Dining With the Almighty:

The Passover Seder, the Christian Eucharist, and the Jewish Kiddush


by Jared L. Olar

In Christian circles it has at least four names: Communion, the Mass, the Eucharist, and the Lord's Supper. Which of those four a Christian favors can serve as a reasonably accurate indicator of his or her denominational affiliation and theological tradition (or the lack thereof). Personally, as a Christian, my partaking of the broken unleavened bread and the portioned blood red wine is one of the most meaningful and important facets of my relationship with Jesus, the Living Son of God. It touches me so deeply I cannot adequately put it into words. That is something I am happy to have in common with millions of other Christians. The reason we Christians care about it so much is because we hold Jesus Christ in the highest esteem possible-for us He is Lord and God, the very Lawgiver. One of His most important commandments, delivered to His followers just hours before His passion and therefore comparable to a Last Will and Testament, is this: ``Do this in memory of Me.'' As Christians it is only fitting that we seek to learn just what our Lord and Master meant by those words.

Despite the above-mentioned things I have in common, in several ways my participation in this rite has also set me apart from the rest of Christianity. I have lived all of my life in a Christian fellowship-the Worldwide Church of God (WCG)-that until very recently subscribed to a Quartodeciman understanding of the Eucharist. That is to say, in my church we observed this rite only once annually, and that observance was always on the eve of Passover, the fourteenth day of the first month of the Hebrew year (hence the term Quartodeciman, from the Latin word for ``fourteenth''). In fact, we made it a point not to refer to this rite by the names of Eucharist, Communion, or Mass. Rarely we would call it the Lord's Supper, but almost exclusively our name for this ceremony was Passover, substituting the name of the day for the ceremony observed on that day. But in the past year or so, my church has completely abandoned Quartodecimanism, instead adopting a view more in line with the beliefs and practices of the majority of Christians-that the Eucharist need not after all be limited to the annual observance of Passover (nor indeed to any particular day or days). Also, we now call it almost exclusively the Lord's Supper.

Because I had long been convinced of the truth of my church's Quartodeciman position, I did not immediately switch beliefs as soon as the WCG's ecclesiastical leadership began their gradual shift away from it. Frankly, many of my church's new doctrinal arguments and interpretations of scripture have seemed unconvincing to me. Wanting to hold only true beliefs as much as possible, I retained my Quartodecimanism, determined to change my mind only when honestly convinced. But in studying this issue, I have learned that Quartodecimanism was not-and is not-what I and my church used to think. What we taught and I believed for so many years was only one species of Quartodecimanism. Even more significantly, I have learned that the Eucharist itself was not-and is not-what my church and most Christians think. In this article I would like to explore the early history of the Eucharist. Along the way, I will explain why I am now both no longer and yet still am a Quartodeciman Christian.


Worldwide Church of God Quartodecimanism-A Review:

Why did I, with my church, believe that the Eucharist had to be restricted to Passover, Nisan 14 on the Hebrew calendar? The answer is not all that complicated.1 As we studied the Hebrew Scriptures, we learned that it was on the fourteenth of the month of Nisan (originally called Abib) that God miraculously effected the deliverance of His People Israel from slavery in Egypt, by means of the sacrifice of lambs. When the Angel of Death came to kill the firstborn, any home that had the blood of those lambs smeared on the doorposts was ``passed over.'' Because the pagan Egyptians did not participate in the Passover rite, every one of their households was smitten by the Angel of Death. Thus, Israel could commence their march to freedom.

As we studied the Christian Scriptures, we learned that Jesus Christ-whom John the Baptist called ``the Lamb of God''-was crucified on Nisan 14, while the Jews were sacrificing their Passover lambs. We rejoiced to learn of the connection between God's original deliverance of His People from Egyptian bondage long ago, and His deliverance of His People from the bondage of sin and death through the blood of the Messiah. We who have Jesus' shed blood on our ``homes''-that is, our bodies, our lives, our minds-are miraculously set free, even as the ancient Israelite slaves had been set free by direct intervention of God Himself.

Seeing these connections and parallels, we then noticed that God had commanded His People to sacrifice Passover lambs annually on the 14th day of the first month, in that way remembering the great deliverance God had accomplished for them. We also saw that the Christian Eucharist ceremony had been introduced by Jesus on Nisan 14-and that in the Gospels ``the Last Supper'' was given the name ``Passover" (Matt. 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-16). Furthermore, we saw that Jesus commanded His disciples to continue the observance of the Eucharist, in that way remembering the great deliverance God was about to accomplish for them (I Cor. 11:23-26; John 13:17). Seeing the many clear parallels between the first Passover and that glorious Passover when the Messiah laid down His life for us, we were convinced that Jesus instituted the Eucharist as a modification of the annual Passover observance. Therefore, even as the sacrifice of Passover lambs had been commanded annually, so we believed the offering of bread and wine had also been commanded annually.

In short, it was our belief that Jesus left the annual Passover observance intact, merely replacing the lamb and bitter herbs (Ex. 12:8) with unleavened bread and wine. In our literature, as well as in sermons and Bible studies, we have commonly stated that Jesus had ``changed the Passover symbols.'' As we understood it, His suffering and death had fulfilled the meaning of the herbs of bitterness and the killing of the lamb, so God's People were instead to break bread and drink wine to picture Jesus' broken body and shed blood. But this altered Passover was still to be an annual observance. Therefore we partook of the bread and wine of the Eucharist only on Nisan 14.

Furthermore, it was our belief that Christians who partook of the Eucharistic elements more than once a year had departed from Christ's intent, and were wickedly disobeying God's commandments. We even went so far as to claim that the Eucharists, Communions, and Masses of other Christian fellowships were nothing more than garbled traditions borrowed from pagan mystery cults. Similarly, we asserted that mainstream Christianity's Paschal observances-commonly known as ``Easter'' in English-speaking cultures-were nothing more than pagan springtime fertility rites with a light veneer of Christian imagery and terminology.2 As we saw it, almost all other Christians had lost the true understanding of the Lord's Supper, but we were fully convinced that God had restored that important truth to us.

Seeing that such was our belief, we necessarily differed with other Christians when it came to interpreting biblical and post-biblical evidence which indicated that the Eucharist had from the start been observed more than once annually. Where other Christians claimed that ``breaking of bread'' in the Book of Acts referred to the Eucharist, we insisted that those occasions were ordinary meals. Christians of the Post-Apostolic Age who partook of the Eucharist once a week had, in our minds, departed from the true faith and were not authentic Christians at all. But the Quartodeciman Christians of the second century A.D. were heroes to us-we saw them as our spiritual forebears taking a stand against the tide of false Christianity which was rising all around them.


More Accurate Knowledge-Greater Grace:

That was how I and my church saw these things. All of it made perfectly good sense to me. However, eventually I individually and my church collectively came across some facts that began to alter our understanding of the biblical Passover and the Lord's Supper. One of the first things we learned had to do with the timing of the Passover. As a seventh-day Sabbatarian church, we understood that in Hebrew tradition the Sabbath commences at or near sunset Friday night. This we knew was because days start in the evening in Hebrew culture. Therefore, we interpreted the commandment of Ex. 12:6 to mean that the Passover lambs had to be sacrificed at the evening which commenced Nisan 14. That is, we believed that the Passover lambs were to be slain at the same time that Jesus and His disciples partook of ``the Last Supper.''

The problem was that this belief of ours conflicted with the actual practice of the Jews, who in our minds had anciently begun to sacrifice the lambs and were still today holding their Passover Seders (Hebrew seder means ``order'') a whole day too late. 3 Eventually we came to realise the significance of God's commandment that the Passover lambs be sacrificed during the evening of Nisan 14. In order to have time to sacrifice all those lambs, the sacrificing had to begin in the afternoon-which in Hebrew reckoning was sometimes counted as part of the evening. If Ex. 12:6 refers to the evening which commences Nisan 14, then the sacrificing would have started on the afternoon of Nisan 13, contrary to God's explicit instruction. Therefore, God must have meant the evening which concludes Nisan 14. 4 The Jews had been holding their Seders on the proper evening after all!

In my experience, my church and Christians in general have traditionally made much-I would say too much-of the disobedience of Israel and Judah. The apparent discrepancy regarding the timing of the Passover meal frequently gave us in the WCG an opportunity to shake our heads at the Jewish People's refusal to submit heart and soul to God's commandments. But upon learning these facts, we had one less occasion to express, and one less reason to hold, such uncharitable opinions-for in this instance the House of Judah had been right all along, while we were the ones who had failed to understand God's Torah. It was a small though important step forward, helping us to display and practice godly love for a people with whom we disagreed, and so become more authentically Christian.

