The book of Hebrews emphasizes the priesthood of Jesus more than any other book in the New Testament. In fact, much of the argument of Hebrews 5-10 is based on Jesus as the High Priest. Two words of caution before discussing Jesus as a High Priest.
First, the “high priesthood of Jesus” is based on the ideal form of priest found in the Hebrew Bible, not in the high priesthood as it actually functioned in the first century. By the first century, the High Priest more a political figure that a religious leader. Control of the temple and the priesthood gave the office a great deal of power, and this power usually led to great wealth. It is unlikely, however, that the writer of Hebrews has this sort of power in mind. He consistently looks to the idea image (“the shadow”) from the Hebrew Bible in order to describe the “substance” of Jesus.
By way of analogy, we could study the office of president of the United States as it is described in the constitution, or by the way various presidents have functioned as president over the more than two centuries. James Buchanan, for example, usually is ranked at the bottom of the list of presidents by historians, mostly for his handling of the issues which erupted into the Civil War. We would not, therefore, want to describe the office of president using Buchanan as our example!
In the same way, the high priests who held office in the first century were politically motivated and not particularly good examples of the way a priest ought to behave in his office. What is remarkable is that the book of Hebrews does not condemn the current High Priest as corrupt, nor does he say anything negative about the worship of the Temple other than it has been completed in Jesus.
Second, the word “priest” has connotations in English which are not present in the function of a Jewish priest. We are not describing a Catholic or Orthodox priest, but rather the Jewish priest. This modern sense of the word is not particularly helpful in understanding the priesthood in the Hebrew Bible. The priest in the Jewish Temple was the mediator between God and man. As such, the office of priest foreshadowed the ministry of Jesus who was provides access to the throne of God for those who have entered into new life through him.
But Jesus is not just the High Priest, but the “great High Priest.” This was a title give to the High Priest Simon in 1 Maccabees (13:42, 14:27). This Simon was one of the founders of the Hasmonean dynasty and the first to take the title of both King and Great High Priest. His first year in power was “the yoke of the Gentiles was removed from Israel” (c. 142 B.C., 1 Macc 13:41). This combination of priest and king was an attempt to consolidate power into the one “office” in Maccabean revival of the kingdom in Judah.
How does the author of Hebrews distinguish Jesus as a high priest from the politically powerful priests of the first century?
43 thoughts on “Hebrews 4:14-16 – Jesus as High Priest”
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
I have the high priest outfit – just like in your picture. I do it as a presentation – putting one piece of the outfit on a model at a time, and explaining each piece from the OT, and making it relevant to the New Testament and how Jesus was the great high priest, etc. I inherited it from my father, who was a Bible teacher, now in his 80’s. I’ve done the presentation several times and it is always well received and the audience is fascinated. My audiences have been informed Christians, but to less informed you would need to make clear OT Jewish priesthood vs modern day priest, etc.
Where did your father get the outfit?
I do find most Christians do not have a the understanding of the details the priesthood or tabernacle necessary to “get Hebrews.” Sometimes they have to unlearn some bad theology before getting into the book!
Years ago a group of women with sewing skills at a church made it for my dad. They did top notch work – not only following the biblical descriptions, but the quality of material they used and the skill of their sewing.
It seems to me that the most OBVIOUS distinction that the writer of Hebrews makes is the one found in Hebrews 10:4. When he writes that the blood of animals “cannot take away sins” he is making a distinction that this is no ordinary priest and should not be associated with any kid of political figure. The author is not interested in the priest himself, but rather his actions. In a similar way today one could read that to say that Jesus is like a president who “provides for the general welfare.” We are not then referring to one certain image of a president, but rather the ideal way that a president should be seen. I think the obvious danger of this probably came in the delivery if this was in fact a “mishna” of some kind. It’s one of those issues that depends a lot on the way that the reader views the word. “Priest” could have certainly been something negative, but someone who takes away sins isn’t likely going to have the same bad image.
Mind you, those are just fly by observations of the text. Interesting question though. I have never thought of it that way.
I think that the book of Hebrews distinguishes the recent high priest and Jesus, the ultimate High Priest, through a couple of means. The first that I would like to point out would be that Jesus is not described as a priest in the line of Aaron, but he is rather attributed to being a High Priest from the line of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7), which is interesting because that line is not from the original tribes of Israel. I don’t know if the line of Melchizedek is an actual genealogy that Jesus is a part of, or rather a title for a Priest that assumes both the roles of King and High Priest. The traditional line of the high priest is also under the authority of Abraham, the patriarch of Israel; the line of Melchizedek, however, is above Abraham, as shown by Hebrews 7:4-7, which shows that Jesus is above the whole of Israel as both the High Priest and the King. Another distinction, is that Hebrew only refers to the Tabernacle, not the temple. It is quite possible that the temple had developed a tradition of corruption and had became tainted, as shown in Jesus’s rebuke of the temple practices (Luke 19:45-46), and in an effort to evoke a time when the people were closer to God chose to refer to the tabernacle.
