Posted by: mattcolvin | May 22, 2011

N. T. Wright on the Supper

“The Sacrament [of the Lord’s Supper] should be celebrated narrativally.” — N.T. Wright.

Yes, he gets it.

Some corollaries:

1. Transubstantiation obviates the narrative. Narratives are rather thin stuff compared to bread that has become God.
2. The Last Supper was an act of self-identification and self-explanation by Jesus (so that he could thereafter “be known in the breaking of bread”).
3. This self-identification was Jesus’ statement, using a symbol already known to His disciples as part of their traditional Passover meal, that He was the Messiah of which the Passover’s bread ritual spoke.
4. By choosing to identify Himself as the Messiah using a Passover meal (even if the particular bread ritual was anextra-scriptural addition), Jesus thereby points back to the Old Testament scriptures that had, in fact, shaped the job description for His messianic office. (N.T. Wright would add, more controversially, but correctly, that the OT scriptures had also shaped the self-understanding of Jesus.)
5. Thus, to say that the Lord’s Supper is a transformed part of a Passover meal is to say that it can never be understood rightly without reference to Israel.
6. But the Church has historically understood it precisely without reference to Israel. Indeed, it has striven mightily to ensure that no least hint of the story of Israel should taint its observance of the Supper. It has done this by banning quartodecimanian Easter observance; by depaschalizing the Supper, i.e. purging it of its Passoverish character; by eliminating Judaeo-Christians as a recognizable group in church history; and above all, by theorizing the sacrament in ways that no Old Testament ritual ever worked.
7. The last charge (theorizing in ways alien to the Old Testament) applies equally to Thomas Aquinas, Lanfranc, and Hugh St.Victor on the one hand, and to Zwingli and the Westminster Assembly on the other hand.



  1. Can you recommend the works of David Daube that fits the Lord’s Supper? He bibliography is large and its not immediately apparent which ones apply to the eucharist.

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