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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

High-Priest

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(הִכֹּהֵן, hak-kohen', the ordinary word for "priest," with the article, i.e. "the priest;" and in the books subsequent to the Pentateuch with the frequent addition הִגָּדֹל, the great, and הָרֹאשׁ, "the head? Leviticus 21:10 seems to exhibit the epithet גָּדֹל [as ἐπίσκοπος and διάκονος in the N.T.] in a transition state, not yet wholly technical; and the same may be said of Numbers 35:25, where the explanation at the end of the verse, "which was anointed with the holy oil," seems to show that the epithet כֹּהֵן was not yet quite established as distinctive of the chief priest [comp. Numbers 35:28]. In all other passages of the Pentateuch it is simply "the priest," Exodus 29:30; Exodus 29:44; Leviticus 16:32; or yet more frequently "Aaron," or "Aaron the priest," as Numbers 3:6; Numbers 4:33; Leviticus 1:7, etc. So, too, "Eleazar the priest," Numbers 27:22; Numbers 31:26; Numbers 31:29; Numbers 31:31, etc. In fact- there could be no such distinction in the time of Moses, since the priesthood was limited to Aaron and his sons. In the Sept. ἀρχιερεύς , or ἱερεύς, where the Heb. has only,;.3. So likewise in the N.T. ἀρχιερεύς, often merely a "chief priest." Vulgate, Sacerdos magnus, or primus pontifex, princeps sacerdotum), the head of the Jewish hierarchy, and a lineal descendant of Aaron.

I. The legal view of the high-priest's office comprises all that the law of Moses ordained respecting it. The first distinct separation of Aaron to the office of the priesthood, which previously belonged to the firstborn, was that recorded in Exodus 28. A partial anticipation of this call occurred at the gathering of the manna (Exodus 16), when Moses bade Aaron take a pot of manna, and lay it up before the Lord: which implied that the ark of the Testimony would thereafter be under Aaron's charge, though it was not at that time in existence. The taking up of Nadab and Abihu with their father Aaron to the Mount, where they beheld the glory of the God of Israel, seems also to have been intended as a preparatory intimation of Aaron's hereditary priesthood. See also Exodus 27:21. But it was not till the completion of the directions for making the tabernacle and its furniture that the distinct order was given to Moses, "Take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him. from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons" (Exodus 28:1). So after the order for the priestly garments to be made "for Aaron and his sons," it is added, "and the priest's office shall be theirs for a perpetual statute; and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his soils,' and "I will sanctify both Aaron and his sons to minister to me in the priest's office," Exodus 29:9; Exodus 29:44.

We find from the very first the following characteristic attributes of Aaron and the high-priests his successors, as distinguished from the other priests.

1. Aaron alone was anointed. "He poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron's head, and anointed him to sanctify him" (Leviticus 8:12) whence one of the distinctive epithets of the high-priest was הִמָּשַׁיח

הִכֹּהֵן, "the anointed priest" (Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:5; Leviticus 4:16; Leviticus 21:10; see Numbers 35:25). This appears also from Exodus 29:29-30, where it is ordered that the one of the sons of Aaron who succeeds him in the priest's office shall wear the holy garments that were Aaron's for seven days, to he anointed therein, and to be consecrated in them. Hence Eusebius (Hist. Ecclesiastes 1, 6; Dem. Evang. 8) understands the Anointed (A.V. "Messiah," or, as the Sept. reads, χρίσμα) in Daniel 9:26, the anointing of the Jewish high-priests: "It means nothing else than the succession of high-priests, whom the Scripture commonly calls χρισταύς, anointed" and so, too, Tertullian and Theodoret (Rosenm. ad loc;) The anointing of the sons of Aaron, i.e. the common priests, seems to have been confined to sprinkling their garments with the anointing oil (Exodus 29:21; Exodus 28:41, etc.), though, according to Kalisch on Exodus 29:8, and Lightfoot, following the Rabbinical interpretation, the difference consists in the abundant pouring of oil (יָצִק ) on the head of the high-priest. from whence it was drawn with the finger into two streams, in the shape of a Greek X, while the priests were merely marked with the finger dipped in ail on the forehead (מָשִׁח ), But this is probably a late invention of the Rabbins. The anointing of the highpriest is alluded to in Psalms 133:2, "It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, that went down to the skirts of his garments." The composition of this anointing oil, consisting of myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, cassia, and olive oil, is prescribed Exodus 30:22-25; and its use for any other purpose but that of anointing the priests, the tabernacle, and the vessels, was strictly prohibited, on pain of being "cut off from his people." The manufacture of it was entrusted to certain priests, called apothecaries (Nehemiah 3:8). But this oil is said to have been wanting under the second Temple (Prideaux, 1, 151; Selden, cap. 9). (See ANOINTING OIL).

2. The high priest had a peculiar dress, which, as we have seen, passed to his successor at his death. This dress consisted of eight parts,. as the Rabbins constantly note, the breastplate, the ephod with its curious girdle, the robe of the ephod, the miter, the broidered coat or diaper tunic, and the girdle, the materials being gold, blue, red, crimson, and fine (white) linen (Exodus 28). To the above are added, in Exodus 28:42, the breeches or drawers (Leviticus 16:4) of linen; and to make up the number eight, some reckon the high-priest's miter, or the plate (צַיוֹ ) separately from the bonnet; while others reckon the curious girdle of the ephod separately from the ephod. In Leviticus 8:7-12, there is a complete account of the putting on of these garments by Aaron, and the whole ceremony of his consecration and that of his sons. It there appears distinctly that, besides the girdle common to all the priests, the high-priest also wore the curious girdle of the ephod. Of these eight articles of attire, four, viz. the coat or tunic, the girdle, the breeches, and the bonnet or turban, מַגְבָּעָה, instead of the miter, מַצְנֶפֶת (Josephus, however, whom Bahr follows, calls the bonnets of the priests by the name of מַצְנֶפֶת . See below), belonged to the common priests.

It is well known how, in the Assyrian sculptures, the king is in like manner distinguished by the shape of his headdress; and how in Persia none but the king wore the cidaris, or erect tiara. Bahr compares also the apices of the flamen Dialis. Josephus speaks of the robes (ἐνδύματα ) of the chief priests, and the tunics and girdles of the priests, as forming part of the spoil of the Temple ( War, 6:8,3). Aaron, and at his death Eleazar (Numbers 20:26; Numbers 20:28), and their successors in the high- priesthood, were solemnly inaugurated into their office by being clad in these eight articles of dress on seven successive days. From the time of the second Temple, when the sacred oil (said to have been hid by Josiah, and lost) was wanting, this putting on of the garments was deemed the official investiture of the office. Hence the robes, which had used to be kept in one of the chambers of the Temple, and were by Hyrcanus deposited in the Baris, which he built on purpose, were kept by Herod in the same tower, which he called Antonia, so that they might be at his absolute disposal. The Romans did the same till the government of Vitellius, in the reign of Tiberius, when the custody of the robes was restored to the Jews (Ant. 15:11, 4; 18:4,3). Taking the articles of the high-priest's dress in the order in which they would naturally be put on, we have

(1.) The "breeches" or drawers, מַכְנְסַים, miknesim', of linen, covering the loins and thighs, for purposes of modesty, as all the upper garments were loose and flowing. Their probable form is illustrated by the subjoined cut, from Braun (De Vestitu Sacerdotum Hebrceorum, p. 364), who calls attention to the bands (Talmud, שנצים ) for drawing the top together, and the absence of any opening either before (בית העריה, apertura ad pudenda) or behind (בית הנקב, apertura ad anum).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'High-Priest'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/h/high-priest.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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