Archive for the 'Holy Communion' Category

The Core of the Distinction Between the Passover Seder and the Lord’s Supper: National Israel and the Assembly of Messiah Yeshua

by Geert ter Horst

Priests of the Temple Institute Training for the Passover

Priests of the Temple Institute Training for the Passover

The core of the distinction between the Passover Seder and the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, is the distinction between the Assembly of Messiah and national Israel. Although the Assembly of Messiah is part of national Israel — it is composed of the faithful remnant of Israel and believers from the nations attaching themselves to it — the two are not simply identical. To Israel as a people or nation one belongs first and foremost by natural birth. Who is born a Jew ipso facto belongs to the people of Israel. No one, however, belongs to the Assembly of Messiah by natural birth but only by virtue of the supernatural rebirth of faith. For that reason the Assembly of Messiah is a community of believers and one enters this community by a confession of faith. A person publicly confesses this faith by being baptized in Messiah’s name. Through faith and Baptism one is incorporated into the faithful remnant or the messianic part of the nation of Israel. Hence faith and Baptism are necessary for everyone, Jew and non-Jew, to belong to the Assembly of Messiah. This Assembly is thus a subset of Israel, to which believers from the nations are added.

Those who identify the Lord’s Supper with the Passover Seder confuse the order of faith and supernatural rebirth with the order of nationality and natural birth. It should be obvious that celebrating the Lord’s Supper is the duty and privilege of only those who belong to Yeshua by acknowledging him as Lord and Messiah, and consequently are part of his Assembly. These are the baptized and non-excommunicated believers. Celebrating the Passover Seder, however, is the duty and privilege of everyone who belongs to Israel: this includes all Jews, whether or not they personally believe in Yeshua. Unbaptized children of Messianic Jews, for example, are, like all Jewish children, permitted to participate in the Passover Seder. But unbaptized children and unbaptized persons in general, whether they are Jewish or not, are prohibited from participating in the Lord’s Supper. The Apostle Paul says that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper expresses the unity of the Assembly of Messiah. The many who are eating of the one bread are one Mystical Body (I Cor. 10:17).

Due to the fundamental difference between these two statutes it is reasonable to assume that Yeshua didn’t institute the Eucharist during the celebration of the Passover Seder. An important indicator to this is the fact that Yeshua designated the bread he broke as symbolizing his sacrified body and the wine of the cup after the supper as symbolizing his sacrificial blood. If the Last Supper had been a Passover Seder, however, Yeshua could simply have pointed to the Passover lamb, the Korban Pesach, as the symbol of his body. The blood of this lamb, outpoured at the altar, in that case would have symbolized Yeshua’s sacrificial blood. For why would Yeshua introduce another set of symbols if the ones instituted by the Torah were already at hand?

The Korban Pesach sacrificed in the Temple is indeed a sign of Yeshua’s sacrifice, of his body and blood. In the Millennial Kingdom the Temple will again be functioning and Yeshua’s sacrificial death will be commemorated and celebrated with the required Korban Pesach by all the nation of Israel. At that time Yeshua will openly appear as King Messiah and everyone will have to profess him obedience. This public position of our Messiah as King of Israel, however, differs from his position as head of his Assembly, the Mystical Body. In the Kingdom of the Millennium there will be no Mystical Body, that is to say a special congregation of believers in Yeshua. Persons born during the Millennium will be part of the messianic kingdom from the outset and thus be subjects of King Yeshua. All will have to obey him, without a possibility of choice and regardless of having true faith. Concerning external obedience there will be no longer a distinction between believers and unbelievers. Forming a special congregation of believers will then just be meaningless. For the same reasons, to baptize someone in the name of Yeshua, or celebrate the Eucharist, the defining rites of the Assembly of Messiah, will make no sense anymore.

Nevertheless, during the Millennium as well as in any other period of history there will be both believers and unbelievers on earth. There will be people who will open up their hearts to Yeshua during this time of his reign and there will be those who will refuse. Outright unbelievers, who openly and rebelliously refuse obedience, however, will be removed from the scene by the death penalty. The Kingdom Age will be a theocracy.

The reason why Baptism and the Lord’s Supper will find no place in the Millennium is thus made clear. If they would be maintained, they would become compulsory ordinances enforced upon everyone. However, this would be contrary to their very essence of being instituted for believers only and constituting the community of the believing remnant. The Mystical Body consists only of those who are baptized by their own free will, by reason of their faith in Yeshua, and hence are permitted to partake of the Eucharist, which expresses, maintains and strenghtens the bond of this Body of the faithful.

