Eucharist: Passover, Manna and Bread of the Presence

I highly recommend Brant Pitre’s Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist. Pitre examines the New Testament’s Eucharistic texts along three major axes: the Passover, the manna and the bread of the presence. Most Christians will be at least somewhat familiar with the Passover material. The manna texts will be less familiar, while the imagery surrounding the bread of the presence will be largely unknown. In addition to drawing on Biblical material, Pitre looks at early Common Era Jewish texts (i.e., the Mishnah, the Targums, etc.) that illuminate how Jesus’ Jewish audience might have understood his words and actions.

Pitre returns to the Passover theme in the fourth major section of the book, with an examination of Jesus’ enigmatic statement that he would not again drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes. Pitre’s interpretation here, he admits, is more conjectural, but it brings a quite plausible¬†unity to the events of Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

Pitre is a devout Catholic and the church’s Eucharistic theology often takes center stage in Pitre’s interpretation. He also holds a PhD from Notre Dame in “Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity” and he writes within the current stream of Biblical scholarship. There is a goldmine in Pitre’s book, even for those who believe that while “the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ; and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ:”, it is also true that “the body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after a heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith.” (Article 18, Methodist Articles of Religion).