The consensus view has long been that the Eucharist as practiced in the early Church was modeled primarily on the Last Supper. The meal then disappeared from the rite, and the Eucharist was appended to a morning service of the word inherited from the Jewish synagogue. All of this was supposedly standardized at a very early date, and has remained essentially the same ever since.
In this groundbreaking book, Paul Bradshaw explores the basis on which this thesis is built, exposes its weaknesses, and suggests an alternative way of looking at the evidence that leads to a very different vision of eucharistic origins. He carefully examines the principal sources from the first few centuries and finds that although the eucharistic sayings of Jesus did play an important role in shaping the beliefs of early Christians, there was surprising diversity in their practice. Communities differed in the order of the ritual, in the elements used, and in the meanings assigned to it. Bradshaw shows that the Eucharist continued to be associated with an evening meal much longer than previously thought. Likewise, he argues that only gradually did the understanding of the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ come to predominate.
Tracing what can be known--and what cannot--about the celebration of the Eucharist during this formative period of Christianity, Bradshaw sheds important new light on the central rite of the Christian faith.show more