In addition, it then became clear that our annual ``Night to be Much Observed'' dinners held on the eve of the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread were equivalents of the Jewish Passover Seders. During those dinners, it has been a longstanding tradition for us to tell our stories of how God rescued us from ``Egypt''-that is, the way that God called us and made us Christians-just as He had saved our spiritual and physical ancestors from bondage 3,500 years before. But because we wrongly believed the Jews had mistakenly shifted the Passover meal a day too late, we could not see the connection between the Seder and our traditional dinners. This is an example of the kind of insight that is suggestive of connections between Christian and Jewish doctrine and practice, that is inaccessible to Christians who share my church's old negative attitude toward Jewish tradition-an attitude still thriving, I fear, in the WCG and all kinds of Christian fellowships.

Of course, this also means that Jesus' final meal-though clearly a Nisan 14 Passover Seder-in fact took place almost a whole day prior to the regular time. Matthew, Mark, and Luke clearly identify ``the Last Supper'' as a Passover meal, even though it was eaten before any lambs had been slain (John 18:28). My church has explained this difficulty by pointing out that because Jesus, the Lamb of God, was present, a real lamb was unnecessary for that occasion. That answer is probably as good as any, but I would supplement it by emphasising the authority of the Messiah-His word is Torah (Deut. 18:18-19), and He has the right to shift a Seder one day early in such extraordinary circumstances. Jesus had already asserted His authority over the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28), so He clearly had authority over the Passover as well.


Was ``the Lord's Supper'' Instituted on the Night of Jesus' Betrayal?

Still, even after becoming aware of our error in these points and making necessary corrections, my church persisted in the belief that Jesus had ``changed the Passover symbols'' from lamb and bitter herbs to unleavened bread and wine. The basis for this belief of ours is the widespread notion that the Eucharist was an innovation of Jesus', a rite without precedent or antecedent in Hebrew tradition. 5 However, I can no longer accept that such was really the case, and I will explain why.

About the time that my church acquired a more accurate understanding of Passover, I too began to learn new things about Passover-things which brought me a deeper appreciation for what God has done for me, and which strengthened my relationship with His Son. During the Feast of Unleavened Bread in 1991, my mother and I had the blessing of viewing a television program produced by Zola Levitt Ministries, in which the symbolism of the traditional Jewish Passover Seder was explained in light of the Gospel. Among the many wonderful revelations in that program, we learned that unleavened bread and wine were already an integral part of the Jewish Seder well before the birth of Jesus. Indeed, Ex. 12:8 lists unleavened bread as one of the necessary elements of the Passover meal. How then can it be said that Jesus introduced the bread as a new symbol?

One thing on which the text of Ex. 12 is silent is the presence of wine during that first hasty Passover meal. It seems unlikely that the Hebrew slaves could have had any wine with their meals on that fateful night some 3,500 years ago. However, they did have the shed blood of their Passover lambs smeared on their doorposts-a ritual they never afterwards repeated. Considering that the Bible compares wine to blood-indeed, Jesus Himself equated His own blood to wine while equating His body to unleavened bread (John 6:51, 53-58; Matt. 26:26-28)-it is quite probable that Israel early on came to substitute wine for the smeared blood of that first Passover observance. We cannot say exactly when the drinking of wine became a part of the Seder, but we do know it had become integral to the Passover meal well before the days of Jesus. The earliest mention of the drinking of wine during the Seder occurs in a spurious, greatly expanded version of Genesis and Exodus known as The Book of Jubilees, which was written about a century before Jesus was born. Speaking of the very first Passover, the author of this book claims:


``And all Israel was eating the flesh of the Passover lamb, and drinking the wine, and was praising and blessing and giving thanks to the Lord God of their fathers, . . . .'' (Jubilees 49:6)


Take special notice of the fact that Israel is here said to have been ``drinking the wine''- not just ``drinking wine.'' Mind you, this is not evidence that wine had been a part of Passover from the very beginning. Rather, this language proves that by the time that Jubilees was written, a wine-drinking ceremony of some sort was an essential part of the Seder. Why else would the author of this spurious book seek to project such a custom back to the dawn of Israel's history?

Another thing to notice is the reference to praising, blessing, and giving thanks to God. Even today these things form an important part of the traditional Jewish Seder-with each cup of wine or piece of matzo, God is blessed and praised. In this context, consider the very name Eucharist. This comes from the Greek word meaning ``thanksgiving.'' During His final meal, Jesus did the same things mentioned by the author of Jubilees.

In light of these facts, I must conclude that the bread and wine of ``the Last Supper'' were not innovations, contrary to my church's longstanding teachings. Rather, we must conclude that Jesus gave new meaning to a ritual as old as the nation of Israel-or one might say He clarified for them a deeper meaning that had been there all along. The only thing Jesus ``added'' to His final Seder were meanings and explanations. Similarly, the only clear differences between Jesus' last Seder and the traditional Seder is that Jesus' meal was about a day earlier than usual, and had no lamb flesh.

Without a doubt, the early Christians viewed Jesus' last Seder as an event of central importance. Furthermore, they saw that Seder as the origin of the sacrament of the Eucharist. But it is now clear that it is inaccurate, or at the very least misleading, to state that Jesus instituted ``the Lord's Supper'' that night. It is an explanation that explains little if anything. The Eucharist and the Seder are indeed different, but it is simplistic to claim that innovation on Jesus' part was the source of those differences. Why did Jesus do what He did that night? What was the bread and wine for? To find the answers, we will need to examine the Passover Seder in greater detail.


Jesus' Last Seder:

It was from Zola Levitt Ministries that I first learned that ``the Last Supper'' was in fact a Passover Seder. Zola Levitt and others have argued that one can compare the New Testament's accounts of that meal to the traditional Jewish Seder and find several significant points of agreement. Let us review the testimony of the New Testament.

So important was this event to the first Christians that narratives of it appear in all four canonical Gospels and one of the Letters of the Apostle Paul. In the three Synoptic Gospels and Paul's first Letter to the Corinthians we find the account of, as Christians commonly understand the story, Jesus Christ's introduction of the Eucharist to His disciples. Matthew and Mark tell essentially the same story: First the blessing was recited over the bread, then the bread was identified as Jesus' body, and then the bread was broken and eaten by all present. Next, the blessing was recited over the wine, the wine was identified as Jesus' blood inaugurating the New Covenant, and the wine was shared among all present. This is for all intents and purposes identical to Paul's account.

Interestingly, Luke's version of this story is similar to that told by Matthew and Mark, save for the fact that Luke's account starts with a cup of wine unmentioned by the other two Evangelists. The words of Jesus that Matthew and Mark assign to their single cup of wine Luke divides between his two cups of wine. Turning to John's account of this meal, his Gospel omits explicit reference to bread and wine, instead placing emphasis upon the Footwashing Ritual and the teachings of Jesus delivered to the disciples that night. These five accounts may be compared in chart form thus:










































There is inevitably going to be a measure of uncertainty about the proper order of the events of Jesus' final meal. We must take into account the fallibility of the disciples' memories, as well as the understandable desire some of them would have had to relate certain elements of the story out of proper order for the sake of emphasis-a thing for which Luke seems to have had a penchant. However, the aboveshown order appears to be the proper general outline of events, as far as we can make out. Luke's extra cup of wine is not easy to place in the meal-it may well have preceded the dipping of the bread, which is something Luke does not mention. That being said, Luke 22:21-23 does allude to the incident of the dipping-but that incident is mentioned after the bread and wine, rather than before as Matthew and Mark show it.


Outline of the Traditional Seder:

In order for us to understand the link between Jesus' final Passover Seder and the traditional Seder, I will briefly explain the main points of the Orthodox Jewish Seder. Naturally the form or order (`` seder'') of the Passover meal has varied somewhat down through the centuries and millennia, but within the context of that variety the basic elements and order do not appear to have changed too greatly in the past two millennia. The following outline gives the highlights of the traditional Seder :


·  First Cup of Wine-the Cup of Sanctification (``Kiddush''), or of Bringing Out.

·  Preparing the two Matzah Loaves, and Hiding the Middle Loaf (the Afikomen).

· Second Cup of Wine-the Cup of Deliverance.

· The Four Questions, including Sampling from the Seder platter (Dipping).

·  The Meal.

·  Third Cup of Wine-the Cup of Redemption, and Eating of the Afikomen.

·  Fourth Cup of Wine-the Cup of Acceptance, or of Elijah the Prophet.

·  Joyful Singing of Exodus Songs and Psalms.

