Sunday, September 21, 2014


Roger Beckwith notes that the Greek word presbuteros (elder or old(er) man) is the etymological source of the English words 'presbyter' and 'priest'.

"The English Reformers, who denied that the Christian ministry is a sacrificing priesthood, retained the term 'priest' in the Prayer Book as a contraction fo 'presbyter' (see Bishop Jewel, Works, Parker Society, vol. 4, p.911f; Archbishop Whitgift, Works, Parker Society, vol. 3, p.350f; and others)."

Beckwith says this etymology is correct but of course it makes for ambiguous english since English has no other word for priest that can be used to translate the Hebrew and Greek terms for the sacrificing priest of Old Testament religion. 'Presbyter' avoids this ambibuity.

Roger Beckwith, Elders in Every City: The Origin and Role of the Ordained Ministry (Carlisle, Paternoster, 2003) p.11

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