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The Last Supper, Passover, Communion, or ?

July 12, 2012

As I said in my post about unleavened bread, my study on The Last Supper shattered some illusions for me.  As a former Lutheran I was raised believing that The Last Supper was where Christ instituted the sacrament of Communion.  There are many in the Hebrew Roots, Messianic, and Israelite movement who believe that it was in fact a Passover Meal. Which was it? Could it have been neither?

There are a lot of arguments for and against both Passover and Communion. I could talk about what wasn’t mentioned in the account of The Last Supper – no lamb, no bitter herbs, etc.  I could talk about how God doesn’t change and, as scripture tells us we are not to do, Yeshua didn’t add anything to the commandments of God, just as he didn’t take away from them.  I could talk about how it was common practice for a Rabbi to have a Passover Meal with his followers the night before the Passover, not on Passover, as the Passover Meal is to be eaten with one’s family.  I could talk about pagan sun-god worshipers who ate sun-shaped (round) disks emblazoned with the tau (a cross).

Instead of doing that, let’s KISS this study and just take it to the word.

In all accounts of The Last Supper, when Jesus broke the bread, the word for bread is the Greek word artos It is Strong’s number G740. It means:

bread, loaf.

From airo; bread (as raised) or a loaf — (shew-)bread, loaf.

see GREEK airo

Wait, raised bread? Don’t we eat unleavened bread at the Passover?  Is it the same word?

No, it isn’t unleavened bread is G106 azumos:

unleavened bread.

From a (as a negative particle) and zume; unleavened, i.e. (figuratively) uncorrupted; (in the neutral plural) specially (by implication) the Passover week — unleavened (bread).

see GREEK a

see GREEK zume

All occurrences of the word “bread” in The New Testament are G740 and all instances of “unleavened bread” are G106.

G740 can also mean shewbread, which was unleavened.  It is necessary  to note that any time that G740 means shewbread it is a compound word with G4286 prothesis:

a setting forth, i.e. (figuratively) proposal (intention); specially, the show-bread (in the Temple) as exposed before God:–purpose, shew(-bread).

Also shewbread was only present in the temple; it was not eaten outside of the Temple.

So if Yeshua and the disciples were eating bread made with leaven, clearly it was not a Passover meal or communion – unleavened bread are required for both.

What was it then? Could it have been a regular evening meal? I think so. To the best of my knowledge, meat wasn’t eaten at every meal in bible times the way we do today in developed countries.  This explains the lack of commentary about meat being eaten as it would have been during a Passover meal.

It is interesting to note that Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states that G740 can be food of any kind:

2. As in Greek writings, and like the Hebrew לֶחֶם, food of any kind

In reading the biblical account of the last supper it is important to remember that a Hebraic day starts at evening, not at morning.  Therefore in Matthew, Mark, and Luke when it says that they went to find a room on the first day of the Feast of Passover – they are talking about the evening before when the Passover Meal would have been eaten, which was actually the same Hebraic date as the day for the eating of Passover.  Until the Passover meal, leavened bread is still acceptable because The Feast of Unleavened Bread doesn’t begin until dark that evening (the beginning of the next Hebraic day).

Should the last supper be celebrated? Yes. Jesus tells us to “Do this in remembrance of me.”  The question is how?

I can think of two ways to do this. The first way is to remember him every time we eat bread or drink wine. The second is to have a meal, as an assembly, the evening before Passover.

As I see it, one could get together with your church or qahal the evening before you celebrate Passover with your family.  At this gathering, you could eat simple foods – definitely including bread and wine, and also fulfill Yeshua’s commandment to wash each other’s feet from John 13.

I think it is perfectly acceptable to do both.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Leah permalink
    April 2, 2014 02:24

    Shalom alecha! Thanks for this very useful and logical article.
    A few years ago I read somewhere exactly what you mention about a common practice of Rabbis to have a “Passover” supper the night before as a teaching opportunity with his disciples so that the real night of Passover could be spent with their family. I don’t remember where I read this and people have asked me for my source on this information. Can you tell me where this idea comes from or how I can corroborate its veracity?
    I did find an article that talks about the possibility of Yeshua’s last supper being a seudat-mitzva at this link:
    http://www.herealittletherealittle.net/index.cfm?page_name=Last-Supper-Passover-Meal
    Yevarechecha Adonai

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