Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Trent vs. Scripture and Tradition on the Priesthood of Believers
03/05/2012 - Tur8infanTrent
And if any one affirm, that all Christians indiscriminately are priests of the New Testament ... he clearly does nothing but confound the ecclesiastical hierarchy ... .
(Session 23, Chapter 4)
Exodus 19:5-6 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
Revelation 1:6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 5:10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:9-10
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
Trent is also contrary to much of tradition. I ought to qualify this by pointing out that I do not think that the fathers had some special source of revelation that we do not, such that their works represent Apostolic tradition obtained elsewhere than Scripture. Still, they are part of our tradition - something that has been handed down to us.
Victorinus (d. circa 303), "Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John," at Revelation 1:6 (link):
“And He made us a kingdom and priests unto God and His Father.”] That is to say, a Church of all believers; as also the Apostle Peter says: “A holy nation, a royal priesthood.”
Alternative translation (Ancient Christian Texts, Greek Commentaries on Revelation, p. 1):
And "he has made us a kingdom and priests," that is, the whole church of the faithful, as the apostle Peter says: "a holy nation, a royal priesthood."
Apringius of Beja (6th Century), "Explanation of the Revelation by the Most Learned Man, Apringius, Bishop of the Church at Pax [Julia]" at Revelation 1:6 (Ancient Christian Texts, Latin Commentaries on Revelation, p. 25:
And he made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father. Because he suffered and rose from the dead for us, he made us to be a kingdom that we might merit to be priests of God the Father. For he makes us to be a kingdom, since he suffered and rose again.
Apringius of Beja (6th Century), "Explanation of the Revelation by the Most Learned Man, Apringius, Bishop of the Church at Pax [Julia]" at Revelation 20:6 (Ancient Christian Texts, Latin Commentaries on Revelation, p. 50:
Indeed, concerning those over whom the second death has no power, it says, they shall be priests of God, and they shall reign with him a thousand years. All those who shall have been in the congregation of the saints shall be called saints, and they shall be priests of Christ our God, and they shall reign with him in the strength of the cross and in the sovereignty of his might.
Caesarius of Arles (468/470 – 542), "Exposition on the Apocalypse" at Revelation 1:6 (Ancient Christian Texts, Latin Commentaries on Revelation, pp. 63-64):
"He made us," it says, "to be a kingdom and priests to God." When it speaks of priests to God, it refers to the whole church, as Saint Peter said: "You are an elect people, a royal priesthood."
Bede the Venerable (672/673 – 735), "The Exposition of the Apocalypse by Bede the Presbyter" at Revelation 1:6 (Ancient Christian Texts, Latin Commentaries on Revelation, p. 115):
And he made us a kingdom and priests to his God and Father. Since the King of kings and the celestial Priest united us to his own body by offering himself up for us, there is no one of the saints who is spiritually deprived of the office of the priesthood, since everyone is a member of the eternal Priest.
Bede the Venerable (672/673 – 735), "The Exposition of the Apocalypse by Bede the Presbyter" at Revelation 20:6 (Ancient Christian Texts, Latin Commentaries on Revelation, p. 179):
But they shall be saints of God and of Christ. Another translation reads "they shall be priests of God and of Christ." However, this is said not only of bishops and presbyters, who are properly called priests in the church. Rather, just as all are said to be of Christ on account of the mystical chrism, so also all are priests since we are members of the one Priest. Concerning the members of Christ the apostle Peter says, "a holy nation, a royal priesthood."
Bede the Venerable (672/673 – 735), "Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles" (Cisterian Studies Series: Number 82), Commentary on 1 Peter at 1 Peter 2:5 (p. 84):
Yet when he had said, You are to be built up into the edifice, or, 'a spiritual house', he added, A holy priesthood, in order that he may very clearly urge us, being ourselves a holy priesthood, to be built upon the foundation of Christ. Therefore, he calls the entire Church a holy priesthood, a name and office that the house of Aaron alone had under the law, because namely we are all members of the high priest, we all are signed with the oil of gladness; there applies to all what he appends: To offer spiritual sacrificial victims acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Yet he calls our work of alms-giving and prayers spiritual sacrificial victims to distinguish them from the bodily victims under the law.
Oecumenius (Seventh Century), "Commentary on the Apocalypse" at Revelation 1:6 (Ancient Christian Texts, Greek Commentaries on Revelation, p. 5):
To him who loved us and has washed us from our sins by his blood and made for us a kingdom, priests to God and his prophets, to him be glory and power forever and ever Amen. The arrangement of this saying moves backward from what is last to that which is first. It says, "to him who loved us be glory and power." For how did he not love us "who gave himself as a ransom" for the life of the world? [And to him be glory] "who has washed us from our sins by his blood." For he took "the bond that stood against us with its demands and nailed it to the wood of his cross," paying in full for our sins with his own death and setting us free from transgressions by his blood and healing our disobedience by his submission to death, even the death of the cross.
"He made for us a kingdom." What benefit is there for us to become "priests to God and his prophets"? That people might be made worthy of these things he makes certain for us the coming kingdom and in the present time procures for us unspeakable glory. This is even greater and more marvelous and noteworthy than the divine gift of his washing away our sins by his own blood, that we who brought nothing for such a gift would be made priests of God and prophets.