The priest, as you mentioned, is a mediator between the sins that humans commit and the atonement for our sins before the father. They are the ones who go before God and offer up our sins to be cleansed. Jobes in “Letters to the Church” points out that the priest must first make an atoning sacrifice for themselves, purifying themselves, and then once that was completed they were able to present the sacrificial blood in the temple (95). Jesus was fully human and Hebrews four mentions he is our priest, but because he is also God he would not have needed to present an offering to atone for his own sin because he had none. As nicholasewald pointed out Hebrews 10:4, that animals couldn’t take away the sin of the world. Messiah becomes higher than the other priests because he doesn’t just offer up the sacrifice he was the sacrifice. Not only that but, he is also higher than the other priests because they would only go into the Holy of holies one day a year, but the Messiah sits at the right hand of God being able to mediate for us constantly.
The purpose of Jesus coming down was to atone for the human race’s sins, but in order to do that one must be what they are representing, which in this case is human. The priest in this day was meant to be a representation of the people to God as mentioned in Letters to the Church (94). Hebrews 5:1 goes farther in saying that the High priest is not just the representation, but they are the one’s to bring the sacrifices for sin. Not anyone could be the High Priest because this meant standing in the presence of God, and in order to do so one must be pure. For priests that meant a lot of rituals, but Jesus did not need to do so because He was blameless as mentioned in Hebrew 7:25-27. To put a distinction between Jesus and the priests of the time is through lineage. The priest’s are from the line of Aaron, while, like Malchizedek, Jesus is not from that lineage (104; Ps 110:4). A key difference to distinguish was were they worked.As Letter to the Church mentions, it is possible that Jesus working in the outer courts was a way to “distance the priestly work of Jesus from the first-century temple in Jerusalem, with all its politics and corruption…” (109).
There was a huge reason why we needed Christ as our high priest. We needed perfection. Hebrews 2:17-18 states it nicely: “For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” We need someone with the ability to have complete access to God. The only way to have that is to be completely without sin. The only one without sin is God, so He made Himself flesh, i.e. Jesus, to be able to become our mediator. Our high priest does not need atoning sacrifices to commune with the Father, he sits at His right hand.
I responded above back in Jan 2016, but saw this post in my feed again. Here is a youtube link (30 minutes) of me doing the robes of the high priest. I’ll link to my blog where I have a few words of explanation first: https://lightenough.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/jesus-is-our-great-high-priest/
Thanks Laura, I appreciate the link to your video.
Reading this blog was quite interesting and moreover, quite thought provoking as it relates to comparing the high priest in the 1st century and Jesus being the “great high priest”. Hebrews 4:14-16 explicitly makes it known that our high priest has been tested and temped in every way, yet has not sinned. When we look at the priests in the first century, most if not all never went nearly through the events that Jesus went through. Jesus’ priesthood stands as the most iconic and sought after era of his time. The priests during the time of Jesus had or mirrored some of the principles that Jesus did. However, Jesus as a priest when he was alive, was his acts being more personable, like his parables and miracles. Jesus was distinguished quite differently than the political priests because Hebrews explains him empathizing with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). No other priest in that time could empathize with their peoples weakness’, other than Jesus. Because of this, I fully agree with Jesus being called “Great High Priest”.
I like to go to Hebrews 4:14-16. The high priests in the temple were known for being hypocritical and self-righteous. But Jesus was the “good” high priest, the perfect high priest. Because of His humanness, He was able to relate to mankind on every level and because of this, He as God was able to show immense compassion and mercy. I would even go ass far to say that because of Jesus’ station as the high priest this is why Peter refers to the nation of Israel as a nation of royal priests (1 Peter 2:9.)
I really like how you better explained the correlation of Jesus as the high priest. I also appreciated and better understood the concept with the analogy of the past presidents of the United States. With Jesus being the high priest, I believe that the author of Hebrews did not find it necessary to interject any sort of comments towards the current high priest and the corruption that was occurring. In other words, the author was eagerly trying to explain that Jesus as the new high priest and as the ultimate high priest. The occurrences that had taken place in the past with former high priests was not important. The only thing that was important is Jesus. Like Jobes states, “Jesus sacrifice is the last one, in contrast to the unending priests.” (99). Jesus was considered much high than the priest or servants to God in the past. Hebrews 3:3 states it perfectly. “For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.” I like the analogy the author of Hebrews uses about the house. It gives a reassuring explanation of just how incredible Jesus was. Jesus was the final, and most important part to God’s new covenant.
