About Greek “deipnon… supper”: a meal or a sacrificial meal?

Today, Fr. John Hunwicke of the Ordinariate has a terrific post which every priest and seminarian should read before Palm Sunday (that means “today”, right now as a matter of fact).

I won’t give you clippings.  Take and read.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. joekstl says:

    I assume Fr Z and I used the same Greek Lexicon (Liddell&Scott) in our theological studies. I currently use the Greek-English New Testament from Crossway in my Bible study sessions for our parish. The Greek “deipnon” means supper or evening meal. That meaning is consistent throughout the New Testament. The fact that some pagan practices associated a meal with sacrifice outside the New Testament is irrelevant. What is implied here is a logical flaw: deipnon means meal; meal was used for sacrifice; therefore meal is sacrificial in nature.

    The entire New Testament has no reference to the Eucharist in the Christian community as a sacrifice. From the first reference in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians of the Eucharist as meal of remembrance through to the end of New Testament writings describing the earliest Christian communities, the emphasis is on preaching, teaching and community adherence to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The earliest witness to the Sunday Christian practice of weekly gathering is Justin Martyr in the mid-first century – where we have a presider and a description of the ritual.

    The other witness we should recognize is that there is hardly any emphasis on Eucharist in the New Testament outside of Paul’s reference. And by the end of the New Testament writings (in the early 1st century) the Church structure consisted of overseer (bishop), presbyter (elder) and deacon (server). There is no priest at this point.

    Today, I see the Novus Ordo as faithful to the Last Supper and the earliest Church practice: we gather as a community at a meal to do what Jesus commanded: do this in remembrance of me.

    [Hunwicke is right. And there are three “levels” of Liddle & Scott (which is not the only reference for the NT).]

  2. joekstl says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for your response. Your reference to “levels” of Liddell&Scott refers I assume to their latest edition and to their Logos software which takes the Greek of the New Testament and places each word usage in all of Greek literature and philosophy.

    That still doesn’t show any relationship of “meal” to sacrifice in the New Testament. And the witness of the whole of the New Testament and historical references to the Eucharist at least through to Justin Martyr has no use of the leader/presider of Eucharist as priest offering sacrifice.

    Bottom line – I believe Fr. Hunwicke is wrong. And what I think is happening here relative to interpretation of New Testament texts is eisegesis instead of exegesis.

    [Hunwicke is right.]

  3. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The Passover Seder is sacrificial in nature, even if the Jews cannot sacrifice lambs anymore. (Samaritans still do.) All food was subject to various tithes or sacrifice during harvest or slaughter. Other meals were accompanied by prayers, ritual purification, and so on, and thus were liturgical in nature. Our custom of saying grace is related directly to this.

    Every meal in the pagan ancient world was accompanied by libations and food sacrifices. All.meat came from temple slaughter. All crops were harvested according to pagan rituals.

    Food was a matter of religion. So a supper was not just supper.

  4. joekstl says:

    The logic here doesn’t bake sense. Our custom of grace before meals doesn’t make the meal a sacrifice. Therefore a supper is not just st a supper. If your position is that these Neal’s are a sacrifice without a priest we can go to women presiders easily.

  5. thepalmhq says:

    The very connection joekstl says isn’t in the New Testament is made in 1 Cor 10:14-21.

  6. un-ionized says:

    Joekstl, recall that the memorium isn’t just a remembering. Once you unpack that, all will become clear.

  7. robtbrown says:

    One of my problems with much of Scriptural exegesis is that tends to isolate text from context.

    A. In the Gospel of John:

    1. Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God.
    2. He says that He is the Bread of Life, and those who eat His flesh and drink His Blood will have everlasting life.
    3. He says that He is the Good Shepherd Who lays down His life for His sheep.

    So we have Him identified as a Sacrificial animal, Who says he is a Shepherd Who will sacrifice Himself for His sheep, and we will eat His flesh and drink His blood.

    There is also 1 Cor 5:7. Christ our passover has been immolated.

    B. At the Jewish Passover the sacrifice happens before the meal.

    The Eucharist is called the Lord’s Supper because that was when it was instituted. In fact, who thinks he has eaten supper after being given a wafer of bread? It is important to keep in mind that the institution of the Eucharist looks forward to a sacrifice that has not yet happened and to the Eschatological Divine Banquet.

    Personally, I prefer the couplet Sacrament and Sacrifice to Meal and Sacrifice (or Sacrificial Meal).

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