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Texts Greek Dictionaries Others Charity
Love Feast
(aGApe-, plural aGApai)
Jude 1:12-- These are hidden reefs (spiLAdes) at your love feasts (aGApais), as they feast with you without fear (aPHObo-s), shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless (AKarpa) trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. (ESV)
Alt.:--These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm--shepherds who feed only themselves. (NIV)
Alt.:--When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord's love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. (NLT)
Alt.:--These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: (KJV)
Alt.:--These people are stains on your love feasts. They feast with you without any sense of awe. They are shepherds who care only for themselves. (ISV)
Alt.:--These are those who are defiled in their feasts and run riot while feeding themselves without fear (ABPE)
Alt.:--These people are a disgrace at the special meals you share with other believers. (GWT)
Alt.:--These are they who are hidden rocks in your love-feasts (ASV)
Alt.:--These men--sunken rocks!--are those who share the pleasure of your love-feasts, unrestrained by fear while caring only for themselves (Wey)

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Mounce's: aGApe-.

aGApe- is also used to describe an early Christian "love feast" or fellowship meal. Paul links this meal with the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11), but eventually it became a celebration all its own (Jude 12; 2 Pet. 2:13). The meal was significant to the life of the church insofar as it typified what the church represented. It was the church's direct response to the command of the Lord Jesus Christ to love one another. This aGApe- served to undergird the koino-NIa (fellowship) that the church experienced.

Vine's: Love-feasts.

aGApe- is used in the plural in Jude 12, and in some manuscripts in 2 Pet. 2:13; RV margin, "many ancient authorities read 'deceivings,'" (apatais); so the AV. These love-feasts arose from the common meals of the early churches (cf. 1 Cor. 11:21). They may have had this origin in the private meals of Jewish households, with the addition of the observance of the Lord's Supper. There were, however, similar common meals among the pagan religious brotherhoods. The evil dealt with at Corinth (l.c.) became enhanced by the presence of immoral persons, who degraded the feasts into wanton banquets, as mentioned in 2 Peter and Jude. In later times the aGApe- became detached from the Lord's supper.

Zodhiates: Plural, aGApai.

Love feasts, public banquets of a frugal kind instituted by the early Christian church and connected with the celebration of the Lord's Supper. The provisions were contributed by the more wealthy individuals and were made common to all Christians, whether rich or poor, who chose to partake. Portions were also sent to the sick and absent members. These love feasts were intended as an exhibition of that mutual love which is required by the Christian faith, but as they became subject to abuses, they were discontinued.

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Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (1987): Agape.

The term is used in a technical sense in the New Testament to indicate the love feasts of the early Christians (cf. Jude 12), communal meals which provided religious fellowship and were a means of charity for the poor, widowed, and orphaned of the community.

According to Tertullian, a North African Church Father of the third century AD, these celebrations observed a particular format:

As it is an act of religious service, it permits no vileness or immodesty. The participants, before reclining, taste first of prayer to God. As much is eaten as satisfies the cravings of hunger; as much is drunk as befits the chaste. ... After manual ablution ... each is asked to stand forth and sing, as he can, a hymn to God, either one from the holy Scriptures or one of his own composing -- a proof of the measure of our drinking. As the feast commenced with prayer, so with prayer it is closed. (Apol. 39)

Apparently the love feast was originally associated with the Eucharist or Lord's Supper (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:11; cf. 1 Cor. 11:20-21), but by the second century the two had become distinct observances.

Glossary of Eastern Orthodox Terms: Christian love, "charity" (1 Cor. 13:1-8).

Saint Ignatius of Antioch and Saint Hippolytus of Tome (second century) use Eucharist and Agape as synonyms (cf.1 Cor.11); in Jude 12, the ‘love feasts’ are most naturally understood to be the combined Agape-Eucharists. The Agape (in Didache, 70-110) is a Jewish meal (Chaburah) Christianized as in the ‘new meal’ of Christ’s Kingdom and Love. Today the term Agape refers to the Easter Sunday’s Vespers (held either in the morning or the afternoon) which is also called the Second Resurrection Service. During this Service the Gospel reading relating to the first appearance of the Resurrected Christ to His disciples is read in many languages besides Greek, in order to emphasize the universality of salvation in the Resurrected Christ and its message to all people and nations.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1939): Agape.

