Early Church Evidence Refutes Real Presence?: The New Testament in Context (1)

Over at One Fold, Brian has requested Biblical proof for my views of the Eucharist after addressing my comments on Justin Martyr’s view of the Eucharist and why the real presence cannot be reasonably inferred from his statements. A reply to this has been posted as can be seen. Here, I will answer the request of Brian which is to:

see Scriptural evidence for your view of participating in the process of applying Christ’s one true sacrifice when the bread is broken?

So take this post as a two part answer to this. The flow of my answer will start by addressing the Last Supper as a Passover meal and its connections with it,  later providing Jewish views of the Passover as participating in the Exodus narrative. The next post will move on to Paul’s description of the Eucharist in 1Corinthians. What is to be shown here is that by virtue of the Passover being when Jews would “make present” the saving past of Exodus by their self identification with that narrative, the Eucharist operates in a similar manner with one “making present” the event at the Last Supper and Christ’s sacrifice and through identification, partake of this.

1)Gospel Accounts of the Last Supper and the Passover

To say that there is a strong connection between the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper and the Eucharist is not an understatement, although In John’s Gospel (for instance opening of John 13) the placing of the Supper is “before the feast of the Passover” and the Passover being the time when Christ is sentenced to be crucified(John 19:14) thus making it Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross that is portrayed as this Passover, taking place during the festival. For now I leave this discrepancy aside and focus on the other three Gospels accounts of the Last Supper and how they are connected with it starting from Mark, Matthew and Luke. After this, then I will return to the issue of the supposed discrepancy between the Synoptics and John’s gospel.

12 And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?

13 And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.

14 And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?

15 And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.

16 And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.

17 And in the evening he cometh with the twelve.

18 And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.

19 And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I?

20 And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish.

21 The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.

22 And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.

23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.

24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

25 Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.

26 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

See: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+14&version=KJV

The first section shows Jesus instructing the disciples concerning the preparation for the Passover, no doubt for the Passover meal itself(v.12-16). This meal had been planned in advanced as Jesus instructions indicate, asking two disciples to meet a man bearing a pitcher of water and follow him and also relaying a message to the owner of the house where the meal is to be taken. One could say that Mark intends us to focus on Jesus, as he is the one who is organizing this meal, giving instructions and is designated “Master”. In Matthew 26:17-20 and Luke 22:7-14, this is also narrated with the details more or less the same.

All three narratives place the date of the Supper to be on the evening of the first day of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread. Reflecting what we know of the order of the Passover meal, we could see the climatic parts of the Supper Narrative to be akin to how during the Passover meal, the youngest child or person present must ask the father/host about why is this night during which the Passover meal is taking place be different from other nights. The host then explains why and the symbolism of the various elements of the meal(Stein,2008,pg.649: notice that Stein also states “reliving the Passover experience” in describing the Passover meal).

In v.21-26 in Mark(see the above) would be the explanation of the ‘father’/host, Jesus who explains how this night and meal would be significant, after the disciples reacted to the implication from Jesus himself that one amongst them will betray him. According to the rubrics of the Passover too, the cup that Jesus points to when he says “this is my blood” would be the third cup, which is taken at the end of the meal(ibid.,pg.650). The statement in Mark 14:24, Matthew 26:28 and Luke 22:20 in reference to the cup as the “new covenant” would echo the covenant of Moses which is the focus of the Passover. It is as Marcus(2013,pg.312) notes, an echo of Exodus 24:8. Undoubtedly too, the Passover lamb would be seen as Jesus, who would sacrifice himself for many as the body is given and blood is shed for “you”. This sacrifice of Christ is reflected in the symbology ascribed to the bread and wine used in the Last Supper.Of the bread, Marcus(pg.314-315) shown the uncanny similarity between the Passover Haggadah or the part known as Ha Lachma regarding the bread and wine and Jesus’ words of institution regarding them.

For now I note that many commentators, even some cited here(Stein,2008,pg.650; Turner,2008,pg.626; Keener,1999; Ciampa & Rosner,2010,pdf pg.526 are some examples) will  see this symbology as negating any view of a real presence in the elements or sacramental union in the Last Supper and Eucharist. All I am establishing at this point is that the Last Supper is a Passover meal and has close associations with it. This is the thrust of my argument before explaining how a sacramental union between sign and signified can be possible under it.

Despite the close connection and identification with the Passover, there are currents in New Testament scholarship that would argue that the Last Supper itself is not a Passover meal. Marcus(2013,pg.304-305) states that this is due to an issue in studies of Ancient Judaism where “more and more scholars” are considering that the Passover during the Second Temple and by default, NT period is not the same Passover with distinctive elements in a fixed order and the haggadah(the interpretation noted earlier). These elements are seen as later post 70AD developments. For instance the foundational texts of the Passover, Exodus 12-13 and Deuteronomy 16 dont provide a Haggadah or seder at all in the instructions for it(pg.305). Several texts like Jubilees 49:16-21 and 2 Chronicles 35:11-13 would imply that the Passover can only be conducted in the temple courts(pg.306) and some scholars consider that the Passover meal are eaten in haste even during the Second Temple period(pg.307).

