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Supper of the Lord

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(Κυριακόν δεῖπνον ), so called by Paul in his historical reference to the Passover supper as observed by Jesus on the night in which' he was betrayed (1 Corinthians 11:20; Matthew 26:20-31).

I. Scriptural Statements. Several controverted points may perhaps be best adjusted by a connected harmony of the last Passover of the Lord, constructed from the evangelic narratives alluding to it, but filling up the various omitted circumstances from the known Passover rites. (See PASSOVER).

"Now, when it was evening, Jesus sat, down with the twelve (Matthew) apostles" (Mark). The first customary washing and purifications being performed, the blessing over the first cup of wine, which began the feast, would' be pronounced, probably in the: usual form "We thank thee, O God, our Heavenly Father, who hast created the fruit of the vine." Considering the peculiarity of the circumstances, and the genius of the new dispensation about to be established that the great Teacher had already declared the superiority of simple forms to the involved traditions of the Jewish doctors, and that his disciples alone were present on this occasion it may be supposed that, after the blessing o0ver the herbs, the recital of the liturgy (or hagadth) explanatory of the redemption of their ancestors from Egyptian bondage would be somewhat simplified, and perhaps accompanied with new reflections.

Then probably the second cup of wine was mingled, and with the flesh of the paschal lamb, feast-offerings, and other viands, placed before the Lord. "And he said unto them, With desire have I desired to eat, this Paschia with you before I suffer; for I say unto you, I shall no more eat thereof until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God." And he took the [second] cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this, and divide among you, for I say unto you, I will not henceforth drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God shall come" (Luke). When the wine distributed to each would be drunk off, one of the unleavened cakes would next be broken, the blessing said over it, and a piece distributed to each disciple, probably with the usual formula. "This is the bread of affliction which your fathers did eat in the land of Egypt;" i.e. not the identical bread, transubstantiated, but a memorial or sign of it. The company would then proceed with the proper supper, eating, of the feast- offering, and, after a benediction, of the paschal lamb.

The translation of the phrase δείπνου γενομένου (which immediately follows) by "supper being ended" has much confused the various narratives, and led many to think that Judas was present at the Lord's supper, properly so called. The true reading probably is γινομένου (not γενομένου ), as understood by the Arabic and Persic translators, in the sense "while supper was about," or "during supper-time."

"And as they were at supper, the devil having now put it into the heart of Judas to betray him; Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and was going to God, riseth from supper; and," after due preparations, "began to wash the disciples feet" (John). After this striking symbolic exhortation to humility and mutual service (John 13:6-20), "Jesus was troubled in spirit, and bare witness, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you will betray me. Then the disciples looked on one another, doubting of whom he spake" (John). "And they were very sorry, and began each of them to say. unto him, Lord, is it I?" (Matthew). "One of the disciples, leaning back on Jesus' breast, saith unto him, Lord, is it I? Jesus answered, He it is to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And after dipping the sop he giveth it to Judas Iscariot. Then, Satan entered into him. Jesus saith unto him, What thou doest, do quickly. He then, on taking the sop, went immediately out; and it was right" (John).

The supper would then proceed until each had eaten sufficient of the paschal lamb and feast-offering.

"And as they were eating, Jesus took the bread," the other unleavened cake left unbroken, "and blessed" God "and brake it, and gave it to the eleven disciples, and said, Take eat; this is my body (Matthew, Mark), which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me" (Luke, Paul, Corinthians 11:24). The supper being concluded, the hands were usually washed the second time, and the third cup, or "cup of blessing" (1 Corinthians 10:16) prepared, over which the master usually gave thanks for the covenant of circumcision and for the law given to Moses. Jesus, therefore, at this juncture, announced, with peculiar appropriateness, his New Covenant.

"After the same manner, also, Jesus took the cup after supper, and, having given thanks, gave it to them, saying, Drink all of you out of it; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for forgiveness of sins (Matt,); this do, as oft as ye drink, in remembrance of me" (1 Corinthians 11:24), "But I say unto you, I shall not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new (καινόν ) with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matthew).

"And when they had sung a hymn" (Matthew), probably the Hallel, our Lord discoursed long with his disciples about his approaching death and departure (John 13:31; John 14:31); and when he had finished he said, "Arise, let us go hence." "And they went out onto the Mount of Olives" (Matthew).

II. Ecclesiastical Usage. A multitude of disputes and controversies have existed in the Church, from the earliest ages of Christianity, regarding the nature, observance, and elements of the Lord's supper. On these points the reader may consult the following works: Pierce, Waterland, Cudworth, Hoadle, and Bell, On the Eucharist; Orme, Lord's Supper Illustrated (Lonld. 1832); Goodman, On the Eucharist (ibid. 1841); Coleman, Christ. Antiq.; Halley, On the Sacraments (ibid. 1845) De Linde and Mearns, Prize Essays on the Jewish Passover and Christian Eucharist (ibid. 1845).

The early Church appears, from a vast preponderance of evidence, to, have practiced communion weekly, on the Lord's day.

The custom, which prevailed during the first seven centuries, of mixing the wine with water, and in the Greek Church with hot water, appears to have originated with the ancient Jews, who mingled their thick wine with water (Mishna, Terumoth, 11). Maimonides (in Chomets ve-Matsah,§ 7) states that the proportion of pure wine in every cup must not be less than the fourth part of a quarter of a hin, besides water which must needs be mingled, that the drinking of it may be the more pleasant. The raisin-wine often employed both by the ancient and modern Jews (Arbah Turim, § 483, date 1300) contains water of course. Remnants of this custom are still traceable in the East. The Nestorian Christians, as late as the 16th century, as we' find from the old travelers, celebrated the Eucharist in such wine, made by steeping raisins one night in water, the juice being-pressed forth (Osorius, De Reb. Emanuel. lib. 3; Boter, Rel. 2, 3; Odoard Barboso, ap. Ramum. 1, 313; Brerewood, On the Diversities of Languages [1622], p. 147). The Christians of India (said to be converted by St.Thomas) used raisin-wine, as also do some of the Syrian churches at the present day (Ross, Pansebeia [1683], p. 492; Ainsworth, Travels in Asia Minor [1842]). The third Council of Braga would not permit the use of the pure "fruit of the vine," for they condemned as heretics; those who used no other wine but what they pressed out of the clusters of grapes, which were then presented at the Lord's table (Bingham, Christ. Antiq. bk. 5, ch. 2). The wine used by our Lord was of course fermented, as no other could have been procured at that season of the year, and as it seems to be contrasted with the new wine of the heavenly kingdom (Matthew 26:29). (See WINE).

As regards the bread, many of the Eastern churches use unfermented bread in the communion. "The Greek Church adopts a leavened bread, but the Roman Church has it unleavened; and this difference has been the cause of much controversy, though it seems easy to decide which kind was used by Jesus, the last supper having been on one of the days of unleavened bread, when no other kind could be eaten in the land of. Judaea." The Protestant churches, generally, pay little regard to the nature of the elements, but use the ordinary bread, as well as wine, of the country. It was probably from regarding in a similar way the bread and wine as mere ordinary beverage that some of the ancient sects gave up the wine altogether, and substituted other things. Epiphaniuis (Haeres. 49) and Augustine (Haeres. 28) mention an ancient sect of Christians in Phrygia, called Artotyrites, because they used bread and cheese. Others made use of bread and water only; and the third Council of Braga (A.D. 675) condemns a custom of communicating in bread and milk. (See LORDS SUPPER).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Supper of the Lord'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/s/supper-of-the-lord.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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