The Didache, Luke, Passover, and Order of the Eucharist

The Didache records the liturgy surrounding the Eucharist (see below), and one of the things that’s interesting is the order of the Supper – the cup first, and then the bread. In the liturgy that I lead of the Supper, we receive the bread first, and the cup second. Once I reversed them and got some stares from the elders that I had goofed up, which was entirely accidental, but shows just how ingrained our liturgy becomes in a very intimate and personal way. The Gospel of Luke records the Supper with a cup, breaking of bread, and another cup (Luke 22:17-20). This seeming dilemma disappears when one realizes that the Passover meals contained various steps. Apparently, the early church preferred the cup first, perhaps based on Luke’s record. I don’t know when the church reversed the order back to the bread first, but it seems to be the prevailing view today. Here’s how the Passover observance went down:

A. Prayer
B. Cup of wine
C. Hand washing by host and passing of basin to all
D. Dip of bitter herbs and sauce
E. Lamb and main meal
F. Prayer and second dip of bitter herbs and sauce
G. Second cup of wine with question-and-answer time for children (cf. Exod. 12:26–27)
H. Singing of the first part of Hallel Psalm 113–114 and prayer
I. Master of ceremony makes sop for each one after washing his hands
J. All eat until filled; finish with a piece of lamb
K. Third cup of wine after washing hands
L. Singing second part of Hallel Psalm 115–118
M. Fourth cup of wine

Utley, R. J. (2004). The Gospel according to Luke (Vol. Volume 3A). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

And the Didache:

9. Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks as follows.

(2) First, concerning the cup:

We give you thanks, our Father,
for the holy vine of David your servant,
which you have made known to us
through Jesus, your servant;
to you be the glory forever.

(3) And concerning the broken bread:

We give you thanks, our Father,
for the life and knowledge
which you have made known to us
through Jesus, your servant;
to you be the glory forever.

(4) Just as this broken bread was scattered
upon the mountains and then was
gathered together and became one,
so may your church be gathered together
from the ends of the earth into your kingdom;
for yours is the glory and the power
through Jesus Christ forever.

Holmes, M. W. (1999). The Apostolic Fathers: Greek texts and English translations (Updated ed., pp. 259–261). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

© 2013, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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