|Part of a series on the|
Lord's Supper • Communion
|Ritual and liturgy|
|Practices and customs|
Church teaching places the origin of the Eucharist in the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples, at which he is believed to have taken bread and given it to his disciples, telling them to eat of it, because it was his body, and to have taken a cup and given it to his disciples, telling them to drink of it because it was the cup of the covenant in his blood.
The earliest extant written account of a Christian eucharistia (Greek: thanksgiving) is that in the First Epistle to the Corinthians (around AD 55), in which Paul the Apostle relates "eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord" in the celebration of a "Supper of the Lord" to the Last Supper of Jesus some 25 years earlier. Paul considers that in celebrating the rite they were fulfilling a mandate to do so. The Acts of the Apostles presents the early Christians as meeting for “the breaking of bread” as some sort of ceremony.
Writing around the middle of the second century, Justin Martyr gives the oldest description of something that can be recognised as the rite that is in use today, according to K.W. Noakes. Earlier sources, the Didache, 1 Clement and Ignatius of Antioch provide glimpses of what Christians were doing in their eucharists. Later sources, Tertullian and the Apostolic Tradition, offer some details from around the year 200. Once the Church "went public" after the conversion of Constantine the Great in the second decade of the fourth century, it was clear that the Eucharist was established as a central part of Christian life.
Contemporary scholars debate whether Jesus meant to institute a ritual at his Last Supper; whether the Last Supper was an actual historical event in any way related to the undisputed early "Lord's Supper" or "Eucharist" and have asked if the Eucharist had its origins in a pagan context, where dinners to memorialize the dead were common.
- 1 New Testament accounts
- 2 Early Christianity
- 3 Contemporary scholars and evolution of the Eucharist
- 4 Possible cultural influences
- 5 References
- 6 External links
New Testament accounts
In the New Testament there are four accounts of the institution of the Eucharist, the earliest by St Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians which links it back to the Last Supper and three in the Synoptic Gospels in the context of that same meal.
|1 Corinthians 11:23–26||Mark 14:22–25||Matthew 26:26–29||Luke 22:14–20|
|In vv 17–22 Paul criticises abuses of the Lord's Supper prevalent in Corinth, he continues: |
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
| In the preceding verses the evangelist makes it clear that the setting is a Passover meal. |
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’
| In the preceding verses the evangelist makes it clear that the setting is a Passover meal. |
While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’
| In the preceding verses the evangelist makes it clear that the setting is a Passover meal. |
When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’
Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Matthew obviously follows Mark's account. Luke's version differs at so many points from the Markan that some scholars believe it stems from another source. John, although he does not include an "Institution Narrative", includes an account of a supper on the night Jesus was betrayed, including a footwashing scene. Chapters 13–17 of the Gospel of John attribute to Jesus a series of teachings and prayers at his Last Supper, but does not mention any meal rituals. On the other hand, John 6, in particular verses such as 6:55–56 ("For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him"), is widely interpreted as an allusion to the Eucharist. Peculiarities in phrasing as compared to the Synoptics are thought to reflect the liturgical tradition of the Johannine community. A passage found in Luke records a command, found also in Paul, to his disciples, to "do this as my memorial"  without specifying whether it should be performed annually, like the Passover, or more frequently.
The text of the Lucan version is uncertain. A number of commentators conclude that the second half of 22:19 and all of 22:20 are later interpolations. In 1926 E.C. Ratcliff declared: "The textus receptus indeed includes the command, but the passage in which it occurs is an interpolation of the Pauline account; and whatever view be taken of the Lucan text, the command is no part of the original". However, C.P.M. Jones writing in 1978 comments "Many scholars (e.g. ...) have returned to the support of the longer text,..."  and the same position was taken by the majority of editors of the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament. The attribution to Jesus of the words 'This do in memory of Me'." is therefore possible, but not certain. Jeremias says "Do this in remembrance of me " would better be translated "That God may remember me.", but Richardson objects that the "presence of one particular meaning must not be taken to exclude other shades of meaning, nuances and overtones".
Acts, Corinthians and Jude
The New Testament recounts a number of practices of religious table fellowship that would later be considered eucharistic. Paul the Apostle responded to abuses at a meal that the Corinthian Christians had at their meetings and that he did not deem worthy to be called "a Supper of the Lord" (κυριακὸν δεῖπνον). He appeals to them to celebrate it worthily, since otherwise they would be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord, and elsewhere in the same letter, writes: "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons."
Paul had first evangelized the inhabitants of Corinth, in Greece, in 51/52 CE. Paul's nascent congregation there was made up of pagan, not Jewish, converts (1 Corinthians 12:2). All first-generation Christians were necessarily converts, either pagan or Jewish. They had written him regarding numerous matters of concern (1 Corinthians 7:1). Criticizing what he had heard of their meetings, at which they had communal meals, one paragraph in Paul's response reminded them about what he asserted he had "received from the Lord" and had "passed on" about Jesus' actions and directives at his Last Supper. The ambiguities some find in that wording has generated reams of books, articles and opinions about the Origins of Eucharist.
In his 1994 book, A Feast of Meanings: Eucharistic Theologies from Jesus through Johannine Circles, Bruce Chilton wrote that Paul "indeed 'received from the Lord' (1 Corinthians 11:23), through Cephas (Galatians 1:18), what he 'handed over' (1 Corinthians 11:23) to his hearers. … He reminds his hearers of what he already had taught as authoritative, a teaching 'from the Lord' and presumably warranted by the earliest 'pillars': in that sense, what he hands on is not his own, but derives from his highest authority, 'the Lord' (11:23)." Eugene LaVerdiere wrote: "That is how Paul introduced the tradition, presenting himself as a link in the chain of Eucharistic tradition. He received (paralambano) the tradition of Eucharist in the early 40s while in the community at Antioch. He handed it on (paradidomi) to the Corinthians in the year 51 when first proclaiming the gospel to them. Like Paul, the Corinthians also were to become a link in the chain of Eucharistic tradition, handing on to others what Paul handed on to them. Several years later, circa 54, Paul reminded them of this in 1 Corinthians."
