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11 When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left. - Acts 20:11

There is no consensus among scholars since 2000 years in regards to the context and purpose of the breaking of the bread in verse 11, the foundation of the Eucharist for many denominations. Many believe Paul was having a regular meal. Some believe he was taking the Lord's supper. Others believe he was doing both. Others believe the whole church was gathered around Paul but not mentioned (a synecdoche, see quote below from Hicks). Others believe the church already took the Holy communion in verse 7. And so on...

While the text uses the singular “he broke bread and ate,” the singular is a synecdoche where a part stands for the whole. Does Luke really want us to think that Paul broke bread by himself, that he ate alone? I think not. Rather, Paul is the focus of the text–preaching, healing, etc., and consequently he is the lead character in the breaking of bread. But he does not break bread alone or eat alone in the midst of a meeting of the disciples, does he?

breaking bread

If we find out whenever Paul or the whole church was with him to break the bread, it might underscore the importance and the particularity of this meal.

Was Paul alone or with the church during this meal?

Thank you.

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Acts 20:7: "Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread."

They met in order to break bread. They did not meet for fellowship and happen to eat food - the breaking of bread was the purpose of their meeting. It would be unnatural for the author to have Paul concerned about physical food at this point in his history; "breaking of bread," rather, must be theologically significant. Thus Luke says that they meet together for communion - a communal meal.

If the purpose of their meeting together was the eucharist, we ought not to be surprised when Paul partakes in the breaking of bread in v11. Though it mentions only that Paul partakes of the communal meal, they were all there for it - thus we must conclude that they were eating together. Besides - in this theologically and emotionally loaded section in Acts the reader would be very surprised to read "when Paul had gone up and had a snack, he continued talking with them." We are right, then, to assume that these verses are about the eucharist.

  • Thank you very much for your answer. I find it odd though no one/church is mentioned except Paul but interestingly the one who brakes the bread is in singular here too: Matthew 26:26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." - Q1: Was that a single meal including the Lord's supper, or the Lord's supper ("broken the bread") followed by a meal ('eaten")? Q2: It does not bother you that they took the Lord's supper somewhere between midnight and day-light? Thank you. – TruthSeeker May 15 '17 at 22:29
  • @TruthSeeker In the gospels and 1 Corinthians the Lord´s supper consists of a meal with a ritual. The Bible never uses the technical phrase "Lord´s Supper," so whether we choose to use the phrase to refer to the entire meal or the ritual alone, is up to us. To answer your second question: The Bible never specifies a specific time, day of the week, number of people in attendance, way of holding the bread, prayer ceremony that must be involved, etc. Therefore it does not bother me that the ceremony was held under different circumstances than at its institution. – Niobius Nov 14 '17 at 19:41
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The thrust of the passage is "When Paul finished dinner he preached all night, rose a guy from the dead and walked on to the next town. The passage says nothing about a "eucharist" which was only observed by Jewish believers in the process of the seder. Paul may have eaten with the others but there is zero reason to think this was a seder, "communion", "eucharist", etc.

What is significant is that it is a record of Paul eating with gentiles which was not permitted for Jews to do.

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