Why do we think of the Lord's Supper as a sacrificial meal? ...

III: The Eucharistic Language of The Early Fathers

Go to Eucharistic Sacrifice in the New Testament

E. M. B. Green: If, then, we are to view the Eucharist in its context of Passover ideas and cultus, there seems no justification for regarding it as a sacrifice. How is it, then, it may well be asked, that the Apostolic Fathers as well as later church writers, came to apply sacrificial language to the Eucharist? The answer is very interesting and instructive. The use of sacrificial language about the Holy Communion did not spring from anything said or done in the Last Supper. None of the Fathers until Cyprian, in the middle of the third century, base their sacrificial language on the New Testament accounts at all.

The fons et origo [fount and source] of the idea was a text in Malachi, which was widely regarded as a prophecy of the Eucharist in the second and third centuries. Malachi 1:11 says, `My name shall be great among the Gentiles: and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen'.

The first instance of its use is Didache 14:1, which is quite explicit in identifying the Eucharist with this `sacrifice' of Malachi. The word used is thusia [offering] in both cases, and the word normally represents the Hebrew `meal offering' which, of course, was not expiatory, but rather a mark of thanksgiving and dedication to God. It is noteworthy that the Holy Communion is never, in the early Fathers, connected with the expiatory animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant, but frequently with this unbloody sacrifice of thanksgiving of which Malachi spoke.

In Justin's Dialogue (ch. 41) this is made very plain. `The offering of fine flour, which was ordered to be offered on behalf of those who were being cleansed from leprosy, was a type of the bread of the Eucharist. For Jesus Christ our Lord ordered us to do this in remembrance of the suffering which he suffered on behalf of those who are being purged in soul from all iniquity.' The whole thought of this passage moves in the realm of the Old Testament meal offering, which is regarded as the forerunner of the Eucharist. Just as the leper, cleansed from his disease, offered this `sacrifice of thanksgiving', so the Christian, cleansed from the defilement of sin, offers the bread of the Eucharist `as a thanksgiving to God for having created the world and all that is in it for man's sake, and also for having set us free from evil'.

This passage in Justin is the only one until Origen in which the eucharistic `Do this in remembrance of me' is given a sacrificial significance. As we have just seen, even here it is essentially a `sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving', not a `sacrifice propitiatory' - if we may anticipate Cranmer's crucial distinction.58

One or two other points are noteworthy. In the first place, the sacrifice was something very real in Justin's day. The elements were taken from among gifts in money and kind brought, at considerable cost, by members of the congregation to the president at the Holy Communion, who distributed them to orphans, widows, the sick, the imprisoned, and the strangers in their midst (Apol. 1:67). To call this sort of giving a sacrifice is realistic enough, and moves in the circle of ideas of Hebrews 13:9-17 where Christians offer to God sacrifices of praise, open confession, good deeds, and almsgiving. This is in no sense associating ourselves with the redemptive sacrifice of Christ; these are simply the thank-offering sacrifice of those who have been redeemed.

It is interesting, furthermore, to note that Justin is at one with the other writers of the second century in using the term `sacrifice' in a metaphorical and spiritual,59 not a material sense. The apologists were insistent that in contradistinction to both Jews and pagans, the Christians had no altars and no sacrifices, `Delubra et aras non habemus' [we don't have sanctuaries and altars] said Minucius Felix,60 and the point is made again and again.61 As Justin himself put it, `prayers and praises performed by worthy men are the only sacrifices pleasing to God'.62

This is so apparent that we find a recent Roman Catholic liturgiologist saying: `The Christian sacrifice is spiritual. In our Christian sacrifice the material components almost disappear; they mean so little. Our sacrifice is worth something because it is the expression of the mind wholly given to God ... The outward gift is merely a shadow ... the true offering is something entirely spiritual."63 He concludes that in the total picture of the second century Eucharist, as far as we can recover it, the principal part is thanksgiving.64

Even in the early third century Canon of Hippolytus, the same emphasis is laid on thanksgiving, and its practical outworking in sacrificial giving. `Memores igitur et resurrectionis eius, offerimus tibi panem et calicem gratias tibi agentes.' []65

As Dr. Jungmann remarks, there is no suggestion that this sacrifice is anything other than the symbol of our dedication to God. This modern position, taken up by a leading Roman divine, is important, as it is far more reformed than much Anglican language about the Eucharist.