There are three references in Acts to "the breaking of bread" by early Christians at Jerusalem and by St Paul on his visit to Troas. The letters of Paul and the Acts of the Apostles make it clear that early Christianity believed that this institution included a mandate to continue the celebration as an anticipation in this life of the joys of the banquet that was to come in the Kingdom of God. The term "Agape" or "Love-feast" appears in the Jude 12: "These are blemishes on your love feasts, as they boldly carouse together, looking after themselves".
In the three hundred years after Jesus' crucifixion, Christian practices and beliefs regarding the Eucharist took definitive shape as central to Christian worship. At first, they spread through word of mouth, but within a generation Christians had begun writing about Jesus and about Christian practice, the Eucharist included. The theology of the Eucharist and its role as a sacrament developed during this period.
Basing himself on the First Apology and the Dialogue with Trypho of Justin Martyr writing around 150 AD, K.W. Noakes deduces the following liturgical structure was in use at that time:
- Scripture Readings and Homily.
- Intercessions and Kiss-of-Peace.
- Bread and Cup are brought to the Celebrant.
- Eucharistic Prayer (flexible) but following a fixed pattern with congregational “Amen”
- Distribution of the elements by the deacons to those present and absent.
This corresponds in general outline to the structure of the rite as used today and is the earliest known example. The theology is as follows: the bread and wine are transformed into the Flesh and Blood of Jesus; they are the pure sacrifice spoken of by Malachi (1:11) and the eucharistic prayer itself is both a thanksgiving for creation and redemption and an anamnesis (Greek: memorial) of the passion (and possibly the incarnation).
Information from the intervening period is scanty. Both the author of 1 Clement (about 96) and Ignatius of Antioch(about 108) are concerned that due order be maintained.; "Give heed to keep one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup unto union with His blood. There is one altar, as there is one bishop, together with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants; that whatsoever you do, you may do according unto God" (Letter to the Philadelphians,4). The dating of the Didache is contentious, dates from the middle of the first century to the early third century have been suggested, but it may well be from the same period as 1 Clement and Ignatius. It states that the unbaptized left the assembly before the Eucharist proper began "Let none eat or drink of your Eucharist but such as have been baptized into the name of the Lord, for of a truth the Lord hath said concerning this, Give not that which is holy unto dogs.". A composite of several documents, it includes ritual prayers and a mention of what it calls the εὐχαριστία (Thanksgiving or Eucharist). According to the overwhelming consensus among scholars, the section beginning at 10.1 is a reworking of the Birkat hamazon the prayer that ends the Jewish ritual meal. Also, there is one possible pagan reference to an early morning celebration from about the year 112 in a letter of the younger Pliny to the emperor Trajan.
Evidence from a slightly later period comes from Irenaeus and from the Apostolic Tradition. In his debate with gnostics who favoured an immaterial religion, the former affirms: "Whenever, then, the mixed cup and the bread that has been made receive the word of God, the Eucharist becomes the body of Christ, and by it the substance of our flesh is nourished and sustained". The Apostolic Tradition poses a number of critical problems including the question as to whether the liturgies were ever used. However, the editors of The Study of Liturgy conclude that "it is clearly safe...to use the document as evidence for early third-century Rome". It contain what must be considered a complete prayer of consecration including a version of the Institution narrative.
It is clear from the New Testament evidence that some primitive Christian ceremonies involved a full meal and the word "agape" (love-feast) is used. At some point these died out possibly as a result of increasing numbers and possibly due to abuses. Writing shortly after Justin, Tertullian describes "love feasts". Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–211/216) distinguished so-called "Agape" meals of luxurious character from the agape (love) "which the food that comes from Christ shows that we ought to partake of". Accusations of gross indecency were sometimes made against the form that these meals sometimes took. Clement of Alexandria also mentions abuses,Stromata III,2, and the editor comments: "The early disappearance of the Christian agapæ may probably be attributed to the terrible abuse of the word here referred to, by the licentious Carpocratians".
Augustine of Hippo also objected to the continuance in his native North Africa of the custom of such meals, in which some indulged to the point of drunkenness, and he distinguished them from proper celebration of the Eucharist: "Let us take the body of Christ in communion with those with whom we are forbidden to eat even the bread which sustains our bodies." He reports that even before the time of his stay in Milan, the custom had already been forbidden there. Canons 27 and 28 of the Council of Laodicea (364) restricted the abuses.
The Didache gives in chapter 9 prayers for use in celebrating what it calls the Eucharist, involving a cup and broken bread, and in chapter 10 another prayer for use "after you are filled". Scholars disagree on whether these texts concern a Eucharist in the proper sense.
Between 150 and 155 AD, Justin Martyr describes the liturgy of his day in chapters 65 and 66 of his First Apology. The liturgy describes thanksgivings before the Anaphora. The consecration of the Eucharistic species is done with the words of 1 Cor. 11: "For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood;" and gave it to them alone. "
No full liturgies are known before the 3rd century.:77 The earliest extant texts of an anaphora (the central part of the Eucharistic liturgy, known also as the Eucharistic Prayer) include the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, the Anaphora of the Apostolic Tradition and the Egyptian form of the Liturgy of Saint Basil. The earliest text that is similar to the Roman Canon is that quoted in De Sacramentis of Ambrose:140 (see History of the Roman Canon).
