Seven Theses on Eucharistic Origins

(Prepared for the Meals in the Greco-Roman World Seminar of the Society of Biblical Literature, November 2007; see the two previous posts on "Rethinking Eucharistic Origins)


1. Drinking accompanied or preceded (rather than following) some early Christian meals, apparently following some versions of Jewish custom.


2. Food and drink in early Christian meals varied beyond the familiar bread and wine, largely in relation to ascetic and sacrificial concerns.


3. “Lord’s Supper” was not a name for early Christian banquets.


4. The “institution narratives” (stories of the Last Supper, used as prayer texts) were not the original forms of Eucharistic prayer but were interpolated in the 3rd century or after.


5. “Agape” (Love-feast) was not a distinct meal separate from the Eucharist, but a term applied to Christian banquets in some communities.


6. The Eucharist remained a substantial meal into the third century.


7. Diversity of early Christian meal practice was real but limited, its variety largely determined by ascetic concerns.

Bibliography on Eucharistic meals

“Eating People: Accusations of Cannibalism against Christians in the Second Century,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 2 (1994) 413-42.

“‘First Regarding the Cup’: Papias and the Diversity of Early Eucharistic Practice,” Journal of Theological Studies n.s. 46 (1995) 569-73.

“Naming the Feast: The Agape and the Diversity of Early Christian Ritual Meals,” Studia Patristica 30 (ed. E. Livingstone; Leuven: Peeters, 1997) 314-18.

“‘Is There a Liturgical Text in this Gospel?’: The Institution Narratives and Their Early Interpretive Communities,” Journal of Biblical Literature 118 (1999) 77-89.

Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in early Christian Ritual Meals (Oxford: Clarendon, 1999).

“The Inordinate Cup: Issues of Order in Early Eucharistic Drinking,” Studia Patristica 35 (2001) 283-91.

“Marcion's love of creation,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 9 (2001): 295-311

“Discipline and Diet: Feeding the Martyrs in Roman Carthage,” Harvard Theological Review (2003), 96: 455-476.

“The Meals Of Jesus And The Meals Of The Church: Eucharistic Origins and Admission to Communion”, in Studia Liturgica Diversa: Essays In Honor Of Paul F. Bradshaw (ed. Maxwell E. Johnson and L. Edward Phillips; Portland, Oregon: Pastoral Press, 2003), 101-115.

“Rethinking Agape and Eucharist in Early North African Christianity,” Studia Liturgica 34 (2004), 165-176.

“Food, Ritual, and Power,” in A People’s History of Christianity, Vol. 2: Late Antique Christianity (ed. Virginia Burrus;
Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 145-64.


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