The Last



Volume 14, Number 2, November-December 2010
(Actually published October 2011)

Are You Sure Leaven Is Symbolic of Sin?

by John Leitch

"How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?—but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt 16:11-12).

Christ defines the meaning of leaven.

This writer finds it strange why people will lock into John’s definition of sin (1 John 3:4) but completely ignore Christ’s definition of leaven). Christ’s explanation of leavening in this case is doctrine (Strong’s #1322-didache- meaning instruction or teaching-Matt. 16:11-12. I believe a broader definition of leaven would be “something that causes change by its influence” and teaching is just one way.

 Teaching can be based on sincerity and truth (God the Father’s leavening) or can be based on deception and untruth (Satan’s leavening). Teaching (or doctrine) in and by itself, can be either correct or it can be misguided. As humans, we all have been deceived into accepting a wrong type of leavening which allows Satan to influence us, but few people realize the Bible also speaks of a good type of leavening (Lev. 7:13, Lev. 23:17, Matt. 13:33) that influences in a good way. 

Sincerity and truth, leavened with correct teaching (Strong’s #1322).

This paper’s purpose is to show the bread Christ offered His disciples at the Last Supper, was a kind of bread, different than the unleavened type. Unleavened bread typifies affliction, remembering coming out of the bondage of Egypt (Deut 16:3) and also typifies sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:8). The bread that represented Christ was bread much different than the unleavened type. The bread that represented Christ, had an effect of comfort (Matt. 11:29-30) not affliction; and hope of eternal life (John 6:51), not fear that death was a certainty because of sin. The bread offered at the Last Supper was symbolic of sincerity and truth leavened with correct teaching. Jesus Christ is the living word of God (truth) and is the light (teacher who supplies doctrine (Strong’s #1322) of the way (John 14:6 & John 1:4). In eating unleavened bread for seven days each Passover season, we gain a knowledge and appreciation for the true bread (Jesus Christ) that came from heaven, offered to us by the Father (John 6:32-33).

Is sincerity (attitude) and truth (God’s word) all that is needed?

If all a person needed was a bible and the right attitude, then the gift of a teacher supplying doctrine and influence would not be necessary (Eph 4:11). The bible is the most published book ever and most people in North America have one in their home, but what influence has it had on their lives? The Ethiopian eunuch was sincere and had the truth (scripture) in his hand but was in complete confusion until Philip supplied the teaching (or leavening—Acts 8:27-35). The teaching (or leavening) of the Pharisees had an opposite effect, it lead people away from God (Matt. 23:15). This is the type of “old” leavening Christ warned about and Paul wants us to purge out.

Was Jesus Christ devoid of leaven (doctrine or influence)?

It seems strange that a person could think Jesus Christ is devoid of leavening (influence); after all, there is a lot of teaching in the “sermon on the mount” alone. One of the titles people addressed Christ by, was “teacher” (John 3:2). The main purpose of a teacher is to have an influence on their students. If we let Christ explain the meaning of leaven as doctrine (Matt. 16:11-12), then has not “traditional Christianity” missed the mark by saying “His body is represented by bread that is lacking leaven”? After all, if unleavened bread is the bread of affliction and with no leavening (influence), then is a person not saying “The bread which represents Jesus’ body is an affliction to me, and without any influence? As Paul would say “let it not be”. Christ equated His words (doctrine) to spirit (John 6:63) and His influence, will have its effect (Proverbs 22:6) if one does not rebel against it.

The symbolic bread of “the last supper” changed in the 8th century AD.

Christ established true doctrine and people were amazed by His doctrine or teaching (Matt. 7:28, Matt. 22:33, Mark 1:22). Unger’s Bible Dictionary makes the claim (under the “Lord’s Supper” heading) that the Latin Church changed its representation of Christ from leaven to unleavened bread in the 8th century C. E. and I presume they have documentation of this. Are we to believe the early church that had been taught by the Apostles or had been taught by teachers the Apostles taught, had no idea what kind of bread typified Christ? Did it take approximately 600 years removed from the fact, to finally have teachers from Rome come and explain the proper type of bread to use? This writer finds this hard to believe.

People today seem to disagree with the meaning Christ gave to leaven.

Many people today understand leaven to be a Bible representation of only sin, rather than an alternative meaning Christ gave it as doctrine (Matt. 16:11-12). When leaven is understood as an influence (teaching in Matt. 16:11-12) it becomes clearer why they left the leavening or influence of Egypt behind (Ex. 12:39) and pressed on toward the mountain. At the mountain we find two loaves that are strangely enough, now leavened (Lev. 23:17). If leaven is only sin, as some would speculate, then why is it in these two loaves? God does not accept sin or a blemished offering. Could these two loaves represent Israel and the Gentiles who came out of Egypt with them? The Church in the New Testament also seems to be two distinct groups; the circumcised and the uncircumcised (Acts 11:1-3 & 1 Cor. 7:18). The two groups that escaped Egypt now had Jesus Christ’s leavening (teaching and influence) in their midst (1 Cor. 10:3-4). This is only speculation on my part.