Contemporary scholars and evolution of the Eucharist
The gap of some twenty years between the date of the Last Supper and the writing of I Corinthians and the even longer period before the Gospels were written have led to doubts as to their historical reliability and the suggestion that they reflect the concerns and situation of the early Christians at the time of writing rather than reporting objectively events which occurred decades before. They therefore try to decide where the distinct components of the later rite originated by examining possible cultural elements, both Jewish and Hellenic, which already existed in the period under study. The underlying debate is over the relative contributions of Paul and Jesus and the possible intervention of other factors. One key consideration in this is the problem of the Jewish prohibition of drinking blood (see below).
Professor Robert J. Daly, S.J., argues that Jesus did indeed institute the Eucharist, though it took generations and centuries of guidance from the Holy Spirit for the Eucharist to reach its current form. "What Jesus did at the Last Supper is obviously at least the generative moment of the institution of the Eucharist." But it was not the Eucharist as we know it. "The Eucharist that Christians now celebrate is what the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit of the risen Jesus, and over the course of generations and centuries, learned to do as it celebrated table fellowship with its risen Lord."
On the other hand, Bruce Chilton suggests that we can find in the New Testament six different ways of celebrating what Christians came to call the Eucharist, and can locate each of these in its own specific socio-religio-political setting. This would seem to make irrelevant a number of time-honored scholarly approaches, fundamental to which were, first, the "literally true" vs. "literary fictions" debate, and, second, the assumption that there was a unified line of development from the established Eucharist of later centuries back close to the time of the historical Jesus.
|Jesus' Table Fellowship||The "Last Supper"||Petrine Christianity||The Circle of James||Paul and the Synoptics||John|
|Jesus joined with his followers in meals that were designed to anticipate the coming of God's kingdom. The meals were characterized by a readiness to accept the hospitality and the produce of Israel at large. A willingness to provide for the meals, to join in the fellowship, to forgive and to be forgiven, was seen by Jesus as a sufficient condition for eating in his company and for entry into the kingdom. Jesus' approach to purity qualification was distinctive in its inclusiveness. For Jesus, the primary markers of purity, the primary requirements for table fellowship in the kingdom were: Israel as forgiven and willing to provide of its own produce.||Jesus sought to influence or reform purity practices associated with the Temple. In his meals, as he shared wine, he started referring to it as the equivalent of the blood of an animal shed in sacrifice, and in sharing bread, claiming that its value was that of sacrificial flesh. "Here was a sacrifice of sharings which the authorities could not control, and which the nature of Jesus' movement made it impossible for them to ignore. Jesus' meals after his failed occupation of the Temple became a surrogate of sacrifice, the second type of Eucharist."||In this stage of Eucharistic development, the berakhah prayer of Judaism seems to have become a principal model of Eucharist. Bread took precedence over wine, and, as Acts 1:12-26, 2:46, and 3:14:37 clearly describe, a double domestication took place. Instead of seeking the hospitality of others, as the itinerant Jesus seemed to do, adherents of the movement, under the leadership of Peter and/or the Twelve, gathered in the homes of colleagues where they "broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people" (Acts 2:46–47). In addition, apparently they also acknowledged the validity of sacrifice in the Temple. In doing this they changed the nature of the meal and the memory of what Jesus had said at that meal. For example, there is no mention of wine, nor does there, in this account of the earliest Christian gatherings, seem to have been any sense of being in tension with the officials of Judaism or its religious practices.||The tendency to domestication is here pursued further, for the Eucharist is now seen as a Seder meal, open only to Jews in a state of purity, and to be celebrated only once a year, at Passover, in Jerusalem, as prescribed in Exodus 12:48. The effect of this Jacobean program—a possible antecedent to the later Quartodeciman practice?—"was to integrate Jesus' movement fully within the liturgical institutions of Judaism, to insist upon the Judaic identity of the movement and upon Jerusalem as its governing center," but without actually replacing Israel's Seder.||Paul vehemently resisted Jacobean claims. He also emphasized the link between Jesus' death and the Eucharist, and he accepts what Chilton calls the Hellenistic refinement of the Petrine type that presented the Eucharist as a sacrifice for sin. This is also what we find in the Synoptic Gospels which use words to suggest that Jesus' blood is shed in the interests of the communities for which those Gospels were composed: for the "many" (in Damascus?) Matthew 26:28 and (in Rome?) Mark 14:24: on behalf of "you" (in Antioch?) Luke 22:20.||Jesus identifies himself in John 6 as the manna, now developed to construe the Eucharist as a mystery in which Jesus, not literally but sacramentally, offers/gives his own personal body and blood in Eucharist. This would probably not be a totally new idea to Hellenistic Christians who followed synoptic practice. But Johannine practice now makes this meaning explicit. It was, as is characteristic of the Fourth Gospel, an unambiguous, clear break with Judaism. For with this development, Eucharist has become a "sacrament" understandable only in Hellenistic terms, and involving "a knowing conflict with the ordinary understanding of what Judaism might and might not include."|
Eucharist and its relation to the Last Supper
Paul F. Bradshaw argues in Eucharistic Origins that it is not until after the 1st century and much later in some areas that the Eucharist and the Last Supper became placed in a relation of dependence: many Eucharists did not relate to the Paschal mystery and/or the Last Supper. On the other hand, in the middle of the 1st century Paul the Apostle explicitly placed the celebration of the Lord's Supper in relation to what Jesus did on the night he was handed over, in giving his disciples bread with the words "This is my body" and, after the supper, giving them the cup with a similar declaration about his blood.
John Dominic Crossan suggests that there are two traditions "as old as we can trace them" of the eucharist, that of Paul, reflecting the Antioch Church's tradition, and that of the Didache, the first document to give explicit instruction regarding prayers to be said at a celebration that it called the Eucharist.
