Hebrew Roots of Our Lord’s Eucharist

In the World to Come there is no eating or drinking . . . but the righteous set with crowns on their heads, feasting on the brightness of the divine presence, as it says, “And theybeheld God, and did eat and drink.”  (Exodus 24:11) (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Berakoth 17a)

Ratification of Covenant – Exodus 24:11 based on Tractate Berakoth 17a

Once the people were assembled the law would have been given with covenant stipulations; then the people would recite back to Yahweh, “All the Eternal has stated, this we will do”.   Liturgically the people of God were permitted to march up the hill to Zion or Yahweh’s presence where they would meet God “face to face” as a man speaks to his friend.  This “face to face” idiom is also called “bread of face” in Exodus 25:30, panim, which was used later in temple services to symbolize the Face of God. The Bread is from the Hidden Manna which is found in Psalms 78:25 as well as the Bread of the Everlasting Covenant burnt as an offering in Leviticus 24:5-7.   Once the ratification of the covenant/giving of the law at Mt Sinai was completed, the people were permitted to climb the mountain to approach Zion which is God’s Temple. (Rev 14:1)  After being admitted into God’s presence, a covenantal wedding supper was celebrated.  As the temple services were developed, two cups were drank prior to the Passover meal.  The first is the kiddish which was the mixing of the water and the wine based on Deut 26:3.  The wine was the symbol of the receiving of the land found in that passage.

God’s love is given to us in bread – Menahoth 29a

Next in the Passover celebration the haggadah was the hiding of the center loaf which corresponds to the parable of the Messiah who was that bread in John 6:44, the manna which fed Israel that included the story of the Passover and the drinking of the second cup.  He went to a far kingdom later to be received by His Father as the center loaf of His Divine Agency.   According to tractate Menahoth 29a, God’s love is given to us in bread which an allusion to “God is love” and “I am that bread which was sent from heaven”.

The Meal is a Sacrifice Zebah

The entire covenant meal is to be viewed as a sacrifice, zebah including a todah that is thanksgiving from which we get the word Eucharist where Christ is seen as the final todah who would dispense His Real Presence to His people in the bread and the wine.

This concept was based on Psalms 40:6 which states, “Sacrifice and meal offering; Thou hast not desired: My ears Thou has opened; burnt offering and sin offering Thou has not required”.  The third cup would be included in the eating of the Passover meal (see Mat 26:17-29).  Scholars have noticed that Christ tells his disciples to prepare what  appears to be a Passover meal when they asked him “Now on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus saying, ‘Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?’”  The idiom referring to the “first day of the Feast Unleavened Bread” may be a reference to the entire Passover Unleavened Season.

There is some evidence to suggest the Galanians may have kept the Passover on an earlier calendrical cycle as opposed to the Jerusalem tradition of the keeping of the Passover.  But, no matter which time scheme was kept by Jesus and His disciples during His Last Supper, He clearly demonstrated that He was the final todah through the use of the bread and the wine and as the Gospel narrative truly reflects, He was killed on the Jewish Passover at the same instant the lamb was killed on behalf of Israel.  The statement “It is finished” is a temple marker which indicates the end of the Passover service.  (John 20:30)  The narrative in John’s Gospel informs us that Jesus will not drink of this cup again until He drinks with us in the New World or in The Kingdom.   The Fourth cup was the story of Salvation History and the Vacancy of Elijah’s chair which was entitled Zebah Todah.  This arose in the traditional liturgical response of the congregation, “Christ has Died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again”.

The term “Supper” deipnon in Gentile thought.

During Paul’s ministry, the rise of Gentile Christianity would celebrate the Lord’s Supper  not just annually during the season of the Passover, but whenever they would observe Love Feasts occasions.  The churches in Asia Minor continued the practice of the Lord’s Supper during the Jewish Passover as an annual event while the Corinthian Church during Paul’s ministry based their practices on the observance of the Love Feasts and the universal application of the Eucharist. In Greek thought, meals were a community action that give praise to the savior gods.  One of them was the God of Wine Dionysus who has a resurrection by the new birth from the wine.  This celebration, to the Gentile church, was employed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 where the memorial service prefigured the night of Christ’s betrayal which began in verse 17.  In verse 20, he uses the term ouwk to show their behavior was not proper taking of the Lord’s cup which was the New Covenant. The term “supper”, deipnon, in Gentile thought is based on John 13:2 and Luke 22:20. In John 13:4, Jesus commanded foot washing to accompany supper. Similar suppers were held to honor babies at 100 days old and for weddings, baptisms and other special occasions.  In the Hebrew Church, the 14th of Nisan as well as special meals still continued in Asia Minor.  (See the letter of Trypho)

Enthronements and Coronation

In the tradition of Asia Minor, John in the Book of Revelation 2:17, talked about the Hidden Manna of Exodus 12 and the New Name for the enthronements that we would share in the World to Come.  This Messianic hope was found at the end of the Passover services taken from the New Song of Psalms 40 to the New Scroll in the Book of Revelation which is based on v. 10 of Psalms 40, “I have not hidden Thy righteousness within my heart”.  The concept of the “hidden righteousness” could only be fulfilled in Psalms 115 when the “Hidden Messiah” would be revealed and would dispense  righteousness to the whole world with Jesus as the New Passover contained in the Song of the Lamb in Rev 15:4 where “Thy righteous acts have been revealed”.   John said I saw thrones and royal diadems (Rev 19:9-12) and those who have received these crowns were invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  This scene is an echo from an ancient practice granted to royal priests and their priesthoods as well as husbands and wives during their wedding feast.  The crown symbolizes kingship authority through priestly inheritance (Rev 5:10) through the enthronements consisting of 22 endowment steps which range from trial, ritual defilement, descent into the grave, resurrection and new birth, new name to exultation, coronation and the final embrace of reconciliation of all things.  In that day, we will truly behold the brightness of the Divine Presence which He will share with all His children (Rev 21:23).

Suggested Reading

Bloch, Abraham P., The Biblical and Historical Background of Jewish Customs and Ceremonies, KTAV Publishing House, Inc., New York, 1980.

Bloch, Abraham P., The Biblical and Historical Background of the Jewish Holy Days, KTAV Publishing House, Inc., New York, 1978.

Brown, Michael L., Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus – General and Historical Objections, Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 2000.

Draper, Richard D., Opening the Seven Seals – The Vision of John the Revelator, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1991.

Draper, Richard D., editor, A Witness of Jesus Christ – The 1989 Sperry Symposium on the Old Testament, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake Utah, 1990.

Pitre, Brant, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist –  Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper, Doubleday, New York, 2011.

Roberts, Tom R., PhD, From Sacral Kingship to Sacred Marriage – A Theological Analysis of Literary Borrowing, Vantage Press, New York, 2003.

Skarsaune, Oskar, In the Shadow of the Temple – Jewish Influences on Early Christianity, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 2002.

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