Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Sacrament symbol: The Bread

Posted by NathanG on October 18, 2009

Today in priests quorum I taught about the sacrament.  While talking about the symbolism of the bread, we read the following passage from 1 Corinthians 11

 23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:

 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

As we were reading, I found it interesting that Christ referred to his body as being broken.  We learn in the narrative of the crucifixion that Christ’s legs were not broken because he was already dead, fulfilling prophecies that a bone would not be broken (John 19:32-26).  Obviously broken is not limited to bones, but how was his body broken for us?

One of the adult leaders shared something along these lines:  Christ’s body is broken for us in much the same way as a horse is broken.  Christ had perfectly put off the natural man and was perfectly obedient to God.  In essence he had broken his body perfectly to obey the spirit.  When partaking of the sacrament we should remember his broken body as a remembrance of his perfect submission to the Father in all things and we should commit to do likewise.

What do you think of this reading of “broken”?

Other definitions of “break” that may apply to Christ’s body:

To part or divide by force and violence
To divide by piercing or penetrating
To destroy, crush, weaken, or impair
To sink; to appall or subdue; as, to break the spirits, or the passions
To crush; to shatter; to dissipate the strength
To weaken, or impair

What helps you the most as you consider the symbolism of the broken bread while partaking the sacrament?

9 Responses to “Sacrament symbol: The Bread”

  1. Janet Lisonbee said

    Did Christ have to be “broken” into submissiveness in His mortal life? Or was He born submissive to the will of the Father? Certainly the rest of us need to be “broken into submissiveness”. Another way we can look at His body being broken for us is if we compare the “word” of Christ to His body….”and the Word was made flesh” [John 1:1] and great stuff in John chapter 6 about eating His flesh. We are to internalize His word in our lives. I believe the broken bread is symbolic of how He imparts his word unto us…line upon line according to our capabilities or “eating”.

  2. Ardis Parshall said

    The suggested reading doesn’t work for me, mostly because it depends on an English language idiom. I’d be very surprised if many other languages used an identical word for the two very different meanings.

    Christ’s body was broken by the beatings he suffered in the hours before his crucifixion. He was whipped, cuffed, forced to carry his cross beyond what his body could bear. His skin was pierced by the mocking crown of thorns and torn by the scourges, he was spit on, and he underwent other physical indignities. The tearing of the sacramental bread is a pretty good modeling of what happened to his body.

    I don’t see a need to look for a metaphorical meaning of “broken” — the bread is metaphor enough for the literal breaking.

  3. RuthS said

    Yes, Ardis, you said exactly what I was thinking.

  4. Jimmy said

    Spanish says “partido” (broken, like bread or “split in two” like a stick)
    Italian says “spezzato” or “rotto” (broken, snapped, split)
    Portuguese says “partido” – (same as Spanish)

    same verb in both breaking the bread and his body is broken in most cases…

    Also take note that because Jesus’ body was broken for us and we break bread in remembrance of Him, He asks us to have a “broken heart and contrite spirit”…

    Before visiting the Nephites after his death and resurrection – 3 Ne 9:

    19 And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
    20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.

    He died for us (his heart stopped while his Spirit left his body)… he was also given a “new heart” (one that will never stop beating due to immortality / resurrection)… We also must put away (break, tame, conquer) the “old man” (sinful/previous) and be given a “new heart” (Ezek 36:26, Ezek 18:31). Upon resurrection our hearts will be like His, immortal and with a never-ending beat. I’ve also heard the phrase before that “Jesus died of a broken heart”, literally and figuratively due to His Father leaving Him / allowing Him to die on the cross and also because of our sins (especially the ones we don’t repent of!).

    So yes, we must be broken also… that’s what’s great about the scriptures and the Holy Spirit – we each can be inspired in different ways to best know how to come unto Christ. I say tomayto, you say tomahto, etc. Jesus’s parables, Isaiah’s teachings, book of Revelations, etc.

  5. Jeremy said

    Talmadge, in “Jesus the Christ,” taught that Christ may have died literally from a “broken heart.” These words remind me of Hymn #181, “Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King,” where it says that Jesus was “bruised, broken, torn for us.” As the priests break and tear the bread, they do so in similtude of the suffering of our Savior.

    Interesting take on breaking a horse, though. However, I feign to believe our Savior needed much refinement to make him willingly submit to the Father’s will.

  6. Robert C. said

    In the Greek, the verb for break is used twice—seemingly for the bread and for the body—but most modern translations seem not to use the verb twice (see here). This is curious, I don’t understand why….

  7. NathanG said

    Robert C.
    I looked at the link, but I don’t read Greek. I only saw the verb for break once on that page (unless I totally missed a different tense of the word. Is there another place where the Greek word is used twice, or is there something about how it is used grammatically that makes it used twice. I see what you mean on that page about many translations not used “break” twice, particularly for the second usage of break.

  8. Robert C. said

    Nathan, actually, you’re right. I think the NET Bible is based on a different text manuscript than the KJV, and the second “broken” referring to Christ’s body only appears in the Textus Receptus manuscript that the KJV is based on. So, if you look here, you should see the verb for “broken” appear twice, whereas you don’t if you follow the NET link I provided above.

    I think most modern translations follow the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland manuscript, or some earlier edition, and I’ve checked this manuscript and, indeed, the second occurrence of the word “broken” doesn’t appear there.

    Also, even in the Textus Receptus (KJV) manuscript, the antecedent of “broken” may not be clear (though I don’t know Greek grammar well enough to say this with any confidence). A literal translation of the text is as follows:

    And, having given thanks, he broke [it], and said, “Take, eat, this of me is the body which for you [is] being broken: This do in remembrance of me.”

    Based on this word order, it seems to me that “broken,” even in this text, could be referring to the bread, not directly to the body.

    Regardless, I think the comment about “broken spirit” is very interesting and productive, even if it isn’t justified by the most recent manuscript scholarly consensus about what the most likely original text was. The fact that “broken heart and contrite spirit” is such a prominent scripture in 3 Nephi (chapter 9 is it?), makes this symbolic connection between the breaking of the bread for the sacrament and our broken hearts before God very rich. So thanks for sharing these thoughts.

  9. Ash said

    I believe everyone is a little bit right here. That is the greatness of God. He chooses representations that have many meanings for the places we might be at in the different moments of our lives. And those representations no matter how different remind us of the greatness of Jesus, his need, his life, his atonement, and his daily watching over us. They all, no matter how different, somehow bring our minds back to him. I wondered about the bread and took a littte from what everyone said. Thank you all.

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