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WHAT IS BREAD?
APTOE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
WITH IMPLICATIONS FOR SUFFERERS OF CELIAC DISEASE AND THE
INTERPRETATON OF JOHN 6:1-15
Heath R. Curtis
Pastor of Trinity Lutheran in Worden, IL, and Zion Lutheran in Carpenter, IL
INTRODUCTION
This paper explores the question of whether products baked from grains other than wheat
can qualify as the a¡tc¸ (“bread”) of the Lord's Institution. This is an especially pressing
question today in regard to those who suffer from Celiac Disease (CD), which causes a person to
be intolerant to the gluten in wheat flour. Gluten is the agent which makes it possible for wheat
to be made into bread by causing the elasticity necessary for a kneadable dough. Without gluten,
the particles do not adhere to each other and whatever substance their mixture yields cannot be
baked into bread. Additionally, dough is unleavenable without gluten. Rabbi Jacob Neusner
chimed in on the controversy concerning CD and bread in the Eucharist in an open letter noting
that a bread is not unleavened if it could not be leavened to begin with: “The definitive trait of
unleavened bread, broken 'in memory of Me,' is that it derives from wheat, which can be
leavened but has not been."
1
Thus, as alcohol is a necessary component of grape wine as opposed
to grape juice, so is gluten a necessary component of bread.
I. STAYING WITHIN THE LORD'S INSTITUTION
All pastors and theologians of the Augsburg Confession agree that we are bound by the
Lord's Institution of his Supper. We do not have authority to change that Institution. No one of us
would recognize as valid a celebration of the Supper which substituted Swedish meatballs for
bread or vodka for wine. In both cases some aspect of bread and wine is still there (alcohol in the
vodka; wheat flour to help the meatballs stick together). But in both cases the earthly elements
are so discongruent with our Lord's commanded elements that we cannot say that such a
celebration adheres to the Lord's Institution. Nor can we say with anything approaching
confidence that the Real Presence exists where his Institution is not followed.
However, whether a paten full of small hosts or a large loaf,
2
whether one chalice or
1
'Gifts of Finest. . . .Rice?' Chronicles Magazine (August 2001).
2
In another matter of pastoral practice regarding the Supper the issue of “loaf vs. hosts” and “chalice vs. small
cups” arises. While this matter does not directly pertain to the question under discussion here, we might note the
following. The standard defense for using a number of small hosts instead of one loaf is that in our Lord's Institution
of the Supper, He “breaks” the loaf before speaking “Take, eat, this is my body...” Hence, the widespread
acceptance of a “broken loaf,” that is small hosts, instead of a large loaf. However, with the cup, the Lord makes a
special point of distributing from one vessel: “But now, when Christ gives a new, special drink of his blood, he
commands them all to drink out of this single cup. . . .The bread he could readily—indeed, he must—have so
distributed that each received a piece for himself. But the wine he could not have distributed in this manner.” Luther,
Confession Concerning Christ's Supper 1528) LW 37.311. That being said, as Luther points out in the same work,
the word “cup” is a synecdoche for the wine in the cup (see the next footnote) – thus, while perhaps not following a
Biblical example, individual cups or a number of chalices filled with wine still do not leave the Lord's Institution
behind.
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several chalices and a flagon are used is immaterial to the validity of the Supper (i.e. to staying
within the Lord's Institution). Our Lord's Institution is not done violence by these things because
his Institution is focused on the ipsissima verba: "This (bread) is my body. . .this (cup of wine) is
my blood." Thus the bread and the wine in the cup
3
are the elements required to be within the
Lord's Institution. It is his Supper, his Institution, so he names the elements.
This highlights the distinction between the concern for having valid elements and falling
into a Zwinglian replicationism. Duplicating every detail of the Supper was important for
Zwingli precisely because he did not believe in the Real Presence. For him the Supper was
exclusively about remembrance and therefore every detail was important. For the churches of the
Augsburg Confession, however, the focus is on the Institution of the Lord's presence under bread
and wine. For us the details of wooden dishes, nighttime celebration, etc. are unimportant – that
is, they fall outside the Institution, the command to Do This. But at the same time, because we
value the Real Presence, adhering to the Lord's Institution, his Promise, is vital to us.
II. BREAD AND WINE
A. LUTHER'S LEXICAL LAPSE
1. THE LUTHER QUOTE THAT STARTED THE SPECULATION
The point at issue, therefore, is staying within the Lord's Institution. Faith is adhering to
the Lord's Promise, not trying to force new promises upon him that he has not made. He has not
promised his bodily and bloodily presence under any other form than that of bread and wine –
thus the line separating valid from invalid sacramental matter must be drawn somewhere:
preferably where Christ has drawn it.
Concerning those suffering from CD, the question becomes the definition of a¡tc¸. We
might first answer by asking what the Church has always used for the a¡tc¸ in the Lord's Supper.
The earliest and only evidence we have is wheat bread – leavened in the East and unleavened in
the West. This continues to be the case in all of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy
today.
4
Thus, the burden of proof falls on those who claim that something other than wheat bread
qualifies as a¡tc¸.
