Easton's Bible Dictionary
( 1 Corinthians 11:20 ), called also "the Lord's table"
( 1 Corinthians 10:21 ), "communion," "cup of blessing" ( 1 Corinthians 10:16
), and "breaking of bread" ( Acts 2:42 ).
In the early Church it was called also "eucharist," or giving of thanks (Compare
Matthew 26:27 ), and generally by the Latin Church "mass," a name derived from
the formula of dismission, Ite, missa est, i.e., "Go, it is discharged."
The account of the institution of this ordinance is given in Matthew 26:26 - 29
, Mark 14:22 - 25 , Luke 22:19 , 22:20 , and 1 Corinthians 11:24 - 26 . It is
not mentioned by John.
It was designed,
| (1) To commemorate the death of Christ: "This do in remembrance of me."
(2) To signify, seal, and apply to believers all the benefits of the new covenant.
In this ordinance Christ ratifies his promises to his people, and they on their
part solemnly consecrate themselves to him and to his entire service.
(3) To be a badge of the Christian profession.
(4) To indicate and to promote the communion of believers with Christ.
(5) To represent the mutual communion of believers with each other.
The elements used to represent Christ's body and blood are bread and wine. The
kind of bread, whether leavened or unleavened, is not specified. Christ used unleavened
bread simply because it was at that moment on the paschal table. Wine, and no
other liquid, is to be used ( Matthew 26:26-29 ). Believers "feed" on Christ's
body and blood, (1) not with the mouth in any manner, but (2) by the soul alone,
and (3) by faith, which is the mouth or hand of the soul. This they do (4) by
the power of the Holy Ghost. This "feeding" on Christ, however, takes place not
in the Lord's Supper alone, but whenever faith in him is exercised.
This is a permanent ordinance in the Church of Christ, and is to be observed "till
he come" again.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
The words which thus describe the great central act of
the worship of the Christian Church occur but in a single passage of the New Testament
-- ( 1 Corinthians 11:20 )
Its institution . --
It was instituted on that night when Jesus and his disciples met together to eat
the passover, ( Matthew 26:19 ; Mark 14:16 ; Luke 22:13 ) (on Thursday evening,
April 6, A.D. 30). It was probably instituted at the third cup (the cup of blessing)
of the passover [see on PASSOVER], Jesus taking one of the unleavened cakes used
at the feast and breaking it and giving it to his disciples with the cup. The
narratives of the Gospels show how strongly the disciples were impressed with
the words which had given a new meaning to the old familiar acts. They had looked
on the bread and the wine as memorials of the deliverance from Egypt. They were
not told to partake of them "in remembrance" of their Master and Lord. The words
"This is my body" gave to the unleavened bread a new character. They had been
prepared for language that would otherwise have been so startling, by the teaching
of John ch. ( John 6:32-58 ) and they were thus taught to see in the bread that
was broken the witness of the closest possible union and incorporation with their
Lord. The cup, which was "the new testament in his blood," would remind them,
in like manner, of the wonderful prophecy in which that new covenant had been
foretold. ( Jeremiah 31:31 - 34 ) "Gradually and progressively he had prepared
the minds of his disciples to realize the idea of his death as a sacrifice. he
now gathers up all previous announcements in the institution of this sacrament."
--Cambridge Bible. The festival had been annual. No rule was given as to the time
and frequency of the new feast that thus supervened on the old, but the command
"Do this as oft as ye drink it," ( 1 Corinthians 11:25 ) suggested the more continual
recurrence of that which was to be their memorial of one whom they would wish
never to forget. Luke, in the Acts, describes the baptized members of the Church
as continuing steadfast in or to the teaching of the apostles, in fellowship with
them and with each other, and in breaking of bread and in prayers. ( Acts 2:42
) We can scarcely doubt that this implies that the chief actual meal of each day
was one in which they met as brothers, and which was either preceded or followed
by the more solemn commemorative acts of the breaking of the bread and the drinking
of the cup. It will be convenient to anticipate the language and the thoughts
of a somewhat later date, and to say that, apparently, they thus united every
day the Agape or feast of love with the celebration of the Eucharist. At some
time, before or after the meal of which they partook as such, the bread and the
wine would be given with some special form of words or acts, to indicate its character.
New converts would need some explanation of the meaning and origin of the observance.
What would be so fitting and so much in harmony with the precedents of the paschal
feast as the narrative of what had passed ont he night of its institution? ( 1
Corinthians 11:23 - 27 )
Its significance. --
The Lords Supper is a reminder of the leading truths of the gospel:
|(1) Salvation, like this bread, is the gift of Gods love.
(2) We are reminded of the life of Christ --all he was and did and said.
(3) We are reminded, as by the passover, of the grievous bondage of sin from which
Christ redeems us.
(4) It holds up the atonement, the body of Christ broken, his blood shed, for
(5) In Christ alone is forgiveness and salvation from sin, the first need of the
(6) Christ is the food of the soul.
(7) We must partake by faith, or it will be of no avail.
(8) We are taught to distribute to one another the spiritual blessings God gives
(9) By this meal our daily bread is sanctified.
(10) The most intimate communion with God in Christ.
(11) Communion with one another.
(12) It is a feast of joy. "Nothing less than the actual joy of heaven is above
(13) It is a prophecy of Christs second coming, of the perfect triumph of his
(14) It is holding up before the world the cross of Christ; not a selfish gathering
of a few saints, but a proclamation of the Saviour for all.
