Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Priest, in its largest meaning, applies to all persons who conduct the worship of a god or gods by means of certain fixed ceremonies, among which sacrifice has always been regarded as the most important. The word is derived through French and Latin from the Greek presbuteros, "elder'1 [Presbyterianism] ; but, owing to the pre' Christian associations which had early gathered round it, it is never used to translate presbuteros in the New Testament. In the Authorised Version "priest" translates the Hebrew hohen (Septuagint, hiereus; Vulgate, sacerdos), and rightly so, for in both the Greek and Latin Churches the functions of the presbuteros came to be identified, or at least closely assimilated in idea, with those of the ministers of the ancient Jewish religion. The transition to those who held a like position in the great heathen religions of antiquity was then natural and easy. In the Christian religion the identification of the presbuteros and the hiereus - the notion that the priest is a mediator between God and man - was in great measure due to the conception of the Eucharist as a propitiatory offering. The religious movement which culminated in the Reformation was a protest against the sacramental character of the priesthood, and there is now no point concerning which there is greater divergence of view between the Roman and reformed churches, or even between members of the same communion in the reformed churches, than the nature of the priestly office. The Church of England in her "office of institution" ascribes sacerdotal functions to the priesthood - viz. the offering of sacrifice, praise, and thanksgiving in the Eucharist, "the declaring and pronouncing the absolution and remission of sins," and the blessing of the people in God's name.