A third point of interest is the variety of things to which the second and third century writers applied the term thusia [Gk. offering] and sacrificium. [Latin. sacrifice]. Origen called preaching the gospel a sacrificale opus [sacrificial work]66 and so did Chrysostom.67 Augustine68 calls mercy `a true sacrifice, and acceptable to God'. Clement of Alexandria69 defines the `sacrifice which is acceptable to God' as `unswerving separation from the body and its passions', and prayer is frequently called a sacrifice.'70 This should warn us against attributing too much doctrinal significance to sacrificial language about the Eucharist.

It was a sacrifice, in the literal sense something made holy [sacri = sacred, fice = make], something set apart for God like prayers, alms, mercy and evangelism. It is very interesting to notice in this connection that even Malachi 1:11, the passage which was the origin of sacrificial language being applied to the Eucharist, was by no means confined to it.

Tertullian interprets the `pure offering' as the preaching of the gospel among the heathen;71 in another place he says, `The sacrifice that Malachi meant is devout prayer proceeding from a pure conscience.'72 This exegesis is not peculiar to Tertullian; both Jerome73 and Eusebius74 explain Malachi's sacrifice as the prayers of God's people the world over.

Harnack75 points out that Justin's citation of Malachi 1:11 in Dialogue 117 arises out of a discussion of the Eucharist, but that the only things he calls sacrifice are the prayers. `The elements', says Harnack, `are only doora [gifts], prosphorai [presents, offerings] which obtain their value from the prayers in which thanks are given for the gifts of creation and redemption as well as for the holy meal ... The sacrifice of the Supper in its essence, apart from the offering of alms, is here also (even in Justin) nothing else than an act of prayer (see Apol. 1:13, 65-67: Dial. 28, 29, 41, 70, 116-118).'

Despite the comprehensive use of the term `sacrifice' in the New Testament, where Christians are said to offer to God spiritual sacrifices (I Pet. 2:5) consisting of praise (Heb. 13:15), faith (Phil. 2:17), almsgiving (Acts 24:17; Phil. 4:18; Heb. 13:16), self-surrender (Rom. 12:1), and the conversion of the heathen (Rom. 15:16), the title gradually became more and more closely associated with the Eucharist. And for this there were several reasons.

Quite apart from the use of Malachi 1:11 which demanded a solemn Christian sacrifice, and the fact that since all prayers were regarded as sacrifice, the solemn prayers at the Eucharist would share that nature, it seems clear that the pagan background contributed largely to the sacrificial understanding of the rite.76

Gentile Input into Sacrificial Links

It is in Gentile Christianity, among converts from paganism, such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Justin and Tertullian, that we find sacrificial language applied to the Holy Communion. This is quite natural, for the heathen were constantly having recourse to lustrations, sacrifices, auguries and so forth, all of which were dependent upon the intervention of a priest. And writers like Tertullian liked to show that Christians had the true sacrifice, while the pagans had merely the shadow. It was, as Lindsay puts it, `the pagan mysteries which formed the outline of the picture which presented itself to their imaginations when they tried to describe what sacraments meant.'77

But if it was from Gentile Christianity that the idea sprang, it was Ancient Judaism that furnished the parallels adopted by the early writers. It became particularly important in defence of the faith against the Jews. Indeed, the context in which Justin's most famous passage about the flour of the meal offering being a type of the bread of the Eucharist'78 comes is one of violent polemic against Jewish sacrifices and ordinances like circumcision.

