What do I think of Nicholas Perrin’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Go to several people and ask who Jesus was, Christian and non-Christian. You’ll get several different answers. On the far left fringe side, you’ll get that He’s a mythological figure drawn together from various pagan religions. On the more conservative side, you’ll hear that He’s the Son of God, Son of Man, God incarnate, and the Messiah. A Jewish Christian might more emphasize Him being the Messiah. A skeptical person might say He was a great teacher and some would say He was a Marxist, a Socialist, a feminist, a homosexual, or any number of positions.
Yet you will be hard-pressed to find someone who will say “Jesus was the high priest of Israel.”
This is the position that Nicholas Perrin holds in his work. He does not deny the other more conservative aspects, but thinks we need to realize that Jesus was establishing Himself as the true priest of Israel and thus challenging the reigning priesthood at the time. He was also raising up His disciples to be priests after Him and continue the priesthood ministry of bringing God to men.
This starts with the Lord’s prayer and goes on from there. This is really a very priestly prayer with significant eschatological overtones. There is nothing wrong with praying it as a way of dealing with daily temptation and seeking to find God in our daily lives, but let’s not make refuse to make it even more than that. Jesus in this prayer sets apart a community that is awaiting the Kingdom of God and seeking to bring it about at the same time.
From there, Perrin goes to other places like the baptism of Jesus by John and how there were overtones that were present at this event that would have been seen by both John and Jesus. The arguments are very complex as page upon page is presented to deal with each one. Thus, I will not be fully summarizing them in a brief review.
Some might ask how Jesus could be a priest in His time in the eyes of His contemporaries if it was known priests came from the tribe of Levi and Jesus from Judah. Perrin answers that David and Solomon both took on priestly duties in their work as king and both in their own way were considered prophets. Jesus is acting in the same way. Josiah and Hezekiah could be different cases since neither of those kings ruled over a unified kingdom.
Perrin’s work is a fascinating look at a topic that doesn’t get much discussion. In our day and age, when we think of a priest, we normally think of someone in the Orthodox and Catholic traditions. Perhaps those of us who are Protestant need to reclaim the title. It is hard for us to be a kingdom of priests when none of us are called priests.
I understand there is another book in the works on this topic which I hope to see because there was one glaring omission in this work that kept coming to my mind. There was very little interaction with Hebrews. This is the book of the Bible that I contend has the most direct teaching about Jesus being a priest and yet the relevant chapters were not really touched. I am left wondering if this was deliberate on Perrin’s part to be saved for the future book that could look at how this is expressed in the epistles. I certainly hope so.
Those who do want to think about Jesus in a new role but consistent with traditional Christian teaching should give this work a shot. It is very thorough and very well-argued and quite enjoyable. It is a bit deep for the layman, but those wanting to get the jewels will get them if they dig deep enough.