Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

Patrick H
Gormley


priests and masses are human inventions as shown by why priests?

Priests in Catholicism are seen as representatives of Christ who act in his name.  The logic is that if a priest baptised then it is really Jesus who baptises.  Priests however mainly exist to perform mass where bread and wine is turned into Jesus' body and blood and he offers himself to God as eternal priest.

Gary Wills author of the book Why Priests? makes an excellent case for this tradition being man-made. This is his analysis of the doctrine of the Letter to the Hebrews.  This book is oddly enough used as a model and argument for the validity of the Catholic priesthood though it is clear that Jesus alone is priest.

Hebrews is written as if it is meant to pass for something written centuries before the first century AD. The Temple is never mentioned. It is all about its precursor the Tabernacle – the tent the Hebrews used for worship when Israel was a camping nation. The use of Hebrews as a term is interesting. It was out of use at the time of Jesus except to refer to the Israel of Moses’ day centuries upon centuries before. “By the first century A.D. the term had acquired an archaic quality, since the Old Testament uses Hebrews almost exclusively for the early history of Israel” (Craig Koestner, Hebrews, Doubleday, 2001).

Hebrews tries to find evidence for its claims and doctrines in the Old Testament.  It uses the Jewish priesthood as a model for Jesus.  The obsession with figures as far back such as Abraham and Melchizedek when there are better ways to make the argument Hebrews tries to make makes it look like an attempted historical forgery. If that is so then the gospel Jesus living in the first century AD is untrue.

The historical Jesus if he existed was not a priest nor did he claim to be. Hebrews is basically a plot to find a way, no matter what, of declaring him a priest! So it comes up with him having to shed the blood we are supposed to shed for our sins. He does it for us and is our priest and sacrifice when he died once and for all for sins.

Hebrews pictures Christ as saving souls with his blood in a Temple in Heaven. This is a doctrine of the Seventh Day Adventist faith.  The idea is that the blood saves nothing until it is given to God in a ceremony.  That reflects pagan superstition.  If the death of Jesus was a sacrifice of love God would be evil or there is some fault in the sacrifice if God cannot accept it until a rite is performed.  This is a doctrine of salvation by blood sacrifice and differs a bit from the idea of Jesus dying as a sacrifice.  He died as a potential one that God could discard.  This Jesus is not God for surely if God died as a sacrifice for sin there would be no further ado?

Hebrews sees the Jewish priesthood as a picture of Christ and thus a sort of prophecy. God banned any male with an injury from the priesthood.

Leviticus 21 reads,

5 Priests must not shave their heads or shave off the edges of their beards or cut their bodies.

6 They must be holy to their God and must not profane the name of their God. Because they present the food offerings to the Lord, the food of their God, they are to be holy.

Then we find,

16 The Lord said to Moses,

17 “Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God.

18 No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed;

19 no man with a crippled foot or hand,

20 or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles.

21 No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the food offerings to the Lord. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God.

22 He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food;

23 yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the Lord, who makes them holy.’”

It is obvious from the parallel that Jesus as priest could not have had any blemish including crucifixion marks. Either he was not nailed and just tied to the cross but otherwise unharmed or he was miraculously cured in the resurrection.

Melchizidek is over-used as an argument for Jesus though the only record of him says so little of value.

Genesis 14 says,

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High,

19 and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.

20
And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.”  Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Wills looks at the Melchizedek document from Qumran. This document which dates perhaps to fifty years before Jesus and plainly says Melchizedek will judge and punish as if he were God and also forgive sins “forgiving them the wrongdoings of all their iniquities”. The text is seemingly thinking of an allegedly Messianic text that says a figure will lead captives to liberty and applies that to Melchizedek.

 

Hebrews has an over-the-top estimation of Melchizidek too.

Hebrews made the obvious blunder of trying to say Jesus alone was priest forever when it says that of Melchizedek too. Wills notices how the book does not solve the problem or try to. Had there been any interest in priesthood in the early Church it would have been thought out better than that!

Hebrews uses Melchizedek’s eternal priesthood which is eternal for he never died and for he never ceased to have the priesthood role to bolster the alleged Jesus priesthood. A thin attempt is made to show that Melchizedek is below Jesus as priest and is best understood as a picture of Jesus’ work. Hilariously, the letter uses Melchizedek and then is left with no role for him so it just moves on and hopes nobody will notice.

One match between the pair is that Hebrews says Jesus sacrificed once for all and is a priest forever nevertheless. Once a priest always a priest. Melchizedek sacrificed once too in the vision of the Hebrews writer. Oddly enough Melchizedek is called a priest for bringing out bread and wine but Hebrews itself says that blood is the only sacrifice (9:22).

A lot is read into how the Bible says once that Melchizedek brought out sacrifice. Commonsense says that it does not say he never sacrificed any other time. But it gets worse. He brought out bread and wine and it is mentioned in passing that he is a priest. So there is no sacrifice mentioned at all. It does not say bread and wine were the sacrifice and indeed the rule was that an animal had to be the sacrifice.

Hebrews chapter 7 makes out that as Melchizedek blessed Abraham that means that even super-patriarch and mega-prophet Abraham was subordinate to him in dignity and in spiritual importance. The notion is that only a superior can bless a person. So you cannot bless your equal or anybody higher up. But the Bible itself contradicts that (2 Samuel 14:22, 1 Kings 1:47, 1 Kings 8:66. Job 31:20 shows that it was the norm for even beggars to bless. Jesus himself declared himself below everybody else and that he was their servant and yet he blessed them.

The letter is clear that priesthood is ended by death (7:8, 20) which is why a real priesthood can only be held by one who lives for all eternity. So was Jesus priest after he died? How does that work out? The idea is that Jesus died for sinners but he had to rise to offer it to make it a sacrifice THEN!

