In the past decades, influential works of liturgical scholarship have followed
the historical skepticism of mainstream New Testament studies, therefore
doubting the historical foundations of key testimonies received in Scriptures
and other early documents, particularly the connection between the Last
Supper and the early Eucharist. Prominent studies have looked for the origins
of the Eucharist in in the meals of Jesus with his disciples and in
Mediterranean meals and symposia.
Undoubtedly, the sources for reconstructing the early Eucharist are limited
and the picture of eucharistic practice in the first three centuries is not as
clear as after the age of the great Fathers and the great liturgies. But, if we
look directly at those sources, what can we actually know? Is the knowledge
of early eucharistic understanding and practice at odds with what developed
in later centuries? In this lecture, after reviewing the methods of modern
liturgical scholarship, I will offer an overview of what we can confidently
know of the early Eucharist.