The cup/bread liturgy of the Didache, from the Jerusalem tradition, does not mention Passover, or Last Supper, or Death of Jesus/blood/body, and the sequence is meal + thanksgiving ritual. For Crossan, it is dispositive that
even late in the first century C.E., at least some (southern?) Syrian Christians could celebrate a Eucharist of bread and wine with absolutely no hint of Passover meal, Last Supper or passion symbolism built into its origins or development. I cannot believe that they knew about those elements and studiously avoided them. I can only presume that they were not there for everyone from the beginning, that is, from solemn formal and final institution by Jesus himself.
Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, in the context of correcting the habits of the Corinthians serves to reestablish "the Pre-Pauline tradition, ritual of bread/body + meal + ritual of cup/blood."  Hellenized Jew Paul references a Greek weekly Lord's Supper, which is not an annual Jewish Passover meal, and does not have the participants giving thanks ("Eucharistia"), rather the purpose is to proclaim Jesus' death until he comes again, in the manner of Hellenic societies formed "to hold meals in remembrance of those who had died and to drink a cup in honor of some god." Some authors would consider Paul to be the "Founder" of the Eucharist in a pagan context appealing to the Jewish prohibition against drinking blood, the pervasive history of Greek memorial dining societies, and Paul's own hellenistic background." Paul, however, explicitly stated that he was rehearsing a Christian tradition, something that he himself had "received" and had already "handed on" to the Corinthians. Paul's references in this letter to unleavened bread, Christ as the "paschal lamb," and mention of the "cup of blessing," similar to the ancient Mishnah Pesahim instructions on celebrating the Passover meal, suggest Jewish influence (see 1 Corinthians 5:7; 10:16; 11:23).
Both sequences underline the primary importance of the Shared Meal to historical 1st century Christian ritual. Crossan maintains that table fellowship was central to Jesus' ministry in that was infamous for violating codes of honor to eat freely with outsiders, termed "sinners and tax collectors" in the Gospels. Jesus presumably taught at the table, as was customary. This emphasis on table fellowship is reflected in the large number of eating scenes in early Christian art. In the Jerusalem tradition, of James and Peter, the meal is of higher importance than blood and body since the Didache fails to mention them. Both traditions reflect the pitfalls of a shared meal among social unequals, namely freeloading. The Didache says in 12:3–4, "If (a traveler) wants to settle with you and is an artisan, he must work for his living. If, however, he has no trade, use your judgment in taking steps for him to live with you as a Christian without being idle." Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says: "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat." In Crossan's view, "both stipulations must presume a communal share-meal or they make no sense."
Crossan's Preliminary Stages
|1. Graeco-Roman formal meal||2. Jesus' practice||3a. Didache 10||3b. Didache 9||4. 1 Corinthians||5. Mark|
|deipnon (supper, main meal), then symposion||a meal that later and in retrospect was recognized as having been their last one together||Give thanks, no reference to Passover, Last Supper, or Death of Jesus||Eucharist, no reference to Passover, Last Supper, or Death of Jesus||Lord's Supper||Passover Meal|
|Bread course followed by ritual libation followed by wine course||Open Commensality – radical social egalitarianism in seating for meal||Common Meal followed by Thanks to the Father, no ritual with bread or cup||Common meal, ritual with Cup (thanks for the Holy Vine of David) and Bread (thanks for the life and knowledge of Jesus)||Bread/body, Thanks, Common Meal, Cup/blood||During meal, first Bread/body, then Cup/blood and Thanks|
|No ritual||No mention of the death of Jesus||No mention of the death of Jesus||Passion Remembrance in both cup and bread||No command for repetition and remembrance|
Problem of the historical Jewish prohibition against blood-drinking
In a 2002 analysis in the Biblical Theology Bulletin, Michael J. Cahill surveyed the state of scholarly literature from some seventy cited sources, dating from the 1950s to the present, on the question of the likelihood of a Jewish Jesus proposing the drinking of blood in the Eucharist. After examining the various theories that have been suggested, he concludes:
The survey of opinion, old and new, reveals wide disagreement with a fundamental divide between those who can accept that the notion of drinking blood could have a Jewish origin and those who insist that this is a later development to be located in the Hellenistic world. What both sides share is an inability to proffer a rationally convincing argument that can provide a historical explanation for the presence of this particular component of the Eucharistic rite. Those who hold for the literal institution by Jesus have not been able to explain plausibly how the drinking of blood could have arisen in a Jewish setting. In fact, this difficulty has been turned into an argument for authenticity. For example, Jeremiah [sic] quotes Dalman: "Exactly that which seems scandalous will be historical" (170–71). W. D. Davies draws attention to the fact that Dalman also argued that the Pauline version of the institution arose in a gentile environment to eliminate the difficulties presented by the more direct Markan form (246). It would appear to be obvious that the difficulties would have been greater in a Jewish environment. Davies' conclusion is apt: "When such divergent conclusons [sic] have been based upon the same evidence any dogmatism would be foolish" (246). On the other hand, I have earlier argued that previous suggestions supporting the non-Jewish source have been vitiated by vague generalities or by association with inappropriate pagan rituals.
In the account of the Last Supper in Luke chapter 22, the wine that is consumed at the passover meal is shown to not be literally blood, but represents the blood that Jesus will shed by his death on the cross. It was a deliberate act of tying the Passover story from the Book of Exodus to the Crucifixion, and the shed blood of the passover lamb being painted on the lintels of the Hebrews' doors, to Jesus "...the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" and his sacrifice at the time of passover.
'And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."' (Luke 22:19-20)
Possible cultural influences
Jewish ritual meal practice
Scholars have associated Jesus' Last Supper and the 1st-century Eucharist practices with three Second Temple Jewish meal practices: the kiddush blessing with wine, and the chaburah fellowship and the Passover Seder meal.
