Thanks, David, for giving me something to blog about; I usually have to be primed before my brain cells start working. This is really about priests.
As I read the O.T. (from a liberal viewpoint, at least), I'm impressed that as a whole it shapes up as a continuous conflict between prophet and priest (the idea is not original with me). This conflict found its culmination in the N.T., where Jesus prophetically struggled against the priestly tradition. Overturning the tables of the moneychangers may be seen as a poetic statement of that fundamental truth.
The priests seemed to win, but we know better. "He arose; he arose; hallelujah Christ arose" (a favorite Clayton hymn since before I was born). Matthew tells us that at Jesus' death a fundamental structural change of the Judaic faith took place.
I'm quoting here John Wesley's note on Matthew 27:51:
"Immediately upon his death, while the sun was still darkened, the veil of the temple, which separated the holy of holies from the court of the priests, though made of the richest and strongest tapestry, was rent in two from the top to the bottom: so that while the priest was ministering at the golden altar (it being the time of the sacrifice) the sacred oracle, by an invisible power was laid open to full view: God thereby signifying the speedy removal of the veil of the Jewish ceremonies the casting down the partition wall, so that the Jews and Gentiles were now admitted to equal privileges, and the opening a way through the veil of his flesh for all believers into the most holy place."
The N.T. figure we know most about, Paul, said that he never took money for what he did and said. In nurturing the young churches he may have been forced into a priestly role at times, but he resisted the idea according to his letters. Paul was a tentmaker. Today we have tentmaking ministers: those who don't take money for church leadership.
One of the primary tenants of the Refomation was the priesthood of the believer. Unfortunately Luther, having disposed of the priests, soon instituted a very comparable heirarchical structure. Thus it has always been: sooner or later the ordinary people decide they need someone to watch over them and insure their entry into heaven.
To go back to Weiman, mentioned in the previous post, the creative event (in this case our direct relationship with God) is soon superceded by the created good, a more stable and static entity.
In my history of the church I use the term gnostic rather than prophet because those struggling against priestly orthodoxy were usually groups of people rather than mere individuals. (Of course there were communities of prophets in the O.T.) The last gnostics named in that work were the Quakers.
Why should they be called gnostics? Because they act from their personal experience of God rather than from a priest's instructions. Fox from his earliest days as a religious revolutionist denounced the hireling priests. (He must have turned over in his grave when what became the FUM started having professional ministers.)
I'm sure there have been thousands of debates in Quaker circles re the matter of a paid clergy, and it may be continued here (that's okay). I've been primarily associated with the "unprogrammed Friends", who don't have a professional leadership. However with one experience I had with programmed Friends (years before I became a Quaker), I concluded that those people resembled a very good Methodist Church.
At one point Jesus said to us, "Call no man father." That to me seems like a clear admonition to trust in the leadership of the Holy Spirit rather than a human religious leader