The idea of Christ as the great high priest is rather intriguing. I like that you made the distinction between the previous priests and Jesus. The priests of the Old Testament were not perfect, but Jesus is and was. This is a tremendously important piece of information that we must remember when considering the idea of Jesus being the great high priest. Personally, I think the analogy is great considering the role, respect, and authority given to the high priests in the Old Testament.
First, the high priest was very respected by the people and was given special privileges such as being able to be the mediator between God and the people. The high priest was the only one who was able to enter the Holy of Holies to make a sacrifice on behalf of the people on the Day of Atonement. The similarities to who Christ is and what He did for mankind blows my mind. First, Christ is the mediator between man and God the Father (Hebrews 12:24; 1 Timothy 2:5). Second, Christ performed the greatest sacrifice for our sins on our behalf and for us so that we may be saved.
Finally, I really like what Jobes has to say on this matter in Ch. 3 of Letters to the Church: A Survey of Hebrews and the General Epistles. She points out, just as you have, that the priests in the Old Testament were not perfect; however, Jesus was and is the perfect priest who made the perfect sacrifice. This is why the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant.
P. Long goes into great depths on the amount by which Hebrews describes Jesus has the High Priest, mentioning how this is not in the sense that we think of a priest but in the sense of a mediator between God and humanity. Jobes separates Jesus as High Priest from other High Priests, in the way that Jesus’ resurrection causes Jesus’ atoning work as High Priest to continue on for eternity and to always represent us to God (Jobes Pg. 97). This is vastly different from past High Priests as past High Priests died and were never resurrected. Hebrews 4:14-16 also further separates Jesus from other High Priests, who P. Long describes as very political, as describing Jesus as one who can sympathize with us in every aspect. Yes, the other High Priests could relate to others but were too involved politically and prideful to relate to those below them, and though Jesus is the most High Priest, He came to relate and be with the sick (Matthew 9:12). In this way Jesus is unlike the other High Priests, He both continues to represent and cleanse humanity to God and also sympathize with us in every way as He was also tempted. Jesus is also separated by the author of Hebrews by writing, in Hebrews 10:12, that Jesus takes a set at the right hand of God after making one sacrifice for all sins. This is a reference to the fact that in the tabernacle there were no sets because the work of Priests were never done. But in the work of the most High Priest, the work is indeed finished, and Jesus has accomplished substitutionary atonement for all humanity, once and for all! Thus, in these ways Jesus as High Priest is very much so different and separated from the High Priests of that time.
Jesus, as the great high priest, is not only the Son of God, also the Son of Man, who was able to to hold the role as holy and sympathetic, the final sacrifice for our sins and finalize it with His blood. Jesus being the great high priest reassures us that is has passed through the heavens taking his rightful place at the right hand of the Most High, that in Him we can receive eternal life. In his sympathetic character he can relate to us, but without sin. He is truly holy and without sin, making him the greatest holiness priest to represent all creation. This gives us the confidence to trust in him and believe with faith that with have someone to represent us daily and intercedes for us.
I had not made the immediate connection of Christ as the Most High Priest until dissecting the concept in the book of Hebrews and the connection with the Old Testament and Jewish culture. Christ truly had to become fully human so that He could be the everlasting priest for believers. Hebrews 10 illustrates the beauty of Christ being the ultimate sacrifice for all believers and for all times. Karen Jobes discusses this concept wonderfully in the book “Letters to the Church” in describing how all the priests before Christ were only temporary mediators for God’s children. Christ is the everlasting Most High Priest who made the ultimate sacrifice through His death and resurrection. It is important to remember that the connection of Christ being the Son of God and the Highest Priest was not made until Christ’s accession into Heaven. I am sure this was a difficult new concept for the Jews to understand the they no longer needed an earthly priest and need to sacrifice animals for the atonement of their sins. The author of Hebrews clearly distinguishes the imperfections of the first century priests and the perfect Most High Priest and the Lamb of God. The author of Hebrews also shares that because of Christ’s sacrifice and the shedding of His blood, believers can fix their eyes on Jesus and openly speak to God while Christ intercedes on their behalf (Hebrews 12: 2).
It is true that Hebrews emphasizes Jesus as the High Priest the most compared to the rest of the books of the Bible. As Professor Long points out the author of Hebrews did not condemn high priests during a time of sinful, greedy high priests. Yet despite that Jesus is called our High Priest, in fact, the “Great High Priest”. As High Priest, Jesus is the intercessor between Christians and God. Jobes points out that not only is Jesus is the High Priest, but He is also the final and ultimate sacrifice. By being the High Priest and ultimate sacrifice, Jesus started the New Covenant. This New Covenant replaces the sacrifices through the blood of Jesus.