The Johannine Supper, Ratcliff has suggested, was the Jewish ordinance known as Kiddush, the details of which involved the leader of the mixed-sex ceremony taking a cup of wine, sanctifying it by reciting a thanksgiving blessing, and passing it around. There was a similar blessing and breaking of bread. Kiddush is the "Jewish benediction and prayer recited over a cup of wine immediately before the meal on the eve of the sabbath or of a festival. After reciting the kiddush the master of the house sips from the cup, and then passes it to his wife and to the others at the table; then all wash their hands, and the master of the house blesses the bread, cuts it, and passes a morsel to each person at the table.
Ratcliff wrote: "Though the kiddush accounts for the '[Johannine]' Last Supper, it affords no explanation on the origin of the eucharist ... the Last Supper and the Sabbath-Passover Kiddush was therefore no unusual occurrence. It represented consistent practice since Jesus had first formed the group. It is from this practice, rather than from any direct institution from Jesus, that the eucharist derives its origin. The practice was too firmly established for the group to abandon it, when its Master had been taken away; the primitive apostolic eucharist is no other than the continuation of Jesus's chaburah meal. This is the 'breaking of bread' of Acts ii. 42."
Joachim Jeremias disputed the view that the Last Supper was kiddush, because the Kiddush was always associated with the Sabbath, and even if there was a Passover kiddush, it would have taken place immediately before the seder, not the day before.
The chaburah (also 'haburah', pl 'chaburoth') is not the name of a rite, rather it was the name of a group of male friends who met at regular intervals (weekly for Dix) for conversation and a formal meal appurtenant to that meeting. Nothing is said about them in the Bible but scholars have been able to discover some things about them from other sources. The corporate meeting of a chaburah usually took the form of a supper, held at regular intervals, often on the eve of sabbaths or holy days. Each member of the society contributed towards the provision of this common meal.
The form of the supper was largely the same as the chief meal of the day in every pious Jewish household. Each kind of food was blessed when it was first brought to the table. At the end of the meal came the grace after meals – the Blessing or Benediction as it was called. This long prayer was said by the host or father of the family in the name of all who had eaten the meal. On important occasions, and at a chaburah supper, it was recited over a special cup of wine known quite naturally as "the cup of blessing." At the end of the Thanksgiving prayer this cup was sipped by the leader and then by each of those present. The chaburah supper was concluded by the singing of a psalm, after which the meeting broke up.
Jeremias also disputed that the Last Supper was a chaburah meal, interposing the objection that the chaburah was a "duty" meal, held appurtenant to a formal occasion such as a 'bris' or a betrothal.
Whether the Last Supper was a Passover Meal (as the chronology of the Synoptic Gospels would suggest) or not (as St John), it is clear that the Eucharist was instituted at Passover time, and Christian writers from Saint Paul (1 Corinthians 5:7) onwards have stressed that the death of Christ was the fulfilment of the sacrifice foreshadowed by the Passover."
Enrico Mazza has argued that the view that the Last Supper was a Passover meal "remains a theological interpretation. The historical fact is that the Last Supper was not a Passover celebration and, consequently, that its liturgy was not that of the Jewish Passover."
Joachim Jeremias, having rejected the previous two possible backgrounds for the Last Supper argues forcibly that it was a Passover Seder while recognising that there are difficulties. His case may be summed as follows.
|Ten factors substantiating Passover||Nine factors in objection to Passover actions that would be in violation of ritual regulations||Two further objections|
| || || |
Greek and other ritual meal practice
The spread of Christianity outside the Jewish communities has led some scholars to investigate whether Hellenistic practices influenced the development of Eucharistic rites, especially in view of the Jewish prohibition of drinking blood (see above).
Deipnon, libation and symposion
During the Second Temple period, Hellenic practices were adopted by Jews after the conquests of Alexander the Great. By the 2nd century BC, Jesus Ben Sirach described Jewish feasting, with numerous parallels to Hellenic practice, without disapproval. Gentile and Jewish practice was that the all-male participants reclined at table on their left elbows, and after a benediction given by the host (in the case of a Jewish meal), would have a deipnon (late afternoon or evening meal) of bread with various vegetables, perhaps some fish or even meat if the meal was extravagant.
Among the Greeks, a ritual libation, or sacrificial pouring out of wine, followed, with another benediction or blessing, leading to the 'symposion' (as in Plato's Symposium) or wine-drinking course and entertainment. Thus was established an order of breaking bread and drinking wine. Cups of wine were even passed from diner to diner as a way to pass responsibility for speaking next. "Plutarch spoke in the highest terms of the bonds created by the shared wine bowl. His words are echoed by Paul who spoke of the sharing of bread and wine as the act that created the one body, that is to say, it was a community-creating ritual."
Dennis E. Smith says that the earliest Christians worshiped at table in their hosts' dining rooms. and that the earliest Christians shaped the traditions about Jesus to fit that setting. In his study Dining Posture in Ancient Rome: Bodies, Values, and Status concerning practice at the meals designated in Latin by the word "convivium", equivalent to "deipnon" and/or "symposion" in Greek, The number of participants at such meals in private houses, as opposed to other specially designated places, would be at most a dozen. The symposium after the meal was the time for teaching and conversation, for the singing of hymns, for the contributions of those who prophesied or spoke in tongues.
Parallel to the religious duties to god and state, "the Hellenic world also fostered a number of 'underground' religions, which countless thousands of people found intellectually and emotionally satisfying." They were known as the "mysteries," because their adherents took oaths never to reveal their rites to the uninitiated. Several honored young male gods born of a divine father and human mother, resurrected after a heroic death. In some of these secret religions "celebrants shared a communal meal in which they symbolically ate the flesh and drank the blood of their god."
