On the Ministerial Priesthood
The title priest (Greek iereuV) is applied to a person appointed on behalf of others or of himself to offers sacrifice. In the New Testament it is applied to: Christ (Hebrews 4:14), all believers (1 Peter 2:5,9 and Revelation 1:6), Levitical priests of Judaism (Luke 17:14) and priests of Zeus (Acts 14:13). The equivalent word in Hebrews is kohen and in the Old Testament it is applied to Levitical priests as well as to priests of Egypt (Genesis 41:45), of Philistines (1 Samuel 5:5) and of Baal (2 Kings 10:19). While the Catholic Church affirms the priesthood of Christ and of all believers (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1546), she (and Eastern, Oriental and Assyrian Orthodox churches) has another priesthood belonging to a group of males, known as ministerial priesthood. The Catholic Church considers Levitical priesthood of Judaism (or of the Old Covenant) prefigures the ministerial priesthood of the New Covenant (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1541). Protestants and “Bible only” Christians, on the other hand, believe that Levitical priesthood was abolished in the New Covenant. The only priesthood they recognize is that of Christ and of all believers.
The Old Covenant refers to the one God made with Moses – it is to be replaced with the new and better Covenant mediated by Christ (Hebrews 8:6), prophesied in Jeremiah 31:33-34 (cf. Hebrews 8:8-12, 10:16-17). From the Old Testament we know that Levitical priesthood has three tiers: High Priest, priests (Exodus 28:1) and Levites (Numbers 3:5-10, only the first two are allowed to offer sacrifice). High Priest is selected from among priests and he alone can enter the inner Sanctuary, once every year to offer sacrificial atonement (Exodus 30:10, Hebrews 9:7). The earthly and man made Sanctuary of the Old Covenant (Hebrews 9:1, 24) prefigures the heavenly Sanctuary of the New Covenant, into which Christ, the High Priest of the New Covenant offers Himself as sacrifice once for all (Hebrews 9:11-12). The Old Testament also has general priesthood, applied to all Israelites (Exodus 19:6). If the High Priest of the Old Covenant prefigures that of Christ (Hebrews 7:26) then priests and Levites must also have their better form in the New Covenant, instead of being abolished. Does the Bible support continuation of priests and Levites in the New Covenant? From prophecy recorded in Jeremiah 33:17-22 we know that God will perpetuate Levitical priesthood. He will even take as priests and Levites from among the nations (Isaiah 66:21). Thus to Catholics bishops, presbyters (priests) and deacons are the New Covenant’s priests and Levites.