I think it is very important to note the significant differences between priests of any historical culture and our modern view of them today and how the author meant to portray Jesus. The authors perspective is the most important perspective to find as this will help in understanding exactly how he is trying to see Jesus. Hebrews is the only place in the New Testament that outrightly portrays Jesus as High Priest. This could just be because of its strong ties to Jewish law and Jewish tradition. I find it interesting that this post mentions the politically motivated priests. When we look back into the gospels, especially during the trial of Jesus (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18) we see that Jesus denied and rejected the idea of political power. Pilate mocked Him for it and he simply says, “You have said so”, and then later refuses to answer the chief priests. Just from this evidence we can confer that the author of Hebrews did not mean to portray Jesus as politically ambitious, because He simply never was. When we look deeper into Hebrews 4: 14-16, the high priest is seen as very approachable and merciful. Along with these things, He is portrayed as very human. He can relate to us because He was tempted just as we are. The difference is that He knew no sin (v. 15). Hebrews isn’t the only place that claims the holiness and unblemished nature of Jesus. We see this throughout the New Testament (1 Peter 2; 2 Corinthians 5).
I think the author of Hebrews knew that there did not need to be any correlation between Jesus and the High Priest of the first century. Knowing that Jesus is the son of God, not taking this lightly, due to his messianic sonship. He came to be flesh and to live a life surrounded by temptation, and be like us, except he lived without sin. He is the great high priest because no other priest would have been able to fulfill the sacrifice that Jesus did. An example of this, I think, would be like Cain and Abel (Gen. 4). Granted they were not priests, but that is a similar concept of what I am trying to explain. Karen Jobes mentions in the book “The Letter to the Church” that Adam and Eve had a choice to obey God or his enemy, they chose to sin and everyone after them has to live with that consequences. Later, God would give his Son in order to repair that separation between his people.
Jobes helps define a high priest as someone “who stood as an intermediary between the people and God” (Jobes, 94). Jesus was able to attain and maintain the role of High Priest because He became flesh and blood. Without sin yet fully sharing in our humanity, Jesus became the intermediary between the people of Israel and God. Jesus takes on the role of High priest, by becoming human, defeating sin and atoning for the sins of the whole world. Death could not even defeat Him, “he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1Cor. 15:3). Jesus was the intermediator and great high priest of the human race. Christ brought about God’s redemptive plan through His faultless incarnate walk on earth and through His death and resurrection. Jesus was not held by death, but his resurrection made Him the Eternal High Priest permanently (Heb 7:24). Jesus, therefore, is able to save anyone who believes in Him.
Jobes states that Jesus is now alive forever (97). Unlike the president of the United States who can only be in office for eight years, Jesus is always in office. Jesus Christ intercedes on our behalf. Jesus’s priesthood was unique because it was based on God’s promise, it was eternal, had no succession, was for all people, and Jesus Christ had no sin (Jobes, 100). It is so cool to know that God actually sent some so perfect to become the great high priest to make such a perfect sacrifice for me. Allowing me to be forgiven and reconciled with Him!
How does the author of Hebrews distinguish Jesus as a high priest from the politically powerful priests of the first century?
There are a couple of distinguished attributes between Jesus and the political high priest. The main one was the fact he died and rose again to claim our sins. Jesus was the one and only high priest who did or will do that. Jobes says that a high priest is the one who brings an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people to God’s presence. (Jobes, 95). Also, the fact that he sat among the poor and the “nobodies”. The high priest at that time would not let them into the temple nor sit with them. The political high priest did not want to lower himself to their level so to speak. Jesus loved those people, he sat with them and told them the good news. He would heal them and even became a servant like most of them.
We read that Jesus was a high priest, although this is an analogy for the time that Jesus was on earth it still is very much the truth. Jesus was a much different high priest than what all the other high priests. For many reasons, one reason being that he went and dwelt among the lowest of lows, the poor and prostitutes along with the cheaters and tax collectors. All high priests would not have even talked to him, think about the parable of the Samaritan man taking care of the guy beat up. This is a good example of how high priests would’ve dealt with people like Jesus was talking to and being with. Also, Jesus sacrificed his own self for the lives of others and us. All other high priests would’ve been the ones saying that they need to sacrifice someone else, because they saw themselves as better than others. These examples are to show that Jesus was a high priest, but he was the true and only true high priest as he sacrificed his life and everything for others. That is how true high priests and leaders are to treat others like. This is why we view Christ as a high priest.
I do appreciate the way you have explained the correlation of Jesus as the high priest.
