“ priest ” is sometimes taken to include “ sorcerer, ” but this use is open to criticism and may produce confusion. The close inter-relation which existed in primitive society between magic, priesthood and kingship has been indicated by Frazer in his Early History of the Kingship. His remarks throw some light on the early character of priesthood as well as kingship. “ When once a special class of sorcerers has been segregated from the community and entrusted by it with the discharge of duties on which the public safety and welfare are believed to depend, these men gradually rise to wealth and power till their leaders blossom out into sacred kings.” According to Frazer's view, “ as time goes on the fallacy of magic becomes more and more apparent and is slowly displaced by religion; in other words the magician gives way to the priest. Hence the king starting as a magician tends gradually to exchange the practice of magic for the functions of prayer and sacrifice.” We are not concerned here with the debatable question whether magic preceded religion. Probably magic was always accompanied by some primitive form of animism whether the Melanesian mana or fetishism (see Dr Haddon's M agic and Fetishism, pp. 58-62, 64-oo).
The investigations which have been carried on in recent years by King, Tallquist and Zimmern, as well as by Briinnow and Craig, on the magic and ritual of Babylonia and Assyria have been fruitful of results. The question, however, remains to be settled how far the officials and their functions, which in the much more highly developed civilization of Babylonia came to be differentiated and specialized, can be strictly included under the functions of priesthood. The answer to this question will be in many cases negative or affirmative according to our strict adherence or the reverse to the definition of the priest set forth above as “ a minister whose stated business it was to perform on behalf of the community certain ritual acts, in some cases sacrifices (or the recitation of prayers), directed Godwards.” On the other hand the seer, diviner and prophet is a minister whose function it is to communicate God's will or word to man. This is not a distinction which governs Zimmern and other writers. Our chief source of information is Zimmern's Beitrage zur 'Kenntniss der Babylon: Religion, pp. Sr-95, from which Lagrange in his Etudes sur les religions sémitiquesz has chiefly derived his materials (ch. vi. p. 222 sqq.) respecting Babylonia and Assyria. Zimmern's results are summarized in K.A.T3. p. 589 sqq. Here we find magic and soothsaying closely intertwined with priestly functions as, we shall see, was the case in early Hebrew pre-exilian days with the Kohén. It must be borne in mind that primitive humanity is not governed by logical distinctions. Among the Babylonians and Assyrians the baru (from baru to see, inspect) was a soothsaying priest who was consulted whenever any important undertaking was proposed, and addressed his inquiries to Samas the sun god (or Adad) as bel biri or lord of the oracle (accompanied by the sacrifice of lambs). The signs were usually obtained from the inspection of the liver (according to Johns, that of the lamb that was sacrificed); or it took place through birds; hence the name in this case given to the baru of dogil issure “ bird inspector.” Johns, however, is disposed to regard him as a distinct functionary. Sometimes divination took place through vessels filled with water and oil (see OMEN and DIv1NATION). As contrasted with the baru or soothsaying priest, as he is called by Zimmern, we have the asipu, who was the priest magician who dealt in conjurations (iiptu), whereby diseases were removed, spells broken, or in expiation's whereby sins were expiated. 'I'allquist's edition of the M aklzi series of incantations and his explanations of the ritual, and also the publications by Zimmern of the S urpu series of tablets in his Beitrdge have rendered us familiar with the functions of the aiipu. See article “ Magic ” in Hastings's Dist. Bible, where examples are given of incantations with magical by-play. Also compare ]astrow's Religion of Babylonia (1893), ch. xvi., “ The Magical Texts, ” where a fuller treatment will be found. Now, as the conjurations were addressed to the deity, asipu, according to the definition given above, comes more reasonably under the category of priest. But the priest belongs to the realm of religion proper, which involves a relation of dependence on the superior power, whereas the a§ ipu belongs to the realm of magic, which is coercive and seeks “ to constrain the hostile power to give way ” (Lagrange).
There was also a third kind of priest called the zammaru, Whose function it was to sing hymns.
