Truncating The Meal

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So why was the full meal replaced with a ceremony including only the bread and the cup? Here is the story. In the first and early second centuries, the early Christians called the Lord's Supper the "love feast'''. At that time, they took the bread and cup in the context of a festive meal. But around the time of Tertullian, the bread and the cup began to be separated from the meal. By the late second century, this separation was complete."

Some scholars have argued that the Christians dropped the meal because they wanted to keep the Eucharist from becoming profaned by the participation of unbelievers." This may be partly true. But it is more likely that the growing influence of pagan religious ritual removed the Supper from the joyful, down-to-earth, nonreligious atmosphere of a meal in someone's living room." By the fourth century, the love feast was prohibited among Christians!"

With the abandonment of the meal, the terms breaking of bread and Lord's Supper disappeared." The common term for the now truncated ritual (just the bread and the cup) was the Eucharist.." Irenaeus (130-200) was one of the first to call the bread and cup an offering." After him, it began to be called the "offering" or "sacrifice."

The altar table where the bread and cup were placed came to be

It was called the Agape. Jude 1:12.

Dix, Shape of the Liturgy, 23; Ferguson, Early Christians Speak, 82-84,96-97,127-130. In the first and early second centuries, the Lord's Supper seems to have been taken in the evening as a meal. Second-century sources show it was taken only on Sundays. (n the Didache, the Eucharist is still shown to be taken with the Agape meal (love feast). See also Davies, Secular Use of Church Buildings, 22.

11 Svendsen, Table of the Lord, 57-63.

For the pagan influences on the evolving Christian Mass, see Edmund Bishop's essay "The Genius of the Roman Rite"; Duchesne, Christian Worship, 86-227; Jungmann, Early Liturgy, 123, 130-144, 291-292; Smith, From Christ to Constantine, 173; Durant, Caesar and Christ, 599-600,618-619,671-672.

It was prohibited by the Council of Carthage in AD 397. Barclay, Lord's Supper, 60; Charles Hodge, First Corinthians (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1995), 219; R. C. FL Lenski, The Interpretation of I and 2 Corinthians (Minneapolis, Augsburg Publishing House, 1963), 488.

Gough, The Early Christians, 100. (bid., 93. Eucharist means "thanksgiving." S Tad W. Guzie, Jesus and the Eucharist (New York: Paulist Press, 1974), 120.

seen as an altar where the victim was offered." The Supper was no longer a community event. It was rather a priestly ritual that was to be watched at a distance. Throughout the fourth and fifth centuries, there was an increasing sense of awe and dread associated with the table where the sacred Eucharist was celebrated." It became a somber ritual. The joy that had once been a part of it had vanished.34

The mystique associated with the Eucharist was due to the influence of the pagan mystery religions, which were clouded with super-stition.35 With this influence, the Christians began to ascribe sacred overtones to the bread and the cup. They were viewed as holy objects in and of themselves."

Because the Lord's Supper became a sacred ritual, it required a sacred person to administer it.' Enter now the priest offering the sacrifice of the Mass." He was believed to have the power to call God down from heaven and confine Him to a piece of bread.'

Around the tenth century, the meaning of the word body changed in Christian literature. Previously, Christian writers used the word body to refer to one of three things: (1) the physical body ofJesus, (2) the church, or (3) the bread of the Eucharist.

The early church fathers saw the church as a faith community that identified itself by the breaking of bread. But by the tenth century, there was a shift in thinking and language. The word body was


Writers as early as Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Hippolytus (early third century) began to use language speaking of a presence of Christ generally in the bread and wine. But no attempt was made at that early stage to argue for a physical realism that "changed" the bread and wine into flesh and blood. Later, some Eastern writers (Cyril of Jerusalem: Serapion , bishop of Thmuis; and Athanasius) introduced a prayer to the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine into the body and blood. But it was Ambrose of Milan (late fourth century) who began to locate the consecratory power in the reciting of the words of institution. The words "This is my body" (in Latin hoc est corpus meum) were believed to contain in them the power to transform the bread and the wine (Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite, 52,203-204; Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy, 239, 240-245). Incidentally, Latin started in North Africa in the late 100s and spread slowly toward Rome until it was common by the end of the 300s. Bard Thompson, Liturgies of the Western Church (Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1961), 27.

This shift is also reflected in Christian art. There are no gloomy visages of Jesus before the fourth century (Graydon Snyder, e-mail message to Frank Viola, October 12, 2001; see also his book Ante Pacem). Guzie, Jesus and the Eucharist, 121.

This occurred in the ninth century. Before this, it was the act of taking the Eucharist that was regarded as sacred. But in AD 830, a man named Radbert wrote the first treatise that approached the Eucharist by focusing directly on the bread and wine. All the Christian writers before Radbert described what Christians were doing when they took the bread and wine. They described the action of taking the elements. Radbert was the first to focus exclusively on the elements themselves—the bread and the wine that sat on the altar table (Guzie, Jesus and the Eucharist, 60-61, 121-123). Dunn, New Testament Theology in Dialogue, 125-135. This started around the fourth century. Hanson, Christian Priesthood Examined, 80.

no longer used to refer to the church. It was only used to refer to the Lord's physical body or the bread of the Eucharist.'