- Dionysus cult
Early Christianity spread through a Hellenized populace. Jewish feast practices had taken on Hellenic forms as noted above. Dionysus was "god of 'the vine' - representing wine, the most universally popular beverage in the ancient world."  Barry Powell suggests that Christian notions of eating and drinking the "flesh" and "blood" of Jesus were influenced by the cult of Dionysus. In contrast, the ancient Greek tragedy, The Bacchae, a ritual involving the wine of Dionysus is not drunk, but poured out as a libation. In the Greek novel, Leucippe and Clitophon by Achilles Tatius, Dionysus is said to have given a sheperd of Tyre his first wine. When Dionysus shows the grape cluster where he got the wine from, Tatius parodies the Christian eucharist rite.
In the chapter "Totem-Sacrifices and Eucharists" of his 1920 book Pagan and Christian Creeds, Edward Carpenter advanced the theory that the Christian Eucharist arose from an almost universal practice of a tribe occasionally eating the animal that it identified with, a practice that he saw as developing into ceremonial eatings of shared food by lamas in Nepal and Tibet, ancient Egyptians, Aztecs, Peruvians, Chinese and Tartars. He concluded: "These few instances are sufficient to show the extraordinarily wide diffusion of Totem-sacraments and Eucharistic rites all over the world."
Pre-Pauline confluence of Greek and Jewish traditions and agapē
By the time of the Roman conquest, Jews practiced festive dining in essentially the same form as the Greeks, with a dinner (deipnon) followed by the symposium proper, where guests drank wine and enjoyed entertainment or conversation. There were, to be sure, cultic differences, such as a berakhah over the wine cup instead of the Greeks' libation to Dionysus. But eating together was a central activity for Jewish religious groups such as Pharisees and Essenes.
"Thanksgiving" (in Greek, "εὐχαριστία" [eucharistia]) is probably to be regarded as the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "ברכה" [berakhah, berakah], the Jewish "blessing" (in Greek, "εὐλογία" [eulogia]) "addressed to God at meals for and over the food and drink. It is in this sense that the term was originally used in connection with the common meal of the early Christian community, at which the 'blessing' or 'thanksgiving' had special reference to Jesus Christ."
One formulation had it that "(t)he eucharistia was the berakhah without the chaburah supper, and the agape is the chaburah meal without the berakhah.
The Eucharistic celebrations of the early Christians were embedded in, or simply took the form of, a meal. These were often called agape feasts, although terminology varied in the first few centuries along with other aspects of practice. Agape is one of the Greek words for love, and so "agape feasts" are also referred to in English as "love-feasts".
This Hellenic ritual was apparently a full meal, with each participant bringing a contribution to the meal according to their means. Perhaps predictably enough, it could at times deteriorate into merely an occasion for eating and drinking, or for ostentatious displays by the wealthier members of the community of the type criticised by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:20–22.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, "The institution of the Eucharist"
- John Anthony McGuckin, The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell 2011 ISBN 978-1405185394), Eucharist article by MC Steenberg vol. 1, p. 231
- Colin Buchanan, The A to Z of Anglicanism (Scarecrow Press 2009 ISBN 978-0810868427), p. 107
- Enrico Mazza, Celebration of the Eucharist: The Origin of the Rite and the Development of Its Interpretation (Liturgical Press 1999 ISBN 978-0814661703), p. 19 Quotation concerning the origin: "The Christian Eucharist has its origin in the Last Supper. There, Jesus took bread, blessed God, broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples, telling them to take it and eat of it, because it was his body. In the same way, after they had eaten, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to his disciples, telling them all to take it and drink of it, because it was the cup of the covenant in his blood as redemption of sin for many (Matthew 26:26–28). At the end he said: "Do this in remembrance of me."
- Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome (1996). "The First Letter to the Corinthians". In Raymond E. Brown; Joseph A. Fitzmyer; Roland E. Murphy (eds.). The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. p. 799. ISBN 0136149340.. See also First Epistle to the Corinthians#Time and Place
- 1 Corinthians 11:17–34
- Encyclopædia Britannica, s.v. Eucharist
- Dix, dom Gregory (1949), The Shape of the Liturgy, London: DacrePress, p. 63
- Noakes, K.W. (1979), "The Eucharist: 2 From the Apostolic Fathers to Irenaeus", in Jones, Cheslyn (ed.), The Study of Liturgy, London: SPCK, pp. 171ff
- Wainwright, Geoffrey (1979), "General Introduction: 1 The Periods of Liturgical History", in Jones, Cheslyn (ed.), The Study of Liturgy, London: SPCK, p. 35
- Crossan, John Dominic, The Historical Jesus, pp. 360–367
- Bradshaw, Paul, 'Eucharistic Origins (London, SPCK, 2004) ISBN 0281056153, p. 10.
- 1 Corinthians 11:23–25
- Matthew 26:26–28, Mark 14:22–24, Luke 22:17–20
- Funk, Robert (1993). The Five Gospels. San Francisco: Harper Collins. p. 387. ISBN 006063040X.
- For instance, John 6, The Eucharist, and Protestant Objections; The Institution of the Eucharist in Scripture, etc.
- Perkins, Pheme (1996). "The Gospel According to John". In Raymond E. Brown; Joseph A. Fitzmyer; Roland E. Murphy (eds.). The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. p. 962. ISBN 0136149340.
- Karris, Robert J. (1996). "The Gospel According to Luke". In Raymond E. Brown; Joseph A. Fitzmyer; Roland E. Murphy (eds.). The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. p. 715. ISBN 0136149340.).
- Encyclopædia Britannica 13th Edition (1926) art. Eucharist
- Jones, C.P.M. (1979), "The Eucharist in 1. – The New Testament", in Jones, Cheslyn (ed.), The Study of Liturgy, London: SPCK, p. 163
- Metzger, Bruce M. (1971), A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, London, pp. 173ff, ISBN 3438060108
- Richardson, Alan (1961), An Introduction to the Theology of the New Testament, London: SCM, p. 368
- 1 Corinthians 11:20 Not τὸ κυριακὸν δεῖπνον, and so, in this context, "the Lord's supper" means "a supper of the Lord" rather than "the supper of the Lord".
