priests and Levites

In the OT the priests were intermediaries between the people and their all-powerful God. Their main function was to offer sacrifices, with a subsidiary duty until the Exile [[➝ Exile, the]], of teaching the Law. They were also in charge of Urim and Thummim, the sacred lots, carried by the priests in a front pocket (Exod. 28:30). During the period of the Judges, priests of the tribe of Levi were particularly valued (Judg. 17:10). When worship was centralized at Jerusalem, local shrines were closed and many Levites who were not descendants of Aaron had no employment (Deut. 12:12 f.), and were not accepted at Jerusalem as true priests. They were suspected of having become tainted with Canaanite practices in their rural shrines, and so in the Temple were relegated to an inferior status (Ezek. 44:10–14). Priests were superior as being descendants of Zadok (Ezek. 48:11). Post-exilic literature (Mal. 2:4–7) suggests that both priests and Levites were accorded a common descent from Levi and as such the Levites, though distinct from priests, had important duties at the services (1 Chron. 16:4–27) and in teaching (2 Chron. 17:7–9). In the NT the distinction between priests and Levites is maintained (Luke 10:31, 32).
Chief priests, together with elders and scribes, comprised the Jerusalem Sanhedrin (Mark 14:55) before whom Jesus appeared before being sent for trial by Pilate. The ‘chief priests’ were members of priestly families from whom the ‘high priest’ (Caiaphas, Matt. 26:3) was chosen. In the NT Church the whole body of Christians were regarded as a ‘royal priesthood’ (1 Pet. 2:9) not in the sense of a ruling or tyrannical priesthood but as a body charged, like a king, to mediate blessings to the world and to offer spiritual sacrifices.

Dictionary of the Bible.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • PRIESTS AND PRIESTHOOD — Definition of Priesthood The priests are the principal functionaries in divine services, their special task being to engage in cultic ceremonies which they conducted mainly in the Temple. In general the priests post is authorized by hereditary… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Levites — • The subordinate ministers appointed in the Mosaic Law for the service of the Tabernacle and of the Temple Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Levites     Levites      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • LEVITES IN THE HALAKHAH — The levite has no privileges, neither through personal or family status nor any special sanctity, and it was ruled that the levite is equivalent to the Israelite in all things, including ritual defilement through contact with a corpse, which is… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Levites — According to Deuteronomy the Levites were priests who offered sacrifices and passed on the teachings of the law (Deut. 17:18; 33:10). They are scattered round the towns, but in view of the centralization of worship in Jerusalem Levites were… …   Dictionary of the Bible

  • LEVITES —    a body of men divided into courses, the servants of the priests in the worship of the Temple of Jerusalem; they were not permitted to enter the sanctuary or serve at the altar, their duties being limited to keeping watch over the Temple,… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • TERUMOT AND MA'ASEROT — (Heb. תְּרוּמוֹת, heave offerings, and מַעַשְׂרוֹת, tithes ), dues given to the priests and the poor. A number of passages in the Bible deal with ma aser and according to the halakhah they refer to different categories: the first tithe is given… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • EZRA AND NEHEMIAH, BOOKS OF — EZRA AND NEHEMIAH, BOOKS OF, two books in the Hagiographa (i.e., the Book of Ezra and the Book of Nehemiah), which were originally a single work. The Masoretic tradition regarded the books of Ezra and Nehemiah as one book and referred to it as… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • MISHMAROT AND MA'AMADOT — MISHMAROT AND MA AMADOT, priestly and levitical divisions. Historical According to I Chronicles 24–26 and rabbinic tradition, the priests and the Levites were organized into courses or divisions. According to post biblical evidence, these… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Eudists, or Society of Jesus and Mary —     Eudists     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Eudists     (Society of Jesus and Mary)     An ecclesiastical society instituted at Caen, France, 25 March, 1643, by the Venerable Jean Eudes. The principal works of the society are the education of… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Congregation of Jesus and Mary — The Eudists Abbreviation C.J.M. / C.I.M. Motto Vive Jesus et Marie Formation 25 …   Wikipedia

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