origins of priesthood

Discussion in 'Comparative Religion' started by mathman, Aug 7, 2013.

  1. mathman Valued Senior Member

    In some religions there are people who are called priests, presumably because they have special powers. How did this idea get started. I am particularly interested in the history in Judaism and Christianity.
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  3. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    A variety of ''organized religions'' have ''priests.'' The term isn't always defined exactly the same way, across the board.

    There can be Presbyterian priests, Roman Catholic priests, Mormon priests, etc...

    I believe prior to Jesus, there were 'priests' in Jewish law. Essentially, the term means to be a religious ''leader''/someone to perform religious functions, in a given religion.

    I did a quick search, and found this link. There's A LOT left up to interpretation, though. But, it's a start.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!
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  5. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    "Rabbi" means teacher or leader, while "disciple" means follower or student.

    Along with Judeo Christianity comes the nascence of writing down the oral tradition, certifying it as correct, and building a canon.

    For the early Jews this probably peaked at about the time of the Babylonian captivity around 600 BC. Something else happened around 300 BC after the conquest of the Middle East by Alexander the Great - Hebrew died and was replaced by Aramaic and Greek. The books of the Apocrypha were written in Greek, because this was the official language of the known world after Alexander. Along with this came some innovations in Jewish religious tradition. By the time the first few pieces of the New Testament were created, Rome had become the new overlord, but Jews chose not to adopt Latin as their official language. We can speculate that the Roman desecration of the Temple at Jerusalem in ca. 70 AD is emblematic of Roman abuses that would deter Jews from embracing Latin.

    "Priest" derives from the Greek word for elder - "presbyteros" which in Latin is "presbyter".

    Elders would have been regarded as being the repository of all tradition. It may be that this sometimes was associated with having certain kinds of power. Early Christians would distinguish their presbyters and episcopos ("overseers") - later understood to mean "bishop" - as the church elders. This would account for the reason that Christian and Jews regard their leaders as sources of interpretation of their respective religious laws.

    In any case, the central powers of a Christian priest are relegated to the rite of the mass and the sacraments. The one that seems to invoke the most sense of magic is the transubstantiation - conversion of the bread and wine in to the body and blood of Jesus. This tradition is purported to stem from the Biblical invocation to "Do this in memory of me", understood to be a command from Jesus to re-enact the transubstantiation of the Last Supper.

    The reference to the Last Supper in the Bible, and the traditions that followed (having the priest perform the transubstantiation) are also connected to the rise of a Persian religion, Mithraism, in early Christian Rome. It was marked by a meal in which the food and drink were of similar sacred significance.

    The other claim by early Christians was that Peter was to found the Church of Jesus after the Ascension ("upon this rock I will build my church"). It has been a long standing tradition in Catholicism that one of the duties of the founder was to establish his successor, and that this accounts for the rise of the papacy.

    Priests and rabbis are also noted by their vestments. This tradition appears to have started among the rabbis, as well as many other functions, powers or duties of the early Christian priest, from blessing the congregation, rites similar to purifying the temple, and reading from the Bible.

    Another characteristic of the priest or rabbi is the role of cantor - the person who chants or sings, or leads the congregation in the prayers, incantations or hymns they use in their various definitions of worship.

    A lot of western religious tradition can be attributed to the patriarchs of antiquity who have written a great deal about the reasons for various rituals as a product of their interpretations of specific Bible verses, as well as the application of logic and inference as to things they believe God intended them to do. Obviously a lot of this would be delegated to their chief promulgators of the religion, their priests.

    Preachers, ministers and other leaders of the Protestant religions are not properly called priests but perform many similar duties, and would exercise some subset of the same powers. They do not call themselves priests, in part, as a way of distancing themselves from the Catholic Church.

    One power or duty all of these folks have in common is the collection of tithes and charitable donations from their congregants. In part then, they have to maintain the facilities and resources of their churches, temples, prayer halls, tents and shrines, and in part they are responsible for the distribution of donations to the needy, maintenance of any affiliated clinics, hospitals or social services offices and payment of salaries to any employees they may hire.

    The other main branch of the Judeo-Christian tradition is the Muslim religion, which calls its leaders mullahs or imams. Their duties and powers may be characterized as comparable to those of the Protestant preachers.

    It should be noted that among Christians and Muslims the clerical leaders of high office had the power to mesmerize congregants, or invoke states of euphoria or the belief that touching their vestments restored their health or vitality or ensured their ultimate salvation. This has a parallel in the Protestant faith healers, Christian Scientists, and snake handlers.

