Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Vol. 2, No. 1 Page 13 January 2000

Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles
By Louis Rushmore

Individual Communion Wafers
Vs. Traditional Communion Bread

. . . RECENTLY . . . STARTED USING INDIVIDUAL WAFERS ON THE COMMUNION PLATE [IN THE INTEREST OF SANITATION] THE REGULAR COMMUNION BREAD IS STILL PROVIDED HOWEVER.  I HAVE ALWAYS INTERRUPTED 1COR 11:24f AS AN EXAMPLE TO BE FOLLOWED.  I REALIZE THAT I COULD BE WRONG HERE.  THE LORD BROKE THAT LOAF ONCE AND FOR ALL TIME IS ONE THING I'VE HEARD.  I WOULD APPRECIATE YOUR ANSWER ON THIS.  HOW WIDE SPREAD IS THIS PRACTICE IN THE BROTHERHOOD?  I'VE TOLD THE MEN I FEEL THIS TO BE AN UNSCRIPTURAL PRACTICE, IF I AM WRONG I NEED TO RECANT AND REPENT. I HAVE NOT TRIED TO PUSH MY UNDERSTANDING ON THE REST, JUST TOLD THEM MY UNDERSTANDING. ~ H. DEAN LEUCH, ANADARKO, OK
Matthew 14:19; 15:36; Mark 8:6, 19 depict Jesus ‘breaking bread’ in his miraculous provision of a common meal for a great multitude.  In these instances, ‘breaking bread’ was merely the mechanism for dividing the available bread supply among the recipients.  After his resurrection, Jesus ‘broke bread’ with his disciples in an evening meal (Luke 24:30).  Likewise, Christians later (and others, too) ‘broke bread’ during ordinary meals (Acts 2:46; 20:11; 27:35).  No one would imagine that were bread for a common meal then or now divided among the recipients in some manner other than ‘breaking’ that it would be incorrect or even sinful to eat those provisions.

It is true, of course, that Jesus also ‘broke bread’ in his institution of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24).  Scripture further confirms that the first century church ‘broke bread’ in the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10:16).  In a sense, it has been the long-standing practice of the churches of Christ and other religious people to ‘break bread’ when observing the Lord’s Supper.  Therefore, any deviation from what we have done traditionally or even in a cursory observance of biblical accounts must be weighed carefully in the light of biblical authority.  Not unexpectedly, the least variance from what we have always done alarms many sincere souls irrespective of whether there are any biblical ramifications.  For instance, the move to multiple communion cups from the one or two cups previously used was hotly debated and resulted in fractured fellowship in some cases (which prevails still).  Certainly, multiple communion cups versus the former alternative were chosen, in part at least, “in the interest of sanitation.”

The bread available to Jesus, his disciples and the world of the first century was unlike both our common loaf bread and the communion bread we usually use in our communion services.  Their bread was the simple mixture of flour and water which was baked in crude ovens or on hot rocks.  Bread was for them a tough cake (round or oblong) an inch or less in height.  It was not the custom of these peoples to use eating utensils, including knives to cut the bread.  Therefore, considering their ‘bread’ and their failure to employ utensils such as knives, bread was simply broken.

The apparent extra emphasis on “broken” in 1 Corinthians 11:24 of the King James Version (“which is broken for you”) is disputed.  Neither my Greek-English Interlinear Bible  nor the American Standard Version rendering of 1 Corinthians 11:24 agree with the KJV inclusion of “which is broken for you.”  Consequently, they are more nearly identical to the passages in the Gospel records regarding our Christ’s institution of the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus broke one of the passover wafers or cakes that each might have a piece, not as a symbol of the breaking of his body as the Textus Receptus has it in 1 Cor. 11:24. . . . In fact, the body of Jesus was not “broken” (John 19:33) as John expressly states.

One of the noun forms for the Greek word for ‘broken’ (klasma) refers to the result of the ‘breaking bread’ and is translated “fragments” (Matthew 14:20) and “broken” (Matthew 15:37).  It refers to “that which is broken off, a fragment, morsel.”

Considering (1) the type of bread that was available in the first century, (2) the customs of first century people that did not include eating utensils (i.e., cutting their bread), (3) that ‘breaking bread’ has no special relationship to the supposed ‘broken’ body of Jesus Christ – which was not ‘broken’ (John 19:33), (4) that for the common meal cutting bread or making smaller loaves would not be biblically objectionable and (5) that the word family for ‘breaking’ bread includes the fragments from the act of ‘breaking bread,’ the use of “individual wafers” does not contradict any biblical authority.  Our custom of ‘breaking bread,’ then, pertains to habitual practice for which we may have some emotional attachment, rather than to any biblical requirement.

It is praiseworthy that the congregation opted to include both the “individual wafers” according to its preference as well as retain the traditional communion bread in deference for others within the congregation.  It is equally praiseworthy that you are willing to evaluate this topic more closely and that you have graciously not ‘pushed your understanding’ on the rest of the congregation.  There is no reason, then, for conflict within the congregation over the traditional communion bread versus “individual wafers.”  Further, from what you have stated, there does not appear to be any reason to “repent” for your view.  As a matter of fact, as far as I can ascertain from your correspondence, you have the option to hold your stated opinion while continuing to refrain from ‘pressing your understanding on the congregation’ or acknowledging that you have changed your view (if you have changed your view as a consequence of this answer).  You, of course, may continue to avail yourself of the traditional communion bread.

The foregoing is not an argument attempting to promote “individual wafers,” only an assessment of whether such is compatible with biblical authority.  I am not aware of how widespread this switch to individual wafers over traditional communion bread may be.


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Louis Rushmore, Editor
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