4 A fascinating modern counterpart to this intimate association Luther recognized between Christ’s kingship and priesthood is found in the Feast of Christ the King instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925. Addressing God the Father, the preface says: ‘You anointed Jesus Christ, your only Son, with the oil of gladness, as the eternal priest and universal king. As priest he offered his life on the altar of the cross and redeemed the human race by this one perfect sacrifice of peace. As king he claims dominion over all creation, that he may present to you, his almighty Father an eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.’ Christ is being celebrated as King, but the preface (and, to some extent, the prayer over the gifts and the prayer after communion), without any special pleading, also attend to the priesthood of Christ. 5 Some think here of the picture in Wisd. 18: 15 of God’s ‘stern warrior’, the all powerful word who leaps down from heaven to slay the first born of the Egyptians. But see G. B. Caird, The Revelation of St John the Divine (2nd edn., London: A. & C. Black, 1984), 244.

The canon of the New Testament includes an entire book on the priesthood of Christ (Hebrews). Even if there are no corresponding books on Christ as prophet and/or on Christ as king, the New Testament thoroughly justifies acknowledging the prophetic and kingly office of Christ. We drew together from the Gospels the reasons for recognizing Jesus to be prophet and king, albeit in his own way. To that evidence one might add some witness from other New Testament books. For example, Revelation, when evoking the divine victory over the Antichrist and his empire, tells its readers that the Lamb who was slain will conquer them, because ‘he is Lord of lords and King of kings’ (Rev. 17: 14). Those royal titles recur a little later, when we learn that the rider at the head of the heavenly armies bears not only the name of ‘the Word of God’ (Rev. 19: 13) but also that of ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Rev. 19: 16). By associating the ‘Word of God’, who presumably bears a divine message and witnesses to the truth of God, closely with the ‘King of kings’, Revelation in its own dramatic way connects Christ’s prophetic and kingly roles.5 This same book has already connected these roles in its opening chapter by calling Christ ‘the faithful witness’ and ‘the ruler of the kings of the earth’ (Rev. 1: 5). This ‘faithful witness’ testifies to the truth, and so is also named as ‘the faithful and true witness’ (Rev. 3: 14). Once again, a close association of Christ’s prophetic and kingly roles crops up in the text of Revelation. It is Hebrews that supplies full warrant for naming Christ ‘priest’, although, as we have seen, other books of the New Testament witness, at least implicitly, to his priestly office. Revelation, as we showed, pictures a kind of heavenly victimhood of Christ through the figure of the Lamb who was slain, but does not call him ‘priest’. It comes very close to doing so, however, when it speaks of him as having ‘freed us [or possibly ‘washed us’] by his blood’ (Rev. 1: 5). A love that drove him to accept a sacrificial victimhood is prominent here, but the active (rather than passive) role of Christ in the sacrifice is to the fore: ‘he freed/washed us.’ This amounts to calling Christ simultaneously ‘priest’ and ‘victim’. The New Testament testifies, then, to Jesus as priest, prophet, and king, with ‘king’ being easily the commonest of these three titles. Only eight titles of Jesus occur more than twenty times in the New Testament, and ‘king’ comes in seventh with thirty-eight occurrences. ‘Priest’, ‘prophet’, and ‘king’ find a home, then, among the many distinctive names or titles with which the New Testament designates Jesus, and belong among the earliest answers to the question: ‘who/what do you say that I am?’ (see Mark 8: 27–9 parr.). The sheer number of his titles (well over one hundred in the New Testament) bears eloquent witness to the fact that no one title exhausts the personal mystery of Christ and his redemptive work.6