The Berean Expositor
Volume 34 - Page 61 of 261
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times--a number that we have already noticed earlier in this series--"Great Priest",
(megan), once (Heb. 10: 21); and "High Priest" seventeen times, and so interwoven with
the theme of Hebrews is this thought of "Priesthood" that the teaching of chapters 5:,
7:, 8:, 9: and 10: demand continual reference to "priests", while chapters 2:, 3:, 4:,
5:, 6:, 7:, 8:, 9: and 13: necessitate continual reference to the "High Priest".
Words are counters; they are index fingers; their inclusion or exclusion from any
reasonable piece of writing indicates its general trend. Any treatise, letter or book
dealing with such matters as War, Finance, Religion and Logic would of necessity
include certain specific terms and exclude others, and if the treatise, letter or book were
of the length of either Hebrews or Ephesians, the subject-matter of the title could be
deduced from a collation of the distinctive words employed. If the theme of Hebrews
necessitated the constant use of the words "Priest" and "High Priest", that fact would go a
long way to indicate the character of its teaching. If to this it be added that Ephesians
contains neither of these words, that additional fact would go a long way to indicate that
the essential theme of Ephesians differed from Hebrews. Further, if it be observed that in
the whole of Paul's writings (thirteen epistles) there is not one occurrence of the word
"Priest" or "High Priest", the evidence for the difference between his apostolic ministry
as covered by the thirteen epistles and this letter to the Hebrews is still further increased,
and when we remember that the same writer, Paul, is responsible for the use, or non use,
of these words, and that the use, or non use, is controlled not only by Paul's
reasonableness, and Paul's faithfulness, but by inspiration of God (II Tim. 3: 16;
II Pet. 3: 16), then the evidence for the difference in calling and sphere of Hebrews and
Ephesians becomes overwhelming.
Before we can appreciate the use or non use of the word "Priest" in these epistles, it
will be necessary to consider the testimony of Scripture concerning the office of the
Priest and its relation to Israel and the nations. The epistle to the Hebrews itself provides
evidence that, long before Israel's time, the idea of Priesthood was entertained by the
nations, for Melchisedec was a "King-Priest" at the time of Abraham (Gen. 14: 18-20).
There is much to be said concerning the Melchisedec priesthood (Heb. 5: 11), but the
present is not the time of it. There were priests in Egypt in the days of Joseph
(Gen. 46: 20) and in Midian in the days of Moses (Exod. 2: 16) yet, out of the 725
occurrences where the word kohen is translated "priest", at least 700 refer to the
priesthood of Israel. If under the law of Moses the offering of sacrifice, and the building
of an altar is the work of a priest, this was by no means the case before the introduction of
the "law of commandments and carnal ordinances" introduced after the breaking of the
stones of the covenant at Sinai.
Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice, yet he was no priest. Noah offered a burnt
offering upon an altar,  and distinguishes between clean and unclean animals
(Gen. 8: 20). Job, too, as the head of his family "sent and sanctified his children" and
"offered burnt offerings" on their behalf (Job 1: 5). Upon his entry into the land of
promise Abraham also "built an altar, and called upon the name of the Lord" (Gen. 12: 7,
8), and is seen arranging the sacrifices at the time of the great promise (Gen. 15: 9-21).
Isaac built an altar (Gen. 26: 25), and Jacob built an altar at Shalem (Gen. 33: 20),