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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

1. Scope of article. -The scope of this article is limited to the observance of the Eucharist in the Apostolic Church, with especial reference to St. Paul. The Gospels are expressly excluded. Therefore the question as to the possibility of the accounts in the Synoptic Gospels having been influenced by Pauline ideas, and the many questions which are raised by the Gospel according to St. John, will not be treated in this article. The evidence which will be used will be that which is furnished by the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline Epistles. Other evidence will only be adduced in so far as it has a direct bearing upon this.

2. The Acts of the Apostles .-In Acts we have a description of the life of the earliest Christian community in Jerusalem. We are told that ‘they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread (τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου) and the prayers’ ( Acts 2:42), Further, we read that ‘Day by day continuing stedfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread (κλῶντες ἄρτον) at home, they partook of food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people’ ( Acts 2:46-47). The latter passage contrasts their breaking of bread at home with their attendance at the Temple-worship, But the passage may be no more than a general description of the life of the community-that it was cheerful and social. In the former passage, however, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that if ἡ κλάσις τοῦ ἅρτου must have some religious significance. It has indeed been held that it has nothing to do with the Last Supper, that community of goods led to community of meals, and that no more than that is intended by the phrase. But the growing belief in the fact of redemption through the Death of Christ, together with certain visions of the Risen Lord, who appeared to His disciples, on some occasions, according to our accounts, at meals, led to a connexion being established, in the minds of Christians, between the Last Supper and the common meal. Thence the development is clear; and there is no difficulty in seeing how they came to believe in some mysterious Presence of Jesus. Thus was evolved the Pauline doctrine.*[Note: M. Goguel, L’Eucharistie. Dis origines à Justin, martyr, Paris, 1910.]

It is true that it is impossible to prove any connexion between the ‘breaking of the bread’ of  Acts 2:42 and the Last Supper. But that there was a religious significance attached to the former seems clear from the way in which it is mentioned. And the general coarse of the history is most easily explained if we suppose that already in the primitive community at Jerusalem the connexion existed. It does not seem probable that St. Paul’s churches differed wholly in their usage from other churches, and the facts are best explained by the supposition that, from the first, Christians commemorated their Master at their common meal. The suggestion, to which allusion has been made, that visions of the Risen Christ led to the connexion being established, fails to account for the fact that it is Christ’s Death that came to be commemorated, and that, because of this, the Eucharist bore from very early times a sacrificial character. The evidence is not sufficient to lead to any certain conclusions; but on the whole it seems to point to the germ of the later conception being contained in these earliest ‘breakings of bread.’ Whether the ‘breaking of bread’ denotes the common meal, or a particular action at the common meal, is again not clear, Batiffol†[Note: L’Euchariste5, Paris, 1913.]maintains the latter, but his arguments are not conclusive;‡[Note: See art. Love-Feast.]and the matter must be left doubtful.

In  Acts 20:7-11 we rend that the Christians of Troas met together on the first day of the week in the evening to ‘break broad.’ That is stated to be the purpose of the meeting. The writer of the Acts is himself present, and gives an account of the scene. There are many lights in the upper room. St. Paul, who is leaving Troas the next day, discourses until midnight. Then he breaks bread, and tastes it, and, after a further long conversation, departs at dawn, There is no indication here of a common meal; for the inference drawn from the use of the word ‘tasting’ (γευσάμενος), which is said by some§[Note: g. M. Goguel, op. cit. p. 142.]to imply a meal, is surely unjustified. The ‘breaking of bread’ here appears to denote a ceremonial action. The language employed does not indeed exclude the possibility that this action, and the partaking by those present of the bread so broken, may have taken place during a meal which was held about midnight. But there is no hint of any such meal. It is noteworthy that this meeting takes place on a Sunday. There does not appear to have been a similar one daily during St. Paul’s stay. And the whole narrative, with its mention of the ‘many lights,’ suggests a solemn gathering for worship. It must be remembered that in this passage we have to do with a Pauline church; and therefore we cannot safely argue back to the passages in Acts 2. But there can be no question that the ‘breaking of bread’ in this passage does denote a significant religious act; and, in the light of the evidence which we possess in 1 Cor. about the customs of St. Paul’s churches, we conclude that the ‘breaking of the bread’ derives its significance from the Last Supper, and is in some way a commemoration of the Lord’s Death. Significant it certainly was; and its significance is fixed by our evidence about the Church of Corinth.

3. St. Paul’s doctrine .-We owe to purely accidental circumstances the preservation of an account of St. Paul’s doctrine of the Eucharist, and a description of the Eucharist in the Church of Corinth. Disorders had arisen in that Church in connexion with the attitude of Christians towards meals in idol-temples and in connexion with the Eucharist. St. Paul finds it necessary to deal with these matters in 1 Corinthians. Had it not been for this necessity, we might have supposed that the Pauline churches wore without any special sacramental teaching, for in none of the other Pauline Epistles is there any allusion to the subject. This, however, is accidental. For St. Paul’s language to the Corinthians makes it certain that he must have given similar teaching to his converts elsewhere, and indeed the account of the ‘breaking of bread’ at Troas, when read in the light of the passage in 1 Cor., makes it clear that there too the Eucharist was the central point of the Christian assembly.