The author of Hebrew distinguishes Jesus as high priest from the politically powerful priests of the first century by showing how Jesus is the great high priest. Jesus is reffered to as the greatest high priest different from the first century priests because He dwelt among the lows, the poor, and ate with sinners. The first century priests would not have talked to Him. These priest excluded themselves and were corrupt and all they cared about was to gather wealth for themselves. Look at the story of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:31, a priest came by a man who was beaten and close to death but he did not help but just passed him. Jesus came and dwelt among man, lived like man and tempeted but yet He overcome the world with no sin. This was so that He can sacrifice Himself for our sins for once and for all.
Jobes states, “Jesus sacrifice is the last one, in contrast to the unending priests.” (99).
We see Jesus as the great high priest because of what He did for us when He sacrificed Himself for us fulfilling the duties of a high priest.
One way that Jesus is distinguished from the political priests of old is because “it would have been well known that Jesus had not even been born into the priestly tribe” (Jobes 101). Jesus came from the tribe of Judah, while every other priest up to this point came from the tribe of Levi. This idea can also be seen in Hebrews 7:15.
Another way that Hebrews distinguishes Jesus from the other priests is by stating, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Just like the priests of old, Jesus was human and so he went through all of the same trials and temptations that they did, which helps us to relate to him – he is not simply a great, unreachable being. He is someone that we are able to have a relationship with. It is also important to point out that Jesus went through these trials without giving into the temptations. He is not a sinful priest, like the one in the past, he is completely sinless. This goes to show the greatness of Jesus in comparison to the priests of old.
I imagine for some it was quite a shock to hear the author of Hebrews proclaim Jesus as THE great high priest because of the connotation that title seemed to hold. If your image and knowledge of a particular role has always been clouded by the idea of corruption or politics, what would you think when you are now told that the Son of God is the only High Priest? But again, this passage shows me what a great teacher the author was. He did not simply proclaim Jesus as the High Priest then move on to the next order of business, but instead was deliberate in explaining the why. He is clear to explain that Jesus is fully God but also fully human and as a result able to fully sympathize and understand human weakness. Jobes emphasizes that this aspect was important because the high priest was a human representative of the people (p. 96). Jesus had to take on full humanity in order to be the final sacrifice for humankind.
Additionally, and maybe the most important (?) is that Jesus did not have to use an animal sacrifice to enter the temple, but instead was able to enter on the sacrifice of himself. Jobes emphasizes what a “staggering idea” (p. 98) this likely was to the early Jewish Christian’s, and once again I wonder how many immediately understood or were they confused? If the role of the High Priest was known as being politically charged, they must have had a sense of joy knowing that Jesus’s sacrifice has ended the need to continually “rely” on the High Priest to atone for their sin? Hebrews 9:25-28 emphasizes that while the high priests sacrifice had to be performed annually because the priests were mortal and sinful just as the people they were representing, Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice of himself ended this need once and for all. I think in this passage the author clearly lays out the difference between the high priests of “old” and Jesus as the Great High Priest.
Jobes, K.H. (2011). Letters to the Church. Zondervan.
It is a major theme of Hebrews to talk about Jesus as High Priest. Without understanding what this means, we can never fully understand Hebrews, or even who Jesus was. Jobes points out that the two main points of Hebrew’s Christology are Jesus’ role as the Son and Jesus’ role as High Priest (p.82). Understanding what exactly Jesus, as High Priest means, is crucial. Typically we say that “we must understand what it meant to the original audience.” While this is still true, the blog makes an interesting point that I had never thought of before. Even in the first century, the Priesthood was operating differently from the Priesthood God lays out in the Old Testament. While the role of Priest still meant something different to them than it does to us (and even with the changes, it was probably still a more accurate depiction), it is interesting to realize that even the original audience needed some context to fully and correctly understand this aspect of Christ’s work. Christ’s position as High Priest was not a political role. Nor was it what we would think of today. The Priests in the Old Testament were responsible for offering sacrifices to reconcile the people to God. Jesus came to perform this same duty, and to reconcile the people to God, once for all. He was distinguished from power-hungry, political priests by being called a priest in the order of Melchizedek. He was not a Levite and therefore was unable to be a priest based on that condition. However, Melchizedek was a priest before the Levites. Melchizedek foreshadowed everything that Jesus fulfilled. Being called a priest in the order of Melchizedek expressed how he was the priest, come to offer the sacrifice. Jobes even explains how a priest could never sit down while performing his duties, so when it says that Jesus sat at the right hand of the father, it shows he completed his work as priest.
To start off, the book of Hebrews emphasizes Jesus as the high priest more than any other book of the Bible. Preceding the ministry of Jesus, the High priest was viewed more as a political role than a religious role. However, the author of Hebrews continues to use the Old Testament to describe how Jesus Christ enters the role of High Priest religiously (ESVSB Chapman 2367). The book of Hebrews contains lots of language about Jesus being High Priest, such as, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Heb. 4:15).
