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"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation..." - 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

I've understood the phrase "royal priesthood" to mean something along the lines of "priesthood that serves royalty", but I've heard some people claim that it also could mean "priesthood made up of royalty."

Which is it?

1

Clearly, in the context of early Christianity, the meaning of a royal priesthood could neither have been a priesthood that serves royalty, nor a priesthood of kings. Any intended meaning for the phrase is likely to come from what is known as Source Criticism.

1 Peter 2:9 is an allusion to Exodus 19:6:

1 Peter 2:9: But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light

Exodus 19:6 (LXX): And ye shall be to me a royal priesthood and a holy nation: these words shalt thou speak to the children of Israel.

In such a close parallel, the meaning is often more in the source than in the copy, particularly as 1 Peter provides no context from which to derive a meaning specific to Christianity. The literal meaning in Exodus 19:6 is clear. God told Moses to tell the Israelites that if they kept his covenant, they would be a chosen people, royal priesthood and a holy nation. Exodus 19:6 is attributed to the Priestly Source, who was deeply concerned with "holiness", meaning the ritual purity of the people and the land.

1 Peter 2:5,12 shows that this passage was addressed to Christian Jews, so 1 Peter is reminding them of God's covenant to Moses, as told by the Priestly Source.


The original Hebrew version of Exodus 19:6 may contain a further clue to the meaning:

Exodus 19:6 (MT): And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

For the Priestly Source, this reference to a "kingdom of priests" could have been an ambit claim for a greater say in the control of Judah.

  • Isaiah 61:6 also comes to mind. – Lucian Jul 27 '17 at 19:28
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[[Heb 7:1]] KJV For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;

Christ is King Priest after being ordained in the order of Melchisedec. He himself calls us brothers meaning we also are King Priests only that he Christ is High Priest

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics SE, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. Our community looks for answers to reflect a good degree of research and references - we consider it a requirement. Typically, we like answers that cite scholarly references and/or explain how your interpretation arises from the text. Don't just tell us what you know, tell us how you know it. Eg., you could edit to explain what the order of Melchizedek was... – James Shewey Sep 23 '16 at 20:49
  • What your answer lacks in "good form" it compensates for for hitting a very important nail on the head... the priesthood is NOT Levitic because the priests could not also be kings. It is in the Malchisadekian priesthood that we encounter a king-priest so the Jews are to be king-priests in the Melchizadekian order. – Ruminator Sep 5 '18 at 23:45
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Royal priesthood

These are two words that describes one person, in other words God is saying we must excel in and out of the church, the problem with us we pray more, fast more but also we are poor more so we excel in priesthood however we fail in royalty, that is why everday we amazed by non Christians who are successful we end up working for them we end up serving them, where is royalty there? When you excel in God work it means you're royal so you cant be poor, in simple term as much as you pray hard you must also work hard then you will be a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD

  • Hi Sphiwe! Welcome to Hermeneutics.SE. You might take the tour if you have not already to get an idea of what constitutes a thorough answer. – Jack Oct 20 '18 at 13:38
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The word used here for "royal" is βασίλειον typically means palace. Therefore, the most literal rendering of this term would be "you are ... a palace of priests..." Palace is not always the correct rendering of this word however, as βασίλειον can also be translated as kingdom. A similar word, which is loosely identical and and interchangeable with βασίλειον is βασίλειος which can mean a palace, court or body of kings. The latter meaning however seems to be very uncommon.

While one could argue that Genesis paints the picture that we are given kingship over the earth (Gen 1:28) and that perhaps if Jesus is the King of Kings, we might be the kings or "body of kings" that Strong is referring to, it is doubtful that this is the meaning.

In the context of being a holy nation, it would be odd to first say that these people were a body of kings and then refer to them as a nation or court. More likely what is being said here is that the subject of Peter's exposition are the priests of a royal and part of a royal court with Christ being the King. Because of the context and proximity to the reference of Peter's audience as a "nation" and the uncommonality of βασίλειον meaning "body of kings" it is doubtful, (though possible) that this is the meaning.

  • 3
    You appear to have mistakenly used a concordance rather than a lexicon to define a word. In reviewing the actual usage instances your statement that «"royal" is βασίλειον typically means palace» seems to be unsubstantiated. After that this becomes pretty sketchy as far as hermeneutic process goes. Can you provide something a little more robust to back this up? – Caleb Oct 13 '14 at 12:28
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    Compounding the issue of Strong's being the wrong tool to define what a word means, you appear to have referenced at entry that is a known error. – Caleb Oct 13 '14 at 12:40
  • I question the source of your link of this being a known error. Do you have any other citations to support this? Strong is actually listing two words, βασίλειον (933) and βασίλειος (934) both with different meanings. These words can be substantiated as both having the same definition that Strong gives and as being two distinct words here and here and in several other lexicons. Can you expand on what else might be "sketchy"? – James Shewey Oct 13 '14 at 20:17
  • In fact, several lexicons don't list "body of kings" as a viable meaning or translation of βασίλειος (which isn't even the word that was used) further bolstering my point. – James Shewey Oct 13 '14 at 20:20
  • Hi Susan. I agree with you, which why I pointed out that this is a generalization and not always true and cited the example of "Βασίλειον τῆς Ἑλλάδος" or kingdom of Greece. I'm, not sure where strong or other got "body of kings" but I suspect this is how the whole post started in the first place. Someone read Strongs and noted "body of kings" and took it too far. Perhaps I should not have said "accurate" but "most literal" translation. I have edited my answer to make that change. – James Shewey Oct 13 '14 at 23:54
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God’s Promise to Abraham

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. 2 And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: 4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. 8 Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:1-8 NKJV)

Jesus then came to teach but was rejected so he said this

Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”

41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. 44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” (Matthew 21:40-44 NKJV)

This is the hint given that the kingdom of God was to be taken away from the Jews and to be given to the Gentiles.

Jesus has been given "All Authority"

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18 NKJV)

Why?

Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:24 NKJV)

How is this to be done?

But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. (Matthew 23:11 NKJV)

The Warning to All

But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me. (Luke 19:27 NKJV)

The Gift to All

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)

18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:17-21 NKJV)

A Message to the Corinthians

You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you! (1 Corinthians 4:8 NKJV)

And how does each person receive this authority?

And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14 NKJV)

Because God is our servant. If we ask according to his will.

So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20 NKJV)

Therefore since we reign with Jesus we are royalty

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Melchizedek was both a King and a Priest

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. (Gen 14:18 NKJV)

Conclusion
Therefore if Jesus is "Royalty", and he is our servant. Then we ourselves become royalty. Since we also serve him, and keep his commandment, then we are his priests. It means a "priesthood made up of royalty."

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18 NKJV)

  • 1
    Sorry, Only - I'm having a hard time seeing how this chain of texts points to your "conclusion". – Dɑvïd Oct 13 '14 at 6:27
  • @Davïd That's OK, where do I need to clarify? – Decrypted Oct 13 '14 at 20:18
  • 3
    Here, the questioner asks about the nature of the genetive in the key phrase. You conclude opting for OP's second alternative ... but the string of texts (which have the thread of "royalty" running through them) don't demonstrate why the second option is to be preferred over the first. :/ – Dɑvïd Oct 13 '14 at 21:17
  • @Davïd OK I rewrote the conclusion, am I still missing something? – Decrypted Oct 13 '14 at 22:19

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