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A commentary I came across said that the Didache indicated that its audience would have a meal in conjunction with the "Eucharist" but when I looked for the reference it seems it is ambiguous (of course)! See verse 1:

Didache 14:

  1. On the Lord's Day of the Lord come together, break bread and hold Eucharist, after confessing your transgressions that your offering may be pure;
  2. But let none who has a quarrel with his fellow join in your meeting until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice be not defiled.
  3. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord, "In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice, for I am a great king," saith the Lord, "and my name is wonderful among the heathen."

The Greek has:

  1. Κατὰ κυριακὴν δὲ κυρίου συναχθέντες κλάσατε ἄρτον καὶ εὐχαριστήσατε, προεξομολογησάμενοι τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν, ὅπως καθαρὰ ἡ θυσία ὑμῶν ᾐ. 2. πᾶς δὲ ἔχων τὴν ἀμφιβολίαν μετὰ τοῦ ἑταίρου αὐτοῦ μὴ συνελθέτω ὑμῖν, ἕως οὗ διαλλαγῶσιν, ἵνα μὴ κοινωθῇ ἡ θυσία ὑμῶν. 3. αὕτη γάρ ἐστιν ἡ ῥηθεῖσα ὑπὸ κυρίου· Ἐν παντὶ τόπὼ καὶ χρόνῳ προσφέρειν μοι θυσίαν καθαράν. ὅτι βασιλεὺς μέγας εἰμί, λέγει κύριος, καὶ τὸ ὄνομά μου θαυμαστὸν ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσι.

Does that mean "Come together, eat a meal and then celebrate the "Eucharist""? Or, "Celebrate the Eucharist: Come together and celebrate the "Eucharist" by eating a meal and the elements"?

Also, what pray tell do the first few word mean, "Κατὰ κυριακὴν δὲ κυρίου"?

  • We'll see where it goes. I was torn but I thought it was more of an exegetical question so I put it here. I see two others about the Didache and both are highly rated: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/didache – Ruminator Oct 30 '18 at 16:44
  • 2
    There was a Meta question, Which texts are open for examination that never did get an accepted answer. The answer with the most votes states, "If there are related texts which experts in this field tend to study because the texts are so closely tied to the subject, I would include them as 'on topic' for this site." – user33515 Oct 30 '18 at 18:36
  • I agree that this may not be the right place to discuss this but it is such an interesting question I cannot resist. – user25930 Oct 30 '18 at 21:11
  • “Does the Didache dictate that the “Lord's Supper” was to involve a real meal?” — Doesn't bread and wine by themselves constitute a meal? Else, why is it called the Lord's Supper? – Der Übermensch Oct 30 '18 at 23:36
  • The answer to that it is forthcoming. – Ruminator Oct 30 '18 at 23:49
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It is not clear that what we now call the "Eucharist" is necessarily referenced here. The wording you list above is very close to the version on the Catholic site but many others have something quite different. If I translated, it would end up close to something like this by J B Lightfoot (several other are quite similar):

"And on the Lord's own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure." See http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-lightfoot.html

Thus, this might be seen as a (semi ?) regular fellowship meal and offering of some sort.

The key to understanding this text is the last phrase, "that your sacrifice/offering may be pure." This makes a formal "Eucharist" or "Lord's Supper" less likely but not impossible as the celebration of the Lord's Supper is about Christ's sacrifice not ours. However, what "your sacrifice" means is not defined but may have been an offering for the church or the poor, etc.

This leaves open the question of "Κατὰ κυριακὴν δὲ κυρίου"; which is literally, "On [the] Lord's own of the Lord". "Day" is supplied by the translator above and most appear to feel this appropriate. This is presumably based on the later convention that Sunday was called "Kuriake". However, the earliest undisputed reference to this is the apocryphal Gospel of Peter (about 110 – 180 AD?) in v34, 35, 50. However, I could not find another reference with this unusual construction elsewhere with which to compare it.

Of course, later ecclesiastical organisations would like read back into this text some justification for current practice. If we obstinately resist this, all we might understand here is something like, "On the special day dedicated to the Lord, come together, break bread and give thanks, confessing your sins so that your sacrificial offering may be pure."

We cannot be certain that this is the earliest text. The most recent MSS dates from the 10th or 11th century and is the one most commonly translated. But this is not the place to discuss such matters.

  • "that your sacrifice/offering may be pure." This makes a formal "Eucharist" or "Lord's Supper" less likely — all the more likely actually. But, you'd not think so if you weren't a Catholic (which you probably aren't). :) – Der Übermensch Oct 30 '18 at 21:29
  • You may wish to see this thread on the biblical basis for the Eucharist being a sacrifice. – Der Übermensch Oct 30 '18 at 21:50
  • I can understand this leap of logic. But the Greek is clear - it is your (that our) sacrifice not Christ's. It is not us who are sacrificed but Jesus. Even if you are Catholic, it is still Christ's sacrifice, not ours. – user25930 Oct 30 '18 at 22:36
  • —The logic doesn't require a leap, only the understanding of a very simple analogy. Yes, it is clear. We are offering Christ's body and blood as the sacrifice, hence "This is my blood...this is my body." Arguing that it is his sacrifice not ours is a non-sequitur, as the issue is that most non-Catholics argue against the Eucharist even being a sacrifice. It is. Paul says so in very simple terms. – Der Übermensch Oct 30 '18 at 23:31
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First, the Eucharist (ἡ εὐχαριστία) itself is a meal, hence why it is called the Lord’s Supper (τὸ κυριακὸν δεῖπνον) in the New Testament.1 During the celebration of the Eucharist, the participants drink of the cup of wine and eat of the broken bread, hence the Didache states, “But let no one eat or drink from your Eucharist...”2

According to Sally Douglas,3

The Didache states, ‘And when you have had enough to eat, ἐμπλησθῆσαι, you should give thanks as follows...’ (10.1). These words have contributed to scholars arguing that a meal must have been eaten, and thus an ‘agape,’ rather than a eucharist, feast is in sight within this liturgy.

