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Does the Jewish religion still have a priesthood today?

Full Question

Does the Jewish religion still have a priesthood today? Is it Levitical? Do its priests still offer sacrifice?

Answer

No, there is no Jewish priesthood today. According to the Old Testament, the only place from which it was appropriate to offer animal sacrifices to God was the Temple in Jerusalem. In A.D. 70 the Temple was destroyed, meaning Jewish priests no longer had a place to sacrifice. Since the Temple is still in ruins today, there is currently no place for sacrifice. Therefore, there is no active priesthood in Judaism.

This does not mean that there are not people who could be called upon to be priests were the Temple rebuilt. Unlike the other tribes of Israel, the tribe of Levi is not thought to have completely lost its identity. Many Jewish people, with names such as Levit, Levin, and Levine, are thought to be of the tribe of Levi. They are given special roles to fill in Jewish synagogue worship because of their priestly heritage. Those with names such as Cohen, Kahan, and sometimes Katz are thought to come from the priestly family within the tribe of Levi.

In recent years there has been discussion of rebuilding the Temple, and much of the discussion has centered around whether it would be possible to rebuild the Temple without destroying the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Recent archaeological evidence has suggested that the Holy of Holies–the most important chamber of the Temple and the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept–lay outside the Dome of the Rock, meaning it would be possible to rebuild the Temple, including the site of the Holy of Holies, without disturbing the Dome of the Rock.

Stories have circulated about Jewish men of Levitical descent training in Israel for active service in a restored priesthood. Last year one group of ultra-orthodox Jews even tried to lay a foundation stone for a new Temple.

Not all Jews support the movement to rebuild the Temple. Some have aired concern that if it were rebuilt, they would have to face the problem whether or not to bring back animal sacrifices–an issue many Jews don’t want to wrestle with.










8 comments

  1. Edward A. Hara Reply

    What an absolutely TERRIBLE answer!! The priesthood is the visible authority of the covenant. If you do not have covenant with God, you do not have a priesthood. The Old Covenant is GONE! It is passed away and the only way that the Jews could have a priesthood would be if the New Covenant was destroyed and the Old Covenant re-instituted.

    The ceremony of YOM KIPPUR (Lev. 16) is the ritual of covenant renewal whereby each year, the nation of Israel had its covenant renewed with God. Only the high priest could perform this ritual. Jesus the Christ is now the eternal Great High Priest who offers an eternal YOM KIPPUR in His own precious Blood. (Hebrews 7-10). Because Christ is eternal, His high priesthood is eternal, and therefore His YOM KIPPUR in heaven is eternal.

    The YOM KIPPUR ceremony is the only thing that maintains the covenant between God’s people and God. The only way that the covenant between God and His people can fail is if the YOM KIPPUR fails, which would only happen if the Blood of Christ fails to make an atonement for the sins of the Church (God’s people).

    I am APPALLED that you would even suggest that this could happen and the Jewish people could have a special covenant with God. Where did you learn your theology — Romper Room???

  2. B M Reply

    It’s not as simple as rebuilding the temple and calling on Cohenim to commit. The priesthood died with the destruction of the second temple and last of the priests. It was a continuous group that can’t be restarted. I would definitely be in the “don’t build it” camp, but not for sacrificial reasons. As a people, we’ve progressed past the need for a priesthood and should be focused on the universalism embedded in the message.

  3. Dr N. Katz Reply

    This is simply wrong, and I say this as a Jewish priest, a kohen. There remain certain religious rituals that only kohanim perform, to this day.

    1. Edward A. Hara Reply

      Dear Dr. Katz: Certainly you must know that the priesthood is a function which is dependent upon the Covenant of God. The priesthood is the visible extension of God’s authority over Creation. The priest is the mediator between the Creation and God and represents man and Creation to God and God to man and creation. All of this is only possible as covenant authority is given, both initially to the first priest, Aaron, and then to his descendants as the office is passed down from generation to generation.

      National Israel no longer has covenant with God. This was shown by the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, as prophesied by Jesus of Nazareth as He spoke to His disciples regarding the coming wrath which was to fall upon national Israel. When Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, the veil of the Temple, which separated the Holiest of All, was torn asunder and the Holiest of All was exposed for the profane world to see, a thing which had been prohibited up to that point. Only the high priest could go in and that only once a year on the day of Yom Kippur. To have the Holiest of All thus exposed defiled it forever and rendered it unfit to ever be used again. Thus, they symbolism of the covenant with Israel being destroyed and a New Covenant being established with a new priesthood.

      Jesus of Nazareth is that new Great High Priest. He has established a New Covenant in which both Jew and Gentile are welcome into the congregation of God. The Passover has become the Eucharist, the meal of covenant renewal. The circumcision, which was the ritual of covenant cutting has become baptism, in which the New Covenant congregation of God, the Catholic Church, welcomes all who will receive it into the congregation of God.

      This Jesus of Nazareth is the Great High Priest of the New Covenant. You would perhaps find it helpful to read the Christian Bible, the book of Hebrews specifically, with special emphasis on chapters 7-10 to see what the writer of antiquity has to say about this transition.

  4. Joyce martinko Reply

    Jesus was called Rabi. I am Catholic and realize Rabi means teacher. G-d bless.

  5. Arex L. Pantallano Reply

    Jesus Christ is our Eternal and Great High Priest seated at the right hand of GOD.

  6. Mario da silva Reply

    Could Scott Hahn comment please. This is a very interesting question

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