Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Where do pastors come from?

No this is not a "stork" question.  In one the classes I just finished teaching (Pastoral Leadership), I posed the question, where does the Biblical office of pastor come from?  Not as "descendants" of either priests or prophets, but rather from the elders and rabbis of the synagogue.  My notes are below:

From Priests and Prophets to Rabbis and Pastors


The essential function of a priest is to make offering to God for the forgiveness of sin based on prior divine command.  Priesthood always has an “upward” movement.


Noah (Genesis 8:20)

Abraham (Genesis 22:13)

Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18)

The Levitical Priesthood

                Confined to Levites, Aaron’s descendants (Exodus 28:1-3)

“Charismatic” priestly functions

Gideon (Judges 6:24, 26)

Men of Beth-Shemesh (1 Samuel 6:14-15)

Samuel (1 Samuel 7:9)

David (2 Samuel 6:13, 17)

Elijah (1 Kings 18:23m 32-38)

Second Temple Judaism

Under Pharisaic influence and Sadducee control, the cultus began tightly controlled, although (ironically) the Aaronic descent of the high priesthood was discarded.

The picture of the temple priesthood is nearly uniformly negative.  For an exception, see Acts 6:7.

Christ our High Priest

This is the major note of the NT regarding priesthood.  Christ's priesthood is a major theme in Hebrews (2:14-18; 4:14-16; 5:1-10; 7:9, 10, 18; cf. John 1:28, John 17).  His priesthood is compared to that of Melchizedek (see above) in that it is not reliant on Levitical descent. 

Priesthood of Believers

The minor note about NT priesthood in the NT is that all believers are now proclaimed to be priests:  see Romans 12:1-2, 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10.  This encompasses both direct access to God (without a human priest as intermediary) as well as the extension of the role of intermediary for others. 

The Priesthood of Paul

There is but one passage which compares the priesthood to NT pastoral work (Romans 15:15-17):

15But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.

But Paul’s conception is inseparable from the general blessing of priesthood (see 1 Peter 2) than to any conception of NT pastoral priesthood.

The Prophetic Office

The essential function of a prophet is to speak for God to the people, usually calling people to adhere to prior divine revelation.  Prophecy always has a “downward” movement.

Old Testament

                Abraham (Genesis 20:7)

                Moses (Numbers 12:6; see Deuteronomy 18:15)


                                Deborah (4:4)

                                Silent Era (1 Samuel 3:1)

                                Renewal of prophecy (1 Samuel 2-3)

                School of the Prophets (1 Samuel 19:18, 20:1)

                Prophets during the Kings Era

                                Samuel, Nathan, Gad, Abijah, Shemaiah

                                Elijah, Elisha

                Writing Prophets

                                Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and the 12

A Second Silent Era

New Testament

John the Baptist (John 1:19-29)

Jesus the Prophet

Prophets after Pentecost

                Paul (Acts 16:6, 18:9, 22:17, 27:23)

Agabus (Acts 11:27, 21:10)

                Daughters of Philip (21:9)

                In NT letters (1 Corinthians 14: esp.  14:29; cf. 1 John 4:1)

The prophetic office is a better model for pastoral ministry, but has certain limitations.  The prophetic gift is at most a partial component of pastoring and is never equated with pastoral offices or gifts.  Prophecy in terms of direct speaking on behalf of God is never equated to pastoring (even if we acknowledge Grudem’s observations on the NT prophetic gift).

From Rabbi to Pastor

The office of Rabbi developed in the intertestamental era.   Jews needed a worship setting apart from the Temple; the synagogue began as an expediency due to the exile.  Rabbi means "my great one"; the title was once used of masters by slaves.   See Matthew 23:7.  Rabbi was often translated as didaskalos, "teacher" (see Matthew 23:8, John 1:38, 49).  John the Baptist was called Rabbi (John 3:26) as well as Christ Himself (John 1:49, 6:25)

Jesus forbade its use among His followers (Matthew 23:8).

It is evident that the synagogue structure provided the template for the early church (see James 2:2).  Acts 20:17, 28 show us that elder = overseers = pastor (shepherd).  “Elder” is the preferred term in Jewish circles and “overseers” in Gentile circles, while “shepherd” works in both contexts.  Paul brackets “pastors and teachers” in Ephesians 4:11. 

Characteristics of Rabbis and Pastors

·         Primary role: teachers of God’s word

·         Conducted much of worship

·         Example to the congregation in terms of devotion, prayer and character

·         Major responsibility to engage disciples (although the Rabbinical way and the Jesus way is radically different)

·         Serves alongside elders

·         Must have at least rudimentary leadership/administrative abilities

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