Notice that, unlike the Christian Eucharist, the traditional Seder has four cups rather than a single cup of wine. The four cups have been given names from Ex. 6:6-7, but the first and last cups also have additional names. The Passover meal commences with the Cup of Sanctification-that cup is for the Kiddush, the ceremonial sanctification of the dinner table. Only when Kiddush has been made by the leader of the Seder (usually the father) can the meal begin. (Bear in mind that at ``the Last Supper,'' Jesus officiated as leader, standing in as the father at the head of the table.) Afterwards, the leader places three matzah loaves in a special three-pouched cloth bag called a tosh. The middle loaf is then removed, broken, and half of it hidden away or set aside-that loaf is called the Afikomen, which is derived from an old Greek word meaning ``after-dinner entertainment.''

There is some uncertainty about the origin of the custom of hiding the Afikomen. In fact, there is even uncertainty about who does the hiding. Zola Levitt says that the father hides the broken matzo; but other Jewish sources say that the young children steal it from their father and hide it, the father having to find it or else offer a ransom for it before the Seder can continue. Such variations in tradition are only to be expected in a custom as ancient as Passover. The hiding of the Afikomen is first mentioned in the thirteenth century, but the Afikomen itself is attested from as early as the second century. For instance, Melito of Sardis about 160 A.D. alluded to it in a special sermon (one well worth reading, I might add) that he prepared for worship services held on the Quartodeciman Passover holy day. There is no reason why this tradition cannot have formed an integral part of the Seder well before the Christian Era.

Next comes the Cup of Deliverance, which is poured out into the dishes of the participants in ten drops, each drop representing one of the ten plagues by which God delivered His People from slavery. It is a sombre, even tearful, part of the Seder, as the leader chants the names of the plagues drop by drop. Thus, all present recall that God brought the blessing of freedom to His Beloved People only by visiting terrible suffering on the Egyptians. There is a Jewish tradition that when God sent the waters of the Red Sea crashing down upon the Egyptian army, the angels of heaven wanted to sing victory songs. But God rebuked His angels, saying, ``My handiwork are drowning, and you want to sing?!''

Following the second cup of wine, the youngest person present asks the Four Questions, the answers to which tell the full story of the Passover (Ex. 12:26-27). The questions, answers, and story of the Exodus are found in the Passover Haggadah, which is read by the leader at this time. (Melito of Sardis' above-mentioned Passover sermon shows clear signs of influence from the Jewish Passover Haggadah and the tradition of the Four Questions.) The episodes of the story are made real by the custom of the dipping of pieces of unleavened bread in certain symbolic foodstuffs kept on a special Seder platter. (Consider that Jesus used the dipping to identify his betrayer Judas Iscariot.) For example, the bitterness of slavery and oppression is vividly communicated by dipping in meror, bitter herbs (horseradish). Also, parsley is twice dipped in salt water and then eaten-not only does this freshen the breath, but it has traditionally been taken to symbolise Israel passing through the Red Sea safely, followed by the Egyptians, who are devoured by death.

After all these things comes the regular meal. When the meal is finished, the Afikomen is brought out of hiding and divided among the participants. Immediately after that, the Cup of Redemption is blessed and drunk. Finally, a fourth cup of wine-the Cup of Acceptance-is poured for Elijah the Prophet, herald of the Messiah. For when Messiah comes, it is to fulfill completely God's promise to take Israel to Himself as His Beloved Bride. Jewish families usually leave the door open in case Elijah is to come and join them at their Seder, and a child is sent to find out whether Elijah has arrived. (Considering the meaning and import of Matt. 11:11-15 and Matt. 26:29, we must conclude that Jesus and the disciples omitted the Cup of Elijah.) The evening concludes with prayers, and joyful singing of songs and psalms, thanking God for the blessings of freedom, of deliverance, and of salvation-compare Matt. 26:30.


Why Jesus Did What He Did:

It cannot be determined with precision what Passover Seders were like in the time of Jesus, but the above overview shows that there are several significant points of contact between ``the Last Supper'' and the traditional Seder. As already mentioned, dipping was a part of Jesus' last Seder even as it still is a part of the Seder today. In all likelihood, the reference to bitter herbs in Ex. 12:8 indicates that the custom of dipping unleavened bread in those herbs (and other seasonings) became a part of the Seder very early on. In addition, unleavened bread and wine were already a part of the Passover meal well before the birth of Jesus. Therefore, on the eve of Nisan 14 Jesus did what He did not simply to introduce an unprecedented ceremony, but because He was a Jew, and Jewish Seders were expected to include certain elements and features. Why unleavened bread and wine? The answer would appear to be quite simple-because Passover meals already included unleavened bread and wine.

But how many cups were drunk? Luke mentions two cups of wine, but Matthew and Mark mention only one. All four cups may very well have been a part of the Seder in the lifetime of Jesus. In any event, the cup on which the Evangelists focus their attention is clearly equivalent to the third one, the Cup of Redemption, which is drunk in conjunction with the Afikomen. There can be no doubt that the bread and wine mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels was equivalent to the Hidden Matzah and the Cup of Redemption.

However, others have argued that the customs surrounding the Afikomen entered into the Seder as a consequence of early Christian influence on Judaism. As a matter of fact, my own church once asserted that the unleavened bread and wine of the Seder were borrowed or lifted by the Jews out of the Christian Paschal. (This claim was at least partly the result of our baseless assumption that Jesus ``changed the Passover symbols,'' that the Eucharist was an unprecedented innovation.) This hypothesis, while not impossible, is extremely unlikely. First of all, historical evidence indicates that bread and wine were an essential part of the Seder even before the birth of Jesus. That consideration alone makes this hypothesis unlikely as well as unnecessary. Secondly, hostility between Judaism and Christianity commenced within a few years of the descent of the holy Spirit on the Feast of Firstfruits. It is hard to conceive of Jews in the latter half of the first century adopting the rites of those they termed minim (heretics). Rather than the Christian Eucharist influencing Jewish custom, we must see the Eucharist as an outgrowth of Jewish custom.

Identifying the bread and wine of the Eucharist with the Afikomen and the Cup of Redemption of the Seder raises an important question. If the two elements of the Eucharist are in fact derived from important elements of the Jewish Passover Seder , would that not indicate that my church's previous limitation of this ceremony to Nisan 14 was correct after all? Clearly Jesus and His disciples were participating in a Passover meal, something that occurs only once annually on the fourteenth day of the first month. Is a Quartodeciman approach to the Eucharist correct after all? In order to answer that question, we need to find out just what Quartodecimanism is and is not.

The Quartodeciman Controversy Revisited-the Necessary Background:

When Christianity was born in the early 30s A.D., the Church of God was entirely Jewish-in membership, in culture, and in worldview. History shows us that the original Christians continued for some time to participate in the religious culture of the Jewish People, including the observance of the Hebrew sabbaths and festivals. It therefore is no surprise to learn that the Church of God originally commemorated the Messiah's unjust death each year on its anniversary, the fourteenth day of the first month of the Hebrew year. This commemoration the early Christians called Pascha, which is the Greek and Latin equivalent of Hebrew Pesach (Passover).

It is plain that Quartodecimanism was the original Paschal tradition of the entire Church of God. We have not even the slightest indication of deviations from that tradition until the early second century, though variations in the tradition could well have begun in the first century. In any event, by the early second century we find indications that certain churches-apparently starting with the Roman church-did not celebrate Pascha according to the Quartodeciman tradition. Instead, the Pascha that these Christians observed was the Sunday that fell during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Over the course of the second century, the Quartodeciman tradition became a minority position, as more and more churches adopted the Sunday Pascha. Why this trend? It is hard to say, but certainly one contributing factor was a most unfortunate growing animosity between the second-century Church and the Jewish people. In certain Christian circles, Jewish opposition to the Gospel left a bad taste in the mouth, and bred a disdain or even hatred of Jewish traditions. Elements of this nascent, at first unconscious, Christian anti-Semitism may be detected in some of the Letters of Ignatius Theophorus, Second Bishop of Antioch, in the Didache, and in an influential document that would later be erroneously attributed to the Apostle Barnabas. All of these works were written in the first two or three decades of the second century.

The second century was not an easy time for Christianity. It was a period of adjustment, since all of the original apostles were dead, and yet Jesus still had not returned. Not only was the Church faced with periodic persecution from the Roman authorities and hostility from its closest spiritual kin the Jews, but those years also saw the rise of numerous sects of Gnosticism, all forms of which exhibited intense hatred for the Hebrew Scriptures, for the God of Israel, and for all things Jewish. One particularly prominent sect was founded by Marcion of Pontus, whose father had been a presbyter in the Church.

