7

These are the verses:

7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted. NIV

I would first think that "break bread" means partaking of the Eucharist or the Communion, because it was the first day of the week. But the verses seem to be saying it only in passing and not really saying that Paul was observing a religious rite. Also, he does it twice in the same day, which is also confusing if it is the Eucharist.

3
  • When this Greek combination of "break" (κλάω) and "bread" (ἄρτος) is used it appears to me in a brief perusal of each case to imply the "sharing of a meal", with perhaps the emphasis on the division of the meal (to be shared by many), coming with the use of "break" which appears in some use in the LXX to translate "shattering" (i.e., of one's enemies). Perhaps other lit. would indicate if this is an idiomatic phrase, or relating to meetings of associations. However, the plain alternative would be to use the verb "to eat" "bread", which has less emphasis on the event of a special shared meal. Apr 21, 2013 at 5:39
  • He does it twice in the same day. - No, I don't think that's the case. (Read the text again, carefully).
    – Lucian
    Jul 30, 2017 at 5:01
  • But the verses seem to be saying it only in passing and not really saying that Paul was observing a religious rite. - As opposed to Acts 2:42-46 ?
    – Lucian
    Jul 30, 2017 at 5:06

2 Answers 2

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It simply means to break the piece of bread and distribute it. This was a common practice with bread which was a common component of the daily meal.

For example, Matt. 14:19,

And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed [God] and broke [the loaves], and he gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

2
  • Yes, this shows precedence that breaking bread did not always mean the Eucharist and that it was done before the Last Supper. Are there more verses like Matt 14:19. Even in Old Testament?
    – user2055
    Apr 20, 2013 at 15:10
  • 2
    Jer 16:7 [LXX] is the only verse that I find in the OT that has the verb for "break" and the object "bread" in Greek: καὶ οὐ μὴ κλασθῇ ἄρτος ἐν πένθει αὐτῶν εἰς παράκλησιν ἐπὶ τεθνηκότι οὐ ποτιοῦσιν αὐτὸν ποτήριον εἰς παράκλησιν ἐπὶ πατρὶ καὶ μητρὶ αὐτοῦ. In several places, a derived word refers to "pieces of bread" (i.e. Ps.102:9). Apr 21, 2013 at 7:26
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It is an ancient idiom to have a meal, to eat food. It has no ritual meaning!! I have heard the idiom to break bread in Indian language. Matt 14:19 is a great reference.

Jeremiah 16:7 ESV No one shall break bread for the mourner, to comfort him for the dead, nor shall anyone give him the cup of consolation to drink for his father or his mother.

ASV: neither shall men break bread
KJV: Neither shall men tear themselves
LXX: ου μη in no way κλασθή should be broken άρτος bread

JFB commentary: 7. tear themselves—rather, "break bread," namely, that eaten at the funeral-feast (Deut 26:14; Job 42:11; Ezek 24:17; Hos 9:4). "Bread" is to be supplied, as in La 4:4; compare "take" (food) (Ge 42:33). give . . . cup of consolation . . . for . . . father—It was the Oriental custom for friends to send viands and wine (the "cup of consolation") to console relatives in mourning-feasts, for example, to children upon the death of a "father" or "mother."

LXX supplied the word "bread" where it wasn't in the Hebrew, meaning "breaking" itself connoted, as a metonymy to eating.

Isa 58:7 LXX διάθρυπτε πεινῶντι τὸν ἄρτον σου

SLT Is it not to break thy bread to the hungry, and thou shalt bring the wandering poor to thy house? when thou shalt see the naked and cover him; and thou shalt not hide from thy flesh.

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