In the earlier period of the Assyrian monarchy we find the king holding the office of pa-te-si or isakku or (more definitely) the iangu, i.e. priest of Asur, the patron-deity of Assyria. This high-priestly office towards the tutelary deity of the nation appears to have belonged to the king by virtue of his royal rank. In Babylonia under the last empire (except in the case of Nebuchadrezzar, who calls himself patesi siri, “exalted priest, ” K .I .B. iii. p. 60) no such high-priestly function attached to the king, for in Babylonia the priesthoods were endowed with great wealth and power, and even the king stood in awe of them (see Johns, Babylonian and Assyrian Laws, Contracts and Letters, p. 212 sqq). These powerfully-organized priesthoods, as well as the elaborate nature of their ritual and apparatus of worship, must have deeply and permanently impressed the exiled Jewish community. Thus arose the more developed system of Ezekiel's scheme (xl.-xlviii.) and of the Priestercodex and the high dignity which became attached to the person of the High Priest (reflected in the narrative of Uzziah's leprosy in 2 Chron. xxvi. 16-20). Gther parallels to the sacerdotal system of the Priestercodex may here be noted. (1) According to Zimmern the barii and the a§ ipu formed close gilds and the office passed from father to son. This is certainly true of the iangutu or priesthood, which was connected with a special family attached to a particular temple and its worship. (2) Johns also points out the existence of the rab-baru, chief soothsayer, and the rab-mosrnasu or chief magician. (3) Bodily defects (as squinting, lack of teeth, maimed finger) was disqualifications for priesthood (cf. Lev. xxi. 17 sqq.). (4) In the ritual tablets for the aiipu published in Zimmern's Beitrdge, No. 26, col. iii. IQ sqq., we read “ that the masmasu (priest's magician) is to pass forth to the gateway, sacrifice a sheep in the palace portal, and to smear the threshold and posts of the palace gateway right and left with the blood of the lamb.” We are reminded of Exod. xii. 7 (P). (5) The Babylonian term kuppuru (infin. Pael) is used of the magician-priest or aiipu and means “ wipe out.” This confirms the view that the Hebrew kipper, which appears to be a late word (specially employed in Ezek, and P.), originally had the meaning which belongs to the Aramaic viz. “ wipe off ” and not “ cover” as in Arabic. Zimmern thinks that the meaning “ atone ” “ expiate, ” which belongs to the Pael form of the root k-p-r in both Aramaic and Arabic was borrowed from the Babylonian (cf. Driver's note in "Deuteronomy, " Int. Commentary, p. 42 5 sqq, and especially his article “ Propitiation” in Hastings's Diet. Bible). The Rev. C. H. W. Johns, to whom reference has already been made, demurs (in a communication to the writer) to the fusion of the priest and the magician, and to the custom of “calling every unknown official a priest or a eunuch." “ lf a Babylonian said sangu he meant one thing, by i§§ ipu another, and by rainku another. do not deny that the same man might unite all three functions in one person. Thus a § angu had a definite share in the offerings, a 1na§ rna§ u a different share. It seems to me that the priests belonged to the old families who were descended from the original tribe or clan, &c., that founded the city, and they could not admit outsiders save by adoption into the family. If a new god had a temple set up he had a new set of priests, but this priesthood descended in its line, e.g. a Samas priest did not beget a rnan who became a priest of Nabil. Further ' priest ' implied a peculiar relation to the god. A soothsayer was a general practitioner in his art, not attached to any one god or temple. Anyone could be a ramku who actually poured out libations; that a priest usually did it was no exception to that rule. Thefipriest was only a sort of specialist in the practice. The priest also o ered prayer, interceded, &c. I cannot see that he taught. An oracle of the god came through him. If the modus operandi was akin to soothsaying it was only because that special form of soothsaying was peculiar to the particular cult of that god, and even this as a secondary development. I do not think that early priests received oracles save in dreams, &c. That magic early invaded religion is possible, but there are many traces of its being a foreign element. This is not usually pointed out.”