The Eucharist, Part 3: Justin Martyr

Note: This is part of this series on the Eucharistic liturgy found in the patristics. The series is an expanded response to FishEaters’ “What the Earliest Christians Wrote About the Eucharist.”

The original liturgy:

The Roman liturgy:

Justin Martyr

Now let’s go over Justin Martyr’s First apology in depth, specifically Chapters 13, and 65 through 67, where he describes the ‘Protestant’ liturgy in the second century.

Chapter 13 describes the (2) offerings of “thanksgiving”, “thanks by word of processions (διά λόγου πομπάς)”, and “hymns”. The processions were the offerings of tithes and firstfruits, as these gifts were brought forward for presentation during the service. It is out of these gifts that the bread and wine were taken for the (5) Lord’s Supper.

Chapter 65 shows that the (5) Lord’s Supper follows the (3) Oblation. The bread and cup are brought out after the prayers of thanksgiving have ended with an “Amen” expressed by everyone in the congregation. The bread and cup are consumed after the “Amen”.

In Chapter 66, we read that no one is allowed to participate in the Eucharist who is not a believer or is in sin. Only the repentant, baptized believer may participate in the Eucharist that follows. By implication, they must (1) be dismissed for they are not allowed to participate in (2) the Eucharist: the (2) Eucharist follows the (1) Dismissal.

Chapter 66 shows that the (5) Lord’s Supper follows the (4) Epiclesis, which follows the (2) Eucharist. The Epiclesis consecrates the common food and drink of the Eucharist that is then used in the Lord’s Supper.

Chapter 67 shows that the (2) Eucharist is given (the procession of offerings of bread and wine, prayers and thanksgivings), followed by the (3) Oblation (corporate “Amen”), followed by the distribution of the now Eucharisted food (“that over which thanks have been given”).

Chapter 65 states that the (4) Consecration (prayer of his Word) is spoken over that (1-3) already eucharisted food (“that over which thanks have been given”):

“by the prayer of His word (δι’ εὐχῆς λόγου τοῦ παρ’ αὐτοῦ) the eucharisted food (εὐχαριστηθείσαν τροφήν) … is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”

And it is by (4) this consecration (the simple epiclesis of Jesus’ words invoked) that the bread and wine become the flesh and blood of Jesus. Justin explicitly states that this is the apostles’ teaching.

In  Dialogue with Trypho, §117, he describes the valid sacrifices for Christians to offer, per Malachi’s prophecy in Malachi 1:10-12. He states that “prayers and giving of thanks, when offered by worthy men, are the only perfect and well-pleasing sacrifices to God” Thus he provides the absolute basis for the (1) Dismissal and the (2) Eucharist. In §118 he states that proper sacrifices include “true and spiritual praises and giving of thanks.” So we find that to Justin Martyr only prayers and the giving of thanks (via gifts of tithes and firstfruits or hymns) are valid sacrifice for Christians to make, just as in the Didache.

Rolled all together, you have the early church liturgy: “(1) Dismissal—(2) Eucharist—(3) Oblation—(4) Consecration—(5) Lord’s Supper”. The Roman Catholic liturgy not present. All of the pieces of the Roman Catholic liturgy have the appearance of being in play, but they are not in the right order and thus not the same pieces at all. In particular, the unconsecrated eucharistic sacrifice concludes with an oblation (“Amen”) before the consecration, so the body and blood of Christ could not have been offered as a sacrifice in the 2nd century.

Now, let’s look at FishEaters’ quote:

The most important thing to note is this quote: “…the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer…” This says that the Epiclesis made the food into the Eucharist, or in other words that the Epiclesis came before the Eucharist.

If this were the case, how could the Catholic Encyclopedia be correct that Justin Martyr’s liturgy did not match the Roman liturgy?

If this were the case, how could Anglican W. Wigan Harvey (1857) have had so much trouble coming to terms with Justin Martyr saying that the words of institution came after the eucharistic offering was completed? (see: Harvey, W. Wigan, Sancti Irenæi Episcopi LugdunensisLibros Quinque Contra Haereses, volume ii, Typis Academicis, 1857, 205n)

Worse, if this were true, as we’ve seen above, Justin Martyr would be committing a massive internal logical contradiction.

What gives? The answer is that it is a blatant mistranslation, which is why Harvey (and his contemporary below) didn’t know about it. The original reads like this:

“by the prayer of His word (δι’ εὐχῆς λόγου τοῦ παρ’ αὐτοῦ) the eucharisted food (εὐχαριστηθείσαν τροφήν) … is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”

This version can be found in the writing of a contemporary of Harvey: Roman Catholic J.P. Migne’s Patrologia Graeca (published from 1857–1866) in vol VI, cols 428-429. It is obvious from this that the already (1-3) eucharisted food is (4) made by prayer the flesh and blood of Jesus.

As this is completely incompatible with the Roman liturgy, modern Catholics either blindly accept the mistranslated words of Justin, or do as they did with the Didache: conclude that any part of the eucharistic prayer—not just the words of institution “this is my body; this is my blood”—must qualify as a Consecration, lest there be a contradiction. But, as already noted, this anachronistic understanding just begs-the-question.

In Dialogue with Trypo 41 (the same as quoted by FishEaters), Justin says the Old Testament offering of fine flour was “a type of the bread of the Eucharist.” Let’s go slowly to emphasize this: the flour of the ancient thanksgiving offering is a figure of the prepared bread in the tithe offering (the eucharist) in the church. What does this mean? In Dialogue with Trypo §117, Justin said that “Jesus the Christ enjoined us to offer, i.e. in the Eucharist of the bread and cup,” noting that we offer the eucharist because Christ commanded us to. But, how was the flour a type of the eucharist? The answer is found in First Apology, Chapter 13, where Justin notes that the Hebrews offered their thanskgiving offerings by fire to God, but we offer our thanksgiving offerings (per Malachi) to God “to use it for ourselves and those who need, and with gratitude to Him.” That is how the Old Testament thanksgiving offering of flour became a type for the tithe offering—eucharist—of bread (and many other agricultural products) for use by the church.

Although cherry-picking the ancient writers of the church is common, I wish to highlight another common tactic at play. Someone will read “sacrifices offered to Him…of the bread of the Eucharist and likewise the cup of the Eucharist” and think this is evidence of the Roman liturgy, because in their mind they associate the bread and cup of the Eucharist with the Consecration instead of the Tithe. But this is a Roman Catholic assumption, reading back into the text what they expect to see, rather than what is actually there. As we’ve examined, the bread and cup of the Eucharist is the unconsecrated bread and cup of the tithe that was offered as a sacrifice to God.



  1. Pingback: The Eucharist, Part 2: The Didache

  2. Pingback: The Eucharist, Part 6: Irenaeus of Lyons

  3. Pingback: The Eucharist, Part 8: Interlude

  4. Pingback: The Eucharist, Part 10: Origen of Alexandria

  5. Pingback: The Eucharist, Part 12: Hippolytus of Rome

  6. Pingback: The Eucharist, Part 11: Cyprian of Carthage

  7. Pingback: The Eucharist, Part 13: Aphrahat the Persian Sage

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