It appears from  1 Corinthians 11:20-34 that from time to time-presumably on Sundays-the members of the Church met together ‘to eat the Lord’s Supper,’ This supper was a real meal, and the food was provided by those who attended it. But, whereas it ought to have been a fraternal gathering, a bond of unity, the selfishness and greed of the rich made it most unsatisfactory; for they insisted upon keeping for themselves the food they brought, whereas all the food brought ought to have been put together and divided among the whole number. The result of this was that some who attended had not enough to eat and drink, and some had too much. There were even eases of drunkenness. This conduct of the rich naturally led to divisions. Groups were formed, and the general spirit of fraternity was broken.

St. Paul reminds the Corinthians of the great solemnity of the Lord’s Supper. He reminds them how he had told them before of the Last Supper itself, and how Jesus had instituted there a rite by which Christians were to proclaim His Death until He should come again. He reminds them that they came to enter into communion with the Body and Blood of Christ; that this is a solemn matter; that self-examination is necessary, and care to re-cognize the distinction between what is received and common broad; that those who fail to come up to what is required of them in this matter, those who receive unworthily, have in many cases already received striking punishments from God, for the objects to be received are so holy, that not only does worthy reception bring great benefits, but unworthy reception brings stern judgment.

In 1 Corinthians 10 St. Paul warns the Corinthians of the dangers of idolatry. He holds up before them the example of the Israelites, who, though they were ‘baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea,’ and ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink, yet died in the wilderness because of their sins ( 1 Corinthians 10:1-6). There is a clear analogy with the case of Christians, who receive spiritual food and drink, and yet are liable to perish, in spite of their privileges, if they too sin. The particular sin of which lie warns them is idolatry. He affirms that those who partake of a meal in an idol’s temple really enter into Communion with the demons who are at the back of idolatrous worship. Communion with the Body and Blood of Christ is incompatible with communion with demons. ‘You cannot drink the Lord’s cup and the cup of demons. You cannot share the lord’s table and a table of demons’ ( 1 Corinthians 10:21). In his conception the meat is offered to the idol and becomes the property of the demons, so that the demons are, as it were, the hosts at the sacrificial banquet. It is their cup which is drunk by those who attend. It is their table at which the guests sit. The parallel which St. Paul draws between these demonic banquets and the Lord’s Supper suggests that in the same way the bread and the cup are offered to the Lord, so that He becomes the host. Therefore the Supper is His Supper, and it is His Cup and His Table. But the thought goes further than this. For not only do the communicants enter into communion with Christ by being, as it were. His guests at Supper; but they enter into communion with His Body and His Blood. The use of these expressions makes it clear that what is meant is that the communicant enters into communion with Christ’s Death. It is the language of sacrifice which is here employed. The sacrificial Death of Christ is an essential part of St. Paul’s thought. The worthy communicant feeds upon that sacrifice, and so appropriates the blessing won thereby.

But while it is true that it is only the worthy communicant who obtains the blessing, St. Paul s language clearly implies that the bread and the wine are not merely symbols. They are really to the communicant the Body and Blood of Christ-the Body broken and the Blood shed in His sacrificial Death. They have this wonderful character in themselves, apart from the faith of the communicant. For the unworthy communicant receives them at his peril, and the dangers of irreverence are very great. The communicant must discern the Body. The suggestion which has been made that ‘the Body’ in this phrase means Christ’s mystical Body, the Christian Church, is worthy of very little attention. It is true that the word is sometimes so used, but here the context makes it necessary to understand by it the Body of Christ which is represented by the bread and partaken of by the communicant.

This communion takes place at a common meal. The Christians of the community come together, probably on the first day of the week, to a common meal. The question arises as to whether the whole meal is a communion, or whether communion takes place during or after the meal,  1 Corinthians 10:16 suggests that the latter is the true view. ‘The cup of blessing which we bless,’ ‘the bread which we break,’ suggest that during or after the meal there was a solemn blessing of a cup, and a solemn breaking of bread, in virtue of which the cup become ‘the cup of blessing,’ and both it and the bread which is broken assume their special character. It seems clear that the ‘blessing’ is a solemn liturgical act, and the parallelism with the breaking of bread indicates that that has the same character. The ‘cup of blessing’ is the cup over which a blessing has been said, or the cup which has been blessed. There is no necessary reference to any cup used in the Passover. St. Paul speaks of the cup which ‘we bless,’ but this does riot necessarily mean that the whole assembly blessed the cup, or broke the bread. In fact, the language of  Acts 20:11, where it is said that at Troas St. Pant himself ‘broke the bread,’ suggests that the ‘liturgical’ action was performed by a single person, who was presiding. A definite ‘blessing’ of a cup and ‘breaking of bread’ would seem to imply that the supper as a whole was not the communion, though the supper as a whole was the Lord’s Supper, for the Lord was host. But during supper, or more probably after supper (cf.  1 Corinthians 11:25), the president blessed the cup and broke the bread; and the cup so blessed and the bread so broken assumed their special and sacred character. As we have seen, the supper is a real and not a symbolical meal. But St. Paul’s suggestion that the Corinthians’ own houses are the proper places in which to cat and drink, and his injunction that if they are hungry they should eat at home ( 1 Corinthians 11:22;  1 Corinthians 11:34) indicate the way in which the setting of the Eucharist came se soon to be altered. For these injunctions lead straight to the conclusion that the Christian assembly at which the Lord’s Death is shown forth is not a suitable occasion for the satisfaction of bodily needs. It is therefore not surprising that we find, when next we have any evidence, that the Eucharist has been detached from its setting as part of a common meal.