    Throughout history there have been episodes of priests, rabbis and mullahs engaging powers of the state, or taking charge of local secular affairs. In various episodes of the Christian churches this was either seen as a feature of Christian leadership and at other times it was an overt abuse of office, as in some of the bloody epochs of the Crusades and the sadistic cruelty of the Inquisition. However, in some cases the reverse was true. A "pretender" was a politico who wrested the position of the Church official and either took it for himself of gave it to his appointee. There were some 41 or 42 Catholic anti-popes. Centuries of their interference in the Catholic church probably contributed to the Protestant movements. Henry VIII stands out as an exceptional case, in that he assumed control over the Catholic Church of England after the Pope excommunicated him for unlawful divorce. He appointed Thomas More as his bishop, but executed him when More refused to acknowledge that the King could lawful acquire dominion over a church by an act of government.

    Some cases of pretenders to the clerical offices of the Jewish and Moslem religions are also known. In the 1970s and 1980s there were several similar cases among Protestant leaders who turned out to be using their offices for material gain. Another case of usurpation of power took place in the Mormon church, when propaganda and bombs were used to try to take power from church leaders. The most extreme examples of pretense among Protestants were the leaders who led suicide groups, such as Jim Jones and David Koresh. Among Catholics the most serious abuses of offices were the perpetrators of sex crimes and the higher officials who covered them up. Among mullahs there is substantial evidence of tortures and killings by clerics and their secular counterparts esp. since the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979.
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  7. arauca Banned Banned

    I am surprised from you You have written so much but did not say the most important . AAron was the first priest for Judaism Moses appointed him by the order of God . In the time back you had to be in the linage of the Livitas .
    As far in Christianity you go to the Catholic church they have priest and the Catholics ceremony is descendent from Judaism . There was a branch of Jews which embraced Yashua as the Masias but the wanted to continue to follow Moses laws . In essence the first Caholics were the Jews who accepted Yashua but followed the Jewish religious procedures . And with time adapted other convenient ceremonial procedures.
    The present protestant is not supposed to have priests, we all are equal and the only leader we are supposed to have is Christ.
  8. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

    They're Shamen. Basically human's have a slight modification to your typical primate ape hierarchy. In many ape societies only the alpha male is fertile and procreates. However, in some both the alpha and beta males procreate. Human's are unique in that we can procreate all year long, all the time. So, we know what the alpha male is, the strongest male who leads the group/tribe. But, what of the beta males? Well, they're weaker, although they're certainly looking for a chance to kill off the alpha. Some of the beta specialized as the medicine man/shaman. His role is as a shill for the alpha male. In return for shilling, he is granted a relatively cushy life - potentially plush with sex partners. Now, because this shill is in an important social position, it is often times taboo for him to openly procreate. The shaman helps maintain the rule of the alpha male through stories of Gods and Goddesses etc.... which must teach the other beta's that the alpha AND HIS PROGENY are descendants of Gods, or out-right, God. On occasion, a Shaman will make a move for Alpha, usually by saying he's a Prophet to God and that the alpha must die. As I said earlier, the beta's are always looking for a chance to become alpha. Now-a-days, due to a progressive abstraction of language and thought, the media act as the shaman for the State; which retains a "President" or "PM" etc... as a symbolic alpha male. If you take a look around you, all of those people, most are beta's just waiting for a shaman/media to tell them what to do and think. They like to think they're an alpha, or their progeny can become alpha, through the magic of the vote. But, that's simply a story the Shaman/media sell to them. It actually works quite well, and it should, it's how we evolved to fit into our social structures.
  9. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    Well, maybe presumably - but actually, the word priest comes from the Latin "presbyter", which simply means 'elder'.
  10. kwhilborn Banned Banned

    I would think magical attributes would be better suited to Shaman type healers/spiritual leaders.

    They obviously were a part of many early tribes and would logically progress into religious leaders of today.

    It would seem natural anybody with god beliefs would think those closer to god (dedicating life towards), would be closer to the miracles and wonders associated with a god.

    The answer seems obvious.
  11. wellwisher Banned Banned

    Priests are the ancient experts of the heart and mind (soul and spirit), which is a frontier science can't fully address. Science can't define consciousness in unified way, since it lack first hand data of the priest but uses second data. Picture the mind as being connected to the firmware programming of the brain. The priest is someone who explores the programs from the inside (meditation/prayer) and can learn to tweak the programs within themselves and then within others.

