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Unleavened Bread or Leavened Bread
- Which Was Used?

Unleavened bread must have been used at the Last Supper if it was a true Passover meal. Let's look more at how the New Testament designates either leavened or unleavened bread.

This is part four of a four-part study on the question of whether the Last Supper was a true Passover observance. Go back to part three - Last Supper.

Leaven in the New Testament

Leaven is used in the sense of that which, although small in quantity, thoroughly pervades and influences something else, even in a good sense, as in:

"Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven <2219, zumos>, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened." (Matt 13:33)

Jesus also used it as a symbol of sin and its influence:

"Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?" (1 Cor 5:6)
"Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven <2219> of bread <740>, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." (Matt 16:12)

Leaven comes from the Greek word "zumos:"

2219 Hebrew word zume zume dzoo'-may
probably from 2204; TDNT-2:902,302; n f
AV-leaven 13; 13
1) leaven
2) metaph. of inveterate mental and moral corruption, viewed in its tendency to infect others

This word just means "leaven" not "leavened bread." It is simply translated "leaven" 13 times. Only once is it used with bread but they are separate words:

"Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven <2219> of bread <740>, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." (Matt 16:12)

The verse says that He was not speaking of the leaven that is used to raise bread (if it is used) but of the leaven (false doctrine) of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

No Greek Word for Unleavened Bread

As there is no Greek term that specifically, on its own, means "leavened bread," there is no word for "unleavened bread." The word "unleavened" is "azumos" from the prefix "a," indicating "without" and "zumos" meaning leaven.

106 Hebrew word azumosazumos ad'-zoo-mos
from 1 (as a negative particle) and 2219; TDNT-2:902,302; adj
AV-unleavened bread 8, unleavened 1; 9
1) unfermented, free from leaven or yeast
1a) of the unleavened loaves used in the paschal feast of the Jews
1b) metaph. free from faults or the "leaven of iniquity"

This word just means "without leaven." It is never used in the New Testament to designate "unleavened bread."

"Azumos" is used in Matt 26:17, Mark 14:1, 12, Luke 22:1, 7, Acts 12:3, and 20:6 in reference to the feast of unleavened bread. In English-language Bibles the term "bread" has been added. It should be translated simply as "the Feast of Unleavened."

In 1 Cor 5:7 it is used in reference to people who are unleavened:

"Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened <106>. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:" (1 Cor 5:7)

In the next verse, it is used to describe the good qualities of sincerity and truth as opposed to the evil qualities (leaven) of malice and wickedness - types of sin.

"Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened <106> bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Cor 5:8)

Note that the word "bread" is added; it does not appear in the original.

History

The historian Josephus states that unleavened loaves were used for the showbread:

"Upon this table, which was placed on the north side of the temple, not far from the most holy place, were laid twelve unleavened loaves of bread, six upon each heap, one above another: they were made of two tenth-deals of the purest flour, which tenth-deal [an omer] is a measure of the Hebrews, containing seven Athenian cotyloe; and above those loaves were put two vials full of frankincense." (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews Book 3, Chapter 6, Paragraph 6).

Summary

There are no Greek words specifically for either leavened bread or unleavened bread. The term "artos" can be used in reference to bread that is either leavened or unleavened. We therefore need to determine, from the context, whether the bread used at the Last Supper was leavened or not. Clearly, the Last Supper was a Passover observance by Jesus and His disciples. Therefore, in context, the "artos" used as a symbol of His body would not have contained leaven.

Remember, there is no Biblical term "Passover day." Nisan 14 was the day on which the Passover lamb was sacrificed in preparation for the observance of Passover on the evening of the 15th. The Scriptures speak of the Passover occurring on the 14th, but never say the Passover is the 14th. Christ is our Passover. The Passover is a sacrifice, not a day.

The observation/celebration of the Passover meal was to commemorate the "passing over" the houses of the Hebrews on the midnight of the 15th not the sacrifice on the afternoon of the 14th.

"And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD'S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped." (Exo 12:26-27)

Jesus and His disciples kept the Passover at the time specified in the torah - in the hours just before midnight on Nisan 15. There is the problem then of His being crucified a day later than specified. This is a very interesting point and is well-explained in the book In the Heart of the Earth: The Secret Code That Reveals What Is In the Heart of God.

 


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