However against the observations of such a view, Philo does demonstrate that the Passover during the Second Temple period can be conducted in a domestic setting, saying that every house is like a temple(Ant. 2.312,cited from Colautti,2002,pg.171). Moreover in his Quaestiones et Solutiones in Exodum(1.15), Philo interprets the symbolism of the unleavened bread and bitter herbs as the Jews forced to leave Egypt and suffering which is found in the Mishnah  attributed to Rabbi Gamaliel(Marcus,2013,pg.310) and also mentions the bread of affliction the Ha Lachma refers to(pg.317). These observations are missed by Turner(2008,pg.626-267) when he argues that in the Passover Seder and Haggadah that is celebrated by many churches during easter is in fact a later development projected into the NT Passover meal.

While the Sypnotics dont mention the presence of lamb at the Last Supper meals as Turner claims, this does not disqualify the possibility that lamb is sacrificed and served as part of the meal before the destruction of the Second Temple. This is widely recognized as well, for instance Philo as with Josephus, described thousands of animals were sacrificed(Colautti,2002,pg.170). Plus, it could be that the Synoptic authors wanted to indicate that the paschal lamb sacrificed would be Jesus, for the salvation of many. So while indeed the precise details of the correspondence between the Passover and Last Supper are not clear, we have evidence from the Second Temple period that can give some clarity. In Jubilees too, although it is clearly against a domestic celebration, it nevertheless does not state that the meal is eaten in haste(Marcus,2013,pg.308). By the time of the 1st century as well, it could be possible that given the large number of pilgrims that would be present in Jerusalem for the celebration, the area where it is celebrated could had been widened to the entirety of Jerusalem rather than the temple courts(Routledge,2002,pg.209).

With the parallels and clear statements of the Sypnotic Gospels on the Supper and potential objections answered, there is still the  problem of why John does not consider the Last Supper to take place during the Passover and only sets it during Christ’s crucifixion. It could be that John wanted to emphasize Christ himself and his sacrifice as the Passover and Paschal Lamb, which Keener(2003,pg.899;1100) sees such chronology as supporting John’s portrayal of Christ as the Paschal Lamb and the Passover in John as being more for symbolic purposes. This tendency also lead him to conclude that John revised an earlier Passover tradition(pg.900).

Having quite briefly presented the Last Supper as Passover meal and the parallels to it, what can be taken away from this?

Given the above, it would seem that if the Last Supper is a Passover meal, then it would seem that this memorial act which Jesus commanded to be repeated until he comes again is seen as commemorating the sacrifice of the ultimate Paschal Lamb and the Inauguration of the New Covenant, just as the Passover would commemorate their liberation from Egypt by God’s hands and the Covenant of Moses. Insofar, this rings acceptable in Brian’s ears especially since nothing establishing any sense or realism is presented and so I move on to the first step in doing so, examining how the concept of Memorial is viewed in the Jewish Passover.

2)The Presence of the Salvific Past and Eschatology in the Passover
Prior to this post, I cited Boccaccini’s Middle Judaism: Jewish Thought, 300 B.C.E. to 200 C.E that points out the Passover is seen as making the “saving past” of the liberation from Egypt in Exodus present in the celebrants. Several scholars in agreement with this had been briefly touched on just prior. Here, more detail on this shall be given.

In agreement with the assessment of Boccaccini, Macaskill(2013,pg 203-204) notes how in the Passover seder, there is the element of personalizing the Exodus story. He cites Pesahim 10:4-5 as an example of this where it is instructed that each person celebrating is to regard himself “as if he personally came out of Egypt”, identifying with the salvific acts of God. Josephus would seem to indicate this tendency given that amongst his list of the polities set by Moses is to commemorate the liberation of Israel from Egypt twice a day(Antiquities of the Jews, IV, 8, 13)

Other Jewish texts commenting on the Passover do follow the Pesahim cited by Macaskill. The Targum Neofiti(12:42) comments

The first night: when the Lord was revealed over the world to create it. The world was without form and void, and darkness was spread over the face of the abyss and the Memra ( ממריה רייי ) of the Lord was the Light ( נהורא ), and it shone; and he called it the First Night.

The second night: when the Lord was revealed to Abram ….

The third night: when the Lord was revealed against
the Egyptians at midnight: his hand slew the first-born of the Egyptians and his right hand protected the first-born of Israel ….

