Historically, the Eucharist (Greek word "eucharistia/εὐχαριστία) meaning thanksgiving) and Sacrifice of a God man, were well known and well loved by Pagan mystery cults centuries before the Christian Cults integrated them into the Gospels.
The Eucharist goes way back into history and is based upon the ritual consumption of the God man. Osiris, Dionysus, Attis and many others were ritually consumed. The practice dates back to prehistory when a human sacrifice was identified with the God (some type of nature god) and was sacrificed and eaten. Over the ages human sacrifice was found detestable. Animals were then substituted and sacrificed as the ritual identifier of the God which was then followed by grain offerings, breads shaped into the form of the God, sometimes in the shapes of natural items (sun, moon, etc.).
The mythos of the Jewish Christ integrated this practice into it's mysteries. There is strong reason for this. For some 200 plus years before the time recorded for Jesus, the Greeks and their mystery cults invaded and changed Israel for all time. A war was instituted to diminish or wipeout the Hellenic influence. Part of the Hellenizing was an effort to update or change the Jewish religion to something more applicable to the times. After the Maccabees (Maqabim) War, the Hellenizing cultists were driven underground; right to the heart of the Jewish mystical culture. Hence, the Greek influence upon the myth of Jesus.
The sacrifice of the God man (Jesus, Attis, Adonis, Osiris) was a well known and well loved feature as well. In fact it was necessary to have a willing sacrifice before a Eucharist could be performed. When the sacrifice was not willing the legs and sometimes arms of the sacrifice were broken to make it look like the sacrifice was willing (so as not to struggle against the sacrificers). In the Christian myth, Jesus was a willing sacrifice; therefore the legs were not broken.
Attis was a typical God-man, born of a virgin and grew up to become a sacrificial victim and saviour who was slain to bring salvation to mankind. So the myth goes, his body was eaten by his worshippers in the form of bread. He was crucified on a pine tree where his blood poured down to redeem the earth.
Images of Attis (Tammuz/Dummuzi) were nailed or impaled upon a pine tree. The Jews knew this and wrote: "Cursed is he who hangs upon a tree." A goat was substituted for a boy in sacrifice to Dionysus at Potniae and a hart (male adult red deer) for a virgin at Laodicea. King Athamas had been called upon to sacrifice his first born son by the Delphic Oracle, Melenloas sacrificed two children in Egypt when stayed by contrary winds; three Persian boys were offered up at the battle of Salamis. It was only in the time of Hadrian that the annual human sacrifice to Zeus was abolished at Salamis in Cyprus.
In the New Testament stories, the God man Jesus was hung upon a tree; he was also the lamb of God. As such, the sacrifice and Eucharist of the God man Jesus is purely Pagan in origin. And so, the eucharist of Christianity is deeply rooted in pre-monotheism and pagan mysteries. The bread and wine are symbols of sacrifice and blood to a deity that many ancients feared. By "consuming" the symbols of god, they felt they would be able to be part of the god they worshipped. Science (proof knowledge) had not yet reached a level where storms, earthquakes, darkness, and famine could be explained as part of a natural world. These ancients feared the wrath of their gods as the only way to explain these natural phenomena.
There is much more symbolism behind the bread (Bethlehem/wheat/chaff) and the wine (vine/grapes) etc. that we will discuss on a future post.
Just a thought ...
~Justin Taylor, ORDM., OCP., DM