One such person is F. Pieper, who argues that this element in the Supper can be fulfilled
by "rye, wheat, barley, or oatbread. . .as long as it is baked from water and the flour of some
grrain."
5
In this Pieper is following Walther
6
, who was following Baier
7
, who does not quote any
Lutheran dogmatician in his favor but undoubtedly had in mind this statement from Luther.
3
As Luther pointed out, that Christ says the “cup” is his blood is an obvious synecdoche for the wine in the cup.
See Luther's Confession Concerning Christ's Supper (1528) LW 37.330.
4
“The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat,
and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition. It follows therefore that bread made from another
substance, even if it is grain, or if it is mixed with another substance different from wheat to such an extent that it
would not commonly be considered wheat bread, does not constitute valid matter[.]” Vatican, Congregation for
Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament, Redemptionis Sacramentum para. 48. This is merely the most
recent restatement of the Church's understanding of a¡tc¸, which predates the Reformation and is common to the
whole church, East and West (see below for quotations from the Council of Florence of 1439). This has been
consistently and clearly upheld since the time of Florence through Paul V's De Defectibus of 1572, the 1917 Codex
Iuris Canonici can. 815, and finally the 1983 Code of Canon Law, can. 924 §2.
5
F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, vol. III. (St. Louis: CPH, 1953) 353-354.
2
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If the rule is to be that one is so strictly to follow the example of Christ and not the
Word alone, then it will follow that we should observe the Last Supper nowhere but in
Jerusalem, in the upper room. For if incidental circumstances are to be strictly binding,
the external places and persons must also strictly be adhered to. And it will come to
this, that this Last Supper was only to be observed by the disciples, who were the only
ones who were addressed at that time and commanded to observe it. And what St. Paul
says (I Cor. 11[:17ff.]) will become utter foolishness. Also since we do not know and
the text does not state whether red or white wine was used, whether wheat rolls or
barley bread were used, we must by reason of doubt at this point refrain from
observing the Last Supper, until we become certain about it, so that we do not make
any external detail differ a hairsbreadth from what Christ’s example sets forth. Yes, we
must also previously in a Jewish manner have eaten the paschal lamb [emphasis
added].
8

I argue that Luther has allowed his polemic, as happens often enough, to overrun his exegesis.
Insisting on wheat bread is following "the Word alone" and not merely following "the example
of Christ" in a replicationist manner.
2. THE CONFESSIONS AVOID LUTHER'S SPECULATION
I believe, with all due respect, that Pieper, Walther, Baier, and Luther have made a grave
error in allowing for non-wheaten bread in the Supper. Before proceeding with this narration,
however, it is important to note that the Confessions do not follow in their line. The Formula of
Concord, Solid Declaration, VII.48 states that in the Sacrament Christ used and spoke of only
“rechtem natürlichen Brot und von natürlichem Wein (Latin: “de vero naturali pane et de vero
naturali vino.” “true, natural bread and natural wine.”).” Here there is no comment on Luther's
extra-confessional speculations about the sort of grain that may be used for this panis. This is all
the more significant since Chemnitz knows of arguments about wheat bread in the Eucharist and
mentions them in the Examen:
For it is certain that bread is of the essence of the Lord’s Supper. Whether it should be
of wheat, whether leavened or unleavened, was at one time debated with great heat, and
arguments were gathered from Scripture about the grain of wheat and about the day of
the Lord’s Supper. But the church judged correctly that these things are free and not of
necessity for the sacrament” (Examination of the Council of Trent vol. II, trans. F.
Kramer [St. Louis: CPH, 1978] 540).
Here Chemnitz would seem to second Luther's comments – but only in the most anemic
6
C.F.W. Walther, Pastoral Theology, trans. and abridg. by J.M. Drickamer. (New Haven: Lutheran News Inc.,
1995) 130-131.
7
J.W. Baier, Compendium theologiae postivae, ed. C.F.W. Walther (St. Louis: Luth-Concordia Verlag, 1879)
Part. III. Cap. XI.6 "triticeus non solum, verum etiam frumentarius alius. . . .Quamvis enim quoad species frumenti
different, tamen in esse panis convenient." 'Not only wheat, but even any other grain. . . .for even should the species
of grain differ, nonetheless they agree in being bread.'
8
Against the Heavenly Prophets in the Matter of Images and Sacraments (1525), LW 40:133.
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of fashions. He offers no citations for the church's supposed judgment that wheaten bread is a
“free” matter and neither has Kramer been able to offer any such citation in footnotes.
Undoubtedly this is because no such church-wide “judgment” calling wheaten bread an
adiaphoron exists – indeed, the exact opposite is true. While a few theologians had speculated on
grains other than wheat, already Thomas Aquinas affirms wheaten bread as the only acceptable
matter for the Sacrament in Summa Theologica 3.74. And the decision of the Council of Florence
in 1439 – the most ecumenical of councils since the 7
th
century – flatly contradicts Chemnitz'
unsupported assertion: “[i]tem, in azimo sive fermentato pane triticeo, corpus Christi veraciter
confici” (“indeed, in either unleavened or leavened wheat bread, the body of Christ is truly
confected”);“eucharistie sacramentum, cuius materia est panis triticeus” (“the eucharistic
sacrament, whose material is wheat bread”).
