Priesthood in the New Testament Era Church, 1.
January 15, 2017 3 Comments
We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
Since the LDS Sunday Schools are studying the revelations of Joseph Smith this year, I thought I would contribute a little complication to our usually brief narrative of priesthood and our connection of that idea to the New Testament. Enjoy.
Once upon a time, Judaism and Christianity were one. That is, Christians were seen as a Jewish sect. You can see this in Luke’s account of what Paul says at Rome, Acts 28. The Jewish community there (it was pretty important, some Jewish high priests ended up there and the church there was likely established by missionaries from Jerusalem) speak about the believers in Jesus as a sect, a division of Jews.
17 After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews; and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against the people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation. 20 For this reason therefore I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” 21 And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brethren coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are; for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” [RSV]
While Paul worked mostly among Gentiles, it was because he was unable get Jews in the diaspora to listen to him. And he grew angry over Jerusalem Jews coming into his Gentile branches and breaking the rules agreed to about preaching to Gentiles. See his letter to the Galatians. [This looks ahead to part 3 of this series.]
It is not until the destruction of the Jerusalem temple (70 CE) that earnest separation seems to begin between Jews and Christians. It is then that Christianity begins to be it’s own religion, and both Jews and Christians drift from temple theology in the literal sense. The split is quite evident in the Gospel of John, which was composed around the turn of century (~100 CE). There is a disappointment for many Christians. Christians originally thought of themselves as the renewing of Israel, a restoration (see the series of Christmas-themed posts preceding this–particularly the posts on Matthew’s Gospel). The situation is much like early Mormons and how they saw themselves as a renewal of Protestantism–that’s not the way we usually style it and it’s too simple, but there are parallels.
Christians shared ruling patterns, feasts, holidays, with Jews. The early post-resurrection church was made up of faithful Jews. Jews who valued the temple (for the most part) its ritual and participation. Jews who celebrated Sabbath and then later on Saturday evening, gatherings of believers in houses where Jesus was remembered, baptisms, the Lord’s Supper, and other community matters were handled. It’s a pattern that extended to many churches in the diaspora. Even while the temple still existed, difficulties were forming. I’ll look at some of that in the following two posts.
 Earlier (Acts 24), Luke has Paul distinguishing the Christians by what was apparently their early name, “The Way” and again Luke has that Jews refer to Christianity as a sect (of Jews).
10 And when the governor had motioned to him to speak, Paul replied:
“Realizing that for many years you have been judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. 11 As you may ascertain, it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship at Jerusalem; 12 and they did not find me disputing with any one or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues, or in the city. 13 Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. 14 But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets, 15 having a hope in God which these themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward God and toward men. 17 Now after some years I came to bring to my nation alms and offerings. 18 As I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia— 19 they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, if they have anything against me. 20 Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, 21 except this one thing which I cried out while standing among them, ‘With respect to the resurrection of the dead I am on trial before you this day.’”
22 But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lys′ias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” [RSV]