Raising Up a Faithful Priest: Community and Priesthood in Biblical TheologyRichard D. Nelson (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993) 192 pp., $19.95
I still cant believe it. A book on the institution of the priesthood in ancient Israel that is just 200 pages long, with scarcely a footnote, and yet is comprehensive and nearly always accurate. Moreover, it is sorely needed. There are excellent studies on priestly matters, to be sure, but Raising Up a Faithful Priest looks at the forest, not the trees. For the first time in this century, we are provided a full-blooded portrait of the priest, the guardian par excellence of Israels religious heritage.
The yawning gap Richard Nelson fills can be appreciated by comparing his book on the priest with similar works on the other major religious figure in the Hebrew Bible, the prophet. Even though prophets were usually outsiders, radicals and opponents of the priestly establishment, they left behind a body of work in their names from which we can reconstruct their personalities as well as their views.
The priests, on the other hand, are almost all anonymous. Not a single legal or theological statement in the entire Bible is attributed to a priest. No wonder that the very idea of putting together a composite picture of the priest has been so forbiddingall the more reason for congratulating Nelson on succeeding.