Mass also became a lucrative source of stipends to support the priests.
This of course in no way detracts from, but underscores, Geoff Robinson's observations in "The Mystique of the Priesthood", and its horrible results.
What are your thoughts on this commentary?