The fourth night: When the world reaches its appointed time to be redeemed: the iron yokes shall be broken [cf. Isa 9:4; 10:27 etc. and Jer 28:2–14], and the generations of wickedness shall be blotted out, and Moses will go up from the desert ⟨and the king Messiah ( מלכא משיחא ) from the midst of Rome.⟩ … and his Memra
מימר) )will lead between the two of them, and I and they will proceed together.

This is the night of the Passover to the name of the Lord [cf. Exod 12:11]; it is a night reserved and set aside for the redemption of all Israel, throughout their generations.

Here, one can see how the Passover encapsulates the grand narrative of history from the beginning of creation, ending at the fourth night where all of Israel is redeemed. Notice how the preceding nights cover a specific period of Old Testament history. An eschatological aspect of the Passover festival could also be detected at the final night.

Applying this logic to the Last Supper(and by extension the significance of the Eucharist) in Luke, Wilson(2016,pg 79-81) describes the Passover memorial as making participants “experience anew the past action of God as a present reality”(pg.80). For all the making present of the Past in some way being focused on, it is also important to note that the Passover also possesses eschatological expectations. With this expectation, it is not surprising that Josephus repeatedly connects the Passover with periods of political turmoil.

In Book XVII, Chapter 9 of the Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus describes the Passover as a memorial of the Exodus event. In this context, the celebration of the Passover is located in a time where Jews were lamenting those slained by Herod and desired that those who were honored by him, be punished. In Book XX, Chapter 5, Josephus describes a turmoil in Jerusalem that took the lives of many Jews, which happened during the Passover, beginning with a solider sent by procurator Cumanus exposing himself to the Jews and insulting them, causing an escalation in conflict that turned the Passover into a time of lamentation of mourning with many Jewish lives lost.

The singing of the Hallel Paslms(Pslams 113-118) during the Passover seder would also reflect the inclusion of eschatological expectations. As Wilson(pg.80) notes, this set of Psalms progress from remembrance of God’s saving acts in Exodus, praise and devotion in response to God’s mercy and then to messianic overtures and expectations. Evans(2012, pg 432) posits the possibility of this Psalms being sung in Matthew 26:30). One can also observe this sense of identification in Wisdom 18:8 where the author, after narrating and praising God for the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, he shifts into identifying himself with them by using first person pronouns.

Philo of Alexandria also demonstrates this eschatological tendency by casting the Passover in context of the illumination of the soul, progressing to God, saying,

We find this “ten” plainly stated in the story of the soul’s Passover, the crossing (διάβασις) from every passion and all the realm of sense to the tenth, which is the realm of mind and God; for we read “on the tenth day of this month let everyone take a sheep for his house” (Ex. xii.3), and thus beginning with the tenth day we shall sanctify to Him that is tenth the offering fostered in the
soul whose face has been illumined (πεφωτισμένῃ) through two parts out of three, until its whole being becomes a brightness (φέγγος) giving light to the heaven like a full moon by its increase in the second week. And thus it will be able not only to keep safe, but to offer as innocent and spotless victims its advances on the path of progress (προκοπαί).-De congressu quaerendae eruditionis gratia, 106)

This concept of participation in the past and eschatology regarding the Passover is also vindicated through studies in Social Memory where the memories of past events are integral to the present identity of social groups and their future expectations. On the commemoration of past events by a social group, Spaulding(2009,pg.14-15) describes how the social memory of the past is embodied in the act of commemoration. It organizes the subjective feelings of the past to make it conceivable through symbolic forms, drama and repetition. Following what has been outlined, the commemoration makes the past immanent in the present. It is not merely something remembered in thought alone, producing a personal identification with it.  Following this, Spiegel(2002,pg.109) states that the goal of liturgical commemoration is to make the remembered event “live again in the present”. The past is fused into the present. But liturgical commemoration don’t merely look back to the past but also, following the eschatological expectations of the Passover, looks to the future(pg.162).

Applying this to the Old Testament, Childs(1962,pg.74) pointed out that “to remember” expressed “the process by which later Israel made relevant the great redemptive acts which she recited in her tradition”. Through this act, the past events are contemporized with the present(pg.75). One can see this tendency in action in the Qumranic Pesher Habbakuk and the Damascus Document, combining an contemporized past with eschatological expectation. Both documents, starting from their present situation as being delivered to the sword(CD-A 1.3–5) and violence in the land(1QpHab 1.2–8) before revisiting the Chaldean destruction of Jerusalem(CD-A 1.6–21; 1QpHab 2–3). Despite their predicament, God has promised to preserve a remnant, an elect as the Damascus Document states,

For when they were unfaithful in forsaking him, he hid his face from Israel and the sanctuary and delivered them up to the sword. But when he remembered the covenant with the forefathers, he saved a remnant for Israel and did not deliver them up to destruction. And at the period of wrath, three hundred and ninety years after having delivered them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, he visited them and caused to sprout from Israel and from Aaron a shoot of planting, in order to possess his land and to become fat with the good things of his soil. (CD-A 1.3–8)

Here we see just how the Scriptural past is integrated into present experience, the former being the way to interpret the latter. In the Qumranic documents, eschatological expectation is shown through the figure known as the Teacher of Righteousness who was exiled by the Wicked priest on Yom Kippur(1QpHab 11.4–8). Stuckenbruck(2010,pg.41-42) stipulates that the memory of this event functions to reinforce the Qumranic Community’s self perception, invoking and reliving it in liturgical form.

