Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Peter and the Popes: The 21st Sunday of OT

In terms of Catholic “preachability,” this Sunday’s Readings are a soft-ball pitch, a long high arc that every homilist ought to be able to knock out of the park.  The lectionary readings have been set up for a clear explanation of the nature of the Papacy and its basis in Scripture.

The context of the Old Testament reading should be explained.  During the lifetime of the prophet Isaiah, the royal steward of the palace, a certain Shebna, was arrogating himself by adopting royal privileges.  In particular, he was having a tomb cut for himself in the area reserved for the royal sons of David.  Like Denethor in the Return of the King (not an accidental parallel, by the way—Tolkien was a thorough Catholic), he was forgetting his place as steward and confusing his role with that of the king.  As a result, the LORD sends an oracle to Shebna via Isaiah, to the effect that Shebna will be replaced in his position by a more righteous man, a certain Eliakim son of Hilkiah:

Is 22:19-23
Thus says the LORD to Shebna, master of the palace:
"I will thrust you from your office
and pull you down from your station.
On that day I will summon my servant
Eliakim, son of Hilkiah;
I will clothe him with your robe,
and gird him with your sash,
and give over to him your authority.
He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
and to the house of Judah.
I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim's shoulder;
when he opens, no one shall shut
when he shuts, no one shall open.
I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot,
to be a place of honor for his family."

The role of “master of the palace,” literally “the one over the house” (Heb. ‘asher ‘al-habayith), was the Number Two position of authority after the King (observe the dynamic in 1 Kings 18:1-5, for example).  The office was first established by Solomon (1 Kings 4:6).  Apparently the badge of his office was the wearing of the key to the palace on his shoulder (Isa 22:22).  He controlled access to the king, either by unlocking or locking the palace doors to those who sought the king’s presence.  This is what the text means by “what he opens, none shall shut, etc.”  This statement will be paralleled in the Gospel: “what you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, etc.”

Michael Barber has done work showing that the royal steward was understood as a priestly character.  I cannot repeat all his evidence, but I will point out the connections of which I am aware: (1) the girdle (Heb. ‘abnet) mentioned in the passage (“sash” in the Lectionary translation) is only mentioned elsewhere in the OT as a priestly garment, usually along with the robe (Heb. kuttonet) (Ex. 28:4, 39, 40; 29:9; 39:29; Lev. 8:7, 13; 16:4). (2) The steward is said to be a father to the House of Judah.  “Father” is a title for “priest” in the Old Testament (Gen 45:8; Judg 17:10; 18:19). (3) Eliakim is the son of Hilkiah.  Although we are not sure which Hilkiah this is, it is notable that the name “Hilkiah” is only used by Levites in the Old Testament (Jeremiah, a Levite, is also “son of Hilkiah,” Jer 1:1), and at least two Hilkiahs were in fact High Priests (2 Kings 22:4 etc. and parallels in 2 Chron 34; Neh 12:7).

In summary, the Kingdom of David included the office of the Royal Steward (‘asher ‘al-habayit), a position associated with priesthood and second only to the king in authority.  Let’s not forget, too, that this was an office: a continuing role that was filled by one man succeeding another, as opposed to a charism given to one person that ceases with his death.

2. The Responsorial Psalm is Ps 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8:

R/ (8bc) Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple.
R/ Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
I will give thanks to your name,
because of your kindness and your truth:
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.
R/ Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly he sees,
and the proud he knows from afar.
Your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.
R/ Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.

Psalm 138 is a Psalm of David, in which David praises God for God’s covenant faithfulness (Heb. hesed).  The Hebrew hesed is translated as “kindness” in the final stanza of our liturgical translation (“your kindness, O Lord, endures forever”) and as “love” in the response (“Your love is eternal”), both of which are renderings of Ps 138:8.  “Kindness” and “love” are both certainly aspects of hesed, but neither catches the full force of the Hebrew term, which pervades the Psalter.

This Sunday’s Readings are all about God’s faithfulness to his covenant with David.  In the First Reading, during a time when the integrity of the Davidic dynasty and kingdom was being threatened by an aggressively self-interested royal steward, God promises to replace him with one who will administer the kingdom of David wisely.  In the Gospel Reading, Jesus appoints Peter as royal steward of the renewed Kingdom of David that Jesus is re-establishing, which will come to be called the ekklesia, the church.  In the time of Jesus, the Kingdom of David had been dormant for almost six hundred years, and some considered the promises of the covenant with David a distant memory, as irrelevant as legends of King Arthur.  Yet for all that, God had not forgotten his promises, and Jesus the Son of David appears on the stage of history to fulfill the word of God.  Psalm 138, then, functions in this Mass as an expression of our praise to God, that despite human failures and the passing of centuries, his hesed is eternal and he will not forsake the work of his hands.  The greatest work of his hands is his own people, the Church.  We may and must be confident that, despite the turmoil, violence, and widespread falsehoods of our own age, God will preserve and defend his Church, until the end of time.

3. Our Second Reading is Rom 11:33-36:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given the Lord anything
that he may be repaid?
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be glory forever. Amen.

This is another situation in which the Lectionary does not provide us enough context to understand what is going on in the text, and the homilist needs to provide it if the congregation is to comprehend God’s Word.

This passage is Paul’s doxology in praise of God’s mysterious providence.  In particular, Paul has been developing, in Romans 9–11, a theological explanation of the role and fate of ethnic Israel now that Jesus has come and begun to be embraced by the Gentiles as their Lord and King.  Paul affirms that “the gifts and call of God” to Israel is “irrevocable,” which is similar to the affirmation of Psalm 138: “your hesed endures forever.”  God does not break his covenants, and even stays faithful when we break them.  Paul is assured that, in the end, “all Israel will be saved” (11:26).  Most of Israel, the Ten Tribes, have already been dispersed and assimilated among the nations, the “Gentiles.”  So now, in Jesus, the word of salvation goes out to the nations and reaps a harvest among them.  As these Gentiles come into the Church, among them are the descendants of Israel who no longer even know their identity: “the full number of the Gentiles [will] come in, and so all Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:25-26).  Paul sees in all of this a profound beauty and mystery to the workings of God’s providence.  Despite human sin and rejection of God, and despite appearances to the contrary, God is actually working out his plan in human history, and saving the people to whom he made his covenant promises.

4.  As we move toward today’s Gospel reading, let’s not forget that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke both take great pains in their opening chapters to emphasize Jesus’ royal Davidic lineage.  He is the Son of David come to fulfill all the promises of the Davidic Covenant (see Jer 33:15, 19-21).  However, we as Christian readers usually practice a sort of literary schizophrenia when reading the Gospels.  We do not connect the Kingdom of David promised to Jesus with the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus proclaims:

Luke 1:31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,  33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Matt 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

However, already in the Old Testament, there was an awareness that the Kingdom of David was a manifestation of God’s own Kingdom:

2Chr. 13:8   “And now you think to withstand the kingdom of the LORD in the hand of the sons of David?

This Old Testament background elucidates the Gospel reading, a controversial one whose meaning is hotly debated, because of the importance of its implications:

Mt 16:13-20
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply,
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Even some non-Catholic commentators (most notably, W.F. Albright, father of American biblical archeology and Old Testament studies) recognize that, in Matt 16, Jesus is investing Peter with role of royal steward in the Kingdom that Jesus is establishing.  Isaiah 22 is clearly the background for the promise of the “keys to the Kingdom.” Aside from Judges 3:23-25, which has no thematic parallels, Isaiah 22 is the only passage of the Old Testament where the word “key” even occurs.  The thematic parallels are strong: the promise to Eliakim concerning “opening” and “shutting” is repeated to Peter, although using the terms “binding” and “loosing.”  “Binding” and “loosing” were technical terms in first century Judaism referring to the authority to decide matters of halakhah (lit. “the walk”, i.e. “the behavior” or “how one behaves”), that is, the practical application of divine law. 

It’s worth quoting what the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia has to say about this passage, which helps us to understand the force of Jesus’ words here in a Jewish context:

Rabbinical term for "forbidding and permitting." The expression "asar" (to bind herself by a bond) is used in the Bible (Num. xxx. 3 et seq.) for a vow which prevents one from using a thing. It implies binding an object by a powerful spell in order to prevent its use (see Targ. to Ps. lviii. 6; Shab. 81b, for "magic spell"). The corresponding Aramean "shera" and Hebrew "hittir" (for loosing the prohibitive spell) have no parallel in the Bible.

The power of binding and loosing was always claimed by the Pharisees. Under Queen Alexandra, the Pharisees, says Josephus ("B J." i, 5, § 2), "became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind." This does not mean that, as the learned men, they merely decided what, according to the Law, was forbidden or allowed, but that they possessed and exercised the power of tying or untying a thing by the spell of their divine authority, just as they could, by the power vested in them, pronounce and revoke an anathema upon a person. The various schools had the power "to bind and to loose"; that is, to forbid and to permit (Ḥag. 3b); and they could bind any day by declaring it a fast-day (Meg. Ta'an. xxii.; Ta'an. 12a; Yer. Ned. i. 36c, d). This power and authority, vested in the rabbinical body of each age or in the Sanhedrin (see Authority), received its ratification and final sanction from the celestial court of justice (Sifra, Emor, ix.; Mak. 23b).

In this sense Jesus, when appointing his disciples to be his successors, used the familiar formula (Matt. xvi. 19, xviii. 18). By these words he virtually invested them with the same authority as that which he found belonging to the scribes and Pharisees who "bind heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but will not move them with one of their fingers"; that is, "loose them," as they have the power to do (Matt. xxiii. 2-4).

—from the Jewish Encyclopedia,

Jesus did not decide all matters of the application of divine law himself.  Nor did he write down a book with the answers to all controversies in this area that would ever arise in the history of the Church.  He did, however, invest Peter with the authority to make decisions in this regard.

The Church has always held that Peter’s authority—like the authority of the apostles in general—was passed down to his successors.  Otherwise, passages like Matt 16:13-20, and others which speak to us of the authority of the apostles, would simply be matters of historical curiosity for us.  One would have to suppose that Jesus invested Peter and the apostles with authority over the Church, but after they died, Jesus left no provision for the governance of the Church, so now it is every believer for him- or herself.  Apparently Jesus didn’t recognize the continuing need for authoritative leadership in the Church.  Maybe Jesus thought he was going to return before the apostles died (but he was mistaken).  Or maybe he thought that while the Church was small, it would need strong and visible leadership, but in subsequent generations, when it spread all over the world to a host of cultures and a host of controversies would arise, there would no longer be the need for strong and visible leadership to maintain the Church’s unity and doctrine.

Let me voice my disagreement with the above-mentioned positions.  I do not think Jesus mad a mistake about the timing of his return, nor that he did not foresee the continuing need for leadership in the Church.  The succession of subsequent generations to the authority of the apostles is already visible in Scripture itself (Acts 6:1-6; Titus 1:5; 2 Tim 2:2; 1 Peter 5:1-2).  The Church was not mistaken in understanding Peter’s authority to be passed to his successors.  So we see already in the first century St. Clement of Rome exercising a spiritual authority over churches far away from his immediate geographical jurisdiction (i.e. Corinth).

The priestly and paternal roles of the Royal Steward, Peter and his successors, is reflected in titles given to the Bishop of Rome: “pontifex maximus” (“greatest priest”) and “Papa” or “Pope,” meaning “Father.”  This reflects the prophetic typology of Isa 22: “He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”  The Church is the New Jerusalem (see Heb 12:22-24).

The successor of Peter continues to authoritatively “bind” and “loose,” making decisions of halakhah for the People of God.  A pertinent modern example: how does divine law apply to physical and chemical contraceptives, which were not as widely available in previous centuries?  Paul VI gave an authoritative halakhic decision: they are impermissible.  The decision remains universally controversial, but Christians who will not accept it, I am afraid, will find themselves voluntarily extinguishing their own communities as the generations pass.  It’s already happening.  It’s often remarked, for example, that some long-established Christian communities in various parts of the world are being dwarfed by populations of other religions—for example, Islam—even in situations where violence or persecution are not an issue.  What is not often said, however, is that some of those Christian communities are less open to life than followers of other religions.  They prefer to limit their family size by artificial contraception or sterilization in an attempt to attain and enjoy a high standard of living.  OK, fine: but then let us not be surprised or complain when Christians make up an ever-smaller percentage of the population in that area.  How sad that the baptized children of God would not be generously open to children God would like to send them.

On a more positive note, the force of the Readings for this Sunday is resoundingly encouraging.  Despite our sins and failings, God is continuously faithful to his Church.  In the gates of hell will not withstand the power of the Church.  She will never be extinguished from the earth, until Christ comes to fulfill all things.  Moreover, Jesus has provided her with continuing leadership, especially the successor of Peter, so that we need not debate endlessly about the application of the Gospel to the present day, but rather have authoritative guidance.  May God be praised for providing for his people.


Susan Moore said...

Amen! Amen! God is only good!
Ah, that's better. I was grumpy but now I'm not. Those storms last night kept me up. Too bad we have not found a way to channel lightning into electricity. By last night alone it seems we would have enough electrical power to get through winter!

Susan Moore said...

Dr. Bergsma, is it ok to print out the blogs to use them as references or share them with people who don't have computer access? (I don't mean use them in school, though your references might be useful, I mean in street ministry/evangelization.)

Thomas Renz said...

Is it not somewhat misleading to cite the old Jewish Encyclopedia in this way? Presumably you do not wish to affirm the genuineness of "the second epistle of Clement to James" nor the authenticity of the claim that Peter appointed Clement as his successor? (Clement is, after all, officially the fourth pope.)

Psalm Reflections said...

This is slightly off topic but it occurred to me in your reflection on the psalm and how the fall the Davidic house. Has anyone ever compared the fall of the Davidic house and the ensuing silence as a type of participation (or, foreshadowing, or 'type') of Holy Saturday? In my reflection on the psalms, in particular those involving David and the fall, I've often thought of how Israel seems to go through a type of 'crucifixion' and holy saturday, that leads up to the incarnation and the 'son of David'. Their psalm-questions find their answer (and their enactment) in Christ.

Nick said...


The Old Testament prepares for and foretells of the New Testament, so the Psalms and Davidc Kingdom do tell us of Jesus and His Paschal Mystery.

@Dr. Bergsma

It's worth noting that the Petrine Office begins with Jesus the New Moses, Who is the First Bishop and Apostle of the New Church, and Peter's Successors are understood in light of Moses' Successors: Semikhah sheds light on Apostolic Succession.

Unknown said...

Hi Thomas
I think the relevance of Clement is that it shows that the Petrine office was successive and lifelong and was accepted ss such by the earliest Christians.

John Bergsma said...

@Susan Moore: Yes, it is ok.

@Thomas Renz: I cited the Jewish Encyclopedia as is. Obviously I don't affirm everything in the Jewish Encyclopedia.

John Bergsma said...

@Brad Henry: Yes, people have thought along those lines, but perhaps not exactly as you have phrased them. No doubt there is a strong typological relationship.

Thomas Renz said...

@John Bergsma: I assume that you know that the letter cited is (considered to be) a fictional document from the fourth century. By citing the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia without comment you suggest that you believe that Peter really did appoint Clement as his successor and that Clement wrote this letter to James. I don't know of anyone today who does, so I would be surprised if you do.

@Heidi: I do not know much about this history for certain but if a fourth century fiction is the earliest evidence of succession and its author apparently did not even know that there were two popes between Peter and Clement, it might be evidence for the contrary point, namely that it took a while for the idea to develop that Peter had (to have) successors (and longer still for this idea to be "received").

Heidi said...

Im still on holiday so do not have access to my logos library. The dating of the doc is early mid 2ce according to most scholars.

Thomas Renz said...

Heidi, you're thinking of "the first epistle of Clement to the Corinthians" which is indeed from the 2nd century for all we know but the reference above is to "the second epistle of Clement to James" which belongs with the body of writings discussed at

Thomas Renz said...

It is worth reading chapter 38 of the third book of the Ecclesiastical History by Eusebius where a distinction is made between 1 Clement which is said to be a genuine letter of Clement to the Corinthians, 2 Clement whose authenticity is considered doubtful (another letter to the Corintians), and writings falsely acsribed to Clement: "And certain men have lately brought forward other wordy and lengthy writings under his name, containing dialogues of Peter and Apion. But no mention has been made of these by the ancients; for they do not even preserve the pure stamp of apostolic orthodoxy."


heidi said...

Hi Thomas,
Indeed I was thinking the reference was to 1 clement. Thanks for clearing that up because I was beginning to think that in the last month since I've been on vacation the dating of 1 Clement had been newly disputed....
It is convenient that Dr. Bergsma addresses many of the topics set aside in our dialogue for continuing discussion.

One of your points that I have been considering today was that you cited reference that alleges that the garments (specifically ketonet and abnet) as being ordinary garments worn by the common man (as well as priests). I do not doubt this testimony, however, it would seem odd if Shebna's ketonet and abnet were given to Eliakim if Eliakim was already wearing these garments. The gesture itself seems to suggest that the garments of Shebna were special somehow- priestly.

I think a loose parallel could be made today with the garment 'collar'. I wear a collar, my son wear's collars. But the collar you are wearing in your photo here is a special collar. It would be a significant gesture if the bishop took your collar from you and gave it to another priest. This same gesture would be meaningless if the bishop took my collar and gave it to someone else. In which case all that we could surmise was that he had lost his sensibilities.

At any rate, I would like to see the work Dr. Barber did on the subject. Have you read that?

Thanks for the recommendation of Eusebius chpt 38.
So, if you believe Peter had successors (1 Clement), do you believe that was the apostolic interpretation of Matt. 16?

Thomas Renz said...

Heidi, I do not doubt that Shebna's garments signified his office, only that his office was a priestly one. It seems to me highly likely that a royal steward had a distinctive sash and rather likely that this looked different from the sash of a priest, even if the office holder happened to be a priest. (A Roman Catholic priest could become mayor of a town in England and wear the distinctive mayoral dress. I do not know whether you have distinctive garments for office holders of this kind in North America.)

If Eliakim son of Hilkiah was from a priestly family, which is possible although hardly proven, this does not mean that the office could only be taken up by priests. It seems unlikely that Shebna was a Levite, given that apparently he had no family in Jerusalem, nor is there any reason to think that Achisar (1 King 4:6) was a priest.

Are you thinking of a specific essay or book by Michael Barber?

heidi said...

Hi Thomas,
I dont know if Dr. Bergsma was talking about a book when he said this, "Michael Barber has done work showing that the royal steward was understood as a priestly character. I cannot repeat all his evidence" (taken from above).

I see why you think that the garments could signify a civil office, but the problem with that theory is that nowhere in scripture is there any evidence of the garments signifying a civil office. Whereas, the only references to the garments you will find are of a priestly nature "1) the girdle (Heb. ‘abnet) mentioned in the passage (“sash” in the Lectionary translation) is only mentioned elsewhere in the OT as a priestly garment, usually along with the robe (Heb. kuttonet) (Ex. 28:4, 39, 40; 29:9; 39:29; Lev. 8:7, 13; 16:4)."

Also, Aaron passes on his priesthood by this very gesture. So I would say that most certainly you are right in your observation that in the world, secular offices may be marked by a passing on of official vestments. But if we are looking for internal evidence-then the only reasonable conclusion is that what is being solemnized in this passage from Isaiah is a priestly- not a secular office. If you can produce internal references to these garments being passed as a purely secular ritual, then that could bring uncertainty into this interpretation. As it is however, I think the exegesis is solid.

I would bet that Barber found additional support for this interpretation in the ancient rabbinic sources. I'd like to read his proofs. I will look through the resources I have when I get home and let you know what the rabbis have to say about this office of albeit.

You also mentioned that the reference to Eliakim's authority encompassing the "flagons" etc was not singularly to be interpreted as priestly authority over temple vessels. I would ask then what business would a purely secular prime minister have with the flagons et al if he weren't a priest? I can't find any internal reference to these vessels that is not temple/priest related. And even if external evidence showed common secular usage of such vessels, that still would leave the question of why this would be an authority and privilege of Eliakim's new office. Only if these vessels were sacred could this privilege make any sense.

Lastly, I don't think Eliakim needs to be of Levite descent if he is a deputy priest/ruler for the king of Jerusalem, who holds the honorary priesthood of Melchizedek. If this office was established outside the Davidic kingdom, then there would be a levitical lineage issue. But the holder of the Davidic throne has priestly rights and authority including the authority to deputize his powers.
Jesus uses this justification to the Pharisees when he is questioned about his disciples plucking wheat on the sabbath.

heidi said...

Dr. Bergsma,
Thank you again for all you share with us. I'm beginning to think that at this point I should be paying a portion of your school loans....

