By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: Why do we use unleavened bread in the Lord’s supper? Would it be scriptural to use leavened bread?
Reply: When Jehovah instituted the Passover feast to be eaten by the Israelites annually, he gave specific instructions as to its observance. A lamb without blemish was to be taken on the tenth day of the first Jewish month (Ex. 12:3), slain on the fourteenth day (v. 6) and eaten that night with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (v. 8). Jehovah prescribed the kind of bread that was to be eaten at this feast. He commanded the congregation of Israel: “Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off Israel” (v. 15). Nothing leavened could be eaten during this feast (v. 20).
While Jesus was eating the passover with his disciples, he instituted the Lord’s supper (Matt. 26:26-29). “Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it; and he gave to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body” (v. 26). The bread which Jesus took, blessed and broke was unleavened bread. It was symbolical of his body. So, in eating the Lord’s supper we certainly know it is right to follow the “ample given by Jesus our Lord. He used unleavened bread.
“Unleavened bread” (Gr. azumos) is the equivalent of the Hebrew word matstsoth (Ex. 12:18; etc.). Both words means bread that is unfermented. Of matstsoth, James Strong says: “sweet (i.e. not soured or bittered with yeast); spec. an unfermented cake or loaf. . .” (Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary, p. 70). Arndt and Gingrich define azumos. “without fermentation . . . made without yeast, unleavened . . . unleavened bread in the form of flat cakes, matzoth (Ex. 12:8 . . . )” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the N. T., p. 19).
“Unleavened” always typified that which is pure (unless the parable of the leavened meal, Matt. 13:33, would be the exception); whereas “leaven” is symbolical of that which is evil or impure. There is even some question that the parable of the leaven (Matt. 13:33) is the exception to this idea (See G. Campbell Morgan, The Parables and Metaphors of our Lord, pp. 59-63). But granting that the word “leaven” in this parable does have a good connotation, it is the exception to the general use of the word. Paul wrote to the brethren at Corinth, “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, even as ye are unleavened” (1 Cor. 5:6,7). Then referring symbolically to their passover, he admonished: “wherefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (v. 8). Jesus warned his disciples about the “leaven” of the Pharisees, and applied it to their false teaching (Matt. 16:11,12). This should be enough proof that leavened bread should not be used in the Lord’s supper.
There is a doctrine being taught that it is sinful to use unleavened bread in the Lord’s supper. It is argued that the Greek word artos that is translated “bread” has the primary meaning of leavened or ordinary bread. However, the Greek word artos is simply defined by Arndt and Gingrich as: “bread, also loaf (of bread)” (Ibid., p. 110). So, the definition of artos itself does not indicate whether it is leavened or unleavened bread. It is further argued that the word “unleavened” in Matthew 26:17 is not connected with the word “bread,” the word “bread” being added by translators. But this argument has no validity whatsoever. We have already shown that “unleavened” (Heb. matstsoth and Gr. azumos) refers to an unfermented loaf, that which is made without yeast. If the bread is not meant as being unleavened in Matthew 26:16, then what is unleavened? It was not necessary to add “bread” to the word “unleavened,” as it was understood that it was the bread that was unleavened. The Israelites understood matstsoth (unleavened) to be bread.
The only kind of bread used in the passover feast was unleavened. Jesus used it to symbolize his body when he instituted the Lord’s supper. There is no evidence that any other kind of bread is permitted to be used in the Lord’s supper. It is safe and right to use what Jesus used unleavened bread.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 18, p. 581
September 15, 198