Although connections between the Passover and the Last Supper have been shown, it still remains open that the Lord’s Supper is meant to invoke the sacrificial death of Christ by “reliving” that night which Christ was betrayed all the way to his Cross and anticipating the eschatological future, as it is common in Second Temple Judaic tendencies.

Therefore I now proceed to the question of how this concept of memory is used in the New Testament.

3)The New Exodus

If the Last Supper is indeed a Passover meal and uses it as a conceptual framework to interpret the inauguration of the New Covenant and Atonement, then naturally links to Exodus must be embedded in the text. Here, I will demonstrate this link through intertextuality, drawing heavily from Hays “Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels”.

In Matthew 2:15, the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt is a fulfillment of Hosea 11:1. Here are the two verses placed side by side

15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.(Matthew 2:15)

11 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.(Hosea 11:1)

In Hosea, Israel is corporate, invoking Moses’ answer to Pharaoh in Exodus 4:22-23 where he says “Israel is my firstborn son”. Given in Matthew, Jesus being the Son is identified as Israel, this indicates that it is in Jesus where the eschatological hope of Israel lies. To use Richard Hays’ description, “recapitulated” in Christ. Choosing this allusion, it also tells us the reader something about the work of Christ. It is a work of deliverance.

Resonating with Israel suffering being enslaved in Egypt and the Second Temple tendencies of tying the suffering Israel to the Passover and Old Testament events, Matthew 2:18 speaks of Rachael weeping for her children due to the devastation caused by Herod slaying the firstborn. The location of Ramah echoes Jeremiah 40:1 where it is a staging ground for captives. It may be said that Herod slaying the firsborn echoes Exodus 1:22 where Pharaoh also orders the deaths of Israel’s firstborn sons. More directly however, Matthew 2:18 refers to Jeremiah 31:15-17 which says,

15 Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.

16 Thus saith the Lord; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.

17 And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border.

Matthew, referring to this prophecy points to Jesus’ coming and work as one that brings hope in times of turmoil. Jesus is the hope of Israel. Hence, Matthew follows in the expectations of the Second Temple Jews as shown.

Another link to Exodus mentioned by Matthew is through Jesus going off into the desert, fasting for 40 days and 40 nights. This temporal description according to Hays(2016, PDF pg.147) is a clear link to Moses who spent 40 days and 40 nights fasting in the presence of the Lord on Mt Sinai(Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9). In Deuteronomy 9:25-26, Moses during this period prayed for mercy for Israel. Thus, Jesus in mimesis of this in Matthew would indicate that He is pleading to God on a sinful Israel’s behalf and for their mercy.

40 Days and 40 nights may also bring to mind the 40 years Israel wandered about in the desert. In fact, in the dialogue Jesus has with the Devil who tried to tempt Him, all of His lines are taken from Deuteronomy. The famous line, “Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” is straight from Deuteronomy 8:2-3. Anyone familiar with Israel’s wandering in the desert would know of the disobedience displayed by Israel. But here, this disobedience is reversed. Jesus is obedient against the Devil. This strengthens Jesus as identifying with Israel in His salvific work.

Finally, we advance to the Last Supper at Matthew 26:26-29, which the term “Blood of the Covenant” being an intertextual link to Exodus 24:8. Given the context of Exodus 24:8, this indicates that Jesus’ sacrificial death would be the sealing of the Covenantal relationship between God and His people. The proceeding verses there also shows Moses, Aaron and the elders of Israel eating and drinking in the presence of the Lord, making the Last Supper a Type of this event in the Old Testament. To Wilson(2016,pg.83), the Apostles in this case represent the reconstituted people of God. This typological link also has the added implication that Jesus is God or the locus of Divine Presence on Earth.

As a sidenote too, given the 12 partaking of the Last Supper “in the presence of the Lord” and how it is the leadership of Israel in the Old Covenant that did so, this strengthens the case that David Wenkel makes for the kingship of the 12 Apostles in Luke-Acts.

Mark’s Gospel follows Matthew for the most part, and so I now shift gears onto Luke. In Luke’s account of the Last Supper, unlike Matthew’s and Mark’s adds the instruction from Jesus to “do this in memory of me”(Luke 22:19). This would no doubt be the very basis of the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper that Christians will conduct. Green(1997,pg.761) considers Jesus’ actions at the Last Supper to be one which pushes the meaning of the Passover in a Christological direction. He follows the typical order of the Passover celebration, yet adds an interpretive significance which while different, draws from its meaning.