If you have a moment to respond, I would like to know if Michael Barber's work on the kuttonet and abnet significance of this passage is published. I would like to read it and share it with my friend Thomas.

May God bless you and your family superabundantly.

Steve said...

For those who do not know what Semikhah means:

“Semikhah is the traditional ordination required before a rabbi can decide practical questions of Jewish law. Literally meaning “laying (of hands),” the practice derives from the divine command to Moses to ordain Joshua by placing his hands on his successor, thus “investing him with some of his authority” (Num. 27:18–20; Deut. 34:9). The Torah implies that Moses ordained the 70 elders as well (Num. 11:16–17, 24–25), though the actual laying of hands is not mentioned. According to tradition, the elders ordained their successors, who ordained their successors, and so on.”[1]

1. Ronald L. Eisenberg, The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions, 1st ed. (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2004), 340–341.

Thomas Renz said...

Heidi, I think that the garment-office symbolism is also evident, e.g., in 1 Sam 15 and 1 Kings 11. We may assume that the office of royal steward was held by only one person at a time and it may well have been occupied more or less continuously for most of the time the kingdom of Judah was in existence. (The northern kingdom presumably had a similar office but we have no evidence for that, even our evidence for Judah is slim.) It is very much possible that the office brought with it a distinctive dress although Isa 22 does not require this and no other passage suggests it. The use of priests for this office would make sense but it did not seem to have been a requirement and Isa 37:2 could be read to imply that even Eliakim son of Hilkiah was not among "the elders of the priests".

You may have misunderstood an earlier comment of mine. I do not see any reference to Eliakim being responsible for any vessels. (The vessels in Isa 22:24 are part of a figure of speech which does not describe the responsibilities of the royal steward.)

I have remembered Michael Barber's essay: “Jesus as the Davidic Temple-Builder and Peter’s Priestly Role in Matthew 16:16–19,” Journal of Biblical Literature 132/4 (2013): 935–953.

Thomas Renz said...

Dear Heidi,

Apart from the fact that Isa 22:24 does not speak of an office which involves being in charge of vessels, there is no reason to think that the vessels are those of the temple (cf. the use of nebel in Isa 5:12; 30:14; even outside Isaiah nebel is never used for temple vessels; agan is used elsewhere only in Ex 24:6 and Cant 7:3).

Thomas Renz said...

Correction: There are references to royal stewards I have overlooked, including 1 Kings 16:9 and 18:3 for the northern kingdom. Interestingly, Hezekiah's son Jotham is said to have served in this role prior to becoming king himself (2 Chronicles 26:21).

John Bergsma said...

@Thomas Renz:
Apparently part of the the quote from the 1906 JE is misleading, because not all the readers of this blog are familiar with which early Christian documents are considered authentic, or with the perspective of the 1906 JE (which is anti-Christian). I've excised that part.

heidi said...

Hi Thomas,
Thanks for giving me the info to the JBL essay that Dr. Barber wrote.
What do you think of his proofs provided in the essay?
I understand that the vessel statement is an idiom, so doesn't necessarily have reference to priestly duties.
However, why are you invested in the possibility that the garments here have secular official significance rather than priestly signification without any evidence for that interpretation?

You mentioned elsewhere "I do not see the slightest bit of evidence that the person in charge of the royal household had to be a priest or exercised priestly functions". I can not imagine that you see no evidence here for the office being priestly. Certainly, this interpretation is at least plausible. Don't you agree?

You also mentioned before that it is not clear that Joseph was a priest to pharoah- but functioned more as a political advisor. What makes you think Joseph was not functioning as priest and that is why the sacred author refers to him as "father" to pharoah?

Here's a quick bit from Scott Hahn's CBD.

"The foundation for the religion of the patriarchs was the natural family order. In this context, authority passed from father to son, and sacrifices were offered not at designated sites, but at the discretion of the patriarchs, who practiced a form of natural religion.
The origins of the priestly office, then, can be traced to the unique spiritual authority, representative function, and religious service of the father in the family. At the same time, the office of kingship was the embodiment of the father’s secular duties, most notably his role in leadership and governing. Thus priesthood is inseparable from fatherhood (cf. Job 1:5)."

Hahn, S. (Ed.). (2009). In Catholic Bible Dictionary. New York; London; Toronto; Sydney; Auckland: Doubleday.

Thomas Renz said...

Dear Heidi,
I find your question peculiar: “why are you invested in the possibility that the garments here have secular official significance rather than priestly signification without any evidence for that interpretation?” It is exactly the other way round. Surely no-one doubts the “secular official” function of the Royal Steward. There is nothing to suggest that the Royal Steward also offered up sacrifices or fulfilled any other specifically priestly functions. The position may have been occupied by Levites on occasion (Eliakim son of Hilkiah possibly) but clearly belonging to the priestly tribe was not a requirement of the position (e.g., Jotham, Shebna).

If there was a link between fatherhood and priesthood, there was also a link between fatherhood and executive roles (ruler, king). In the words of the article you cite: “At the same time, the office of kingship was the embodiment of the father’s secular duties, most notably his role in leadership and governing.” Therefore, while the address “father” could be used for a priest, it was also used for a king/ruler (1 Sam 24:12; cf. 1 Chron 2:24 etc.) or indeed generally someone who commands authority and respect (e.g., 2 Ki 2:12 [prophet]; 5:13 [military commander]). The Royal Steward occupied a role which would warrant the address “father” without the need to assume that he must have been a priest any more than the military commander of 2 Ki 5:13. In the same way, Joseph whose advice and decisions keep a nation alive can be said to be providing like a father and cf. the use of father-son language in Proverbs, well established in Egyptian literature as well. There is no need to assume and nothing to suggest that in addition to his advisory and executive roles Joseph also fulfilled sacerdotal functions.

Someone’s garment sometimes symbolises their office or power. In particular, the division or removal of a garment is used to symbolise that political power will be divided or removed as in 1 Sam 15 and 1 Kings 11.

Given that everything said in Isa 22 fits the political office of Royal Steward without the need to assume that this office was perceived as priestly, the question is why it is so important to you to insist that there was something priestly about this role. It is perfectly possible to discuss the relationship between Isa 22 and Mt 16, and even to do so in the pursuit of Roman Catholic apologetics, without reference to a presumed priestly aspect to the role of Royal Steward. See, e.g., appendix B of Stephen K. Ray’s Upon this Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church which, as far as I can see on Goggle books, does not make a link between the role of Royal Steward and priesthood.


De Maria said...


Why is it so important to you that the Royal Steward not be a priest?

heidi said...

Hi Thomas,

My observation about your refusal to view the position of royal steward as priestly was unclear. I did not mean that all positions of royal steward were priestly but specifically the Davidic office of royal steward that is the subject in this passage we are discussing. The Davidic kingdom was both political and sacral. The king had priestly functions and prerogative and therefore so would his ʾăšer ʿal-habbayit. The garments signified in the passage only support what must be concluded about the duties of the royal steward if one accepts the sacral/political nature of the kingdom.

"The Davidic monarchy was understood to be much more than a political arrangement. For the authors of Scripture, it was a sacral kingdom that expressed God’s rule on earth. This perspective is evident in several Psalms (Ps 2; 110) but especially in 2 Chr 28:15, where David asserts that God “has chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel,” and 2 Chr 13:8, which speaks of “the kingdom of the LORD in the hands of the Sons of David.” This phrase “kingdom of the LORD” is the closest OT parallel to the NT phrase “kingdom of God.”

Hahn, S. (Ed.). (2009). In Catholic Bible Dictionary. New York; London; Toronto; Sydney; Auckland: Doubleday.

2. The Davidic monarch was adopted as the Son of God. The filial relationship of the David to God is expressed already in the foundational text of the Davidide covenant (2 Sam 7:14), but is also found in other Davidic texts (Ps 2:7, 89:26; 1 Chr 17:13, 28:6).

3. The Davidic monarch was the “Christ”—that is, the “Messiah” or “Anointed One.” The anointed status of the Davidic king was so integral to his identity that he is frequently referred to simply as “the anointed one” or “the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam 16:13; 2 Sam 19:21; 22:51; 23:1; 1 Kgs 1:38–39; 2 Kgs 11:12; 23:30; 2 Chr 6:42; 23:11; Ps 2:2; 18:50; 20:6; 28:8; 84:9; 89:20, 38, 51; 132:10, 17).

Hahn, S. (Ed.). (2009). In Catholic Bible Dictionary. New York; London; Toronto; Sydney; Auckland: Doubleday.

Yes, I agree that fatherhood was also linked to executive roles, advisory positions, and military advisers. However, in the case of Pharaoh's words to Joseph, there are usually 4 options for interpreting the statement and only two of which are remote possibilities (obviously blood relation is out as possible meaning as well as the tutor option). I think the priestly interpretation is correct for the reason that Pharaoh tells Joseph that only the throne makes him higher in rank and priests were the next highest position in Egyptian society. At least that is the only way Pharaoh's statements make sense to me. When you say there is nothing to suggest that Joseph performed sacerdotal functions, I think you are overstating your case. Certainly Joseph was awarded a high office. Whether it included priestly functions and that is the meaning behind Pharaoh calling him "father" is a matter of who's interpretation you are in agreement with. The bottom line is that this phrase "father to pharaoh" is still disputed and the priestly interpretation is as viable as the other interpretations and certainly more tenable than at least two.

heidi said...

Thomas (continued due to length...mea culpa)

Father to Pharaoh: "Yet another usage of the title was as a designation for minor priests in Egypt’s complex state religion" Aling PhD, C. (2010, April 5). Joseph in Egypt: Part V.

"We are also told that the father of Asenath was a priest. This in itself is not terribly significant, other than to show that Joseph was being highly favored since priests were at the pinnacle of Egyptian society." Aling PhD, C. (2012, March 15). Joseph in Egypt:Part IV.

"father to Pharaoh No such title is known to us from ancient Egypt. The closest to it in Egyptian seems to be “father of god,” in which “god” may refer to the king. But its precise usage is in dispute, it having been variously interpreted as referring to the clergy, or given to the king’s father-in-law, or belonging to the tutor of the crown prince. In several biblical passages “father” is used as a title of honor for a prophet, a king, or a high administrator."

Sarna, N. M. (1989). Genesis (p. 309). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.

The garments of the prophets you are referring to in 1 Sam 15 and 1 Kings 11 are not even comparable. First of all, everything that surrounds a prophet (walk, talk, movements, gestures et al) are subject at anytime to become a sign act of the Most High. When we are talking about a prophet's garments we are talking about prophetic power in the actual garment. The discussion of priestly garments being worn as a badge of an office is not even in the same ball park.

Why is it so important to me that the office of royal steward in Isaiah 22 was priestly? Because the nature of the office of second in command is determined by the office of first in command- the King. And the King of the Davidic Kingdom was- in ancient Israel- and is, today in Rome- a priest.

I can't say I'm a fan of Mr. Ray- but thank you anyway.

Peace Thomas.

Thomas Renz said...

@Heidi: I understand your argument better know. The Davidic king was a (high) priest (according to the order of Melchizedek), therefore his royal steward must have been a (high) priest (according to the order of Melchizedek). But if this is so, then the claim that Eliakim was a Levite which is "evidence" number 3 in the blog post is irrelevant for the argument, and so arguably are a number of other supposed evidences which relate to the Levitical priesthood.

(And Pharaoh was not a Davidic king. Hence it is not clear how the parallel with Joseph can work except on the assumption that throughout the ancient Near East the royal vizier was a priest. Your citation from Sarna affirms that "father" could be used for an administrator and so confirms my claim that you cannot deduce from "father" that Joseph was a priest.)

De Maria: In some ways I do not care much whether the Royal Steward was a priest or not. I do care about bad arguments, however.

So, e.g., Barber in the essay cited finds additional ground for seeing a priestly dimension to the role of Royal Steward in the use of stephanos (“crown”) in Isa. 22, ignoring the fact that none of the other uses of stephanos in the LXX of Isaiah belong to a priest and the fact that the Pentateuch knows nothing of a priestly stephanos.

The Mechizedek connection raises further issues, as Heb 7 seems to say that the priesthood according to Melchizedek was established to replace the Levitical priesthood and with the priesthood change the law (v. 12). Hebrews makes it sound, as if Jesus Christ was the (first) one who took on this role and thus set aside the old law and priesthood. How the Melcizedekian and Levitical priesthood could minister side by side in the old kingdom I do not know and in this sense I care about the question although the issue itself can be separated from the question whether the priesthood of the Davidic king could be exercised by his royal vizier or not.

Thomas Renz said...

I want to add that I have great respect for Michael Barber and enjoy his writings. Otherwise I would hardly be here. Nor do I want to dismiss his essay “Jesus as the Davidic Temple-Builder and Peter’s Priestly Role in Matthew 16:16–19" altogether. But his claims about Isa 22 are not persuasive.

Other scholars working on Isaiah or on the connection between Isa 22 and Mt 16, e.g. John T. Willis, “An Interpretation of Isaiah 22.15-25 and Its Function in the New Testament,” in Early Christian Interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel: Investigations and Proposals, ed. Craig A. Evans and James A. Sanders (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 334-351, apparently have not seen a priestly dimension to the role of the vizier. I reckon that the reason is not, as Michael Barber believes, that they have overlooked it but that it isn't there in the text.

De Maria said...


You said:

De Maria: In some ways I do not care much whether the Royal Steward was a priest or not.

So, if it is proven that the Royal Steward was a priest, you won't be upset?

The question is whether the Royal Steward was a priest or not, correct?

Now, Eliakim is the son of Hilkiah. And Hilkiah is described as a High Priest:

2 Chronicles 34:9 And when they came to Hilkiah the high priest, they delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites that kept the doors had gathered of the hand of Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel, and of all Judah and Benjamin; and they returned to Jerusalem.

That would mean that Eliakim is also a priest, since they belong to the Priestly class.

It also means that all the Royal Stewards after Eliakim would be from the Priestly class, since the office of Royal Steward was handed down, father to son. At least, that is my understanding.

Notice that money was delivered to Hilkiah, the High Priest. Thus proving that Hilkiah was the official treasurer as well. These are probably dual roles handled by a High Priest.

Apparently, Shebna was also a "treasurer":

Isaiah 22:15 Thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Go, get thee unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna, which is over the house, and say,

And Douay translation says Shebna was over the Temple:

Douay-Rheims Bible
Thus saith the Lord God of hosts: Go, get thee in to him that dwelleth in the tabernacle, to Sobna who is over the temple: and thou shalt say to him:

and Temple is an acceptable interpretation of the underlying word, according to the blue letter bible:
house, dwelling habitation
shelter or abode of animals
human bodies (fig.)
of Sheol
of abode of light and darkness
of land of Ephraim
home, house as containing a family
household, family
those belonging to the same household
family of descendants, descendants as organized body
household affairs
inwards (metaph.)
(TWOT) temple

Therefore, in my opinion, it is highly likely that Shebna was also of the priestly class.

heidi said...

Dear Thomas,

Relevant to the Pharaoh/father connection, priesthood is one possible explanation behind the term 'father' . True one can't deduce conclusively from this text that Joseph was a priest, but the use of 'father' here is reasonable evidence that the sacred author was describing Joseph as a priest. If that is the intention of the sacred author, then a good parallel could be drawn with Is.22- that the office of royal steward sometimes included the role of spiritual father. The parallel is by no means critical to the priestly interpretation of Is 22, but would be a good historical precedent. When you say that there is no reason to conclude from this text that Joseph was a priest is simply untrue. According to the interpretation of the term 'father' that you choose to invest in, there is no reason to think Joseph was a priest. Bear in mind, however, that there are several plausible explanations for the author applying this term to Joseph and one of those possible explanations was that he was a priest.
Additionally, It is debated whether Joseph was a vizier at all. Or that vizier and 'over the house' were the same position. But you seem to accept that authority without conclusive evidence and indeed, in the face of contrary evidence.
I agree that certainly not every vizier in the ancient near east was a priest. As Scott Hahn and others have pointed out, the Kingdom of David was unique in that it was equally sacral and political. Hence, I think it is sloppy scholarship to overlook this extremely relevant fact when discussing the prerogatives of the Davidic king and/or His 'over the house' - an office to which is given ALL-not some- of the authority and power of the King.

heidi said...

True, the Levitical connection becomes irrelevant in face of this claim. Perhaps it is best used for those critics who do not agree that David held the honorary priesthood of Melchizedek. I used it in my presentation because I am limited to 20 minutes which doesn't allow the time to explore this dimension of the the priesthood. And I think there is fair enough evidence not to rule out the possibility of Levitical ancestry in Eliakim.
You also mentioned that there was no reason to think the office was lifelong. However, because of the office carrying with it the authority and role of the Melchizedekian priesthood, it would have to be lifelong (Ps 110).
I think perhaps Evans and Sanders are looking at the role of chief steward comprehensively and that is why they see no connection between the office and role of priest. I agree that outside the Davidic kingdom,there is no reason to think this office held priestly responsibilities as a general rule. There could have been exceptions and it is very plausible that a ruler would want the additional powers of priest in office (like Charlemagne). That's why I think the 'priest' interpretation in the Gen text is the most compelling. If the office immediately below king in the Pharaoh's kingdom was the office of the priesthood, then why would Pharaoh not bestow this authority on Joseph-especially in light of the fact that he gave him a wife who was the daughter of a prominent priest.

How the Melchizedekian priesthood functioned alongside the Levitical is a good question. Obviously, the Melchizedekian would be given supremecy since it is ordered to the Adamic or priesthood of the first born. The Levitical exercised interpretive authority (bind and loose) over the torah for Israel. In the Davidic kingdom torah bin Adam was promised- over which the Levites would not have the authority of binding and loosing. The ruling and priestly authority in the Davidic kingdom was international, whereas the Levitical was only national. One was ordered to Sinai exclusively, the other to Jerusalem and through Jerusalem to the world. So without doubt the Levitical would have to be subordinated to the Melchizedekian as long as they both operated in one kingdom. The letter to the Hebrews does focus on the inauguration of the Melchizedekian priesthood in the new creation by Jesus. When you say that the author of Hebrews seems to be saying that the Mel. priesthood was established to replace the Levitical, I'm assuming you mean in the new creation. To clean up the language, I would say "transformed" not "established" since the Mel. priesthood always existed since Adam.

Perhaps what Barber is suggesting when he says that Evans and Craig overlooked the priestly nature of the office is that they are failing to look at the text in context. To wrench it out of the context of the prerogatives specific to the Davidic kingdom could, I would agree, be considered an oversight.

heidi said...

By way of metaphor (which I'm not good at making...), this kind of scholarship reminds me of western medicine. There was a joke about the failure of western medical science to see the body as a whole. So you go with a headache to the dentist and he will tell you the problem is your teeth. A neurologist will tell you its your brain. A cardiologist will tell you its your heart. And a psychiatrist will tell you its all in your imagination.

Craig and Evans are looking for evidence of priestly authority held within the office itself without looking at special cases specially. The most glaring 'special case' is the unique spiritual kingdom that the Davidic was. The Davidic asher al habayit would also have a spiritual role if he was truly invested with kingly authority.

I dig Barber but haven't read that essay. I'm not a member. I have heard the 'stephanos' argument from him in a recording and I agree with you that it is far from compelling.

Hey, it was Pitre who mentioned the flagons/vessels mentioned in Is 22 as temple utensils. I think he said this in the Salvation history presentation. Where did you find out that this was an idom?

With a blessing,

Thomas Renz said...

De Maria,

No, I would not be upset but (a) the name Hilkiah was used for more than one person, (b) there is no reason to think that the office of Royal Steward was passed on from father to son, (c) the translation of sochen as "treasurer" in the AV of Isa 22:15 is wrong, (d) in any case, there are institutions other than temples that need treasurers, e.g. kingdoms, (d) bayit can refer to the palace just as well as to the temple, and (e) it is in fact rare for bayit on its own to refer to the temple - 0.5% in AV (Douay-Rheims is a translation of the Vulgate) - the usual phrase being beit yhwh, "house of the LORD".

So where does this leave us? The Royal Steward had the keys to the palace. This may have included the keys to the temple (if there were any prior to the exile), given that the Solomonic temple was in a sense part of the palace, a royal chapel. (This is something which is changed in Ezek 40-48 where there is stress on the separation of royal and temple buildings.)

Hilkiah seems to have been a popular name with priests. From this we can hardly conclude that everyone called Hilkiah must have been a priest but there is a distinct possibility that Eliakim was the son of a priest.

We know of course that Jotham wasn't and it seems to me unlikely that a priest would be asked the question addressed to Shebna in Isa 22:16, "to whom do you belong here?"

Thomas Renz said...