There are two further points which deserve notice before we come to consider in further detail St. Paul’s view of the effects of communion. The first is the fact that in  1 Corinthians 10:16 St. Paul puts the cup before the bread. We find the same thing in the Didache  ; and if the shorter text of St. Luke’s Gospel be the right one, we find it also there. This is certainly a noticeable point. But, whatever may be the explanation in St. Luke and in the Didache , it is not possible to suppose that at Corinth the cup actually did precede the bread. For the form of the narrative of the Last Supper which St. Paul gives ( 1 Corinthians 11:23-25) places the bread before the cup, and it is most unlikely that that order was reversed in the Corinthian Church. The explanation may be, as M. Goguel suggests,*[Note: cit. p. 144, following Heinrici.]that the parallelism between the Lord’s Cup and the cup of libation at a heathen sacrifice was closer than that between the eating of a piece of bread and anything that took place there. It may be for this reason that the cup is mentioned before the bread. Or it may be merely that the bread is put second because St. Paul is to speak at further length about it in the next verse. But in any case it is misleading to regard  1 Corinthians 10:16 as having any real connexion with a tradition of the cup having preceded the bread at the Last Supper.

The second point is the phrase in  1 Corinthians 11:26 : ‘Ye proclaim the Lord’s death till he come.’ The addition ‘till he come’ is reminiscent of  Mark 14:25 and parallels, though the saying, as recorded in the Gospels, says nothing about the Lord’s return, but speaks only of the joys of the Messianic Kingdom, to be shared by Him with Christians. The idea implied in the phrase ‘till he come’ is similar-namely, that the Eucharist is but a provisional rite, and looks forward to the day when communion with Him shall be more direct in His Kingdom.

We may now consider St. Paul’s view of the effects of communion, and here the main thing to notice is the realistic character of St. Paul’s thought. Participation in the one loaf produces a unity among Christians. ‘Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, because we all partake of that one bread’ ( 1 Corinthians 10:17). This unity is not the cause but the effect of the communion. There is a close parallel to the effect produced by participation in an idol-sacrifice, in which the worshippers are united to one another as well as to the demon. Besides this unity of believers which is produced by participation, there is of course the communion with the Body and Blood of Christ. It seems clear that the parallel with the heathen sacrifices still holds good. The communicant really enters into communion with Christ conceived as a sacrificial Victim. Whether this will be for his benefit or for his undoing depends upon his own disposition; but, whatever his disposition may be, in no case is that which he receives ordinary food. The bread since it has been broken, and the cup since it has been blessed, have assumed special characters. And it is no fight matter for anyone to partake.

Here the question must be faced whether St. Paul’s views on the subject of the Eucharist differed from those of the Corinthians. It has been held by W. Heitmüller†[Note: Taufe und Abendmahl bei Paulus, Göttingen, 1903.]that St. Paul’s conception differed from theirs in that he believed that it was the dying Christ with whom the communicant entered into communion, whereas they thought rather of the glorified Christ. According to this idea, in ch. 10 St. Paul adopts the view of the Corinthians, but in ch. 11 he gives, them his own view. It is true that the behaviour of the Corinthians at the supper would suggest at first sight that their beliefs about it were of no very solemn character, and it may seem strange that men who believed that they were actually commemorating Christ’s Last Supper and Death, should treat the meal as an opportunity for self-indulgence; but it is by no means impossible that this may have been so. St. Paul’s attitude throughout Is that of a man who is reminding others of what they already know rather than of one who is giving new instruction. His view of the nature of the Eucharist refits ultimately upon his view of the institution, and at to this he expressly states that he had given them instruction before ( 1 Corinthians 11:23). It is not an uncommon thing for men to need to be reminded of a fact with which they are perfectly well acquainted, nor indeed is it uncommon for men to act in a way which is quite inconsistent with their religious beliefs, even though these beliefs are quite honestly held. What the Corinthians had learned about the Eucharist they had learned from St. Paul. It is therefore unlikely that their view of the Eucharist was essentially different from his, though no doubt they may not have wholly understood it. Some of his language suggests that they thought that communion would benefit them mechanically, and that their dispositions did not much matter. This is in line with the general view of them which we get from the Epistle as a whole.*[Note: See art. Corinthians, Epistles to the.]They laid stress on the value of γνῶσις and attached insufficient importance to morality. If there is any point in when their views differed from St. Paul’s, it is probably to be found here. It may be that when he speaks of the possibility of eating and drinking judgment unto themselves, he is giving them new teaching. But this does not involve the consequence that their intellectual belief about the Eucharist was seriously different from his, but rather that their conscience needed to be awakened.