The instruction to do what Jesus had done at the Supper in “remembrance” of him is one that according to Green, follows the Passover concept of memorial. While the description of this remembrance is one that can be taken in the Zwinglian sense which Brian will be most satisfied with(Green, 1997,pg.762) due to it being recalling the past for future benefit, Green notes elsewhere that the sense of re-presenting(let the past be effective in the present) is actually present in the Jewish concept of remembrance(ibid., 1988,pg.201). Besides this, “remembrance also underscores the parallel to the Passover. Dany(2016,pg.104) notes how for both the Passover and the Last Supper, the constitution of the ritual takes place before deliverance/salvation. Such placement is a sure sign that the deliverance/salvation will be successful and that the celebration of such and rituals would commence thereafter.

With converging the meaning of Passover onto Himself and commanding the Supper to be done in “remembrance” of Him, this essentially turns the Eucharist into a symbolic enactment of Jesus’ Atonement(Wilson, 2016, pg.81). This observation is supported by Costa(2013,pg.229) which the Eucharistic gathering is where Christians will relive and reenact the words and acts of Jesus in giving thanks to God. It should be noted that one of the sources cited by Costa on this subject immediately after is from the Anchor Bible Dictionary’s entry on Early Christian Worship which describes the hymns, words and prayers are meant to reactualize these past events in the minds of the worshippers. Worship then, including the Eucharist would function to actualize the salvific events narrated to the present by mimesis.

Ending this section on Luke, I would focus more on this Gospel next, showing how the importance of the theme of meals is used by him and the final chapter at Emmaus links with the Eucharist, which Pennington(2010,pg.62) accurately notes. These would point to the eschatological aspect of the Last Supper.

4)Eschatological Aspect of the Lord’s Supper

This section will begin with Luke 14:15-24 where Jesus offers a parable,

15 And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.

16 Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:

17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.

18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.

19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.

20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.

21 So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.

22 And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.

23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

24 For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

In context, Jesus is in a banquet of a Pharisee on Sabbath day. During this banquet, a man with dropsy comes, a situation which prompts Jesus to pose a question to the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal him on the Sabbath?”. The Pharisees held their peace and Jesus healed the man. After that he told them that if one’s ox or ass fall into a pit on Sabbath, one would not hesitate to pull it out, even if it is on the Sabbath. This answer is also in tandem with Deuteronomy 22:4.

Proceeding this is a parable where one who attends a wedding should sit at the lowest room instead of the highest room. One can only seat there at the bidding of the host. This brings to mind Proverbs 25:6-7 and also gives the reader a hint of the eschatological as verse 10 would indicate. There is also a parallel with Luke 13:30 here which itself is also eschatological in focus, referring to what is to be in God’s Kingdom.

This same eschatological focus is also present in the next parable Jesus gives about a host who sent out invites to guests who made excuses. Eventually the host invites the poor and those out on the highways and hedges. Verse 15 is a key trigger for the eschatological focus of the parable. Green(1997,pg.555) reminds us that to understand the force of this parable, one must understand the dining customs of the time where a host sending out invitation do so for the sake of social status and drawing a line between social insiders and outcasts.

With this in mind, one can see a sense of reversal where from “social insiders”, the host move to calling the outcasts, which are the poor and those on the highways and hedges. Such is also found at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel in the birth narrative relating Elizabeth’s miraculous birth despite being barren and Mary being the Mother of Jesus(see particularly the Magnificat). Having mentioned this, it would certainly raise some issues if the Host in this parable is a reference to God. More likely as Green suggests(1997,pg.557), a challenge to his audience(and the anonymous interlocutor who spake at Verse 15) to reorient the cultural norms of the time. This reorientation would no doubt, be what is expected in the eschatological feast which does not disregard the poor and outcast.

Moreover, it should also be common knowledge to the Pharisees that Jesus is speaking to here the eschatological banquet which is mentioned in OT texts such as Isaiah 25:6-9. Thus, when one sees the eschatological focus and mention of a banquet, one sees a link between eschatology and meals in Luke’s gospel, underscored when one sees Luke 12:35-37 and 13:28-30 .

Returning to Luke 14:15-24, one should notice a similar motif of reversal when the Last Supper is narrated. When the Apostles present began disputing amongst themselves which of them would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus’ says the following in verses 22:26-27,

26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.

27 For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.

This is not the sole link in the Supper that is eschatological(through parallels with the parable in Luke 14). As seen in the above quotation of Mark, Jesus says He would not drink the wine until the day He shall drink it anew in the Kingdom of God. Luke also records this. Preceeding this in verses 22:15-16, it is as if this is being emphasized once more in verses 17-18. On first sight, this may seem to imply that there cannot be any real presence in the Eucharist. It can only be a Zwlingian memorial since Christ said He wont drink of the wine until the Kingdom of God. However this view is rather weak, especially when seeing the eschatological connections here.