9

One suspects that Chemnitz is trying to smooth the matter over with this light treatment,
which neither contradicts Luther nor offers a robust defense. In De Coena Domini he calls the
bread of the Supper “panis. . .cibarius communis” and “panis communis.”
10
Lewis & Short
11
says
panis cibarius is 'coarse bread' which is from the 'coarser meal which remains after the fine wheat
flour.' Whatever Chemnitz' exact thoughts on the matter were, he and the other fathers of the
Formula studiously avoided Luther's speculation in 1577.
3. EXPLAINING LUTHER'S LAPSE
While Luther (followed by Baier, Walther, and Pieper) claims that the a¡tc¸ of the
Institution may be fulfilled by grains other than wheat, the standard Greek lexicon reads the
evidence of the Greek corpus very differently. Liddell-Scott-Jones-McKenzie
12
points out that in
Greek, a¡tc¸ is a specific term with a specific referent:
a¡tc¸. c, cake or loaf of wheat-bread, mostly in pl., Od.18.120, al.; óp+o, oùXo, a
whole loaf, 17.343; collectively, bread, 6ouXtov óp+ov t6cv Archil.Supp.2.6 ;
ó. +ptoko¤ovto+o, Batr.35 ; opp. µò(o (porridge), Hp.Acut.37.--Freq. in all writers.
Luther, Baier, Walther, and Pieper may have missed this fact because they were trained primarily
in Latin at the expense of a deeper understanding of Greek (even Luther's translation of the
Greek NT was done with one eye firmly planted on the Vulgate). As Pieper and Walther
prepared their books they worked in the two theological languages of Lutheran orthodoxy:
German and Latin. The Greek of the New Testament and patristic era was filtered through and
read in the context of the exegesis and dogmatics written in these two languages – a situation
parallel to (and as perilous as) the use of English among us today. This accident of history has
had deep ramifications for their thinking in regard to valid earthly matter for the Sacrament.
13
9
Session VI, 6 July 1439 Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta ed. J. Alberigo, P.-P. Joannou, et al. (Basil:
Herder, 1962) 503, 521; emphasis added.
10
Editio novissima, prioribus emendatior, & Indice (Frankfurt & Wittenberg, 1653) 26.
11
A Latin Dictionary. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short, eds. (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1879) loc cit.
12
Greek-English Lexion, 9
th
ed. with Revised Supplement (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996). Abbreviated LSJM.
13
Such an excuse is not so readily at hand for the CTCR of 1983 which produced Theology and Practice of the
Lord's Supper. This document claims that "[t]he Greek word for bread in the New Testament texts, artos, is
generic." The document says this in the context of leavened vs. unleavened bread, quoting BAGD
2
in support. This
4
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The basic error these theologians have made is the transference of the semantic domain of
a term in the target language (the language into which the Scriptures are being translated) into
the semantic domain of a corresponding term in the source language. The German used to
translate a¡tc¸ is Brot, obviously cognate with the English bread and sharing much the same
(expansive) semantic domain. This wide semantic domain is what is causing the confusion,
especially since this large range of meaning is shared by the Latin term panis. Lewis & Short (loc
cit.) tells us that panis is a very generic word again largely sharing the semantic domain of
English bread. The meaning is better shown by translating it "loaf." So cibarius panis is "coarse
bread,” secundus panis is "black bread,” panis siccus is “dry bread” and panis plebeius or panis
siligine factus is "wheat bread.”
All that is to say that in Latin panis, usually translated by German Brot and English
bread, carries no indication of the cereal or grain used in its production. However, transferring
the Latin, German, or English semantic domain for panis/Brot/bread to the Greek a¡tc¸ is
methodologically unsound and is bound to lead to misinterpretation. Pieper, Walther, and Luther
himself are simply mistaken in their assumption that a¡tc¸. when unadorned with other
signifiers, can indicate a loaf of a grain other than wheat. The Greek is more specific in
terminology than Latin, German, or English. The Greek a¡tc¸ can be used by analogy to refer to
a loaf-like shape, but to do so it must occur with an adjective to indicate a loaf baked of a grain
other than wheat. This is because Greek has a wide-ranging and precise vocabulary when it
comes to various sorts of what we call "bread products." So for example, k¡t0tvc¸ or aa¸a is a
barley-loaf. LSJM rightly notes that the Greek literature clearly uses the latter word in such a
way that it is "distd. from a¡tc¸ (wheaten bread)" (loc. cit.). And cctvtç is rye-grass (from its
reddish hue).
In this, Greek a¡tc¸ shares similar semantic features with English wine. When one orders
a glass of wine at a restaurant, one assumes that grape wine will be brought to the table.
However, one can also drink dandelion wine, blackberry wine, and plum wine. But to indicate
this wider semantic range a signifier must be added to wine, since the word by itself without
other context always means grape wine. Likewise, a¡tc¸ without other signifiers or specific
context means wheat bread.
