Friday, March 15, 2013

"Why Priests?": A Response to Michael Bird (Introduction)

Recently, Protestant biblical scholar Michael Bird wrote a post responding to Gary Wills' objections to the priesthood.

Bird made three major points:
  1. He talked about his former experience as a member of a "low church" tradition (Baptist) and his appreciation for the biblical doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. 
  2. On the grounds of the biblical teaching of the priesthood of all believers, Bird objects to any notion of Christian priesthood as mediatorship. 
  3. He offers a qualified argument for "evangelical ministry" as "priestly ministry" citing Romans 15:15-16.
Bird closes his post by inviting responses from others, specifically asking for a Catholic response.

Well, Michael, here you go; consider this a Catholic response.

A bit on my background: as a Catholic, I wrote my doctoral dissertation at Fuller Theological Seminary under Colin Brown, specifically looking at the question of how the historical Jesus understood the fulfillment of Jewish hopes for an eschatological temple, priesthood, and cult ("The Historical Jesus and Cultic Restoration Eschatology: The New Temple, the New Priesthood and the New Cult",  UMI Dissertation Services).

I also have a couple of articles coming out on this topic, including a JBL piece that synthesizes the exegesis section of Matthew 16:17-19 in my thesis.

Suffice it to say, when it comes to "priesthood" and the New Testament, I have a lot to say.

I should add that as I worked on my thesis I read a lot of Michael Bird's fine scholarship. I also discovered his blog and have come to know him personally. I consider him a friend, a man of God and a truly brilliant scholar. His scholarship is truly among the best I have read. I hope this dialogue is worthy of his erudition.

However, I think it might be too much to expect readers to absorb all that I have to say in one post. I'm therefore breaking up my response into six pieces that I hope will present bite-sized explanations.
  1. Part 1: The Priesthood of All Believers
  2. Part 2: The Priesthood in Jewish Eschatological / Messianic Expectations
  3. Part 3: The Priesthood of the Apostles in the New Testament
  4. Part 4: The Priesthood of the Apostles in the Early Church
  5. Part 5: The Priesthood of Christ and the Question of "Mediation"
  6. Part 6: The Priesthood of the New Covenant and the Sacraments 
Next up: Part 1.

(To be continued...)

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