When Jesus makes such statements, what is being intimated is eschatological expectation, not the fact that Christ is now absent in the meal or cannot be present in the elements. They are better off seen in reference to the eschatological banquet, which verses before have hinted at. Here, Luke is also in support of my views here, utilizing the Passover as well. Dany(2016,pg. 92-93) observes that the Passover meal, looking to future deliverance whilst celebrating the salvific past, enables Luke to introduce a notion of future salvation in relation to it. Hence the statement would indicate a looking forward to the Parousia. It is even possible that what such statements refer to is the Christian Eucharist, which Dany considers a possible reading, although it can be contested(pg.93). My own view here is that indeed there is an anticipatory sense of the Eucharist which offers a “foretaste” of the Eschatological Banquet to come, however one must also consider the Already-Not Yet dynamic of NT eschatology which the Emmaus event in Luke 24 will make clear. Before this, we turn to Luke 23’s account of the Crucifixion that would elucidate this eschatology.

Readers familiar with the Gospels’ account of the crucifixion would know that there were two thieves that were also crucified with Christ. One of them, known as the penitent thief, defended Christ in the moment of mockery and thus he asks that Christ remembers Him. Christ’s answer is that “today” he will be with Him in paradise(See Luke 23:35-43). Wilson(2016,pg.119) notes that παράδεισος(the Greek word for Paradise) is used in Second Temple literature such as 1 Enoch 60:8 to denote the heavenly abode of the righteous. Usages in other areas of Scripture(Isaiah 51:3; Revelations 2:7) show reference to eschatological salvation. It could even denote the imagery of Edenic paradise where Jesus’ assurance to the thief is essentially a signal to the reader that His Salvific work and sacrifice will bring about a reversal of the Fall and enable a return to Eden. Luke 23:44-45 further collaborates this through καταπέτασμα, the Greek for the Temple veil.

It is used in the LXX to refer to the following,

1)The Inner veil separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies(Exodus 26:33; 2 Chronicles 3:14; 1 Kings 6:36)

2)The outer veil at the entrance of the courtyard(Exodus 37:16)

3)The screen between the courtyard and the Sanctuary(Exodus 26:37)

According to Wilson(2016,pg.122-124), in light of the absence of any syntactical marker, καταπέτασμα would denote 1). If so, since the Inner Veil is meant to act as a barrier between two spheres of differing holiness(more Holy and less Holy) and shielded the participants of the Israelite cult from the letheality of Divine Holiness and presence, this means the Temple veil tearing when Jesus died indicates the removal of the barrier that separates humanity from the Divine Presence. Through the cross, there is a kind of return to Paradise and access to God, which forms the “already” aspect of the “already-not yet” eschatology of Scriptures.

The same emphasis is brought into the Emmaus event in Luke 24. Here, two disciples were on the way to Emmaus after the revelation of Christ’s Resurrection. Along the way, Jesus came to them but since their eyes were “holden”, they did not know who was the person who joined them. Bucur(2014,pg.687) points out how most commentators highlight the use of Passivum Divinum here which expresses the exclusivity of Divine action which brought about this state to the two disciples. Of course this does not mean they lost their free will as this is done due to their ignorance which renders them unworthy of a greater manifestation of the risen Christ.

Jesus’ post Resurrection appearance to these two disciples here would seem to have close links to OT Theophanies(i.e Genesis 18-19, 28; Judges 6). A sense where this event is a re-enactment of Jacob is possible given the parallels of the disciples to him. Jacob’s sleep corresponds to the holding of the disciple’s eyes. Jacob realizing that the “Lord is in that place” after he woke up from his dream corresponds to the eyes of the disciples being opened. Bucur whilst raising these as possibilities for the text prefers interpreting it in the lens of “glory” language(pg.690), using Luke 24:26 as his starting point where Jesus says before explaining the OT Scriptures to them that,

26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?

This “Glory” spoken of here is considered to be linked to the Transfiguration where it is explicit that the disciples saw Christ’s “Glory”(Luke 9:32). During the Transfiguration, one of the effects of beholding Christ’s Glory when He was praying at a mountain is that the disciples who behold it were heavy with sleep(Luke 9:32). Such is similar to the effect we see in Luke 24 at Emmaus when the Resurrected Christ appeared to the two Disciples. The link with Jacob’s dream may further solidify this.

