016 Commentary

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This page forms part of the resources for 016 Supper and Eucharist in the Jesus Database project of FaithFutures Foundation

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Commentary

John Dominic Crossan

In Crossan's view, this is the third example of a plurally attested complex from the first stratum which, although summarizing "principles or practices, themes or emphases, of the historical Jesus, stem not from him but from the liturgical creativity of the early communities" [Historical Jesus, 360]. (The other examples were 013 Two As One and 120 The Lords Prayer.)

Crossan [Historical Jesus, 360-67] proposes five major stages in the development of this complex:

1. The general anthropology of eating and the more specific historical customs of Greco-Roman commensality: and specifically the two-part structure (deipnon then symposion) of the Greco-Roman formal meal.

2. Open commensality practiced by Jesus and his followers as an expression of radical social egalitarianism.

3. A ritual meal within the early Jesus communities, such as those prescribed in Didache 10 and 9, with no paschal imagery, no Last Supper tradition, and no connection with the death of Jesus.

4. The pre-Pauline tradition of the Last Supper during which Jesus institutes the eucharistic ritual and links the bread and wine to his body and blood.

5. Introduction of Passover character as part of a re-working of the Last Supper tradition by Mark.

Paula Fredriksen

Fredriksen [Jesus of Nazareth, 117-119] accepts the Passover character of the event and places the actions of Jesus in the context of messianic meals in his own ministry and at Qumran. When discussing the final days in Jerusalem (page 252), she assumes the basic historicity of the last supper narrative as a self-conscious final meal in which Jesus spoke of his impending death saying the words over the bread and cup.

Jesus Seminar

Sayings of Jesus

  • 1 Cor 11:23-25
  • Mark 14:25
  • Mark 14:22-25
  • Matt 26:29
  • Matt 26:26-29
  • Matt 26:28c
  • Luke 22:16,18
  • Luke 22:15-20
  • Did 9:4
  • Did 9:1-4
  • John 6:51-58


Passion Narrative

  • 1 Cor 11:23-26
  • Mark 14:22-26
  • Matt 26:26-30
  • Luke 22:14-20
  • John 6:26-70



Gerd Luedemann

Luedemann [Jesus, 94-97] concludes that the assymetrical forms cited in 1 Cor 11 are older than the parallel forms of the sayings over the bread and cup in Mark. He also suggests that the eschatological prospect entertained by Jesus is a later addition, and notes that it has nothing to do with the gift of bread and wine. On the other hand, Luedemann notes that the Pauline text reflects a later development than Mark with its twofold command for repetition of the supper ritual in memory of Jesus. In the end, Luedemann decides that the differences between Mark and Paul are small enough for him to use the two accounts in determining both the content of the final meal and the ways in which the supper was understood by early Christians.

At the same time, Luedemann concludes that the portrayal of Jesus celebrating such a ritual on the night before his death is not historical. He is clear that there is "no generic relationship" between any actual final meal and the Lord's Supper understood in cultic terms. He also denies the Passover character of the supper as a Markan creation. Like Meier (below), Luedemann does accept the saying (Mark 14:25) about drinking wine in the kingdom of God as authentic. He concludes: (this saying) "hardly came into being in the early community, for in it Jesus does not exercise any special function for believers at the festal meal in heaven which is imminent. Only Jesus' expectation of a the future kingdom of God stands at the centre, not Jesus as saviour, judge or intercessor."

John P. Meier

When discussing the saying on Drinking Wine in the Kingdom of God (Mark 14:25), Meier [Marginal Jew II,302] notes that "the historicity of a final farewell meal held by Jesus with his disciples is generally accepted by scholars across the spectrum, since its existence is supported by both the criterion of multiple attestation and the criterion of coherence."