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Priest, Priesthood

PRIEST, PRIESTHOOD. The English word priest is derived from the Greek presbyteros, which means “elder” and suggests the priestly function of counsel. The NT word for “priest,” hiereus, related to hieros, “holy,” indicates one who is consecrated to and engaged in holy matters. The Hebrew kōhēn, “priest,” is of uncertain origin. For practical Bible study we may say simply that a priest is a minister of any religion, whether pagan (Gen.41.45; Acts.14.13) or biblical (Matt.8.4; 1Pet.2.5, 1Pet.2.9). I. The History of the Formal Priesthood. The formal priesthood in Israel began with the time of the Exodus. In the patriarchal times the heads of families offered sacrifices and intercessory prayers and performed general religious functions, but there seems to have been no specialization and no separate priestly office, as there was among the Egyptians (Gen.47.22, Gen.47.26) and in the instance of Melchizedek (Gen.14.18-Gen.14.20). We read in Exod.24.5 that Moses sent young men of Israel to