To summarize, the Greek vocabulary in this area is more precise than German, Latin, or
English: it contains a word which, when unadorned by adjectives or other signifiers, means a loaf
of specifically wheaten bread. Nor will it do to speculate about a supposed Hebrew or Aramaic
Vorlag to a¡tc¸ that would perhaps be more generic and allow for grains other than wheat. This
method of bypassing the Greek text was, of course, Zwingli's idea for how to get rid of the Greek
sottv in the Institution. But our Lord's Institution in the Evangelists' accounts includes a¡tc¸, not
merely anything that might go under the name panis, Brot, bread, or ~xl.
14

is certainly true: artos is generic with reference to leavening. But the CTCR continues, "[s]ince the Scriptures are
silent on the source of the bread, it may be baked from the flour of wheat, rye, barley, or other grains." Here they are
clearly relying on the Luther-Baier-Walther-Pieper tradition. Two years earlier, in 1981, the Systematics Department
of Concordia Theological Seminary – Fort Wayne had also repeated Luther's declaration of valid matter for a¡tc¸ in
a printed opinion mainly dealing with valid matter for 'fruit of the vine' (CTQ XLV [1981].77-80, esp. 78).
14
This paragraph is meant as a rebuke-in-advance for any modern apologist of Luther's definition of valid
matter who might wish to point to the Talmud's (see Book 3, chapter II of Rodkinson's translation of portions of the
Babylonian Talmud, New Edition of the Babylonian Talmud [Boston: Talmud Society, 1918]) “five grains” which
can be used for matzah at Passover (wheat, spelt [which is actually emmer wheat], rye, oat, barley). Besides the fatal
flaw of relying on a supposed Vorlag to the NT text rather than reading the Greek text itself, there is also the
notoriously tricky problem of making the declarations of the Talmud apply to the time and place of Jesus' earthly
ministry. Likewise, the LXX's use of a¡tc¸ to translate ~xl is of no help. As J. Wevers shows in Notes on the
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And it is not as if the Holy Spirit suffered under the handicap of a paucity of words to
choose from to indicate a wider range of meaning. For example, the common word ottc¸ (which
according to LSJM "comprehend[s] both wheat and barley") could have been used in the genitive
with a¡tc¸ or by itself. But to use a¡tc¸ in the singular and unadorned is to be crystal clear about
the meaning: our Lord's Institution applies to wheat-bread. Perhaps the most straightforward
proof of this is the historical fact that the portion of the Church that has always spoken Greek has
also always insisted on the use of only wheat bread. They do so because they know their Greek
and so have never had to doubt what a¡tc¸ means.
B. ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF LUTHER'S VIEW REFUTED
In the foregoing section I have largely leaned upon the traditional ecclesiastical
understanding of a¡tc¸ and the view of Greek corpus given by the standard lexicon, the ninth
edition of Liddell-Scott-Jones-McKenzie with revised supplement. Both of these sources provide
an unequivocal definition for a¡tc¸ as wheat bread. This understanding is also supported by
Behm
15
(who notes that the distinction between a¡tc¸ and aa¸a remains in force in Koine Greek)
and is not spoken against by either Lampe's Patristic Greek Lexicon
16
or BAGD
17
. While this
case is certainly strong, two arguments remain for a wider semantic range for a¡tc¸: an
argument from the parallel Gospel accounts of the feeding of the five thousand and an appeal to
latest revision of Bauer's lexicon by Danker (BDAG).
1. THE FEEDING OF THE FIVE THOUSAND
The Synoptic accounts of the feeding of the five thousand (Mt. 14.13-21; Mk. 6.32-44;
Lk. 9:10b-17) tell us that Jesus multiplied asvts a¡tcu¸ while John (Jn. 6.1-15) has asvts
a¡tcu¸ k¡t0tvcu¸. The argument in support of a wider semantic domain for a¡tc¸ from these
passages runs thusly: what the Synoptics call a¡tc¸, John can call a¡tc¸ k¡t0tvc¸, so obviously
a¡tc¸. unadorned with adjectives, can refer to loaves of barley too: and if it can refer to barley
then why not to all sorts of grains?
That second step in that argument – from barley grains to any grain at all – is especially
tenuous, but is required by those who want to use this argument in an effort to help CD sufferers
since barley also has gluten. But I will argue that even the first step is out place.
This argument for a wider semantic range for a¡tc¸ rests on an exegetically irresponsible
harmonization of the Synoptic and Johannine texts. As we have seen, the testimony of the lexical
experts and the history of interpretation in the church strongly support reading a¡tc¸, when
unadorned with other signifiers, as a term that refers to wheat bread. Thus we are confronted
Greek Text of Exodos (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990: 466-67) a¡tc¸ is chosen to translate ~xl in those instances
where wheat bread is specifically indicated by the text itself, e.g. Ex 29:2. Indeed, this passage from Exodus (as well
as Ezra 6:9) is further proof that in the sacred ceremonies of Israel, the 'bread' used was of wheat flour, that is,
a¡tc¸. Furthermore, M. Harl notes that no matter what translation choices are made in the LXX it is still true that in
dealing with terminology about bread products, “le grec est plus précis que l'hébreu” (“the Greek is more precise
than the Hebrew”) (La Bible d'Alexandrie, v. I, Genèse. Paris: Les 'Editions du Cerf [1986], 68).