Throwing out the “old leaven” and becoming a new lump is the responsibility of called out people; not Christ.

The culture of Egypt was nothing more than men influenced by Satan (Rev. 12:9). Satan’s influence is not only false (John 8:44), but it also leads to malice and wickedness. Paul called it the “old leaven” (influence or teaching) in 1 Corinthians 5:8. It is the called out people who are to throw out the “old” leaven and influences that lead to malice and wickedness. It is the people who are to become a new unleavened lump, not Christ. Christ never did or ever will have this “old” type of leaven. The Messiah brings the true doctrine and influence to be added to the called out people after they have dispelled the “old” teachings and influences (or leaven). Repentance (purging out the “old” leaven) comes before receiving the Holy Spirit (the true leaven). This true influence will act much in the same way as “the starter” in sour dough bread.

Strong’s Definitions

In the Bible, the Greek word for unleavened (bread) is “azumos” (Strong’s #106) used nine times in the New Testament and the Greek word for ordinary leavened bread is “artos” used at least seventy-two times (Strong’s #740). When a person mentioned leaven at the time of the Apostles, “artos” automatically came to mind (Matt. 16:6-7). The two were related in the people’s minds of that day. In the Last Supper accounts (the day before The Feast of Unleavened Bread) in Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22 and Luke 22:19, Jesus took bread (artos), blessed it, broke it and gave it to the disciples. Christ claimed this artos (strong’s #740) represented His body. Christ also compared himself to leavened bread (artos) in John 6:33 where He called Himself the bread of life. Why did Christ, repeatedly compare Himself to “artos”? Artos is a word with its primary meaning, “a raised loaf”. Did the witnesses of the last supper, really witness “azumos” (unleavened) but instead recorded “artos”? What motive would they have to use a word with its primary meaning opposite to what they had witnessed? Also a word which people of that day related to leaven (Matt.16:6-7). This writer believes the witnesses recorded “artos” because it was artos, the same bread the early church used up until the 8th century when it was changed by the Latin Church (according to Unger’s Bible Dictionary).

Christ did not come to abolish the law.

We all realize the law requires all bible-believing people to eat unleavened bread for only seven days once a year (Lev. 23:6). If unleavened bread is commanded to be eaten also on the 14th of Nisan, would that not make eight days in a row, instead of seven?

By cleaning our house of leaven each year, we are symbolically throwing the “old leaven” (old doctrine and vile influences) out of our lives much in the same way as Israel left the leavening of Egypt behind. Christ did not come to abolish the law (Matt. 5:17-18) so this is still required of us today. This unleavened bread is called the bread of sincerity and truth (I Cor. 5:8), but is also called the bread of affliction (Deut. 16:3). We must throw out the old leaven (“old” influences) and strive for sincerity and truth (thy word is truth-John 17:17). Sincerity and truth, in and by themselves are entirely unleavened as far as the “old leaven” to which Paul referred. Paul also orders the people to not observe the feast with the leaven (influences) of malice and wickedness. If malice and wickedness are not purged they will grow and spread. Their influence can be seen at a church gathering in 1 Corinthians 11:18-22.

Lesson learned by the baking of bread.

Paul, in 1 Cor. 5 draws a parallel between the spiritual growth of a Christian and the bread making process. Paul points out, that we should not keep the feast with the old leaven (or teaching). Much of the old doctrine of men, constituted teachings leading to bondage (Acts 15:10 & Gal. 5:1) and a behavior of malice and wickedness. Sincerity and truth, explained by a person with the gift of teacher (Eph. 4:11) are the opposite of that. We should not be leavened with either Text Box: I believe a broader definition of leaven would be “something that causes change by its influence”.the old influences or evil practices (1 Cor. 5:11 & 1 Cor. 11:18-22). Discarding these old influences has given us the opportunity of a new beginning. The idea is to get back to the basic pure ingredients (sincerity and truth) and to start again. People who throw away their old doctrines and evil practices (“old” leaven) are compared to a new batch of dough. The point most people miss is; that in bread making, the first thing you do to a new batch of dough is to mix in the leaven starter. The starter (the piece that has influence) is sometimes called the living bread because it contains a living organism. Christ also referred to Himself as the living bread that brings life (John 6:51 & verse 57). Does this living bread sound like unleavened bread with no life in it that can not influence, or reproduce itself?

A small amount of the living bread (the starter) changes the whole loaf.

Bread, through most of history, was made by a process that is known as “sour dough”. A small amount of leavened dough from the previous batch is mixed into the new batch. The pioneers used this method to make their bread. Sometimes the starter could live on (it contains a living organism) for many years. If people thought their neighbor had better tasting bread, they would request a piece of that neighbor’s starter. The starter contains life and under its influence would reproduce (with the proper conditions and time) a product identical to the original loaf the starter came from (if the ingredients were the same). “The property of a leavened product is to change or assimilate to its own nature the meal or dough with which it is mixed” (Adam Clarke) and Christ’s leavening (influence) will have a similar effect. Christ came from the Father and is now residing in each called out person. Using Christ’s definition of leaven as teaching (Matt. 16:11-12) we can see that if we are subject to His influence, then we will become more Christ like as time goes by.

