P: It is not an assumption but an historical fact that the word "priest" was originally used to describe the office of presbuteros and has been in constant use as such since before the 12th century. That it also has a derivative meaning to describe any cultic sacrificial minister does not change what its original and continual meaning is.
No, it is not a fact, but an assumption based on an incomplete set of facts plus the presence of a genetic fallacy. Louw and Nida's lexicon based on semantic range describes the truly original sense of presbuteros as follows:
53.77 πρεσβύτεροςb, ου m: a person of responsibility and authority in matters of socio-religious concerns, both in Jewish and Christian societieselder. ὅπου οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι συνήχθησαν where the teachers of the Law and the elders had gathered together Mt 26:57; ἀπὸ δὲ τῆς Μιλήτου πέμψας εἰς Ἔφεσον μετεκαλέσατο τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους τῆς ἐκκλησίας he sent a message from Miletus to Ephesus asking the elders of the church to meet him Ac 20:17. In some languages πρεσβύτεροςb is best rendered as older leaders, but in other languages the more appropriate term would be the equivalent of counselor, since it would be assumed that counselors would be older than the average person in a group as well as having authority to lead and direct activities.This is based on sound semantic analysis of primary sources contemporaneous with the New Testament. Note the complete absence of sacerdotal aspect.
67.27 πρεσβύτεροςb, α, ον: pertaining to a person who has lived in ancient times, that is to say, at a point long before the point of time of the discourse itself (πρεσβύτεροςb may also carry the implication of prestige)of ancient times. ἐν ταύτῃ γὰρ ἐμαρτυρήθησαν οἱ πρεσβύτεροι for by this, those of ancient times won (Gods) approval He 11:2.
SR: As Daniel has twice now pointed out, you are apparently relying on simply the raw etymology to sustain your theory of semantic continuity.
P: Not so. I am relying on its original and continual meaning. What you and Daniel are trying to do is separate the present Catholic office of presbuteros from that mentioned in the Bible. Then you ask how do we translate this ancient term into modern English. But this ignores the fact that this office has continued to exist into the present time and that its received term in English, since at least the 12th century, is "priest."
The functionality of how the priestly office operates under the Roman system, especially sacerdotally, does not have continuous existence, but evolved over time, no doubt fueled by an increasingly hierarchical view of the church, which was generally absent for most of the first two centuries. Assuming for the sake of argument "priest" is derived from presbuteros (not a universally accepted theory), that does NOT prove continuity of meaning all the way back to it's primary use in the Greek text. All it would prove is that at some point the role of "presbyter" had been successfully redefined by Rome to incorporate sacerdotal elements. This in no way implies those sacerdotal aspects were there from the beginning.
So you see, we are not ignoring the etymology. We are disputing the semantic scoring of the etymology. You are ranking it too high. Yes, we do contend there is a break in meaning, that a proper translation of presbuteros must be based on the meaning it derives from usage contemporaneous to it's appearance in the NT, and not on later acquisitions.
For example, how creditable would it be to translate a 16th Century English text by rendering literally every occurrence of "goodbye" as "God bless ye?" Yet that is the etymology. However, nearly everyone using it today is not referring to God at all, nor any kind of blessing, but only to the event of departure. Likewise, to use "priest" where the Greek supplies "presbuteros" must be viewed as an illegitimate means to import the later acquired sacerdotal sense into the text, despite the fact such a sense is absent in the semantic range of the term as it was being used during the New Testament period. Would any serious translator really insert the modern "goodbye" for all occurrences of the older "God bless ye," based purely on etymological considerations? Never! Think of the translational chaos that invites! Let's say the original text said, "She giveth him a cup of cold water, and he saith 'God bless ye.'" Now let's insert our "etymologically correct but semantically wrong "goodbye:" "She giveth him a cup of cold water, and he saith 'Goodbye.'" Do you see how ignoring valid semantic concerns turns the story completely on it's head?