- 1 Corinthians 10:21, a passage that scholars have referred to celebration of the Eucharist, e.g. [www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books/Eastons%20Bible% Easton's Bible Dictionary on "Cup"]
- A Feast of Meanings: Eucharistic Theologies from Jesus through Johannine Circles, by Bruce Chilton 1994 ISBN 9004099492 p. 110
- The Eucharist in the New Testament and the Early Church By Eugene LaVerdiere, 1996 ISBN 0814661521 p. 31
- Acts 20:7
- Funk, Robert, and the Jesus Seminar, "The Acts of Jesus" Harper Collins, 1998, p. 16
- Noakes, K.W. (1979), "The Eucharist: 2 From the Apostolic Fathers to Irenaeus", in Jones, Cheslyn (ed.), The Study of Liturgy, London: SPCK, p. 170
- "Let that eucharist alone be considered valid which is celebrated in the presence of the bishop, or of him to whom he shall have entrusted it. ... It is not lawful either to baptize, or to hold a love-feast without the consent of the bishop."
- Smyrnaeans, 8
- Stevenson, J. (1965), A New Eusebius, London: SPCK, p. 399
- Didache, 9:5
- The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and Its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity by Hubertus Waltherus Maria van de Sandt, David Flusser pp. 311–312
- Epp.X.96 Stevenson, J. (1965), A New Eusebius, London: SPCK, pp. 13–15
- Against the Heresias V.ii.3, quoted Heron, Alasdair I.C. Table and Tradition Philadelphia: Westminster Press(1983), p. 64
- The Editors (1979), "General Introduction 7 The Apostolic Tradition", in Jones, Cheslyn (ed.), The Study of Liturgy, London: SPCK, pp. 171ffCS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Dix,dom Gregory. The Shape of the Liturgy, pp. 84ff
- Apology, 39; De Corona Militis, 3.
- Yet about the modest supper-room of the Christians alone a great ado is made. Our feast explains itself by its name. The Greeks call it agapè, i.e., affection. Whatever it costs, our outlay in the name of piety is gain, since with the good things of the feast we benefit the needy; not as it is with you, do parasites aspire to the glory of satisfying their licentious propensities, selling themselves for a belly-feast to all disgraceful treatment,—but as it is with God himself, a peculiar respect is shown to the lowly. If the object of our feast be good, in the light of that consider its further regulations. As it is an act of religious service, it permits no vileness or immodesty. The participants, before reclining, taste first of prayer to God. As much is eaten as satisfies the cravings of hunger; as much is drunk as befits the chaste. They say it is enough, as those who remember that even during the night they have to worship God; they talk as those who know that the Lord is one of their auditors. After manual ablution, and the bringing in of lights, each [Or, perhaps—“One is prompted to stand forth and bring to God, as every one can, whether from the Holy Scriptures, or of his own mind”—i.e. according to his taste.] is asked to stand forth and sing, as he can, a hymn to God, either one from the holy Scriptures or one of his own composing,—a proof of the measure of our drinking. As the feast commenced with prayer, so with prayer it is closed.
- Paedagogus II, 1
- "Sed majoris est Agape, quia per hanc adolescentes tui cum sororibus dormiunt, appendices scilicet gulae lascivia et luxuria" (Tertullian, De Jejuniis, 17, quoted in Gibbons: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire).
- Letter 22, 1:3
- Confessions, 6.2.2
- The Council of Laodicea in Phrygia Pacatiana
- Bradshaw, Paul (2004). Eucharistic origins. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. p. 25. ISBN 0195222210.
- Martyr, Justin. "First Apology". Early Christian Writings. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
- Senn, Frank C (1997). Christian Liturgy, Catholic and Evangelical. Augsburg Fortress. ISBN 0800627261.
- "Anaphora" in Cross, F. L., ed., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0192802903)
- Dan O. Via jr Foreword to What is Redaction Criticism? by Norman Perrin. London: SPCK (1970) p. vii
- Daly, Robert J., S.J., 'Eucharistic origins: from the new testament to the liturgies of the golden age." Theological Studies March, 2005
- Daly, Robert J., S.J., 'Eucharistic origins: from the new testament to the liturgies of the golden age." Theological Studies March 2005
- Bradshaw, Paul, Eucharistic Origins (London, SPCK, 2004) ISBN 0281056153, p. 10.
- "The earliest reference to the Eucharist is in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:23–24) where he attributes its institution to the actions and words of Jesus at the Last Supper" (Culham Institute: Knowledge Content in Religious Education: Christianity – A Guide For Teachers New To Religious Education)
- Crossan, John Dominic, "The Historical Jesus" HarperCollins 1992 p. 364
- Crossan, John Dominic "The Birth of Christianity, Harper/Collins, 2002, p. 436
- Funk, ibid. at 139–140
- Funk, Robert, and the Jesus Seminar, "The Acts of Jesus" Harper Collins, 1998, p. 139
- Raymond F. Collins, Daniel J. Harrington, First Corinthians (Michael Glazier, Inc. 1999), pp. 425–426
- [https://www.amazon.com/1-Corinthians-New-Covenant-Commentary/dp/1610971043 Oropeza, B. J., 1 Corinthians, New Covenant Commentary Series (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2017), 69, 132, 154-56.
- Crossan, John Dominic. The essential Jesus. Edison: Castle Books. 1998.
- English translation
- Crossan, Ibid.