Consequently, the Lord's Supper became far removed from the idea of the church coming together to celebrate the breaking of bread.' The vocabulary change reflected this practice. The Eucharist had ceased to be part of a joyful communal meal but came to be viewed as sacred on its own—even as it sat on the table. It became shrouded in a religious mist. Viewed with awe, it was taken with glum-ness by the priest and completely removed from the communal nature of the ekklesia.

All of these factors gave rise to the doctrine of transubstantiation. In the fourth century, the belief that the bread and wine changed into the Lord's actual body and blood was explicit. Transubstantiation, however, was the doctrine that gave a theological explanation of how that change occurred." (This doctrine was worked out from the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries.)

With the doctrine of transubstantiation, God's people approached the elements with a feeling of fear. They were reluctant even to approach them." When the words of the Eucharist were uttered, it was believed that the bread literally became God. All of this turned the Lord's Supper into a sacred ritual performed by sacred people and taken out of the hands of God's people. So deeply entrenched was the medieval idea that the bread and cup were an "offering" that even some of the Reformers held to it

While contemporary Protestant Christians have discarded the Catholic notion that the Lord's Supper is a sacrifice, they have continued to embrace the Catholic practice of the Supper. Observe a Lord's

Guzie, Jesus and the Eucharist, 125-127.

For many slaves and poor folks, the Lord's Supper was their one real meal. Interestingly, it was not until the Synod of Hippo in AD 393 that the concept of fasting the Lord's Supper began to emerge (Barclay, Lord's Supper, 100).

Gough, Early Christians, 111-112. The full-blown doctrine of transubstantiation is credited to Thomas Aquinas. In this regard, Martin Luther believed that the "opinion of Thomas" should have remained an opinion and not become church dogma (Senn, Christian Liturgy, 307T

Hatch, Growth of Church Institutions, 216. Transubstantiation was defined as a doctrine in the Lateran Council in AD 1215 as the result of 350 years of controversy over the doctrine in the West (Die, Shape of the Liturgy, 630; Hanson, Christian Priesthood Examined, 79; Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 7 [Michigan: Eerdmans, 1910], 614). Jones, Historical Approach to Evangelical Worship, 143.

Supper service (often called "Holy Communion") in most Protestant churches and you will observe the following:

The Lord's Supper is a bite-size cracker (or a small piece of bread) and a shot glass of grape juice (or wine). As in the

Catholic church, it is removed from the meal.

The mood is somber and glum, just as it is in the Catholic church.

Congregants are told by the pastor that they must examine themselves with regard to sin before they partake of the elements, a practice that came from John Calvin.' Like the Catholic priest, many pastors will sport clerical robes for the occasion. But always, the pastor administers the Supper and recites the words of institution, "This is my body," before dispensing the elements to the congregation.'

With only a few minor tweaks, all of this is medieval Catholicism through and through.


Through our tradition, we have evacuated the true meaning and power behind water baptism. Properly conceived and practiced, water baptism is the believer's initial confession of faith before men, demons, angels, and God. Baptism is a visible sign that depicts our separation from the world," our death with Christ, the burial of our old man," the death of the old creation," and the washing of the Word of God."

Water baptism is the New Testament form of conversion-initiation. It is God's idea. To replace it with the human-invented sinner's prayer is to deplete baptism of its God-given testimony.

White, Protestant Worship, 66. First Corinthians 11:27-33 is not an exhortation to examine oneself with respect to personal sin. It is rather an exhortation to examine oneself in the area of taking the Supper in a "worthy manner." The Corinthians were dishonoring the Supper, for they were not waiting for their poor brethren to eat with them, and they were getting drunk on the wine. Matthew 26:25-27; Mark 14:21-23; Luke 22:18-20. Acts 2:38-40; 1 Corinthians 10:1-2. Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:11-12. 1 Peter 3:20-21. >: Acts 22:16; Ephesians 5:26.

In the same vein, the Lord's Supper, when separated from its proper context of a full meal, turns into a strange, pagan-like rite.' The Supper has become an empty ritual officiated by a clergyman, rather than a shared-life experience enjoyed by the church. It has become a morbid religious exercise, rather than a joyous festival—a stale individualistic ceremony, rather than a meaningful corporate event.

As one scholar put it, "It is not in doubt that the Lord's Supper began as a family meal or a meal of friends in a private house . . . the Lord's Supper moved from being a real meal into being a symbolic meal . . . the Lord's Supper moved from bare simplicity to elaborate splendor . . . the celebration of the Lord's Supper moved from being a lay function to a priestly function. In the New Testament itself, there is no indication that it was the special privilege or duty of anyone to lead the worshipping fellowship in the Lord's Supper.""

When Israel had departed from God's original thought, the prophet cried: "Thus says the LORD, 'Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls' (Jeremiah 6:16, NASB). In the same way, can we shun the vain traditions of men and return to the ancient paths . . . those holy traditions that were given to us by Jesus Christ and His apostles?"

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