Throwing out the “old leaven” and baptism, teach a very similar lesson.

A person, when they understand how bread was made throughout much of history, can see the similarity between de-leavening and baptism.

  • Baptism represents the death of the old person who was deceived by “old” teaching and influences and sometimes was full of malice and wickedness (I Cor. 5:8). The average person, with their focus mainly on the concerns of how they can make it in this competitive world, views the laws of God as foolishness. This is the very person that we put to death through baptism. Although baptism symbolizes death, we must not remain dead, flat and lifeless. The Christian must rise in the newness of life (Rom. 6:4-5, Col. 3:9-10) and renewed in knowledge.
  • De-leavening also represents death because leaven is a living organism that will multiply and by removing it, you take that influence out of the host substance. (In this case, the influence that caused the old person to be off track and sometimes filled with wickedness and malice). When this old leaven is removed, all that is left is; the basic pure ingredients of sincerity and truth.

Being sincere and having truth is not enough. We need Christ’s leavening (teaching and influence) to understand truth. That is what the “sermon on the mount” was all about. A person needs a life-giving force, (like the leaven starter in the sour-dough bread), to give them the knowledge to obey God’s laws (Rom. 2:13): feed the hungry, visit the sick, watch over the fatherless, etc. Nature hates a vacuum. If a person remains in an unleavened state (of no teaching or good influence) for an extended period of time, sometimes the old leaven (the bad influence) will return stronger than before. Matthew 12:43-45 brings out this principle, although in this case it is about demons. The old man, who was buried in the baptismal waters, could possibly return even more powerful than when he was buried, if no good influence replaces the bad influence.

I realize this is opposite to what many have believed over the years, but I would like the reader to notice how Christ’s doctrine or teaching makes the law come alive, with the parable of the “good Samaritan” (Luke 10:30-36). Without Christ’s teaching, the people who passed the injured man without offering assistance reasoned that they had transgressed no law.

Is Christ required to throw out his true doctrine (leavening) to comply with the law? Is Christ’s leavening (doctrine and influence) regarded as the “old leaven” to which Paul referred?

Some people point to Christ giving bread (Artos = Strong’s 740) to the two men in Luke 24:30, and say that it would be against the law to have leavened bread because it was the Days of Unleavened Bread. The bread offered to the two men was leavened (artos) but not with the leaven that represented the “old influences”, but it was bread that symbolically represented the Messiah and His true doctrine. The two men, when supplied this bread which symbolized Christ Himself, recognized the Messiah instantly and we will also. Is there anyone that would believe there is old leaven in bread that represents Christ, who is the bread of life and leavened with the pure leaven (or influence) of the Father (John 6:57)? The only leaven Paul orders people to discard is the “old leaven” (old false teachings and influences). Why else would Paul use the word old, if there was not a new type to replace it? During “The Feast of Unleavened Bread”, all bread leavening belonging to humans is symbolically regarded as “old”, but this was bread which was offered by and represented Christ Himself, the bread of life. This was a one time symbolic supernatural event. Just to restate again; “The property of a leavened product (good or bad) is to change or assimilate to its own nature the meal or dough with which it is mixed ”.

Many people see the seriousness of purging out the old false leaven so it will not grow and engulf their whole person, but are totally blind to the effect that the true leaven will have on them. We as Christians must choose life and feed on Christ’s symbolic body. After all, that was one of the main reasons Christ came to mankind (John 10:10). “Christ is the bread of life” (John 6:48).

This writer finds much comfort in knowing that the true influence (Christ) will act in a similar way as did the “old”. It will be a process that will never stop until it is complete. The end result (if a hostile environment is not created to repulse it) will be a person in the very image of God. We are in the process of being transformed (II Cor. 3:18). This has been God’s will from the beginning (Gen. 1:26); to create a man that will not sin (1 John 3:9). This, of course, can only come about with the fulfillment of the new covenant (Jer. 31:31–34, Heb. 8:8–13).

My Conclusion

In summary, just as there are two ways to mark the death of the Messiah (the first way is the biblical Passover and the second, the traditional Good Friday), there also seems to be two ways to partake of the bread and wine.

A         Use unleavened bread, that has never had life in it and is incapable of reproducing itself. This bread has no leaven (represented as doctrine in one place-Matt. 16:11-12 but I believe in a broader sense, can mean influence that causes change) contained in it. This method of traditional Christianity frequently has unleavened bread and most often is supervised by an official representing their particular religious division.

B         Use leavened bread, the same as was used by the early called out people for over 600 years, up until it was changed to unleavened bread by the Latin Church.

Each person has their own personal responsibility.

Each reader must personally determine what best typifies Christ for himself (Phil. 2:12): unleavened bread that lacks any influence or doctrine (Christ’s definition of leaven) and could never in its existence reproduce; or the leavened bread that has no limitations on its influence. If you answered leavened, the bible does seem to agree. The bread is called “Artos”, with its primary meaning as, “a raised loaf” (Strong’s 740).          &


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