'Alter Christus?' Sure They Are

One of the titles Roman Catholic shamans like to apply to themselves is that of "Alter Christus" – Another Christ. At their ordination, the officiating bishop lays hands on the candidate and declares him a priest, but not a member of the priesthood of believers to which every true Christian belongs (1 Peter 2:5). Oh, No. When the bishop bestows priestly authority on the new shaman by the laying on of hands, he repeats the words of Psalm 110:4:

The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec.

Wow! That's a really big deal. Certainly the Levites and priests of Christ's day never could attain to such priestly heights. The inspired writer of Hebrews patiently explained how another Priest rose out of Judah, a tribe from which Moses gave no indication would come a priesthood.

14: For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.
15: And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest,
16: Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.

Melchizidec, whose priesthood was unique, was in some ways a type of Christ. In this chapter, the inspired writer uses the two Old Testament references to him (Gen. 14:18–20; Ps. 110:4), to show how Christ's priesthood was superior to his. Chapter 7 provides a detailed comparison of the priesthood of Christ with the Levitical high-priesthood.

The Levitical priesthood was hereditary –All the sons of Levi would become priests. Melchizedec's office, however, was not. The Bible provides no information concerning his background or genealogy because they have nothing to do with his priestly position.

Tradition (there's that word again) would have it that Melchizedec had neither father nor mother, but of course he did. This erroneous tradition is built upon the unsteady sands of faulty interpretation.

The ancient Syriac Peshitta (An early Aramaic New Testament used in Antioch and elsewhere in the Eastern Church) gives us a more accurate translation of what was intended by the Greek phrase "without father, without mother, without pedigree" in Hebrews 7:3. These words mean nothing more than that there was no record of Melchizedec's birth or death.

Some have used the phrase "made like unto the Son of God" to support hypotheses that Melchizedec was an eternal high priest or, even more fancifully, a manifestation of Christ. The word translated "like" (aphomoioo) is used only once in the New Testament. It should be read as meaning "to be made like," according to Easton.

Melchizidek was similar to Christ in many ways, but he was not the pre-Incarnate Savior. The apparent implication in this passage is that his resemblance to Christ is based on how his history is reported in the Old Testament, not upon the man himself. The King of Salem's priesthood, like Christ's, was universal, righteous, peaceful and unending.

From verse 4 to the end of the chapter, the inspired writer details reasons why the Melchizidecan priesthood is superior to that of the Levites. A look at verse 8 may help to explain why some people look upon Melchizedec as eternal.

And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.--Hebrews 7:8

In this verse, the term "here" refers to Levitical law, still active when this book was written. The Levitical priesthood changed every time a priest died; finally passing away altogether. Melchizedec's priesthood, on the other hand, is perpetual since the biblical record of his priesthood includes no record of his death.

In the next two verses, the writer offers an argument based on the concept of seminal headship. He points out that it is possible to speak of Levi paying tithes to Melchizedec, for every Levite was present, seminally, in Abraham. We see this kind of argument used elsewhere as, for example, in Paul's teaching that when Adam sinned we all sinned (Rom. 5:12–14).

9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.
10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.
--Hebrews 7:9-10

From verse 11, the writer establishes that, since the priesthood of Melchizedec is superior to that of the Levites, then Christ's priesthood is also superior to the Levitical priesthood, in that His is Mechihzedecan and not Levitical.

The Law, with its Levitical priests, could not save anyone – salvation being the intended understanding of the word translated 'perfection' throughout Hebrews. The Levitical priesthood, founded on Mosaic law, was replaced by a new High Priest, Jesus Christ. The new High Priest was from the tribe of Judah. His position was founded on a New Covenant and involved a new and perfect atoning sacrifice. And this is the proof that the Levitical system had been done away with. Christ did away with the Law by fulfilling it.

Even today, there are Christians who believe they are still bound by Mosaic law. Some of these long for a return to theonomy. And many unsaved people, certainly a great many Roman Catholics, still consider themselves under the Law. What these people do not realize is that the Law was given to God's chosen people, not to all mankind. It addressed only the temporal existence of Israel. Everything about it, even the covenanted forgiveness, was temporary. Not even the sacrifices offered on the Holiest Day of the Hebrew year, Yom Kippur, could merit more than temporary forgiveness.

