International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
LORD'S SUPPER; (EUCHARIST)
" I. DEFINITION
II. NEW TESTAMENT SOURCES
1. Textual Considerations
2. Narratives Compared
3. Other Pauline Data
III. PREPARATION FOR THE EUCHARIST
1. Miracles of Loaves and Fishes
2. Discourse at Capernaum
IV. HISTORICAL SETTING OF THE EUCHARIST
1. Other Acts and Words of Christ on Eve of the Passion
2. Sacrificial Language of the Institution
3. Sacrificial System of Jewish Dispensation
4. Paschal Background of the Institution of the Eucharist
V. SEQUENCE OF THE INSTITUTION
Points to Be Noted
VI. THE CHURCH'S OBSERVATIONS or THE EUCHARIST
1. Heavenly Background
(1) Christians a Priestly Race
(2) Christ, the Eternal High Priest
2. Celebrated Each Lord's Day
3. Names of the Eucharist
(2) Lord's Supper
(3) Breaking of Bread
VII. POST-APOSTOLIC CHURCH
1. Guidance by the Holy Spirit
2. The Early Fathers
(1) Ignatian Epistles
(2) Justin Martyr
VIII. LITURGICAL TRADITION
1. Outline of Eucharistic Prayer
2. Significance of This for Unity
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; Acts 20:7, 11 Romans 15:16 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 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 10:16, 17).
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 (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 (22:17) and the eucharistic cup (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 A.D.), 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 of me."
The narrative given in Luke 22:14-20 is the latest (circa 80 A.D.) 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 (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; 1 Corinthians 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; Matthew 15:36 Mark 6:41; Mark 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; John 15:26; John 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" (Matthew 26:28).
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; Leviticus 4:5-7, 16-18, 34; Leviticus 17:11, 14; 24:7 Numbers 10:10 Hebrews 9:11-28; Hebrews 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; Numbers 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; John 10:10, 11, 15, 17, 18; John 15:13; John 17:19).
V. Sequence of the Institation.
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 rite;
(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; Luke 9:16; Luke 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; 1 Corinthians 12:27 Ephesians 1:22, 23 Colossians 1:24).
VI. The Church's Observance of 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; Hebrews 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; Revelation 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 times.
(3) Breaking of Bread:
The term "breaking of bread" (Acts 2:42; Acts 20:7, 11) had little vogue after New Testament times.
"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" (Romans 15:16).
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 Eucharist.
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, 117).
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).
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 and Western.
Henry Riley Gummey
" 1. Original Institution
2. The Elements
3. The Eucharist in the Apostolic Church
4. The Eucharist in the Post-apostolic Church
5. Rome and the Eucharist
6. Luther and the Eucharist
7. Zwingli and the Eucharist
8. Calvin and the Eucharist
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.
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