Barry Newman's Blog

October 16, 2011

The Breaking of Bread (part VI)

Filed under: Agape meals,Eucharist,Holy Communion,Lord's Supper — barrynewman @ 8:28 pm

They devoted themselves to …

However, in spite of the argument so far, does the word translated “devoted” indicate that there was some “ceremony” involved?  The Greek word, “proskartero” used in Acts 2: 42, carries with it a strong sense of purpose but nothing that automatically associates it with the practice of a “ceremony”.  The behaviour exhibited by those recently added to the faith was characterised by a fixed determination. They set themselves to learn from the teaching of the apostles, to engage with one another in a common bond, to have simple meals together and to participate in prayer.

They also sold possessions and goods and distributed to those who were in need – a sure sign of community cohesion.  They attended the temple together – another sign of their new found community spirit.  Perhaps it was particularly in the temple that they engaged in prayers.  And they broke bread in their homes – perhaps indicating that it was only in homes that these simple meals could be shared and then only with a limited number of people.  Their communal spirit, their fellowship, was characterised by spontaneity and simplicity.

Indeed, it is possible that in Acts 2: 42 there is an emphasis on the simplicity of the meals of the early disciples, rather than potentially more elaborate ones were self indulgence could hold sway.

And it was with glad and generous hearts that they partook of food, whether or not that was mainly bread. Perhaps some food, some bread, was given to the poor whether the believing poor  or the non believing poor, as they praised God and as people in general favourably looked up them.

It was the behaviour of a people who had discovered the Messiah and who had had their lives transformed.  Arguably, to start to understand their response as principally or even partly conforming to a ceremony would seem to diminish their new found allegiance and their generous attitude towards others.

Concluding Remarks

It seems at this point as though a sledge hammer has been used to crack the proverbial nut.  They devoted themselves … to the breaking of bread” is a simple but profound reference to a very purposeful practice of early disciples sharing simple meals, the solid component of which consisted mainly or entirely of bread.  We do not know what sort of bread or what varieties of bread may have been eaten but it was almost certainly and in the main, bread.

If this is true any connection with the so-called Lord’s Supper is just a myth.

However, what of the Lord’s Supper itself – presumably a reference to 1 Corinthians 11: 20?  What is actually being referred to in this text?  This was a question I asked some time ago but it still needs to be asked again.

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