The verb ἐμπλησθῆσαι by itself (conjugated from the lemma ἐμπίπλημι) only indicates that the participants were satiated, filled, yet this doesn’t require the satiation to have been accomplished by perishable food. As the Didache states further on,4

You gave food and drink to men for enjoyment, so that they may give thanks to You, but You graciously gave us spiritual food and drink and eternal life eternal through Your servant.

τροφήν τε καὶ ποτὸν ἔδωκας τοῖς ἀνθρώποις εἰς ἀπόλαυσιν, ἵνα σοι εὐχαριστήσωσιν, ἡμῖν δὲ ἐχαρίσω πνευματικὴν τροφὴν καὶ ποτὸν καὶ ζωὴν αἰώνιον διὰ τοῦ παιδός σου.


Footnotes

1 1 Cor. 11:20
2 Ch. 9: «μηδεὶς δὲ φαγέτω μηδὲ πιέτω ἀπὸ τῆς εὐχαριστίας ὑμῶν...»
3 p. 62
4 Ch. 10

References

Douglas, Sally. Early Church Understandings of Jesus as the Female Divine: The Scandal of the Scandal of Particularity. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016.

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The Greek συναχθέντες κλάσατε ἄρτον καὶ εὐχαριστήσατε is not ambiguous. It means, "Having gathered together, break bread and give thanks." The verb "to give thanks" or even "to break bread" extremely early on became the noun "Thanksgiving" (Eucharist), the proper name of the celebration.

Arguably, one is more than just justified in translating the verb εὐχαριστήσατε "hold ye the Eucharist," since the significance of "give thanks" was equal to that of "break bread" in the context of the sacramental Eucharistic celebration—both are a wink to the institution of the celebration, when Jesus "took bread, gave thanks, and broke" (Luke 22:19) etc. and do not mean 'break bread' and 'give thanks' in general, but very specifically, to "do this" which Jesus commanded: to consecrate (or "bless" as St. Paul says) and receive or partake of His body and blood. (Hence the Didache and all early Christian writings on the matter calling it the θυσία—"sacrifice"—of Malachi 1 which Jesus "offered for" us, and which we offer to God.)

Κατὰ κυριακὴν κυρίου is a bit trickier, but not much, since its meaning is so well documented from other early writings.

The closest thing in the New Testament is found in Revelation, when John clearly makes reference to a day already known to his readers as "Lord's Day" (κυριακος ημερα). Given later witness to the fact that this "Lord's Day" is the first day of the week (Sunday), together with New Testament data on which day the church 'came together to break bread' (Acts 20:7), we can safely understand this to be a reference to holding the Eucharist on (κατὰ ) the Lord's [own] 'Lord's Day.'

The second closest thing is St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians.. specifically the section on the celebration of the Eucharist (1 Corinthians 11:20), funny enough. It says, "When you come therefore together into one place, it is not now to eat the Lord's [κυριακον] supper [i.e. which ought not to be]" (DRB).

But in something a bit less obscure and to the point (i.e. specifically about the day), we find the exact phrase "κατα κυριακην" as a day in a letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Magnesians (Chapter 9):

If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day [κατα κυριακην], on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death—whom some deny, by which mystery we have obtained faith, and therefore endure, that we may be found the disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Master...

And which obviously refers to the first day of the week, Sunday.

So what does "And κατα κυριακην of the Lord, [hold the Eucharist]?" mean? The κατα means either "every" or "on [the,]" while the κυριακην must refer to a day known to the readers as such and described already. Yielding not "And every Lord's Lord's," ignoring the distinction between κυριου and κυριακην but "And on the Lord's [own] day."

  • “Κατὰ κυριακὴν κυρίου is a bit trickier, but not much...”—I'd have to disagree. κυριακὴν by itself means “the Lord’s,” referring to the ellipsis ἡμέρα (also feminine gender), “day.” Combining that with κυρίου which could also be translated as “the Lord’s” is redundant and nonsensical. It would equivalent to “the Lord’s Lord’s Day” or “the Lord’s Day of the Lord.” How does one make any sense of that? – Der Übermensch Oct 31 '18 at 2:15
  • Suggest you look at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord%27s_Day concerning the emendation of Ignatius' letter to the Magnesians. – user25930 Oct 31 '18 at 9:56
  • @Übermensch I agree the apprent redundancy is quite intolerable. But given the perhaps intended alliteration in Greek, and that κυρικην (I'm arguing) is a known name of a day, I can see how it wouldn't sound so redundant to hearers. +Peter McGowan No matter the textual variant, Ignatius says "on this" κυριακην, and uses it consistent with the reference to a specific day. – Sola Gratia Oct 31 '18 at 13:04

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