Barry Newman's Blog

September 20, 2009

Christ Centred Communion (part IV)

Filed under: Agape meals,Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 11:05 pm

Early Christian Meals

From the very early days, Christians often met together to share a meal. Jewish believers of the early church in Jerusalem regularly came together and “broke bread” (Acts 2: 42, 46).  Paul and his apostolic team met with believers, probably mainly Gentiles, at Troas, on the first day of the week, and “broke bread” (Acts 20: 7, 11).  The Corinthian Christians, a mixture of Jews and Gentiles met together to eat (1 Cor. 11: 20, 33) perhaps also on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16: 2).  The term “breaking bread” was often used as a short hand way to refer to having a larger meal, of which the consumption of bread was normally a part.  In the New Testament the Greek words for “bread” and “break” occur in a variety of grammatical forms and so do not appear to be used in any technical sense. That is, they do not appear to refer to a Christian ceremony, like “Holy Communion”.

In the book of Jude there is a reference to a type of meal called an “agape” meal (Jude 12).  “Agape” is a Greek word for “love” but in the New Testament it is used to refer to the love that God has for his children and that Christians are to have for one another.  In Jude the “agape” meals appear to refer to formal dinners or banquets, attended by Christians and so-called Christians, some of whom were Godless in character and behaviour.  In an odd way Jude uses the term “agape” without an accompanying noun so that his reference is really to “lovings”. He may be using irony.  That is, he may be referring to what could be understood as their “so-called” loving occasions in which some really did not display the love that they were supposed to display.  Regardless of what Jude was actually intending to convey, the term “agape meals” is commonly found in later Christian writings and describes certain meals that Christians shared together.  In the course of time these meals developed a reputation for displays of gluttonous and other improper behaviour and were later banned from being held in church buildings.  However, in spite of the unsavoury reference in Jude, the text provides further evidence that some Christians in New Testament times met together as Christians to share a meal.  There is a very early reference to such meals in a letter written about 112 AD by a Roman Governor to the emperor of the day. The meals themselves are not spoken of in any derogatory manner.

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