Within Leviticus 16, one finds the exact ritual for the High Priest to atone for all the sins of the Hebrew people. The High Priest must first sacrifice a bull for the sins of himself and his household (Lev. 16:6), then sacrifice a goat for the sins of the people (16:15), then send a scapegoat into the wilderness to die alone carrying the future sins of the people (16:21-22). Jesus Christ fulfills this role of High Priest forever when he makes his permanent atonement during his crucifixion. After the death of Jesus, the day of atonement is no longer needed, for Jesus already performed the perfect atonement.
As a result of Jesus’ ministry and actions, the position of High Priest has been elevated forever, as Jesus has claimed that title for himself. No longer can any human agent aspire to become the High Priest of the Hebrew people, for the standards are now unobtainable.
The author distinguishes Jesus from what would be the modern day priests in Hebrews 7 by drawing a connection to Melchizedek who was a priest written about in Genesis. By drawing this distinction the ESV emphasizes how this would set Jesus apart from the priests of the time. One very valuable piece of information that I hadn’t considered was that Jesus was not even able to enter into the temple because he did not have Levite lineage similar to Melchizedeck who lived before Levites were established. Hebrews 7:9 even states that Levi himself paid tithes to Melchizedek, making it clear that he was still a priest even lack the Levite genealogy. By drawing attention to Melchizedeck, the author of Hebrews makes the connection that like him, Jesus did not have Levite genealogy, separating him from the high priest at the time. Another distinction made by the author of Hebrews is that Melchiezedeck “continues as a priest forever”, which would certainly separate him from the high priest at the time. Although the ESV does clarify that the reason Melchizedeck is described as being a priest forever likely being because they had no written records of when and how he died, his mention is likely shadowing Jesus and how He does in fact become the high priest forever.
There are many connections to be drawn and practical lessons to be learned from the Priesthood and Ascension of Christ, as made clear by the author of Hebrews. In his typical fashion, Jesus likes to take something that the Jews knew all too well, and then flip it on its head to make greater theological points about the nature of himself and his father in heaven. He takes the idea of the High Priest entering the Holy of Holies to make sacrifices which will atone for the sins of Israel, and flips it by making himself all three elements. He is the sacrifice, the Priest, and God. He takes the motif of sacrifices performed upon entering the Most Holy Place, and makes himself the perfect and eternal sacrifice.
Jobes draws this connection from Hebrews regarding Christ’s ascension to heaven symbolically referring to the High Priests entrance into the Holy of Holies; the place where the presence of God dwells (109). This also has some practical application for mortal humans, who must symbolically sacrifice themselves (through loyalty to Christ) in order to dwell in God’s presence.
Melchizedek is certainly a figure I am excited to learn about (and meet, depending on how this whole Heaven thing works), as I am very curious to know his life story. He bursts into Genesis 14 with no genealogy or background, and then disappears just as suddenly as he appeared. How did he learn so much about God? Did he learn from Shem, and did Shem know about God from his father Noah? How did Melchizedek find so much success as a High Priest despite not having the law of the Lord to follow? What were his qualifications. All very interesting questions that I am excited to learn.
These sorts of mysterious characters like Melchizedek and Enoch tend to generate apocryphal literature.The fact that Melchizedek comes up in a messianic Psalm is intriguing, why of all people did the psalmist bring up Melchizedek? In the context of Hebrews, he’s trying to explain how Jesus can be the Messiah, in the line of David and then from the tribe of Judah, and also the great high priest. To be a priest one must be from the tribe of Levi, and to be a high priest one with me from the line Zadok. So the writer of Hebrews is creating a different high priesthood, the order of Melchizedek. In my opinion, this is because David was the king of Jerusalem and probably took over the Jebusite role of priest king, in the line of Melchizedek.
Jesus was different from the high priests of his day in three significant ways: he did not sin, he offered himself as a sacrifice, and death is not an issue for his position. Hebrews 4:15 explains that yes, Jesus was human, and yes, he was tempted in all the same ways everyone else is, including the political high priests and “yet he did not sin” (NIV). It’s important that Jesus became a human to be a high priest because, as Jobes explains, he needed “to be made like those he represented before God” (Jobes, 2011, p. 96). And to truly represent us, he needed to know how we felt, and was therefore tempted in many ways and had some of the same fears that we do. Even though he can empathize with us in all of that, he still did not sin. All the other high priests needed to offer sacrifices for their own sins, but Jesus did not have to offer sacrifices for himself. In fact, Jesus did something that no other high priest could do: he offered himself as the sacrifice. In this, he was able to make atonement for us once and for all. And because he rose from the dead, he can represent us forever!
