An Everlasting Levitical Priesthood?
Q. How could priest Phinehas, grandson of Aaron, have a "perpetual / everlasting / eternal priesthood" (Num.25:13) in a covenant "rendered obsolete and ageing" and which was in the process of disappearing (Heb.8:13, NIV)? If, as the writer of Hebrews teaches, the Aaronic/Levitical Priesthood, into which Phinehas was ordained, was replaced by the New Covenant Melchizedek Priesthood whose High Priest is Jesus Christ (Heb.7:12), then surely it cannot be true that Phinehas received an "eternal Priesthood" since it no longer exists?
A. The only explanation which I have ever seen to resolve this apparent contradiction, given by Connie J. Horn, runs something like this: A study of Phinehas's descendants reveals God's preservation of his family. His last descendant mentioned in Scripture is Jaddua, who aligned himself with Nehemiah, and those to whom it is said, they have "knowledge" and "understanding" (Neh.10:28). Phinehas' everlasting Priesthood was nothing less than that given by Him who had "by His own blood...entered in once into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb.9:12) and "made us kings and priests" (Rev.1.6).
This explanation assumes that the statement in Num.25:13 is prophetic, pointing forwards to Christ's eternal Priesthood and the Royal Priesthood of all believers. And whilst such is conceivable it is, in my opinion, to read more into the text than is actually there.
This is, in any case, to miss the point -- the text clearly states that the Aaronic/Levitical Priesthood is "everlasting" -- and something that is everlasting cannot end or be replaced.
The solution is to be found in the meaning of the word "everlasting" which, in the original tongues (e.g. Gk. aeon) does not mean "for ever and ever without end" but "until the end of the age" or "age-lasting". Thus Phinehas' priesthood would remain until the end of the Mosaic age, as indeed it did, until it was replaced by the Melchizedek Priesthood.
There is another consideration too which we have pointed out many times in this publication, and that comcerns the nature of priesthood and its relationship to the Law. The Law of Moses, which was administered by the Levitical priests, was not replaced but reformed. Jesus did not set aside the Law of Moses and create a new one -- the Law of Christ -- He took the former Law, removed those parts which were no longer revelent (because for example, they were shadows or types of things fulfilled in Christ, such as animal sacrifice and circumcision), tightened up areas which had become lax (such as divorce), and added new laws to bring the old law to completion (such as the Beatitudes). One could argue, therefore, that the Levitical Priesthood contained a core of ministries and truths that are "eternal" and which continued unchanged into the Law of Christ
This page was created on 29 November 1997
Last updated on 26 February 1998
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