Oecumenius (7th Century), "Commentary on the Apocalypse" at Revelation 20:6 (Ancient Christian Texts, Greek Commentaries on Revelation, p. 90):
The faithful, it says, "shall be priests of God and of Christ." For all the faithful were appointed priests of the word of the gospel, and concerning these the prophet, playing the prophetic lyre, said, "You will make them princes over all the earth."
Andrew of Caesarea (563 – 637), "Commentary on the Apocalypse," Book I, Chapter 1 at Revelation 1:6 (Ancient Christian Texts, Greek Commentaries on Revelation, p. 116):
To him who loved us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us kings and priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.It is fitting, he says, to give glory to him who through his love has freed us from the chains of death and has washed us from the filth of sin by the outpouring of his life-giving blood and water and has made us a royal priesthood bringing to the Father the living sacrifice of a reasonable service, rather than the sacrifice of irrational beasts.
Augustine (354 – 430), City of God, Book 17, Chapter 5 (link)
What then does he say who comes to worship the priest of God, even the Priest who is God? “Put me into one part of Thy priesthood, to eat bread.” I do not wish to be set in the honor of my fathers, which is none; put me in a part of Thy priesthood. For “I have chosen to be mean in Thine house;”1020 I desire to be a member, no matter what, or how small, of Thy priesthood. By the priesthood he here means the people itself, of which He is the Priest who is the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.1021 This people the Apostle Peter calls “a holy people, a royal priesthood.”
Augustine (354 – 430), Expositions on the Psalms, Psalm 132, Section 20 (link):
“I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall rejoice and sing” (ver. 16). We are now at the end of the Psalm; attend for a short space, Beloved. “I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall rejoice and sing.” Who is our salvation, save our Christ? What meaneth, therefore, “I will clothe her priests with salvation”? “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.”
Augustine (354 – 430), Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, Book 22, Chapter 89 (link):
As He saith also in Hosea, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there shall they be called the children of the living God." Here Paul applies the prophecy to the Gentiles. So also Peter, writing to the Gentiles, without naming the prophet, borrows his expressions when he says, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye might show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." From this it is plain that the words of the prophet, "And the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured for multitude," and the words immediately following, "And it shall be that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there they shall be called the children of the living God," do not apply to that Israel which is after the flesh, but to that of which the apostle says to the Gentiles, "Ye therefore are the seed of Abraham, and heirs according to the promise."
Jerome (347 – 420), The Dialogue Against the Luciferians (link):
I will answer you in your own words. If a layman confesses his error, how is it he continues a layman? Let him lay aside his lay-priesthood, that is, his baptism, and I grant pardon to the penitent. For it is written “He made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father.” And again, “A holy nation, a royal priesthood, an elect race.” Everything which is forbidden to a Christian, is forbidden to both bishop and layman. He who does penance condemns his former life. If a penitent bishop may not continue what he was, neither may a penitent layman remain in that state on account of which he confesses himself a penitent.
Fragments of Clemens Alexandrinus (c. 150 – c.215) (via the Latin translation of Cassiodorus, c. 490 – c. 583), Comments on 1 Peter 2:9 (link)
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.”3727 That we are a chosen race by the election of God is abundantly clear. He says royal, because we are called to sovereignty and belong to Christ; and priesthood on account of the oblation which is made by prayers and instructions, by which are gained the souls which are offered to God.
Leo the Great (c. 391 or 400 – 461), Sermon 24, Section 6 (On the Feast of the Nativity, IV) (link):
But you, dearly beloved, whom I address in no less earnest terms than those of the blessed Apostle Peter, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,” built upon the impregnable rock, Christ, and joined to the Lord our Saviour by His true assumption of our flesh, remain firm in that Faith, which you have professed before many witnesses, and in which you were reborn through water and the Holy Ghost, and received the anointing of salvation, and the seal of eternal life.
Leo the Great (c. 391 or 400 – 461), Book of Pastoral Rule, "Of the Life of the Pastor," Chapter 3 (link):
With gold and blue, purple also is mingled: which means, that the priest’s heart, while hoping for the high things which he preaches, should repress in itself even the suggestions of vice, and as it were in virtue of a royal power, rebut them, in that he has regard ever to the nobility of inward regeneration, and by his manners guards his right to the robe of the heavenly kingdom. For it is of this nobility of the spirit that it is said through Peter, Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood (1 Pet. ii. 9).
Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225), De Exhortatione Castitatis (writing as a Montanist against second marriages for laymen), 7:
So, which will and should you accept? Trent's bold claim or the seemingly consistent testimony both of Scripture and the fathers?
... Are not we laymen priests also? It is written: 'He hath also made us a kingdom and priests to God and his Father.' The difference between the Order and the people is due to the authority of the church and the consecration of their rank by the reservation of a special bench for the order. Thus where there is no bench of clergy you offer and baptize and are your own sole priest. For where there are three, there is a church, though they be laymen. Therefore if you have the rights to a priest in your own person when necessity arises, you ought likewise to have the discipline of a priest, where it is necessary to exercise his rights. ...