Barry Newman's Blog

May 20, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part II)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 10:24 pm

References in the first few centuries to a Christian rite associated with the elements of a meal and references to meals that Christians shared with each other (c0ntinued)

Clement of Rome (ca 80 A.D.) – The Ordering of Offerings or Sacrifices

Clement  wrote of “Jesus Christ, the high priest of our offerings [prosphoron]”  and “the Master” who “ordered sacrifices [prosphoras] to be performed … at the times and seasons he fixed” and  that “where he wants them performed and by whom, he himself fixed by his supreme will.”[1]  It could be that in his reference to “sacrifices” or “offerings” he is making a comment about a ceremony or ritual and that he has the words of Jesus, “Do this in remembrance of me” in mind when referring to “the Master” who ordered them to be performed.  However this is by no means certain and his use of the plural “sacrifices” or “offerings” might suggest otherwise.  Of note is the regulatory nature of when and by whom these “sacrifices” or “offerings” are to be performed.

Ignatius of Antioch (ca 110 A.D.)- The Eucharist and the Love Feast

Perhaps the first clear evidence of the performance of a ceremony or rite that some might regard as of the same mould as “the Lord’s Supper” comes from the writings of Ignatius of Antioch.  He wrote, “They remain aloof from Eucharist … because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our saviour Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins.”[2]  “Let that be regarded as a valid eucharist which is held under the bishop or to whomever he entrusts it.  … It is not permissible apart from the bishop either to baptize or celebrate [poiein] the love feast [agapen].”[3] “I want the bread of God which is the flesh of Jesus Christ … and for drink I want his blood.”[4] “Be eager, then to celebrate one eucharist; for one is the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one the cup of union through his blood, one the altar just as one the bishop along with the presbytery and deacons.”[5]  It could be that in his writings, eucharistia represents both a ceremony and the bread and wine.  Furthermore, his reference to the agapen could have been a reference to the Eucharist – he asserts that the love feast together with baptism are to be under the control of the bishop and that the Eucharist is to be under the control of the bishop.  The first and fourth quotes could be understood as referring to a belief that in some sense, in the Eucharist, the actual flesh and blood of Christ is present.

[1] Clement of Rome, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 36.1; 40.1 – 40.5,  in Early Christian Fathers, Richardson, C.C. (ed.), Library of Christian Classics, I, SCM, London, 1953, pp. 60, 62

[2] Ignatius, To the Smyrnians, 7.1 in Ignatius of Antioch: A commentary on the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, Schoedel, W.R. (ed.), Hermeneia – a critical and historical commentary on the Bible, Fortress, Philadelphia, PA, 1985, p. 238

[3] Ignatius, To the Smyrnians, 8.1.2, idem

[4] Ignatius, To the Romans, 7.3 in Ignatius of Antioch: A commentary on the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, op. cit., p. 81

[5] Ignatius, To the Philadelphians, 4.1 in Ignatius of Antioch: A commentary on the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, op. cit., p. 197



  1. I think we do Ignatius and others a major disservice by attributing their comments too easily to the transsubstantiationist point of view. He is so much more complicated than that, as he argues against the docetists & others at the time. We have let the ground be ripped from him, and have given it to the Catholics. It needs reclaiming for the gospel, to better understand what he was saying.

    Comment by Robert Denham — May 28, 2010 @ 2:50 am | Reply

  2. I replied to your comment via email. Hope you received it


    Comment by barrynewman — May 31, 2010 @ 1:19 am | Reply

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