A Feast of Meanings

Eucharistic Theologies from Jesus through Johannine Circles


The monograph analyses eucharistic texts on the basis of the social practices which generated them. Six stages of ideology are identified.
Jesus himself practised fellowship at meals as celebrations of Israel's purity (stage 1), and later insisted that a pure meal was a better sacrifice than an offering in the Temple (stage 2). The circle of Peter made such meals into covenantal celebrations; Jesus became a new Moses (stage 3). In order to militate against the full participation of non-Jews, the circle of James invented the full identifications with Passover (stage 4). Paul resisted any such limitations (stage 5). The Synoptic tradition accepted the Jacobean chronology, but joined Paul in developing the Hellenistic theme of Jesus as heroic martyr, and in explaining eucharist as a means of effecting solidarity with Jesus (stage 5). The Johannine ideologies transformed the idiom of eucharist by making Jesus into the paschal lamb which is consumed (stage 6).
A conclusion relates the practices identified to the sources behind the Gospels; and shows how practice is key to the meanings of eucharistic texts.


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Biographical Note

Bruce Chilton, Ph.D. (1976) in Divinity, Cambridge University (St. John's College) is Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College. He is a scholar of early Christianity and Judaism; his publications include The Isaiah Targum (Clark and Glazier, 1987) and The Temple of Jesus (Penn. State, 1992).

Review Quotes

' Un livre génial qui se distingue par sa clarté de présentation et dont la force d'interprétation exige notre admiration et notre consentement.'
Internationale Zeitschriftenschau für Bibelwissenschaft und Grenzgebiete, 1993/94.
' The author's brilliance is visible in the confidence with which he adjudicates between Sanders and Neusner on details of interpretation.'
Robert Morgan, Theology.
' ...Professor Chilton is to be congratulated on his willingness to put before us a new story of the beginnings.'
J.C. O'Neil, Journal of Theological Studies, 1995.


The history of the most distinctive practice in Christianity is rewritten in this book. The argument is accessible to any person who reads the Bible closely.


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