Now it also clear that the national statutes of Israel, such as the Passover Seder, will remain during the Millennium. For Messiah Yeshua is indeed the King of Israel. He will restore Israel’s national statutes and bring them to their highest perfection. The Passover Seder will be enriched with the fullness of messianic meanings that are today not recognized by Orthodox Judaism. Its celebration will be a solemn and public confession and proclamation of Yeshua’s sacrifice on the Cross. Yeshua’s sacrifice will be recognized and confessed as the foundation of Israel’s national restoration. For all who have true faith this will result in their sharing the gift of spiritual rebirth and eternal life. For non-believers the fruits will be limited to the temporal blessings they’ll receive while living in the Kingdom.

Een Eenvoudige Liturgische Reden Waarom het Laatste Avondmaal Waarschijnlijk geen Pesach Seider Was

 

door Geert ter Horst

Het Korban Pesach (Pesach Offer)

Het Korban Pesach (Pesach Offer)

Ieder jaar met het naderen van Pesach hebben messiaanse gelovigen discussies over de aard van Jesjoea’s laatste maaltijd, die wordt vermeld in de synoptische Evangelieën. De overheersende vraag is: was dit Avondmaal een Pesach Seider? Deze vraag maakt deel uit van de doorgaande discussie over de kalenderdatum van Jesjoea’s Kruisiging: werd Jesjoea gekruisigd op de 14de of op de 15de Niesan?

De overgeleverde aanname van zowel het Jodendom als het Christendom is dat de Kruisiging plaatsvond op de vóórbereidingsdag van Pesach en dus op de 14de Niesan. Dit is de datum gegeven door de chronologie van de gebeurtenissen zoals die worden verteld in het Evangelie van Johannes. Veel bijbelgeleerden zijn echter van mening dat Johannes’ chronologie in strijd is met de Synoptici, die, zo nemen zij aan, de feestdag van de 15de Niesan als kruisigingsdatum hebben.

Het debat over het verschil in datum, en de vraag hoe het te beslechten, maakt deel uit van het grotere vraagstuk hoe de Synoptici en Johannes met elkaar in overeenstemming zijn te brengen. In deze korte notitie zal ik niet ingaan op alle details van de nogal gecompliceerde en technische questie van de kalenderdata van het Laatste Avondmaal en de Kruisiging. Laat het voldoende zijn om hier vast te stellen dat de traditionele vertaling van Mt. 26:17 — en de synoptische parallellen Mk. 14:12 en Lk. 22:7 — welke de frase bevat: “op de eerste dag van het feest der ongezuurde broden”, op een aantal ernstige moeilijkheden stuit en niet voetstoots kan worden aangenomen.

Terwijl nu sommigen de verslagen van de Evangelieën zouden willen harmoniseren door te pogen het Johannes Evangelie aan te passen aan de veronderstelde chronologie van de Synoptici, zou ik daartegenover de voorkeur geven aan de optie om de Synoptici op een zodanige wijze te interpreteren dat zij harmoniëren met de Niesan 14 kruisiging zoals vermeld door Johannes. Ik hoop in een later artikel mijn redenen voor deze voorkeur te verduidelijken.

Voor nu zal ik mij echter beperken tot een eenvoudig en krachtig argument waarom, in mijn ogen, de interpretatie van het Laatste Avondmaal als zijnde een Pesach Seider waarschijnlijk onjuist is. Dit argument komt er in wezen op neer dat indien het Avondmaal werkelijk een Seider was, Jesjoea’s instelling van de Maaltijd des Heren (of Eucharistie) een overbodige en liturgisch verwarrende daad zou zijn geweest.

Indien het Laatste Avondmaal een Pesach Seider was, zou een geofferd Pesach lam daar een noodzakelijk bestanddeel van zijn. Jesjoea en zijn leerlingen zouden hun lam in de Tempel geslacht hebben op de namiddag van de 14de Niesan, en zouden het gegeten hebben gedurende de daaropvolgende Seideravond van de 15de.

Maar indien dit is wat er gebeurde, waarom zou Jesjoea dan een brood nemen gedurende de Seider en verklaren dat het zijn lichaam betekende? Mt. 26:26 zegt: “En toen zij aten, nam Jesjoea een brood, maakte de berachah, brak het, en gaf het aan zijn leerlingen en zei: Neemt, eet, dit is mijn lichaam”. Indien het Avondmaal een Seider was, zou er immers al een imposant symbool van Jesjoea’s lichaam voorhanden zijn: het Pesach lam (of Korban Pesach). Het was dus helemaal niet nodig een ander vertegenwoordigend symbool van het te offeren lichaam van de Messias te introduceren. Het geëigende symbool was op de tafel aanwezig en Jesjoea zou eenvoudig hebben kunnen verklaren, wijzend op het lam: “Dit is mijn lichaam, dat voor u gegeven wordt” (Lk. 22:19).