Hebrews 7 oddly says that the forever-ness of Jesus’ priesthood is simply down to God giving him by oath an eternal ordination.

For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

 

Let us read it in context.


18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless

19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath,

21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’”

22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.
If God has to swear to make Jesus priest then is Jesus God? No for God cannot need to swear to God!

Based on work by Gary Wills let us compare sacrifice under Old Testament law and under the New law as shown by Hebrews.

OLD: In a man-made tabernacle or tend – the temple is never mentioned by Hebrews
NEW: In a tabernacle in Heaven

OLD: daily sacrifice
NEW: Once and for all

OLD: Sacrifice benefits for a while
NEW: benefits forever

OLD: Priest had to repent his own sins before the sacrifice
NEW: Jesus does not need to repent but is unblemished

OLD: Priest is not the sacrifice
NEW: Priest is the sacrifice – Jesus is a self-sacrificing priest

OLD: Superficial flesh deep cleaning
NEW: Your heart and whole being are fixed by God’s grace

OLD: Calendar of ritual feasts etc
NEW: None

OLD: Priests die
NEW: This priest lives forever which is why there is no need for another priest and indeed there is none

OLD: All things are blessed and purified by blood as a reminder that without spilt sacrificial blood there is no forgiveness of sin or uncleanness (Hebrews 9:22)
NEW: Jesus’ blood does all that and the only reason the old sacrifices did any good was because they pictured and invoked his blood sacrifice which essentially is the only real and effective one


It has been noted that Hebrews 9:23-28 contains alarming doctrine. On the note of blood purification, it says that HEAVEN itself needed purification by the blood sacrifice of Jesus. The argument is that the tent or tabernacle of sacrifice is a picture of Heaven so it needed purification by blood and so does Heaven as well which can only be cleaned by the sacrifice of Jesus. Talk about this being a chamber of Heaven not Heaven is just trying to read what you want to believe into the text. The text says there is sin in Heaven for why else would it need purification? Attempts to make out that Heaven do not mean Heaven are just tricks. Hebrews was not written for theologians with their intellectual distortions.

FF Bruce says the text does not say that Jesus took his own blood into the sanctuary of Heaven. But after what we have read it is obvious that Jesus sprinkled his own blood there to purify it Jewish priest style. The trouble with Jesus sacrificing his blood on earth and rising means he will go to Heaven with blood that is back in is body and which is no longer a sacrifice or can be.

Interestingly attempts to link the letter to the bread and wine sacrifice of the Eucharist fail for the letter never mentions or hints at knowledge of this sacrament. Even worse, the letter could mention that Melchizedek brought bread and wine to Abraham in sacrifice but purposely avoids even mentioning them. That omission speaks volumes.

The letter states that there is an altar where those who officiate at the sacrifice are not allowed to eat. See Hebrews 13. It says “we” the Church has it. It refers to the sacrifice of Jesus for it goes on to say that animals sacrificed were burnt outside the camp and similarly Jesus was executed for his blood sacrifice outside the city gate. It says then we must go out to where he was killed so that we are out of the city for no city lasts. The letter condemns the former eating codes and says now there is a new one.

It is interesting to note that the reference to animals being burnt outside the sanctuary is referring to them being dumped. To have Jesus killed as a sacrifice as if he were on a dump and to say the dumping of sacrificed animals symbolises this as Hebrews does is very significant. It contradicts a crucifixion on the hill of Calvary.

The eating of the edible parts of the sacrifice was part of the message of destruction. The life of the victim is subjected to destruction. The body of the victim has to be destroyed by feasting on the good edible parts. The waste has to be dumped as worthless and destroyed. It was burnt as garbage outside the camp. Essentially this would have been bones, skin, hooves etc.

In the Eucharist, it is said that you fuse with Jesus. You do not destroy the victim by consuming it. In the light of Hebrews, the Eucharist cannot be a sacrificial meal. Catholicism says it is and core to the Catholic faith.

One thing that helps show that the letter arose in a non or anti-Eucharist religious culture, is that the letter seems to have originated in Rome and the Christians there were really effectively Jews. Raymond Brown in his Introduction to the New Testament (Doubleday, 1997) notes that, “knowledge of Hebrews was attested at Rome earlier than at any other place.” And he wrote, “Why would the author compose in elegant Greek a dissuasive to Jewish Christian priests who would have known Hebrew as part of the liturgy, or to Jewish Christians of Judea, for whom Hebrew or Aramaic would have been a native language?” (page 10, Epistle to the Hebrews, Harold Attridge, Fortress Press, 1989). This shows that far from being Catholic, the Church at Rome which Peter supposedly monitored, was Jewish and there is no way Peter could be made out to be anything like a pope. The central Catholic subject of the Eucharist is opposed by the letter.

Wills successfully shows in the book that the idea of Peter becoming bishop of Rome and the first pope and starting off the papacy is nonsense.

As grateful we are to Wills and his readers, we lament how the truth is so resisted by the Church. Religion ignores debunking.

APPENDIX: JESUS AS WAY-SHOWER

Wills talks a bit about Jesus as role model. He points out that he is not really what most people want or more importantly need.

He was not a parent.

We know little about him as a son.

We know nothing about his marriage – we believe he was not married.

He did a lot of anti-cultural things – raging in the Temple, telling a man not to bury his father, using strong scary language, left a farmer robbed of his pigs.

All you can say that those who say they would do only what Jesus would do are fooling themselves.

APPENDIX: QUOTE ABOUT MARRIAGE

“Before the eleventh century there was no such thing as a Christian wedding ceremony in the Latin church, and throughout the Middle Ages there was no single church ritual for solemnizing marriage between Christians” (Joseph Martos, Doors to the Sacred: A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church (Liguori Publications, 2001)