SR: Much of that language in the early Christian writers is directed at the docetists and others
P: Justin Martyr's First Apology was written to the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, a pagan not Docetist.
Irrelevant. Neither party was trying to sort out questions of Aristotelian substance versus accidence. Transubstantiation per se is not expressed until and unless those categories or something like them are used to describe the swapping of one substance for another, to arrive at a realism that runs well beyond the ordinary immersive metaphor common to the period. But not only is such expression completely absent from the early period, but there are examples that explicitly refute depletion of the substantive bread-ness of the bread or wine-ness of the wine. Theodoret comes to mind:
Orth. Although what has been said is enough for your faith, I will, for confirmation of the faith, give you yet another proof.In this hypothetical dialog, Orthodoxos represents what was widely accepted as orthodox Christian belief at the time of this writing (5th Century, I believe). This also represents a direct, irreconcilable conflict with the central premise of transubstantiation. A transformation of the Eucharist is admitted, but not one that vacates the nature of the visible objects, but rather adds to that nature grace. Thus, if the nature of bread remains, the bread is still bread, both in substance and accidence. As with the wine. This still represents an evolution from the simpler sense of the paschal meal in Scripture, but clearly cuts against the grain of the sense conveyed in Aquinas and later in Trent, and would doubtless be subject to the anathemas of Trent. And yet it was obviously widely and uncontroversially accepted before Radbertus appeared to propose his novel and alien hyper-literalism.
Eran. I shall be grateful to you for so doing, for you will increase the favour done me.
Orth. You know how God called His own body bread?
Orth. And how in another place he called His flesh grain?
Eran. Yes, I know. For I have heard Him saying The hour has come that the Son of man should be glorified, and Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone; but if it die it brings forth much fruit.
Orth. Yes; and in the giving of the mysteries He called the bread, body, and what had been mixed, blood.
Eran. He so did.
Orth. Yet naturally the body would properly be called body, and the blood, blood.
Orth. But our Saviour changed the names, and to His body gave the name of the symbol and to the symbol that of his body. So, after calling himself a vine, he spoke of the symbol as blood.
Eran. True. But I am desirous of knowing the reason of the change of names.
Orth. To them that are initiated in divine things the intention is plain. For he wished the partakers in the divine mysteries not to give heed to the nature of the visible objects, but, by means of the variation of the names, to believe the change wrought of grace. For He, we know, who spoke of his natural body as grain and bread, and, again, called Himself a vine, dignified the visible symbols by the appellation of the body and blood, not because He had changed their nature, but because to their nature He had added grace.
Available here: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/27031.htm
SR: For example, in the case of Justin Martyr, he specifically denies consuming human flesh and blood:
P: He was responding to the Roman charge that Christians were consuming human flesh. By this the Romans were not thinking of the Eucharistic elements becoming the body and blood of Jesus but that the Christians were sacrificing humans and eating their flesh. This misunderstanding came about because the Christians were speaking of the Eucharist as eating the actual body of Christ.
Exactly, and it was a misunderstanding, as he explains in that Second Apology, because he clearly states human flesh was not being consumed by Christians, that such "fabulous" accusations were false. If he asserts it is false, you are left with choosing between these alternatives: Either he is lying in his Second Apology, because he secretly "knows" they really are consuming the corporeal flesh of Christ, or he is telling the truth but rejecting that Christ is human, or he is telling the truth because he believes both that Christ is human and that his flesh is not being literally eaten by Christians.
SR: Again, Justin Martyr cannot be discussing transubstantiation, because Radbertus (9th Century) had not yet invented it, nor Aquinas perfected it, nor Trent anathematized the rejection of it.
P: While the term "transubstantiation" was invented in the 9th century and the Aristotelian understanding of substance and accidents came latter, the early Christians did indeed believe that the bread and wine were changed in reality into the Body and Blood of Jesus as Justin Martyr attests.
