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1 Corinthians 11:23-29

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper

23b For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ 25In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Consensus agrees with a date ca.53-54 AD for I Corinthians, compared with the estimates:

  • St Mark might be “commonly dated to the mid 50’s AD, but it is sometimes dated more generally to any time before 70 AD.” 1.
  • It is written of Matthew that “Several indications in the text also confirm that Matthew was written c. 80 CE or later.”2.
  • This same website offers a date for the Gospel of Luke of between 80 and 130 AD depending on correctly identifying his source material. “Stevan Davies writes (Jesus the Healer, p. 174): “Luke wrote at least sixty years after Pentecost and perhaps closer to a century after that event”3.
  • The Gospel of John is indisputably late though perhaps not as late as some believe Luke to be, I have always placed it in the mid 80s to mid 90s AD

What this indicates but in no way proves is that the liturgical formula for the Eucharist appears to have been in place before the recording of the Last Supper, possibly influencing the later record of the incidents in the upper room.

Paul F. Bradshaw argues in Eucharistic Origins that it is not until after the 1st century and much later in some areas that the Eucharist and the Last Supper became placed in a relation of dependence:4

John Dominic Crossan suggests that there are two traditions “as old as we can trace them” of the eucharist, that of Paul, reflecting the Antioch Church’s tradition, and that of the Didache, the first document to give explicit instruction regarding prayers to be said at a celebration that it called the Eucharist.

The cup/bread liturgy of the Didache, from the Jerusalem tradition, does not mention Passover, or Last Supper, or Death of Jesus/blood/body, and the sequence is meal + thanksgiving ritual. For Crossan, it is dispositive that

even late in the first century C.E., at least some (southern?) Syrian Christians could celebrate a Eucharist of bread and wine with absolutely no hint of Passover meal, Last Supper or passion symbolism built into its origins or development. I cannot believe that they knew about those elements and studiously avoided them. I can only presume that they were not there for everyone from the beginning, that is, from solemn formal and final institution by Jesus himself.5.

26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:26 – this verse is what differentiates it from what was the Lord’s Last Supper and what we know as Eucharist. Eucharist is a repeatable event, something we do as often as we eat and drink etc.
In the Acts of the Apostles we discover the early Christians meeting for “the breaking of bread” as some sort of ceremony.

See this section on possible cultural influences because we will examine them later – Origin of Eucharist, possible cultural influences

Who could celebrate?

Initially any head of the household could preside over the celebration of the Eucharist which occurred on the Lord’s Day or the First Day.
And – yes, even women, one such was Lydia of Philippi, a wealthy dealer in purple cloth. After hearing Paul preach, she and her household were baptized.(Acts 16: 11-15)

Read from Eucharist – the Basic Spirituality on how the Eucharist Evolved

If Eucharistic practices might return to their first beginnings there could be the chance that fewer might be excluded.

Conditional

In conclusion though I would like to say that the Sacrament of the Eucharist was indubitably given to the church by Jesus at his Last supper it is more likely that the Sacrament evolved before the Gospels were written and therefore the Eucharist was retrospectively crafted through Practice and Theology. That the two are separate though the Eucharist has become a Porta memorialis through which the partaking Community may attend the death of the Lord.

  • Christ and the church
  • The New Covenant in His Blood
  • If continued to be purposefully withheld or restricted from/for some then it flies in the face of John 6:53-57

    John 6:53-57

    53So Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.


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