To understand Marcionitism, we must consider that while Marcion was influenced by Gnostic teachings (though not a Gnostic himself), most important was the fact that he had encountered and grown up in a culture of increasing animosity for Jews and Jewishness in the Church of God, carrying that un-Christian (nay, anti-Christian) attitude to the most horrible conclusions. Marcion believed that Christianity and Judaism were completely incompatible and unrelated religions, and that Jewishness in the Church was contrary to Jesus' original intentions. To ``purify'' Christianity from the supposed taint of Jewishness, Marcion rejected the God of Israel, threw out the Hebrew Scriptures, and then edited and re-wrote the Christian Scriptures in order to create a Christianity as free from Jewishness as possible. As did many leaders of heretical sects, Marcion moved to Rome, leveling grievous assaults upon the faith of the Christians living there. In response, the Bishop of Rome excommunicated Marcion and declared his teachings to be poisonous heresy. The rise of Marcionitism helps to demonstrate how in those days anti-Semitic impulses assailed Christianity from both within and without.

That is the necessary background of Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna's famous visit to Rome circa 155 A.D. In his youth, Polycarp had been one of the disciples of the Apostle John, and from him and other early apostles Bishop Polycarp inherited the Quartodeciman Paschal tradition. We learn from Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians and Irenaeus of Lyons' Against Heresies that Polycarp was an implacable foe of heresy. As Irenaeus mentions in his Letter to Florinus, for a Christian like Polycarp-personally trained by the apostles at a time before Gnosticism and Christian anti-Semitism came into their own-it must have broken his heart to see the Church assaulted by the Gnostics and Marcionites.

In the context of his lifelong war against the heretical sects, the aged Bishop of Smyrna saw the need to confer with Bishop Anicetus of Rome in order to deal with issues arising from Rome's differing Paschal traditions. One of the reasons for this meeting was apparently to cooperate in the war against heresy. The difference in Paschal customs was beginning to divide Christians, making it easier for heretics to prey on the Church. Bishop Polycarp called on Bishop Anicetus to return to the original Paschal tradition bequeathed to the Church by the apostles, but the Bishop of Rome seems to have objected that such a departure from the Roman church's tradition would be impractical-Rome had been observing Pascha in a non-Quartodeciman manner at least since the time of Bishop Xystus circa 120 A.D. Any alteration might therefore prove disruptive, and hence end up being counterproductive to Bishop Polycarp's actual intentions. 6 Bishop Anicetus then asked Bishop Polycarp to abandon the old Quartodeciman tradition and adopt the Roman custom, but Bishop Polycarp was unwilling to leave the original practice of the Church.

In the end, the two bishops had no recourse but to agree to disagree about Passover, so that they might present a united front against the Marcionites and Gnostics. This policy richly bore fruit, as affirmed by Irenaeus of Lyons in Against Heresies:


``In the time of Anicetus, [Polycarp] stayed for a while in Rome, where he won over many from the camp of these heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that the one and only truth he had received from the apostles was the truth transmitted by the Church.''


No doubt Bishop Polycarp's status as a disciple of several of the original apostles was a powerful argument against the lies of the heretical teachers at Rome. Interestingly, that status was not as effective when he sought to deal with the discrepancies in the Paschal customs. Yet notice that Polycarp did not take a hard line against the Roman church. We would then have to conclude that he saw heresy as the more pressing threat to the Church of God, not liturgical diversity. After all, at that time Rome and the Quartodeciman churches were in essential doctrinal agreement. Who better to help Rome combat heresy than a revered eyewitness of the apostles?


Polycarp and the Eucharist:

As I mentioned above, my church saw the Quartodecimans as its spiritual ancestors, heroically taking a stand against reputed apostasy emanating from Rome. Even so, we were always uncomfortable, and frankly disappointed, with Bishop Polycarp's tolerant approach toward what we viewed as a corrupted version of Christianity. In fact, many of us were downright shocked when we read these words from Irenaeus' Letter to Bishop Victor of Rome, describing the compromise worked out by Polycarp and Anicetus:


``. . . they remained in communion with each other, and in church Anicetus gave the Eucharist to Polycarp-out of respect, obviously.''


Try to imagine how hard it was for us to understand Polycarp's actions as here described. My church formerly taught that Anicetus was nothing but a false Christian, leader of the Babylonian Mystery Religion mentioned in the Book of Revelation. How could a disciple of the Apostle John receive the Sacrifice of the Mass-a rite we thought we saw in Rev. 2:20-from the False Prophet?? In those days it did not occur to us that our interpretation of the Quartodeciman Controversy, and indeed our very understanding of early Church History, might be seriously flawed. Therefore we faulted Polycarp for compromising with evil. Tolerance, trying to be a peacemaker-these we knew to be worthy ideals, but we believed that Polycarp had taken those principles too far.

Before I continue, I need to explain that the above-quoted passage from Irenaeus was mistranslated. Anicetus did not in fact ``give the Eucharist to Polycarp.'' Rather, ``Anicetus made way for Polycarp to celebrate the Eucharist.'' That is to say, Anicetus stepped aside on that occasion, and allowed Polycarp to officiate during the Eucharist. It turns out that we faulted Polycarp for (what we then would have viewed as) the wrong mistake. Rather than receive Mass from the False Prophet, Polycarp stood in as False Prophet during Babylonish Mystery Rites-an even greater mistake, according to our previous beliefs. Alternatively, we might have claimed (taking into account our equation of the Eucharist with the Passover) that Polycarp's actions were a victory for truth, since that year at least the Roman church would have observed Passover on the proper day. But that interpretation would have conflicted with Irenaeus' claim that Anicetus would not yield on this point.

We were utterly mistaken, of course-especially in our extremely negative appraisal of the Roman church, of their bishops, and of their rites. As a matter of fact, Polycarp and the Quartodecimans did not in this instance quarrel with the Rome about the frequency and timing of the Eucharist. Rather, the dispute was regarding the timing of Pascha. Consider this further quotation from Irenaeus' Letter to Victor (my emphasis):


`` . . Never was this [celebrating the Nisan 14 Pascha] made a ground for repulsing anyone, but the presbyters before you, even though they did not keep it, used to send the Eucharist to Christians from dioceses which did.''


If Polycarp and the Quartodecimans believed that the Eucharist was only to be taken once annually on Passover, how are we to explain these passages from Irenaeus? Did Polycarp visit Rome during the month of Nisan, and so hold a Passover service in Anicetus' church? Did the Roman bishops only send the Eucharist to the Quartodecimans once a year? If that is what happened, why did Irenaeus in these passages consistently use the term ``Eucharist'' instead of ``Pascha''? In all of the extant writings of Irenaeus, never once does he show a blurring of those two terms. And why are there no primary sources in which non-Quartodeciman Christians-who partook of the Eucharist every Sabbath and every Sunday-faulted their Quartodeciman brethren for restricting the Eucharist to a single annual observance? Surely such a major difference in liturgical practice could not have gone unmentioned. No, the only conclusion we can reach is that Polycarp and the other Quartodecimans had no quarrel with weekly Eucharists. 7

Now consider that Polycarp received the custom of the Nisan 14 Pascha directly from the apostles, and was therefore naturally troubled that so many Christians had begun to depart from apostolic practice in that regard. If Polycarp also partook of the Eucharist on a weekly basis, it follows that he-who valued apostolic practice so highly-also must have received such a practice directly from the apostles of Jesus Christ. It is therefore an inescapable conclusion that Jesus never intended the Eucharist to be limited to Nisan 14. Jesus' last Seder was indeed a Passover meal, and may justly be described as the first Christian Eucharist. However, the Passover and the Eucharist are two distinct Christian traditions. Quartodecimanism was not and is not what we once thought it to be. One may-as I do-participate in the Nisan 14 Pascha without demanding that the Eucharist be restricted to Nisan 14. Again, one may even insist upon the Nisan 14 Pascha in place of the Sunday Pascha (``Easter'') without demanding that the Eucharist be restricted to Nisan 14. Both of those positions are Quartodeciman, yet neither one was the former position of my church. 8


Post-biblical Evidence of a Weekly Eucharist:

Since Quartodecimanism was born in the original Jewish worship culture of Christianity, it will surely shed further light on this subject to inquire into the liturgical customs of Jewish Christians in the first three centuries of the Church's history. Because Jewish Christianity was more conservative both doctrinally and liturgically than Gentile Christianity, it would be safe to conclude that their liturgical practices would have closely approximated the original practices of the apostles. In his History of the Church , Eusebius Pamphilii describes the worship customs of Jewish Christians in this way:


``. . . they observed the Sabbath and the whole Jewish system; yet on the Lord's Day they celebrated rites similar to our own in memory of the Savior's resurrection.''