And Origen in the next generation takes a similar line in his Contra Celsum;79 while in his commentaries on Old Testament books like Leviticus he is at pains to insist that Christ is the true `show-bread' which we offer:80 Christ is the altar and the victim and the high priest81 - and yet there are official priests and ministers of the Church which stand around the altar.82 His language may appear dangerous, but it is understandable in view of his attempt to show that the true Judaism is Christianity, and that their fancied sacrifices were types of the Christian mysteries, and their priests the forerunners of the Christian ministry.83


A further incentive to using sacrificial language about the Eucharist may well have arisen from the necessity to provide offerings in money and kind out of which the bread and wine for the celebration were taken. Harnack rightly asks, `In what other aspect could these offerings in the worship be regarded than as prosphorai [offerings] for the purpose of sacrifice?'84

Gnostic Rejection

But the final element which contributed to the hardening of the language of the Fathers about the Eucharist may well have been the false `spirituality' of Gnosticism. Jungmann's most perspicacious comment is worth pondering in this connection. `In the beginning the spiritual element in Christian worship was stressed as against pagan cults. Although occasionally mention was made of the fact that the Church likewise possesses a sacrifice, a corrective note was immediately added it is a spiritual sacrifice, thusia logike. But in the Church's campaign against gnosis [secret knowledge] she was forced more and more to stress the outward, the material and the objective in Christian worship. No more do you hear that the Church's sacrifice is a spiritual sacrifice, but that it is a real sacrifice. And so, naturally, the table on which the sacrifice in celebrated gains in importance. From a table of wood it becomes a table of stone - and the many sided development of the Christian altar sets in.' This comment goes a long way to explain the growing insistence in the third century on the sacrificial character of the Eucharist.

But if sacrificial language was used by the Fathers in the first two hundred years - and it was so used, as we have seen - nevertheless there are one or two safeguards against misunderstanding which they employed, and with these we will conclude this examination of the origin of the doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

In the first place, the sacrifice of prayer and thanksgiving of which the Eucharist is the supreme example is never before Cyprian regarded as a separate and distinctive sacrifice to be carefully discriminated from the prayers of the people and their gifts, from evangelism and good works. Cyprian, on the other hand, evidently makes a distinction between the prayer and the Supper: for while he never calls prayer a sacrificium, this is his constant name for the Eucharist. Before his day, Christian writers had known of no priesthood exercised by the ordained ministry that differed in nature from the priesthood of all believers. But with Cyprian we find a mediatorial priesthood which `offers in the Church a true and full sacrifice to God the Father',85 a sacrifice identical with that of the cross.86

Another safeguard employed by the earlier writers but not observed by Cyprian was to use sacrificial language about the Eucharist only in Old Testament contexts, where they are interpreting Old Testament types and prophecies.87

In this connection it is particularly important to notice that they connected the Christian thusia [sacrificial offering] not with the animal sacrifice of the Old Testament, but with the meal offerings. The sacrifice of the Eucharist is linked in their minds with the fruits of creation, the offerings of the earth,88 and not with the fruits of redemption, the animal sacrifices. Thus it is interesting that the early Fathers, who speak of the sacrifice of the Eucharist, do not connect it with the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross but with the thank-offerings of the Old Covenant. They certainly call it a thusia but always in Cranmer's sense of a `sacrifice of praise, thanksgiving and alms'. Thus they carefully avoid using the verb thuein with respect to their offerings. It would have courted misunderstanding, as its normal meaning in Greek was `to sacrifice', and what they meant was to `offer' their gifts and praises to God. Thus we find there using the word prospherein [to present]89 instead.