Why did Christ ordain bread to be used in the Lords Supper, and not a lamb ? Canon
Walsham How replies, "Because the types and shadows were to cease when the real
Sacrifice was come. There was to be no more shedding of blood when once his all-prevailing
blood was shed. There must be nothing which might cast a doubt upon the all-sufficiency
of that. " (Then, the Lamb being sacrificed once for all, what is needed is to
teach the world that Christ is now the bread of life. Perhaps also it was because
bread was more easily provided, and fitted thus more easily to be a part of the
universal ordinance. --ED.)
Was it a permanent ordinance? --
"Do this in remembrance of me points to a permanent institution. The command is
therefore binding on all who believe in Christ; and disobedience to it is sin,
for the unbelief that keeps men away is one of the worst of sins." --Prof. Riddle.
"The subsequent practice of the apostles, ( Acts 2:42 Acts 2:46 ; 20:7 ) and still
more the fact that directions for the Lords Supper were made a matter of special
revelation to Paul, ( 1 Corinthians 11:23 ) seem to make it clear that Christ
intended the ordinance for a perpetual one, and that his apostles so understood
Method of observance. --
"The original supper was taken in a private house, an upper chamber, at night,
around a table, reclining, women excluded, only the ordained apostles admitted.
None of these conditions are maintained to-day by any Christian sect." But it
must be kept with the same spirit and purpose now as then.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Eucharist.--The distinctive rite of Christian worship,
instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ upon the eve of His atoning death, being a
religious partaking of bread and wine, which, having been presented before God
the Father in thankful memorial of Christ's inexhaustible sacrifice, have become
(through the sacramental blessing) the communion of the body and blood of Christ
(compare John 6:54 ; Acts 2:42 ; 20:7 , 11 ; Romans 15:16 ; 1 Corinthians 10:16
; 11:23 - 26).
II. NEW TESTAMENT SOURCES
The New Testament sources of our knowledge of the institution of the Eucharist
are fourfold, a brief account thereof being found in each of the Synoptic Gospels
and in Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (Matthew 26:26 - 29 ; Mark 14:22
- 25 ; Luke 22:14 - 20 ; 1 Corinthians 11:23 - 26 ; compare 1 Corinthians 10:16
1. Textual Considerations:
The text of these narratives has been found to need little amendment, save the
dropping of a word or two, from each account, that had crept in through the tendency
of copyists, consciously or unconsciously, to assimilate the details of parallel
passages. The genuineness of Luke 22:19 , 20 is absolutely beyond question. Their
omission in whole or part, and the alterations in the order of two or three verses
in the whole section (Luke 22:14 - 20), characteristic of a very small number
of manuscripts, are due to confusion in the minds of a few scribes and translators,
between the paschal cup (Luke 22:17) and the eucharistic cup (Luke 22:20), and
to their well-meant, but mistaken, attempt to improve upon the text before them.
2. Narratives Compared:
The briefest account of the institution of the Eucharist is found in Mark 14:22
- 24. In it the Eucharist is not sharply distinguished from its setting, the paschal
meal: "And as they were eating, he took bread, and when he had blessed, he brake
it, and gave to them, and said, Take ye: this is my body. And he took a cup, and
when he had given thanks, he gave to them: and they all drank of it. And he said
unto them, This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many." This
represents a tradition settled within 20 years of the event described.
Matthew 26:26 - 28 gives a few touches by way of revision, apparently from one
then present. He adds the exhortation "eat" at the giving of the bread, and puts
the personal command, "Drink ye all of it," in place of the mere statement, "and
they all drank of it." He adds also of the blood that, as "poured out for many,"
it is "unto remission of sins."
The Pauline-account, 1 Corinthians 11:23 - 26 (the earliest written down, circa
55 AD), was called forth in rebuke of the scandalous profanation of the Eucharist
at Corinth. It gives us another tradition independent of; and supplementary to,
that of Mark-Matthew. It claims the authority of the Savior as its source, and
had been already made known to the Corinthians in the apostle's oral teaching.
The time of the institution is mentioned as the night of the betrayal. We note
of the bread, "This is my body, which is for you," of the cup, "This cup is the
new covenant in my blood," and the redoubled command, "This do in remembrance
The narrative given in Luke 22:14 - 20 is the latest (circa 80 AD) of our New
Testament records. Luke had taken pains to follow up everything to its source,
and had reedited the oral tradition in the light of his historical researches
(Luke 1:2 , 3), and thus his account is of the highest value. Writing for a wider
circle of readers, he carefully separates and distinguishes the Eucharist from
the paschal meal which preceded it, and puts the statement of Christ about not
drinking "from henceforth of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall
come," in its proper place as referring to the paschal cup (compare Matthew 26:29
; Mark 14:25 ; and Luke 22:15 - 18). In describing the actual institution of the
Eucharist, he gives us an almost verbal identity with the account given by Paul
(1 Corinthians 11:23 - 25).
3. Other Pauline Data:
We should note the statement appended by Paul to his account of the Institution,
wherein he emphasizes the memorial aspect and evidential value of the witness
the eucharistic observance would give throughout the ages of the Christian dispensation
(1 Corinthians 11:26). We should also note the fact upon which the apostle bases
his rebuke to the profane (Corinthians, namely, the real, though undefined, identity
of the bread and wine of the Eucharist with the body and blood of Christ (1 Corinthians
11:27 - 29); an identity established through the blessing pronounced upon them,
so that the bread and cup have come to be the "communion of the body of Christ"
and the "communion of the blood of Christ," respectively (1 Corinthians 10:15
- 17). To receive the Eucharist, and also to partake of sacrifices offered to
idols, is utterly incompatible with Christian loyalty. To receive the Eucharist
after a gluttonous, winebibbing agape, not recognizing the consecrated elements
to be what the Lord Christ called them, is, likewise, a defiance of God. Both
acts alike provoke the judgment of God's righteous anger (1 Corinthians 10:21
, 22 ; 11:21 , 22 , 27 - 29).