Apart from links with Genesis, the appearance of Christ at Emmaus could also invoke Exodus, especially after Moses descended Mt Sinai where he had to veil his face due to it shining with Glory(Exodus 34:29-31). Initially given the luminosity of Exodus and the lack thereof in Luke, it would seem that this is unlikely. Yet, the Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum in narrating Moses’ descent from Mt Sinai, dating close to the NT actually shows how the Divine Light and luminosity on Moses’ face does not appear as visible light that is incomprehensible or have to be veiled. Rather, the light is described as invisible and simply rendering Moses’ face unrecognizable. The Israelites could only recognize Moses when he spake(Bucur 2014, pg.695-696). A similar account is also given for David when he slew the Philistine. When Goliath was struck by a rock, David asked him to open his eyes to see who has killed him. Goliath saw an angel behind David “not like a man” when he did so. After this, the angel changed David’s appearance such that Saul could not recognize him.

Here we see a parallel with Christ at Emmaus. His glory is that of invisible light that cannot be behold, unless by divine intervention. Honing in on Genesis, one can see the eschatological dimension of this event through the phrase “their eyes were opened” which is a close verbal parallel to Genesis 3:24. As before, on first sight a parallel, with Adam and Eve’s expulsion would seem out of place. However as Bucur notices, during the Second Temple period, the view of Adam and Eve being clothed in glory is in fact common(pg.699-700). In Irenaeus we see a similar view.

According to Irenaeus in Adversus Haeresies(III, XXIII, V), Adam once had the “robe of sanctity” from the Spirit but due to his transgressions, he has lost it. Two possible meanings could be garnered from this, Adam and Eve possessed the Holy Spirit pre-Fall or that they possessed Communion with God and its benefits. Regardless of which is chosen, something glorious is once possessed before the Fall, only to be lost which adds support to my point here as there is now a Patristic witness to the view of Adam and Eve clothed in glory.

With this in mind, the parallels can emerge between Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 and the Disciples in Emmaus. In both instances, the persons involved are transformed via eating. In Emmaus this would be indicated by the Breaking of the Bread, which opened the eyes of the Disciples. In Genesis 3, it is through eating the forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened. In Emmaus, the disciples gain understanding and recognize Christ but in Adam and Eve’s case, they have Fallen and are expelled, losing their place in Eden.

Looking at Emmaus in light of the Fall, it would indicate that Jesus’ Salvific work has affected a kind of return to Eden. Recalling the paradisical promise to the thief, this becomes more likely and hence an eschatological focus on the Emmaus event becomes plausible. In this event when the breaking of the bread occurs, I would posit that this is in fact a reference to the Eucharist. Note that Dany(2015,pg.104) shown how the basic term “breaking of bread” in Luke can imply a Eucharistic meal, without mentioning other elements. There are also more than one way by which one could refer to the Eucharist(i.e Lord’s Supper). Thus, to consider different eucharistic acts on account of differences would be rash. This means that when Luke mentions breaking of bread, it is essentially a shorthand for a Eucharistic meal. Pennington(2010,pg.62) also makes a similar observation, also including the post-Resurrection breaking of bread in Emmaus as a Eucharistic meal which points back to when Jesus was breaking bread at the Last Supper.

Now of course, Acts 27:35 would seem to disprove this view as in context, Paul is just sharing a meal with Pagans on a ship. But Dany(2015,pg.213-215) rightly points out that while this meal is not the Eucharist, it is still Eucharistic in its symbolism. Here, those who partake of the meal would be nourished. As these people are Pagans and the symbolism is eucharistic, it would be an indication that Salvation is now extended to the Gentiles. They are invited to eat in the Presence of the Lord ala the Apostles at the Last Supper.

Besides this, the sequence and wording of this meal in Acts suggest “strong allusions” to the Last Supper. Comparing Acts 27:35 with Luke 22:19, one can observe the same actions of taking bread, thanksgiving, breaking bread and distribution. These actions also does not occur in ordinary meals at all in the Gospels. Thus the validity of Luke using “breaking of bread” to refer to the Eucharist remains, eventhough in Acts 27 the reference operates on a symbolic level. This is also particularly the case if one sees the rescue narrative as a Type of the Passover as Dany does.

We begin with the parallels of Paul with Jesus. In Acts 21:36 and 22:22, the negative responses of the Jews to Paul’s preaching parallels that of their response to Jesus in Luke 23:18. For both Paul and Jesus, the Jews say “away with”. The Jews also wished for Paul’s death(Acts 22:22; 24:1-6) just as they do with Jesus’. Paul was also taken to the Roman court for a hearing, just as Jesus is(Acts 24-26) and finally both Jesus and Paul are vindicated by God in the end(Acts 27). The threat of death also take place towards the end of each characters’ arcs so to speak. Having said this, of course Paul is not Jesus and Jesus is not Paul, however Paul’s narrative here is in a mimesis of Jesus’ which solidifies the meal in Acts 27 as eucharistic, eventhough it is not properly Eucharistic per say but symbolic.

Hence, in light of these, the Eucharist’s eschatological context can be observed in Luke, solidifying the ground that the Eucharist is conceptualized through the background of the Jewish Passover.


