Famous Sayings: #37 — ‘Breaking Bread’

November 20, 2016

Breaking bread together.

breaking bread, famous sayings

When I picked this topic, I was coming up with a 30-day posting schedule. I quickly picked a famous saying that somehow reminded me of Thanksgiving (which is this week in the U.S.) because a dinner was undoubtedly being reference.

What I found may come as a surprise to some, depending on one’s knowledge of religions. Others may not be surprised, but it is interesting to look into some key differences between Judaism and Christianity.

Since the former precedes the latter, I would make sense to talk about the Jewish perspective first. But I will need to compare that with the Christian perspective for a greater understanding


The Jewish Perspective on ‘Breaking Bread’

The action of breaking bread is steeply rooted in tradition. Bread was a staple in Eastern life. And it was a staple in the times of the Bible (“Breaking”).

Bread and the action of serving it can be found in the Bible as early as the book of Genesis. From Genesis 31:54:

Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his brethren to eat break and they ate bread and stayed all night on the mountain.

From my research, bread is still a staple in Jewish meals, especially on the Shabbat (Sabbath). The Shabbat begins on Fridays at sundown and concludes by sunset on Saturdays.

During this period, three large meals are eaten by a shomer Shabbat (Shabbat observer). On Fridays, meals begin with two loaves of bread to signify the manna that fell from Heaven during the Hebrew’s exodus from Egypt (Posner). A blessing is customarily said over the bread before it is broken (Fabri).

Thus, when one breaks bread, it is in reference to a meal and/or the blessing said before anyone partakes in it.


The Christian Perspective on ‘Breaking Bread’

From some of the sources I found (and from a quick Google search into the meaning of “breaking bread,” a quick answer for Christians was in reference to Holy Communion (or the Eucharist, in Catholicism). Communion is one of the Seven Sacraments in Christianity and its symbolism could be taken to be true in the spiritual and or literal sense.

The Sacrament of Holy Communion is entirely based on the words of Jesus during the Last Supper. As Jesus was with his twelve disciples during a Passover Seder, he broke bread and told them to eat bread in remembrance of him.

From Luke 22:19:

And he took bread and gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them and said, ‘This is my body, which is given for your sake; this do in remembrance of me.’

Now, I said that the Sacrament was seen in the spiritual and literal sense. For one thing, Jesus is seen as the Bread of Life and the Eucharist may also be an allegory for Jesus dying on the cross (“What”).

In Catholicism, there is quite a literal interpretation. The bread and wine because Jesus’ real flesh and blood through “transubstantiation.”

The Protestant Church kept the ritual, but rejected the transubstantiation belief.

It should be noted how the sacrament was adapted.

How Communion Became a Sacrament

Communion was added as a Christian ritual in the fourth century A.D. Bread and wine represent the body and blood of Christ. The concept of Communion in Christianity was adapted by the Roman Church in the second century A.D. from the Greek ritual called Omophagia.

Dionysus was the Greek god of wine (Bacchus was his Babylonian counterpart). Dionysus was born on December 25 and he was represented by a bull. During Omophagia, worshipers would sacrifice a bull, tear it apart with their hands and teeth, and drink its blood. In this way, they were making their god part of their own being by “consuming” it.

In much the same way, observers are taking Jesus within themselves be receiving the Holy Communion (Fabri).


Comparing Traditions

The first article I consulted by Fabri mentioned the New Testament, but the author was viewing it “from the Jewish Perspective.

As I mentioned above, the Last Supper occurred during Passover. Jesus served unleavened bread, which signified “the sinlessness of Messiah.” Only unleavened bread may be eaten during Passover.

Basically, Jesus was likely referring to himself as the living embodiment of the Torah. And the Torah tells those of the Jewish faith that by partaking of unleavened bread, they are to remember their redemption (Fabri).

When the term “breaking bread” is used in the New Testament, it is only in reference to a Passover Seder or a weekly communal meal. For example, in I Corinthians 10:4-22, the Apostle Paul talks about the importance of the Passover Seder and why the Corinthians should not mix the ritual with pagan ones.

As a whole, Paul’s letters were about the problems he encountered when seeing the Gentiles (non-Jewish members of a community) were intermingling with the Nazarene Jewish Community. The Corinthians did not have a thorough understanding of the Torah or any of its teachings.

Additionally, in the early Christian community, communal meals were adapted from the Essenes. The Essenes was a Jewish sect who mostly lived in the Judean hills. When one went into the Community, they had to turn over all their possessions, sell them, and only share common things with others in the community.

The Essenes were referred to in the second chapter of Acts (in the Bible). Many believers in the Messiah began to live the Essene lifestyle (Fabri).

But as many traditions have been modernized, there is sometimes a secular aspect to communal meals and other public gatherings in some Christian churches. Some may see this as a sin, but many functions allow for a positive gathering experiences for those involved.


Works Cited

“Breaking Bread.” Bible Truths. Web. Retrieved 20 Nov 2016. <http://www.bibletruths.net/Archives/BTAR390.htm>.

Fabri, Luana. “Breaking of Bread the Jewish Understanding.” Messianic Fellowship. Web. Retrieved 19 Nov 2016. <http://messianicfellowship.50webs.com/bread.html>.

Posner, Menachem. “What Is Shabbat?” Chabad.org. Web. Retrieved 20 Nov 2016. <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/633659/jewish/What-Is-Shabbat.htm>.

“What does the Bible mean when it speaks of the breaking of bread?”GotQuestions.org. Got Questions Ministries. <https://gotquestions.org/breaking-of-bread.html>.

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