III. PREPARATION FOR THE EUCHARIST
The institution of the Eucharist had been prepared for by Christ through the object-lesson
of the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13 - 21 ; Mark 6:35 - 44 ; Luke
9:12 - 17 ; John 6:4 - 13), which was followed up by the discourse about Himself
as the Bread of Life, and about eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood as the
nourishment of eternal life.
1. Miracles of Loaves and Fishes:
This again was clinched by the second object-lesson of the feeding of the four
thousand afterward (Matthew 15:32 - 39 ; Mark 8:1 - 9). The Lord Christ's thanksgiving,
and His blessing of the loaves and fishes--acts not elsewhere recorded of Him,
except at the institution of the Eucharist, and at the self-revealing meal at
Emmaus (Luke 24:30)--deeply impressed those present, as indicating the source
whence came His power to satisfy the hunger of the multitude (compare Matthew
14:19 ; 15:36 ; Mark 6:41 ; 8:6 , 7 ; Luke 9:16 ; John 6:11 , 23).
2. Discourse at Capernaum:
In the discourse at Capernaum (John 6:26 - 58) Christ led the thought of His hearers
from earthly to heavenly food, from food that perished to the true bread from
heaven. He declared Himself to be the living bread, and, further, that it is through
eating His flesh and drinking His blood that they shall possess true life in themselves,
and be raised by Him at the last day. The difficulties raised by this discourse
Christ did not solve at the time. His ascension would but add to them. He asked
of His disciples acceptance of His words in faith. Under the administration of
the Spirit would these things be realized (John 6:60 - 69). The institution of
the Eucharist, later, gave the clue to these otherwise "hard" words. Today the
Eucharist remains as the explanation of this discourse. A hardy mountaineer, e.g.
who had read John 6 many times, could form no notion of its purport. When first
privileged to be present at the eucharistic service of the Book of Common Prayer,
the meaning of feeding upon Christ's flesh and blood forthwith became apparent
to him (see The Spirit of Missions, July, 1911, 572-73).
IV. HISTORICAL SETTING OF THE EUCHARIST
1. Other Acts and Words of Christ on Eve of the Passion:
We should note the setting in which the institution of the Eucharist was placed.
Though the Fourth Gospel does not record this, it gives us many otherwise unknown
data of the words of Christ spoken upon the eve of His death, in which historically
the institution of the Eucharist was set. The symbolic washing of the feet of
the disciples (John 13:3 - 10), the "new" commandment (John 13:34), Christ as
the means of access to the Father (John 14:6), love for Christ to be shown by
keeping His commandments (John 14:15 , 21 , 23 , 24), the sending of the Paraclete
Spirit (John 14:16 , 17 , 26 ; 15:26 ; 16:13 , 14), the intimate fellowship of
Christ and His disciples, shown in the metaphor of the vine and its branches (John
15:1 - 9 , 13 - 16)--all these throw their illumination upon the commandment,
"This do in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19 ; 1 Corinthians 11:24 , 25). The efficacy
of prayer 'in Christ's name' (John 16:23 , 24 , 26 - 28) after His final withdrawal
from the midst of His disciples, and His great prayer of self-oblation and intercession
for His church throughout time (John 17, especially 17:9 - 26) must not be forgotten
in considering, "This is my body which is given for you" (Luke 22:19), and, "This
is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins"
2. Sacrificial Language of the Institution:
The sacrificial connotation of many of the words used in the narratives of institution
should be noted: e.g. "body," "blood," "covenant," "given," "poured out," "for
you," "for many" "unto remission of sins," "memorial" (compare Exodus 24:6 - 8
; Leviticus 2:2 , 9 , 16 ; 4:5 - 7 ,16 - 18 , 34 ; 17:11 , 14 ; 24:7 ; Numbers
10:10 ; Hebrews 9:11 - 28 ; 10:4 - 10 , 19 , 20). The very elements of bread and
wine also suggested the idea of sacrifice to those accustomed to their use in
the older system of worship (compare Exodus 29:38 - 42 ; Numbers 15:4 - 10 ; 28
and 29 passim).
3. Sacrificial System of Jewish Dispensation:
The general background, moreover, out of which the institution of the Eucharist
stands forth, is the sacrificial system of the older dispensation. The chosen
people of God, as a priestly race, a holy nation (Exodus 19:5 , 6 ; Deuteronomy
7:6), worshipped God with a sequence of offerings, Divinely molded and inspired,
which set forth the sovereign majesty and overloading of God, His holiness, and
the awe and penitence due from those who would draw nigh unto Him, and their desire
for communion with Him. The more immediate background of the Eucharist is the
Passover, and that without prejudice as to whether the Lord Christ ate the paschal
meal with His disciples before He instituted the Eucharist, as seems most probable
(compare Luke 22:7 - 18), or whether He died upon the day of its observance (see
article "Preparation," DCG, II, 409).