I had assumed that you considered Joseph a suitable parallel because as second-in-the-kingdom he was in effect occupying the position of Royal Steward. What's "the contrary evidence"?

You seem to equate "one possible explanation" with "reasonable evidence" - I cannot follow you here. What is needed is "reasonable evidence" to decide between "the several plausible explanations".

You seem to acknowledge that "father" could have been used in Genesis either with reference to Joseph's role as one of the "high administrators" (Sarna) or one of the "minor priests" (Aling) among other options. So what is the evidence that helps us decide between these options?

I suggest that because we see Joseph exercising an administrative role, it makes sense to think of him as a "high administrator" (maybe even the vizier, given that he was second only to the king) in which case this would be sufficient reason to address him as "father". We do not see him exercising a specifically priestly role.

If, e.g., Pharaoh had asked Joseph to offer up sacrifices to a new chief god (YHWH), then we would have evidence of sacerdotal functions. But in the absence of such evidence your argument is completly circular (Joseph is called "father" because he was a priest - How do we know that Joseph was a priest? Because he was called "father").

The fact that priests exercised signficant power and influence in Egypt does not support a claim that there was a hierarchy in which Pharaoh was directly followed by a high priest whether of Re or another god.

Joseph did in fact come to tutor Pharaoh so maybe, as far as biblical context is concerend, we should not dismiss the Proverbs parallels, cf. Gen 41:39 ("no-one so wise and sicerning as you are"). Gen 45:8 elaborates "father to Pharaoh" (a term without precedent, as you note) in terms of "lord of all his house" (sounds like Royal Steward to me) and "ruler over all the land of Egypt" (sounds like an executive more than sacerdotal role to me). Cf. Ps 105:21.

Thomas Renz said...

As far as Barber's essay is concerned, you may have to accuse him of "sloppy scholarship" because he mentions Melchizedek only in connection with 11Q13 (for a link between eschatological forgiveness of sins and priesthood). Your argument that the Royal Steward had to be a priest because he had all the authority and power of the Davidic king who was a priest is not one Barber uses. I suspect he knows that this would raise further questions. To be able to exercise full power in the name of the king is not the same as to be the king and the priesthood according to Melchizedek may be tied to being the king of Jerusalem. (My churchwardens may have pretty much full authority to act on my behalf in my absence but they are not thereby authorised to preside at the mass. They are not ordained priest.) But this is a different discussion because, as I say, Barber's essay and this blog post make nothing of the Melchizedek connection.

(Hence my comment to De Maria that "in my opinion, it is highly likely that Shebna was also of the priestly class" refers to the Levitical priesthood - in case this needs spelling out.)

Thomas Renz said...

Heidi, regarding the vessels you ask "Where did you find out that this was an idom?" I am not quite sure what you mean. The text says

I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his ancestral house. And they will hang on him the whole weight of his ancestral house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons. (Isa 22:23-24 NRSV).

I suppose the "like" is what made me find out that Eliakim is compared to a peg. All the hangers-on from his family are then compared to what is hung on the peg ("every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons"). And the peg is said to come crushing down (v25). (In my own view, this judgement oracle makes it less likely that any of Eliakim's household was to follow him in the role of Royal Steward.)

There is simply nothing here about the Royal Steward being in charge of vessels, let alone temple vessels.

Thomas Renz said...

@Heidi: I have used "vizier" interchangeably with "Royal Steward". I was not aware that anyone might want to distinguish between them.

heidi said...

Hi Thomas,

I said that the title of ‘vizier’ for Joseph was debated- not the title of chief steward.

….”Genesis 45:8, by calling Joseph “Ruler of all Egypt,” seems to suggest that he became the Vizier of Egypt. And, when Pharaoh promoted and rewarded Joseph, he said that only as King would he be greater than Joseph. But the modern scholar William Ward has argued that Joseph never became Vizier (Ward 1960:144–50). Ward states that Hebrew phrases such as those mentioned above are not specific equivalents of the Egyptian title of Vizier, but are rather only renditions of vague Egyptian epithets given to other, lesser, officials.”

The reason I say that the use of the term ‘father’ is reasonable evidence to believe Joseph was a priest to pharaoh is because in the 1360+ times the Hebrew term for ‘father’ is used, the second most prominent usage refers to some kind of spiritual fatherhood- not a political advisory role. This is not circular reasoning.
-The author uses the term ‘father.
-We know there is no blood relation.
-Other than the primary progenitor meaning, the next common biblical usage for ‘father’ is for spiritual fatherhood.
Based on these facts, it is reasonable to conclude the meaning of the term ‘father’ is spiritual fatherhood.

What you are suggesting is that there is no evidence for this conclusion as long as you ignore the evidence (like the exegetes who claim Jesus never claimed divinity as long as we disregard the texts where he does).
If there were a passage wherein a woman is called 'sister' by a man and we were certain of no blood relation between the two- would we be reasoning fallaciously to say that because the text says she is his 'sister' that is reasonable evidence to conclude that she must be his wife especially since that is the second most common usage of the term in scripture?
As far as royal steward, there are clear passages that support the interpretation for this position (Joseph supervising the King's estate and advising the king about the coming famine and how to prepare for it). However, the other two titles (father and ruler of all Egypt) have no accompanying support passages for clues about what exactly these title entailed. So you can't dismiss the possibility of priesthood because you don't smell incense burning. Otherwise you also have to dismiss "ruler of all Egypt" as a redundancy to royal steward just as you are doing with the title of 'father'.

You think that " Gen 45:8 elaborates "father to Pharaoh" in the other two titles?
I do not agree. Genesis speaks of three different and specific roles.
1. Royal steward seems an undisputed translation for one of the titles ("lord of all his house") "Genesis 45:8 states that Joseph was made Lord of all of Pharaoh’s House. This title has an exact Egyptian counterpart, which is normally translated into English as “Chief Steward of the King.” (ibid)
2. "ruler over all the land of Egypt" could mean that Joseph was ‘vizier’ but is still debated.
3. The third title is "father" - a position/title on its own- not an elaboration of the other two titles.

heidi said...

Why do you say Joseph came to tutor Pharaoh?
"Father of Pharaoh, or more literally “father of the God” (the Egyptians believed their kings to be divine), had a variety of meanings in ancient Egypt. One was as a term for the tutor of the King during the ruler’s childhood. In Joseph’s case this is not likely. He had never met the King until called out of prison to interpret the royal dream. Nor does the Bible ever suggest that Joseph held such a post." (ibid)

Ok- now that is enough on the Joseph text. The bottom line is that because of the event happening in so far a distant past, the likelihood of conclusive evidence to end up with an air tight reading is slim to none. All theological answers, after all, are arguments from authority. What authority you choose to agree with and what authority I choose to agree with. I hate to sound like NT Wright, but I would have to say at this point "The question is hopeless"....

heidi said...

No, I don't have to accuse Barber of sloppy scholarship because he is approaching the text with a hermeneutic of continuity. He is very aware that he is attempting to explain a position held within the Davidic kingdom in the light of the meaning Christ shed on it in Matt 16. Attempting to understand the duties of a royal steward without regard to who's royal steward we are talking about, is, I maintain, sloppy detective work.

When you say "To be able to exercise full power in the name of the king is not the same as to be the king and the priesthood according to Melchizedek may be tied to being the king of Jerusalem"- I would argue against that position with two texts:
1 Sam 21:4 4 And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread at hand, but there is holy bread; if only the young men have kept themselves from women.” 5 And David answered the priest, “Of a truth women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition; the vessels of the young men are holy, even when it is a common journey; how much more today will their vessels be holy?” 6 So the priest gave him the holy bread; for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away."

Ahimelech apparently knows that not only David, but the men with him enjoy priestly prerogatives because his only question is whether they have kept the priestly code of chastity while on expedition.

Matt 12::4
12 ¶‖ At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.” 3 ¶ He said to them, “Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 ¶ Or have you not read in the law how on the sabbath the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are guiltless?

Jesus invokes this passage to show the Pharisees that his priesthood (obviously Davidic) extends to whomever he deigns to share it with and was interpreted this way since the time of David- he is not inventing a 'new' thing but invoking a law (Davidic) that was of a higher authority than the halakhah.

By idiom I thought you meant the whole statement:

" I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his ancestral house. And they will hang on him the whole weight of his ancestral house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons. (Isa 22:23-24 NRSV). "

I understand what you are saying and yes, this is a common interpretation regarding the 'peg' which I have no qualm with. What I find peculiar is that the vessel (cups) is the Hebrew word used only 3 x and one of those times is the vessel Moses used when he threw blood on the people.

Someday I'll re listen to the Salvation History thing and see why Pitre makes reference to these words showing temple significance.

With a Blessing,

De Maria said...


You said,

So where does this leave us? The Royal Steward had the keys to the palace.

Something has been troubling me about that idea. The question in my mind is, "Why would God be concerned about whom Hezekiah would appoint as Vizier or Steward over his personal household?"

In my opinion, God would not be concerned about such a matter. But only about who presides over His House or Temple. The High Priest.

So, the Douay is the most precise of the translations which I've consulted. It ties Shebna directly to the Tabernacle and to the Temple.

But all the translations are saying the same thing. God has sent Isaiah to inform Shebna that he is to be removed from the High Priesthood because of his idolatry upon the mountain. God will cast him out and appoint Eliakim in his place.


De Maria said...



Isaiah 22:12-25 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

12 And the Lord, the God of hosts, in that day shall call to weeping, and to mourning, to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth:
13 And behold joy and gladness, killing calves, and slaying rams, eating flesh, and drinking wine: Let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die.
14 And the voice of the Lord of hosts was revealed in my ears: Surely this iniquity shall not be forgiven you till you die, saith the Lord God of hosts.

I came back to v 12 because this is where the term "in that day" is used and that is the term used when this account ends. On that day, God witnessed the sin of Shebna, upon the mountain. What is being described is revelry and that is usually associated with idolatry. It is for this reason that Shebna will be removed from the High Priesthood.

15 Thus saith the Lord God of hosts:

This is God speaking to Isaiah. Not Hezekiah speaking to Isaiah.

Go, get thee in to him that dwelleth in the tabernacle, to Sobna who is over the temple: and thou shalt say to him:

The High Priest is over the Temple.

16 What dost thou here, or as if thou wert somebody here? for thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here, thou hast hewed out a monument carefully in a high place, a dwelling for thyself in a rock.

This is metaphor. It means that Shebna has worshipped a false god upon the mountain. This is why he has dug himself a grave.

17 Behold the Lord will cause thee to be carried away, as a cock is carried away, and he will lift thee up as a garment.
18 He will crown thee with a crown of tribulation, he will toss thee like a ball into a large and spacious country: there shalt thou die, and there shall the chariot of thy glory be, the shame of the house of thy Lord.
19 And I will drive thee out From thy station, and depose thee from thy ministry.

This is the punishment that God will impose upon him because of his sin.

20 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliacim the son of Helcias,
21 And I will clothe him with thy robe, and will strengthen him with thy girdle, and will give thy power into his hand: and he shall be as a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Juda.

The term "father" is a direct reference to the high priesthood.

22 And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder:

The reference to the House of David is a reference to the Kingdom of God. God appointed David, King over His people. This is not a reference to the royal household.

and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open.
23 And I will fasten him as a peg in a sure place, and he shall be for a throne of glory to the house of his father.
24 And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father's house, divers kinds of vessels, every little vessel, from the vessels of cups even to every instrument of music.

And so, Eliakim replaced Shebna as the High Priest.

25 In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall the peg be removed, that was fastened in the sure place: and it shall be broken and shall fall: and that which hung thereon, shall perish, because the Lord hath spoken it.

This takes us back to the day when God will punish Shebna, remove his peg and replace him with Eliakim.

This is important to the Papacy because Jesus Christ appointed St. Peter, His high priest, when He, like God the Father did to Eliakim, gave him the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.


De Maria

Thomas Renz said...

Dear Heidi,

Maybe it is not as hopeless as all that. I am re-united with my books and a look at a couple of Genesis commentaries reveals to me the source of my misunderstanding of what you were trying to say when you claimed that I equated vizier and royal steward without evidence. I did not take into account that in ancient Egypt the offices of “master of the palace” (mr pr) and vizier (prime minister) were separate. In Israel they seem to have been combined in the role of “royal steward” and I had assumed biblical (rather than Egyptian) usage of the terms on Genesis. This would lead us into a longer exploration, as some argue that even within Israel a distinction was made between a private steward and a royal steward, cf. S. C. Layton, “The Steward in Ancient Israel,” JBL 109 (1990): 634-35.

It seems to me that you have to interpret the titles given to Joseph either (a) by way of trying to ascertain what their Egyptian counterparts were, or (b) by biblical usage. The former might lead you with Ward to deny that Joseph was appointed vizier but should also lead to the conclusion that “father” was used “ as a special honor given to officials who had served long and well, or who had done the King some special favor”. (Charles Aling, in the article you cite: “in fact, this is the only usage that makes sense”)

The article you also cite also argues, rightly, against Ward that Joseph was indeed appointed vizier. How else could Pharaoh say “all my people shall follow your word” and “I have placed you over all my land” and “only in respect to the throne shall I outrank you”? If Joseph was “ruler of all the land of Egypt”, what was the vizier doing? I think Aling provides good reasons for thinking that Joseph combined in his person the roles of Vizier and of Chief Steward of the King.

Is “father to Pharaoh” then a third role which Joseph fulfilled? Hardly, because “father” appears to be a title which in ancient Egypt was given to a variety of high officials who advised the crown without designating a specific role (which it would have to in order to run parallel to the other two titles).

(This variety of usage for the term “father” has its parallels in the Bible, see my references above, and elsewhere in the ancient Near East, see, .g., for the autobiographical account of a vizier.)

Alternatively, we should understand the titles not so much in terms of presumed Egyptian equivalents but in the light of biblical usage and narrative context. Joseph moved from Potiphar’s house where he was a slave to the jailhouse where he was a prisoner to Pharaoh’s house where becomes a ruler. The one concerned about his own father (Gen 45:3) has become a father figure to Pharaoh (Gen 45:8).

In fact, your argument is now from common biblical usage. This should be easier to check out. I am aware of Judg. 17:10 and 18:19 for the use of “father” as an honoury title for a priest. You should be able to provide at least a dozen further references from “the 1360+ times the Hebrew term for ‘father’ is used” to prove your claim that it is “the second most prominent usage”.

Thomas Renz said...

PS: I suspect you want to include the uses of "father" for addressing a prophet among the "spiritual understanding" of the term but in this case it would be unclear why Jospeh should be considered a priest rather than a prophet. The latter would seem to be easier, given that we know nothing of a cult of YHWH in Egypt at this time and a prophet could function in the absence of a temple. (Presumably you do not wish to argue that Jospeh was considered a priest of the sun-god or some other deity.)

Thomas Renz said...

As for 1 Sam 21 and Mt 12, this raises a whole new set of questions. Was David a priest according to the order of Melchizedek at this time? If so, how did this happen? If, by way of anointing, was Saul a priest as well? And does this mean that everyone associated with David (in an official capacity?) enjoyed priestly prerogatives? Would you therefore claim that not only the royal steward but every court official in the palace of a Davidic king enjoyed priestly prerogatives?

The show bread was reserved for “Aaron and his descendants” (Lev 24:9). Even if David and all his men enjoyed priestly prerogatives, they were not Aaron’s descendants.

Ahimelech is willing to release the bread but on the condition of sexual abstinence. You call this “the priestly code of chastity” – on what grounds? (Exod 19:15 which is the only parallel that coms to my mind at the moment is not limited to priests.)

Thomas Renz said...

De Maria,

I don't share your belief that God is only interested in matters of the temple, so everything that follows doesn't follow for me.

Best wishes, Thomas

heidi said...

Dear Thomas,

I think both Ward and Aling make good arguments. However, I still think there is not enough evidence ON ANY SIDE for any absolute conclusion to be made.

I agree with what you suggest about the alternative understanding of the" titles not so much in terms of Egyptian equivalents but in the light of the biblical usage". The PBC authored a doc in 1906 affirming Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch-(

Therefore, my rubric when studying is under the assumption of Mosaic authorship. That is why I think it is reasonable to accept the common spiritual use of the Hebrew term for 'father' in the text. Additionally, from the perspective of the fulfilled biblical narrative, Joseph is a type of Christ. This is an additional insight into Joseph being called 'father' if the intended meaning of the author was a spiritual type of fatherhood (ie. priesthood). I do not mean to say that Joseph was a priest in Pharaoh's court in the cultic sense- but in some sort of spiritual sense (which may well have been awarded because of his prophetic dream interpretation). So in answer to your later question about whether I was suggesting Joseph was a priest to an Egyptian god- the answer is 'no'.

RE: The biblical uses of the Hebrew term 'father' Obviously, God is not 'father' to the Hebrews in the natural sense. So every time God is called 'father' the spiritual sense is employed.

2Sa 7:1414 ¶ I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men;

2 Kings 6:2121 When the king of Israel saw them he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I slay them? Shall I slay them?”

2Ki 13:14 14 Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him, and wept before him, crying, “My father, my father!

1 Chronicles 17:12–14 13 I will be his father, and he shall be my son; I will not take my merciful love from him, as I took it from him who was before you,

1 Chronicles 28:616 He said to me, ‘It is Solomon your son who shall build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father.

Job 17:1414 if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’

Job 29:1616 I was a father to the poor,

Ps 68:55 Father of the fatherless

Is 9:6“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Is 63:1616 For you are our Father,

though Abraham does not know us

and Israel does not acknowledge us;

Jer 3:19 And I thought you would call me, My Father,

and would not turn from following me.

Jer 31:9 "for I am a father to Israel,

and E‘phraim is my first-born.

heidi said...

Yes, I agree that prophet would also fit the bill regarding Joseph. However, to clarify, you said that a prophet could function in the absence of the temple- but obviously so could priests who did so for the vast majority of salvation history before Solomon ever built the first temple. The Mosaic covenant was centered on the tabernacle which you know. So I will assume that is what you meant by 'temple'.
At any rate, priests in the ancient world did not only offer sacrifice.
" Sacred actions included building altars (Gen 12:8), planting trees (Gen 21:33), offering sacrifice (Gen 8:20), and erecting pillars (Gen 28:11–22)."

Hahn, S. (Ed.). (2009). In Catholic Bible Dictionary. New York; London; Toronto; Sydney; Auckland: Doubleday.

So maybe Joseph planted trees for Pharaoh....

heidi said...

Thomas pt. 3:

David would've been priest from his anointing. Saul never would've been the priest according to Mel. because he was of the tribe of Benjamin and the everlasting king/priest of Jerusalem had to come from the tribe of Judah. God himself installed David into this priestly role in order to inaugurate the fulfillment of prophesy of 2 Sam 7.
Who shares in the priesthood of Mel alongside the reigning king is a good subject for research. I would begin with 'divine appointment' theory: whoever the king appoints into this role be it his military elite or his royal steward could be deputized with his authority.

RE: “Aaron and his descendants” (Lev 24:9)
So, obviously Moses was able to eat the bread of the presence. Moses would've also been the author of the halakhah at the time the law was made.
David, Ahimelech and Jesus all interpret that regulation to mean "the high priest and his appointed"- which must have been the halakhah at the time of David or Ahimelech wouldn't have let David and his men eat it.

By priestly code of chastity, I was referring to the sexual abstinence practiced for a week or up to a month for any levite serving his temple duty for the year. I should've been more precise and said "continence".
"As we shall see, the commitment to continence is based on the principle that a priest of God must be pure when he offers sacrifice. Two biblical texts are cited repeatedly in confirmation of this principle. The first are the general passages from the Old Testament which stipulate temporary continence for priests and Levites during their Temple ministry (cf. Ex. 19:15, Lev. 15:16-18, 20:7, 22:4). The second commonly cited passage is taken from 1 Cor. 7:3-5:"-

In this case of David and his men, they did qualify to eat the bread (as having the status of high priest) so long as they weren't ritually unclean and the most likely reason for ritual uncleanness would've been that they had been with women (Ahimelech is giving them the benefit of the doubt that they haven't been rubbing elbows with lepers).


Thomas Renz said...

Heidi, the show bread was reserved for Levitical priests. I much prefer the general view that Ahimelech deviates from the rules here (on said condition) to your claim that Ahimelech recognised in David a fellow high priest and in his companions people who were qualified to eat the bread. Matt 12:4 also seems to me to acknowledge that eating the show bread was not lawful for David or his companions.

But I am not truly interested in pursuing this. Your approach here seems to me idiosyncratic. I know of no-one who claims that David had been a priest according to the order of Melchizedek prior to the conquest of Jerusalem and even prior to having been enthroned.

Thomas Renz said...