- Crossan, John Dominic, The Historical Jesus," pp. 360–367
- Drinking blood at a kosher Eucharist? The sound of scholarly silence
- For instance, Hyam Maccoby proposes that "Paul, not Jesus, was the originator of the eucharist, and that the eucharist itself is not a Jewish, but an essentially Hellenistic rite, showing principal affinities not with the Jewish qiddush, but with the ritual meal of the mystery religions." John M. G. Barclay "stresses the anomalous nature of Paul. If Paul's status were to be determined on the single issue of the drinking of blood, it would have to be conceded that Paul simply moves off the scale." A. N. Wilson, whose work, Cahill says, synthesizes scholarly trends, distinguishes between the Jewishness of Jesus and Paul: "... the idea that a pious Jew such as Jesus would have spent his last evening on earth asking his disciples to drink a cup of blood, even symbolically, is unthinkable". He sees no problem, however, in proposing "the genius of Paul," "Paul's fertile brain," as the source of the Christian Eucharist incorporating the blood-drinking element. Cahill writes: "It is instructive to recall the context in which the drinking of blood was acceptable. First-century folk who participated in mystery cult rituals were no more tolerant of cannibalism than we are. There is no evidence that, in itself, drinking of blood was not revolting for them, generally speaking. Yet, we find it in religious ritual. The reason is that they were drinking the blood of an animal that had been numinized in some way and had come to be identified with the god. Drinking the blood of a god was acceptable." Otfried Hofius, argues for the authenticity of the passage in 1 Corinthians where Paul speaks of the Eucharist, writing: "A convincing proof that the Apostle has himself encroached on the wording of the tradition delivered to him has not thus far been adduced." David Wenham writes: "Jesus typically uses vivid, almost shocking metaphors (e.g., Matt 18:8–9; Mark 9:43–48). Furthermore, that the shocking eucharistic words came to be accepted by Jewish Christians (including Matthew) may suggest that they were not quite as unacceptable as Vermes supposes or that they had a strong claim to authenticity, since they would not easily have been accepted if they were not in the Jewish Christian tradition." John Meier, too, insists on Jesus' propensity to use "shocking symbols", in reference to the words of the institution narrative and in his "deliberate flouting of certain social conventions". He gives particular attention to "a subversive aphorism of Jesus," referring to "Let the dead bury their dead."
- Ratcliff, E.C., Encyclopædia Britannica [13th edition] (1926), Eucharist (vol. 8, p. 793)
- Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
- Adler, Cyrus & Dembitz, Lewis N., The Jewish Encyclopedia (1911) ḲIDDUSH
- Joachim Jeremias, Die Abendmahlsworte Jesu (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1960, first ed. 1935): ET: The Eucharistic Words of Jesus [with author's revisions to 1964 ed.] (London: SCM. 1966: repr., Philadelphia: Westminster. 1977)
- Dix, Gregory, The Shape of the Liturgy, p. 50
- Rev. Dr. Frank Peake, Manual: The Evolution of the Eucharist
- Jeremias, Joachim, Die Abendmahlsworte Jesu (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1960, first ed. 1935): ET: The Eucharistic Words of Jesus [with author's revisions to 1964 ed.] (London: SCM. 1966: repr., Philadelphia: Westminster. 1977)
- Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0192802903), article Passover
- The Celebration of the Eucharist: The Origin of the Rite and the Development of Its Interpretation [Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1999] pp. 25–26
- Eucharistic Sacrifice in the New Testament
- Sirach 31:12-32:13
- From Symposium to Eucharist: The Banquet in the Early Christian World. By Dennis E. Smith. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.
- Smith, Dennis (2003). The Greco-Roman Banquet as a Social Institution
- (Smith, Dennis The Greco-Roman Banquet as a Social Institution 2003)
- While some scholars speak of "convivium" as equivalent to "symposion" – e.g. "the convivium, a Roman equivalent to the symposium with drinking, entertainment and conversation" (Women and Meals in Antiquity), the ancient writers, such as Cicero (De senectute, 45), who are quoted in Lewis and Short (Lewis and Short: convivium) apply it to the whole meal, "deipnon" and "symposion". Still more important in the present context is the fact that Tertullian speaks of the Lord's Supper (the Pauline "κυριακὸν δεῖπνον") precisely as the "dominicum convivium" (see Ad uxorem 2:4:2, and translation).
- "The term convivium labels a late afternoon or evening meal taking place in a domestic dining room or garden, hosted by the proprietor of the residence, involving some combination of family members and guests numbering anywhere from a very few up to perhaps a dozen (nine is an ideal but not necessarily standard number), and ordinarily employing a single triclinium, the three-sided arrangement of couches commonly used for dining during the period of this study. ... "civic" dining, which occurred on special occasions such as festivals, was publicly sponsored or paid for by a single donor, and might involve large numbers of people spread over many triclinia in the public spaces of cities and towns; or, alternatively, involved a college of priests or magistrates whose meals might be paid for publicly or by an endowment, and might occur in specially designated spaces." (Matthew B. Roller: Dining Posture in Ancient Rome: Bodies, Values, and Status, Introduction)
- Harris, Stephen L. 'Understanding the Bible' Fourth Edition p. 286
- Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. (Mayfield Publishing Company 4th ed.) p. 287.ISBN 1559346558
- Powell, Barry B., Classical Myth Second ed. With new translations of ancient texts by Herbert M. Howe. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1998.
- Reardon, B.P., Collected Ancient Greek Novels (University of California Press 2nd ed.) p. 192.
- Edward Carpenter, Pagan and Christian Creeds (1920), pp. 54–68
- Ratcliff, E.C., Encyclopædia Britannica [1944 (13th) edition], Eucharist (vol. 8, p. 793)
- Dix, Gregory, The Shape of the Liturgy, p. 99
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- Enrico Mazza: "The Eucharist in the First Four Centuries", in Anscar J. Chupungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies: The Eucharist, pp. 9–60
- Passover, Last Supper, Eucharist
- Evolution of the Eucharist, from an Anglican church's website