The Name and the Thing:   The name Agape or "love-feast," as an expression denoting the brotherly common meals of the early church, though of constant use and in the post-canonical literature from the time of Ignatius onward, is found in the New Testament only in Jude 1:12 and in 2 Peter 2:13 according to a very doubtful reading. For the existence of the Christian common meal, however, we have abundant New Testament evidence. The"breaking of bread" practiced by the primitive community in Jerusalem according to Acts 2:42, Acts 2:46 must certainly be interpreted in the light of Pauline usage (1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:24) as referring to the ceremonial act of the Lord's Supper. But the added clause in Acts 2:46, "they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart," implies that a social meal was connected in some way with this ceremonial act. Paul's references to the abuses that had sprung up in the Corinthian church at the meetings for the observance of the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20-22, 1 Corinthians 11:33-34) make it evident that in Corinth as in Jerusalem the celebration of the rite was associated with participation in a meal of a more general character. And in one of the "we" sections of Acts (Acts 20:11) where Luke is giving personal testimony as to the manner in which the Lord's Supper was observed by Paul in a church of his own founding, we find the breaking of bread associated with and yet distinguished from an eating of food, in a manner which makes it natural to conclude that in Troas, as in Jerusalem and Corinth, Christians when they met together on the first day of the week were accustomed to partake of a common meal. The fact that the name Agape or love-feast used in Jude 1:12 (Revised Version) is found early in the 2nd century and often afterward as a technical expression for the religious common meals of the church puts the meaning of Jude's reference beyond doubt.

Origin of the Agape:  So far as the Jerusalem community was concerned, the common meal appears to have sprung out of the koinonia or communion that characterized the first days of the Christian church (compare Acts 1:14; Acts 2:1 etc.). The religious meals familiar to Jews--the Passover being the great type--would make it natural In Jerusalem to give expression by means of table fellowship to the sense of brotherhood, and the community of goods practiced by the infant church (Acts 2:44; Acts 4:32) would readily take the particular form of a common table at which the wants of the poor were supplied out of the abundance of the rich (Acts 6:1 ff.). The presence of the Agape in the Greek church of Corinth was no doubt due to the initiative of Paul, who would hand on the observances associated with the Lord's Supper just as he had received them from the earlier disciples; but participation in a social meal would commend itself very easily to men familiar with the common meals that formed a regular part of the procedure at meetings of those religious clubs and associations which were so numerous at that time throughout the Greek-Roman world.

Relation to the Eucharist:  In the opinion of the great majority of scholars the Agape was a meal at which not only bread and wine but all kinds of viands were used, a meal which had the double purpose of satisfying hunger and thirst and giving expression to the sense of Christian brotherhood. At the end of this feast, bread and wine were taken, according to the Lord's command, and after thanksgiving to God were eaten and drunk in remembrance of Christ and as a special means of communion with the Lord Himself and through Him with one another. The Agape was thus related to the Eucharist as Christ's last Passover to the Christian rite which He grafted upon it. It preceded and led up to the Eucharist, and was quite distinct from it. In opposition to this view it has been strongly urged by some modern critical scholars that in the apostolic age the Lord's Supper was not distinguished from the Agape, but that the Agape itself from beginning to end was the Lord's Supper which was held in memory of Jesus. It seems fatal to such an idea, however, that while Paul makes it quite evident that bread and wine were the only elements of the memorial rite instituted by Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:23-29), the abuses which had come to prevail at the social gatherings of the Corinthian church would have been impossible in the case of a meal consisting only of bread and wine (compare 1 Corinthians 11:21, 1 Corinthians 11:33 f.) Moreover, unless the Eucharist in the apostolic age had been discriminated from the common meal, it would be difficult to explain how at a later period the two could be found diverging from each other so completely.

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary (1986): Love feast.

A meal shared by the early Christians when they met together for fellowship and the Lord's Supper. The term love feast is clearly used only in Jude 12 (feasts of charity, KJV). But some Greek manuscripts support "love feasts" instead of "deceptions" in 2 Peter 2:13. The love feast is also referred to in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, and probably in Acts 6:1-3, although neither passage in English versions of the Bible uses the term. The Greek word for love feast is also the main New Testament noun for love, indicating that the meal was originally intended to be a rich experience of God's love. The purpose of the love feast was to remember Christ, to encourage His disciples, and to share God's provisions with the needy.

In the time of Christ, communal meals to express friendship and observe religious feasts were practiced in both Greek and Jewish cultures. The yearly Passover meal was the most important such event among the Jews. Jesus chose this occasion to institute the Lord's Supper, or Eucharist (Matt. 26:17-30). Thus it was natural for the early Christians, whenever they celebrated the Lord's Supper, to do it in connection with a common meal. The "breaking of bread" which the very first disciples did daily, most likely refers to this dual experience of common meal and Eucharist (Acts 2:42, 46).