Not all non-biological fatherhood is "spiritual" and not all "spiritual" fatherhood is priestly. You just link one non sequitur to another which doesn't make an argument. You're basically saying that because God is often called "father" in the Bible, our first inclination when encountering non-biological fatherhood in the Bible should be the thought that we're probably looking at a priest (rather than a provider, or ruler, or adviser - is God not all of those things rather than a priest?).

I am not sufficiently interested in "arguments" of this kind to pursue the discussion further. But I want to cite a Roman Catholic scholar, by way of saying that I do not believe that this is about whether you're approaching the text as a Roman Catholic or not.

Joseph Blenkinsopp, one time president of the Catholic Biblical Association of America, wrote this in his commentary on Isaiah: “This designation [“father”] belongs to the traditional language of the Pharaonic court and signifies the protection afforded by the just government administered by the Pharaoh, generally by means of his vizier.”

Best wishes,

heidi said...

Actually Thomas, "my view" on the question of Ahimelech and the showbread is not "mine". Brant Pitre taught this in a graduate course on theology he instructed.

1 Sam 16: The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel? ....

Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.

What possible bearing would the conquest of Jerusalem or being publicly enthroned have to do with David being anointed King by God- which is exactly what Samuel did in 1 Sam 16? Samuel's anointing at God's command was not kept secret, and so OF COURSE Ahimelech would've known as well. You don't think the Ahimelech would've known the difference in authority between God's own anointed and a psychopath Benjamenite?

Regarding the priesthood/fatherhood debate. A major deficiency with the 'modern' conception of priesthood (your tradition included) is the failure to grasp that in the Old Testament priesthood was-at its most fundamental level- spiritual fatherhood. This is the primary reason behind the Church's refusal to ordain so called 'women' priests.

True, not all spiritual fatherhood is priesthood, but all spiritual fatherhood shows some ASPECT of priesthood.

When you charge me with alleging that "our first inclination when encountering non-biological fatherhood in the Bible should be the thought that we're probably looking at a priest (rather than a provider, or ruler, or adviser - is God not all of those things rather than a priest?)." this is totally twisting what I said. I said that the second most common usage for fatherhood in the bible was that of a spiritual nature. That IS ALL I said. I never said that always means priest- this is an unfair and sweeping misstatement.

More to it, when you infer that 'provider, ruler, adviser' are not attributes MOST PERFECTLY of priest you utterly betray that you hold an impoverished notion of what priest is.

You say: "Is God not all those things rather than priest?" --"RATHER THAN PRIEST?"
I would answer God IS all those things IN the perfection of what human priesthood is for us only a woefully inadequate shadow.

I know Joseph Blenkinsopp, thanks for the quote. However, although some may hold the 1970's to be the glory days of Catholic scholarship, I do not.

Frankly, I am very confident in the authority of Barber, Hahn, Bergsma and Pitre. I think they are a wonderful breath of fresh air that the Church has needed in Bible study for a long time.
There is nothing in Bergsma's essay above that I think is in need of correction by Blenkinsopp or anyone else for that matter. His exegesis is quite sound, even if you refuse to accept it at this time.

In light of what I would characterize as a failure to adequately grasp the nature of priesthood in your statements, I would suggest you read "Kinship by Covenant" by Scott Hahn.


Thomas Renz said...


let me reassure you that I did not mean to imply that a priest's role does not include providing, ruling and advising. But not everyone who provides, rules and advises is a priest. This was my point. If someone fulfilled any of these roles they could be considered a ("spiritual," if you wish) father whether or not they were also priests. Therefore "father" can be used for Joseph and Eliakim whether or not they were priests or had priestly prerogatives. Therefore the use of "father" in connection with these persons is not evidence that they were priests.

With all due respect, "the second most common usage for fatherhood in the bible was that of a spiritual nature" is not all you have said. What you said was that this was "reasonable evidence to believe Joseph was a priest to pharaoh." It is not precisely because it is possible to be a "spiritual" (rather than biological) father without being a priest.

In 1 Sam 16 David becomes the designated king; he doesn't become king yet. You have provided no reason for believing that this anointing ordained David priest. Because the priesthood of Melchizedek is a royal priesthood it stands to reason that you are not a Mechizedekian priest without being king (the conquest of Jerusalem may be relevant because Melchizedek was king of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Israel's political capital and cultic centre were united only in Jerusalem). After 1 Sam 16 you may consider David to have been designated to become priest but this is not quite the same as him being a priest, let alone the high priest.

I have read Kinship by Covenant. In fact, I reviewed it for the Society of Old Testament Studies book list.

Unlike Pitre, it seems, Hahn believes that 2 Sam 5 (narrative of transfer of the ark to Jerusalem) "introduces a new cultic role for the king" (180). "King David's priestlike behavior in 2 Samuel 6-7 may be interpreted in terms of his aspiration to be a 'new Melchizedek'." (193). I am pretty confident that Hahn did not (and presumably does not) believe that David had already become a Mechizedekian priest in 1 Sam 16.

Susan Moore said...

To the commenters, particularly Heidi and Thomas,
First of all, thank you for playing nice with each other; it makes reading your comments enjoyable and interesting instead of excruciatingly painful.

Secondly, much of your confusion is a result of where you are in your own spiritual walks, and (most likely without realizing it) you are contrasting your spiritual places with each other’s, and looking for similarities, and there may not be any. Just a thought.

Thirdly, the word ‘priest’ in the Bible changes in meaning over scriptural time from describing a particular physical person in a particular temporal position, to describing a spiritual person in an eternal position. Along the way that word collects new meanings as the way God describes this new meaning to us. He does this collection of new meanings by transposing new meanings onto old meanings, so that the original meaning is never lost, it simply grows into the spiritual meaning from its original foundation that represents a physical being in a physical place.

It seems you are discussing a place in time when at least one of those transpositions of meaning is happening, and that is contributing to your combined confusion. Because, regarding the main time periods you are discussing, the language regarding ‘priest’ is in an in-between place, it’s quite possible that neither of you are completely correct, nor completely incorrect in your understandings.

I pray abundant blessings on you all.

heidi said...

Hi Thomas,
In their Commentary on the Old Testament, Keil and Delitzsch state that David was anointed king in 1 Sam 16, but that this was done 'privately' according to God's plan and that David cooperated by going about usual business trusting that God would enthrone him when the time was established. So he was anointed king, but not publicly inaugurated.
Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.

From the ACCSS:
-LACTANTIUS:The Jews had before been directed to compose a sacred oil, with which those who were called to the priesthood or to the kingdom might be anointed. And as now the robe of purple is a sign of the assumption of royal dignity among the Romans, so with them the anointing with the holy oil conferred the title and power of king.

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel (pp. 260–261). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Obviously, I disagree with the statements you made in the 3rd para of your response. If David wasn't made king by God's own anointing but was just 'designated' the king-to-be, then Jesus wasn't anointed king at his baptism either. Hardly. The anointing in both cases was real, effectual and permanent. It simply was not public. The public ceremony came later in 2 Sam and for Christ on the cross.

I apologize for assuming you hadn't read Kinship. You made a comment regarding an excerpt I used in my 'priesthood' presentation that led me to believe you hadn't read it.

I'm not so sure Hahn wouldn't agree with Pitre on the subject. They spend an awful lot of time together on the speaking/lecture circuit and I'm aware of this position being presented within a lecture series where they were both presenters.

In case you were interested in hearing Pitre in his own words, I uploaded a 2 minute segment from his class where he talks about David/Jesus bread connection.

heidi said...

Hi Susan,
Very good insight. I think you are exactly correct. You articulated very well what I suppose I have failed to communicate.
As the CCC says: God made us with differences because He willed that we would need each other.

Obviously, blindness due to personal prejudice put me in need of an unbiased observer to point this out.

Thank you!

Ps. I don't know if Barber ever had a chance to answer your question some weeks ago. If not, cultic refers to a religion that practices sacrifice. Judaism used to be cultic, but modern day Judaism bears much more in common with Protestantism in that both are now religions without sacrifice. Ghandi (I think it was him) said that the 'western notion of religion without sacrifice was absurd'
-my paraphrastic translation :)
Whereas Catholicism is much more like ancient Judaism in that it is a religion based on sacrifice.

Thomas Renz said...

@Susan: Thank you for your prayers.

@Heidi: I am not seeking to pit designated against anointed. As far as I am concerned, all these are true:

In 1 Sam 16 David was anointed king by Samuel.

In 1 Sam 16 David was appointed king by God.

In 1 Sam 16 David was designated to become the next king of Israel.

The point is that he had not yet been enthroned in 1 Sam 16. God had not yet put him in a position from which to exercise kingship. David did not yet have the keys to the palace, so to speak.

I basically agree with what Scott Hahn wrote on the pages framed by the two quotations given above which in my reading is different from the assumption that David was already a (high) priest according to the order of Melchizedek when he and his companions ate the showbread.

Thomas Renz said...

PS: Irrespective of the timing of David's ordination, I'd be interested to know of any references in historical Christian literature in which it is affirmed that David (or Solomon) was a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. So if anyone has any to hand, please share them.

heidi said...

Hi Thomas,

Augustine qualifies as a historical Christian who does affirm David's priesthood according to Mel. (we infer that he is speaking about a Mel. priesthood because obviously Augustine is not arguing a levitical claim here).

BOTH KING AND PRIEST. AUGUSTINE: In many other testimonies of the divine Scriptures, Christ appears both as king and as priest. With good reason, therefore, he is declared to be David’s son more frequently than he is said to be Abraham’s son. Matthew and Luke have both affirmed this: the one viewing him [David] as the person from whom, through Solomon, his [Jesus’] lineage can be traced down, and the other taking him [David] for the person to whom, through Nathan, his [Jesus’] genealogy can be carried up. BOTH KING AND PRIEST. AUGUSTINE: In many other testimonies of the divine Scriptures, Christ appears both as king and as priest. With good reason, therefore, he is declared to be David’s son more frequently than he is said to be Abraham’s son. Matthew and Luke have both affirmed this: the one viewing him [David] as the person from whom, through Solomon, his [Jesus’] lineage can be traced down, and the other taking him [David] for the person to whom, through Nathan, his [Jesus’] genealogy can be carried up. SO HE DID (DAVID) REPRESENT THE ROLE OF A PRIEST, although he was patently a king, WHEN HE ATE THE SHOWBREAD. For it was not lawful for any one to eat that, except the priests alone. HARMONY OF THE GOSPELS

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel (p. 294). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Susan Moore said...

Pastor Renz,
I started graduate school this past week. Yikes. A lot of new words to try to figure out. I can't seem to get my head around one in particular, so if you have a minute, could you explain it? You always explain things to me in simple terms, and I greatly appreciate that!!
What does 'reductionism' mean when used in reference to theology? And is it something we are supposed to do, or not do? I'm confused.

heidi said...

DAVID THE PRIEST. EPHREM THE SYRIAN: Our Lord put forward the clear example of David, who was not accused either over this, as he was over something else. It was not permissible, he said, for David to eat [the holy bread] since he was not a priest. However, HE WAS A PRIEST, because he was a temple of the Spirit. Because they did not understand this, he openly proved them wrong with regard to their own [position]: “The priests were defiling the sabbath in the temple, and they were not guilty of sin.”6 Another element is depicted for us there. Before David was persecuted, he partook of the bread with authority. COMMENTARY ON TATIAN’S DIATESSARON 5.24.7

CASSIODORUS: When David was fleeing from Saul, he came to the priest Abimelech. He was received by him and obtained the loaves of proposition1 and the sword with which he had slain Goliath. The loaves of proposition DENOTED HIS ROLE AS PRIEST, the consecrated sword his future rank as most powerful king.

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel (p. 305). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

CHRYSOSTOM (on 1 sam 24:)
"It was not as leader of troops, you see, BUT AS PRIEST HE COMMANDED THEM."
13 COTH 1:27–28.


Susan Moore said...

Thank, Heidi, for explaining 'cult'. Yuk. That's why non-Christian cults are called cults, then. We need a new word!

heidi said...


"King David's priestlike behavior in 2 Samuel 6-7 may be interpreted in terms of his aspiration to be a 'new Melchizedek'." (193)"

In the above excerpt, Hahn is examining why David engaged in such extravagant displays of the priesthood- he is not saying David's behavior in 2 sam 6-7 was in anticipation of the priesthood. Hahn concludes that in these acts, David was showing how earnestly and with what zeal he intended to fulfill his role as heir to the Mel. throne. He then goes on to say the following regarding Nathan's oracle about the temple being build not by David but by his heir:

It may be inferred from David’s response to Nathan’s oracle (2 Sam 7:18–29), that the king’s priestly ambition was surpassed only by his paternal joy at hearing that God pledged to give to the dynastic heir the deepest desires of his father’s heart (i.e., to build a temple for Yahweh).

Hahn, S. W. (2009). Kinship by covenant: a canonical approach to the fulfillment of God’s saving promises (p. 193). New Haven;  London: Yale University Press.

Susan Moore said...

What do we sacrifice?

heidi said...

Hi Susan,
Good timing. The second reading tomorrow is Rom 12:1-2

"I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.
Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and pleasing and perfect."

We are called to sacrifice ourselves. Christ's sacrifice was not substitionary- ie. He didn't suffer and die so we wouldn't have to. He suffered and died so that our life, sufferings and death could be transformed through His into a Divine, pleasing and acceptable sacrifice to God the Father.

Just an interesting fact about communion rails in Catholic Churchs. The origin of the communion rail goes back to the Jerusalem temple wherein such a rail was used to place the neck of the sacrificial lamb across so that the priest could slit it's throat. (Edersheim). So when we walk up the ailse to Holy Communion- rail or not- we must be aware that we are not only going up to receive but also to offer our own sacrifice (as priests of the new covenant). And our sacrifice is our joys, our sorrows, our past, present and future- our entire lives- are united with the one eternal "once forever" sacrifice of the Son to the Father- thereby enabling us to merit infinite graces for ourselves and the world.
Give God praise and thanks for His Infinite Goodness in allowing our miserable wretchedness to be infinitely glorified through the Son.

Listen tomorrow when in the priest begins the presidential prayers over the offerings (the ORATE FRATRES ) "Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters), that my sacrifice AND YOURS be acceptable to God the Father almighty".

I will offer my Holy Communion tomorrow for you, Thomas, and Dr. Bergsma- all three of you were over worked this week!


Thomas Renz said...

@Heidi: Thanks for all this. It is a shame that none of these link David with Melchizedek. It could probably be argued that in Israel the king was (meant to be) priestlike regardless of Melchizedek. In fact, Ephrem the Syrian argues explicitly from David being a temple of the Spirit to him being a priest. I was asking because I know people who believe that there have only ever been two Melchizedeks, the king of Salem who met Abraham and Christ. And I also know of people who believe that the two are identical and hence there has always only ever be one Melchizedek, namely Christ. Acknowledgement of the priestly character of kingship in Israel would not be sufficient grounds for them to accept that Davidic kings were priests according to the order of Melchizedek. (Psalm 110 is obviously read by them as a direct prophecy exclusively applicable to Jesus Christ.)

What a shame I had not read your comment about communion rails before my early Eucharistic service. I could have used this in my homily.

@Susan: Reductionism happens when you reduce something (in your mind) to less than it truly is. Someone coined the term nothing-buttery to describe essentially this process because you find it often when people use the phrase "othing but". E.g., to say that Christ is truly and fully human is to speak what is true and orthodox. To say that Christ was "nothing but" a human is reductionism.

Thomas Renz said...

PS: Again I have missed out an important comma: "who met Abraham, and Christ". (Also in my 5:09pm post the day before yesterday (It is not, precisely because...")

Thomas Renz said...

@Susan: In terms of understanding the meaning and reference of a word in a given text, there is also something which is roughly the opposite of reductionism and equally problematic, namely what D.A. Carson coined the “illegitimate totality transfer” fallacy, namely the explicit or implicit transfer of all the meanings of a given word into any given passage.

Susan Moore said...

Thank you Dr. Renz and Heidi, for explaining things to me. I feel loved.
Heidi, I am familiar with the Romans 12:1-4 scripture, in fact I quote that verse in my own testimony that was its own website for two years. I thought maybe there was something else in Catholic doctrine that I wasn’t aware of.

A lot of Catholic churches have removed their Communion rails, I assume not to minimize the teaching to ‘sacrifice’ our fallen human nature and commit our renewed lives to Him, but to emphasize His mercy; “He answered, ‘Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread –which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean –I desire mercy, not sacrifice- you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:3-8).

I’ve spent chunks of time in several mainstream protestant denominations, and all the preachers taught those verses as we do, as how I have stated it above: they preach against sin, and for committing one’s life to Christ. There are very real differences between Catholicism and Protestantism, but I don’t see a tendency for aberrant teachings on those Roman verses to be one of the differences, at least not for the mainstream Protestant churches I am familiar with.

And thank you for the offering of your Holy Communion today. Again, I feel loved. Thank you.

Susan Moore said...

I’m wondering if world peace would be effected if every Protestant and Catholic seminarian and graduate student of religion/theology spent 6 weeks in the opposing camp.

Catholics would meet with the Pastor of one, preferably local, Protestant church to discuss similarities and differences, then attend 6 church services and 1 small group/Bible study. And Protestants would meet with the Catholic priest of their parish to have the same discussion, then attend a Mass on six different weekends (abstaining from Holy Communion) and one small group/Bible study.

Besides the academic goal of noting similarities and differences, the greater goal would be to lose prejudices and establish Godly relationships with these people who God breathed into existence because it pleased Him.

Perhaps the final reflection paper, written in prayer, would prosper the world in a way annihilating the Islamic State never will.

Thomas Renz said...

@Susan: we have a scheme similar to the one you propose within the Church of England. Because within the Church of England there are churches with and without communion rails, with and without Eucharistic vestments, with and without "smells and bells" etc. seminarians are often placed in churches of a tradition different from their own. While I have seen this to be counterprductive occasionally (where students read churches in such a way that their prejudices are confirmed without growth in understanding), it can be very beneficial where there is genuine humility and a desire to understand. (I have evangelical seminarians on placement with our church in order to give them a more "catholic" experience.)

But here also the saying "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" applies. Even Roman Catholicism can look and feel somewhat different in different contexts, how much more Protestantism! Yet some people think they can generalise about Protestants on the basis of what is really a very narrow experience of Western non-RC Christians.

Susan Moore said...

Pastor Renz,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

Yes, the academic course would have to truthfully teach (as much as the teachers are able) about these sets of similarities and differences, and students taught not to reduce or overgeneralize their experiences. Instead of a theology course, perhaps this would be best approached as a philosophy course, because between Catholicism and Protestantism more than the traditions are different, the very scriptural teachings are different; which are reflective of a difference between Protestant and Catholic reasoning.

There will always be those who use their experiences as an opportunity to confirm what is already going on behind their own eyelids, Judas was one of those, and yet Jesus loved him, too. Who’s to say that that student (or teacher) will not grow more, later, and have actually reaped a benefit from that cross-cultural experience?

It seems we should put our money where our mouth is, and love God above all else and love each other as ourselves; and thereby entrust the Holy Spirit with our hearts, minds and souls.

heidi said...

Hi Thomas,
Yes, i am familiar with people who think there was only one Melchiz and that he was mysteriously Jesus....
What violence can be done to the biblical text when cut off from the interpretive tradition of the Church. Regarding the psalm, I find it interesting that they ignore Christ's words that the psalm is literally David speaking. (????).
Furthermore, this type of nonsense- completely ignoring the interpretive authority of the Church to pursue fabricated theories defiant of the only evidence available- in order to support a personal presuppostition (eg. "Q" and "the council of Jamnia" among others) is what makes Pitre mockingly respond "Don't let the evidence get in the way of your theory". There was no 'kingly' priesthood that the Jews respected outside that of Melchizedek. The 'king' as 'priest' theory would be great if there was an iota of evidence to support it but there is not. However, there is an abundance of Hebrew lit about the priesthood of Mel and that it was tied to his 'rightful' kingship of Jerusalem.
Ephrem the Syrian's homily is on the nature of true priesthood (the HOW behind David's priesthood- not the WHY).

With a blessing,

heidi said...

Hi Susan,
Regarding your concept to do a cross camp catechesis:
I would suggest that what Catholic seminaries and all the Catholic faithful need to do first and foremost is teach and learn the Catholic faith- which hasn't been done effectively for at least the last century. Not the faith according to some 20th ce German theologian's aberration of the faith but the faith as it has been taught in any given age by the teaching authority of the church.