No. Nothing you have shown so far demonstrates belief in a change of the corporeal reality of the elements. At best you have an immersive metaphor, which in Justin Martyr's case only rises to the surface for conscious articulation when directly challenged as cannibalism. No honest person truly believing in the complete swapping of substances could have answered the charge as he did.
This is not to say there was no sense of reality or the special presence of Christ in the Eucharistic service. But something being real is not the equivalent of it being corporeal. As I have often said before, nothing is more real than God. Yet God, in His divine essence, is not corporeal, but a spirit, as Scripture clearly teaches. So it is entirely possible to have the language of reality, the totally unconscious acceptance of the metaphor as a vehicle for expressing the spiritual reality, without ever adopting anything close to the Aristotelian alchemy that came so much later. As in the example from Theodoret, a change is admitted, but it is a changed frame of reference, not a literal change in substance, which literal change is specifically denied. I have no doubt Theodoret includes this idea because as an apologist he recognizes error creeping in of a false idea of changed nature. That this error existed prior to reaching full flower in Radbertus et al should not be too surprising, as Jesus' audience in John 6 was plagued by the same temptation to see spiritual realities in grotesquely materialistic terms. Transubstantiation is just a sophistical accommodation to that very temptation.
SR: If we do something over and over again, it doesn't matter if we can imagine the source of the repeated event as frozen somewhere in eternal timelessness (a dubious theory in its own right).
P: The sacrifice of the Mass is not what we do but what Jesus does that is presented before us. As for a frozen eternal timelessness, eternity is rather the infinite encompassing of all time. Thus Jesus can say "Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM." All time to God is an eternal present. And this he can present to us. That God can present to us events in this eternity is shown by John's visions presented in Revelations.
No, speculations on what time is to God must be grounded in Scripture. Jesus did preexist Abraham, and He did so because He is identical in divine essence with the God of Israel who identifies Himself as "I AM," a profound ontological statement which addresses God's self-existence as Creator, but does not tell us how He views or interacts with time. To leap from that to uncertain theories of static versus dynamic time is to venture into the kind of groundless speculations that have led in recent times to liberal, quasi-pantheistic theories of an Eternal Now, per Paul Tillich, that serve as a conceptual bridge to utterly pagan ideas such as timeless Nirvana and other expressions of pantheism. I have personally traveled that path and I have no wish to go there again. It is a dark and loathsome place. Much preferable is to say about these hardest of things only what God has said, and to use the language He has given us to think about them.
In the case of the atonement, we are always given to think of it as something finished, not as something that can be made "present" by linking two disparate time frames. That cannot be accidental. God has superintended the provision of His word to us. If He wants us to think of this event as past, and sufficient in it's finished propitiary effect to atone for all the past, present, and future sins of all who believe on Him, then it is pure hubris to trot out some post-Newtonian conception of parallel time-worlds as a flimsy justification for denying, in practice, the completeness of His work. God gave us this temporal frame of reference because of all possible ways of thinking about the atonement, He considered it the truest thing He could say to us. God does not lie. And He does not mislead His children. We are to remember His death till He comes. That is a far cry from playing George McFly time travel games. You may speculate as you see fit, but I will stick with the ordinary sense of the Biblical text and count myself quite happy to do so.
As for prophecy, we know God is able to state the end from the beginning:
Isaiah 46:9-10 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, (10) Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:But see how He says, "the things that are not yet done." So we have God speaking to us directly, saying the future things that He knows are coming, are not yet done. He does not bother to distinguish between His time-world and ours. What He wants us to know is that He has no trouble telling us all that will happen. This is easily explained as a function of His omnipotence and omniscience. It is simply unnecessary to invoke Einstein's manifold or any other hypothetical construct of static time. How does it really work? That's for God to know and us not to get too spun up about. Perhaps in glory we will get better insight into this. For now, if God tells John something is going to happen, that's good enough for me. I don't need to "help" God with my pitiful speculations about time. I just need to believe what He says and act accordingly.