TGC Asks: Does Scripture Demand Unleavened Bread in the Lord’s Supper?

John S. Hammett | March 14, 2016

It is commonly agreed that the bread Jesus broke and gave his disciples on the night he was betrayed was unleavened. He was instituting what we practice as the Lord’s Supper during a celebration of the Jewish Passover, which required unleavened bread.

At times the question has been raised, then, whether or not Christians should use unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper in order to follow Christ’s example and to be fully biblical.

Evidence from Church History

While evidence as to the early church’s practice isn’t abundant, ordinary leavened bread seems to have been the norm. A difference gradually developed between East and West, though, with the East continuing to use leavened bread while the West adopted unleavened bread—a distinction between Orthodox and Roman Catholics that endures today. Biblical scholar Robert Letham suggests a reason for the Roman Catholic position: “Since the leavened bread was more likely to crumble and so fragment the body of Christ, Rome required the use of unleavened bread.”

During the Reformation, leavened bread was generally used among Protestants, though the Church of England continued using unleavened bread for a time before allowing both. John Calvin considered the type of bread used an indifferent matter: “Whether the bread is leavened or unleavened, the wine red or white—it makes no difference…

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