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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words


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1: ἱερεύς

(Strong's #2409 — Noun Masculine — hiereus — hee-er-yooce' )

"one who offers sacrifice and has the charge of things pertaining thereto," is used (a) of a "priest" of the pagan god Zeus, Acts 14:13; (b) of Jewish "priests," e.g., Matthew 8:4; 12:4,5; Luke 1:5 , where allusion is made to the 24 courses of "priests" appointed for service in the Temple (cp. 1 Chronicles 24:4 ff.); John 1:19; Hebrews 8:4; (c) of believers, Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6 . Israel was primarily designed as a nation to be a kingdom of "priests," offering service to God, e.g., Exodus 19:6; the Israelites having renounced their obligations, Exodus 20:19 , the Aaronic priesthood was selected for the purpose, till Christ came to fulfil His ministry in offering up Himself; since then the Jewish priesthood has been abrogated, to be resumed nationally, on behalf of Gentiles, in the millenial kingdom, Is. 61:6; 66:21. Meanwhile all believers, from Jews and Gentiles, are constituted "a kingdom of priests," Revelation 1:6 (see above), "a holy priesthood," 1 Peter 2:5 , and "royal," 1 Peter 2:9 . The NT knows nothing of a sacerdotal class in contrast to the laity; all believers are commanded to offer the sacrifices mentioned in Romans 12:1; Philippians 2:17; 4:18; Hebrews 13:15,16; 1 Peter 2:5; (d) of Christ, Hebrews 5:6; 7:11,15,17,21; 8:4 (negatively); (e) of Melchizedek, as the forshadower of Christ, Hebrews 7:1,3 .

2: ἀρχιερεύς

(Strong's #749 — Noun Masculine — archiereus — ar-khee-er-yuce' )

designates (a) "the high priests" of the Levitical order, frequently called "chief priests" in the NT, and including "ex-high priests" and members of "high priestly" families, e.g., Matthew 2:4; 16:21; 20:18; 21:15; in the singular, a "high priest," e.g., Abiathar, Mark 2:26; Annas and Caiaphas, Luke 3:2 , where the RV rightly has "in the high priesthood of A. and C." (cp. Acts 4:6 ). As to the combination of the two in this respect, Annas was the "high priest" from A.D. 7-14, and, by the time referred to, had been deposed for some years; his son-in-law, Caiaphas, the fourth "high priest" since his deposition, was appointed about A.D. 24. That Annas was still called the "high priest" is explained by the facts (1) that by the Mosaic law the high priesthood was held for life, Numbers 35:25; his deposition was the capricious act of the Roman procurator, but he would still be regarded legally and religiously as "high priest" by the Jews; (2) that he probably still held the office of deputy-president of the Sanhedrin (cp. 2 Kings 25:18 ); (3) that he was a man whose age, wealth and family connections gave him a preponderant influence, by which he held the real sacerdotal power; indeed at this time the high priesthood was in the hands of a clique of some half dozen families; the language of the writers of the Gospels is in accordance with this, in attributing the high priesthood rather to a caste than a person; (4) the "high priests" were at that period mere puppets of Roman authorities who deposed them at will, with the result that the title was used more loosely than in former days.

The Divine institution of the priesthood culminated in the "high priest," it being his duty to represent the whole people, e.g., Leviticus 4:15,16; ch. 16. The characteristics of the Aaronic "high priests" are enumerated in Hebrews 5:1-4; 8:3; 9:7,25; in some mss., Hebrews 10:11 (RV, marg.); 13:11.

(b) Christ is set forth in this respect in the Ep. to the Hebrews, where He is spoken of as "a high priest," Hebrews 4:15; 5:5,10; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1,3 (RV); 9:11; "a great high priest," Hebrews 4:14; "a great priest," Hebrews 10:21; "a merciful and faithful high priest," Hebrews 2:17; "the Apostle and high priest of our confession," Hebrews 3:1 , RV; "a high priest after the order of Melchizedek," Hebrews 5:10 . One of the great objects of this Epistle is to set forth the superiority of Christ's High Priesthood as being of an order different from and higher than the Aaronic, in that He is the Son of God (see especially Hebrews 7:28 ), with a priesthood of the Melchizedek order. Seven outstanding features of His priesthood are stressed, (1) its character, Hebrews 5:6,10; (2) His commission, Hebrews 5:4,5; (3) His preparation, Hebrews 2:17; 10:5; (4) His sacrifice, Hebrews 8:3; 9:12,14,27,28; 10:4-12; (5) His santuary, Hebrews 4:14; 8:2; 9:11,12,24; 10:12,19; (6) His ministry, Hebrews 2:18; 4:15; 7:25; 8:6; 9:15,24; (7) its effects, 2:15; 4:16; 6:19,20; 7:16,25; 9:14,28; 10:14-17,22,39; 12:1; 13:13-17.

Note: In Acts 4:6 the adjective hieratikos, "high priestly," is translated "of the high priest."

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Priest'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words. 1940.

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