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The Old Testament clearly established a priesthood (the Levites) to serve Israel. This Earthly priesthood was a symbol of the Messiah's eternal priesthood. The book of Hebrews explains its purpose and fulfillment. Historic Protestantism, because of its study of the Scriptures, proclaimed the “universal priesthood of all believers.” The special office of priest was fulfilled in our Savior, and thus came to an end in Him.
Although Catholicism acknowledges this universal priesthood, it sustains a “weak and beggarly element” of the old covenant and assigns to its priests remarkable power as pastors of the church. This system is essential to the power of the Catholic Church and cannot be justified by the Bible.
One of the finest scholars of Roman Catholic Scripture, Raymond E. Brown, shocked Catholics when he discovered that:
When we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament, it is striking that while there are pagan priests and Jewish priests on the scene, no individual Christian is ever specifically identified as a priest. The Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of the high priesthood of Jesus by comparing his death and entry into heaven with the actions of the Jewish high priest who went into the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle once a year with a offering for himself and for the sins of his people (Hebrews 9:6-7).
But it is noteworthy that the author of Hebrews does not associate the priesthood of Jesus with the Eucharist or the Last Supper; neither does he suggest that other Christians are priests in the likeness of Jesus. In fact, the once-for-all atmosphere that surrounds the priesthood of Jesus in Hebrews 10:12-14, has been offered as an explanation of why there are no Christian priests in the New Testament period.
Biblical Protestantism repudiates the Catholic priesthood system, and would consider its proposed imposition a radical violation of its conscience before God.
Some Other Differences
Confession of sins to a priest, as a mediator between God and man (only Christ can be your mediator)
See: I Timothy 2:5—“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” and I Peter 2:5 speaks of all true believers as being part of a priesthood.
Prayers to dead Saints—people canonized by the Pope. (The Bible reveals that being a saint has nothing to do with the Pope, and the word was not used in Scripture as a distinctive title or indicative of a “spiritual nobility” or miracles. See: Saint)
Veneration of (or praying to) statues and images. (The Bible indicates that prayer should be to God alone. See: Prayer and Idolatry)
Offering of masses, prayers and rosaries for those who suffer in “purgatory”
See Hebrews 9:27—“…Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”
This list is by no means complete.
➤ CONCLUSION (don't miss this)
- 1. Raymond E. Brown, Priest and Bishop: Biblical Reflections (New York: Paulist Press, 1970).
Pages in this complete article about ways in which the Bible and the Roman Catholic Church differ
1. Salvation through Faith by Grace Alone | 2. Salvation in Christ Alone | 3. Mary | 4. Pope and Infallibility | 5. The Mass | 6. Purgatory | 7. The Priestly System and Other Differences | 8. Conclusion