Bread: A Biblical and Theological History

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Week Two
June 12-16
1:30 - 4:00

Class Price: 

Bread has a unique place in biblical tradition. It is central to the Israelite celebration of Passover and to the Christian Eucharist. It features in narratives involving Cain and Abel, Abraham, Ruth and Naomi, David and many others in Hebrew scriptures. Some of the most important stories told by Jesus or about him also involve bread. All these reflect a centrality that bread, and the processes involved in producing it, had for everyday life in the ancient Mediterranean. Jews and Christians have continued to pay attention to the forms of bread, not merely as incidental but as basic to their religious identities. Yet what we know as bread today is in some respects quite different from what the ancients made and ate. Ancient bread was baked daily and locally, often close to the source of grain, and was central to meals. Issues such as use of different grains, of leaven, and of quality and quantity were often important for religious and other reasons, and are all important to understanding biblical texts. This course provides an opportunity to read key texts against the historical background of bread production, and with attention to the cultural and symbolic significance of bread and grain. Participants will also make (and eat) breads that reflect ancient methods and materials.

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Andrew McGowan is Dean of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and McFaddin Professor of Anglican Studies at Yale Divinity School. His scholarly work focuses on the life of early Christian communities, with particular focus on food, meals, and ritual, as well as on contemporary Anglicanism. His recent books include Ancient Christian Worship (Baker Academic, 2014) and Ancient and Modern (Wipf and Stock, 2015). He is currently working on how early Christian and other ancient Mediterranean groups used, changed, and created notions of sacrifice, and on trends in Anglican liturgy. He is editor of the Journal of Anglican Studies. He blogs at Saint Ronan Street Diary ( and is on Twitter as @BerkeleyDean (for Yale- and Church-related topics and higher education) and @Praxeas (for ancient world and personal interests). He also bakes bread regularly.

Yale Divinity School

Andrew McGowan