That is to say, this particular strain of Jewish Christianity partook of the Eucharist every Sunday, just like the main group of Gentile Christians. The most natural interpretation of this evidence is that a Sunday Eucharist was at least a primeval and apostolic Christian tradition. Indeed, in extra-biblical sources the weekly Eucharist is attested no later than the beginning of the second century, in a document entitled The Lord's Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Gentiles. In ancient times it was more commonly known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. Today it is usually called simply the Didache (``Teaching''). I should make clear that the document itself does not purport to be the work of the twelve apostles. However, there can be little doubt that its contents capture what must have been the essence of their teachings. This document has been dated by some as early as 70 A.D., by others as late as 120 A.D. Whatever its proper date (my guess is not long after 100 A.D.), it is plainly a product of near-apostolic times if not apostolic times-because it reflects the conditions to which the glorified Jesus alluded in His Letter to Ephesus (Rev. 2:2), words which the Apostle John transcribed in the last decade of the first century.

This document devotes special attention to the Eucharist, including prescribed blessings to recite. Here is a relevant quote from the Didache:


``But every Lord's Day gather yourselves together, break bread, and offer a Eucharist after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure . . . . For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: `In every place and time . . . offer to Me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and My Name is wonderful among the Gentiles.'''


This passage is significant in two ways: First, it provides undeniable evidence that at the very start of the Post-Apostolic Era a weekly Eucharist was already an integral part of Christian liturgy. 9 Second, the text of the Didache in this place shows signs of later scribal tampering. The Greek text translated ``Lord's Day'' displays an interesting corruption, for it reads kata kuriaken de Kurion-literally, ``Lord's Lord's Day,'' or ``Lord's Day of the Lord.'' Some have argued that the original text must have read sabbaton de Kurion-``Sabbath of the Lord,'' a familiar Jewish construction. Later in the second century, after the development of weekly Sunday worship, a scribe might have written kata kuriaken (``Lord's Day'') above the word sabbaton-either to indicate worship options, or to direct the copyist that the one be substituted for the other. Afterwards a new copy of this document was produced, with sabbaton stricken out but de Kurion carelessly left in. The weekly Sabbath was certainly a central element of early Christian worship culture, so this textual emendation is probably correct.

We are therefore drawn to the inevitable conclusion that the first Christians partook of the Eucharist every weekly Sabbath. In the early second century certain Christians were also celebrating the Eucharist on Sunday-in time the Sunday Eucharist rivaled and then supplanted the original Sabbath Eucharist. However, during the lifetime of the first apostles, it would appear that the Church of God broke the bread and drank the wine every weekly Sabbath. This raises two important questions. First, if Jesus introduced the Eucharist on Nisan 14-during a meal the Evangelists call ``Passover''-why did the Church have the Eucharist every Sabbath instead of once a year only? Second, how did the custom of the Sunday Eucharist arise? To begin our search for the answers to these questions, we will consult the Book of Acts.


Breaking Bread on the First Day of the Week:

In Luke's account of Paul's travels, we read:


``After the Days of Unleavened Bread, we sailed from Philippi and in five days reached them at Troas, where were stayed for seven days. On the first day of the week, the disciples having gathered together to break bread, Paul spoke to them, continuing until midnight because he would be leaving the very next day. . . . Getting up then, he broke bread and tasted [some food or drink], and conversed for a long while, until the break of day . . . .'' (Acts 20:6-7, 11)


This passage has been traditionally interpreted as a reference to a Sunday morning worship service including a Eucharist, followed by a second Eucharist late Sunday night or early Monday morning. Understandably, my church used to deny that ``breaking bread'' in the Book of Acts was a reference to the Eucharist. Rather, we claimed those words referred to Christians sharing a meal together. Furthermore, we challenged another facet of the traditional interpretation of this text-instead of a Sunday morning worship service, we argued that this meeting took place on Saturday night and ended Sunday morning at daybreak. Were we right? What really happened at Troas that night?

Actually, this latter argument of ours was almost certainly correct. Given what we know of the essential Jewishness of early Christianity-notice that Luke mentions the Feast of Unleavened Bread without explanation, expecting his readers to know what he means-we should recall that in Jewish culture the days commence in the evening, not at midnight or in the morning. In addition, the weekly Sabbath was then still a part of Christian liturgical custom. Therefore, if they gathered on the first day of the week, more than likely the disciples had come together for a special worship service at the conclusion of the Sabbath day.

But did that Saturday evening worship service include a Eucharist, or was it just an ordinary meal? Considering everything so far brought to light in this study, I must conclude that it did include a Eucharist. Yet there is additional evidence that their communal meal included the Eucharistic elements: Some have argued that this meal at Troas was in fact an early Christian counterpart to the Orthodox Jewish Havdalah ceremony. The Havdalah marks the difference between the Sabbath's sacred time of rest and the regular weekdays' secular time of labor, ceremonially ``saying good-bye'' to the Sabbath for another week. In performing the Havdalah , the head of household takes a cup of wine in his right hand, blesses God and gives thanks to Him for it, and so consecrates the dinner table in preparation for the evening meal-the first meal of the new week.

Knowing how Jewish in culture the Church of God was in those days, it is very likely that in this scriptural passage Luke was alluding to a Havdalah ceremony. And if that is the case, then it is only to be expected that the disciples would partake of wine and bread during that Saturday evening meal. In other words, they must have partaken of a Eucharist at the close of the Sabbath. Furthermore, ``ordinary meals'' of that time and culture would naturally have included bread and wine-i.e. Eucharistic elements-so my church's former objection to viewing Acts 20:6-7 as a Eucharist (that it was a regular meal and not a liturgical act of worship) ironically tends to support viewing it as a Eucharist! Going further, Luke's words in verse 11 may justly be interpreted to indicate that a second Eucharist was celebrated sometime between midnight and sunrise early Sunday morning. We know-and the early Christians were aware-that Jesus was resurrected at some unspecified time between late Saturday afternoon or evening and dawn Sunday morning. It is therefore very likely that Acts 20:11 alludes to a weekly commemoration of Christ's resurrection. Such a tradition had certainly developed by the first half of the second century A.D.

Was Acts 20:11 a Eucharistic commemoration of Jesus' resurrection? Indeed, did the Church of God even have such a tradition in those days? How can we determine the answer to these questions? The answer may astound you, but once again Jewish tradition provides the conclusive evidence that we need. From an examination of Jewish liturgy, we can find out why early Christians partook of the Eucharist every week, even though ``the Last Supper'' took place on the eve of the Nisan 14 Passover.


The Messiah's Resurrection in the Passover Seder:

As I have demonstrated above, bread and wine formed an integral part of the Passover Seder well before Jesus sat down with His disciples for His last Seder. Furthermore, I have explained that the traditional Jewish Seder includes four cups of wine. Before the meal can begin, the head of the household must perform Kiddush (``Sanctification'') in order to make the dinner table holy, and thereby dedicate the meal to God. This ceremony is very similar to the Havdalah-the father holds the Kiddush cup in his right hand and recites the prescribed blessing over wine:


``Baruk ata Adonai Elohaynu Melek ha-Olam, boray peri ha-gaphen.''


``Blessed art Thou, Lord God King of the Universe, Who createst the fruit of the vine.''


Notice that the traditional Jewish blessing over wine uses a `circumlocution'-``fruit of the vine.'' Jesus Himself used the same circumlocution in Matt 26:29 and elsewhere. ``Fruit of the vine'' is merely a Hebrew idiomatic expression meaning ``wine.'' There can be little doubt that when Jesus took the cup of wine and gave thanks to God during His last Seder, He recited the very words shown here, the ones still recited during Jewish Passover meals to this day-or at least very similar words. Having said these things, He then declared, ``This is My blood of the New Covenant. . . .''

Later on during the Seder, the Cup of Redemption is blessed and drunk in conjunction with the Hidden Matzah . But before the Afikomen is eaten, the head of the household recites the prescribed blessing over bread:


``Baruk ata Adonai Elohaynu Melek ha-Olam, ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz.''


``Blessed art Thou, Lord God King of the Universe, Who bringest forth bread out of the earth.''


Now, we Christians can easily become so familiar with Jesus' words and deeds during His final Passover meal that we miss some of their significance. The Evangelists and their original audience were by and large thoroughly acquainted with Jewish customs. Therefore they saw no need to explain every single detail of Jesus' ministry in the four Gospels. On the other hand, it is quite natural for Gentile Christians-especially Protestants-to assume that when Jesus prayed over the bread and wine, He improvised a prayer of thanksgiving. But when we take His fundamental Jewishness into account, we are led to conclude that Jesus must have recited the above-shown prescribed blessings for bread and wine.