Your close relations with protestant churches has affected your "Catholic nose" and as a result you seem to have accepted distortions of doctrine taught by such errant denominations. For example, you're reading into the Matthean text that Jesus does not want sacrifice. This is one of the proof texts used against the Catholic theology of merit. However, clearly Jesus is not saying all sacrifice is unwanted- he is specifically referring to the pharisaic focus on externals while not amending their own hearts. Psalm 51 is obviously what Jesus is referring to but even that is used against Catholics (51:16)! The final line (19) however says that once a broken spirit and a contrite heart are within a man- THEN his sacrifices will be acceptable.
This is why Catholic spiritual theology does not consider it 'done' simply to 'give your life to Jesus' (in the protestant sense you mentioned above). The Catholic sacrifice entails an all day every day struggle to mortify the will and the body by acts such as prayer, alms giving, fasting, and other penances. As Catholics, we don't just go to Mass and say "Jeeeeesus, here's my sacrifice. Okay- see ya!" and then go on living as the world does. We are called to be set apart- kodesh L' Adonai- holy to the Lord. Our contrite hearts (sometimes mockingly referred to by non catholics as 'catholic guilt') are cultivated each night when we do our daily examine. Our broken spirits are effected daily when we fall over and over, realizing that without God "we can do nothing". Once we begin to realize the gifts of grace (habitual) available through the Catholic sacraments we should be crawling on our knees to the confessional weekly and our hearts bursting with love every time we receive Our Eucharistic Lord. Sadly, so few Catholics know the faith and so many priests (especially in the mid/late 20th ce) were not given a proper formation.
No, I can not agree that exposure to more protestant heresy is a good idea for correct formation. How could a person profit by looking into someone else's dirty and soil covered mirror for glimmers of light when they already own a clean mirror with which to view the light without obstruction?

And you are loved!!

Susan Moore said...

Well, it seems neither of you relished the idea of spending any time in the other’s dirty camp full of sinful people who desire to be more like Christ.

Ok, well, no worries. Our God is a merciful God and loves us, each and all, beyond reason.
It’s not the reasoning that makes us happy or unhappy, anyway (or loving or hating).

As was explained to me by my cessationistic Protestant pastor, of all people, “The bigger the mess, the bigger the miracle.”

My new healed life proves it.

No worries.

Thomas Renz said...

@Heidi: That's a bit harsh and at least in parts unfair. As speaker of Psalm 110, David speaks not about himself but about someone else ("my Lord"). Read Augustine's exposition of Psalm 110 and you won't find the slightest hint that he thought that David himself was a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. The people I have in mind - some of my former students - were convinced that it was me who departed from tradition. And indeed I am not aware of any interpreter prior to the rise of modern scholarship who affirmed that David and his successors on the throne were priests according to the order of Melchizedek.

I can tell you that Pitre is not the only one who uses "Don't let the evidence get in the way of your theory" to put down those who don't accept their interpretation. And of course sometimes the charge is justified. But the trouble is that it is always easier to see the speck in someone else's interpretative eye. If someone comes to what is in our mind the "right" conclusion, we tend to find it harder to see when the evidence doesn't stack up and the argument has holes.

As for your comments directed to Susan: Susan probably knows that there are Protestants for whom "sacrifice entails an all day every day struggle to mortify the will and the body by acts such as prayer, alms giving, fasting, and other penances" (except that for various reasons they would not use the word "penances").

Thomas Renz said...

Also, Susan was not proposing “cross camp catechesis” but seeking to understand one another by spending time in each other’s settings and learning to listen to one another.

@Susan: I was not speaking of “traditions” as if it was merely a matter of whether organs or drums accompanied the singing. There are different ways of worshipping, believing and thinking involved. I dare say you will find such differences within the Roman Catholic church as well but they are more pronounced in the Church of England because we lack a magisterium.

Similar things could be said about biblical scholarship which is why it is too simplistic to contrast "Catholic" with "Protestant" ways of reading Scripture. The differences between Joseph Blenkinsopp’s approach and Scott Hahn’s are mirrored on “our side”. There are Protestants who engage in theological interpretation following a hermeneutic of continuity in a canonical approach to Scripture.

Yes, the RC magisterium probably still makes a difference but see

De Maria said...

Thomas Renz said...
De Maria,

I don't share your belief that God is only interested in matters of the temple, so everything that follows doesn't follow for me.

Ok. Well, that's not exactly a counter argument. But if you don't agree, I understand. I guess you won't be interested in the rest of what I've got to say on the matter.

Best wishes, Thomas

And to you.

Anyway, to whomever might be interested,

I have always accepted Dr. Scott Hahn's explanation about this verse without question. If I understand him correctly and I'm not certain that I do, he correlates the verse about the keys in Isaiah 22:22 to the verse about the keys in Matt 16:19.

However, he turns Eliakim into King Hezekiah's (the Son of David's) Royal Steward. That's the part that I question in Dr. Hahn's explanation. This is what he says:

Albright goes on in his commentary to speak about the keys of the kingdom that Jesus entrusted to Peter. Here's what he says, "Isaiah 22, verse 15, undoubtedly lies behind this saying of Jesus. The keys are the symbol of authority and Father Roland DeVoe rightly sees here the same authority vested in the vicar, the master of the house, the chamberlain of the royal household in ancient Israel. In Isaiah 22 Eliakim is described as having the same authority."

In my opinion, this would only follow if King Hezekiah was the one handing Eliakim the keys. Because it is Jesus, the spiritual Son of David, who hands the keys to Peter in verse Matt 16:19.

But in Isaiah 22:22, it is God speaking through the Prophet Isaiah. So, why would God hand to Eliakim, the keys to the House of David? Because the House of David is euphemism for the Kingdom of heaven. The house of David, at that point, is all that remains of the house of Israel. The 10 tribes have turned away from God and Hezekiah's house is the only one that is still faithful to God. Hezekiah's house is all that remains of the House of Israel. And Hezekiah is a Son of David. Therefore, his Kingdom is rightly called the House of David.

And now, the two verses directly correlate. Because God hands the keys to His Kingdom (i.e. the House of David) to Eliakim in Isaiah 22:22. And in Matt 16:19, God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, hands the keys of His Kingdom to St. Peter.

God installs Eliakim as His high Priest in the OT. Jesus Christ installs Peter as His high Priest in the NT. Direct correlation.

Now, whether I understood Dr. Hahn correctly is still a question. Because he goes on to say:

Another Lutheran professor, a professor of scripture and theology at Concordia Seminary in Hong Kong, Torg Forberg wrote an article entitled, "Peter, High Priest of the New Covenant." Forberg insists that Jesus is the ultimate High Priest in the New Testament, but he says, "Peter is presented as some kind of successor to the High Priest in tradition used by the final redactorate, Matthew 16:13-19. Peter stands out as a kind of chief Rabbi who binds and looses in the sense of declaring something to be forbidden or permitted. Peter is looked upon as a counterpart to the High Priest. He is the highest representative for the people of God." This is Protestant testimony.

So, he seems to be aware of this interpretation and does not reject it.

Anyway, that's my two cents on that issue.


De Maria

De Maria said...

As to the 2nd question about King David being a priest in the order of Melchizedek. I have no idea how this can be questioned.

1st. King David is the King of Salem. Is this not obvious? JeruSALEM.

Genesis 14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.

2nd. God did not strike him down when he wore the priestly ephod:

1 Samuel 30:6-8King James Version (KJV)

6 And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.

7 And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech's son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David.

8 And David enquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all.

3rd. This second fact makes King David not only priest/king, but also prophet. Since he spoke directly to God and God responded.

4th. And he wore the priestly ephod more than once:

1 Chronicles 15:27 And David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, and all the Levites that bare the ark, and the singers, and Chenaniah the master of the song with the singers: David also had upon him an ephod of linen.

Note that he dresses exactly as the Levites on this occasion.

Anyway, that's enough for me.

De Maria said...


Similar things could be said about biblical scholarship which is why it is too simplistic to contrast "Catholic" with "Protestant" ways of reading Scripture.

There's a huge chasm of difference. And it is the Catholic exegete's recognition of the authority of the Magisterium.

Yes, the RC magisterium probably still makes a difference but see

There's no probably to it. The Magisterium of the Catholic Church is precisely what it means. The Catholic Church is the Teacher (Maestro) of the Word of God.

Susan Moore said...

Pastor Renz,
Yea, that’s right. I wasn’t referring to teaching, forming, or otherwise changing each other. I was referring to simply accepting each other as we each present ourselves to be; and perhaps even praying together and digging deep and actually finding a way to love one another. What a peace offering that would be, to offer ourselves like living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. “And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation…” (2Cor.16-21).

I don’t think it’s a Catholic thing, but a human thing, when some people go through a period where they think that to love a person they must agree with that person (or that person must agree with them). I think the Islamic State would be a good example of that, not that they are necessarily interested in loving each other, but the hysterical thinking against those who are at all different in their thinking is obvious from all reported accounts I have read. What a tragedy, to be so intensely loved and yet to have no awareness of that love.

But Jesus disagreed with a lot of people (even Peter), and yet He still loved them so much that He died for them. In fact, the criminal on the cross next to Him, who apparently wasn’t hanging out with the Jesus crowd and Peter (I assume that because the criminal’s name does not seem to be known), but realized himself to be a fallen human, and recognized Jesus as God, and asked for mercy from Jesus. Did Jesus give mercy to him?

In my own life, it seems to be true that His love has set me free: Free to just accept a person and love them whether they agree with me or not. Perhaps it has to do with having a knowledge of one’s boundaries, or of realizing that if God loves me, who else matters whether they love me or not? It seems God made us knowing fair well that humans would rarely be able to please each other, so He made us only because it pleased Him.
How great is our God?!

Actually, it’s been my experience that self-imposed daily mortification is not necessary if one follows Jesus’ command and loves others as He loves us. Loving others sacrificially will make one bleed plenty, and grow towards Christ exponentially. We have to get out of our holy huddles and stop staring at the inside of our own eyelids and start doing what He has clearly commanded us to do.

So, on another note, Pastor Renz, what makes a Protestant a Protestant and not a Catholic?

Thomas Renz said...

@Susan: The question "what makes a Protestant a Protestant and not a [Roman] Catholic?" is not straightforward to answer. Historically Protestants are those Christians in the West who make a protestation (declaration) of their belief which puts them at odds with the Roman magisterium. At first the only forms of Protestantism were Lutheran and Anglican. (Sometimes medieval Christians who prior to the sixteenth century held similar beliefs to the [magisterial*] Reformers are also styled Protestants. But it would not be common to designate the [Eastern] Orthodox churches as Protestant.)

*"magisterial" is a technical term here which is not related to the Roman magisterium

Reformed (Presbyterian) Christians are usually also included among the (historic) Protestants.

When various dissenting Christian communities sprang up later (e.g., Congregationalists, Baptists), they styled themselves Protestant as well and of course groupings that arose out of Protestantism such as Methodism were also considered to belong to the Protestant family.

The term seems to be used today most often to designate all Western Christians who are not in communion with Rome regardless of their beliefs and practices, from completely unaffiliated groups to the Old Catholic Church, from the historic Protestant denominations to Pentecostal associations.

Using the figures in George Weigel "World religions by the numbers" (The Catholic Difference, 2002), this gives you more than 830 million "Protestants" of all stripes at the beginning of this millenium, most of whom I dare say never made a conscious decision not to be "Catholic"; they just grew up in Christian familis who are not in communion with Rome or came to faith in non-RC communities, all of which makes it pretty much impossible to generalise.

heidi said...

Please pardon me if my response seemed harsh. It was not intended to be so.
I suppose I was being somewhat blunt in my agreement with Pitre that supposed 'theories' put forth without on ounce of evidence should not be given the wide berth they are typically given. He is not talking about a contrary point of view with reasonable supporting evidence and neither am I. He is talking about the tendency of modern scholars to concoct theories out of whole cloth to support outlandish preconceptions that have no internal or external basis. The Fathers do recognize two priesthoods: Aaronic and Melchizedeckian and so it is reasonable to approach David's priesthood with the rubric of the only priesthood that could possibly apply to him: the Melchizedeckian. Additionally, Augustine says "let the Scriptures intimate to you what is the Priesthood after the order of Mel..." immediately after he has spoken about it as a 'mystery'. So it can not be concluded that in this bit Augustine has exhausted all he has to say about the subject. On the contrary! He is specifically saying that the 'believers' know something about this subject that the catechumens do not understand.

"they see that the priesthood after the order of Aaron hath already perished, and they do not recognize the Priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. I speak unto believers. If catechumens understand not something, let them lay aside sloth, and hasten unto knowledge. It is not therefore needful for me to disclose mysteries here:1 let the Scriptures intimate to you what is the Priesthood after the order of Melchizedec."

Given that most early Christian writing are polemical, things that were accepted -for the most part without dispute in early Christianity - are not written on by early Christian writers because there simply was no need. Certainly, it is very easy to reason at least indirectly to the priesthood of Mel. from the statements of the fathers and from internal evidence (Kinship 297ff).
So I am not surprised if there indeed is no explicit statement "David was a priest king in the order of mel" to be found in the Church fathers.
I just do not take seriously any claim that there was some mysterious third type of priesthood that David held (for which no evidence exists). Especially when in psalm 110 David is saying the the Melchizedekian king to come will be a Davidide.

Again, I apologize if my former post sounded harsh.

heidi said...


Please permit me to illustrate why your statement below is so dangerously contrary to true Catholic spiritual teaching.

"Actually, it’s been my experience that self-imposed daily mortification is not necessary if one follows Jesus’ command and loves others as He loves us."

St. Paul: 1 Cor 9:26 Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; 27 but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

"From this passage, it is evident that the Christian’s fight consists especially in bringing the body into subjection. For this foe is an inward foe, and one most hard to withstand, and therefore the snares of the flesh are to be dreaded more than all others. We ought also to get ourselves ready for this fight by the athlete’s training, that is, by temperance, and in this temperance we should begin the fight, and in it daily increase, grow strong, and come to perfection. The Christian, therefore, must begin with conquering gluttony. When that is done, it will be easier for him to conquer other vices, as Cassianus and others say. Hence it appears that the Christian fighter must keep under his body, lest its lusts make him a castaway; and that, therefore, bodily mortification, by watchings, fastings, and other afflictions, is the right way to salvation, and is the most suitable instrument for perfecting virtue, and for the complete subdual of vices, if it be done with discretion, and in proportion to one’s strength and health. Cf. S. Thomas (ii. ii. qu. 188, art. 7).
But let us hear what the ancient doctors of the Church have to say on this head. Ambrose (Ep. ad Eccl. Vercell.) says: “I hear that there are men who say that there is no merit in fasting, and who scoff at those who mortify their flesh, that they may subdue it to the mind. This S. Paul would never have done or said if he had thought it folly” (let our Protestant friends observe this); “for he says, as though boasting, ‘I keep under my body and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.’ Therefore, those who do not mortify their body, and who wish to preach to others, are themselves regarded as reprobates. What new school has sent forth these Epicureans to preach pleasure and advise luxury? The Lord Jesus, wishing to strengthen us against the temptations of the devil, fasted before He strove with him, that we might know that we cannot in any other way overcome the blandishments of the evil one. Let these men say why Christ fasted if it were not to give us an example to do likewise.”

S. Basil (Hom. de Legend. Gentil. Libris) says: “The body must be mortified and kept in check like a wild beast, and the passions that take their rise from it to the soul’s hurt must be kept in order by the scourge reason, lest by giving free rein to pleasure the mind become like a driver of restive and unbroken horses, and be run away with and lost. Amongst other sayings there is one of Pythagoras which deserves to be remembered. When he saw a certain man looking after himself with great care, and fattening himself by sumptuous living and exercise, he said: ‘Unhappy man! you are ever engaged in building for yourself a worse and worse prison!’ It is said too of Plato, that owing to his vivid realisation of the harm that arises from the body, he fixed his Academy at Athens in an unhealthy spot, that he might reduce the excessive prosperity of the body, as a gardener prunes a vine whose boughs stretch too far. I too have often heard physicians say that extremely good health is fallacious. Since, therefore, care for the body seems to be harmful to body and soul alike, to hug this burden and to be a slave to it is evident proof of madness. But if we study to despise it, we shall not easily lose ourselves in admiration of anything human.”

heidi said...

S. Chrysostom says here: “ ‘I mortify my body’ means that I undergo much labour to live temperately. Although desire is intractable, the belly clamorous, yet I rein them in, and do not surrender myself to my passions, but repress them, and with wearisome effort bring under nature herself. I say this that no one may lose heart in his struggle for virtue, for it is an arduous fight. Wherefore he says, ‘I keep under my body and bring it into subjection.’ He did not say, ‘I destroy and punish it,’ for the flesh is not an enemy, but ‘I keep it under and bring it into subjection,’ because it is the property of my Lord, not of an enemy; of a trainer, not a foe; ‘lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.’ If Paul feared this, being such a teacher as he was; if he had any dread, after having preached to the whole world, what are we to say?”


Cornelius à Lapide. (1908). The Great Commentary of Cornelius à Lapide: I Corinthians. (W. F. Cobb, Trans.) (Vol. 7, pp. 217–222). Edinburgh: John Grant.

heidi said...

S. Jerome says (Ep. 14 ad Celantiam): “They who are taught by experience and knowledge to hold fast the virtue of abstinence mortify their flesh to break the soul’s pride, in order that so they may descend from the pinnacle of their haughty arrogance to fulfil the will of God, which is most perfectly fulfilled in humility. Therefore do they withdraw their mind from hankering after variety of foods, that they may devote all their strength to the pursuit of virtue. By degrees the flesh feels less and less the burden of fastings, as the soul more hungers after righteousness. For that chosen vessel, Paul, in mortifying his body and bringing it into subjection, was not seeking after chastity alone, as some ignorant persons suppose: for fasting helps not only this virtue but every virtue.”

Cornelius à Lapide. (1908). The Great Commentary of Cornelius à Lapide: I Corinthians. (W. F. Cobb, Trans.) (Vol. 7, pp. 220–221). Edinburgh: John Grant.

heidi said...

I hope I haven't belabored the point here. If you haven't read St. Francis de Sales "Introduction to the Devout Life" I would recommend that highlly. The second book I would suggest is a short, but wonderfully rich and beautiful work of St. Alphonsus Liguori called "The 12 steps to Holiness".
In this work he says that mortiication (for those striving after perfection) "is absolutely necessary".
As long as you are alive, your body will fight against your higher will and because of this even 'lawful' things must be mortified to compel the flesh into subjection. No Christian can attain perfection without a life of penance.
True, charity can at times feel like penance! But the mortification of the flesh is aimed at the 'lower passions' (lower will) that without being subdued will not relinquish command over the higher will. We are fallen and in the fall lost original 'holiness and justice'. This means that all people (Jesus and the Blessed Virgin exempt) are inherently disordered. Yes, the will of the soul also must be mortified (subdued) and this is what part of us is mortified when we "turn the other cheek" or- being bound by Chrisitian charity- resolve to always think the best possible motives in others even when this is tough to do (St. Francis de Sales).
As material creatures, however, we have two wills: the will of the soul and that of the flesh. Both of which we must mortify because we are inherently disordered as a result of the fall.
You are a composite creature and therefore the body does very much pertain to the spiritual life. Some would criticize those who kneel to pray. However, this is a good example of how the body influences the soul. A posture of humility changes the way the soul feels.

Many of those separated Christian brothes of ours who have abandoned Catholic spirituality would argue that the "flesh is of no avail" (wrenching text out of context)- but this is hardly the meaning of Jesus' words.
When taken in context, the teaching of the bible is absolutely in agreement with Catholic spirituality.

I hope this helps.

Thomas Renz said...

Heidi, it may be “crystal clear” to us that Psalm 110 implies that “Kind David and all his successors” were priests according to the order of Melchizedek (so Pitre, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, 137). Indeed among modern scholars there is pretty much a consensus on this, see, e.g., the section “The King as Priest after the order of Melchizedek” in John Day’s essay “The Canaanite Inheritance of the Israelite Monarchy,” in King and Messiah in Israel and the Ancient Near East: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar (1998), 73-75.

But it is by no means clear that readers in antiquity read the texts in this way. Melchizedek was a significant figure in Second Temple Judaism. He was written about as a mysterious person of the distant past, as an eschatological figure and as a heavenly figure (Eric Mason, 'You Are a Priest Forever': Second Temple Jewish Messianism and the Priestly Christology of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Leiden: Brill, 2008). But I am not aware of any evidence that his priesthood was considered a pattern for David’s in any of these writings.

Augustine does not write about the Aaronic and the Melchizedekian priesthood as functioning alongside each other. Cf. City of God, Book XVI, chap. 22 (, where he goes straight from the first Melchizedek to Christ via the prophecy in Psalm 110, without reference to a succession of Melchizedekian priests in between.