Dienovereenkomstig zou men verwachten dat Jesjoea’s woorden: “Dit is mijn bloed van het Nieuwe Verbond”, zouden zijn gezegd toen het lam in de Tempel geslacht werd. Indien er een Pesach lam aanwezig was bij het Laatste Avondmaal, zou het op het altaar vergoten bloed daarvan natuurlijk het gepaste teken en de symbolische vertegenwoordiging zijn van Jesjoea’s offerbloed.

Vanuit een liturgisch en ritueel gezichtspunt klinkt het nogal onlogisch om te veronderstellen dat de eerste generatie van Jesjoea’s leerlingen een Seider vierde waarin zowel de Matze als het Pesach lam de bijzondere symbolen waren van Jesjoea’s lichaam. Waarom de gebroken Matze, waar de Seider maaltijd mee opent, gebruiken om Jesjoea’s geofferde lichaam aan te duiden, indien even later gedurende diezelfde maaltijd de aandacht wordt gericht op het veel indrukwekkender offersymbool van het Pesach lam? Waarom de beker der dankzegging tot het geëigende teken van Jesjoea’s bloed verheffen indien er op de voorafgaande middag reeds naar het veel indrukwekkender teken van werkelijk offerbloed — dat intrinsiek deel uitmaakt van het Korban Pesach — werd verwezen gedurende het Tempel ritueel van het slachten van het lam?

De overbodige toevoeging van brood en wijn als offersymbolen schijnt een voor de hand liggende reden om te denken dat het Laatste Avondmaal geen Pesach Seider was. Het is daarom redelijk aan te nemen dat de avond van het Laatste Avondmaal voorafging aan de Seideravond, en dat Jesjoea’s instelling van de Eucharistie iets nieuws was, iets dat niet wezenlijk aan de Seider was gebonden. Dit impliceert echter dat de Kruisiging plaatsvond op de 14de Niesan, en dat Jesjoea stierf ten tijde dat de Pesach lammeren in de voorhof van de Tempel werden geslacht. 

A Simple Liturgical Reason Why the Last Supper Probably wasn’t a Passover Seder

 

by Geert ter Horst

The Korban Pesach (Passover Sacrifice)

The Korban Pesach (Passover Sacrifice)

Each year, when Passover is approaching, Messianics have discussions on the nature of Yeshua’s Last Supper, as it is recorded in the synoptic Gospels. The prevalent question is: Was this Supper a Passover Seder? The discussion about this question is part of the ongoing discussion on the calendrical date of Yeshua’s Crucifixion: Did it happen on the 14th or on the 15th of Nisan?

The traditional assumption of both Judaism and Christianity is that the Crucifixion happened on the Eve of Passover and thus on the 14th of Nisan. This is the date given by the chronology of events as reported in the Gospel of John. Many biblical scholars are of the opinion, however,  that John’s chronology is in conflict with the Synoptics, which, they assume, have the 15th of Nisan, the Yom Tov of Passover, as the Crucifixion date.

The debate about this calendrical difference, and the question how to solve it, is part of the larger problem of how to reconcile the Synoptics and John. In this short note we won’t go into all the details of the rather complicated and technical argument on the calendrical dates of Last Supper and the Crucifixion. Let it be sufficient to establish here that the traditional translation of Mt. 26:17 — and its synoptic parallels Mk. 14:12 and Lk. 22:7 — which has the phrase “on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread” faces some serious difficulties and cannot be taken for granted.

Thus, while some would like to harmonize the Gospel accounts by an effort to conform John’s account to the supposed chronology of the Synoptics, I would instead prefer the option of interpreting the Synoptics in a manner which is in harmony with the Nisan 14 Crucifixion reported by John. I hope to clarify my reasons for this preference in a follow-up article on this website.

For now, however, I’ll limit myself to a simple and forceful reason why, in my eyes, the interpretation of the Last Supper as being a Passover Seder is probably incorrect. This reason is essentially that if the Supper was indeed a Seder, then Yeshua’s institution of the Eucharist was a superfluous and liturgically confusing act.

If the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, a sacrificial Passover lamb would necessarily have been part of it. Yeshua and his talmidim would have slaughtered their lamb in the Temple in the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan  and would have eaten it during the night following, the Seder night of the 15th.