Such an appreciation of the Jewishness of ``the Last Supper'' leads to an eye-opening discovery about what and why Jesus said and did that night. Zola Levitt has drawn attention to an aspect of Jesus' final Seder that is lost on those unfamiliar with the traditional Jewish blessings: When Jesus had recited the prescribed blessing over bread, He declared, ``This is My body.'' That means that Jesus must have been indicating that His body would not only be broken for us, but it would also be brought out of the earth by the King of the Universe. Through the prescribed blessing over bread, Jesus yet again prophesied His resurrection. My church has long understood the importance of the breaking of the matzah-it is identified as the suffering and death of the Messiah. Now it becomes clear that Jesus' final Passover meal portrayed not only His passion and death, but His resurrection as well.

Zola Levitt points to another aspect of the Seder as a type of Messiah's resurrection: the Hidden Matzah. As explained earlier, the Afikomen is taken from the tosh, broken, and then set aside or hidden, later to be retrieved by the leader. From a Christian standpoint, this could hardly be interpreted as anything other than a type of the Messiah's suffering, death, burial, and resurrection. The tradition of some Seders, wherein the children steal the Afikomen and the father ransoms it, points to the treatment that God's Son received from the human race. 10

These things can help us to understand why the early Christians would have seen the Eucharist as the memorial or re-enactment not only of Jesus' death but also of His resurrection. But we have learned that ``the Last Supper'' was a Passover meal. We should therefore expect the Church of God to have repeated this ceremony annually, even as the Hebrew Passover is an annual observance. How could a Seder give rise to a weekly Eucharist?


``Do this in memory of Me''-Do What?

When I first learned of the connection between ``the Last Supper'' and the traditional Passover Seder, my Quartodeciman convictions were strengthened. If the meal Jesus and the disciples ate on the night He was betrayed was a Passover Seder, then the Eucharist must surely have been intended as a strictly annual observance. But there is something seriously wrong with such reasoning. You see, the Passover Seder is not the only occasion at which Jews partake of bread and wine and recite the prescribed blessings. The Jews have a special rite known as Kiddush (``Sanctification''), reserved for family or communal meals on the weekly Sabbath and all of the annual festivals-not just the Passover. This is the very reason why the Seder begins with the Cup of Sanctification.

The Kiddush involves the recitation by the head of household of the traditional blessings over wine and bread, after which those at the table drink the wine and eat the bread. Only when Kiddush has been made-thereby consecrating the meal to God-can the Sabbath or festival meal begin. 11

When we see that the wine and unleavened bread of the Seder are not unique to Passover, but are merely a form of the festival Kiddush ritual, it becomes clear just why the early Christians partook of the Eucharist on a weekly basis. 12 It is because the disciples were Jews, and Jews normally made Kiddush every Friday night and/or every Sabbath morning. I along with my church once believed that Jesus' words ``Do this in memory of Me'' referred to Passover. But ``the Last Supper'' took place about a whole day before Passover Seders were normally held. This fact could indicate that Jesus' words referred not to the Passover as a whole, but specifically to the Kiddush which forms an important part of the Seder. Jesus obviously intended to link His last Seder to the Passover, but the Synoptic Gospels agree that Jesus placed special emphasis upon the bread and wine-elements not restricted to the Passover meal. I am convinced that Jesus' instructions refer (partially at least) to the Kiddush, and that the disciples-being Jews familiar with that rite-would naturally have applied His words ``This is My body'' and ``This is My blood'' to the bread and wine of the Kiddush , not just the bread and wine of the Seder.

That means the early Christians, like the Jews, must have partaken of the Eucharist on every Sabbath and on every High Day. In Grace and Knowledge no. 2, pp.34-35, I drew attention to the research of Dr. Troy Martin, who has suggested that the ``eating and drinking'' of Col. 2:16-17 refers to the bread and wine of the Eucharist. In light of the relationship between the Kiddush and the Eucharist, Paul's words in his Letter to the Colossians almost certainly allude to a weekly and annual Christian Kiddush. If Dr. Martin is correct, then I Cor. 11:29 and Col. 2:17 indicate that the early Christians ``discerned the Lord's body'' by means of the Eucharist every weekly Sabbath, every New Moon, and every annual Festival. This in turn would indicate that the ``Festivals of Agape'' mentioned by Jude and Ignatius Theophorus were probably Christian celebrations of the biblical festivals, including the observance of the Eucharist. All of these liturgical practices are ``shadows of things to come.''

In light of the above arguments, suggestions, and conclusions, consider this exhortation written circa 95 A.D. by Bishop Clement of Rome to the church at Corinth:


``. . . it will behoove us to take care that, looking into the depths of divine knowledge, we do all things in order, whatever our Lord has commanded us to do. In particular, that we perform our offerings and service to God at their appointed seasons, for these He has commanded to be done, not randomly or chaotically, but at certain determined dates and times. Thus, He has ordained by His supreme will and authority both where and by what persons they are to be performed, in order that all things would be done piously and with the intent of being well-pleasing-and so they might be acceptable to Him. So, those who make their offerings at their appointed times of the year are blessed and accepted, on account of the fact that they have obeyed the commandments of the Lord and therefore are free from sin.'' (Letter to the Corinthians 18:14-16)


This letter is known to have been greatly influenced by the Letter to the Hebrews. Interestingly, this Gentile bishop used words written to Jewish Christians to provide instruction for fellow Gentiles. The above passage took its scriptural text from Heb. 10:19-25, in particular the very last verse. Heb. 4:1-13 also seems to inform Bishop Clement's words here.

Bishop Clement flourished at the very close of the Apostolic Age, at a time when the Apostle John was still alive. There can be no doubt that, as a rule, the early Christians-both Jew and Gentile-at that time in history continued to participate in the liturgical calendar that God gave to Israel. What other ``determined dates and times'' and ``appointed times of the year'' could the Church have had during the lifetime of the Apostles? Therefore, there can be little if any doubt that at the very least the early Christians congregated on the weekly and annual Sabbaths to participate in the ``offering'' (note Bishop Clement's use of the plural of this word) of the bread and wine. This is the ceremony known as Kiddush among the Jews and Eucharist among the Christians.

Now we know why the disciples began to celebrate the Eucharist on a weekly basis. It is important that we realise that Jesus' identification of the wine and unleavened bread of the Seder with His suffering, death, burial, and resurrection also goes for the wine and leavened bread of the Sabbath and festival Kiddush. This would explain how the early Christians came to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus every Sunday morning. Nothing could be more natural than for the disciples to focus upon the events of that blessed Sunday-from His resurrection Saturday evening, to His first appearances very early Sunday morning, to His appearances later that same day. Seeing that Jesus had proclaimed His resurrection through the prescribed blessing over bread, the quasi-Eucharistic Havdalah observed every Saturday night would inevitably give rise to the Christian custom of commemorating the resurrection through the Eucharist in the hours from Saturday night to Sunday morning. From there, weekly Sunday morning worship services really aren't that far a leap at all. This explains why many early Christians continued to keep the Sabbath but also began to gather together for worship services early Sunday morning. In any event, this scenario would seem to explain most if not all of the biblical and post-biblical evidence pertaining to this subject.

It would appear that the early Christians did not long retain in their Eucharists the traditional Jewish blessings over wine and bread. Naturally, the apostles, elders, and bishops would begin to craft explicitly Christian blessings and prayers for this ceremony. Certainly by the beginning of the second century, Christian churches had begun to use Christian blessings in their Eucharists. This may be seen in the prescribed blessings over the Eucharistic wine and bread found in the Didache:


``Concerning the Cup: `We thank Thee, our Father, for the holy Vine of David Thy servant, which Thou madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant-to Thee be the glory forever.'


``Concerning the Broken Bread: `We thank Thee, our Father, for the Life and Knowledge which Thou madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory forever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together to become one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy Kingdom-for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.'''


The Didache's blessings over the Eucharistic wine and bread indicate that the Church of God from earliest times utitilised their Eucharists not only to commemorate the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, but looked ahead to the Second Coming and the Resurrection of the Saints. This is shown from the blessing over the bread, which likens the Resurrection of the Saints at the End of the Age to the harvesting of grain to make flour for use in the making of loaves of bread (cf. Matt. 13:36-43; 24:31).


Communion Before Christ:

At this point, some may object that the Jewish Kiddush could have been borrowed by the Jews from the Christians. Recall that some have asserted that the Jews added bread and wine to the Passover Seder in imitation of the Christians. We have already seen that such is demonstrably false. However, could the Kiddush have been invented by Jesus? Again, we may easily demonstrate that such was not the case. One of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been entitled A Charter for Israel in the Last Days (catalogued as 1QSa, 1Q28a). This document was written a good while before ``the Last Supper'' took place, yet it mentions the following (emphasis added):


``When they gather at the communal table, having set out bread and wine so the communal table is set for eating and the wine poured for drinking, none may reach for the first portion of the bread or the wine before the Priest. For he shall recite a blessing over the first portion of the bread and the wine, reaching for the bread first. Afterwards the Messiah of Israel shall reach for the bread . . . .''