4. Paschal Background of the Institution of the Eucharist:
The Passover was at once a covenant-recalling and a covenant-renewing sacrifice,
and the Eucharist, as corresponding to it, was instituted at the time of its yearly
observance, and of the immolation of the true paschal lamb, of whose death it
interpreted the value and significance (Exodus 12:3 - 28 ; compare 13:3 - 10 ;
Deuteronomy 16:1 - 8 ; 1 Corinthians 5:7 ; John 6:51 ; 10:10 , 11 , 15 , 17 ,
18 ; 15:13 ; 17:19).
V. SEQUENCE OF THE INSTITUTION
Let us put before ourselves clearly the sequence of the Lord Christ's acts and
words at the institution of the Eucharist ere we proceed to examine the church's
mode of celebrating this ordinance. Points to Be Noted
| At the close of the paschal Supper,
(1) the Lord Christ "took" the bread and cup, respectively, for use in His new
(2) He "gave thanks" over them, constituting them a thank offering to God;
(3) He "blessed" them to their new and higher potency;
(4) He "gave" them to the apostles (the breaking being a requisite preliminary
to distribution of the bread);
(5) He bade them "Take, eat," and "Drink ye all of it," respectively;
(6) He declared, of the bread, "This is my body given for you," of the cup, "This
is my blood of the covenant," or, "This is the new covenant in my blood which
is poured out for you," "unto remission of sins";
(7) He adds the reiterated command, "This do for my memorial."
It is obvious that we are bidden to follow out the same series of acts, and statements,
as those of Christ Himself. We should take bread and wine, set them apart by rendering
thanks to God over them, presenting them to Him as symbols of Christ's body and
blood, once for all "given" and "poured out" for us; bless them by asking God's
blessing upon them (compare Genesis 14:19 ; Numbers 6:23 - 27 ; Mark 8:7 ; Luke
2:34 ; 9:16 ; 24:50); and receive and give them as the body and blood of Christ;
for, "the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of
Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ?"
(1 Corinthians 10:16). It is obvious that we shall not forget, in this connection,
the distinction between the natural body of Christ which He took of the Blessed
Virgin, and the bread which He held in His hand, and blessed and made to function
as His body for our participation and inherence in Him thereby--His sacramental
body. The church with her many members united to the Head, and thus to each other,
is also called His body mystical (1 Corinthians 10:17 ; 12:27 ; Ephesians 1:22
, 23 ; Colossians 1:24)
VI. THE CHURCH'S OBSERVATIONS or THE EUCHARIST
1. Heavenly Background:
(1) Christians a Priestly Race:
We should remember the priestly character of the church of Christ, whose sacrifices
are made under the dispensation of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 2:5 , 9 ; Revelation
1:6 ; compare Acts 1:2,8); and also the eternal priesthood in the heavens of our
risen, ascended and ever-living Lord Christ.
(2) Christ the Eternal High Priest:
He laid down His life in order to take it again (John 10:17), and now in the perfection
of His glorified human nature, by His very presence in heaven, He is forever the
propitiation inexhaustible for our sins (Hebrews 2:17 - 3:3 ; 4:14 - 5:10 ; 7:1
- 8:7 ; 9:11 - 28 ; 10:1 - 25 ; compare 1 John 2:1 , 2). As the Lamb slain once
for all but alive for evermore, the Lord Christ is the focus of the worship of
angels and the redeemed (Revelation 1:17 , 18 ; 5:6 - 14 ; 7:9 , 10), and the
Christian disciple has the privilege of feeding upon that eternal Priest and Victim
(Hebrews 13:10 ; 1 Corinthians 10:16).
2. Celebrated Each Lord's Day:
The celebration of the Eucharist was characteristic of the pentecostal church
(Acts 2:42), especially upon the Lord's Day (Acts 20:7). Its observance was preceded
by the agape (1 Corinthians 11:20 , 34) on the eve (for the circumstances of the
institution were closely imitated, and the day was reckoned as beginning at sunset
after the Jewish fashion), and thus the Eucharist proper came late into the night,
or toward morning (Acts 20:11).
3. Names of the Eucharist:
The name" Eucharist" is derived from the eucharistesas (" gave thanks") of the
institution and was the most widely used term in primitive times, as applied to
the whole service, to the consecration of the bread and wine or to the consecrated
elements themselves (compare 1 Corinthians 14:16).
(2) Lord's Supper:
It should be noted that the name, "Lord's Supper," belongs to the agape rather
than to the Eucharist; its popular use is a misnomer of medieval and Reformation
(3) Breaking of Bread:
The term "breaking of bread" (Acts 2:42 ; 20:7 , 11) had little vogue after New
"Communion" obviously is derived from 1 Corinthians 10:16.
In connection with the early and frequent use of the word "oblation" (prosphora)
and its cognates, we should note Paul's description of his ministry in terms that
suggest the rationale of the prayer of consecration, or eucharistic prayer, as
we know it in the earliest liturgical tradition: "that I should be a minister
of Christ Jesus unto the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering
up of the Gentiles might be made acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit"
VII. POST-APOSTOLIC CHURCH
1. Guidance by the Holy Spirit:
The same Spirit who guided the church in the determination of the Canon of the
New Testament Scriptures, the same Spirit who guided the church in the working
out of her explicit formulation of the Christian doctrine of the Godhead, and
of the Christ--that self-same Spirit guided the church in the formation and fashioning
of her great eucharistic prayer into its norm in the same 4th century. The historic
churches of the East, by their faithful adherence to this norm, have been almost
undisturbed by the dissensions and disputes of Western Christendom touching the
2. The Early Fathers:
The glimpses given us in the earlier Fathers of the Eucharist are in entire accord
with the more articulate expression of the church's corporate eucharistic worship,
which we find in the liturgical documents and writings of the Nicene era.