    Faith and spiritual healing is based on mind over matter. The mind might cause a physical problem, such as worrying for nothing causes stress and then an ulcer. The priest will not give drugs, although ancient priests were also doctors. Rather he will use command lines and tweak the mind to disrupt the mind-body connection. This allows the matter of the body to integrate with natural firmware; health.

    Eastern priests often go deeper into the brain firmware. This is to explore human capabilities. Some can tweak parts of the brain that are not typically thought to be under conscious control. Some can slow the heart rate to 1 beat per minute. Picture the brain as a supercomputer with the various priests, the neural IT programmers and specialists, using various programming languages.

    A catholic priest will vow celibacy. This choice has an impact on the natural firmware. Sexual desire is constant craving. He has to build a dam within that firmware, and then allow the neuro-dynamics to build up, behind his dam, while always at risk of the dam breaking. He will then learn to use the hydro-electric power to tweak other programs.

    Other priests, like tribal priests, might use mind altering drugs, which can be useful for disrupting natural sensory pathways and for exploring other avenues of the mind. Alternate states of consciousness implies new pathways.

    The mind is a complex set of programs, with even the isolated monk working IT on his personal bio-computer for decades. There are certain command lines you can learn which can create some cool special effects. But it can also become dangerous, since the bio-computer can go renegade if you push some fail safe buttons.

    The ego is not the source of consciousness, but rather is only one of its manifestations. With split or multiple personalities, the brain can generate more than one center of consciousness. With some IT explorations, an alter ego can appear, like a new conscious planet, with the person putting on those new clothes, seduced by its power, until it is too late to turn back. Some priest can go crazy while other can use that new center to rise to positions of power and atrocity.
  12. Capracus Valued Senior Member

    The Priest doesn’t experience a firsthand interpretation, but one based on a flawed traditional standard. Science on the other hand strives to apply the continually refined standard of reason as exemplified in the practice of the scientific method.

    Great point, a sexually frustrated priesthood has worked out wonderfully for the Catholic Church.
  13. mathman Valued Senior Member

    I have the impression that many (if not most) priests are not sexually frustrated. The rule (celibacy) is they can't get married.
  14. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I agree with that interpretation. The first shamans often were also medicine men, who sometimes cured the ill. They attained special status not only as medicine men, but also as having a special powers to conjure beneficial or malevolent spirits and were to be respected, if not feared.
    Troup leaders often consulted the shaman for favorable signs to undertake a hunt, or engage in war. IMO, this goes way back to the first observations of unidentifiable occurrences, such as draught, rain, thunder, lightning, etc.
  15. wellwisher Banned Banned

    When the human mind reaches the frontiers of its knowledge and understanding, the unconscious will project. The primitive would see various spirits and gods permeating these natural events. The priest, shaman or witch doctor, being the IT expert of the mind/brain would make practical use out of these projections. He would read the signs and give advice based on main frame output.
  16. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    True and if the shaman is indeed a wise man this is not necessarily a bad thing, until the shaman advises that a human sacrifice (preferable a virgin) is required to appease the gods. In the Catholic religion the practice of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ is still faithfully practiced, even as a symbolic gesture. We eat the spirit of Christ, much as we used to have sin-eaters, who would ingest the sins of the dying person and thus allow entrance to heaven. I cannot think of a more macabre practice of dabbling with the spiritual. The same can be said for exorcism of demons from a person, the first attempt at psychiatry.
  17. Hapsburg Hellenistic polytheist Valued Senior Member

    One of the main theories, one that I subscribe to, is that formal priesthoods developed out of shamanistic ones. Shamans used entheogens and other methods to induce altered states of consciousness, wherein they experienced the divine or what-have-you. The actual act of connecting with the gods became less important than the formal or public duties of the priests, and so the latter gradually overtook the former. By the time we arrive to the well-established religions of the Classical world, including Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Hellenistic polytheism, the mysticism of the earlier priesthoods had been confined to a small number of priests and participants in the mystery religions.
    Christianity, early on, had a more mystic approach. It developed a very strong tradition of monasticism; its general participants viewed even the daily devotional activities such as the eucharist as directly connecting with their god. The priests gradually became more politicised, and with Christianity's growing popularity they had to tend to the same kind of public duties that drew priesthood away from mysticism in the first place.

    Neither approach is necessarily bad or good. They're just different approaches, corresponding to different needs and responsibilities. A priest in a large, public religion has to attend to a larger array of non-personal subjects and issues. The people of that religion have their own needs, and a priest is responsible to them. But a priest in a smaller, mystic religion is responsible mostly just to themselves and the divine they connect to.

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