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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Lord's Supper

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Name taken from I Cor. 11:20, and given by the Christian world to the rite known as the eucharist, the partaking of the cup of wine and the bread offered in memory of Jesus' death and brought into connection with the story of his last meal, which he is said to have taken with his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion. According to the synoptic Gospels (Matthew 26:26-29 Mark 14:23-25 Luke 22:15-18,19 ), Jesus was partaking of the Passover meal with his disciples on the fourteenth of Nisan, before his capture by the officers of the high priest. The Gospel of John, however, knows nothing of the institution and assigns the crucifixion to the fourteenth day of Nisan, the day when the Passover lamb is sacrificed. This discrepancy shows that the identification of the "crucified Christ" with the "lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29 [adapted from Isaiah 53:7 ] I Peter 1:19 Acts 8:32 Revelation 5:6 and elsewhere) gradually led to an identification of Jesus with the Passover lamb also (see I Cor. 5:7).

Subsequently the mystic love-meals of the Mithra-worshipers, who also broke bread and drank the soma-wine in memory of Mithra's last supper (see T. Cumont, "Die Mysterien des Mithra," pp. 99-101,118-119, Leipsic, 1903), caused the love-feasts of the early Christians to be celebrated as actual remembrances of the last supper eaten by Jesus and so a special passage was inserted (I Cor. 11:23-28, interrupting the context, and contradictory to ib. 10:4) in which the apostle rather oddly declares that he had received from Jesus by inspiration the statement that he had instituted the eucharist on the night of his betrayal, giving the formulas for the bread and the cup which, with some variations, appears in each of the three synoptic Gospels. Incompatible with the whole story, however, is the fact that the Christian Didache (ix:1-4 comp. Jew. Encyc. 4:587) gives the eucharist formulas for the cup and the wine used in Christian circles without any reference to the crucifixion or to the last supper. This makes it probable that the institution had developed out of the Essene communion-meals and was only at a later time referred to Jesus.

The original idea of the Essene communion-feasts, borrowed from Parseeism, remained attached to it: the hope for the banquets (of leviathan) in paradise wherefore Jesus is reported as having especially referred to wine in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 26:29 Mark 14:25 Luke 22:18,30 ).

The whole story of the Passover celebration by Jesus on the eve of his crucifixion thus arose in circles where real familiarity with Jewish law and life no longer existed. It has, however, been argued that the ritual of the mass or communion service is derived from that of the Passover eve service (see Bickell, "Messe und Pascha").


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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Lord's Supper'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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