The Ancient Faith

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Clovis Cook

Breaking bread (Acts 2:42; 20:7,11; I Cor. 11:24) as used in this article, is one of the items or acts of worship observed by the apostles and early Christians, in obedience to a simple command given by the Lord (Matt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19), who in turn, passed it on to the church. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, or teaching, of which “breaking bread” was a part (Acts 2:42). I like the way F.W. Emmons, expressed it, who began writing on “The Ancient Order” as far back as 1837 when he said, “The disciples,” it is said, “unremittingly attended to the teaching of the apostles.” And, “breaking bread, when the whole church came together (1 Cor. 14:23), to break bread on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), they never ceased doing, but constantly attended to this act of public social worship.”

“Breaking bread” is used in some of the passages we have already cited, figuratively, in which a part is put for the whole, and the figure is called a synecdoche, which mentioned one thing “breaking bread” to imply the whole communion service, but that which is mentioned must be true or else that which is implied is not true.

“And taking a loaf, and having given thanks, he broke it, and gave to them, saying, ‘This is that body of mine which is given for you; do this in my remembrance”‘ (Luke 22:19) Emphatic Diaglott. I think it is, or should be, admitted by all that Jesus “broke” the loaf. It should be just as freely admitted that we are commanded to do the same. What we need to find out is just how he broke it, and then we will know what we are to do. The expression “do this” or “this do” means to do exactly what Jesus did. There are more ways than one that Jesus could have broken the loaf. Let us pause right here and point out that Jesus “took bread” which in the Greek means “loaf” (singular). A loaf means one loaf. “A” is from the Anglo Saxon meaning “one” when followed by a singular noun (Harper-Cowan debate), and Webster says of the language, “plain blunt language of old English order.”

In every place where it is said that Jesus “broke” the loaf the word is from a Greek verb, which means to “break off”, so defined by several lexicons. W.E. Vine says, “To break, to break off pieces.” The noun form means, “fragment, piece, crumb, a piece broken off, that which is broken off, a splinter.” If when Jesus “broke bread” it means he broke it in or near the middle, and every disciple was to do exactly what Jesus did-I ask you friend, how could this be? If Jesus “broke the loaf” into as many pieces as there were disciples, and each disciple was to do exactly what Jesus did, the second dilemma is no better than the first. However, if Jesus took a loaf and broke off a piece, a fragment, and “tasted it” (as some writers affirm when explaining what Jesus did when he “broke the loaf”), or ate that piece of bread which he broke off-which of course is what I believe he did, then each disciple could “break” and “eat” and do exactly what Jesus did. The inescapable, inevitable conclusion is: “Breaking bread” (Acts 2:42, 20:7) and “eating” (Matt 26:26; Mk 14:22) are both involved in the same command, making the “breaking” necessary in the “eating.”

Did Jesus eat the piece of bread that he broke off of the loaf? Unmistakably, he must have. He said, “He that eateth bread with me” which is a reference to Judas, eating the bread in the institution of the Lord’s supper (Jno. 13:18) and the expression “my bread” is from Psalm 41:9. “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine…’, (Matt 26:29). Is it reasonable to argue that Jesus drank the fruit of the vine, which represented his blood, but, did not eat of the bread which represented his body? In 1937 Bro. Homer L. King was on his way to Deming, New Mexico, to debate D.J. Whitten, on the communion question, of which “Breaking Bread” was one proposition. While staying over a couple of days in Wichita Falls, Tex., where we were living at the time, we paid a visit to the home of L. S. White, a man of unusual Bible knowledge. When forty years of age, he was chosen to meet Charles T. Russell in a debate. He was seventy years old at the time we visited him. After we assured him that we had no intention of provoking an argument, but respecting his vast knowledge of the scriptures, we wanted to know if he believed that Jesus ate bread, after breaking it? He finally answered “yes.” He said he believed that Jesus “broke the loaf” and ate the piece he broke off-he saw no reason to dispute that, he said.

The first year of my preaching-July 1932 until 1933-I preached for several congregations, before the division on the cup question, and most of these congregations broke the bread after thanks, in or near the middle, which they claimed had to be done to represent the “broken body” of Jesus. As I remember, this was one of the main arguments made for such a practice. I once had the pleasure of talking to a very well read man in Denver, Colorado, who was well along in years at the time-as we talked on we found agreement on many things. When we got to the question of “breaking bread” he turned to me in all honesty, and said, “Bro. Cook, I would never partake of an unbroken loaf.” I quickly said to him, “I wouldn’t either,” then I proceeded to show that when the communicant broke off a piece from the loaf that it was no longer an unbroken loaf, regardless of what the communicant did with the piece broken off. The loaf from which a piece was broken off of was still one unit of bread. Since the Lord had one physical body, and since the church is “one body” (Eph. 4:4; Col 1:18; Eph. 1:22,23), and since …we are all partakers of that one bread” by “breaking” and “eating” (1 Cor. 10:16; Matt 26:26; Mk 14:22; I Cor. 11:24). Thus when “we” the assembled have all done this, we have shown unity and cohesion in the “communion of the body of Christ.” “This my body which is broken for you” (I Cor. 11:24), referred not to the “bread” in the Lord’s Supper, but to the body of Christ, of which Luke says, “This is my body which is given for you” (Luke 22:19). We must remember the body of Jesus as a unit, not one broken into pieces, but one that was “…wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities” (Isa 53:5).

The word “broken” is not always used literally. So, when the word is used with reference to the Lord’s body, it cannot mean that his body was “broken” into pieces, for David said, “He keepeth his bones: not a one of them is broken” (Psa. 34:20). This scripture was fulfilled during his crucifixion (Jno. 19:36) “..A bone of him shall not be broken.” In Psalm 69:20, “Reproach hath broken my heart…’, a reference to the last days of our Lord. Those who break the communion loaf into two or more pieces claiming it must be done to qualify the bread to represent the “broken body” miss the point completely. One of the most authoritative works ever written is The Voice Of One Crying In The Wilderness, by J.D. Phillips, on “Breaking Bread,” and one of the most simplistic illustrations on the “Breaking Bread,” question appears in the Communion by J. Ervin Waters. No Bible student should be without them.

[This from the July 1991 issue of the OPA]

 Recommended articles:

Introducing the Church of Christ – Ronny Wade

God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter

Repentance – J. W. McGarvey


The Ancient Faith website is a thematic collection of scholarly yet simple Bible essays and sermons, many of which were composed by Restoration preachers such as J.W. McGarvey, Moses Lard, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Campbell. These courageous men of faith through hours of Bible investigation studied themselves out of denominationalism, asking for “the old paths” (Jer. 6:16) and seeking to return to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We hope you will join with these men in their fervent plea to restore “the ancient order,” “the ancient gospel” or, as it was sometimes called, “the ancient faith.”