Had their successors in the third and subsequent centuries been as careful of their language with regard to sacrifice at Holy Communion, the Church of God would not have been split over Eucharistic dogma. For much as they differed among themselves over doctrinal issues in the second and early third centuries there is no evidence that there was any difference of opinion whatever over the language used about the Eucharist. It was a sacrifice in the sense of a real offering to God of money, goods, devotion and prayer: it was not designed in any way to ensure the forgiveness of sins: and it was offered by the entire priestly body, that is the whole church.90

Such was the origin of the notion that the Eucharistic action was a sacrifice and such was the meaning they gave to the term in the earliest period. The concept, though not specifically found in the New Testament, was biblical enough. It was a rational extension of the apostolic language concerning the priesthood and the priestly offerings of all believers.

Had the development gone no further, this description of the Lord's Supper would have done no harm. But with a growing tendency towards belief in transubstantiation, the idea of propitiation crept into, and at last came to determine, the meaning attached to `sacrifice' as applied to the Holy Communion. The word inevitably now carries a variety of overtones derived from centuries of misuse, of which it was completely free in the early days of the Church.

For this reason, to refer to the Eucharist as the Church's sacrifice, at all events without the most careful qualification, is a usage which seems more calculated to mislead than to edify the twentieth century churchman.


1 The Jewish Background of the Christian Liturgy, O.U.P., 1925, p. 157.

2 The Shape of the Liturgy, Dacre Press, 1945, p. 50.

3 C. W. Dugmore's review (J.T.S. xlvii, p. 107).

4 In Beginnings of Christianity (ed. Lake & Jackson). 1920, vol. i, p. 445.

5 Dugmore, op. cit., p. 109.

6 J.T.S., 1902: `The Jewish Antecedents of the Eucharist'.

7 The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, Blackwell, 1955, pp. 21-26.

8 Op. cit., pp. 1-56.

9 Both these objections are raised by T. W. Manson in his review of Jeremias' book, J.T.S., new series, i, pp. 199ff.

10 1 Cor. 6:6-8, I Pet. 1:18, 19.

11 Actually, the connection between Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread is so close that they are apparently identified in O.T. and N.T. (Ex. 12:17; Lv. 18:5, 6; Lk. 22:1; cf. Josephus B.J. II. i. 3). In any case the prominence assigned to unleavened bread both in the Passover (Ex. 12:15, 17) and at the Institution (it was unleavened bread - I Cor. 5:6-8) makes the paschal nature of the meal plain enough without explicit reference to the Lamb.

12 So Strack-Billerbeck in Kommentar zum Neuen Testament und Talmud und Midrash, vol. 2, p. 842. For a discussion of the rabbinic evidence, see W. M. Christie, Expository Times, vol. xliii (1931-2), pp. 515ff.

13 Jaubert, La date de la Cene, Paris,1957. Also art. by R. Walker, Expository Times, December 1960.

14 Deut. 16:2; Ezek. 45:21; II Chron. 25:17, 30:22: Lk. 22:1, and frequently in Josephus, e.g. Ant. xiv. 21, xviii. 29. See N. Geldenhuys, Commentary on St. Luke, M.M.S., 1950, pp. 656ff., for a discussion of this evidence, also P. J. Heawood in Jewish Quarterly Review xlii (1951).

15 Pes. ix. 5.

16 E.g., xviii. 39; xi. 55, xiii. 39.

17 Chag. i.3.

18 Ber. vi. 1.

19 estiontoon autoon, Mk. 14:22.

20 Said over the fourth cup, the `cup of benediction' (1 Cor. 10:16). For the text of this grace, see Ber. vi. 6.

21 I Cor. 11:25, 10:16.

22 This probably accounts for the early association of the agape feast with the Communion. It was remembered that the Eucharist formed part of a real meal.

23 See Matt. 26:26ff; Mk. 14:22ff; Lk. 22:15ff; I Cor. 11:23ff.

24 Jeremias seems unduly naive and wooden here. He fails to allow for the possibility of abbreviation and interpretative paraphrase in the accounts of Jesus' words of institution. But on such an issue it is safer not to maximize the evidence, and the short form of the words for which he contends is quite sufficient to establish the point at issue, namely their sacrificial import.