15
J. Behm, a¡tc¸. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. I (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964): 477-78.
16
G.W.H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961-1968)
17
Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian
Literature, 2
nd
ed. (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1979)
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with a seeming contradiction between the Synoptics (where Jesus multiplies a¡tc¸. that is,
wheaten bread) and John (where Jesus multiplies barley loaves). To make the difficulty go
away, those who make the above argument for a wider semantic range for a¡tc¸ rewrite the
lexicon. This is just as irresponsible as resolving Mt. 8.5-13 (which says that the centurion fell
down before Jesus) and Lk 7.1-10 (which says that it was not the centurion but the centurion's
servant who came to Jesus) by positing two such visits and healings; or by saying that there were
two cleansings of the temple to alleviate the seeming discrepancy between the Synoptics and
John in the timing of that event (the“doubling” method of harmonization); or, even more directly
analogous, by saying that in Greek sometimes ou st can mean cutc¸ sottv in order to harmonize
the Matthean and Markan accounts of the words from heaven at the Son's baptism.
This will not do. Instead, we must have a nuanced and responsible approach to reading
the Gospels which recognizes that different Evangelists have different intents in relating a given
narrative – specifically, sometimes one Evangelist is more focused than another in what W.
Arndt calls “literal exactness”
18
while another Gospel writer will vary the ordering of events, or
words of a quotation, or perspective on a happening to emphasize a theological point.
19
This is what has happened in the Synoptic and Johannine accounts of the feeding of the
five thousand: the Synoptics seem to be more focused on a literally precise account while John
seems to have changed the materials that are multiplied in the miracle to make a theological
point. Specifically, John would draw our attention to the LXX version of 2 Kings 4:42-44:
20
42
-at a|µ ç etµ ìò.| . - Patòcaçtca -at µ |.,-.| :çe; ·e| a|òça:e| ·eu ò.eu
:ça·e,.|µ¡a·a| .t-ect aç·eu; -çtòt|eu; -at :aìaòa; -at .t:.| ee ·. ·a ìaa -at
. còt.·aca|
43
-at .t:.| e ì.t·euç,e ; au·eu ·t ea ·eu·e .|a :te| .-a·e| a|eça | -at
.t:.| ee; ·a ìaa -at . còt. ·aca| e ·t ·a e. ì. ,.t -u çte; |a,e|·at -at -a·aì.t(euct|
44
-at .|a,e| -at -a·.ìt:e| -a·a ·e ç µ ¡a -uçteu (Ralfs' text)
42
And there came a man over from Baetharisa, and brought to the man of God twenty
barley loaves and cakes of figs, of the first-fruits. And he said, Give to the people, and let
them eat.
43
And his servant said, Why should I set this before a hundred men? and he said,
Give to the people, and let them eat; for thus saith the Lord, They shall eat and leave.
44
And they ate and left, according to the word of the Lord. (Brenton's translation)
Here we see a striking parallel to the feeding of the five thousand: a miracle in which a man of
God multiplies food to feed a large number of people even though his servant is incredulous
about the possibility. John's account of the feeding of the five thousand more strongly parallels
this account not only by having a¡tcu¸ k¡t0tvcu¸ instead of the Synoptic a¡tcu¸ but also by
replacing the Synoptic t¿0ua¸ with cça¡ta. The latter word, which LSJM defines as "a cooked
18
W. Arndt, Does the Bible Contradict Itself? (St. Louis: CPH, 1926) 57.
19
This seeming lack of concern about "literal exactness" or precision is sometimes troubling to contemporary
Christians who, as we conservative Lutherans, support an inerrant Bible. However, it is best to agree with J. Voelz
that inerrancy does not include things like exactness of quotation, sequence of narrated events, and any set degree of
precision that would apply to all authors: "Positively expressed, then, to say that the sacred Scriptures are inerrant is
to say that their authors are absolutely truthful according to their intended purposes" (What Does This Mean? 2
nd
ed.
[St. Louis: CPH, 1997] 239).
20
I was alerted to this parallel by R. E. Brown, The Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to John (Garden City:
Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1966) 234-235.
7
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or otherwise prepared dish,” can refer to cakes, dumplings, and even small, fresh, salted, or
preserved fish cakes – only by extension does it refer to fish itself, one of the main ingredients in
the Attic variety of such cakes.
21
Thus John again changes the Synoptic version to more closely
mirror the account from 2 Kings and its :aìa òa; which were manifestly not fish, but could be
called cça¡ta. Thus there is no need to overturn the findings on the lexica based on the parallel
readings of this miracle: a¡tc¸ when unadorned with signifiers or specific context still means
wheaten bread. It is just that John had his reasons for subtly differing his narration of the
account.