(1) Ignatian Epistles:
The Ignatian Epistles show us the Eucharist as the focus of the church's life
and order, the source of unity and fellowship. The Eucharist consecrated by the
prayer of the bishop and church is the Bread of God, the Flesh and Blood of Christ,
the communication of love incorruptible and life eternal (compare Ephesians, 5,13,10;
Trallians, 7,8; Romans, 7; Philadelphians, 4; Smyrnaeans, 7,8; Magnesians, 7).
(2) Justin Martyr:
Justin Martyr tells us that the Eucharist was celebrated on the Lord's Day, the
day associated with creation and with Christ's resurrection. To the celebrant
were brought bread and wine mixed with water, who then put up to God, over them,
solemn thanksgiving for His lovingkindness in the gifts of food and health and
for the redemption wrought by Christ. The oblations of bread and wine are presented
to God in memorial of Christ's passion, and become Christ's body and blood through
prayer. The Eucharist is a spiritual sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving commemorative
of Christ's death; and the consecrated elements the communion of Christ's body
and blood, by reason of the sacramental character bestowed upon them by the invocation
of the Divine blessing (compare 1 Apol., 13,15, 66, 67; Dial. with Trypho, 41,70,
Irenaeus, also, emphasizes the fact that Christ taught His disciples to offer
the new oblation of the New Covenant, to present in thank offering the first-fruits
of God's creatures--bread and wine--the pure sacrifice prophesied before by Malachi.
The Eucharist consecrated by the church, through the invocation of God's blessing,
is the communion of the body and blood of Christ, just as He pronounced the elements
to be at the institution (compare Against Heresies, i.13,1; iv.17,5; 18,1-6; 33,1;
v.22,3). (4) Cyprian: Cyprian, too, gives evidence of the same eucharistic belief,
and alludes very plainly to the "Lift up your hearts," to the great thanksgiving,
and to the prayer of consecration. This last included the rehearsal of what Christ
did and said at the institution, the commemoration of His passion, and the invocation
of the Holy Spirit (compare Epistle to Caecilius, sections 1, 2, 4, 9, 10, 14,
17; Epistle to Epictetus, sections 2, 4; On the Unity of the Church, I, 17; On
the Lord's Prayer, section 31; Firmilian to Cyprian, sections 10, 17).
VIII. LITURGICAL TRADITION
1. Outline of Eucharistic Prayer:
When we proceed to examine the early liturgical remains we find the articulate
expression of the church's sacrifice following along these lines. After an introductory
summons to the worshippers to "lift up their hearts," the great eucharistic prayer
goes on to pour forth sublime praises to God for all the blessings of creation,
and for the fruits of the earth; aligning the praises of the church with the worship
of the heavenly host around the throne of God. The love of God in bringing about
the redemption of fallen man through the incarnation, and through the self-oblation
of His only Son upon the cross is then recalled in deep thankfulness. The institution
of the Eucharist in the night of the betrayal is next related, and then, taking
up, and fulfilling the command of Christ (`Do this for my memorial') therein recited,
most solemn memorial is made before God, with the antitypical elements, of the
death and of the victorious resurrection and ascension of the Lord Christ. Then,
as still further carrying out this act of obedience, most humble prayer is made
to the Eternal Father for the hallowing of the oblations, through the operation
of the Holy Spirit, to be the body and blood of Christ, and to be to those who
partake of them, for the imparting of remission of sins, and the bestowal of life
eternal. To this great act of praise and prayer the solemn "Amen" of the assembled
congregation assents, and thereafter the sacramental gifts are received by the
faithful present, with another "Amen" from each recipient to whom they are administered.
The great eucharistic prayer, as outlined, was the first part of the liturgy to
crystallize into written form, and of its component parts the invocation of the
Divine blessing upon the elements was probably the first to be written down.
2. Significance of This for Unity:
Around the simplicity and the depth of such a truly apostolic norm of eucharistic
worship, alone, can be gathered into one the now dispersed and divided followers
of the Christ, for therein subsist in perfect harmony the Godward and the manward
aspects of the memorial He commanded us to make as complementary, not contradictory;
and the identity of the consecrated bread and wine with the body and blood of
Christ is manifested to be in the realm of their spiritual function and potency.
E.F. Willis, The Worship of the Old Covenant .... in Relation to That of the New;
Frederic Rendall, Sacrificial Language of the New Testament; Maurice Goguel, L'eucharistie
des origines a Justin Martyr, 105; W.B. Frankland, The Early Eucharist (excellent);
H.B. Swete, "Eucharistic Belief in the 2nd and 3rd Cents.," Journal of Theological
Studies, June, 1902, 161; R.M. Woolley, The Liturgy of the Primitive Church; M.
Lepin, L'idee du sacrifice dans la religion chretienne; W. Milligan, The Ascension
and Heavenly Priesthood of our Lord; Thomas Brett, A True Scripture Account of
the Nature and benefits of the Holy Eucharist, 1736; id, A Discourse Concerning
the Necessity of Discerning the Lord's Body in the Holy Communion, 1720; J.R.