But if this is what happened, then why would Yeshua take bread during the Seder meal and declare that it represented his body? Mt 26:26 says: “And as they were eating, Yeshua took bread, made the b’rakhah, and brake it, and gave it to the talmidim, and said, Take, eat; this is my body”. If the Supper was a Seder, then there was already a powerful symbol of Yeshua’s body at hand: the Korban Pesach. There was no need at all to introduce another symbolic representation of the to-be-sacrificed body of the Messiah. The proper symbol was already present on the table, and Yeshua could simply have declared, pointing to the lamb, “this is my body which is given for you” (Lk. 22:19). If Yeshua’s death was to be the fulfilment of the Passover sacrifice, then why connect this death with the matzah instead of the lamb? The lamb was the proper symbol of Yeshua’s own sacrifice, not the matzah.

Accordingly, one would expect that Yeshua’s words: “this is my blood of the New Covenant”, would have been said when the lamb was slaughtered in the Temple. If there was a Passover lamb present at the Last Supper, then, naturally, its blood dashed upon the altar represented and symbolized Yeshua’s sacrificial blood.

From a liturgical and ritual perspective it sounds rather illogical to suppose that the first generation of talmidim celebrated a Seder which had both the Matzah and the Korban Pesach as the proper ritual symbols of Yeshua’s body. Why open the Seder meal with a broken matzah to signify Messiah’s sacrificed body if later on during the same meal a far more powerful sacrificial symbol will be pointed to? Why have the cup of thanksgiving as the proper symbol of Yeshua’s blood if the far more powerful symbol of real sacrificial blood — one which was an intrinsic part of the Korban Pesach — was already pointed to during the Temple ritual of slaughtering the lamb?

The superfluous addition of bread and wine as sacrificial symbols seems an obvious reason for suspecting that the Last Supper wasn’t a Passover Seder. It is reasonable, therefore, to assume that the night of the Last Supper preceded the Seder night, and that Yeshua’s institution of the Eucharist really was something new, which wasn’t intrinsically connected to the Seder. This implies that the crucifixion took place on the 14th of Nisan, and that Yeshua died about the time when the Passover lambs were slaughtered in the Temple court.

On the Problem of “Holy Communion” in a Messianic Passover Seder (Part I)

 

by Geert ter Horst

A couple of weeks before Passover I purchased FFOZ’s Vine of David Haggadah and I have studied it with great interest. This Haggadah is beautifully designed and contains a lot of valuable suggestions on the messianic celebration of Passover within a format that is faithful to the traditional Seder and its liturgical rubrics as developed in Jewish tradition.

My study of this Haggadah brought a problem to mind, however, that is common to messianic Haggadot in general and which doesn’t seem to be easily solvable. It is a problem hardly acknowledged in messianic circles, but which in my opinion is important enough to deserve a fundamental discussion.

The problem I’m referring to is about the inclusion of “Holy Communion”, or the Lord’s Supper, in the Passover Seder. All the messianic Haggadot I have seen have — in a more or less explicit manner — the Lord’s Supper included in the Seder proceedings. And from the viewpoint, shared by many, which considers Yeshua’s Last Supper to have been a Passover Seder this inclusion seems only natural. The point which I want to make here, however, is that, independent from the historical question whether the Last Supper was in fact a Seder or not — and the whole controversy about it — there are perhaps theological and halachic difficulties involved in celebrating Yeshua’s Supper at the Seder.

The problem I’m referring to is largely independent of the liturgical question whether the words of Yeshua: “this is my body, &c” are to be recited over the Matzah at the beginning of the Shulchan Orech section, at HaMotzi Matzah, or that they should specifically apply to the Afikoman and thus be recited at Tzafun. As to the cup, I have not noticed any controversy about it and all seem to agree that it is the third cup, the cup of thanksgiving, over which Yeshua’s words: “this is my blood &c” should be recited.

The (unintended) consequence common to all messianic efforts to include the Lord’s Supper in the Seder liturgy seems to be the necessitated acceptance of what is commonly called child communion”, since all participants in the Seder are to eat from the Matzah — both at HaMotzi Matzah and at Tzafun — and all are to drink from the third cup. This is the essential problem involved in including the Supper in the Seder. Although I’m fully prepared to investigate the question of child communion, and to consider the theological arguments in favour of it, for the time being I have my reservations, which are based on the following, more general ecclesiological considerations.