4. St. Paul’s account of the institution of the Eucharist .-The investigation of the relation between the various accounts which we possess belongs properly to the study of the Gospels. It will be sufficient here to notice that, in spite of verbal differences, St. Paul’s account is much the same as that of St. Mark and St. Matthew, except that it contains the command of repetition, ‘Do this in remembrance of Me,’ which is otherwise found only in the longer text of St. Luke. Whether this indicates Pauline influence upon the Gospels is a difficult question, but one which does not fall within the scope of this article. St. Paul refers the communion at Corinth back to an institution by our Lord on the night of His betrayal-an institution at which He alluded to His Death in sacrificial terms, and commanded the performance of the rite in memory of Himself, This narrative of the institution ( 1 Corinthians 11:23-34) is introduced by the words ἐγὼ γὰρ παρέλαβον ἀπὸ τοῦ Κυρίου. It has been supposed that by this expression St. Paul means to claim that he had received the whole narrative of the Institution, which he goes on to give, by direct revelation from Christ. If this were his claim, it would very seriously affect the historic value of St. Paul’s evidence in the matter. But his words do not necessarily bear any such meaning. The theory has been put forward that we have in these words an indication that the Eucharist as a rite was invented by St. Paul, and that he was the first to connect the social meal of the Christians with the Last Supper of the Lord. But it seems by no means improbable that the words imply merely that he had received it from the Lord through tradition. There is no indication of any disagreement between St. Paul and the other apostles on this subject. And it has been pointed out that it is most improbable that we owe to St. Paul the mention of Christ’s Body and Blood. If he had himself been inventing his terms, he would in ad probability have spoken of Flesh and Blood.*[Note: Heitmüller, op. cit. p. 26.]He seems to be following tradition, or, at any rate, to be under the impression that he is following tradition, in his account of the Eucharist. The idea that St. Paul’s own views were much influenced by conceptions current among Corinthian Christiana has no support in our authorities. He explicitly states that the account of the institution is no new teaching, but that he has taught it himself to the Corinthians before; and it is on this account of the institution that his doctrine is based.

Moreover, the theory that St. Paul’s doctrine of the Eucharist was peculiar to himself, and arose in the first place owing to purely local causes at Corinth, fails to account for the universality of the Eucharist. If it was only St. Paul and some of his converts for whom the Eucharist was a real religious rite-if, that is to say, it was St. Paul who gave a religious significance to what was at first merely a social meal-the universal adoption of St. Paul’s ideas constitutes a serious historical problem. Other doctrines of St. Paul by no means met with such wide-spread acceptance. His doctrine of justification was hardly understood at all by anyone until the time of St. Augustine. But we know of no church without a Eucharist. Even in the Didache it is a definite rite, though its significance is doubtful. It stands with Baptism as one of the two rites which belong to Christianity. Development no doubt there was. The ‘breaking of the bread’ in the primitive community at Jerusalem did not carry with it all the ideas which were associated with the Eucharist at Corinth. But even there it is a religious rite, and not a mere social meal.

The Didache appears to show us a community where the doctrine of the Eucharist had not developed on Pauline lines. There is no clear reference to its connexion with the Last Supper. It is tempting to bring into line with this the ‘breaking of the bread’ in the Acts, and to suppose that there too there was no thought of the Last Supper. And in favour of this view might be alleged the fact that there is no mention of the Eucharistic cup in the Acts of the Apostles, which may be supposed to indicate an absence of sacrificial conceptions. But all this is a most dangerous form of the argument a silentio . For the writer of the Acts has no occasion to speak of the ideas which Christians associated with the ‘breaking of the bread.’ So his silence on the matter is absolutely worthless as negative evidence. And, though there is no mention of a Eucharistic cup, it is extremely unlikely that at Troas there was no such cup, in view of the fact that Troas was a Pauline church. The Acts makes no mention of a cup. This is natural enough, for the writer is not giving a full account of the proceedings. But exactly the same consideration applies to the ‘breaking of the bread’ at Jerusalem. The fact that no cup is mentioned is no sort of evidence that the meal did not include the blessing and partaking of a cup. If it did so, the writer of the Acts could hardly have framed his sentence so as to include a mention of it; and there is no reason why he should have done so. As has been pointed out above, if it had not been for accidental circumstances at Corinth, we should not have heard anything about the Eucharist in St. Paul’s Epistles, and should have supposed that the Pauline churches in St. Paul’s time knew of no such rite. This fact is in itself a sufficient warning against the danger of drawing conclusions from the silence of a writer.

In the absence of more definite evidence, no theory can he more than a hypothesis. But the facts ate beat accounted for by the hypothesis that the ‘breaking of bread’ was from the beginning a religions rite associated with a social meal, in which Christians commemorated the Last Supper of our Lord with His apostles. As Christians came increasingly to realize the significance of our Lord’s Death as a sacrifice, a conception which was popularized by St. Paul, but which had its roots in the consciousness and teaching of Jesus about the necessity of His Death for the coming of the Kingdom, they came to realize increasingly the significance of this rite, and of the words which Jesus had spoken at the Last Supper. These words could not be understood until the sacrificial aspect of the Lord’s Death was realized. But, when that was understood, then the rite of the ‘breaking of the bread’ was bound to be seen by Christians to have the significance which St. Paul attached to it and which was implicit in it from the first, although not fully understood-the significance of the participation by the communicant in Christ, conceived of as the sacrificial Victim. It may be supposed that the Church represented by the Didache had not attained to the understanding of the sacrificial character of Christ’s Death, and therefore had failed to appreciate the meaning of the Eucharist.