25 op. cit. pp. 140ff.

26 Pirque R. Eliezer 29 (14d.) See Exod. R. xv. 13. `I see the Passover blood and I make reconciliation for you'.

27 Though it is loosely called a sacrifice; see p. 67

28 It is interesting confirmation of the paschal background of these words to note that the Passover Lamb is designated `his body'. `While the Sanctuary stood, they brought before him his body of (or for) the Passover,' Pes. x. 3. See Edersheim, The Temple, London 1874, p. 106.

29 Pes. x. 6.

30 Ex. 12:13

31 Pes. x. 37

32 Heb. 9:20, 22. See especially Ex. 24:8 - 'Behold, the blood of the covenant.'

33 See p. 66, n. 26.

34 E.g., Jer. 31:31-34. Jesus' words complete what was lacking there, namely any reference to the blood with which the New Covenant would be ratified.

35 Lev. 3:17; Deut. 12:16; etc.

36 J.T.S., 1., p. 7.

37 See p. 64 and Jewish Encyclopedia s.v. Passover, p. 554.

38 E.g. Ex. 12:27 in the sense of `commemorative sacrifice'.

39 Ex. 12:14

40 See Jeremias, op. cit., pp. 137, 138 and authorities cited there.

41 Mekh. Exod. xii. 42.

42 Didache x.6.

43 The Didache is normally assigned to the last first or early second century. Indeed, the latest editor, J. P. Audet, argues powerfully for a date between 50-70 A.D.

44 I Cor. 11:24, 25; Luke 22:19.

45 Revue Biblique, 1939, p. 386. (`One does not recite a rubric, one performs it'.)

46 Expositor VI. vii., pp. 320ff.

47 T. K. Abbott, Essays, p. 110ff.

48 Ex. 29:39; Lev. 9:7; though these are by no means exact parallels to `do this'.

49 Numbers 9:6, etc.

50 D. Stone, A History of the Holy Eucharist, Longmans, 1910, vol. i., p. 9.

51 As against those who would refer the touto poieite [do this] to the words of consecration, or the whole `service', Jeremias points out that poiein [to do] involves action and, therefore, must refer to the breaking of bread and blessing the cup (op. cit. pp. 161ff.). Dix's whole argument at this point is vitiated by the assumption that this was a Haburah and that, therefore, the command to repeat cannot refer to the actions, since they were normal and would have been repeated in any case. (op. cit., pp. 57ff.).

52 I Cor. 10:21, 11:20. I Cor. 10:1-4 and 10-16 also point to Paul's belief in the presence of Christ at His Table. See A. M. Hunter, Paul and His Predecessors, S.C.M., 1961, p. 77.

53 Op. cit., pp. 159ff. The word certainly means a memorial before God in Num. 10:10, and so does the cognate eis mneemosunon emprosthen tou theou in Ac. 10:4 (and, perhaps Mk. 14:9, though I think this unlikely). In most other LXX passages the words anamneesis and mneemosunon have their regular classical meaning of `memory', `recollection', which is what we find in Ev. Petr. xii. 54 and I Clem. xlv. 8, the two references nearest in time to the New Testament. On the whole subject see Douglas Jones' article in J.T.S. 1955, pp. 191ff. Jeremias' gratuitous assumption that anamneesis and mneemosunon have identical meanings is unfortunately followed in Max Thurian's The Eucharistic Memorial, Lutterworth, 1961, pt. 2, pp, 5ff. 24-42.

54 Didache x. 5

55 The Zikronoth prayers of remembrance. Text in P. Fiebig, Rosch-ha-schana, p. 53.

56 An old Passover prayer, said after the third benediction - Grace after meat, beseeches God `for remembrance of the Messiah'.

