Resource Ideas Needed: Passover, Communion, Eucharist

Soon it will be Passover season and I usually blog a great deal about Passover. If you search Passover on MJM you will find a lot of articles from the past, but I will bring out a whole new crop this year.

A reader sent in a question about something and if anyone knows of good literature on the issue of early Christian practices regarding Passover, eucharist, communion, agape feasts, etc. Were the agape feasts simply meals with a blessing over wine and bread or were they somewhat like communion/eucharist? Is the evidence strong that early Christians (or the Pauline community) had something like communion/eucharist more often than once a year (the Corinthians passage seems vague to me and I’d love to see articles on it)? What about the Didache and the eucharistic-birkat mazon influenced prayer?

When I say, is there good material, I mean the kind with historical and textual research, not popular level books teaching the basics of these relationships but without solid research.


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
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6 Responses to Resource Ideas Needed: Passover, Communion, Eucharist

  1. christian4moses says:

    Oskar Skarsaune’s In the Shadows of the Temple, in particularly chapter 20 may be of good use. His book is mainly a literature review so most positions are represented, though he himself falls more on the conservative side which can be seen in his book as well.

  2. warland52 says:

    Depends on how early is “early”. I think one can simply look to Justin’s apology around 150 or so to see that already the eucharist was weekly.

    At the time of Paul, I would have to dig around to see what good scholarship there is on this(obviously the data literally from that era is scanty). An Anglican wrote a very good historical/theological tome on the liturgy – “The Shape of the Liturgy” – in the 1940’s or 1950’s that is still a classic (Dom Dix?). I have it and will take a peek this weekend. There is more recent material. My overall sense from reading articles throughout the years is that the form (communal meal/liturgy/both/merging at a point?)is muddy, but I believe the majority consensus is that it was likely weekly very early(i.e. in Apostolic times). Likely on the “first day” or “Lord’s Day” or “8th Day” – i.e. Sunday. Again, I believe the thought is that in early Jerusalem Church Sabbath was observed (on Fri/Sat), but they also began meeting together after sundown on Sat or early Sunday for their eucharist(which then evolved over time).

    The Didache is somewhat helpful – it is supposed to (at least in some of its content)reflect practices somewhat earlier than the date of the redaction of the document itself. And seems to have very much the “flavor” of the Mother Church in Jerusalem.


    • Ovadia says:

      While Dom Dix’s work is extremely influential, it has become less popular in recent years, especially his emphasis on the Offertory and his reliance on Hippolytus’ Apostolic Tradition.
      Unfortunately, while this is one of my interest spots, I’ve acquired my knowledge through a hodge podge of books too long to list and teaching from mentors whose libraries are too big to catalog and put in the blog. If I think of anything I’ll let you know.

  3. warland52 says:

    Ok. Just checked Amazon and Dom Gregory Dix’s “The Shape of the Liturgy” is now in an updated edition – which appears to be some essays added by current scholars. This is an expensive book but as I thought remains essential. You’re probably interested in the first several chapters (still alot of reading since the entire original edition was 700 pages!!).

    I also own a little book which appears to be available on Amazon called the Jewish Roots of Christian Liturgy which was a collection of articles edited by Eugene Fischer. This came out of the Jewish-Catholic dialogue. You can read the “library journal” review on amazon. I’ll take a peek at my copy when I have a chance. Its’ been several years.


  4. judeoxian says:

    I second “In the Shadow of the Temple” by Daniel K. I would also recommend from the Hermeneia series Kurt Niederwimmer’s commentary on the Didache.

  5. warland52 says:

    Had a chance to skim through my recommendations.

    Pages 1-100 of Shape of the Liturgy addresses some of this – especially about pages 50-100 (original edition).

    Jewish Roots of Christian Liturgy gets into these issues in a couple of the essays. I recommend picking it up. Better than I remember it was.


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