5. The Greek mystery-religions .-The view which has been widely held, that St. Paul derived his conceptions about the Eucharist from the Greek mystery-religions, is excluded by the hypothesis which has just been put forward. No doubt there is a real sense in which Christianity is a mystery-religion. It meets and satisfies the same needs which are met by mystery-religions in the Graeco-Roman world, and it is certainly possible that St. Paul way have been influenced by the intellectual and religious atmosphere of the world in which he was born and in which he laboured. But it must be remembered that he was educated in Jerusalem at the feet of Gamaliel. And his Rabbinical training certainly exercised a great influence upon his mind. It is hardly conceivable that the author of the 1st chanter of Romans would here allowed himself to be directly influenced by any particular heathen cult. It is true that he treats the Eucharist as analogous to the heathen sacrificial feasts, but it is only to emphasize the contrast between them. He is certainly unconscious of any borrowing from them.

We know exceedingly little about the mystery-religious which were current in the time of St. Paul.*[Note: See art. Mystery MYSTERIES..]But it may be noted that Johannine Eucharistic teaching has at first sight much more in common with the later mysteries than that of St. Paul. The very able argument of A, Schweitzer,†[Note: Paul and his Interpreters, Eng. tr., London, 1912.]by which St. Paul’s Eucharistic doctrine is explained on the basis of Jewish eschatology, perhaps hardly carries conviction as a whole, but his criticism of those who allege Greek influence is very tolling. He points out that St. Paul’s theology exercised very little influence on the Graeco-Roman world, and was not understood by the Greek Fathers. This carries with it the strong probability that St. Paul’s theology was not really Greek, but Jewish. Schweitzer’s interpretation is that we are to look for an explanation of St. Paul’s sacramental doctrine in the condition of the world between the Death of Jesus and His Coming, expected to be immediate. ‘The Apostle asserts an overlapping of the still natural, and the already supernatural condition of the world, which becomes real in the case of Christ and believers in the form of an open or hidden working of the forces of death and resurrection.’*[Note: cit. p. 244 f.]He maintains that this is not Greek, but Jewish. It should, however, be admitted that the form of some of St. Paul’s statements may be due to the atmosphere in which he lived and worked. What is here maintained is that the general teaching of St. Paul on the subject is more easily explained by the hypothesis that it is not drawn from Greek sources, but is an explication of something that was already implicit in the ‘breaking of broad’ of the earliest community, and was a true interpretation of the actual intention of Jesus.

Literature.-To the books mentioned in the text and footnotes of the article, the following may be added: Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , article‘Lord’s Supper’ (A. Plummer); Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics , article‘Eucharist (to end of Middle Ages)’ (J. H. Srawley); Encyclopaedia Biblica , article‘Eucharist’ (J. Armitage Robinson); Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche 3, article‘Abendmahl’ (Cremer and Loofs); F. Spitta, Zur Geschichte und Litteratur des Urchristentums , i., Göttingen, 1893; C. Gore, Dissertations on subjects connected with the Incarnation , Loudon, 1895, p. 308, also The Body of Christ , do. 1901; A, Schweitzer, Das Abendmahl im Zusammenhang mit dem Leben Jesu und der Geschichte des Urchristentums , Tübingen, 1901; W. B. Frankland, The Early Eucharist , London, 1902; J. F. Bethune-Baker, An Introduction to the Early History of Christian Doctrine , do. 1903, p. 393; J. C. Lambert, The Sacraments in the NT (Kerr Lecture), Edinburgh, 1903; R. M. Adamson, The Christian Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper , do. 1905; p. N. Waggett, The Holy Eucharist , London, 1906; J. V. Bartlet, in Mansfield College Essays , do. 1909, p. 43; D. Stone, A History of the Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist , do. 1909; J. Wordsworth, The Holy Communion 3, do. 1910; F. Dibelius, Das Abendmahl , Leipzig, 1911; P. Gardner, The Religious Experience of St. Paul , London, 1911; W. Heitmüller, Taufe und Abendmahl im Urchristentum , Tübingen, 1911,

G. H. Clayton.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

EUCHARIST . This is the earliest title for the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ. It is found in Ignatius and the Didache , and is based upon the eucharistia or giving of thanks with which our Lord set apart the bread and wine at the Last Supper as memorials of Himself (  Matthew 26:27 ,   Luke 22:17;   Luke 22:19 ,   1 Corinthians 11:24 ). The name Lord’s Supper , though legitimately derived from   1 Corinthians 11:20 , is not there applied to the sacrament itself, but to the Love-feast or Agape , a meal commemorating the Last Supper, and not yet separated from the Eucharist when St. Paul wrote. The irregularities rebuked by the Apostle (  1 Corinthians 11:21;   1 Corinthians 11:29 ) are such as could only have accompanied the wider celebration, and doubtless contributed to the speedy separation of the essential rite from the unnecessary accessories. The title Communion comes from   1 Corinthians 10:16 , where, however, the word is a predicate not used technically. The breaking of (the) bread (  Acts 2:42;   Acts 2:46 ) probably refers to the Eucharist (cf.   Acts 20:7 ,   Luke 24:35 ?), but until modern times does not seem to have been adopted as a title.