57 J. A. Jungmann, S. J., The Early Liturgy, Darton, Longman & Todd, 1960, p. 43.

58 Widespread confusion arises from failure to note this distinction. Typical of those who like to use the language of sacrifice for the Eucharist is W. N. Pittenger in The Christian Sacrifice. O.U.P., 1951. At one moment he speaks of the unique sacrificial death of Christ for His people, and their share in what His death accomplished (p. 36), whilst at another he speaks of their associating themselves with the sacrifice He made (p. 33). This neglects the fact that the sacrifice of Christ is expiatory, and that of ourselves is not. As Cranmer put it so well: `One kind of sacrifice there is which is called a propitiatory or merciful sacrifice, that is to say such a sacrifice as pacifieth God's wrath and indignation, and obtaineth mercy and forgiveness for all our sins ... And although in the Old Testament there were certain sacrifices called by that name, yet in very deed there is but one such sacrifice whereby our sins be pardoned ... which is the death of God's Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; nor never was any other sacrifice propitiatory at any time, nor never shall be. This is the honour and glory of this our High Priest, where he admitteth neither partner nor successor ... Another kind of sacrifice there is, which doth not reconcile us to God, but is made of them which be reconciled by Christ ... to show ourselves thankful to him; and therefore they be called sacrifices of laud, praise and thanksgiving. The first kind of sacrifice Christ offered to God for us; the second kind we ourselves offer to God by Christ, (Cranmer, On the Lord's Supper, Parker Society, p. 346). This distinction is instinctively observed by the writers of the second century.

59 Whatever the exact meaning of the much discussed thusiasteerion [altar] of Heb. 13:10, it can hardly be an actual altar that is intended, as Lightfoot makes clear (Philippians, p. 263). That a spiritual altar is meant `is shown by the context both before and after, e.g., v. 9 the opposition of charis and broomata, ver. 15 the contrast implied in the mention of thusia aineseoos, and karpos cheileoon, and ver. 16 the naming eupoiia and koinoonia as the kind of sacrifice with which God is pleased'. Thus Ignatius speaks of the thusiasteerion but locates it either in heaven (Magn. vii., Philad. iv) or with the Christian congregation at worship (Eph. v; Trall. vii); he never identifies it with the Holy Table.

60 Octavius xxxii. i. (`We have no altars'.)

61 Athenagoras, Apology xiii; Barnabas ii. 4-10; Ep. Diognetus iii. 4, 5, etc.

62 Dial. 117, cf. Apol. i. 13, 65-7

63 Joseph A. Jungmann, S.J., The Early Liturgy, Darton, Longman & Todd, 1960, p. 48

64 Op. cit., p. 44

65 Op. cit., p. 69 (`Mindful therefore of his resurrection also, we offer Thee the bread and the cup in thanksgiving to thee'.)

66 Hom. in Rom. 15.

67 In Rom. Hom. 39. Ipsum mihi sacerdotium est, praedicare et evangelizare. Hanc offero oblationem. (`My priestly work is to preach and evangelise. This is the oblation I offer.')

68 De Civ. 5.

69 Strom. v. 5, 11, 67.

70 Clem Alex. Strom. vii. 6, 31, 32; Origen C. Celsum vii. 1, viii. 21; Didascalia, p. 47 (Gibson's edition).

71 Adv. Jud. 5.

72 Adv. Marc. iv. i.

73 Com. in Mal. i. 11.

74 Demonstr. Evang. i. 6.

75 History of Dogma, E. T. London, 1894, i., pp. 209ff.

76 Thus in Tertullian de Baptismo 5 we find: `Nations who are strangers to all understanding and spiritual powers ascribe to their idols the imbuing of waters with the same efficacy; but they cheat themselves with waters that are widowed ... They certainly are baptized at the Apollinarian and the Eleusinian games; and they presume that regeneration and the remission of penalties due for their perjuries is the effect of that'. Similarly in de praescr. heret. 40 Tertullian speaks of `the devil by the mystic rites of his idols, vying with the essential things of the sacrament of God'.

