"..to taking of meals.."-Acts 2:42 New World Translation.
At Acts 2:42 the New International Version reads:
"They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
The Greek words rendered "to the breaking of bread" are "te klasei tou artou." The New International Version's rendering is very literal.
Why has the New World Translation rendered the above as "to the taking of meals"?
According to the Linquistic Key of the Greek New Testament by Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers,1985 ed., "The breaking of bread refers either to an ordinary meal or to the celebrating of the Lord's Supper."-italics ours
Were the early disciples celebrating the Lord's Supper?
Albert Barnes writes in Popular Commentary, New Testament, Vol.III, Acts, p.57:
"¶ [Acts 2:42] Breaking of bread. The Syriac renders this the "eucharist," or the Lord's supper. It cannot, however, be determined whether this refers to their partaking of their ordinary food together, or to feasts of charity, or to the Lord's supper. The bread of the Hebrews was made commonly into cakes, thin, hard and brittle, so that it was broken instead of being cut. Hence, to denote intimacy or friendship, the phrase to break bread together would be very expressive in the same way as the Greeks denoted it by drinking together,[SUMTOSION]. From the expression used in ver[se] 44, com[pared] with ver[se] 46, that they had all things common, it would rather seem to be implied that this referred to the participation of their ordinary meals." -underlining ours.
Henry Chadwick's 'The Early Church'(The Pelican History of the Church,Vol.1)pp. 84,85 writes about 'Easter';
"Irenaeus had written of the universal Church in idealistic and almost romantic terms, as if it were a body characterized by complete unanimity and possessing a single mind on all subjects. It would not have been to his purpose to analyse and describe the differences in custom and attitude and in theological expression which were to be discerned. It caused him great pain when the churches of Asia Minor, whence he himself had come, became passionately divided about the status of the Montanist prophecy. Moreover, the churches of Asia Minor had preserved the most ancient of all methods of determining the date of Easter: they simply kept it at the same time as the Jewish passover, on the fourteenth day of the Jewish month nisan whenever that mightfall. When Easter was introduced at Rome (c. 160) the feast, as at Alexandria, was celebrated on the Sunday following the Jewish Passover, which for practical purposes could be reckoned as the Sunday next after the first full moon after the spring equinox. Irenaeus was shocked when, about 190, bishop Victor of Rome proceeded to make a demand for uniformity in the observance of Easter which the churches of Asia Minor regarded as autocratic and offensive. Victor apparently believed that the Roman custom must have been inherited from the instructions of Peter and Paul, and declared that those who observed the feast on any different day could not be regarded as Catholic Christians. Irenaeus recalled how some thirty five years earlier Polycarp of Smyrna had travelled to Rome to discuss some divergences of custom with bishop Anicetus: at that time Rome did not keep Easter annually, but neither regarded the divergence as a ground for breach of communion, and they parted in amicable disagreement. Despite the scandal which it caused to Irenaeus, Victor's drastic action was not thunder out of a clear sky. There had been sharpe controversy in Asia Minor about 170 on related question whether the Last Supper was the Passover meal. Bishop Melito of Sardis vigorously defended the ancient conservative custom of keeping Easter on 'the fourteenth day' with the Jews. From an Easter sermon by Melito, the text of which has lately been recovered from three papyrus codices,' it is painfully evident that those who celebrated Easter on the same day as the Jewish passover were not motivated by special friendliness towards Judaism (though perhaps it was the sharp charge of 'Judaising' which led Melito to over-compensate in his oratorical and at times gruesome description of the Jews' sad spiritual condition). Victor of Rome's intervention turned out to be successful in the sense that his view was eventually to prevail. But it was a long time before those who kept Easter on the fourteenth day (nicknamed Quartodecimans) died out. The group still existed in the ninth century despite the vigour with which church councils deplored them. It was impossible in so weighty a practical question for diversity to be allowed but there can be little doubt that the Quartodecimans were right in thinking that they had preserved the most ancient and apostolic custom. They had become heretics simply by being behind the times."-italics ours
In regard to the importance of Polycarp's 'view' or stance of when and how often the Lord's Supper should be celebrated we would like to quote F.J.Foakes Jackson who wrote:
bishop of Smyrna, is one of the most important of the hearers of
the Apostles. His influence was by no
means confined to a single church or even to a single province.
