Excursus on the Word Prosfevrein.

(Dr. Adolph Harnack: Hist. of Dogma [Eng. Tr.] Vol. I. p. 209.)

The idea of the whole transaction of the Supper as a sacrifice, is plainly found in the Didache, (c. 14), in Ignatius, and above all, in Justin (I. 65f.) But even Clement of Rome presupposes it, when (in cc. 40–44) he draws a parallel between bishops and deacons and the Priests and Levites of the Old Testament, describing as the chief function of the former (44.4) prosfevrein. This is not the place to enquire whether the first celebration had, in the mind of its founder, the character of a sacrificial meal; but, certainly, the idea, as it was already developed at the time of Justin, had been created by the churches.

Various reasons tended towards seeing in the Supper a sacrifice. In the first place, Malachi i. 11, demanded a solemn Christian sacrifice: see my notes on Didache, 14.3. In the second place, all prayers were regarded as a sacrifice, and therefore the solemn prayers at the Supper must be specially considered as such. In the third place, the words of institution tou`to poiei`te, contained a command with regard to a definite religious action.

Such an action, however, could only be represented as a sacrifice, and this the more, that the Gentile Christians might suppose that they had to understand poiei`n in the sense of quvein. In the fourth place, payments in kind were necessary for the "agapae" connected with the Supper, out of which were taken the bread and wine for the Holy celebration; in what other aspect could these offerings in the worship be regarded than as prosforaiv for the purpose of a sacrifice? Yet the spiritual idea so prevailed that only the prayers were regarded as the qusiva proper, even in the case of Justin (Dial. 117).

The elements are only dw`ra, prosforaiv, 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, and entreaty is made for the introduction of the community into the Kingdom of God (see Didache, 9. 10). Therefore, even the sacred meal itself is called eujcaristiva (Justin, Apol. I. 66: hJ trofh; au\{th kalei`tai parÆ hJmi`n eujcaristiva. Didache, 9. 1: Ignat.), because it is trafh; eujcaristhqei`sa. It is a mistake to suppose that Justin already understood the body of Christ to be the object of poiei`n, and therefore thought of a sacrifice of this body (I. 66). The real sacrificial act in the Supper consists rather, according to Justin, only in the eujcaristivan poiei`nwhereby thekoino;" a[rto" becomes the a[rto" th`" eujcaristiva". The sacrifice of the Supper in its essence, apart from the offering of alms, which in the practice of the Church was closely united with it, is nothing but a sacrifice of prayer: the sacrificial act of the Christian here also is nothing else than an act of prayer (See Apol. I. 14, 65–67; Dial. 28, 29, 41, 70, 116–118).

Harnack (lib. cit. Vol. II. chapter III. p. 136) says that "Cyprian was the first to associate the specific offering, i.e. the Lord’s Supper with the specific priesthood. Secondly, he was the first to designate the passio Domini, nay, the sanguis Christi and the dominica hostia as the object of the eucharistic offering." In a foot-note (on the same page) he explains that "Sacrificare, Sacrificium celebrare in all passages where they are unaccompanied by any qualifying words, mean to celebrate the Lord’s Supper." But Harnack is confronted by the very evident objection that if this was an invention of St. Cyprian’s, it is most extraordinary that it raised no protest, and he very frankly confesses (note 2, on same page) that "the transference of the sacrificial idea to the consecrated elements which in all probability Cyprian already found in existence, etc." Harnack further on (in the same note on p. 137) notes that he has pointed out in his notes on the Didache that in the "Apostolic Church Order" occurs the expression h\{ prosfora; tou` swvmato" kai; tou` ai\{mato".





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