Was Christ’s Body “Broken?” (1 Cor. 11:24)
PRESIDING brethren, and brethren called upon to render thanks for the bread, generally lay stress on the word “broken” in relation to the bread, making the broken bread represent the “broken” body of the Lord Jesus Christ; and after (or perhaps before) partaking of the emblems a hymn is sung relative to the memorial feast in which, if it be a “breaking of bread” hymn, the idea is reproduced thus:—
“Thy body broken for our sake,
In bread now broke we see.”
“His body broken, as He said,
We see in this memorial bread.”
“‘This is my body brake for sin;
Receive and eat the living food.’”
For reasons which are set out in the following paragraphs it is contended that this application was not intended by the Master, and that whilst the bread represents the body of our Lord which was offered as a sacrifice for sins, no significance should be attached to the act of breaking the bread.
Firstly: Jesus, when he broke the bread and handed it to his disciples, did not refer to it as representing his “broken” body.
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat: this is my body” (Matt. 26:26).
“And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them and said, Take, eat, this is my body” (Mark. 14:22).
“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).
In 1 Cor. 11:23-24 (A.V.) we read:—“The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it and said, Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.”
The Revised Version, however, omits the word “broken” and reads: “This is my body which is for you,” a note in the margin stating that many ancient authorities read “is broken for you.” On examination it will be found that the evidence for the omission of the word is overwhelming, for it does not appear in any of the oldest MSS.
Secondly: As a matter of scripturally recorded fact, the body of Jesus was not broken, events in connection with the great sacrifice being so overruled by God that in this matter His Son should answer to the type of the Passover lamb which the children of Israel were forbidden to divide.
“When they (the soldiers) came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs; but one of the soldiers pierced his side, and forthwith there came out blood and water . . . For these things were done that the scripture should be fulfilled. A bone of him shall not be broken” (John 19:33-36).
Thirdly: The act of breaking was the common method of distributing bread, and was ordinarily performed by the host. The matter is mentioned several times in the New Testament, particularly in the various records of the occasions on which Jesus fed the multitudes, where we read of the Master breaking the loaves without any significance attaching to the act (see Matt. 14:19; 15:36; Mark 6:41; 8:6; 8:19).
After his resurrection Jesus was made known to his disciples in breaking of bread: “And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake and gave to them” (Luke 24:30). This, however, was an ordinary meal and not a celebration of the memorial feast, for instituting the latter Jesus had said, “I will not any more eat thereof until it be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God” (Luke 22:16).
Similarly, when the Apostle Paul on his way to Rome was in danger of shipwreck, he exhorted his fellow-travellers to partake of food, and in doing so “he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat” (Acts 27:35).
Nevertheless, the term “breaking of bread” as a designation of the memorial feast is essentially scriptural (Acts 2:42; 20:7, 11), and in celebrating the feast it is well that the example of the Lord Jesus be followed as closely as possible by first “blessing” and then “breaking” the bread. It is not well, however, that an unintended significance should be applied to the latter act, or that words which Jesus did not use should be attributed to him. Surely it is better to keep to the words recorded as spoken by the Master, and if the passage in 1 Cor. 11. be quoted to introduce the elements, that the R.V. rendering be used, thus avoiding what appears to be a transcriber’s error which has crept into the A.V. In regard to the hymns mentioned, it is suggested that in hymns 83 and 84 the word “given” could be substituted for “broken,” in 85 “giv’n” for “break.”
In conclusion, and by way of contrast, it should be noted that the Lord Jesus did refer explicitly to his shed blood (Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20), this being, as is well recognised, an essential phase of the work of redemption, for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22).
S. W. Boulton.
The Christadelphian : Volume 67 Bd. 67. electronic ed. Birmingham : Christadelphian Magazine & Publishing Association, 2001, c1930, S. 67:69-70