To him the eyes of Christians throughout the world, about the
middle of the second century, were turned. When he visited Rome
he was regarded with the utmost reverence by bishop and faithful
alike. In Gaul Polycarp's disciple Irenaeus related his master's
sayings to his disciples, and was the more reverenced by his
flock because he had been the disciple of the great bishop of
Smyrna. The martyrdom of Polycarp crowned the immense influence
exercised by him. It was regarded as a matter not of local but of
universal interest. The church of Smyrna addressed their letter,
describing the sufferings of the saint, specially to the church
at Plilomelium, but also to all ' parishes ' of the Catholic
"Nor nor can we be surprised at this being the case, despite the fact that neither Polycarp's epistle to the Philippians nor the sayings which Irenaeus has recorded of him give us any great idea of his intellectual power. His great age made him a link between the Apostles and the men whose work continued into the third century. During the later years of his life Gnostic speculation had become very active, and many things unknown to the faith of ordinary Christians where declared to be derived from the secret traditions of the Apostles. In the face of such pretensions, it was natural that great value attached to the genuine traditions of Apostolic doctrine.
"St. John, we are told by Irenaeus, survived till the reign of Trajan, 100 A.D. According to Clement of Alexandria, the Apostle, after his return from Patmos, went to Ephesus and gathered disciples about him. He seems to have organized the churches of Asia by providing them with bishops, one of whom is said to have been Polycarp. But, according to Irenaeus, St. John was not the only eye- witness of our Lord's life from whom Polycarp had received instruction. " He had" in the words of Irenaeus " been trained by the Apostles and had conversed with many who had seen Christ," and it is a note-worthy fact that his letter to the Philippians recalls the language of St. Peter rather than that of St. John. If Polycarp was the son of Christian parents he must have been born as early 69A.D , according to Bp. Lightfoot's reckoning of the date of his martyrdom (A.D. 155-6)
"In the next glimpse we have of this Father and Irenaeus, we see him following in the steps of his master and instructing disciples in the traditions of the Apostles. Irenaeus in a letter to Florinus, a fellow disciple of his who had embraced Gnostic opinions, reminds him how Polycarp "would describe his intercourse with John and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord, and how he would relate their words. And whatsoever things he had heard from them about the Lord and about His miracles and about His teaching, Polycarp, as having received them from eye-witnesses of the life of the Word, would relate it altogether in accordance with the Scriptures." This well remembered intercourse with Polycarp makes the evidence of Irenaeus on the subject of St. John's Gospel of the highest value in determining its authenticity.
"At the very close of his life, about A.D. 154, Polycarp undertook a visit to Rome to discuss with Anicetus the day on which the Christian Passover ought to be celebrated. Polycarp considered that it should always be celebrated on the I4th Nisan without respect to the day of the week and pleaded the practice of St. John. Anicetus held that the festival should always be held on a Sunday. Neither bishop was ready to yield his opinion, nor to allow the difference between them to interrupt their Christian union, and Anicetus allowed Polycarp to celebrate the Eucharist in his place...." -The Hisory of the Christian Church from the Earliest Times to A.D. 461. Cambridge:-J.Hall & Son, 1914 6th ed. pp.119-121.-italics ours.
In view of the above the early
Christian disciples in Jerusalem could hardly be celebrating the
'Christian Passover,' which meal had just been partaken of by the
11 faithful disciples of Jesus on Nisan 14. With this in mind and
the fact that the now prevailing custom among
Christendom's religions of celebrating the meal weekly, or more
often, the NWTTC must have decided to make this text clear, which
is their perogative as translator's, that it was just an "ordinary
meal." The footnote in the NWT Reference Edition of
1984 has "Lit., "to the breaking of the bread."
But why, the question might arise, did Luke record the disciples partaking/enjoying of "ordinary meals"? We can add to the words of Albert Barnes those of E.M.Blaiklock who wrote; "Eating together, especially in the East, has always been a prime sign of fellowship..."-Acts, An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Intervarsity Press, 1974 ed. p.61.
It must always be recognised that although the New World Translation is a very literal translation the NWTTC would not sacrifice meaning and clarity over literalness. There is good reason then for the NWTTC to choose to render the Greek the way they have at Acts 2:42.