1 . The institution is recorded by each of the Synoptic Gospels, but not by St. John. A fourth account appears in 1 Corinthians.

 Mark 14:22-25 .   Matthew 26:26-29 . 22 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. 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave to them: and they all drank of it. 24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many. 25 Verily I say unto you, I will no more drink of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God. 26 As they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it; and he gave to the disciples, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. 27 And he took a cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many unto remission of sins. 29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.   Luke 22:14-20 .   1 Corinthians 11:23-25 . 14 When the hour was come, he sat down, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: 16 for I say unto you, I will not eat it, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. 17 And he received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: 18 for I say unto you, I will not drink from henceforth of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body [ which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me . 20 And the cup in like manner after supper, saying. This cup is the new covenant in my blood, even that which is poured out for you ]. 23 I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, how that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread; 24 and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said. This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 In like manner also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as oft as ye drink it , in remembrance of me. A comparison shows variations of minor importance between Mark and Matthew. But the most remarkable differences are those of Luke, which mentions what is apparently a second cup. It seems scarcely credible that at a supreme moment, like that in which a sacred rite was being established, our Lord should have created the possibility of confusion by solemnly delivering two of the Paschal cups, dividing between them the words which, according to the other Synoptics, belong, as it would seem appropriately, to one. Nor, if He were about to ballow a succeeding cup as Eucharistic, is it likely that He would have spoken of the fulfilment of the Paschal wine in relation to another (  Luke 22:17 ). In spite, therefore, of the fact that the majority of MSS and Versions favour its inclusion, Westcott and Hort are probably right in regarding the passage inclosed in brackets above as an interpolation. With this omitted, the narrative is assimilated to the other Synoptics. The inversion of bread and cup, which now becomes apparent and which probably belongs not to Luke but to his source, is perhaps due to the fact that the writer, dwelling on the Lord’s intention that the Passover should be fulfilled in a Messianic rite, records at the opening of his narrative a declaration similar to that which Matthew and Mark assign to a later stage, the delivery of the cup (  Matthew 26:29 ,   Mark 14:25 ). These words, though referring more particularly to the Eucharistic bread, yet, as extending to the whole meal (‘this passover’), require no mention of the action that would accompany them; whereas the companion statement concerning the fruit of the vine (  Luke 22:18 ) necessitates the mention of the cup (  Luke 22:17 ). The first half of   Luke 22:19 (the consecration of the bread), which, if the account were symmetrical, would appear (as arranged in Rush-brooke’s Synopticon ) before   Luke 22:15 , is then added to complete the institution. A copyist, assuming a part of the narrative to be wanting, would then introduce, probably from a contemporary liturgical formula, the second half of   Luke 22:19 and   Luke 22:20 , which bear a striking resemblance to the Pauline account, of which Luke is otherwise independent. A similar inversion is found in the sub-Apostolic Teaching of the Apostles .

2 . From the Synoptic record the following inferences may be drawn: (1) The words of institution cannot themselves determine the meaning of the rite . Luke (unless v. 20 be genuine) omits ‘This is my blood of the covenant.’ [Notice also that the other traditional form varies the phrase ‘the new covenant in my blood’ (  1 Corinthians 11:25 ).] This may be due to the fact that Luke introduces the cup primarily in relation to our Lord’s utterance concerning the fruit of the vine. But the sentence may be an interpretation of Christ’s action, based on its correspondence with the hallowing of the bread. Matthew further amplifies by adding the words, ‘unto remission of sins’ (  Matthew 26:28 ). It is clear that, although formulas were probably already in use, the language was not yet stereotyped. We cannot, therefore, be certain of the precise form of words that our Lord adopted.

(2) The rite, like the gospel of which it is an ordinance, is Apostolic . The whole Twelve, but none other, are present with Jesus (  Mark 14:17 ||). Judas had not yet gone out (  Luke 22:21 ). The significant relation of the Apostles to the congregation of the spiritual Israel, prominent in Mark from the first (  Mark 3:14 ), is not only emphasized by their seclusion with Jesus in this supreme hour, but explicitly stated by Luke (  Luke 22:24-34 ). Though, therefore, there is nothing beyond the form of the record itself to indicate the permanent and monumental character of the institution, yet the place which from the first the rite assumed as the bond of Christian fellowship, and for which Christians like Ignatius in the sub-Apostolic age claimed the authority of the Apostles, accords with and interprets the Synoptic narrative. To go behind the Apostolic Eucharist is no more possible for historic Christianity than to separate the actual Christ from the Apostolic witness.

(3) The Eucharist is Paschal in origin and idea . It is unnecessary to determine whether the Last Supper was in fact the Passover, according to the impression of the Synoptists, or, as St. John seems to imply, anticipated by twelve hours the Jewish Feast. (See Sanday, in Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] , art. ‘Jesus Christ,’ 11. E. ii.) No mention is made of the lamb, and the significant identification of the elements accessory to the feast, whether typically or effectually, with the sacrifice of Christ, suggests that its chief feature was absent. And this would seem to bind the rite thus instituted more closely than ever to that suffering before which He earnestly desired to celebrate it (  Luke 22:15 ), and wherein St. John contemplated the fulfilment of the Paschal type (  John 19:36; cf.   Exodus 12:46 ). The bread and wine, as eaten in fellowship by Christ and His disciples on the night of the betrayal, and distributed, as often as the rite is renewed, to those who believe on Jesus through the Apostolic word, is the Christian Passover celebrated beneath the Cross, where the very Paschal Lamb is offered for the life of the world. Its interpretation must, therefore, begin from the great Hebrew festival, in which it finds its origin, and which was regarded as a corporate communion of the Covenant People beneath the shelter of the sprinkled blood, an extension of that first sacred meal eaten when the destroying angel was passing over and working redemption for Israel (see Schultz, OT Theol ., Eng. tr. [Note: translate or translation.] vol. i. pp. 196, 197, 363 366).

