Give us this day our supernatural bread

In The Lord’s Prayer, the phrase “give us this day our daily bread” seems unlikely. Why the repetition of day and daily in this very economical prayer? What is this daily bread that Jesus asks us to pray for? The Greek has epiousios bread, but epiousios is a neologism, a new word. No-one knows what it means.

Brant Pitre neatly solves this question in his new book, Jesus and The Jewish Roots of The Eucharist. He suggests that the correct reading for epiousios is the most ancient one: epi ousia, above nature = supernatural. In this he follows Jerome, who has in the Vulgate:

panem nostrum supersubstantialem da nobis hodie
– Matthew 6:11 (Vulgate)

(not the original latin: Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, still used today).

In this reading, Jesus is the new manna from heaven. (A jar of manna was kept in the Ark of The Covenant, making it Most Holy – Exodus 16:32-34). Pitre argues that Messiah was expected as the new Moses (Deut 18:15). The manna was one of the expected signs of the new exodus which Messiah would bring (e.g. 2 Baruch 29). The Gospel writers acknowledge this in the account of the transfiguration, where Luke has Moses and Elijah speak of Jesus’ exodos (Luke 9:30-31). Jesus is also the new bread of the presence, which allowed the Jews to see God.

There is much more in this book, which focusses on the Passover. As the new Passover lamb, Jesus is both celebrant and sacrifice. He only permits himself to drink the fourth and final cup of wine of the Jewish passover with his dying breath.

This book is solid, not speculative, but is easy to read. A really helpful book


~ by scalambra on May 10, 2011.

2 Responses to “Give us this day our supernatural bread”

  1. Seems like an interesting book. Especially since it seems a common view that the Eucharist has its roots in pagan rather than Jewish practices. Does the book offer a perspective on the ‘blood’ aspect of the Eucharist as well as the ‘bread’?

    Thanks for pointing me toward the new Mary Magdalene book!

    • Kevin the book does have a lot to say about the blood – I’ll write a separate post about it. In the meantime, I pass on the book’s advice, which is to start with a careful reading of John 6. Things get really interesting around v48:
      I am the bread of life.
      Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
      this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.
      I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
      The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?”
      Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
      Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
      For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
      Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
      Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
      This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
      These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
      Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

      As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him

      John 6, NAB

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