22
2. DANKER'S NEW DEFINITION
In his 2000 revision of BAGD (now called BDAG – Danker's initial taking pride of place
after Bauer's), F. Danker provides the following definition for a¡tc¸. “a baked product produced
from a cereal grain, bread.” Danker has here departed from the definition embraced by previous
lexicographers of Greek in favor of the more expansive definition understood by Luther. Though
Danker is certainly no lightweight in the world of Greek lexicography it is still true that “[l]ike
all reference works [BDAG] must be used critically.”
23
While receiving generally favorable
reviews, BDAG has also garnered widespread criticism for certain peculiarities. D. K. Lowery
notes that “this edition retains some of the dubious interpretations of former editions while
adding a few new ones of its own.”
24
For example, Danker's definition of aesìcc¸ (another
change from BAGD
2
) allows for the word to indicate maternal half-brothers but not paternal
half-brothers (“a male from the same womb as the reference person”); and his definition of
lcueatc¸ as Judean rather than Jew is roundly criticized for showing that Danker has at times
“blurred the task of scientific lexicographer with the parallel but different tasks of the exegete,
pastor and teacher”
25
One wonders, therefore, if Danker has not been led down this lonely path of
disagreement with the other standard sources by his Lutheran tradition (for he conspicuously
agrees with Luther against the consensus definition) and his desire to be sensitive to
“inclusiveness and tolerance” (Danker states this desire in his Foreward, BDAG viii), which
sensitivity has been behind the desire in certain corners of the Roman Catholic and Anglican
communions to widen the definition of a¡tc¸ to include a wide variety of local foodstuffs.
26

21
“The Greeks used the generic term opson for 'food eaten with bread or other cereal products'. . . .Fish, which
might be fresh, dried, or pickled occupied a prominent place in opson, especially at Athens.” S. Hornblower and A.
Spawforth, The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3
rd
ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996) 603.
22
It may also be argued that John records the more literally precise account of the feeding of the five thousand
and that the Synoptic writers deleted k¡t0tvcu¸ from the account to de-emphasize the connection to 2 Kings and
instead emphasize the parallel to the Lord's Supper, which uses not a¡tc¸ k¡t0tvc¸ but a¡tc¸. wheat bread! The
change from cça¡ta to t¿0ua¸ would then be to capitalize on the early Christian use of lXOïE to signify Jesus.
23
D.K. Lowery, “Review of A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian
Literature, Third Edition.” Bibliotheca Sacra 160 n. 637 (2003): 119-121, 121.
24
Ibid, 120. Lowery notes errors in the definitions for avsuaa. lo¡anì. ac¡vsta and lcueatc¸.
25
J.L. North., “Review of A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature,
Third Edition.” JTS 54.1:271-280, 278. North also notes incomplete coverage of recent lexical scholarship, several
typos, and the omission of Philonic and other parallels, a “major defect.” J. Blomqvist (JBL, 120.4[2001]: 780-4)
advises us to check BDAG against Liddell-Scott-Jones-McKenzie.
26
For representative examples see: C.S. Song, “A Bowl of Rice with Green Bamboo Leaf Wine.” The East Asia
Journal of Theology 2.2(1984):178-188; J. A. da Silva, “Bread and wine for the Eucharist: Are they negotiable?”
8
Curtis- 9
At any rate, no matter how highly esteemed Danker is in the world of Greek lexicography
(and rightly so), his lone testimony
27
would be a weak foundation on which to build an edifice
defying the unified voice of all Christendom (save Luther in one polemic work) and scholarly
classical studies. It is too often the case that students of the NT ignore the larger world of
classical studies in favor of specialty works by theological authors. J.L. North's admonition from
his review of BDAG is relevant here, “When professional classicists cross swords with
theologians (and when they do not!), their contributions must be heeded.”
28

III. SUMMARY OF ARGUMENTS
As a careful study of the text shows, simply insisting on one's “commonsense” definition
is no help – because “commonsense” is just another way to say “assumption and cultural
prejudice.” We must investigate a responsible definition of a¡tc¸ – for everyone must strive to
be faithful to the meaning of the words of the text. Our investigation of the text, the testimony of
Greek lexicographers, and the church's history has found that a¡tc¸ clearly means wheat bread.
This leaves proponents of the use of grains other than wheat in the Supper to argue that although
the Lord used wheat bread at the first celebration of the Supper, and although the very words of
the Holy Spirit's transmission of the Institution call for a¡tc¸, that is, wheat bread, we can still
substitute another grain: for how could another grain make that much of a difference? This is
tendentious at best. The Lord has attached his presence to a¡tc¸, wheat bread. He has not made
any other promise besides this. To leave his Institution in such a fundamental way is, at best, to
enter the realm of uncertainty.