In the Charter, we find that this communal meal involving bread and wine was intended to be a meal in which the Messiah would also participate. Now, it is plain that this ceremony, described in a document written well before ``the Last Supper,'' is equivalent to the Kiddush. But in addition to this fascinating passage from one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Hebrew Scriptures also contain references to a special ritual involving bread and wine, no doubt related or ancestral to the Sabbath and festival Kiddush . The earliest mention is found in the Book of Genesis:


``After Abram returned from defeating Kuter-lagamar and the kings allied with him, the King of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh . . . Then Melchizedek, King of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and he blessed Abram . . . .'' (Gen. 14:17-18)


This scriptural passage is heavy laden with significance, because Heb. 7:8 declares that Melchizedek was witnessed to be still alive at the time of the writing of the Letter to the Hebrews. That is, Melchizedek-someone who is ruler of Jerusalem, and who serves as both King and Priest-is none other than Jesus Christ. Another significant scriptural passage apparently linking a Priest-King of Jerusalem to a bread and wine ritual may be found in the Book of Chronicles:


So David and the Elders of Israel . . . went to bring up the Ark of the Covenant of the Eternal from the house of Obed-edom . . . . Now David was clothed in a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites . . . . David also wore a linen ephod. . . . They brought the Ark of God and set it inside the tabernacle that David had pitched for it, and they presented burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before God. After David had finished sacrificing the . . . offerings, he blessed the People in the Name of the Eternal. Then he distributed to each Israelite man and woman a loaf of bread, a serving [of an unidentified foodstuff], and a cake of raisins.'' (I Chron. 15:25, 27; 16:1-3)


The difficult Hebrew word in verse 3 is eshpar, meaning ``a serving,'' or ``a portion.'' English translations usually identify this ``serving'' as some sort of cake, but others have suggested that David distributed servings of wine to the People of Israel. The event described here was one of the pivotal moments of Israel's history and of David's career-and most shocking of all, on this occasion King David officiated in a priestly role. He wore the garments of a priest, pitched a tent for the Ark, offered sacrifices, and pronounced the priestly benediction of the People of Israel-all of these being actions that the Law of Moses restricted to the family of Aaron. The parallels to Melchizedek are obvious-an anointed King of Jerusalem who serves as a High Priest for the descendants of faithful Abraham, giving them bread and wine. Clearly, in this account David was involved in a revival of the Melchizedek Priesthood. The above-mentioned identification of Melchizedek as Jesus Christ makes perfect sense when we consider that Messiah was to come from the lineage of King David.

When we consider these things, we can see why the communal meal involving bread and wine described in the above-cited Dead Sea Scroll was to include the Messiah. Abraham partook of Melchizedek's bread and wine at Jerusalem after he had defeated the pagan tyrants who had enslaved his family. David gave bread and wine to Abraham's descendants after having brought the Ark of God-that is, the very Presence of God-to the royal citadel of Jerusalem. The author of the Charter probably expected Israel to re-enact Gen. 14, partaking of bread and wine with the Messiah after He had overthrown the pagan tyrants who oppressed them. Notice, however, that the Charter puts the Priest before the Messiah-probably having patterned this communal meal after the account in Gen. 14, where the Priest gave bread and wine to Abraham, who was the archetype as well as direct ancestor of the Messiah.

This imagery is without a doubt to be applied to the Christian Eucharist-for the Messiah Jesus has challenged Satan and overthrown the tyrants Sin and Death. When we participate in the Eucharist, we come into the very Presence of God and share in a victory banquet with the Priest-King of Jerusalem! 13

Finally, yet a third reference to bread and wine may be found in the Hebrew Scriptures:


``Wisdom has built her house. She has hewn out its seven pillars. She has dressed her meat and mixed her wine. She has also set her table. She has also sent out her maidservants, and she calls from the highest point of the city: 'Let all who are simple come in here!' she says to those who lack judgment. 'Come, eat my bread and drink the wine I have mixed. . . .''' (Prov. 9:1-5)


The figurative language King Solomon uses in this passage draws on the common dinner customs of that time and place. Although it cannot be conclusively identified as an early form of the Kiddush, it at the very least provides added background to the Christian Eucharist, showing that special Israelite meals have from earliest times included and even laid special emphasis upon bread and wine. (Fascinatingly, the mixing of the wine with water has always been a part of the Eucharists of several Christian groups, most notably the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox fellowships.)

Seeing all these things, it is clear that Israel already had an equivalent of the Eucharist well before the time of Jesus-the Jews did not derive the Kiddush from the Christians. The Eucharist was not an unprecedented invention of Jesus at His final Seder, but had roots tracing as far back as the days of Abraham. Most significantly, some in Israel linked their ancient bread and wine rituals to Messianic expectations. Jesus' words and deeds during His final Seder now make perfect sense. What else would the Messiah do but tell His People to sit down at a table and share a holy meal with Him?


The Blood of the New Covenant:

One of the most fundamental means we humans have of forming or strengthening relationships is to share meals. God, through His Divine Son Jesus, desires to initiate a relationship with us-the Almighty wishes to dine with us (Rev. 3:19-20), and all it takes is for us to repent of our sins. But what will He serve at this meal? That is, what sort of relationship does God want to have with us? The Bible answers that question on several different levels, but I wish to direct our attention only to one of those levels-one of the most intimate of levels indeed.

Recall Jesus' declaration that the Eucharistic wine is ``My blood of the New Covenant, which is being poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins'' (Matt. 26:28). What Jesus meant is that His shed blood inaugurated Israel's prophesied New Covenant (Jer. 31:31, 34) just as Israel's Old Covenant had been inaugurated with the shed blood of animals (Ex. 24:8). The Bible represents the relationship between God and His People through the ancient custom of covenants. Many parallels between the Old and New Covenants may be drawn, but I wish to focus our attention on the fact that these covenants are both marriage covenants-God is our Husband, and we are His Bride. The prophets testify of this fact in such scriptural passages as Jer. 3:8, 14; Ezek. 16:8-14; and Hosea 2:2, 16, 19-20. In the New Testament we can find comparable language in Matt. 25:1-13; Rom. 7:1-4; Eph. 5:22-32; and Rev. 19:7-9. And it is certainly significant that the Jews have from ancient times read the Song of Solomon during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. That means the relationship between God and His People is, like marriage, to be one of deep and intimate love and concern characterised by repeated and total self-sacrifice-God giving Himself to us, and we giving ourselves to God.

If we wish to have a proper appreciation of our current New Covenant relationship with our loving husband, we will need to understand that the marriage traditions that form the background of the above-cited scriptural passages are Hebrew marriage traditions. The ancient Jewish wedding customs included two stages of marriage-known as Kiddushin and Nissuin-that are roughly equivalent to our modern engagement and marriage ceremony. Anciently, whenKidd a Jewish man proposed marriage to a woman, the couple would share a cup of wine. In the Kiddushin or Betrothal ceremony, the groom-to-be would drink from the cup first, and he would then set it down before the bride-to-be. If she picked it up and drank, that was the same as saying ``I do.'' The groom would then pay an amount of money called the mohar, or brideprice, to redeem his bride from the authority of her father or male guardian. At this point, he would declare, ``I go to prepare a place for you, but I will return and take you to myself.''

In the eyes of the law and of the community, the couple were man and wife. However, they were not permitted to commence ordinary married life until the Nissuin ceremony, which in those days was about a year later. The bride and groom spent this period of separation in physical, ritual, and spiritual preparation for the Marriage Supper. When the groom's father gave his permission, the groom and his friends would come by night and abduct the bride and her friends, taking them to the location of the celebration. During the Nissuin, the couple would drink a second cup of wine to confirm their marriage covenant. This ceremony was also known as hachnashah-``taking to himself,'' that is, ``acceptance'' of her as his wife.

The facts and conclusions adduced in this study shed much light on the ancient Hebrew marriage customs, which in turn greatly illuminate the Passover Seder and the Christian Eucharist. The cup of wine that the couple share during the Kiddushin is comparable to the third Cup of the Passover Seder , the Cup of Redemption. That cup is the one Jesus identified as His blood inaugurating the New Covenant. Just as it cost the groom to redeem his wife, so too did it cost our Husband to redeem us. That is why Paul says we have been bought at a price (I Cor. 6:19-20). However, in the Gospel of John we read that Jesus used wedding language at His final Seder-our Husband has gone to prepare a place for us, but will return to take us to Himself (John 14:2-3). Significantly, the fourth Cup of Passover-which Jesus did not drink during His last Seder (Matt. 26:29)-is called the Cup of Acceptance (literally ``taking to himself''). That is comparable to the cup of wine that the couple share during the Nissuin, during the Marriage Supper.