To me the Assembly of Messiah is a community to which one belongs on the basis of faith, not on the basis of natural birth or education, and I think this fact has to be honoured and marked by the manner in which the typical rituals of this community are performed. These typical rituals are primarily water immersion in Yeshua’s name, (i.e. what is traditionally called “Baptism”) and the celebration of Yeshua’s Supper (i.e. what is traditionally called “Holy Communion”). And it seems to me a matter of logic that the admission to the second ritual is dependent on the fact of having received the first. A person who isn’t baptized cannot partake of the Supper because he is not a recognized member of the community. And because Baptism is to be administered on the basis of personal faith, it has a status that is importantly different from many Torah rituals.

One can easily detect this difference. For the sake of simplicity let us limit ourselves here to the Jewish context and take, as an example, a Jewish boy whose parents are believers in Messiah and members of a Torah observant messianic congregation. This boy is to receive Brit Milah on the eight day and Pidyon HaBen on the  31st — if he is the firstborn of his mother —, and to become Bar Mitzvah on his thirteenth birthday, simply because he is Jewish. These rituals are fixed by Torah laws and customs and wholly independent of the faith of the person who receives them. This is not so with Baptism. There is no fixed date set for it, and the only thing that matters about receiving it is a living faith and the personal decision to belong to Yeshua and follow him. As soon as a person is baptized he is a “professed” (i.e. confessing) member of Yeshua’s Assembly and admitted to the community meal of this Assembly, which is the Lord’s Supper. The celebration of the Supper always expresses — or at least should express — the unity of the Assembly as the mystical body of Messiah. This is an aspect of the Supper strongly present in Paul’s teachings on it (cf. I Cor. 10:17).

Therefore it seems to me that children or youths who are not yet baptized should not be admitted to the Lord’s Supper. They cannot legitimately partake of the Supper before having made the personal decision to belong to Yeshua and having expressed this decision by the public act of water immersion in Yeshua’s name. That’s the reason why I think the Supper and the Seder cannot simply be held to be one and the same. They are essentially distinct celebrations. For it is clear that Jewish children should participate in the celebration of the Seder, eat the Matzah and drink of the cups, since in importants respects the Seder is about them and concentrates on the role of children. To deny them particular features of the celebration, e.g. the Afikoman or the third cup, requires convincing halachic grounds and does not seem, at the outset, to be a viable option. On the basis of the Torah Jewish children are fully entitled to partake, for instance, of the Afikoman, by which is signified the now absent Korban Pesach.

Although I’m personally of the opinion that the historical Last Supper was not a Passover Seder — but was held shortly before Seder night, probably the night before — and also that the Apostle Paul doesn’t identify the two, this is not my main point. My point is about theological and liturgical systematics, not about history. The Assembly of Messiah, being a community of faith, is a distinct body within Israel as a nation to which one belongs by natural birth, and, as it is clear that one cannot administer Baptism in Yeshua’s name on the basis of natural birth or on a family basis, so too one cannot celebrate the Supper on this basis. The Supper and Baptism are rituals which can only be administered on the basis of a confession of personal faith.

Yet it is also clear, apart from the historical question of the exact date of the institution of the Supper, that, from a liturgical viewpoint, there is no occasion more appropriate for its celebration than the Seder, which, by its rich symbolism, in many ways points to Messiah’s suffering and death and their salvific effects. That’s the reason why it is worth considering whether a solution for the problem of child communion can be found within the framework of the existing messianic practice of celebrating Yeshua’s Supper during the Seder night. While it is obvious that some changes would be required here and there in the traditional Seder procedures, and thus in the Haggadah, to make such a solution possible, it is no less obvious that any possible change should be carefully studied on its theological and halachic implications. It cannot be the intention of a messianic Haggadah to disregard the halachic background of the liturgical rubrics of the Seder, since the entire structure of the Seder is highly dependent on this background.

Although some may bring up here that the Seder procedures in our days are almost completely a matter of the Oral Torah and rabbinic legislation and can be disregarded by Messianics, this seemingly impressive argument is really a very poor affair and potentially destructive of any orderly regulation of the celebration of Passover. If one wants to avoid chaos and arbitrariness, and preserve a minimum of consistency and uniformity in messianic celebrations, then there’s no other realistic option than to take recourse to rabbinic halachah. In cases where changes are necessary one has thus to proceed on the basis of a solid halachic analysis.

Our problem can now be formulated as the following question: Is it possible to celebrate the Lord’s Supper at the Passover Seder without accepting the consequence of “child-communion”, and without destroying the basic halachic framework of the Seder precedures? I hope soon to investigate the possible answers (in Part II).