of the early disciples of the crucified and risen Jesus that the stories of his farewell to the disciples, his betrayal and arrest, and his death and resurrection took shape. Variations in practice from one group to the next would also account forthe differences amongthe several versions ofthe story that survive -differences that vast scholarly industry and imagination have failed to resolve in order to yield for us 'the original' form of the supper or the words said at it. Nevertheless, it is clear that the supper - unlike baptism, which only much later was connected with the story ofJesus' own baptism - was believed from the earliest days of the new movement to re-enact Jesus' own action with his disciples.

The tradition diverged on the question whether the Last Supper was a Passover Seder. The version represented by the Synoptic Gospels states unambiguously that it was (Mark 14:12-16 and parallels), but there also appeared very early the notion that Jesus himself was the Passover sacrifice (1 Cor 5:7), and the recital of the story in circles that eventually produced the gospel of John adjusted the calendar of events accordingly. The meal with the disciples in this version took place the evening before the day when the lambs were sacrificed, so that Jesus was crucified at the very time of the sacrifice (John 13:1-5; 19:14; cf. 19:36 and 1:29). The fourth gospel does not include the sayings over the bread and cup at the Last Supper, but in the midrashic dialogue on 'bread from heaven' (6:26-71) allusions to the supper, already present in earlier versions of the feeding miracle, are multiplied. The miracle of the loaves and fishes was a natural subject for eucharistic interpretation, and that probably accounts for its popularity in early Christian funerary art.40 The eucharistic prayer in the Didache identifies the bread offered to the believers with 'the bread that was scattered on the mountains and, gathered, became one' (Didache. 9:4; cf. John 6:12-13).41

The wine and bread in the early years were always part of a full meal, though their sequence with respect to the meal seems to have varied from place to place and time to time. The eucharist was celebrated as a full meal still in the circles that used the Didache, for the final thanksgiving was to be given 'after being satisfied' (the verb is the same as in John 6:12). Eventually, however, the symbolic elements ofbread and wine came to be separated from the meal. One of the reasons for the separation may be found in the report of Pliny, governor general ofthe province Bithynia-Pontus, to the emperor Trajan. The Christians he had interrogated, Pliny said, had been accustomed 'to reassemble to take

41 For this reading see Cerfaux, 'La multiplication des pains'.

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