What this all means is that each time we drink the Eucharistic wine, we are in effect saying ``I do'' to Jesus-for that wine is the shed blood of the Messiah by which we are redeemed, by which we entered into a spiritual marriage relationship with the Son of God. The love husbands and wives have for each other is somehow mysterious and incommunicable-it cannot be shared or understood by anyone but the man and the woman in that relationship. Others may wonder just what they see in each other, but what others cannot see is perfectly clear to the man and the woman. (As a husband I have begun to understand these truths as I never have before.) But even more than that, the love Christ and His People have for each other is a great mystery. Our Husband paid an incredible mohar for us, and He continues to shower His love on us. What does He see in us? Truly, He looks not on our sins, but on the faith of His Church. What do we see in Him? Well, perhaps the happiest of wives are those who can say with deepest conviction that no one else on earth has ever loved them as their husbands do. That is something that the Church, the Bride of Christ, can truly declare.

In the here and now we People of God wait longingly for our Husband to take us by surprise and carry us off to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. But in the meantime, we ought to spend this time doing what any good Jewish bride would do in our place-devote ourselves to spiritual, physical, and even ritual preparations for the return of our lover. One of the most important and effective means of preparing for that day is to participate in the Eucharist. With that in mind, let me leave you with some words written in 1941 by J. R. R. Tolkien to his son Michael, who had asked his dad for advice and counsel about women, dating, romantic love, and marriage. Tolkien concluded his letter to his son with these words:


``Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the Blessed Sacrament . . . . There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires.''



For Christina



·  The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament-in English, vol. II, R. H. Charles, Oxford University Press, 1913, 1968.

·  The Ante-Nicene Fathers-Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, Rev. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, A. Cleveland Coxe, WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956.

·  The Apocryphal New Testament, Boston, Bela Marsh, 1868.

·  Eusebius-The History of the Church From Christ to Constantine, G. A. Williamson, Andrew Louth, Penguin Books, 1989.

·  The History of the Primitive Church, Jules Lebreton and Jacques Zeiller, 1944.

·  Studies in Early Church History, C. F. Turner.

·  The Study of Liturgy-Revised Edition, Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright, Edward Yarnold SJ, and Paul Bradshaw, Oxford University Press, 1978, 1992.

·  Melito of Sardis-On Pascha and Fragments, Stuart George Hall, Oxford, 1979.

·  The Concise Family Seder, Rabbi Alfred J. Kolatch, Jonathan David Publishers, 1987.

·  The Miracle of Passover, Zola Levitt, Zola Levitt Ministries.

·  A Christian Love Story, Zola Levitt, Zola Levitt Ministries.

·  Christ in the Passover-Why is this Night Different?, Ceil and Moishe Rosen, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1978.

·  The Siddur-The Traditional Prayer Book for Sabbath and Festivals , David de Sola Pool, Behrman House, 1960.

·  The Dead Sea Scrolls-A New Translation, Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook, HarperSanFrancisco, 1996.

·  The Most Ancient Testimony: Sixteenth-Century Christian-Hebraica in the Age of Renaissance Nostalgia, Jerome Friedman, Ohio University Press, 1983.

·  Jewish Christians and Christian Jews, R. H. Popkin and G. M. Weiner, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994.


1 The WCG's former position on this point appeared, among many other places, in ``Christ Our Passover,'' Garner T. Armstrong, The Good News-International Magazine of the Church of God, April 1961.

2 The WCG formerly circulated a treatise on this subject, originally entitled Easter is PAGAN! (1952), later retitled The Plain Truth About Easter (1957). Eventually we prepared a new, revised treatise on this subject, The Truth About Easter (1992), which was in turn withdrawn not long before the publication of ``The Passover-Easter Controversy'' in The Worldwide News, March 12, 1996.

3 Our evangelist Dr. Herman Hoeh presented an explanation for this apparent discrepancy in his article ``The TRUE Reason Why the Jews Rejected Christ,'' The Good News-International Magazine of the Church of God, June 1961. This erroneous explanation was refined by our former evangelist Dr. Ernest Martin in his article ``The Bible and History Prove the Jews DON'T Observe Passover!,'' The Good News-International Magazine of the Church of God , April 1963.

4 These things were explained in a ``Personal From Joseph W. Tkach,'' The Worldwide News, May 7, 1990.

5 This mistaken belief, along with several other uninformed (albeit understandably so) opinions and conclusions, appears in ``Questions & Answers about the Lord's Supper,'' The Worldwide News, March 1999, page 8, where one may read the words, ``When Jesus instituted the symbols, . . . .''

6 To understand just how strongly the majority of Roman Christians felt about this issue, consider what Irenaeus of Lyons wrote to Bishop Victor of Rome about the policies of the Bishops of Rome regarding the Nisan 14 Pascha (emphasis added): ``They did not keep it themselves or allow those under their wing to do so. But in spite of their not keeping it, they lived in peace with those who came to them from the dioceses in which it was kept, though to keep it was more objectionable to those who did not .'' These strong feelings against Nisan 14 are reflected in a spurious document (no longer extant) said to have been written by Hermas, brother of Bishop Pius of Rome, and circulated about the time of Bishop Polycarp's visit, in which the Roman church's Paschal innovations had supposedly been revealed in vision by an angel from heaven.

7 Many of these facts were first presented to my church in Ralph Orr's ``The Passover-Easter Controversy,'' The Worldwide News, March 12, 1996, which treats this subject reasonably well, though incompletely and inaccurately in places. A second, even less accurate, and therefore not as useful, article that also devoted attention to this subject was ``Celebrating the resurrection of Jesus,'' Don Mears, The Worldwide News, Feb. 24, 1998, pp.20-21.

8 In light of these things, this renders unnecessary as well as misleading the current fashion in the WCG of substituting the words ``the Lord's Supper'' when the annual Christian Passover is meant.

9 The Didache's interpretation of Mal. 1:11 is in effect to be found in Mr. Don Mears' article ``Is eating the Lamb of God only an annual event?,'' The Worldwide News, Feb. 1999, page 7, and in ``Questions & Answers about the Lord's Supper,'' The Worldwide News, March 1999, page 8.

10 Zola Levitt and others have claimed that the three matzah loaves kept in the tosh symbolise the Father, the Son, and the holy Spirit-with the middle loaf being used as the Afikomen. This interpretation is, however, entirely incorrect. The first and third loaves are merely the two traditional challot loaves of bread (cf. Lev. 23:17) that are a required part of every Sabbath and festival meal. If the three Passover loaves symbolise God, then logically that means that the Messiah may only be regarded as divine on Nisan 14, because on all other occasions only two loaves are used. In Rabbinic tradition, the challot have been interpreted as symbols of the general body of Israelites (cf. I Cor. 10:17). The WCG has in the past asserted that the two challot symbolise the Old Covenant and New Covenant communities of God's People. That is no doubt the correct interpretation. The middle loaf would thus be the Messiah, who appeared between the Old and New Covenants. All three are wrapped in linen-righteousness-but it is the middle loaf that serves as a type of the atoning work of the Messiah.

11 cf. Paul's criticism of the Corinthians: ``When you gather together, it is not to eat a meal dedicated to the Lord!'' (I Cor. 11:20) An old mistranslation and misinterpretation of these words is what has given rise to the practice of referring to the Eucharist as ``the Lord's Supper.''

12 It is fascinating that the link between the Eucharist and the Kiddush was rediscovered in the 1500s by a Protestant Reformer named Paul Fagius (1504-1549). For example, in his book Hebrew Prayers (1542) Fagius wrote, ``You have here, Christian reader, the customary table blessings of the Jewish people which are used to this very time on festive and celebration days . . . which Luke the evangelist describes when he makes mention of the cup both before and after the Lord's Supper.'' Also recommended for consideration are the suggestions and conclusions in the discussion of this subject in The Study of Liturgy (1978, 1992), pp.184-209. The conclusions endorsed in that source are essentially identical to those in this article, though I had no knowledge that many others had anticipated my findings until this article was nearly complete.

13 Indeed, the majority of Christians have always believed that Jesus' resurrected and glorified body and blood are literally present in the Eucharist. This is known as the doctrine of ``the Real Presence,'' which was the universal belief of orthodox Christians from the very earliest times, as attested by Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus of Lyons.

Issue 3


File translated from TEX by TTH , version 2.79.
11 Feb 2001, 15:39.