IV. PASTORAL CONCERNS CONFRONTED WITH CELIAC DISEASE
The text of the Institution, the history of the Church, and ecumenical considerations all
argue for the use of wheat bread only in the Lord's Supper. But this raises the serious pastoral
concern about what to do in the case of people who are afflicted with Celiac (Coeliac) Disease
African Ecclesial Review 34(1992):258-271; J. Quevedo-Bosch, “The Eucharistic Species and Inculturation” in
Revising the Eucharist: Groundwork for the Anglican Communion, ed. D.R. Holeton. Nottingham: Grove Books
Limited, 1994: 48-49. On the eve of the Second Vatican Council a more scholarly attempt to provide a foundation
for this was provided by John McHugh, “Num solus panis triticeus sit materia valida SS. Eucharistiae?” (“Is Wheat
Bread the Only Valid Material for the Sacrifice and Sacrament of the Eucharist?”) Verbum Domini 39(1961):229-
239. McHugh's argument for bread baked from non-wheaten grains rests on three shaky foundations: reading the
Mishnah back into the NT, ignoring altogether the definition of the Greek term a¡tc¸. and sidestepping the Council
of Florence's statements. Deservedly, his arguments found no traction at the time of Vatican II, nor have they since.
27
Some would perhaps add to Danker's voice that of The New International Dictionary of New Testament
Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), edited by Colin Brown: “The etymology of the word is uncertain. Even
before Homer artos was used for bread baked from various kinds of flour.” However, a comparison of this passage
with the new edition of Theologisches Begriffslexikon zum Neuen Testament, of which Brown's work is a translation,
will show that the seeming support for Danker's line is simply an accident of bad translation. “Das Subst.
bezeichnet schon vor Homer aus Mehl verschiedener Getreidearten – bes. aus Weizen – gebackenes Brot. (The noun
designated, even before Homer, bread baked from the flour of various grains – especially from wheat.)” [H.
Lichtenberger, “Brot,” Theologisches Begriffslexikon zum Neuen Testament, neubearbeitete Ausgabe, Band I, ed.
Lothar Coenen, Klaus Haacker, et al. (Wuppertal: Neukirchener Verlag, 1997) 202-203, 203.] This agrees with
LSJM, though it is less precise in that it does not specifically note that other signifiers are required for the wider
semantic range.
28
J.L. North, “Review of A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature,
Third Edition.” JTS 54.1:271-280, 276.
9
Curtis- 10
(CD). First, some background on the disorder is called for.
A. CELIAC DISEASE
Celiac Sprue is an immune disease (first diagnosed and discussed by Aretaeus of
Cappadocia in the second century AD)
29
which causes the body to react against wheat gluten and
in the process destroy the tissues of the small intestine. Celiac patients experience diarrhea and
dehydration in the short term, and may experience malnutrition, anemia, and osteoporosis. Many
other health problems stem from CD, including an increased risk of intestinal cancer.
30
There is
no medical cure for CD, so the only treatment is a gluten-free diet excluding wheat, rye, oats,
and barley.
31
Over time, adherence to this diet can allow the small intestine to heal. The amount
of intestine damaged and the amount of gluten needed to cause significant damage differs from
person to person. Some patients can tolerate very low amounts of gluten. No definitive maximum
tolerable level has been identified by medical studies. Celiac disease is most common among
people of European descent. Different studies have found different incidence rates for CD,
ranging from 1 in 500 to perhaps 1 in 133 Americans,
32
with those of Irish and Italian descent
having particularly high incidence of the disease.
33
Wheat flour contains approximately 12%
gluten while wines are gluten-free.
B. OPTIONS FOR CELIAC SUFFERERS IN REGARD TO THE LORD'S SUPPER
1. INTRODUCTION
What are Christians to do when the effects of our fallen world intrude in the Church?
How shall we serve those afflicted with physical and mental ailments? When faced with these
difficulties we accommodate in ways that stay within the Lord's Institution as much as possible,
while trusting in his grace. For example, with the severely mentally handicapped, we baptize
even if the condition is so severe that no teaching may take place afterwards. Here we explicitly
depart from some of the Lord's Institution because sin has intervened: the Lord instituted
baptizing and teaching “all that I commanded you” to go together (Matt. 28), but a mentally
handicapped person cannot learn all, or in extreme cases any, that the Lord commanded. Sin has
short-circuited the normal process so we use whatever gift the Lord gave us as much as we can
and trust in his grace when we cannot fulfill teaching in this or that case.
29
R.H. Major Classic Descriptions of Disease: With Biographical Sketches of the Authors, 3
rd
ed. (Springfield,
IL: Charles C. Thomas Publishing, Ltd., 1978) 600-601.
30
Various data about the disease including references to many medical journal articles may be found at
www.celiac.com.
31
“Gluten-free” is defined by the UN and WHO for purposes of international trade as food containing less than
.03% of its total protein derived from wheat, barley, rye and oats (see:
http://www.csaceliacs.org/DefofGlutenFree.php). Research is underway for an official FDA definition of “gluten-
free” to be adopted in the US in 2008 (http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/glutran.html).
32
Alessio Fasano, MD, et. al., Archives of Internal Medicine 163(2003):286-292.