The Levites who functioned as priests under the Law were but men who inherited their office. The whole system was concerned with daily living and ritual. When a Levite died, his priesthood died with him. Under Mosaic law, the masses cannot directly approach God, their every attempt must be through the offices of human priests.

Christ, on the other hand, holds His priesthood because He is God.. He never will die and His priesthood never will end. In Christ, every believer is a priest. Every believer may draw near to God and as priests, we are commanded to do so

23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:
24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.
25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;
27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
28 For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.
--Hebrews 7:23-28

Read again verse 27. With Christ as our High Priest, there is no need for daily sacrifice, for He did it once for all when He offered up Himself. Yet under the Roman high priest, the Pope, the fanciful 'bloodless' sacrifice must be offered daily on a million or more Romish altars.

At this point, it would be well to look at the Roman Catholic priesthood. In so many ways, the Roman Catholic Church is an extension of Rabbinic Judaism, replete with ritual and legalism. It comes as no surprise, then, that the Roman Catholic priesthood emulates many of the forms of Levitical practice. Certainly, the Roman Catholic Church, through its priests, stands very much in the way of people who would approach God.

Romanism abounds with uncountable canned intercessory prayers to be offered to Mary and the other demigods who stand between the professing believer and his God. And at every Mass, the Catholic priest calls Christ away from His Father's side to take up residence in a cookie and glass of wine so that He might be sacrificed again. And then, in further emulation of Levitical practice, the gathered faithful might also partake of the flesh and blood of the bloodless sacrifice (a paradox, no?). Of course, the RCC rites are different from the Levitical sacrifice, for Jews were forbidden to consume the blood of the sacrifice.

Is the Roman Catholic layman truly encouraged to seek God in His Word? No. Is the Roman Catholic truly urged to approach God directly? No. All efforts to find God must be funneled through Rome.

The anointing and binding of my hands with special cloths signified that they were now consecrated to changing bread and wine into the real (literal) flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, to perpetuate the sacrifice of Calvary through the Mass, and to dispense saving grace through the other Roman Catholic sacraments of baptism, confession, confirmation, marriage, and the last rites. At ordination a Roman Catholic priest is said to receive an "indelible" mark: to experience an unending interchange of his personality with that of Christ, that he may perform his priestly duties as another Christ" (alter Christus) or in the place of Christ. People actually knelt and kissed our newly consecrated hands, so sincere was this belief. After completing the last year of theology, which was principally a final preparation for preaching and hearing confession (which involved giving absolution or forgiveness of sin), I was granted my long expressed desire to be a missionary priest in the Philippines.--Bartholomew F. Brewer, a former Catholic priest, Pilgrimage From Rome, A Testimony

Christ's atoning sacrifice is complete and more than adequate to cover the sins of the world, yet Rome claims that only the RCC can render His grace effective for the unredeemed. This forgiveness, conveyed by the Roman priest when the sinner is baptized, is only temporary, and can be forfeit with the first 'mortal' sin committed after baptism. Not to worry, just as the Levitical system provided for temporary cleansing from the effect of sin, so also does Rome. Just make a good confession and act of contrition, do penance, receive the Sacraments and attend Mass regularly and the Catholic sinner is good to go once again.

Who is it that grants this forgiveness, this absolution? Why Rome tells us it is the Lord, of course, whose grace is dispensed by Mary and doled out by Catholic priests.

We are to believe that Catholic priests are good guys, like Christ Himself. After all, in common with Christ, they are (we are to believe) priests of the order of Melchizedec and their priesthood, like Christ's, is eternal. How interesting that the church 'fathers' who came up with this eternal Melchizedecan priesthood failed to notice that, in referring to the new High Priest of the order of Melchizidec, the Bible tells us He is One and eternal, while the Levitical priests die and are replaced (just like Catholic priests).