With these laid out we may now see the significance of the Eucharist based on the data of the background of the Gospels and how the Gospels use this background. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, we seen how the Last Supper meal is Eucharistic. It also utilizes intertextual links with Exodus which parallels how the Passover is about the narrative of Exodus. The Gospel events are presented as a kind of “New Exodus” so to speak and the Eucharist is the New memorial that is instituted as a celebration of it, shown by how the Last Supper images the meal Moses and the elders of Israel had before God when the Covenant is inaugurated. The term “blood of the New Covenant” also strengthens this connection further.

Moreover just like how the Passover has eschatological expectations, one can see in Luke the eschatological dimension of the Eucharist through the motif of the Eschatological banquet and situating one of the Post Resurrection appearances and activities of Christ in Emmaus where Glory language and intertextuality with Genesis 3:24 occur, making the Eucharist in this arc of Luke the accumulation and revelation which signals a kind of return to Eden and seeing the glorified Lord, just as the Transfiguration shows Christ glorified. This indicates the Eucharist would have an eschatological aspect that looks forward and celebrates the “already” aspect of the “already-not yet” view of the coming of the Kingdom of God.

In light of how Jewish conceptions of the Passover also requires that the memorial be one which the participants experience anew the liberation of Exodus, it is not surprising that the Eucharist given its conceptual background would make the participants experience anew the Saving work of Christ in the present. But not just the past that is experienced but the kind of theophanic vision at Emmaus and anticipation of the ultimate banquet and paradisical return to Eden is granted in it. The fact that the Apostles at the Last Supper are Types of Moses and the Elders eating and drinking in God’s presence would also signal that the Eucharist is a meal and celebration where Christ is present in the meal, in accordance with this image. Hence as the symbolism in Acts 27 shows, those who participate in the Eucharist will receive the benefits of Christ.

Perhaps to use in a modified form what is said by Wenham(1995), the Eucharist symbolically re-enacting the Atonement of Christ does so in a manner in which we who partake of it will experience what the Cross is all about and involve ourselves in it personally, just as Jews in the Passover would identify themselves with the Exodus generation. Recalling Ignatius’ use of ekphrasis, the Eucharist gives us a vivid look and experience of this.

In Part 2, we will look at the most detailed exposition of the Eucharist by Paul in 1 Corinthians. There we will also see how the themes mentioned here converge in his thought against the malpractice of his audience there. But, with this, one can see how according to the Gospels, or at least based on Matthew, Mark and Luke, the Eucharist is certainly no naked memorialism, especially once we look at the context.

Thus, does Early Church Evidence refute the real presence?

Three of the four Gospels would indicate not.

Secondary sources cited:

Benjamin R. Wilson-The Saving Cross of the Suffering Christ(2016)

Bogdan B Bucur- Blinded by Invisible Light, Revisiting the Emmaus Story (Luke 24,13-35), Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 90/4 (2014) 685-707

Brevard Childs- Memory and Tradition in Israel (1962)

CHRISTOPHER, DANY (2016) The Appropriation of Passover in Luke-Acts, Durham theses, Durham University

Craig A Evans- New Cambridge Bible Commentary: Matthew (2012)

Craig S Keener- A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (1999)

Craig S Keener- The Gospel of John: A Commentary 2 Vols. (2003)

David L Turner- Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew (2008)

David Wenham- How Jesus Understood the Last Supper: A Parable in Action, Themelios 20.2 (Jan 1995)

Federico M Colautti- Passover in the Works of Josephus (2002)

Gabrielle M. Spiegel (2002)-Memory and History: Liturgical Time and Historical
Time. History and Theory 41:149–62.

Grant Macaskill- Union with Christ in the New Testament (2013)

Joel B Green-The Death of Jesus: Tradition and Interpretation in the Passion Narrative (1988)

Joel B Green- The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Luke (1997)

Joel Marcus- Passover and Last Supper Revisited, New Testament Studies, Vol 59, Issue 3 (2013)

Loren T. Stuckenbruck (2010)- The Legacy of the Teacher of Righteousness
in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Pages 23–49 in New Perspectives on Old Texts:
Proceedings of the Tenth International Symposium of the Orion Center
for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature, 9–11
January, 2005. Edited by Esther G. Chazon and Betsy Halpern-Amaru.
STD J 88. Leiden: Brill.

Mary B Spaulding- Commemorative Identities: Jewish Social Memory and the Johannine Feast of Booths (2009)

Richard B Hays- Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels (2016)

Robert H Stein-Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Mark (2008)

 Robin Routledge- Passover and the Last Supper, Tyndale Bulletin 53.2 (2002)

Roy E Ciampa & Brian S Rosner- Pillar New Testament Commentary: The First Letter to the Corinthians (2010)

Thomas R. Schreiner, Matthew R. Crawford-The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes (2010): Pennington authors a chapter in this book

Tony Costa- Worship and the Risen Christ in the Pauline Letters (2013)

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