3 . St. Paul’s account of the institution (see above) was written not later than a.d. 58, and is therefore older than the Synoptics. He claims to have received it as part of the inviolable deposit of the gospel (  1 Corinthians 11:23 ), which he must hand on unimpaired to those to whom he ministers the word. The phrase ‘from the Lord’ can hardly imply, as some have maintained, that a direct revelation was given to himself, extending to the form of words; but only that the record is part of that original message of which the Apostles were the guardians rather than the interpreters (  1 Corinthians 15:3 ,   Galatians 1:6-9 .). The form of tradition here reproduced brings out explicitly the fact that the Eucharist was regarded in the Apostolic Church as an ordinance to be observed in Christian congregations till the Lord’s Coming (‘as oft as ye drink,’ with comment   1 Corinthians 11:26 ). It is St. Paul only that introduces the command, ‘This do in remembrance of me’   1 Corinthians 11:24 ), an expression fruitful in controversy. It has been urged that the word rendered ‘do’ means ‘offer,’ and that the Eucharist is, therefore, by its terms sacrificial. Not only is this an uncommon use of the Greek, unsuspected by the Greek commentators themselves, but the word ‘this’ (Gr. neuter) which follows can only be ‘this action,’ not ‘this bread,’ which would require the masculine form of the Gr. pronoun. Clearly, however, the phrase refers to the whole Eucharistic action, not to the particular acts of eating and drinking, the latter of which is differentiated from it in   1 Corinthians 11:26 . It is further argued that the word used for ‘remembrance’ ( anamnçsis ,   1 Corinthians 11:24-25 ) implies a ritual memorial before God. The word, however, almost invariably used in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] with this signification is different ( mnçmosynon ,   Leviticus 2:2;   Leviticus 2:9;   Leviticus 2:16;   Leviticus 5:12 ,   Numbers 5:26; anam . is found in   Leviticus 24:7 and   Numbers 10:10 ). And, though the form of words in which, according to the traditional ritual, the house-father recalled the redemption from Egypt is probably present to the Apostle’s mind, it is uncertain whether this recital of Divine deliverance was directed towards God. As now used it would seem to be intended to carry out the injunction of the Law given in   Exodus 12:26-27 (see Haggadah for Passover ). The same uncertainty attaches to St. Paul’s explanatory statement ‘ye proclaim the Lord’s death’ though the natural interpretation of the Greek is in favour of the idea suggested by the RV [Note: Revised Version.] , viz. announcement to men rather than commemoration before God (cf.   1 Corinthians 9:14 ). The evidential value, not the mystical significance, of the rite is here asserted.

4 . The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is involved in the declaration that the bread broken is a communion of the body, the cup of blessing a communion of the blood, of Christ (  1 Corinthians 10:16 ). The table of the Lord is contrasted with the table of demons (  1 Corinthians 10:21 ) through the medium of the sacrificial system of the OT, of which it is a fundamental principle that to eat of the offerings is to have communion with the altar (  1 Corinthians 10:18 ). The words ‘Lord’s table’ and ‘altar’ are found as synonyms in Malachi (  Malachi 1:7;   Malachi 1:12 ). The Levitical code includes many forms of oblation in which feeding on the sacrifice, if it ever existed, has disappeared; but provision is made for it in the case of the peace-offerings (  Leviticus 7:15-21 ). A closer study of the OT brings into greater prominence the connexion between sacrifice and feasting (  Exodus 32:6 ff.,   Deuteronomy 12:5;   Deuteronomy 12:12;   Deuteronomy 26:10-11 ,   1 Samuel 1:3 ff;   1 Samuel 16:2;   1 Samuel 16:11; see Schultz, OT Theol ., Eng. tr. [Note: translate or translation.] i. c. xii.). The end of sacrifice in Israel, as among other nations, is the union of the worshipper with the object of worship, through the covering which the priest supplies (W. R. Smith, RS [Note: S Religion of the Semites.] 2 Lect. xi.). This is especially evident in the Passover, which is a sacrifice (  Exodus 12:27;   Exodus 34:25 ,   Numbers 9:7;   Numbers 9:13 ), and, as including a repast, should rank among the peace-offerings. The Eucharist, therefore, is a sacrifice, not as the commemoration of the death of Christ, but as the means of participation in the Paschal Lamb slain for us (  1 Corinthians 5:7 ), in the offering of the body of Christ once made on the Cross (  Hebrews 10:10; cf.   John 19:36 ,   1 Corinthians 10:17 ). The crucifixion of Christ’s natural body results in the institution of that instrument of union, the sacramental body, in respect of which the unworthy partaker is guilty (  1 Corinthians 11:27 , but see below), and through which the faithful have fellowship with Christ in His mystical body (  1 Corinthians 10:16-17 ). The transition from one application of the word ‘body’ to the others ‘one bread, one body’ is very subtle, and they are no doubt so vitally connected in the mind of St. Paul as hardly to be capable of exact distinction. But it is unlikely that in a passage where the argument would have been satisfied by the use of one word ‘body’ on the analogy of the common pagan identification of the god with the sacrifice, he should have used the longer phrase ‘communion of the body’ if he had not felt that the single word would have failed to give the exact meaning. The sense of the whole passage depends upon the reality of the gift conveyed through the feast in which it is symbolically presented. St. Paul holds that there is a real communion in the sacrificial feasts of the heathen, though in this case with demons (  1 Corinthians 10:20 ), whose presence is incompatible with that of Christ (  1 Corinthians 10:21 ).