One of the most interesting topics that Jobes has discussed thus far has been Jesus as high priest. This priesthood is an imperative piece of who Jesus was and how the audience of Hebrews could best understand Jesus’ purpose, life, and importance. The concept of Jesus as high priest not only translates in the physical world, but also in the spiritual realm (Jobes, 96-97). Another piece of information I found interesting relating to Jesus’ identity as high priest was that it would not have been possible without Jesus first becoming fully human (Jobes, 97). It was also challenging to me that we cannot truly understand Jesus nor his priesthood without correct interpretation of the text of Hebrews related to the philosophical context of it’s time.
Jesus’ priesthood of a new covenant can not only challenge the first Christians, but can challenge us today. We have a priest who has made communication with God accessible rather than inaccessible. Christ’s sacrifice made a relationship with God possible, forgiveness, sacrifice, and action outside requirement. I am so thankful for Jesus as the one true high priest who “made perfect those who were being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14). I don’t think that we will ever be able to fully comprehend the gravity nor the nature of the high priest. This being because we cannot truly fathom our own depravity. But also because Christ is a mystery. While he is often revealed and made clear by scripture. There also parts to him, like God, that we cannot understand because our human nature gets in the way.
Jesus truly is and was the only one qualified to become the high priest. I often wonder if this was a difficult concept for the Jews and Gentiles who became the first Christians. Hebrew and Jewish culture had run on years of faithful tradition and a specific way of living life. I am sure there was a lot of fear associated with all these religious changes. While the Bible seems to lay out Jesus’ priesthood and therefore the results so clearly, it could not be easy to comprehend.
The book of Hebrews mentions the priesthood of Jesus. The idea of Jesus as a High Priest is the main focus in Hebrews 5-11. However, recognizing that by the time Hebrews was written, the view on priesthood was more of a political idea rather than a Spiritual idea. The power that came with being labeled in the high priesthood category often led to much wealth. However, it is unlikely that the author of Hebrews was focusing on this type of power as they mentioned Jesus as being the High Priest. Due to this perception on priesthood, many of the high priests during this time were motivated by political status rather than a genuine motivation. Relating Jesus to the priests during this time would take away from the fact that Jesus was the great High Priest, therefore still being over the rest of the high priests. An example of this comes from chapter three of Jobes, where it is described the difference between to two priesthoods. Jobes lists the characteristics of the Levitical priesthood in comparison the Jesus Christ. For example, the Levitical priesthood was based on the genealogical descent and was for one nation, whereas Jesus Christ as the High Priest was based on the promise of God and it was not just for one nation, but rather for all nations and all people (Jobes, pg. 101). The distinguish between Jesus’ priesthood and the priesthood of the politically motivated priests in the first century is clear with the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus did to bring the new covenant to this world.
I think that part of what set Jesus apart form the other priests/political figures of the time was his apparent rivalry of them. Jesus called out the Pharisees and the teachers of the law for their hypocrisy and for this they plotted against him. If the likening of Jesus to a high priest was intended as a statement of his political power, then Jesus probably would have had access to some of that power during his life here on earth. The readers of that time likely knew of Jesus’s differences with the priesthood and probably understood that this was not a comparison to the priests of the time but to the functions of the high priest according to the Levitical law.
Throughout Hebrews as stated above is this point being made that Jesus is a high priest. I think this is a really interesting point being made. Prior to reading this post and the book Letters to the Church by Karen Jobes, I didn’t know much about the book of Hebrews. Throughout the last 19 years of my life, I had never heard Jesus referred to in this way. One of the things I think Hebrews uses to separate Jesus as a high priest from the politically powerful priests is his character. Jesus was a man of no sin, who loved unconditionally. Unfortunately, this was not the case for the other powerful priests of the first century. One comment Jobes (2011) made that adds to this idea is,“The writer of Hebrews explains that Jesus was not only the final and ultimate high priest, but that he also was the perfect, ultimate, and final sacrifice as well” ( p.98). Other priests were not meant to serve as a sacrifice for the sins of the people. This is another way the author of Hebrews separated Jesus from the powerful priests. Overall all of the information I have learned from this material has been very interesting and has pushed me to desire to learn more about this specific idea of Jesus.