33
Fergus Shanahan, “How CD Came to be Known as the Irish Disease.” Paper presented at The 11th
International Symposium on Celiac Disease, Belfast, Ireland, April 28
th
, 2004. Summary available at
http://www.csaceliacs.org/Ireland/WedApr28.php
1
Curtis- 11
2. AN ANALOGOUS SITUATION
The church has also faced this problem of accommodation to our sin-damaged bodies and
minds in regard to alcoholics and others with alcohol-intolerance: should grape juice be used
instead of wine in such instances?
34
This matter came before the Missouri Synod at the 2001
convention where Resolution 3-16 was adopted by an overwhelming majority (814-184). The
resolution, after a weighty list of reasons, resolves that "congregations be encouraged to use only
wine for the Sacrament." Thus, the Synod decided that the textually based and universally used
element should be the only one employed. But the pastoral problem remained: what to do about
alcoholics and those with physical alcohol-intolerance?
A variety of pastoral options present themselves. The ideal practice would seem to be
simply following the Lord's Institution: let a person suffering from alcoholism or a different
alcohol-intolerance problem partake of the Blood of our Lord under the wine in a small portion
and trust that the Lord's invitation is for good, not for harm. Many alcoholics receive via
intinction (a practice also used in Roman Catholicism for people with alcohol-intolerance and
reminiscent of Eastern Orthodox mingling) – although one might object that this is not
“drinking” and therefore a less than desirable option. Given Lutheranism's early history,
partaking under one kind would be problematic and probably seen as a desperate and last resort.
Another option that may be helpful in such situations is wine with a lower alcohol content.
3. SPECIFIC OPTIONS FOR SUFFERERS OF CD
I think it is clear that the situation of those suffering from alcoholism or other alcohol-
intolerant disorders and conditions is directly analogous to, and provides guidance for, the
situation in regard to those suffering from gluten-intolerance. Just as our churches (and Rome
and the East) have not seen fit to change from wine to grape juice, so we should not see fit to
change from wheat bread to a rice-based product (rice is seen as the only other real option for
CD patients since rye, oats, and barley all contain gluten as well). Instead we should follow the
same sorts of solutions that the whole Church has utilized in regard to alcohol-intolerance.
1. CD sufferers could commune under a very small portion of a normal wheat host just
as a very small sip of our Lord's Blood under the wine could be used for a person suffering from
alcohol-intolerance.
There is certainly no offense here against the Lord's Institution since as Aquinas stated
and Luther affirms in his Brief Confession Concerning the Holy Sacrament (1544), the whole
Body of Christ is present under each host.
35
The difficulty with this option, of course, is that the
relative intestinal damage caused by ingesting a small part of a standard wheat host in an
otherwise strictly gluten-free diet depends on the individual. The patient and his or her doctor
may be able to determine if this practice, from a purely medical standpoint, is “safe” for that
individual.
2. As a lower-alcohol grape wine is an option for those who suffer from alcohol-
intolerance, so is a lower-gluten host an option for those suffering from CD.
The Roman Catholic Church has recently handled some highly publicized instances of
34
The grape juice question was first confronted by Lutherans in North America in the face of the temperance
movement of the late 19
th
century and continued through the 20
th
century's new sensitivity toward alcoholism as a
'disease.' See J. Schmidt, 'Die irdischen Elemente im heiligen Abendmahl,' Lehre und Wehre 71(1925):134-141; and
CTQ XLV [1981].77-80.
35
LW 38:293
1
Curtis- 12
Celiac patients wanting to commune with rice wafers or other gluten-free substitutes rather than
with hosts made of wheat. In 1994, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under the
direction of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) released norms for Roman
Catholics permitting low-gluten hosts made of wheat as the only acceptable substitute for
standard hosts. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accordance with the 1994
CDF norms, approved the use of low-gluten hosts (containing no other grain than wheat) for
Celiac patients. An article in Gluten-Free Living magazine endorsed the use of these hosts as
being "perfectly safe" for consumption by Celiac patients.
36
These hosts are produced by the
Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri, and are available from the Sisters
at reasonable cost at www.benedictinesisters.org (more evidence of the necessity of gluten for
bread: the development of this low-gluten host required 10 years of experimentation!).
3. As some alcohol-intolerant people receive under one kind only, so this could be an
option for sufferers of CD. For Lutherans this would be the most extreme and least desirable
option. But this practice is used in the Roman Churches (where a separate chalice is sometimes
utilized for those with very high intolerance as the Roman canon calls for some of the host to be
mingled in the chalice) and occasionally even in the Eastern Churches, where mingling is
typically the form of communing.
CONCLUSION
Remaining faithful to the Lord's Institution is not optional for us, but it is often difficult. I
hope that the above discussion can lend guidance to those faithful pastors struggling both to care
for parishioners with CD and follow the Lord's Institution.
36
Sr. Jeanne Crowe, “Low Gluten Host is Safe for Catholics.” Gluten-Free Living 9.1(2004):3, 6, 8. After
calculating the amount of gluten in each host the magazine's contributing editor, Tom Sciacca, writes that he is
convinced that “using the new low-gluten hosts is perfectly safe” (p. 4).
1

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