77 T. M. Lindsay, The Church and the Ministry in the Early Centuries, Hodder, 1902, p. 308

78 Dial. 41.

79 Contra Celsum 7, etc.

80 Hom. in Lev. xiii. 3.

81 Hom. in Lev. v. 3. Saepe ostendimus ex divinis scripturis Christum esse et hostiam et sacerdotem. (`Often we have shown from the divine Scriptures that Christ is both victim and priest.') Hom. in Jos. viii. 6. Ipse esse ostenditur et sacerdos et hostia et altare. (`He is shown forth as Himself being both priest and victim and altar.').

82 Hom. in Lev. v. 3. Ministri et sacerdotes ecclesiae in altaris circulo velut spectacula quaedam intuentibus collocati. Cf. Hom. in Jud. iii. 2.

83 The fact that the Passover was called a thusia in the sense of 'commemorative sacrifice' may have helped the transference of this term to the Christian Passover. If this is the case, Augustine's comment is particularly apt: `Hujus sacrificii caro et sanguis ante adventum Christi per victimae similitudinem promittebatur: in passione per ipsam veritatem reddebatur: post ascensum Christi per sacramentum memoriae celebratur' (Contra Faust. xx. 21). (`The flesh and blood of this sacrifice were promised before Christ's coming by the likeness of the victim; in the passion they were given in reality; following Christ's ascension, they are commemorated by the memorial sacrament.').

84 History of Dogma, i., p. 209.

85 Ep. lxiii. 9-14. Cyprian carefully distinguishes between the sacrificium [sacrifice] made by the sacerdos [priest] and the oblatio [offering] given by the people.

86 Ib. 17. Passionis eius mentionem in sacrificiis omnibus facimus, passio est enim Domini sacrificium quod offerimus. (`We make mention of his passion in all our sacrifices, for the passion of the Lord is the sacrifice we offer.') However it is easy to overestimate the significance of Cyprian's departure from the usage of his predecessors on this point. He is careful to state that it is the passion of the Lord that we offer - not the Lord Himself. That is to say, it is His sacrifice, and not ours. And it is an open question whether his sacrificial language should be interpreted in a realist or symbolist way. Cranmer, at all events, took the latter view. `The adversaries of Christ', he writes, `gather together a great heap of authors which, as they say, call the mass or holy communion a sacrifice. But all those authors be answered in this one sentence, that they call it not a sacrifice for sin, because it taketh away our sin ... but because the holy communion was ordained of Christ to put us in remembrance of the sacrifice made by Him upon the cross; for that cause it beareth the name of sacrifice, as St. Augustine declareth plainly ... in his book De Civitate Dei (x. 5), "That which men call a sacrifice is a sign or representation of the true sacrifice"' (On the Lord's Supper, Parker Society, p. 351). Waterland agreed with Cranmer.

87 E.g., Did. xiv., I Clem. xl.

88 E.g. Did. ix. 10; Justin, Dial. 41, cf. Iren. A.H. iv. 18, 4, 6.

89 E.g., Didache xiv. 3; Barnabas ii. 7; I Clem. x. 7; Justin Ap. i. 13.

90 A Roman Catholic statement of this fact is worth noting: `The Church is a priestly body to offer up spiritual sacrifices through Jesus Christ. I am sure it is no accident that the primitive Church did not apply the term hiereus [priest] to either bishop or presbyter. It was applied in the first place to Christ. He is the priest, the high priest eternal. Secondly they applied the term to the assembly of Christians in so far as they are associated with Christ and can glorify God with Him and through Him. It was only in the third instance that hiereus and sacerdos were used of Christian ministers ... they occupied an altogether different position from that of pagan priests or even the Old Testament priest' (Jungmann op. cit., p. 17f). That 'altogether different position' they occupied is defined in Lightfoot's celebrated distinction (Philippians, p. 266): the Christian priesthood is `representative without being vicarial'.

Address given at the Oxford Conference of Evangelical Churchmen, September, 1961, by E. M. B. Green, Tutor, London College of Divinity

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