Because of such abuses as those described in the New Testament (1 Cor. 11:17-34; 2 Peter 2:13), and probably for reasons of convenience, the meal and the Eucharist became separated in some regions by the second century. The meal -- known as the love feast, the agape, and even the Lord's Supper -- continued for several centuries. However, at times it became merely a charity supper for the poor and at other times a lavish banquet for the wealthy. After much controversy in the church, it was finally abolished at the end of the seventh century. A few Christian groups, however, still observe the agape.

A Standard Bible Dictionary (1909): Church, Section Two.

...There was no compulsory communism (Acts 5:4), but an immense generosity which commanded esteem, as in the case of Barnabas. Out of common funds voluntarily given distribution was made to every one according as he had need (Acts 4:35). A spontaneous and genuine attempt was made to realize brotherhood, or the oneness of the children of God. Besides the apostolic teaching and the fellowship, a characteristic of the Church was the breaking of the bread. This was done daily (Acts 2:46), and house by house, and is interpreted by the phrase meteLAMbanon troPHE-S, "they took their food." If it was sacramental, it was a sacramental meal, and not a sacrament in the modern sense, which excludes the idea of taking bodily nourishment. It is not "the daily ministration" of Acts 6:1 which is in view -- this last is rather akin to a food dispensary for those distressed by poverty -- but a sacred meal shared in by all Christians, like that described in 1 Cor. 11:18ff, and under the title aGApai ('feasts of charity,' "love-feasts"), in Jude 12. What we speak of as the Lord's Supper was always connected in the beginning with these love-feasts. It may have been identical with them, or have had a specific place at the beginning, or end, or even in the course of the meal; but it was only the emergence on heathen soil of such disorders as are referred to by Jude and Paul which led to its being decisively separated, and made, in short, in the strict sense, a sacrament (1 Cor. 11:34).

Tyndale Illustrated Bible Dictionary (1980): Love feast.

The Christian duty to love one another has always been expressed in gatherings for fellowship. Such fellowship was realized from early times by participation in a common meal, and love feasts, agapai, are mentioned by Jude (v. 12; cf. 2 Pet. 2:13, RV). Among the Jews meals for fellowship and brotherhood were common, and similar convivial gatherings took place among the Gentiles. It was natural, therefore, that both Jewish and Gentile Christians should adopt such practices. The name agape was later given to the fellowship meal. It is an anachronism, however, to apply it in its later sense to the conditions described in Acts and 1 Corinthians. 'The breaking of bread' referred to in Acts 2:42, 46 may describe a common meal which included both Agape and Eucharist (see F.F. Bruce, Acts of the Apostles, 1951). St. Paul's account (in 1 Cor. 11:17-34) of the administration of the Eucharist shows it set in the context of a fellowship supper. His farewell discourse at Troas which continued till midnight was delivered at a fellowship meal on the first day of the week which included the Eucharist (Acts 20:7ff).

Although the common custom of fellowship meals among the Jews may have been sufficient ground for the primitive Agape, some would trace the practice to the actual circumstances of the Last Supper. The sacrament was instituted at a Passover meal. Some scholars contend for another type of fellowship meal customary in the qiddush and chaburah gatherings. The early disciples probably reproduced the setting of the first Eucharist, preceding it with such a fellowship meal. The separation of the meal or Agape from the Eucharist lies outside the times of the NT. The theory of Lietzmann that Eucharist and Agape can be traced to two different types of sacramental obeservance in the NT is generally rejected.

For later development of Agape and Eucharist, see Pliny's letter to Trajan; Didache; Justin Martyr, Apol. 1.67; Tertullian, de Corona 3.

Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary (1963): Love feast.

(Greek aGApe-), a common meal eaten by early Christians in connection with the Lord's Supper to express and deepen brotherly love. Although frequently mentioned in post-canonical literature, these feasts are mentioned in the NT only in Jude 12 ("feasts of charity" KJV) and the doubtful reading in 2 Peter 2:13 (ASV margin). But the situation in 1 Corinthians 11:20-22, 33-34 makes it clear that they were observed in the Corinthian church. The mention of breaking bread as associated with, yet distinguished from, the eating of a meal in Acts 20:7-11 indicates the practice by the church in Troas. They doubtless trace back to the communal meals observed in the early Jerusalem Church (Acts 2:42-47; 4:35; 6:1). As implied by the situation in 1 Corinthians 11, these love feasts were observed before, but in connection with the Lord's Supper (perhaps after the relation between the first Lord's Supper and the Passover). Because of abuses, which already appeared in apostolic churches (1 Cor. 11:23-29; Jude 12), they were separated from the Lord's Supper. They subsequently fell into disfavor and were ultimately forbidden to be held in churches, largely due to the growth of the sacerdotal view of the Eucharist which regarded the union of the two as sacrilegious. A few smaller Christian groups today observe them.

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