When Was the First Communion?

How Jesus’ Last Supper in the Bible was commemorated by early Christians

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it, he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”—Matthew 26:26–28


Jesus’ Last Supper in the Bible. The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci portrays Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples before his crucifixion.

When was the first communion?

The event described in Matthew 26:26–28 (also in Mark 14:22–25 and Luke 22:14–23) is known as the Last Supper. It was Jesus’ last meal with his disciples before his crucifixion. In that meal, which was a Passover meal, Jesus gave bread and wine—representing his body and blood—to his disciples. These were symbols of his new covenant. Further, he charged his disciples to “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19), meaning Jesus’ followers were to partake of bread and wine and remember him. Jesus’ Last Supper in the Bible is the foundation for the Christian tradition of taking communion—known as the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Communion and the Eucharist.

Early Christians celebrated the Lord’s Supper as a full meal, but by the third century, it had ceased to be a banquet and had become a ritualized small meal instead. Steven Shisley examines how the Lord’s Supper transitioned from a full meal to a ritual in his Biblical Views column “From Supper to Sacrament: How the Last Supper Evolved” published in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

The religion section of most bookstores includes an amazing array of Bibles. In our free eBook The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide, prominent Biblical scholars Leonard Greenspoon and Harvey Minkoff expertly guide you through 21 different Bible translations (or versions) and address their content, text, style and religious orientation.

Shisley explains that in the first and second centuries C.E., Christians usually gathered in individual homes for a communal evening meal to commemorate the Lord’s Supper. Although these meals generally fostered community, they sometimes led to disagreement, discord and debauchery. Shisley elaborates:

Early Christians participated in meals characterized by inclusivity, care for one another and unity (Acts 2:43–47; cf. Acts 6:1–7). But as Paul’s letters indicate, these idealistic practices at the Lord’s Supper sometimes became abused because Christians either practiced Jewish purity laws at the table (e.g., considering what types of foods were appropriate to consume), or they transformed the meal into a gathering modeled after Greco-Roman banquets by drinking too much wine (Galatians 2:11–14; cf. Romans 14–15; 1 Corinthians 11:17–34).


When was the first communion? The tradition of communion originated with the Last Supper in the Bible, when Jesus gave bread and wine to his disciples as symbols of the “new covenant.” This painting of the Last Supper appears in the cathedral of Sancti Spíritus, Cuba. Photo: “Cathedral of Sancti Spiritus, Cuba” by Anagoria is licensed under CC-by-3.0.

Such misuses of the Lord’s Supper factored into communion becoming more controlled and structured in the Christian Church; communion became less of a meal and more of a ritual. In his column, Shisley explores several additional reasons for this shift, one of which relates to the time of day that Christians gathered to assemble. During the third century, Christians began assembling in the morning: “[T]he apologist Tertullian [c. 155–240 C.E.] recounts how his community in Carthage began to assemble in the mornings to participate in a separate Eucharistic ritual at an altar (De Corona 3). … According to Cyprian, a third-century bishop, Christians in Carthage regularly gathered as one large assembly in the morning at an altar for a Eucharistic sacrifice in buildings devoted to religious activities (Epistle 62.14–17; Epistle 33.4–5).” The growing size of the Christian community and the desire for all local Christians to meet together, which often necessitated a formal religious structure larger than a house, also likely contributed to the Lord’s Supper becoming a ritualized meal.

To learn more about the Lord’s Supper and its development from a full meal to a ritual, read Steven Shisley’s Biblical Views column “From Supper to Sacrament: How the Last Supper Evolved” in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.


BAS Library Members: Read the full column “From Supper to Sacrament: How the Last Supper Evolved” by Steven Shisley in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.


Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Was Jesus’ Last Supper a Seder? by Jonathan Klawans

The Hungry Jesus by Andrew McGowan

Did Jesus’ Last Supper Take Place Above the Tomb of David?

A Feast for the Senses … and the Soul


Posted in Bible Interpretation.

Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Add Your Comments

2 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  • Tom says

    The “Last Supper” had to have taken place on the lunar 13th, the day before the 14th when the lambs were slaughtered, as Yahshua the Passover Lamb was slain at the stake on the 14th. before sunset.
    And, as a side note, stop thinking and speaking “Thursday, Friday, Sunday” rhetoric, as these pagan named “days of the week” are never biblical, but are more recent manufactured measures of time, and do not fit with biblical chronology.at all. This is why there is so much division and derision amongst so many in the timing and consequent observance of the crucifixion, and subsequent defeat of death, of our Messiah Yahshua.
    Look into the biblical lunar calendar and you will know the true dates, including, especially, the true Shabbat.

  • REV says

    Many scholars who discuss the Last Supper and Seder focus on the fact the standard was the Seder on Passover, Friday that year. There is clear documentation that the Essene – Pious Ones – in keeping with their rejection of the leadership celebrated their Seder Passover the day before. Therefore there were Passover Lambs sacrificed and Seder meals on Thursday. Does that mean Jesus was Essene? No! His followers must have been extra exited knowing that their Master had something planned for Passover – revealing himself as Messiah? No one asks, wonders, how in the city packed tight with pilgrims there was a place for Jesus’ Seder. No one wonders how many were with him? It should have been all his followers at the time – 250 – 300. What great prophet of brotherly love could pull his closest disciples away from their loved ones for a private Seder? http://thesignofconcord.com/Fr_Seder_to_H.php

  • 1 2

    Some HTML is OK

    or, reply to this post via trackback.

Send this to a friend

Hello! You friend thought you might be interested in reading this post from https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org:
When Was the First Communion?!
Here is the link: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/bible-interpretation/when-was-the-first-communion/
Enter Your Log In Credentials...

Change Password