What kind of bread did Jesus eat?

The writer, who has attended Church of God services since 1976, lives near Drumbo with his wife, Maxine. The Leitches have two grown daughters. Mr. Leitch is a retired ironworker.

For a significantly expanded version of this essay, write Mr. Leitch at or Rt. 1, Drumbo, Ont. N0J 1G0, Canada.

By John Leitch

DRUMBO, Ont., Canada--We realize the law requires us to eat unleavened bread for seven days once a year (Leviticus 23:6). Christ did not come to abolish the law (Matthew 5:17-18), so this aspect of the law is still required.

It is true that leaven is at times used in the Bible to picture sin.

  • Jesus wrote in Luke 12:1: "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."
  • Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:6: "Your glorying is not good. Don't you know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?"
  • Paul wrote in Galatians 5:9: "A little leaven leavens the whole lump."

But people are surprised to learn that Jesus offered His disciples leavened bread--not unleavened bread--on the night He was betrayed.

Here's how we know

How do we know that that bread was leavened?

The Greek word for unleavened bread is azumos (Strong's 106). But the Greek word for bread--that is, ordinary leavened bread--is artos (Strong's 740).

  • Azumos is "unleavened (bread)."
  • Artos is "bread [as raised] or a loaf."

In the Passover accounts in Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22 and Luke 22:19, Jesus took bread (artos), blessed it, broke it and gave it to the disciples.

Why did Jesus compare Himself to leavened bread in John 6?

He likened the spreading of the Kingdom of Heaven to the spreading of a little leaven. The leavening agent within ordinary bread, before it is baked, spreads to all parts of the dough. Notice Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:21.

When Jesus said He is the bread of life (John 6:35, 41, 48), He was talking about artos, not unleavened bread.

When Jesus said He was the living bread that came down from heaven (verse 51), He was talking about artos, not unleavened bread.

Getting started

Let me show you how the Bible uses the bread-making process to demonstrate the fulfillment of God's plan.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5, draws a parallel between the spiritual growth of a Christian and bread-making. Paul points out that the death of Christ has cleansed us of the old leaven (verse 7) and given us the opportunity for a new beginning.

The concept here is to get back to basic, pure ingredients (sincerity and truth) and to start anew. The point most people miss is that in the bread-making procedure the first thing you do to a new batch of dough is mix in the leaven starter.

Through most of history bakers have made bread through a process known since the 14th century as "sourdough." A small amount of leavened dough from an earlier batch is mixed into the new batch.

The pioneers used this method to make their bread. Sometimes the starter could live on (it contained a living organism) for many years. If people thought their neighbor had better-tasting bread, they would request a piece of that neighbor's starter.

The starter--the leavening agent--contains life. Under its influence came a product (with the proper conditions and time) identical to the original loaf the starter came from.

Staying alive

In the old days people had a problem when working with the starter. They had to ensure that it would remain alive and active.

The bread maker realized that, if the starter had not been kept in a favorable environment, the life in the living bread (the starter) was in danger of dying.

If the all-important starter died, because of the baker's negligence, big trouble was the result. The bread would be lifeless and flat. The process would never complete itself, and the bread would remain in an unfinished state. The bread would not rise with that delightful texture and taste we know and love.

Baptism and the lack of leaven

Someone who understands how bread was made throughout much of history can see the similarity between deleavening and baptism.

  • Baptism represents the death of the old person, who was full of malice and wickedness (1 Corinthians 5:8). The average person, with his focus on the concerns of how he can make it in this competitive world, views the laws of God as foolishness. This is the very person we put to death through baptism.

Although baptism symbolizes death, we must not remain dead, flat and lifeless. The Christian must rise in the newness of life (Romans 6:4-5; Colossians 3:9-10).

  • Deleavening also represents death because leaven is a living organism that will multiply. By removing it, you take the life out of the host substance (in this case the influence that caused the old person to be full of wickedness and malice).

When this old leaven is removed, all that is left is the basic pure ingredients: sincerity and truth. Although these are good, they are of little use without a force to spring them into action.

Being sincere and knowing truth are not enough. A person needs a life-giving force (like the leaven starter in the sourdough ) to give him the power to obey God's laws (Romans 2:13): feed the hungry, visit the sick, watch over the fatherless, etc.

Christ will leaven all who do not create an atmosphere that will repel Him. The property of leaven is to change or assimilate into its own nature the meal or dough with which it is mixed.

New leaven

I suspect some will say, "There is no such thing as new leaven."

To this I ask the a simple question: Why is the Old Covenant called the Old Covenant?

The answer is obvious. That a covenant can be old implies there will eventually be a new covenant.

If there were no new leaven, 1 Corinthians 5:7 would simply say "throw out all leaven." Paul, by calling the leaven old, implies there will be new leaven to replace it.

Without new leaven, a person would be like a sincere carpenter who knows the rules of the building codes by memory and has the know-how to use them but as of yet has done nothing. His knowledge is of little value if he does not come to life, pick up a hammer and do something.

James describes a lifeless state of no action as dead faith (James 2:26).

We as Christians must ask for this earnest, this down payment, of God's Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:5) so it will cause a leavening effect that will bring life to our being in the same way the small amount of sourdough brings life to the unleavened batch of new dough.

I find much comfort in knowing that the new leaven will act in a similar way as the old. The end result (if a hostile environment is not created to repulse it) will be a person in the very image of God. We are in the process of being transformed (2 Corinthians 3:18).

This has been God's will from the beginning (Genesis 1:26). This, of course, can come about only with the fulfillment of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31­34; Hebrews 8:8-13).

Ways to partake

In summary, just as there are two ways to mark the death of the Messiah (the first way is the Jewish Passover and the second the Catholic Good Friday), there also seem to be two ways to partake of the bread and wine.

The Jews, through history, have used leavened bread, and the Catholics have used unleavened bread. The Jews have, for the most part, never understood the significance of the Passover lamb or the bread and wine.

The Catholic method always makes use of unleavened bread and must be supervised by an official representing that organization. The organization, as everyone knows, traces its roots back to Rome.

The Jewish method always has leavened bread. This serious observance can be partaken of as a group, or privately as family members in their own home, and requires no official representative of a religious party to oversee the observance.

Jewish people's roots, if traced back over the centuries, go back to Jerusalem and the temple.

The reader must determine which best typifies Christ: the unleavened bread that cannot reproduce, or the leavened bread that has no limitations on its increase.

The Journal: News of the Churches of God is available from P.O. Box 1020, Big Sandy, Texas 75755, U.S.A., and For more information write . To comment on this article or any other article or feature in The Journal or Connections, write . The preceding article or feature is from The Journal, February 25, 2002.

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