The Proto-eucharistic Pericopes of the New Testament: A Canonical Approach

Title: The Proto-eucharistic Pericopes of the New Testament: A Canonical Approach
Authors: Johnson, Claire A.
Date: 2012-04-25
Abstract: That the Eucharist is understood to be vital to the life of both the individual and the church is evidenced in the writings of the New Testament, of the Fathers of the church, and of theologians throughout the centuries. For the Roman Catholic church, the Eucharist is, the “source and summit” for the life of the church and its members (LG 11; SC 10). Not only does the church find its origins in the Eucharist, but also the Eucharist builds up the Church. Systematic Theology has developed eucharistic theology but exegetical work to date has been piecemeal with no attempt to produce a coherent synthesis of the strands of eucharistic theology found within the New Testament. A survey of the earliest church scholars’ work uncovers a vast number of pericopes used in their writings touching on the Eucharist as well as six regularly recurring themes. The Institution Narratives (Matt 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:14-23; 1 Cor 11:23-26) are analysed in order to categorise the eucharistic-allusive texts of the New Testament. The resulting categorisation reveals that John 6:51-59 is most closely connected to the Institution Narratives thus providing five proto-eucharistic pericopes as foundational texts which represent the major early church communities and three strands of eucharistic tradition. Brevard Childs’s Canonical Approach allows the study of these pericopes by building upon data gleaned through a historical-critical study. Using the three lenses of analysis, canonical content, context, and conversation, the approach seeks to understand the relationship of the pericopes to one another, to the individual books, to the New Testament, and to the Old Testament. These lenses honour the close relationship between the pericopes along with their individual emphases, allow the data to be “heard” in a theological manner, and present the biblical theology of the Eucharist as preserved in the New Testament. Today’s believer needs to hold these accounts in view in spite of the tensions among them in order to come to a more complete understanding of the mystery that is the Eucharist. That the six themes identified in the early church writings are uncovered through the Canonical Approach honours our common heritage.
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