Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 25 Number 5 May 2023
Page 16

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Recipe for Communion Bread

Louis Rushmore, Editor

Louis Rushmore

Some brethren conscientiously concern themselves with a recipe for communion bread (1 Corinthians 10:16) – one of the emblems consumed in observance of the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 10:21) or the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20). They assert that communion bread must contain flour, olive oil and salt for it to correspond with the Passover bread with which Jesus instituted the memorial supper (1 Corinthians 11:25) (Choate, VOTI#58 50-53; Choate, VOTI#92 54). Hence, this assertion is either a doctrinal matter or amounts to going beyond what is written in Scripture (1 Corinthians 4:6) – particularly in the New Testament, under which we live and by which we will be judged.

Leviticus 2:4-7, 13 is represented as the “proof text” for a specific recipe for acceptable communion bread. It reads as follows.

4 And if you bring as an offering a grain offering baked in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil. 5 But if your offering is a grain offering baked in a pan, it shall be of fine flour, unleavened, mixed with oil. 6 You shall break it in pieces and pour oil on it; it is a grain offering. 7 If your offering is a grain offering baked in a covered pan, it shall be made of fine flour with oil. 13 And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt. (NKJV)

Leviticus 2 specifically addresses grain offerings under Judaism, which could have been baked or merely the grain itself.

14 If you offer a grain offering of your firstfruits to the Lord, you shall offer for the grain offering of your firstfruits green heads of grain roasted on the fire, grain beaten from full heads. 15 And you shall put oil on it, and lay frankincense on it. It is a grain offering. 16 Then the priest shall burn the memorial portion: part of its beaten grain and part of its oil, with all the frankincense, as an offering made by fire to the Lord. (Leviticus 2:14-16).

Leviticus 2 prefaces the “proof text” by saying:

1 When anyone offers a grain offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. And he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it. 2 He shall bring it to Aaron’s sons, the priests, one of whom shall take from it his handful of fine flour and oil with all the frankincense. And the priest shall burn it as a memorial on the altar, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord. 3 The rest of the grain offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’. It is most holy of the offerings to the Lord made by fire. (Leviticus 2:1-3)

Leviticus 2:8-12 clarify and reiterate that part of the grain offering was to be burned as a memorial before Jehovah, whereas the balance of the grain offering belonged to the priests.

Before we go beyond the “proof text” for defining communion bread for New Testament worship, let’s make some observations. First, it is an uncertain assumption that the grain offering equates to the unleavened bread of the Passover meal. Yes, both the grain offering and the Passover meal employed unleavened bread, but that alone does not establish that the exact components to the grain offering were the same for all occasions of unleavened bread. (We will shortly show examples of unleavened bread that differed in makeup to the grain offering.) Secondly, “unleavened wafers” (bread) in which oil had not been mixed were acceptable for a grain offering when they were “anointed with oil.” (This alone confirms that not all unleavened bread contained olive oil.) Thirdly, if the “proof text” establishes the necessity of including olive oil and salt in unleavened bread – for the Passover and by extension for the Lord’s Supper – it also requires the inclusion of “frankincense” (v. 1, 15-16). Yet, I’m not aware of anyone arguing for the inclusion of frankincense as a vital ingredient of communion bread for observance of the Lord’s Supper.

In the fourth place, there is more than merely one recipe for making unleavened bread. Instructions for making bread for the Tabernacle only specifies the quantity of flour, after which frankincense was to be put upon it (Leviticus 24:5-9). Likewise, 1 Samuel 28:24 describes making unleavened bread simply by kneading flour, and though a liquid may be implied, no ingredients (e.g., olive oil, salt) other than the flour are specified.

While unleavened bread can have oil as a component, water in place of oil is more universally and readily available for making unleavened bread. Leviticus 8:2, 26 and Exodus 29:2-3 introduce a basket of unleavened bread in connection with the consecration of Aaron and his sons to be priests. The latter passage describes three variations of unleavened bread. “2 And unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil (you shall make them of wheat flour). 3 You shall put them in one basket and bring them in the basket, with the bull and the two rams.” “The basket of unleavened bread used on this occasion appears to have contained: (1) cakes or loaves of the ordinary unleavened bread; (2) cakes of oiled bread, rather, oil bread (see Lev 2:1, 4); and (3) oiled wafers (see Lev 2:4,6)” (Barnes’ Notes). Adam Clarke concurred when he included in his commentary:

Three kinds of bread as to its form are mentioned here, but all unleavened: 1.  matsowth, “unleavened bread,” no matter in what shape. … 2. chalot, “cakes,” pricked or perforated, as the root implies. 3. rqiyqeey, “a very thin cake,” from raaq, “to be attenuated,” properly enough, translated “wafer.” The manner in which these were prepared is sufficiently plain from the text, and probably these were the principal forms in which flour was prepared for household use during their stay in the wilderness.

A Nazarite upon the completion of his vow also was to bring a basket of unleavened bread, among other sacrifices, to the door of the Tabernacle. In that basket were unleavened bread in which was oil as well as unleavened bread not made with oil upon which oil would be poured (Numbers 6:15).

Two recipes for making communion bread – based on unleavened bread under Judaism – persist. “The Jews today on the evening of the first day of the Passover (the fourteenth day of Nisan) in accordance with the memorial custom, still carefully remove every trace of leaven which can be found in their house. Fresh dough kneaded with pure water is used in the preparation of the cakes of unleavened bread which are to be eaten during the holy week” (Zodhiates). On the other hand, one recipe with oil reads, 2 cups whole wheat flour hard white or spelt, ¾ cup cold water, 2 tablespoons organic olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt.

Fifthly, reference to the unleavened bread relative to the commencement of the Passover contains no stipulated recipe, such as to include olive oil or salt. “And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they had brought out of Egypt; for it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared provisions for themselves” (Exodus 12:39). “You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life” (Deuteronomy 16:3).

Sixthly, particularly in the New Testament, unleavened – whether a physical reference or used figuratively – focuses on what it is not rather than a recipe. “Unleavened” means “made without leaven : (such as yeast or baking powder) : not leavened” (Merriam-Webster).

In the Bible, leaven usually represents evil (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8). “‘With the unleavened bread’ translates from the Greek words en azúmois… There is no mention of bread at all. Actually it says ‘with what are unleavened’ or ‘with unleavened qualities’” (Zodhiates).

It would be a wonderful opportunity of Christian service, especially for sisters in Christ and little ladies, to prepare the bread for observance of the Lord’s Supper. However, we should be hesitant to espouse doctrinal tenants not clearly apparent in the New Testament or by our actions to risk becoming divisive.

Works Cited

Adam Clarke’s Commentary. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Barnes’ Notes. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2014.

Choate, Betty Burton. “Our Lord’s Communion.” The Voice of Truth International (VOTI), Volume 58. 50-53.

_ _ _. “Quick Commentary on Crucial Verses: Leviticus 2:5, 13.” The Voice of Truth International (VOTI), Volume 92. 54.

“Leaven.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. Merriam-Webster. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/leaven>. 20 Apr. 2023.

Zodhiates, Spiros. First Corinthians: An Exegetical Commentary. Electronic Database. Chattanooga: Spiros Zodhiates, 2002.

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