Milne, Considerations on Eucharistic Worship; id, The Doctrine and Practice of
the Eucharist; H.R. Gummey, The Consecration of the Eucharist; A.J. Maclean, Recent
Discoveries Illustrating Early Christian Life and Worship; id, The Ancient Church
Orders; L. Duchesne, Origines du culte chretien; J.T. Levens, Aspects of the Holy
Communion; John Wordsworth, The Holy Communion; F.E. Brightman, Liturgies, Eastern
Henry Riley Gummey
This name of the Lord's Supper is derived from eucharistia, the prayer of consecration,
and this in turn points back to Matthew 26:27, "And he took a cup, and gave thanks"
(eucharistesas). The most common name is "Lord's Supper" (deipnon kuriou (1 Corinthians
11:20)). It is also called "Lord's table" (trapeza kuriou (1 Corinthians 10:21
the King James Version)); while the cup is called "the cup of blessing" (poterion
tes eulogias (1 Corinthians 10:16)) and "the cup of the Lord" (poterion kuriou
(1 Corinthians 10:21)). The word koinonia points both to the bread and the cup,
whence our common term "communion." In post-apostolic days it became known as
leitourgia, a sacred ministration, whence our word "liturgy." It was also named
thusia, a sacrifice, and musterion, from its mystic character and perhaps from
the fact that it was celebrated only in the closed circle of believers. The Roman
Catholic church calls it missa or "mass," from the words congregatio missa est,
whereby in post-apostolic times the first part of worship, called the missa cathechumenorum,
was closed, and whereby the second part of worship was ushered in, known as the
missa fidelium, the sacramental part of worship, only destined for believers.
1. Original Institution:
The origin of the Eucharist is described in Matthew 26 ; Mark 14 , and Luke 22.
Paul introduces his simple and comprehensive recital of the origin of the institution--the
earliest written record of it--with the words: "For I received of the Lord that
which also I delivered unto you" (1 Corinthians 11:23). A comparison between the
Gospels and Exodus 12 indicates a considerable modification of the original Passover
ritual in the days of Jesus (see Smith's DB, article "Lord's Supper"). The composite
Gospel-picture of the institution of the Eucharist shows us the Saviour in the
deep consciousness of the catastrophe about to overwhelm Him, surrounded by treason
on the part of Judas and a strange and total lack of appreciation of the true
situation on the part of the other disciples. He had greatly `desired to eat this
passover with them before he suffered' (Luke 22:15), and yet they are wholly unresponsive,
the chief question apparently in their minds being the old contention of rank
and preeminence. Whether or not Judas was present at the eating of the Supper
is a moot point, which we will not discuss here. Neither will we touch the question
whether or not this Passover-meal was the true Jewish festive meal or an anticipation
of it, called pascha only, in allusion to the great feast, which had brought the
hundreds of thousands of Jews to Jerusalem (compare Matthew 26 ; Mark 14 with
John 12:1 ; 13:1 , 2 , 29 ; 18:28 ; 19:14 , 31).
Both Matthew and Mark leave the exact place of the institution of the Supper in
the festive meal indefinite, "as they were eating" (Matthew 26:26 ; Mark 14:22);
the words of Lk, "after supper" (Luke 22:20), may be a hint in regard to this
matter (see John 13:1 ; 1 Corinthians 11:25). But the custom of the early church
of celebrating the Eucharist after the agape or "love feast" appears to be strong
evidence that the original institution was separate from the paschal festival
and followed it. The entire subject of the Eucharist has been called in question
by the radical German critics, who point to the absence of the whole matter in
Joh and to the omission of the words, "Do this in remembrance of me," in Matthew
and Mark. Its occurrence in Luke is ascribed to Paul's influence over him and
to his familiarity with the story of the institution as described by the apostle.
But this position is utterly untenable in the light of the unquestioned fact that
the Lord's Supper as a fixed part of worship was firmly established from the earliest
days of the Christian church. The doctrine of Christ's vicarious suffering is
nowhere so clearly enunciated as in the words of the institution of the Supper,
"This is my body which is given for you" (Luke 22:19); "This is my blood of the
covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28).
Small wonder that those who have utterly done away with the doctrine of the vicarious
atonement or of substitution should attack the historicity of the Eucharist and
should seek by all means to wipe it from the record.
Jesus bids His followers to observe the new institution "in remembrance of" Him.
As Dr. Bavinck says, "The Lord's Supper is instituted by Christ as a permanent
benefit to His church; it is a blessing added to all other blessings to signify
and to seal them" (Geref. Dogm., IV, 310).
2. The Elements:
As to the elements used in the original institution of the Supper, they were bread
and wine. The bread of course was the unleavened bread of the Passover, during
which feast every trace of leaven was removed (Exodus 12:19). The Eastern church,
perhaps influenced by the bitter Ebionite spirit of the Judaizers, later adopted
the use of common bread (koinos artos); the Western church used unleavened bread.
Protestantism left the matter among the adiaphora.
As regards the wine, the matter has been in dispute from the beginning (see Kitto's
Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature). The early church always used mixed wine,
wine and water, following the Jewish custom. Whether the wine used at the institution
of the Lord's Supper was fermented or unfermented wine, must of course be determined
by the Jewish Passover-customs prevailing at that time. The matter is in dispute
and is not easily settled.
Modern Jews quite generally use raisin-wine, made by steeping raisins over night
in water and expressing the juice the next day for use at the Passover-meal. The
ancient Jews, we are told, used for this purpose a thick boiled wine, mixed with
water (Mishna, Terumoth, xi). Whether oinos, the word used in the New Testament,
stands literally, as the name indicates, for fermented wine, or figuratively for
the mixed drinks, well known to ancient and modern Jews, is a debatable matter.