In a letter to Catholic priests on the occasion of Holy Thursday, 1991, John Paul II wrote:

". . .Another grace of the synod [Synod of Bishops, October 1990] was a new maturity in the way of looking at priestly service in the Church: a maturity which keeps pace with the times in which our mission is being carried out. This maturity finds expression in a more profound interpretation of the very essence of the sacramental priesthood, and thus also of the personal life of each and every priest, that is to say, of each priest's participation in the saving mystery of Christ: "Sacerdos alter Christus". This is an expression which indicates how necessary it is that Christ be the starting point for interpreting the reality of the priesthood. Only in this way can we do full justice to the truth about the priest, who, having been "chosen from among men, is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God" (Heb 5:1). The human dimension of priestly service, in order to be fully authentic, must be rooted in God. Indeed, in every way that this service is "on behalf of men", it is also "in relation to God": it serves the manifold richness of this relationship. Without an effort to respond fully to that "anointing with the Spirit of the Lord" which establishes him in the ministerial priesthood, the priest cannot fulfill the expectations that people —the Church and the world—rightly place in him. . .

Catholic priests appear to like being called 'alter Christus' – another Christ -- as indicated by this excerpt from a teaching by Dominican Damian Fandal at a retreat for priests in New Orleans on October 15, 1993. The teaching was titled "Penance."

To hear confessions, admittedly a tiresome proposition at times, is an opportunity we should not miss. Kindness to others is a Christian hallmark; those who are kindly are in the path of salvation. But even more, we are "other Christs." And perhaps nowhere is that more palpable to the faithful than in the confessional of one who goes into the confessional box to sit there in Jesus' stead.

"I have come to call..... sinners." Pray for patience and kindliness before you hear confessions -- asking Jesus Christ to prepare you to sit there in his name - to be kind, compassionate, forgiving, uncensorious, "alter Christus." -- Damian Fandal, O.P., The Sacrament of Reconciliation,

In the face of overwhelming historical evidence that many who have held priestly office in the Roman Church were anything but Christlike, the RCC admits that some of her priests fail to measure up as 'other Christs.'

On the eighth day of August in 1999, I read that a Catholic priest in Dallas pleaded guilty to fondling a 12-year-old girl. The assault to which 'Father' Emeh Nwaogu pleaded guilty occurred in Dallas' St. Anthony church, where he had been priest-in-charge for five years.

According to the Associated Press article that ran in the San Antonio Express-News, "The girl's mother testified that Nwaogu offered his "confession" to her when she confronted him about why her daughter came to her in tears."

In his impromptu confession, the priest admitted touching the girl's chest and privates.

What makes the incident even more upsetting is that, prior to the incident, which occurred in the priest's house, the family had confided in Nwaogu that the girl had been sexually abused before they adopted her.

Prosecutors were seeking the maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment in this case. As is not unusual when cult leaders are brought to court, some of Nwaogu's supporters claim the maximum penalty would be too harsh. Arguing that the admitted child abuser was an asset to the parish during his tenure at St. Anthony's, one of his supporters asked the court to consider placing him under probation in his native Nigeria, where the church could supervise him.

Sheesh!

Nwaogu was the 9th priest in the Dallas Diocese to be accused of sexual abuse of a child in the 1990s and the second priest to be arrested. The other arrested priest, Rudy Kos, was sentenced to serve multiple life sentences in the Texas penal system. The Diocese coughed up $31 million to settle claims that church leaders had covered up Kos' sexual abuse of 11 boys. Another $5 million went to settle claims involving the other seven priests.

Catholic priests are men and, as unredeemed sinners, it should not be viewed as surprising that they sometimes yield to temptations of the flesh. What is shocking is that these 'priests of the order of Melchizedec,' though they be given over to pedophilia, homosexuality and other forms of lewdness and debauchery are still considered 'ritually clean' and in no way hampered in the performance of their priestly duties. In other words, a priest who has just defiled himself with an altar boy is deemed fit to call down the Catholic Christ from the side of the Catholic Father and convert him into a wafer and glass of wine, which are then offered in 'bloodless sacrifice' for the sins of men. The Catholic priest who may have broken his oath of celibacy with a child in his parish is still considered ritually clean to sit in the confessional and dole out absolution and penance for sins confessed to him.

Open the Bible. Read it. Seek the Christ of Scripture, not the pale caricature of the Roman faith.

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