Similarly, Chrysostom, in his exposition of Hebrews, is adamant that Psalm 110 speaks about none than the incarnate Son of God. “What man is King of Righteousness and of Peace? None, save only our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Homily XII at

In the light of this I find it impossible to accept that the reason we cannot find any explicit statement to say that Kind David and all his successors were priests according to the order of Melchizedek within the first one and a half millennia of Christian history is that pretty much every Christian knew this anyway.

Thomas Renz said...

Heidi, it may be “crystal clear” to us that Psalm 110 implies that “Kind David and all his successors” were priests according to the order of Melchizedek (so Pitre, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, 137). Indeed among modern scholars there is pretty much a consensus on this, see, e.g., the section “The King as Priest after the order of Melchizedek” in John Day’s essay “The Canaanite Inheritance of the Israelite Monarchy,” in King and Messiah in Israel and the Ancient Near East: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar (1998), 73-75.

But it is by no means clear that readers in antiquity read the texts in this way. Melchizedek was a significant figure in Second Temple Judaism. He was written about as a mysterious person of the distant past, as an eschatological figure and as a heavenly figure (Eric Mason, 'You Are a Priest Forever': Second Temple Jewish Messianism and the Priestly Christology of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Leiden: Brill, 2008). But I am not aware of any evidence that his priesthood was considered a pattern for David’s in any of these writings.

Augustine does not write about the Aaronic and the Melchizedekian priesthood as functioning alongside each other. Cf. City of God, Book XVI, chap. 22 (, where he goes straight from the first Melchizedek to Christ via the prophecy in Psalm 110, without reference to a succession of Melchizedekian priests in between.

Similarly, Chrysostom, in his exposition of Hebrews, is adamant that Psalm 110 speaks about none than the incarnate Son of God. “What man is King of Righteousness and of Peace? None, save only our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Homily XII at

In the light of this I find it impossible to accept that the reason we cannot find any explicit statement to say that Kind David and all his successors were priests according to the order of Melchizedek within the first one and a half millennia of Christian history is that pretty much every Christian knew this anyway.

Thomas Renz said...

I have found evidence for an ancient Jewish belief that Psalm 110 applied to Hezekiah. This is what we read in chap 33 of Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho

Justin: And I am not ignorant that you venture to expound this psalm as if it referred to king Hezekiah; but that you are mistaken, I shall prove to you from these very words immediately. 'The Lord has sworn, and will not repent,' it is said; and, 'You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek,' with what follows and precedes. Not even you will venture to object that Hezekiah was either a priest, or is the everlasting priest of God; but that this is spoken of our Jesus, these expressions show. But your ears are shut up, and your hearts are made dull. For by this statement, 'The Lord has sworn, and will not repent: You are a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek,' with an oath God has shown Him (on account of your unbelief) to be the High Priest after the order of Melchizedek; i.e., as Melchizedek was described by Moses as the priest of the Most High, and he was a priest of those who were in uncircumcision, and blessed the circumcised Abraham who brought him tithes, so God has shown that His everlasting Priest, called also by the Holy Spirit Lord, would be Priest of those in uncircumcision. Those too in circumcision who approach Him, that is, believing Him and seeking blessings from Him, He will both receive and bless. And that He shall be first humble as a man, and then exalted, these words at the end of the Psalm show: 'He shall drink of the brook in the way,' and then, 'Therefore shall He lift up the head.'

Cf. Tertullian, Against Marcion, book V, chap. 9.

Thomas Renz said...

If, however, some Jews specifically argued that Hezekiah was addressed in Psalm 110, we must assume that it was not generally believed among them that all Davidic kings were Melchizedekian priests. And Justin and Tertullian are clearly unwilling to accept an application of the psalm even to a faithful king like Hezekiah.

There is a lot of sense in the interpretation Hahn offers but it cannot claim to be the historic position of the Church. I know of no evidence that it even existed as a minority view prior to the rise of modern biblical scholarship.

Susan Moore said...

Part 1 of 3.
Now I know why the Lord taught me not to assume anything about anybody, but to ask questions, instead.
I forgot how little you understand about me, my apologies. I know as a nurse I have to correctly address the acuity of the problem when I triage someone. As a catechetic teacher I suspect that you are expected to correctly identify the level of spiritual growth of the person you are addressing, or refer them to someone who can if you are not able. I should have mentioned that the living Word has already led me to conquer self-cutting (1982), benzodiazepine and alcohol dependencies (1984 and 1990), anorexia nervosa (2000), catastrophic thinking patterns (2001) and panic attacks (2004). I’ve learned, at least 6 times over, that scripture is true, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:7-8a). That is what Jesus taught us when He resisted the devil in the desert by quoting scripture to Him: the devil is repelled by the Word.

Although my flesh is not the devil’s, the devil is sometimes permitted by God to use our unhealthy cravings and wayward desires to lead us into idolatry, as what happened to me. By sticking with Jesus and following Him, I stay clear of both that unhealthy stuff and idolatry. In that way I sacrifice what has been my unhealthy fallen human desires by trading them in for a life following Christ and loving Him above all created things, and, because my miraculous healing 5.75 years ago allowed me to enter community, I now have the opportunity to love others as I love myself; and to worship and serve Him continually within that love and joy.

Susan Moore said...

Part 2 of 3.
Sure, all that has taught me to live in moderation and I do. I also fast, but not to teach myself moderation, but to add emphasis to certain prayer by making me even more aware of my dependency on Him. His words and works go together, so I want mine to go together, too. By fasting I demonstrate to Him that I mean what I say; something is really that important to me, and I long for His intercession.

All those readings you shared will be interesting for academic reasons once I understand in school the context in which they were written. But for my personal life, Augustine and all those Catholic people, past or present, weren’t there in person when I was tortured repeatedly over a period of a year by the cult people as a five year old, or when I was raped repeatedly over a period of several months as a 9 year old, or when our farmhouse burnt down when I was 16, or when my grandma died in my arms when I was 16, when my God-sister committed suicide when I was 22, or when all the other things happened, let alone when I was psychotic for 38 years (Gee, I wonder why)…But you know who was there? Jesus was there. With me, in person. Holding me, sitting with me, speaking to me. And then, after all that, He miraculously healed me of the psychosis.

Susan Moore said...

Part 3 of 3.
When He healed me the constant hallucinations immediately ceased, a linear memory replaced the circumstantial one, and time took on meaning. I slept and had no more nightmares. The hallucinatory panic halted. The distorted body image vanished; and for the first time in my adult life I saw what I actually looked like and began to eat without remorse. There was no longer any reasons to even consider harming myself. After having no side effects from the medications, the medications suddenly had an immediate gravely toxic effect on me and I dumped them down the toilet…

He knows me and I know Him. He’s living and real and right here with me watching me type this. He’s the one true God who saved me and healed me –so why would I be interested in less?
I appreciate your interest, but unless you would like to help me grow by interpreting what He says correctly into your own words, thanks, anyway. (Because in my way of thinking, if you can’t do that then you must not know Him well enough -so why should I trust you? But if you want to give it a try, go for it, no harm will come. I fear nothing, I know my Shepherd’s voice.)

heidi said...

Dear Thomas,
Yes, I agree that the absence of direct connection between Mel. and David in all likelihood could not be attributed exclusively to the polemic against the Melchizedekians or against the Jews that was being waged. However, it is clear that the earliest Christian writers recognized at least the following explicitly:
1. Melchiz held a God anointed priest/kingship of Salem
2. David was a priest/king of Jerusalem
3. There were only two orders of priesthood under YHWH: Aaronic and Melch.
4. The Mel. priesthood outranks the Aaronic as Abraham offered the tithe for the Levites.
5. Christ was the ultimate fulfillment (which is not to say the ONLY title holder) of the Mel. priesthood
6. Christ's Melchizedekian priesthood was proffered to him by David in Ps. 110

While implicit, it is still very clear that the early christian writers knew David was a Mel. priest. Why this connection is not made explicit must be explainable from historical reasons. From what Evans points out in his work on David, it is possible that David as cultic figure was simply not of interest by the time of the early Christians. The focus of these early Christian apologists was on Christ as priest, and rightly so. It must have been the case that the anti jewish polemic wasn't concerned with establishing an argument for David as priest- the focus of the polemic was Christ's right to the priesthood once and for all.

"However, by the mid-second century BCE, when the Jerusalem temple had achieved unquestioned supremacy among Jews and thus needed no traditional legitimation, the theme of David as cult founder proved of little interest. It is possible, too, that after the Hasmoneans took control of the temple, they would have been content to down-play this image of David, since it was closely related to Davidic rule, a tradition at odds with the Hasmonean dynasty. In any case, after the second century BCE, the tradition of David as cult founder all but vanishes....
Evans, C. A. (2004). Of scribes and sages : early Jewish interpretation and transmission of Scripture: Ancient Versions and Traditions. (Vol. 50–51; 9–10, p. 43). London: T & T Clark International.

First, it is clear that during the early Jewish period there was a lively interest in the biblical figure David. Moreover, not all the images of David are equally represented. The images of David as psalmist, prophet, and man of piety and righteousness are the most frequently attested; the images of progenitor of the messiah, founder of the Jerusalem cult, and exorcist the least. "
(ibid 45)

Susan Moore said...

Pastor Renz,
Thank you, again, for your very clear answer!
In my own life after spending the first 17 years in the Catholic church, I was churchless until 2001, when I was 40. After that I practiced going to a non-denominational church, but the psychosis increased when I went, so that was a hindrance. But after God healed me I have spent chunks of time in non-denominational (cessationistic and non-cessationistic), Southern Baptist, Disciples of Christ, Assemblies of God, some Methodist, Congregationalist (I think), some Lutheran. Then God led me back to my Catholic family last October, 10 months ago. Last month I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree from a Wesleyan school. Now here I am, in a Catholic graduate school. I actually have no complaints because it has all been a tremendous learning opportunity for me, both personally and theologically, and I am sure I will continue to learn in those ways. God is only good!

I have to say I grew weary, going from denomination to denomination, of the different definitions of truth. How many ways and lives and truths are there?

On the other hand, moving with a group as large as the Catholic body can illicit impatience at times, but then I remember how much patience people have had to have with me as I have grown. I think it’s like a huge orchestra, and God has written the music, and the Pope is the conductor. We’re practicing for the big performance, it seems, and God will be present. We want to play well. It’s rather exciting to realize that that special day, when He returns, will actually come, and we will all have the opportunity to stand before Him with our accuser. Revenge is sweet.

heidi said...

Hi Thomas,
Yes, I came across this in the ACC. Bergsma mentioned the Hezekiah connection in one of his classes. I think the link was that many of the Jews believed the Isaiah 9 ff prophesies to refer to Hezekiah. However, as Bergsma says, "the shoes of the Messiah were too big for Hezekiah to ultimately fulfill".
Anyway, this could be a possible explanation for the conspicuous absence of direct connection between David and Mel in the father's writings. It stands to reason that they would stay away from exploring David or any other provisional fulfillment of the Melchizedekian priesthood. I would suggest that their argument needed to stay focused on Christ precisely for the reason that the Jews were too eager to have the prophesies interpreted in favor of another Davidic heir.
Logos has a "Fathers of the Church" series that is crazy expensive but I would love to cross reference it.
Maybe next year.
You've taught me a lot here in this dialogue. And it has led me to a lot of good research I had not explored.
I thank you for sharing your critical and exacting standards.

heidi said...

Hello Susan,

No, I will not be " interpreting what He says correctly into your own words, " any time soon.
The authority of interpretation is for the magisterium.
The wisdom of the saints is for all ages, times and places. Suffering is not unique to Susan and I think you would understand that better after reading the lives of some of the saints.
It is hubris to set yourself spiritually apart from 2000 years of saints because you think your suffering in some way has exempted you from the ongoing effects of original sin and concupiscence.
Everybody suffers. Everybody needs the wisdom of the Church and her saints- those who have been victorious in this battle.
What was good for them is good for us.
All of us.

With a blessing,

Susan Moore said...

Sister, do you realize that the way you read into what I don't say, and how effortlessly and hatefully you twist my words around would put any good protestant to shame? Your loathing for anyone that doesn't agree with you seeps out of your every word. (Said tongue in cheek about the Protestants, nothing against the protestants, merely said from a protestant phobia Catholic point of view. Please be assured, it's not the only Catholic point of view, for the Pope himself is reconciling with Protestants. He is a man after God's own heart. Amen.)

Heidi said...

Peace be to you.
In Christ,

Susan Moore said...

Dr. Bergsma,
Cannot a Catholic, with a Catholic understanding of the Bible, use scripture and one's own words to disciple another?

Thomas Renz said...

@Susan: what a story – God bless!

@Heidi: the article you cite by Kenneth E. Pomykala in Of Scribes and Sages seems to confirm that even where in early Judaism David was recognised as founder of the Jerusalem cult he was not spoken of as a priest and so suggests that the idea of all Davidic kings having been priests according to the order of Melchizedek wasn’t on the horizon in the world of early Christianity. It was evidently possible to acknowledge the responsibilities of Davidic kings for the worship in Jerusalem and to allow them the exercise of some priestly functions without claiming that they were priest-kings who belonged to the order of Melchizedek. See, e.g., even much later Thomas Aquinas on Samuel in his exposition of Hebrews 7 (

Julius Africanus in affirming that both genealogies of Jesus in the Gospels relate to descent from the royal tribe of Judah writes: “For if Nathan was a prophet, so also was Solomon, and so too the father of both of them [King David]; and there were prophets belonging to many of the tribes, but priests belonging to none of the tribes, save the Levites only.” (Epistle to Aristides)

In the same vein, even as recently as just over 100 years ago John Corbett’s "King David" entry in The Catholic Encyclopedia (1908) states that “David was not merely king and ruler, he was also a prophet” without saying a word about him being a priest (according to the order of Melchizedek).

Of course there are at least some patristic writers who recognise a priestly role for David but this was evidently not quite the same as speaking of him as a priest-king for which you would find little evidence in catholic writings prior to the 20th century.

Thus when Augustine claims that in eating the show bread David “represented the part of the priest, although [!] he was patently a king” he does not combine the two offices or suggest that David was as much a priest as he was a king (in the way we would say of Christ or, indeed, Melchizedek). As far as I can see Augustine does not argue, as Pitre seems to, that in reality it was “lawful” for David to eat the bread because David was, after all, a priest. I suggest that Augustine distinguishes between a typology of events and a typology of offices.

Thomas Renz said...

I cannot read historic Christian commentaries on Psalm 110 or Hebrews 7 without coming to the conclusion that they would read differently if its authors had accepted that all Davidic kings were priests according to the order of Melchizedek. I suggest that if one’s logic demands that Augustine, Chrysostom and Thomas Aquinas shared the view of Hahn and Pitre on this, there must be something wrong with one’s logic. because it clearly doesn’t fit the evidence.

Similarly, would Origen have been able to distinguish between clergy who may be said to be priests according to the order of Aaron and Christ who alone is priest according to the order of Melchizedek, if it had been generally accepted that Davidic kings (and their associates or representatives) were priests according to the order of Melchizedek?

But those who devote themselves to the divine word and have no other employment but the service of God may not unnaturally, allowing for the difference of occupation in the two cases, be called our levites and priests. And those who fulfil a more distinguished office than their kinsmen will perhaps be high-priests, according to the order of Aaron, not that of Melchisedek. Here some one may object that it is somewhat too bold to apply the name of high-priests to men, when Jesus Himself is spoken of in many a prophetic passage as the one great priest, as Hebrews 4:14 We have a great high-priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God. But to this we reply that the Apostle clearly defined his meaning, and declared the prophet to have said about the Christ, You are a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedek, and not according to the order of Aaron. We say accordingly that men can be high-priests according to the order of Aaron, but according to the order of Melchisedek only the Christ of God.

Commentary on the Gospel of John, book I, 3 (

Susan Moore said...

Part 1 of 3.
Do you know that kid’s game, “You’re getting hotter?” It is played by one kid (the ‘subject’) thinking of an object that can be seen in the immediate environment, and then another kid (the ‘predicate’) guesses at what the object is by walking slowly towards an arbitrary object. If the predicate happens to be walking closer to the subject’s object, the subject says, “You’re getting hotter!” If the predicate is walking away from the subject’s object, the subject says, “You’re getting colder!” Eventually, by following the leads of the subject, the predicate attaches itself to the right object.

Remember that in this meta-language, the meaning of key words change from representing a physical thing in a temporal position, to representing a spiritual ‘thing’ in an eternal position, and that God makes those changes in word meaning slowly over time in the original languages of the Bible (when the writings of the Bible are in the order of the events being written about; Genesis to Revelation), by transposing newer spiritual meanings over older physical meanings, with the original physical meaning never being lost. Along the way, because the meaning of key words slowly change, there can be confusion in the reader.

Susan Moore said...

Part 2 of 3.
In regards to getting closer to the linguistic metalanguage, Dr. Renz post is getting hotter. Allow me the grace to edit it in a way that will bring out God’s meta-language for clearer understanding on how He is changing the meaning of the word ‘priest’:
The last 3 sentences,
“We have a great high-priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God. But to this we reply that the Apostles clearly defined his meaning, and declared the prophet to have said about the Christ, You are a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedek, and not according to the order of Aaron. We say accordingly that [mortal] men can be high-priests according to the order of Aaron, but according to the order of Melchisedek only the Christ of God [and the chosen people, the royal priesthood, the holy nation; the people belonging to God (1 Pet. 2:9)].

Susan Moore said...

Part 3 of 3.
The meta-language does not change any of the contexts that people like to study, like the historical and cultural contexts. It was written into the Bible as the way God uses to describe to mortals the invisible eternal world so that we can ‘see’ (perceive, recognize, identify and comprehend) spiritual Truth. Without that linguistic arrangement, we would only know God through general revelation.

Any Christian group’s religious doctrine, or any individual religious writing, tells us where that group or author is in their spiritual journey, because it brings out where they are in their understanding in the linguistic metalanguage of God. Because we grow, over time, until we are glorified in heaven, if the doctrines and ideas do no grow, then it is a possibility that spiritual growth has been arrested. In a church, individual members may continue to grow, leave that church, and look for or start another church that is more in keeping with their new, more spiritual understanding. A belief that does not attach itself somewhere to that linguistic meta-language, and its corresponding themes, is an aberrant belief.

Sorry, that was a lot to swallow in one bite, but I have school all day. God bless.

Thomas Renz said...


I am not sure I understand what you want to do with your additions. Do you want to bring out what you believe Origen really meant or do you suggest that because the Church has grown in her understanding since then, a revision of Origen's words can reflect what we now know to be true?

The latter does not address my point that the biblical-theological understanding of royal priesthood as presented by Hahn and Pitre among others includes innovative elements which had been explictly denied in traditional exegesis of the relevant passages (see above on Hezekiah or the quote from Chrysostom).

The former would be a very bold move and would require some firm evidence to confirm that this was indeed Origen's meaning.

Susan Moore said...

The linguistic meta-language has nothing to do with interpreting Origen, Hahn or Pitre; instead, apparently without realizing it, Origen, Hahn and Pitre (and all humans) interpret scripture based on their own understanding of how the key word they are studying is used by God. Their understanding reveals where each person is in their own spiritual growth, and is the place that God hooks into and continues to grow the person to be more like Him.

That is why there can seem to be as many correct interpretations of one passage, based on each person's understanding of the key word and, ultimately, to reach a perfect understanding of a passage, the key word has to be understood and applied correctly for where God is using it in the continuum of meanings from referring to a physical person in a temporal position, to finally referring to a spiritual 'thing' in an eternal position.

Sorry, I realize this may be a different way to look at scripture, must go to class now. Explain more later.


Susan Moore said...

Dr. Renz,
Do you know any other languages besides English?
If you do, which ones and how well do you know them?

Susan Moore said...

Dr. Renz,
Also, have you ever taken any linguistics classes?
(I don't mean applied linguistics, like Spanish, French, etc...I'm asking you about your background in applied linguistics in the question above, in the previous blog response).
I mean an intro to linguistics class, morphology, syntax, etc. A class that looks at the concept of language as a whole as a human behavior/phenomena.
And, do you have any background in language mapping?
And, 3rd question, are you familiar with the term "meta-language"?
Ok, time for another class. Bye for now.

Thomas Renz said...

@Susan: I am a native German and my first foreign language was French. Along with English these are the only modern languages I have learned and my French is poor. Among the ancient languages I learned Latin, Greek, Hebrew and a bit of Aramaic/Syriac.

Thomas Renz said...

@Susan: Yes to all the other questions. And I know a little bit about semiotics and about different schools of theological interpretation.

Susan Moore said...