As late as the 16th century the Nestorian Christians celebrated communion with
raisin-wine, and the same is said of the Indian Christians ("St. Thomas Christians").
The word "new," used by Christ in Matthew 26:29, is believed by some to indicate
the character of the wine used by Christ at the institution of the Eucharist,
namely, the juice of grapes fresh pressed out (see Clem. Alex., Paed., xi). On
the other hand the third Council of Braga explicitly forbade this practice as
heretical. It is evident that the whole subject is shrouded in much mystery. Some
ancient sects substituted an entirely different element, water and milk, for instance,
being used (Epiph., Haer., xlix; Aug., Haer., xxviii). Such customs were utterly
condemned by the Council of Braga (675 AD). In general, however, the Christian
church, almost from the beginning, seems to have used fermented red wine, either
mixed or pure, in the administration of the Eucharist, in order to maintain the
correspondence between the symbol and the thing symbolized.
3. The Eucharist in the Apostolic Church:
Originally the apostolic church celebrated communion at every meeting for worship.
They continued steadfastly in the apostle's teaching and fellowship, in the breaking
of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42 , 46). Very soon, however, if we may judge
from the Ac and the Church Pauline Epistles, its administration was confined to
the meeting on the first day of the week. The agape always preceded communion,
and at some part of the service the believers, the sexes after the plan of the
synagogue being separated, would salute each other with the "holy kiss" (philema
hagion) (1 Corinthians 16:20 ; 2 Corinthians 13:12). But the introduction of the
sacrament, with all its accessories, had evidently occasioned grave abuses at
Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:34). Paul corrects these in unmistakable language. Thus
we received our first written record of the institution of the Supper. In Corinth
it seems to have been restricted from the beginning to the first day of the week
(Acts 20:7 ; 1 Corinthians 16:2). By a slow transition the deipnon was transferred
from the midnight hour to the morning. At least we find that Paul kept it after
midnight at Troas (Acts 20:11). It would appear as if the apostle had also partaken
of the Lord's Supper, together with his Christian companions, on board the ship,
toward the close of his fateful trip on the Adriatic (Acts 27:35).
4. The Eucharist in the Post-apostolic Church:
In the post-apostolic church the Eucharist continued to be celebrated every Lord's
day. But it separated itself from the preaching of the Word and from prayers,
as in the previous period. It was invested with a mystic meaning, something too
holy for the common eye, and thus the missa catechumenorum, the open church-meeting,
was separated from the missa fidelium, the gathering of believers only, in which
the Eucharist was celebrated. Bread, wine, oil, milk, honey, all the ingredients
for the agape, from which the elements for the Supper were selected, were furnished
by the free-will offerings of the believers. These were solemnly set apart by
the officiating bishop with a consecrating prayer, eucharistia, and thus the sacrament
obtained the name "Eucharist." The gifts themselves were called prosphorai, "oblations,"
or thusiai, "sacrifices." The sacrificial conception of the Supper was thus gradually
created (Ign., Phil., iv; Smyrna, vii, viii; Justin, Apol., i. 66; Dial., xii.
70; Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., iv. 18,5). The Eucharist once being conceived as a sacrifice,
the conception of the officiating bishop as a priest became logically inevitable.
The Apostolical Constitutions, xliii (4) gives us a fair idea of the worship of
the church, toward the close of the 3rd century. Even at that early day a well-developed
ritual had replaced the simplicity of the worship of the apostolic days. In the
African and Eastern churches, baptized children were allowed to partake of communion,
through the fear engendered by John 6:53. The regenerative conception of baptism
largely influenced this custom. The remnants of the consecrated elements were
brought by the deacons to the sick and to imprisoned believers. We have not the
space in a brief article like this to enter fully into the development of the
doctrinal conception of the Supper as found in the Fathers. Suffice it to say
that the symbolical and spiritual concept of the Eucharist, usually defined as
the "dynamic" view of the Supper, was advocated by such men as Origen, Eusebius
of Caesarea, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzen and others. On the other hand
Cyril, Gregory of Nyssa, Chrysostom and John Damascenus developed the "realistic"
theory of the Eucharist, and this view again divided itself into the "diophysitic"
theory, later called "consubstantiation," and the "monophysitic" theory, later
known as "transubstantiation." Augustinns, the great Latin Father, knew nothing
of theory of tran-substantiation. He taught that communion carries a blessing
only for believers, while to the unbelieving it is a curse, and that the true
eating of the body of Christ consists in believing (Serm. Ad Infantes, De Civ.,
x.6; xxii. 10; Tract. 25 in Joann.). Paschasins Radbert (died 865 AD) was the
first fully to formulate the realistic view as the doctrine of the Romish church,
and although the dynamic view triumphed for a while, the condemnation of Berengarius
of Tours (died 1088 AD) proved that by the middle of the 11th century the realistic
view of the Supper had become the generally accepted doctrine of the Eucharist.
5. Rome and the Eucharist:
The Romish church couches its doctrine of the Eucharist in the word "transubstantiation,"
which means the conversion of the substance of the elements used in the Eucharist.
