By Luke Lancaster
No, St. Paul does not prove that the priesthood is non-existent in the New Covenant. The verse Protestants will use to suggest he does is where he says, "And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers" (Eph. 4:11). They will be quick to point out, "See! If Paul believed in priests, then he would have listed it as one of the gifts of the Spirit!" However, this is faulty logic for a few reasons.
First, the Church is still like a new married couple that is still getting used to living with each other. Creeds have not been developed, heresies have not been dealt with, and theologians have not written systematic theology books. Ephesians was written only 25 years after Jesus's death! A development of doctrine has not occurred yet. They are still figuring out Gentiles being in the Church! It is similar to the doctrines of original sin or the eternity of Hell, neither of which were included in the Nicene Creed in 325 AD. An explication of doctrine comes over time.
Second, the Jewish Temple is still around. The notion of priesthood is tied in the the Levites. Now, Paul and the apostles knew that they were like priests, for they offered the sacrifice of the Lord's Body and Blood, but they did not want to be associated with the Old Covenant Levitical priesthood.
Third, the early Christians do start reflecting on priesthood, for as early as 95 AD 1 Clement speaks of the presbyters being like Moses and Aaron.
Fourth and finally, Paul does mention "pastors," which is a name we still use for priests who lead parishes today.