Dr. Renz,
Thank you and awesome. Too tired to think right now. Let me recover and tomorrow I'll see if I can start explaining/describing what I am seeing.
Thanks much for your ear and interest.
P.S. When we start this 'conversation' it might be best, at first, to take off your theological hat and just wear your linguistic one. It seems people who can't do that jump to theological conclusions, and the wrong ones at that, before they understand/see what I'm trying to explain/describe.

Susan Moore said...

Dr. Renz,
Please be patient with me, I have decided to go at this by a different route, one I haven’t tried before. But to do that I would like to make sure we are on the same page in regards to vocabulary meanings. In order to do that, I would like to ask you some more questions.
1.What is your definition of biblical theme; What is a biblical theme?
2.What scriptural variables must be present in order to correctly discern that any particular biblical theme is presenting itself in scripture?
3. Please give me an example of a biblical theme (please name it as well, for purposes of our referencing it easier), with the scriptural beginnings and endings. If the beginnings and endings are not exact, that’s ok, this is to make sure I am seeing what you are seeing in respect to ‘themes’; that we are on the same page. If you have time, giving me 2-3 examples would be even better.
Thanks and blessings,

heidi said...

Hello Thomas,

Pomykala's summation in no way suggests "Davidic kings having been priests according to the order of Melchizedek wasn’t on the horizon in the world of early Christianity". His article considers the focus of Davidic images in ancient Judaism. David as priest had faded into the background of interest in the second temple period, but that is not to say that David as priest was an 'unknown horizon to the early Christians. '

Julius Africanus' statement " but priests belonging to none of the tribes, save the Levites only" is manifestly false. Scripture plainly states in Ps 110, Gen, and Hebrews that Mel was a priest with no Levitical documents to show his lineage. He was also wrong about Susanna not being sacred scripture. We can't accuse all the fathers of sharing Africanus' interpretive oversights.

Regarding psalm 110, I agree with you that there is no reason to believe that all the "authors had accepted that all Davidic kings were priests according to the order of Melchizedek". It seems to me that you are looking for evidence that they believed "all Davidic kings" were priests. I think this is where the theory gets hazy and I agree with you that the father's testimony does not supply any additional understanding of this aspect (how or if it was a hereditary privilege). There is no internal or external testimony about how exactly the Melchizedekian priesthood functioned. Pitre's theory is that it was an honorary priesthood inherited by the king of Jerusalem and so automatically passed down from David to his successors. While I agree that this is plausible, it is true that there is no patristic witness of this aspect (all of David's successors also being priests). However, we do know that David's sons were priests (and I know the targumic 'chief officer' adaptation of this word but that obfuscation is motivated, like the targumic obscuring of the word "melchizadeck" in psalm 110 by anti Christian polemics). If David was not a priest, (or only 'acted like a priest' as you seem to suggest) then how is it that his sons are counted as priests? In fact, its only under the rubric of David exercising the Mel priesthood that 2 Sam 8:15 is comprehensible (without doing violence to the text and saying it doesn't actually mean priest). Additionally, what about Ira? This I would suggest is evidence that David could deputize his priesthood (and that he had a priesthood).

heidi said...

Thomas (2)

IRA (Heb. ‘îrā’). 1. A Jairite, described as ‘David’s priest’ (2 Sa. 20:26), a difficult description to understand, as he was not of the tribe of Levi. "
Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

Whether Corbett understands David's reign comprehensively or not is irrelevant in light of the fact that apparently the fathers of the church do see David as priest. Corbett also does not mention David as exorcist, although patently obvious in scripture. There is good reason Hahn saw the need (as did others) for a new CBD.

You also say some of the fathers mention David in a priestly role, but "evidently not quite the same as speaking of him as a priest-king". What 'evident' basis do have for making this rather sweeping assumption?

Last time I checked, acting like a priest without actually being a priest is frowned upon by YHWH (1 sam 13:8 ff). Do you think the fathers of the church were unaware of that fact when they wrote about David as priest? More importantly, immediately after Samuel speaks judgement upon Saul for acting as a priest without priestly authority, Samuel makes reference to God appointing one after God's own heart as Saul's successor. It is absolutely untenable that in this context Samuel could be talking about another king who would repeat the same offense Saul is being cursed for. No, David acts in the role of priest because God has anointed him priest and it is not reasonable to suggest that the fathers couldn't connect these dots.

Augustine's comment that you refer to in no way obscures David as priest. Rather by the use of the word 'patently' , I think it could be argued that Augustine is referring to David's first and most obvious role was that as king- but in the context of Nob, David was acting from his less obvious (not so patent) role as priest.

"As David’s son, Christ is testified to in Scripture as both king and priest by David’s kingship and priestly act of eating the show bread (AUGUSTINE)"

CASSIODORUS: When David was fleeing from Saul, he came to the priest Abimelech. He was received by him and obtained the loaves of proposition and the sword with which he had slain Goliath. The loaves of proposition denoted his role as priest

Augustine: In so doing, he acted in the role not of a king only, but of a priest too, because he ate the bread of the presence which “it was unlawful for anyone other than the priests to eat,”...

"Similarly David embodies both king and priest, like one man with a dual personality, though the human race is one"

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel (p. 299). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

heidi said...

Thomas (3)
You say there must be something wrong with the logic of Hahn and Pitre because their logic doesn't "fit the evidence". Let's look at their logic and the evidence.

1. Every Israelite Priest was from either the line of Aaron (Levite) or from the line of Melchizedek .....
2. David was an Israelite Priest .....(inductive reasoning)
3. David was not from the line of Aaron .....
4. If David was an Israelite Priest, then he was either from the line of Aaron (Levite) or from the line of Melchizedek ..... 1, Universal Instantiation
5. David was either from the line of Aaron or from the line of Melchizedek ..... 2,4 Modus Ponens
6. David was from the line of Melchizedek ..... 3,5 Disjunctive Syllogism
7. David was an Israelite Priest from the line of Melchizedek ..... 2,6 Conjunction

The next argument, which will be centered around the beliefs of the Church Fathers. We will conveniently refer to the previous argument by the name A1.

1. If anyone believes the premises of an argument, then they at least believe that argument's conclusion implicitly ..... (Assumption 1)
2. To hold another belief, implicitly or explicitly, in contradiction with any other implicit or explicit belief is to be inconsistent..... (Assumption 2)
3. The Church Fathers believed (explicitly) the premises of A1 ..... (*Augustine: David embodies both king and priest*)
4. If anyone believes the premises of A1, then they at least believe A1's conclusion implicitly..... 1, Universal Instantiation
5. If the Church Fathers believed the premises of A1, then they at least believed A1's conclusion implicitly ..... 4 Universal Instantiation
6. The Church Fathers at least believed A1's conclusion implicitly ..... 3,5 Modus Ponens
7. If the Church Fathers held another belief, implicitly or explicitly, in contradiction with any other implicit or explicit belief then they were inconsistent ..... 2 Universal Instantiation
8. If the Church Fathers believed the conclusion of A1, implicitly or explicitly, and yet did not believe the conclusion of A1 then they were inconsistent ..... 7 Universal Instantiation
9. The Church Fathers did not believe explicitly or implicitly in the conclusion of A1 ..... Assumption Conditional Proof
10. The Church Fathers believed in the conclusion of A1 either implicitly or explicitly, and did not believe in the conclusion of A1 implicitly or explicitly ...... 6,9 Conjunction
11. The Church Fathers were inconsistent ..... 8,10 Modus Ponens
12. If the Church Fathers did not believe explicitly or implicitly in the conclusion of A1, then they were inconsistent ..... 9-11 Conditional Proof

heidi said...

This exercise (albeit pedantic) in formal logic, shows that Hahn's logic squares with the evidence. What doesn't square logically with Hahn's conclusions is your interpretation of the 'evidence" because you seem unwilling to take the father's words literally. When Augustine says 'David embodies both king and priest" are we to think that Augustine doesn't see David as a true king but only 'acting in the role of king' ? Hardly. So there is no reason to apply a schizophrenic hermeneutic to the second half of his statement.

There are many historical reasons that could account for the absence of an explicit Melchizadeck/David statement among the fathers. The first reason I suggested is that in the commentaries on Ps 110, the object of the polemic is anti melchiz and anti jewish. There would hardly be a reason to dote on David's priesthood when this would only cloud their direct purpose which was reasoning to Jesus being the fulfillment of the promise of Ps 110.
Another very important factor is that the extant writings of the fathers do not exhaust what must have been written but is no longer extant. Hence, we are unable to corroborate many points of systematic theology with the fathers. This absence of evidence can not be held to be positive evidence that the father's did not agree with a point of theology or biblical exegesis.
Finally, silence is no way proves a negative position. Any positive evidence, even if reasoned to inductively, is still positive evidence.

"An argument from silence proves nothing".

With a blessing,

Thomas Renz said...

@Susan: I never saw any need for defining what constitutes a “theme” in biblical theology, let alone beginnings and endings of such a theme in Scripture. Nor do I think of our discussion here in terms of “theme” (priesthood). These are semantic and exegetical and logical questions.

E.g., because not everyone who is called “father” in the sense of “spiritual fatherhood” is a priest, therefore one cannot deduce from the expression “father to Pharaoh” that Joseph was a priest, especially because Joseph is described as fulfilling administrative, advisory and executive roles which warrant the title “father”. For me this is a linguistic question, not a question about whether the theme “priesthood” is present in Genesis 45.

E.g., Eliakim may well have been from a priestly family – this is exegetically plausible because of his father’s name albeit not finally conclusive – but as it can be shown that other royal stewards were not from a priestly family, his name cannot be an argument for claiming that the Royal Steward of the house of David must have been a priest. This is a logical point, not a question about whether I am willing to see the theme “priesthood” in Isaiah 22.

Thomas Renz said...

@Heidi: Pomykala does not say that the tradition of David as priest faded into the background but the tradition of David as cult founder. This is a critical difference. It would be worthwhile to read or re-read R. de Vaux’s discussion of the biblical evidence, see He allows that the king could be called a priest but he argues that the Israelite king was not “a priest in the strict sense”. He was more “the patron of the priesthood”. This seems to reflect the traditional Christian view better than the ascription of Melchizedek’s priesthood to kings prior to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Your assumption that I am only arguing from silence suggests to me that you have not actually read, e.g., Augustine on Psalm 110 or Thomas Aquinas on Hebrews 7, apart from the fact that you ignore or dismiss the positive evidence I have cited, e.g. Chrysostom: “None save only our Lord Jesus Christ”.

As he discusses the divergences of Jesus' genealogy from David onwards, Julius Africanus must refer to priesthood under the Mosaic covenant. The Church Fathers speak of two orders, yes, but they speak of the priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek as belonging to primeval times and to the new covenant. I do not think you will find a statement from any Church Father to say that the two orders co-existed under the old covenant. In other words, the idea that there was an Israelite priest in the line of Mechizedek other than the Lord Jesus Christ is foreign to the tradition.

By the way, it’s in the Bible itself that “David’s sons were priests” is rendered as “David’s sons were the chief officials in the service of the king” (1 Chronicles 18:17) and there are still people today who argue that “priest” should be understood in this sense in those contexts, including with regard to Ira the Jairite. (Some ancient versions connect Ira with the priestly town of Jattir, see Josh 21:14. It is not clear to me why Ira cannot be a Levite, nor how "priest to David" can mean "priest as David's representative"). But if you want to use these verses as evidence, the question at hand must be “ how were these verses read in traditional exegesis?” not how do you and I read them.

Blessings, Thomas

Susan Moore said...

Dr. Renz,
Sorry, I'm no longer on that discussion about David, etc..., I was asking you about something not meant to be related, (but I guess it can't help but seem related because it is still using scriptural words. You could have picked another theme though, it didn't have to be priest or king.) I'll leave that desired discussion for another time. Sorry to confuse...
Abundant blessings,

Thomas Renz said...

Regarding Augustine, I am not confident that David prefiguring Christ’s priestly as well as royal role and so acting like a priest as well as being a king requires us, or rather compelled Augustine himself, to think of him as a priest in that sense that he had to be either a Levite or in line with Melchizedek – and not only because no Church Father ever speaks of an Israelite priest according to the order of Melchizedek other than our Lord Jesus Christ. No, also because the workings of typology in Augustine (and others) can be quite complex, see the discussion of the use of Abimelech (with a b) rather than Ahimelech (as in the book of Samuel) in the exposition of Pslm 51 (52) from which the ACCS cites.

It is worth reading this exposition in context, see (and the editorial footnotes are worth reading, especially fn 11).

The same goes for the other citation in ACCS, from Augustine’s Gospel Harmony. See Does not Augustine here say that Christ brings the two figures of priest and king together which previously had been separate? Cf. his interpretation of the (five loaves) and two fishes in the twenty-fourth homily on John.

Susan Moore said...

Dr. Bergsma,
Eureka!! Is that true? That biblical themes are not currently defined within beginning and ending verses? If that is true, then therein lies the problem as to why the linguistic meta-language has gone unnoticed for so long. If that is the case, then how on earth were themes even noticed at all? This is amazing to me. I’m assuming I use the word ‘theme’ the same way the current theologians do.

Thomas Renz said...

@Susan 4:37PM: That's fine. I was using the examples from our discussion here to illustrate this is not a matter of "theme" for me. Heidi may disagree; I don't know. Maybe she would argue that once we have found the thread of a theme (say, a girdle which we consider to be priestly because the only uniforms described to us in the Scriptures are those of priests), we are free to see further priestly resonances wherever we find some way of connecting dots ("father" to a priest somewhere who is called "father", "son of Hilkiah" to a pirest somewhere who is called Hilkiah). If so, this just doesn't look to me like reasonable exegesis.

@Susan 4:50PM: I don't think I have any idea what you're talking about here.

Thomas Renz said...

On the New Advent site Augustine's homilies on the Gospel of John are called tractates. Here is the link:

"And as for the two fishes, they appear to us to signify those two sublime persons, in the Old Testament, of priest and of ruler, who were anointed for the sanctifying and governing of the people. And at length Himself in the mystery came, who was signified by those persons: He at length came who was pointed out by the pith of the barley, but concealed by its husk. He came, sustaining in His one person the two characters of priest and ruler: of priest by offering Himself to God as a victim for us; of ruler, because by Him we are governed."

heidi said...

Hello Thomas,
Yes, I agree with De Vaux and I think his book is very thoroughly researched. I understand your meaning in the sense he illustrates. True, there were certain priestly actions that the king was able to participate in. However, Saul in Gilgal is overstepping even the pre exilic limits. David's eating of the showbread was a strictly sacerdotal function as well. I also agree that most of the 'intrusions' over the state religion that David makes do not make him a priest in the strict sense. But isn't De Vaux's position on ps 110 that this is precisely the sense in which Mel. was a priest/king (ie. not a priest in the strict sense)?

I did read Augustine on 110 and St. Thomas on Heb. (as well as noting what Chrysostom says). I do not think it is radical to suggest that they are speaking in terms of final fulfillment and not provisional.

From the Expo on the psalms link you provided, fn 11 supports, in my view, the literal sense of "David et corpus ipsum regis et sacerdotis". Augustine's two bodies' contrast explores the spiritual sense derived from the literal sense- not a spiritual sense intended to disabuse us of the literal sense.
Augustine's typological interpretations, even of psalm 51, do not altogether throw out the literal sense, but work from it.

In Augustine's homily (re the link from newadv that you gave), are we to think he is forgetting that Melchizedek embodied both persons before Christ? Or can we assume that Augustine is not forgetting what he so eloquently elaborated in his expo on ps 110 but rather in this homily is pointing to Christ as embodying the fulfillment of both these two 'people' or 'roles' 'types' 'shadows' ? That is to say, Augustine here can not be accused of meaning that Christ was the first person to ever embody both roles- but He was the perfection of that embodiment.

Finally, I am in agreement with you on Susan's 'theme' ideas in that I do not understand a word she says and have told her before that I view her psychological musings as incoherent stream of consciousness nonsense.

With a blessing,

Susan Moore said...

It’s ok, no worries. I look forward to having that conversation with you, if not in this life, then the next.

In the meantime, please protect your gentle heart –it’s where God lives. Jesus protected His own heart, yes? Remember, a plant is identified by its fruit. A good tree gives good fruit, a bad tree gives bad fruit. A good (plant) cannot give bad fruit, and a bad (plant) cannot give good fruit. Please remember that, for a little while, the weeds (the unloving people) are permitted to grow with the wheat (the loving people). Most importantly, please always remember that His body is only loving; it only gives good fruit. It is never abusive; that come's from bad fruit. Always walk away from bad fruit, no matter how mesmerizing, flavorful, and tempting it looks: it is a lie (Remember Adam and Eve’s mistake!). Don’t eat of the bad fruit, it will make your heart sick.

It seems there are two types of ‘Christian’ heretics; ones that give intentionally wrong teachings, and ones that are intentionally unloving towards others: both are weeds.

Love in Christ,

Thomas Renz said...

@Susan: Love in Christ to you as well.

@Heidi: I do not think you agree with R. de Vaux regarding the significance of David eating the showbread. R. de Vaux claims: “Anointing did not confer on the king a priestly character…but it did make him a sacred person, with a special relationship to Yahweh, and in solemn circumstances he could act as the religious head of the people. But he was not a priest in the strict sense.” (Also, he links the continence required here with holy war, p258, cf. 465.)

(I would add, as I have said before, that Leviticus says that the show bread belongs to “Aaron and his sons” not to “the priests” which could then be interpreted as either in the line of Aaron or Melchizedek. I see problems elsewhere as well where arguments about the priesthood of Melchizedek are made with appeal to regulations about the Aaronide priesthood, e.g. it would have to be demonstrated rather than assumed that they were dressed the same.)

Whether or not one agrees with de Vaux on anointing, he makes a good case for saying that the Davidic king “was not a priest in the strict sense” and it is this fact which makes the logic you outlined dubious because for the logic to work “priest” must be understood in the same sense in the various propositions.

R. de Vaux nevertheless allows that the Davidic king could be addressed as “priest” because he reads Psalm 110 as an enthronement psalm rather than an exclusively messianic psalm. He acknowledges that this is not how the psalm was read in “all Christian tradition” (p109). He is in fact the first RC scholar of which I am aware who allows an application of Psalm 110 to Davidic kings other than Jesus. He may well not have been the very first but I’d be surprised if you find one prior to Vatican II.

Thomas Renz said...

I struggle to read “none save our only Lord Jesus Christ” (Chrysostom) as meaning “all Davidic kings but finally and supremely our Lord Jesus Christ”. And of course this is not a question of an isolated sentence which I merely cite by way of convenience but of the whole thrust of the exposition of these passages by the Church Fathers.

Augustine is not forgetting Melchizedek; he has the arrangement under the old covenant in mind. Could he really say that the two roles of king and priest which had previously been separate come together in Christ (I am referring to the co-text of the ACCS citation from the Gospel Harmony), if he believed that the two roles had already truly come together in every Davidic king there ever was? I’d say R. de Vaux and Augustine agree (except that Augustine does not apply Psalm 110 to anyone other than Jesus Christ) in that they see David as king in the full sense but as “priest” only in a weak sense. The royal "priesthood" was not as a regular duty which could be delegated to the prime minister and gave a priestly aura to all temple officials.

Similarly, I struggle to read the following sentence

“If the Levitical priesthood had been perfect, by whose ministry the Law was administered, there would have been no need for another priest according to another order through which another Law is administered, just as the Old Law was administered by the Levitical. But another priest has risen according to another order, namely, of Melchizedek.”

as if Aquinas really meant to say that in Jesus Christ the concluding instantiation of a Melchizedekian priest has arisen. Also what he says about mortality in par344 would seem to me odd if he knew lots of mortal Melchizedekian priests, and it seems to me what he says about the “translation” of priesthood in par350 would have been phrased differently, if Aquinas believed that at one time the two orders co-existed.

Thomas Renz said...

And how could Aquinas use the example of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26) the way he did, if he believed that it was perfectly all right for a Davidic king to exercise all sorts of priestly functions rather than being strictly limited to specific tasks?

Thomas Renz said...

I was just about to put my copy of the Summa Theologica back on the shelve and realised that I had not added the reference: Third Part, Question 22, Article 1 "Whether It Is Fitting That Christ Should Be a Priest?"

Would it not seem logical to use as one of the evidences that yes, it is fitting because Davidic kings were priests and Jesus is a Davidic king, if that is what Aquinas believed?

Instead he writes: "Therefore, as to others, one is a lawgiver, another is a priest, another is a king; but all these come together in Christ, as the fount of all grace."

This would be a strange thing to say if Aquinas believed that Davidic kings were priest-kings. Or so it seems to me anyway.

heidi said...


