Love Feasts

Concise Bible Dictionary:


From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

The agapoe or love-feasts, here called “feasts of charity,” were feasts which were celebrated in connection with the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper; whether before or after is a disputed question. Possibly the precedence varied at different periods of Church history. Bingham gives this account of it from Chrysostom: “The first Christians had all things in common, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles; and when that ceased, as it did in the apostles’ time, this came in its room, as an efflux or imitation of it. For though the rich did not make all their substance common, yet, upon certain days appointed, they made a common table; and when their service was ended, and they had all communicated in the holy mysteries, they all met at a common feast: the rich bringing provisions, and the poor and those who had nothing being invited, they all feasted in common together.”
The same authority also quotes from Tertullian, who represents the order of service of the agapoe. “Our supper, which you accuse of luxury, shows its reason in its very name—for it is called ἀγάπη, which signifies love among the Greeks. Whatever charge we are at, it is gain to be at expense upon the account of piety. For we therewith relieve and refresh the poor. There is nothing vile or immodest committed in it. For we do not sit down before we have first offered up prayer to God; we eat only to satisfy hunger, and drink only so much as becomes modest persons. We fill ourselves in such manner as that we remember still that we are to worship God by night. We discourse as in the presence of God, knowing that he hears us. Then, after water to wash our hands, and lights brought in, everyone is moved to sing some hymn to God, either out of Scripture, or, as he is able, of his own composing; and by this we judge whether he has observed the rules of temperance in drinking. Prayer again concludes our feast; and thence we depart, not to fight and quarrel, not to run about and abuse all we meet, not to give ourselves up to lascivious pastime; but to pursue the same care of modesty and chastity, as men that have fed at a supper of philosophy and discipline, rather than a corporeal feast.” See Bingham's Antiquities of the Christian Church, book 15, chap. 7, §§ 6-9.
Most commentators suppose an allusion in 1 Corinthians 11:2121For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. (1 Corinthians 11:21), to the feasts of love, which were used in connection with the eucharist. Dr. Lightfoot, however, while conceding that there were such feasts, denies that they are the agape mentioned by Paul and by Jude. He supposes that both Paul and Jude refer to entertainments which were provided for traveling brethren at the cost of the Church, in imitation of the custom of the Jews in their synagogues. His entire comment is curious and interesting. See his Works, (Edition, Pitman,) vol. 12, p. 522.