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Priests are a class of people who have the role, given to them by their society, of ministering sacred rites for their society. Priests typically wash themselves with water in order to be purified of bodily impurities so that they can be adequately holy for the holy activities they are charged with ministering. The primary function of the priests is offering sacrifices and offerings to a god on behalf of the people of their society. Priests utilize altars in order to make offerings and sacrifices and they typically place the altars in a sanctuary that is recognized as holy by those priests and their constituents. Both animals and plants can be offered on altars by priests. An offering of plants typically manifests as either a grain offering or a firstfruits offering, whereas an offering of animals manifests as an animal sacrifice. Some societies in addition to animal sacrifices also have engaged in human sacrifices.

Many priests throughout history engaged in idolatry as a means of priestly ritual worship. Cultic objects were sanctified as holy by the priests and connected and dedicated to the gods that they were worshipping. Furthermore, the priests stationed idols in the temples as a divine representation of the god they were worshipping. The offerings made in the temple in the presence of an idol would be dedicated through that idol to the designated god that the idol was intended to represent. It was believed by those priests that their offerings were not just made in symbolic gestures, but that the offerings were literally being received by the gods through the idols that the offerings were dedicated to. The priests took care of the idols as if the god himself was in their midst. By serving the idol of the god, they believed that they were assisting the god in whatever way they assisted the idol. Thus they believed that if they gave food to the idol, the god was receiving the food and being fed. They also believed that the odors of the offerings were also able to be smelled by the gods through their idols, and that if they clothed the idols of the gods, the gods would receive those clothes for themselves. If the idol was damaged, they believed that it caused harm to the gods they were representative of.

Most religions have special designated holy days, and it was the responsibility of the priests to officiate during those holy days especially so. The holy days of the priests typically involved sanctifying the various aspects of annual agricultural milestones or annual commemoration of a significant historical person or event. Other holy days were designated to glorifying specific gods on their designated days. In order for priests to serve as priests, they typically have to undergo an ordination process through which their role as priest becomes authenticated and legitimized by their group they are representing. Priests historically have taken on roles beyond that of mere ministering sacred rites. For example, priests often serve as governing political leaders of their respective nations/governments they live in. They will engage in judicial and legislative roles. They will even take on aspects of executing law and order. Furthermore, priests were the doctors of the ancient world in both a scientific sense as well as in a philosophical sense. That is to say, priests were practitioners of medicine, and they were also the teachers/tutors of ancient society. Priests continue to serve in the role of providing physical and spiritual healing for their constituents as well teaching them about religion, philosophy, ethics, history, and science.

The concept of priests and their respective rituals ultimately originate with Noah, Enoch, and Adam. Adam was the first human priest, and passed on the tradition of priesthood to his sons, Cain and Abel. The requirements of the priesthood were more fully expounded upon through Enoch, the seventh generation, descending from Adam. Enoch then passed on the requirements of the priesthood to his great grandson, Noah. Noah then passed on the priesthood traditions to his sons. The passing on of the priesthood traditions to his sons resulted in the priesthood’s main traditions being the same in all cultures despite the language and cultural barriers and centuries of isolation and separation from one another. The ancient writings of various cultures provide extensive evidence of the striking parallels between priests in all cultures and religious groups.

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