I do agree with what he de Vaux says regarding king/priest relationship. What he means by ‘in the strict sense’ is that the kings of Jerusalem were not the head of the clergy (de vaux p. 377) Indeed in the last paragraph of pg. 114 which you cited he says, “The text can be explained otherwise: it could mean that the king was a priest, but in the only way in which an Israelite king could be that is in the way we have described. He was a priest in the same way as Melchisedech, who, it was thought had been king and priest in that same Jerusalem where the new king was begin enthroned. It was the starting point of the Messianic interpretation to be given to the verse in He 5:6.”
This is exactly what I mean by David being a priest- a priest after the order of Melchizedech.
DeVaux “ There can be no doubt that all the kings of Judah were consecrated in the temple and anointed by a priest” (p104)

heidi said...

In Leviticus says that the showbread belongs to “Aaron and his sons” this meant ‘high priest and his sons’ as there was technically no title for high priest (ibid 378). Obviously, God knew that Aaron and his sons were not going to be around forever to continue eating the showbread even up until the time of Christ. If the literal meaning of that phrase is the correct interpretation, then WHO exactly was eating the show bread at David’s time? The phrase logically can not mean only Aaron and his sons. Anyway, here’s how the rabbis interpreted it, and as you may note- the showbread is eaten by the priests.
LXXXIII. Mishnah-Tractate Menahot 11:9
A. The two loaves are eaten, neither earlier than two days nor later than three days after being baked.
Neusner, J. (2011). The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
A. On a festival day which comes next to a Sabbath, whether before or after it, all of the priestly watches were equal in the division of the Show-Bread.
Mishnah-Tractate Sukkah 5:7E–5:8
II.1 A. And in the division of the showbread [M. 5:7A]:
B. Our rabbis have taught on Tannaite authority:
C. How on the basis of Scripture do we know; all the priestly watches shared equally in the division of the show bread [M. 5:7A]?
D. [56A] Scripture states, “They shall have portion according to portion to eat” (Deut. 18:8).
E. Just as each has a share in the work [of making the sacrifice], so each has a share in eating the priestly portions.
F. Now what sort of “eating” is at hand?

G. If one should propose [that the allusion is to the eating of the priestly share of] the offerings themselves, that fact derives from another available verse of Scripture, “It shall belong to the priest who offers it” (Lev. 7:9). [This proves that the priest who carries out the sacrifice of an animal keeps the portions of the animal reserved for the priesthood. So Deut. 18:8 cannot be required to make that point.]
H. Therefore [the cited proof text must refer to] the Show-Bread.
Neusner, b. Sukk. 5:7a, II.1.A–H

heidi said...

I have read many other scholars who also read 110 as an enthronement psalm of David.
(Barber, Mays, Eaton). Mays says, “In the early church it was regarded as the messianic text above all others” (Mays, Psalms p. 350)

I think the early church, like Mays suggests, read it as messianic.
Tertullian gives good reason why- because of the word ‘forever’.
“Thou art a priest for ever,”20 relates to (Christ) Himself. Hezekiah was no priest; and even if he had been one, he would not have been a priest for ever.
(Against Marcion, 5.9)

heidi said...

Regarding your comment on Augustine:
Again, I would suggest that you are making sweeping statements. Augustine does not need to believe the two roles had come together in every Davidic king. But he does expressly say they have in David himself.

On the contrary, de Vaux sets the King of Judah up as a type of high priest- just outside the normal order (this is why he says ‘in the strict sense’). see 377-378. This is what he refers to throughout his work as the ‘priesthood of Jerusalem’.
As far as David delegating or giving a ‘priestly aura’ (???), de Vaux, pg. 361
“In the lists of David’s chief ministers, the sons of David are mentioned as priests…Ira the Yairite, who belonged to the clan of Manasseh is also called a priest and in spite of 1 Ch 18:17, there is no reason to think the word kohen has any other meaning in this context”

When you say you struggle to read " If the levitical priesthood hd been perfect..."

In this text he points out three things that have changed with Jesus:
new priest
new order
new law

1.David was a ‘new type of priest’ - priest/king
2. of a new order (Melchizedekian or Jerusalem priesthood as deVaux calls it)

But what David or any other human person could ever be is the inaugurator of a new law. It was this final point- the need for the new law, that having been established, the High Priest and Divine Son of David has fulfilled these OT types of priest/king in the order of Melchizedek.


Thomas Renz said...

Dear Heidi, I did not express myself clearly. The reason for citing “Aaron and his sons” was to point out that the show bread was for priests in the line of Aaron, not for priests generically.

You’re right to suggest that R. de Vaux’s reading of Psalm 110 reflects mainstream biblical scholarship. My point was that when Ancient Israel was first published (late 50s/early 60s), R. de Vaux was likely one of the first RC scholars to accept this reading, although he stresses that this does not mean that we should consider Davidic kings to have been priests in the strict sense.

Judging by what was going on in OT scholarship at the time, his implicit disagreement is with scholars who would speak of priest-kings in the fuller sense (e.g., the Myth and Ritual School, Scandinavian scholarship at the time), not with anyone who considered Davidic kings to have been Levitical priests, as I don’t know that anyone ever suggested the latter.

And so, when de Vaux speaks about the “priesthood in Jerusalem under the monarchy” (chapter seven), he talks about Ebyathar and Sadoq and the descendants of Sadoq, not about Davidic kings being priests. The section “The priest and the kings” explicitly distinguishes the two offices, while explaining what the king's role was with regard to the sanctuary. I do not think that anywhere in his work does “priesthood in Jerusalem” refer to Davidic kings. I’d be interested in a page number, if you think otherwise.

The question is not whether there were non-Levitical priests in ancient Israel but whether everyone who was a priest but not from the tribe of Levi must therefore have been a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. I am confident that R. de Vaux does not think so, see pp. 161-62 where he does not even mention Melchizedek.

More importantly (for our discussion), nor did Aquinas. From all he says about Melchizedek, we are led to believe that Melchizedek was uniquely foreshadowing Christ, not providing a paradigm for Davidic priesthood. When Jesus came as a priest according to the order of Melchizedek, a new order was established, not the old Davidic order re-established and fulfilled.

I see de Vaux reconciling this tradition with the modern belief that Psalm 110 (also) applies to Davidic kings other than Jesus by stressing that David and his successors were not in fact priests in the proper sense of the word.

Thomas Renz said...

I can just about understand why you ignore Chrysostom as evidence. Maybe we are not to take his statement at face value because he was preaching rather than analysing the text. Maybe you wish to argue that the Church Fathers are allowed certain liberties when preaching Christ.

But this is why I gave more examples from Aquinas. Surely he is someone known for precision. How can he, too, in all his various writings fail to even hint at a belief that Davidic kings were priests according to the order of Melchizedek?

What is one to make of his statement that “although Samuel was not a priest, he performed some priestly functions, because he offered sacrifices and anointed kings”? Does it not mean to say (at the very least) that Samuel was not a Levitical priest? And why does Aquinas then speak of a transfer of priesthood without making any reference to Melchizedek? Surely he does not know of a belief that every Israelite priest has to be either Levitical or Melchizedekian or else his argument is uncharacteristically obscure and imprecise. He is, after all, expositing Hebrews 7.

I am not trying to argue about the merits or otherwise of consdiering Davidic kings to have been priests according to the order of Melchizedek. I am just trying to show you that there are plenty of reasons for accepting that for over one and a half millenia Christian theologians and readers of Scripture did not consider Davidic kings to have been priests according to the order of Melchizedek.

De Maria said...

Blogger Thomas Renz said...
I can just about understand why you ignore Chrysostom as evidence….

You are misusing that statement. According to you, St.Chrysostom says:

Similarly, Chrysostom, in his exposition of Hebrews, is adamant that Psalm 110 speaks about none than the incarnate Son of God. “What man is King of Righteousness and of Peace? None, save only our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Homily XII at

That would disqualify Melchizedek himself. And yet Scripture says:

Hebrews 7:1-3King James Version (KJV)

1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; 2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;

Certainly, St. Chrysostom would not contradict Scripture.

The other quote which you provided says:

You are a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedek, and not according to the order of Aaron. We say accordingly that men can be high-priests according to the order of Aaron, but according to the order of Melchisedek only the Christ of God.

What does Christ of God mean? It means anointed of God, does it not?

1 Samuel 2:35 And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.

Note that the Levitical Priest is walking before God's anointed. He is walking before God's Christ.

1 Samuel 10:1 Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?

Note that Samuel anointed SAUL and said it was God who had CHRISTENED him.

1 Samuel 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.

And David was anointed by God. David was the Lord's CHRIST. The Christ of God.

From the Webster online Dictionary:

Origin of CHRIST

Middle English Crist, from Old English, from Latin Christus, from Greek Christos, literally, anointed, from chriein
First Known Use: before 12th century

I know, I know, you're not interested.

But I know that many others are interested. So, I thought I'd point out your logical fallacies.

Thomas Renz said...

@De Maria: There are some who would translate Psalm 110:4b such that it is Melchizedek who is addressed ("You are a priest forever on account of my word, o Melchizedek!"). But this is a modern reading, not one Chrysostom accepted or interacted with. Along with Hebrews 7 he takes it for granted that Psalm 110 addresses someone else than Melchizedek. He asks, in effect, "who is a king of righteousness and of peace (like Melchizedek was by interpretation of his name)?" And he answers, "None, save only our Lord Jesus Christ."

Melchizedek is the type. Christ is the fulfilment. Or, as Chrystom puts it in his homily on Melchizedek:

"Melchisedek was righteous and the faithful image of Christ. Moved by a prophetic spirit, he discerned the oblation which must one day be offered for the Gentiles, and, in the example of the future Christ, he offered bread and wine as sacrifice to God. But, the Judaic synagogue, which honored God according to the order of Aaron, offered Him a sacrifice, not of bread and wine, but of bulls and lambs and glorified the Lord by bloody sacrifices. That is why God, addressing Himself to the One Who was to be born of the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, His Son, says to Him, `You are Priest forever according to the order of Melchisedek' and not according to the order of Aaron, who honors his God while offering Him bulls and heifers."

It is true that there have been many many christs, people anointed by God, but Chrysostom does not contrast "ordinary men" with "christs of God" but "men" with "the Christ of God." You are quite mistaken to think that Chrysostom would have accepted Saul as a "King of Righteousness and of Peace".

Thomas Renz said...

Psalm 110 was an important text in the early church. We have therefore plenty of evidence how early Christians read the psalm. The following is an excerpt from R. E. Heine, Reading the Old Testament with the Ancient Church (Baker Academic, 2007), pp. 107-109.

“Psalm 110 was another significant prophetic text used by the early Christians to prove the preexistence an deity of Christ…At the end of the second century, Irenaeus uses Psalm 110:3 to prove that the Son of God was born before the creation of the world (Proof of the Apostolic Preaching 43,48). This understanding is simply assumed by Origen in the early third century [Commentary on John 6.18]…In the fourth century, Cyril of Jerusalem cites Psalm 110:1 as proof that Christ was Lord with the Father even before the incarnation (Catechetical Lectures 10.9) and Psalm 110:3 as proof that he has existed “before all ages” (Catechetical Lectures 11.5)

Psalm 110 became an important text in the third- and fourth-century controversies between Christians concerning Christ and his relationship to the Father. Tertullian, in his argument against Praxeas, who denied that there was any distinction between the Father and the Son, argues that the term “Lord” is applied to divine beings in Psalm 110:1: the Father and the Son (,i>Against Praxeas
13.3)… [Cf. Novatian, On the Trinity 26.6]…In the fourth century, Basil of Caesarea uses Psalm 110:1 to show the error of the Arian view that the Son is inferior to the Father…(On the Holy Spirit 6.15).”

How would this discussion even be possible, how could their argument work, if the fathers believed that Psalm 110 could apply also to kings other than Jesus Christ?

Thomas Renz said...

Back to Chrysostom. Here is more material from

That the figure of Melchisedek is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Fathers all hold to the fact that He alone is truly `without genealogy': "The Son of God," says St. John Chrysostom, "is without father and without mother; without father as to His earthly genesis; without mother as to His heavenly genesis" ("Homelie sur Melchisedek", op. cit., p.479. Cf. also "Expication des Psaumes", Ps. CIX, ibid., p.332). If then the Scriptures say of Melchisedek that he was `without genealogy', it is not at all that in reality he did not have parents, "because", says St. John Chrysostom, "we maintain that Melchisedek is not only a man like us . . . but as Melchisedek was the type of Christ, Whose image he bore, in the same way was Jonas. The Scriptures had not spoken of his father, so that he might offer us a perfect image of the Saviour Who alone, in truth, has neither father nor genealogy" (Ibid., p.482). Likewise, in his homily on the Psalm of David, he says: "That which Melchisedek was in figure, Jesus Christ was in reality, and the name of Melchisedek was like the names of Jesus and of Christ, which long in advance announced and prefigured the mission of the Saviour. When we read that Melchisedek had neither beginning nor end of his life, it is not that in reality he had had neither beginning nor end, but because no trace is found of his genealogy. Jesus, on the contrary, had in truth no beginning of His days, nor end of His life. His existence had no time, no beginning, no end. One was the figure, the other the truth" (Id.,"Oeuvres Completes", t.IX, p.332).

Thomas Renz said...

While royal priesthood is acknowledged in Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary ( 1859 edition), the authors still affirm strongly that Psalm 110 applies to none but Jesus Christ:

"David. It is of faith that he wrote this psalm on the Messias. The Jews, in our Saviour's time, were convinced of it, (Matthew xxii. 42.) so that their posterity (Berthier) in vain attempts to explain it of Abraham, David, Solomon, Ezechias, or Zorobabel. (St. Chrysostom) --- Even some of them candidly own that it can relate to no other, (Thalmud) and Christians are universally of this belief. (Calmet)

(In fact by then Protestant scholars had begun to argue that Psalm 110 is an enthronement psalm which can be applied to David and/or his successors.)

Thomas Renz said...

Cf. a Roman Catholic summary from 1933 published at

"the priesthood of Christ is in fact that which Melchisedech's is in portrayal, a priesthood without lineage"

"Lineage and hereditary succession mean multiplicity; the posterity which succeeds has powers equal to those of the progenitor. But where lineage and hereditary title are absent there is but one priest, Christ; there is no multiplied posterity with powers equal to His."

"To be priest, then, according to the order of Melchisedech means that Christ is the One, Eternal Priest of all men. The type is unique and timeless, as Holy Scripture presents him to us; the antitype, Christ, is singular and eternal in fact."

"Again, the type, Melchisedech, is unique in his order, and Christ is the one priest of his line. But the priesthood of Aaron is a matter of death and succession, of multiplied priests through fourteen centuries of the generations of men."

Thomas Renz said...

All this is to say that Christian tradition held for most of its history the view that Jesus Christ is the one, single priest according to the order of Melchizedek in the sense that there were no Melchizedekian priests between melchizedek himself and the incarnate Son of God. Jesus Christ may be said to share his priesthood within the church but the question at hand is whether tradition accepted other Davidic kings as Melchizedekian priests to which the cler answer is no.

The church fathers exposit the Psalm in ways which rule out an application to David or Hezekiah or anyone else other than Jesus Christ. Thomas Aquinas offers a careful, analytical exposition of Hebrews 7 and neither there nor in his Summa Theologica even hints that he knew of anyone who believed that other davidic kings were priests according to the order of Melchizedek.

The Unitarian György Enyedi (1555-1597) seems to have been among the first (non-Jews?) to apply the psalm to David himself, see Delitzsch at

heidi said...

Dear Thomas,

I have thoroughly read and re-read all the texts which you have cited- from Chrysostom to Aquinas and have considered the question we have been dialoguing about at length.

While I will certainly hand it to you that you have made a very good argument for your position, I must still maintain that it is far from being conclusive.

From DeVaux, Hahn and the fathers, I think we can agree that David was a priest of some sort (albeit not in the strict sense).

That there were more than two types of priesthood coexisting under the Old Covenant, we have sufficient proof from DeVaux (pg 361,372,374, 394-397) and others (the fathers, Hahn etc).

Among the several hypotheses about Sadoq's priesthood, the hypothesis that he was of the Melchizedek's priesthood (called the Jerusalem priesthood) is certainly tenable (pg 374).

We have witness from scripture that certain persons in close relation to David were priests (his sons, Ira, Sadoq etc).

Whether David's (and Sadoq's and the others) priesthood was formally referred to as Melchizedekian does not appear likely from the extant writings. However, that is not to say it did not exist (word thing fallacy). De Vaux seems to refer to it as the priesthood of Jerusalem.

All the writings from the fathers that you have presented are not sufficient evidence to seal your case because every one of them, whether homily or treatise, is approaching the Melchizedekian priesthood in its fullness with particular emphasis on the 'ETERNAL' aspect. It is by no means surprising then that the connection with David is not being made. Their approach is absolutely sound since the object of their consideration is fulfillment- not provisional and limited participation- of the type. Again, Chrysostom illustrates his point well by the consideration of the 'eternal' (without genealogy) aspect of Mel. and how that relates to Jesus. David would have no place in these discussions.

heidi said...

Thomas pt 2:
More to it, Thomas in his Heb expo is particularly approaching the subject in terms of absolute fulfillment. Additionally, as you have pointed out (along with DeVaux)- David did not participate in the Melchizedekian priesthood in perfection. Therefore, Melchizedek was never typical of David- but only of Christ. This, I would suggest to you, is why the fathers speak only on this subject.

As you noted, St. Thomas is the master of theological precision par excellence. Therefore it would not be 'fitting' for him to get bogged down in conjecture about how, why and to what extent David was an imperfect shadow of the Melchizedekian priesthood. Furthermore, his part of the summa that you cited, as with every point in the summa, addresses either real or potential objections to the positive theology he aims to elucidate. Obviously, David as provisional Melchizedekian priest was not a current or plausible objection to the fittingness of Christ being a priest. Indeed, it would have absolutely no bearing on Christ's fulfillment of the Melchiz. type.

You also mentioned in a previous post, and after closer study of the evidence I totally agree with you, that the subject of concern regarding the priesthood is the contrast between Old Covenant and New Covenant. Since David's priesthood was still operating under the Old Covenant this obfuscates how or if the Melchizedekian priesthood could be exercised and under what authority. I believe this is the chief difficulty in moving the plausible to the demonstrable. I think the answer to this question depends on a more in depth understanding of the priesthood in the Old Covenant which in recent years has been more unearthed by modern exegesis.

Lastly, if your argument was from positive evidence- ie. if we had an extant treatise or homily by any one of the fathers on the specific subject of how David and the Kings of Jerusalem participated legally in the priesthood- then I would have to concede to your argument at least from the fathers.

In summation, regarding the subject of whether David was a sacerdotal participant (not in the strict sense) in a priesthood that drew its authority from Melchiz. and that the fathers recognised David as exercising prerogatives of both priest and king- indeed 'embodying' priest and king- we have moved from the possible to the probable to the plausible. I will accept that still can be done to move more positively to the demonstrable, but I think that modern scholarship has made very good in roads in doing just that.

With a blessing,


De Maria said...

Good Job Thomas. I concede the point that the Church Fathers consider Jesus Christ the fulfillment of the Priesthood of the order of Melchizedek and no other.

I still don't believe you're Catholc, though.

Thomas Renz said...

Thank you, both. We're agreed on much and I have learned something. Ironically, my own view of the Melchizedkian priesthood was probably slightly closer to yours at the beginning of this discussion than it is now.

Psalm 110 had been a minor research project for me at the beginning of this millenium but I had not paid sufficient attention to the history of interpretation back then. Reading the Fathers in more detail now, as well as Thomas, I feel more strongly the force of their reasoning which I still think is not merely silent about any application of the Melchizedekian priesthood to Davidic kings but positively excludes it.

This leads me closer to the position outlined by de Vaux, that is I will still think of Davidic kings as priests according to the order of Melchizedek as I did more than ten years ago but I would now stress with de Vaux that this "priesthood" was not a priesthood in the strict sense and of course it was not meant to interfere with the Levitical priesthood.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, however, is a proper priest according to the order of Melchizedek, e.g. and maybe especially in relation to forgiveness of sins (about which any other Davidic king could not pronounce), which is why his priesthood leads to a phasing out of the Levitical priesthood.

Anyway, thank you for prompting me to read up on our tradition.



De Maria said...


You said,

This leads me closer to the position outlined by de Vaux, that is I will still think of Davidic kings as priests according to the order of Melchizedek as I did more than ten years ago but I would now stress with de Vaux that this "priesthood" was not a priesthood in the strict sense and of course it was not meant to interfere with the Levitical priesthood.

That's what I was trying to tell you Thomas. But you didn't want to hear it.