The word was first used by Hildebert of Tours (died 1134 AD) in a sermon. The
doctrine of the Supper was finally fixed, together with the new term, by Pope
Innocent III, at the Lateran Council 1215 AD. It was decided that the body and
blood of Christ are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar, under the species
of bread and wine, the bread being transubstantiated into the body and the wine
into the blood of Christ, by the Divine power. This has been the Romish doctrine
of the Supper ever since. The bread and wine are changed into the veritable body
and blood of Christ, by the words of the institution. By the institution of the
Supper, Christ made His disciples priests, wherefore the Eucharist may be administered
only by an ordained priest. In the miracle of the sacrament, the "accidents" of
the elements--bread and wine--remain, but they are no longer inherent in a subject,
the substance in which they inhered being replaced by another. This new substance
is the body and blood of Christ, which is hidden from observation under the appearance
of the elements. The whole Christ is present in each of these elements, hence,
it is not necessary to commune under both forms (sub utraque). In the Romish conception
of the Supper communion with Christ is a secondary idea. The main idea is that
of the transubstantiation itself, for the Supper is more a sacrifice than a sacrament;
thus the mass becomes a sin offering. While it feeds faith, keeps us from mortal
sin, wards off temporal punishment, unites believers, it also has a potency for
those who are not present, and even for the dead in purgatory. Thus the mass became
the very heart and center of the entire Romish cult (Conf. Trid., XIII, 21, 22;
Cat. Rom., CXII, c. 4; Bellarm, De Sacr. Euch., I, iv; Moehler, Symb., section
6. Luther and the Eucharist:
The Reformers rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation, the sacrificial conception
of the Eucharist, the adoration of the "host," the withholding of the cup, the
efficiency of the Eucharist in behalf of the dead, the entire Romish conception
of the sacrament of the Supper. The original position of Luther, that the elements
in the Supper were signs and seals of the remission of sins, was soon replaced
by the doctrine of "consubstantiation." The bitter controversy with Carlstadt,
and especially the failure of the Marburg Conference, drove Luther forever into
the camp of the realists. As early as 1524 he had outlined his doctrine against
Carlstadt. He placed himself squarely on the realistic conception of the words
of the institution, and held that "the body of Christ in accordance with the will
and omnipotence of God and its own ubiquity is really and substantially present
in, with and under the Supper, even as His Divine nature is in the human as warmth
is in the iron. Wherefore the Supper is physically partaken of by those who are
unworthy, albeit to their own destruction" (Bavinck, Geref. Dogm., IV, 318). This
doctrine has been fully developed by the Lutheran divines, and is till this day
the view of the Lutheran church.
7. Zwingli and the Eucharist:
Zwingli essentially sided with Carlstadt in his controversy with Luther, whom
he thereby greatly embittered. He interpreted the words of the institution--"this
is"--as signifying "this stands for," "this signifies." This view was fully set
forth in a letter to Matthew Alber at Reutlingen in 1524 and was given its final
form in his dogmatic tract, Com. de vera et falsa rel. (1525), where he characterizes
Luther's doctrine as "an opinion not only rustic but even impious and frivolous."
The breach was widened by the Marburg Conference of 1529. Reduced to its last
analysis, the eucharistic concept of Zwingli is that of a symbolical memorial
of the suffering and death of Christ, although Zwingli does not deny that Christ
is present to the eye of faith. On the contrary, He is enjoyed through the word
and through faith, i.e. in a spiritual way. In the Supper we confess our faith,
we express what that faith means to us, and we do it in memory of Christ's death
(Oper., ii.1, 426; iii.239, 326, 459; iv.51, 68). The Zwinglian view has been
consciously or unconsciously adopted by a very large portion of the Protestant
8. Calvin and the Eucharist:
Calvin's position on the doctrine of the Eucharist tends rather to the Lutheran
than to the Zwinglian view. With Zwingli the sacrament is little more than a sign,
with Calvin it is both a sign and a seal. The reality of communion with Christ
and the benefits of His death, received by a living faith--all this is common
to the Lutheran and the Calvinistic views. The Lord's Supper is far more than
a mere memorial service, it is a marvelous means of grace as well. Calvin sides
with Zwingli in denying all physical, local or substantial presence of Christ
in the Eucharist. But he differs from him in making the eucharistic act far more
than a confession of faith, and he lays far greater stress than Zwingli on the
meaning of its true participation. With Luther he holds that Christ is truly present
in the Supper, and he lays stress especially on the mystic union of the believer
with Christ. In the Supper both the benefits of Christ's death and His glorious
person are touched. But Christ does not descend in the Supper to the believer,
but the latter ascends to Him in heaven. The central thought of the Calvinistic
conception of the Supper is this, that the communicant, through the operation
of the Holy Spirit, comes in spiritual contact with the entire person of Christ
and that he is thus fed unto life eternal. Every close student of Calvin's works
will have to admit that his ideas on the subject are somewhat involved and confusing.
This is due no doubt to the mediating position he occupied between Luther and
Zwingli. But his position as a whole is quite plain. All his followers agree in
holding that (1) Christ is only spiritually present in the Supper; (2) that the
participation in the benefits of the Supper must therefore be spiritual, although
it is real, and (3) that only true communicants, by a living faith, can communicate
therein, and that this participation in the atoning death of the Saviour is sealed
to us by the use of the ordained signs of the sacrament.
Henry E. Dosker
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, bread and wine, breaking of bread, communion, cup of blessing, Christ's body and blood, deipnon kuriou, define, eucharist, eucharistesas, giving of thanks, ite missa est, lords supper, lord's table, mass, other names of communion, significance of