Holman Bible Dictionary
The origin of the love feast is probably to be found in the religious fellowship meals which were a common practice among first-century Jews. While the Passover meal is the most familiar of these, such meals were also celebrated to inaugurate the sabbath and festival days. On these occasions a family or a group of friends who had banded together for purposes of special devotion (know as chaburoth from the Hebrew word for “friends”) would gather weekly before sundown for a meal in the home or another suitable place. After hors d'oeuvres were served the company would move to the table for the meal proper. The host would pronounce a blessing (a thanksgiving to God), break the bread, and distribute it among the participants. the mealtime would be characterized by festive, joyous religious discussion. With nightfall, lamps were lit and a benediction recited acknowledging God as the Creator of light. When the meal was over, hands were washed, and a final benediction pronounced over the “cup of blessing” (compare 1 Corinthians 10:16 ) praising God for His provision and praying for the fulfillment of His purposes in the coming of His kingdom. The meal was concluded by the singing of a psalm. It was not uncommon for small groups of friends to gather weekly for such meals.
It is possible to suggest that Jesus and His disciples formed just such a fellowship group and that the fellowship meals of the early church which came to be known as the agapai or love feasts are a continuation of the table of fellowship that characterized their life together and served as a concrete manifestation of the grace of the kingdom of God which Jesus proclaimed. Jesus' last meal with His disciples may represent one specific example of such a fellowship meal causing some to trace the origins of the love feast directly to this event. See Lord's Supper ; Food ; Worship .
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Love Feast'. Holman Bible Dictionary. http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/l/love-feast.html. 1991.