5 . The crucial words of the second passage (  1 Corinthians 11:17-34 ) are ‘if he discern not the body.’ ‘Lord’s’ is an interpolation of the TR [Note: Textus Receptus.] , which the RV [Note: Revised Version.] properly rejects (  1 Corinthians 11:29 ). The RV [Note: Revised Version.] also brings out the fact that the verb tr. [Note: translate or translation.] ‘discern’ (  1 Corinthians 11:29 ) is again used in   1 Corinthians 11:31 ‘if we discerned ourselves’ thus showing that the word does not mean ‘perceive’ but’ discriminate.’ ‘Body’ is left undefined, including, as it apparently does, the mystical body which the unworthy despise in the Church of God, the sacramental elements which they dishonour by profane use, and the sacrifice of Christ with which they reject communion, thereby becoming guilty in respect of each (  1 Corinthians 11:21-22;   1 Corinthians 11:26-27 ).

6 . Both passages express what is implicit in the division of the sacrament into two kinds. It is the body and blood as separated in death through which communion is attained. In   1 Corinthians 10:16 , by placing the cup first, as in St. Luke’s account of the institution, St. Paul emphasizes the sacrificial death of Christ as a necessary element in the Eucharistic feast. The Epistle to the Hebrews shows that access to the Holy Place is gained through the offered body and sprinkled blood (  Hebrews 10:19-22 ); St. John, that union with Christ is found in that Living Bread which implies death because it is flesh and blood (  John 6:52-58 ). Commenting on the unique phrase ‘drink his blood,’ Westcott says that to Jewish ears the idea conveyed is the appropriation of ‘life sacrificed’ (see note on   John 6:63 in Gospel acc. to St. John ). There is nothing to warrant the mediæval inference that the phrase ‘flesh and blood’ is equivalent to ‘personality,’ and that therefore ‘the whole Christ’ is sacramentally present in the Eucharistic elements. But it does imply vital union with Him who became dead and is alive for evermore (  Revelation 1:18 ), a Lamb ‘as though it had been slain’ (  Revelation 5:6 ), a Priest upon His throne (  Zechariah 6:13; cf.   Hebrews 8:1 ), who through the one offering of Himself has perfected for ever (  Hebrews 10:14 ) those that come to God through Him.

7 . In conclusion, however, it must be frankly admitted that, while one view of the sacrament may seem on the whole to express more fully than others the general tenor of NT teaching on the subject, none of the explanations which have divided Christendom since the 16th cent., not even the theory of transubstantiation when precisely defined, can be regarded as wholly inconsistent with the language of Scripture.

J. G. Simpson.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [3]

The sacrament of the Lord's supper. The word properly signifies giving thanks. As to the manner of celebrating the eucharist among the ancient Christians, after the customary oblations were made, the deacon brought water to the bishops and presbyters standing round the table to wash their hands; according to that passage of the Psalmist, "I will wash my hands in innocency, and so will I compass thy altar, O Lord." Then the deacon cried out aloud, "Mutually embrace and kiss each other, " which being done, the whole congregation prayed for the universal peace and welfare of the church, for the tranquility and repose of the world, for the prosperity of the age, for wholesome weather, and for all ranks and degrees of men. After this followed mutual salutations of the minister and people; and then the bishop or presbyter, having sanctified the elements by a solemn benediction, broke the bread, and delivered it to the deacon, who distributed it to the communicants, and after that the cup. The sacramental wine was usually diluted or mixed with water. During the time of administration they sang hymns and psalms; and having concluded with prayer and thanksgiving, the people saluted each other with a kiss of peace, and so the assembly broke up.

Webster's Dictionary [4]

(1): ( n.) The sacrament of the Lord's Supper; the solemn act of ceremony of commemorating the death of Christ, in the use of bread and wine, as the appointed emblems; the communion.

(2): ( n.) The act of giving thanks; thanksgiving.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [5]

the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. The word, in its original Greek, ευχαριστια , properly signifies giving thanks; from the hymns and thanksgivings which accompanied that holy service in the primitive church. See Lord 'S Supper .

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [6]

See The Lord'S Supper

Morrish Bible Dictionary [7]

See Lord'S Supper

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [8]

one of the names of the Lord's Supper, from Εὐχαριστία , Giving Of Thanks. (See Lord'S Supper).