The office of the High priest was a significant role in Jewish culture. One who acted as mediator between God and Man. Although Hebrews does not talk about this, I’m glad you brought up the distinction between Jewish Priests that the author of Hebrews was referring to v.s what the Priest were in the 1st century. Common in humanities desire for more merit and status, the position of high priest was warped into a more political role. It brings me great satisfaction and joy that Jesus has stepped into that role on behalf of us, so we are able to have access through Him to the Father. Jobes tells us that atonement could not have been achieved by even the greatest of God’s servants in the past (Jobs 164). The position of Jesus being the one who, like the high priest who would enter the most holy place as a representative for us (while actually being able to be pure in that), also being the one who was the perfect sacrifice, paints a beautiful picture of what the author of Hebrews is wanting to tell us. That Jesus was “not only the final and ultimate high priest, but that he also was the perfect, ultimate, and final sacrifice as well” (Jobes 194). Hebrews 10:12 tells us that this is one final sacrifice for all, and is complete by Jesus’ act of sitting at the right hand of God. This was something that priests would only do after finishing the work within the most holy place.
The author of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus is not a High Priest in regard to politicalness, rather the author makes it known that God has sent Him to Earth to be a leader and the mediator between mankind and God Himself. Thus, I think it is profound to address Jesus in regard to politics because Jesus made Himself approachable and relatable towards everyone that followed Him. Hebrews 4 says that Jesus is not like any other priest of the Old because He had sympathy for mankind; moreover, He made it so that no one looked to Him as untouchable or entitled. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). This is a key verse because it shows that mankind had a different respect for Him because He too went through the same struggles and difficulties that regular humans go through on a daily basis. I agree with what P.Long says in this statement “As such, the office of priest foreshadowed the ministry of Jesus who provides access to the throne of God for those who have entered into new life through him” (P.Long). I like this quote because it shows that Jesus was not a political type of person; rather, He made sure that mankind’s sins were wiped clean on behalf of the shedding of His own blood. Jobes also adds that with Jesus’ sacrifice He brought an end to the Old and a beginning to the New which will continue forever, stamping the fact that “Christ is a superior Priest and a superior sacrifice, the covenant that He mediates between mankind and God is a superior covenant of the Old” (Jobes 193).
The author of Hebrews is taken over by the theme of Chris as our High Priest. Looking back on Psalm 110 as reference the author quarrels over the fact that the Messiah was foreordained to be the priest according to the line of order of Melchizedek. Based on the Old Testament teachings, priests were raised with firm convictions and strong relationships with God, in order to be the go-between or intercessor for man and God. God is separate from the fallen world and his people which in a sense makes God unapproachable for mankind and mankind unapproachable for God. Each priest was picked for office by God Himself, thus making the priests have to sacrifice to God to pay for the people’s sins.
Jesus’ priesthood however is much different, rather than being put into an office and set on a pedestal, God sends Him out. The correlation here is that God chooses both and appoints both but Jesus’ journey as the high priest is a bit of a more humbling process that offers an eternal sacrifice that acts as the go-between making the separation from God and His people null and void.
It’s so interesting for me to observe this idea of priesthood that’s found in the book of Hebrews. Going into this class, I truly thought that this idea of priesthood was definitely a biblical and spiritual concept- I had no idea that this idea was political too. This really changes things for me and my outlook ultimately. As you read from Hebrews chapter five all the way through eleven, you realize that that spiritual idea was definitely political. Even Julius Caesar was referred in this time period as a son of God. As as a surprise to no one, leaders like Caesar took this title of high priest and used for their own selfish gain, for political and financial gain. I think what is brilliant here about the book of Hebrews is that the writer takes the idea of this High Priest, and flips it on its head. It redirects and reinvents this concept- Jesus is not only a priest, He is the High priest, above all other priests. He is over any ruler, or any priest. And while the author of Hebrews makes this role very relatable, the writer also makes it extremely clear that this distinction given to Jesus is not political- God sent Jesus to earth as a mediator between God and man.
There are two things that need to be taken into consideration when discussing Jesus as a High Priest. First of all, Jesus as the High Priest is based on what the role of the high priest was supposed to look like as described in the Hebrew Bible. It is not based on how the high priesthood actually functioned. “By the first century, the High Priest was more of a political figure than a religious leader” (Long). There was a lot of political power that came with the title of High Priest. It is unlikely that the author of Hebrews had this in mind when describing Jesus as the new High Priest. It would be like studying the US president’s job description in the constitution verses studying how different presidents have carried out their responsibilities (Long). We as humans are sinful and cannot do anything perfectly including fulfilling a role. However, Jesus who is perfect can fulfill a role perfectly. The second is cultural context. The word “priest” brings certain pictures to our minds when we read the word in our language and culture. The book of Hebrews is referring to a Jewish priest not a Catholic or Orthodox priest. “The priest in the Jewish Temple was the mediator between God and man. As such, the office of priest foreshadowed the ministry of Jesus who provides access to the throne of God for those who have entered into new life through Him” (Long). The author of Hebrews distinguishes Jesus as a high priest from the politically powerful priests of the first century by describing what the responsibilities of the High Priest are (Hebrews 5:1-6) as well as what Jesus has done as High Priest (Hebrews 7:26).