The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Jesus Bread - Historic Bread Baking

guerrillafood's picture

Jesus Bread - Historic Bread Baking

My mother has asked me to bake some bread for her Episcopal Church’s communion during the Christmas Mass. The Church is in (very) rural South Georgia, and only has 75 or so members all combined. (Episcopalians are kind of a rare breed down there). I am very honored to have been asked, because although this may be the smallest church in her town, it is by far the most worldly and savvy. These people travel to Israel, Rome, and all over.

So anyway, I am really looking to bake for them a bread that is as historically and anthropologically close to the bread that Jesus would have served at the last super. Even if you are not a Christian, or find that whole story ridiculous, I am looking for bread that would have been in that part of the world at that time. I don’t think AP flour was around. I know that Durum wheat was domesticated before the soft, red, spring, and winter wheat that we use in modern flours. Anyone got any tips?

These people are the Doctors and Judges of the town, and they will know B.S. if I try to pass off Turkish flat bread, or a whole wheat pita as bread from the last supper.

Thanks for you help guys. I LOVE this site!!!

dulke's picture

I have to say that your question really intrigued me. I have done some searching and have not found any recipes, sorry to say, but I did find this very interesting article about life in Ancient Israel, including a section about bread, . I am hoping that this will help point you/me/someone in the right direction.

dmsnyder's picture

The last supper was a Passover sedar. The bread that would have been served was matzoh. This is unleavened bread, symbolizing the bread eaten by the Jewish people as they fled Egypt. They were in such a hurry, they did not have time for bread to rise. Thus, Matzoh is served at sedars to commemorate the flight from Egypt.

Recipes should be readily available.

Gunnersbury's picture

Although it was the last supper that Jesus partook of with his disciples, it wasn't the Passover feast, I believe. Even Leonardo Di Vinci thought thusly: look at the bread on the table of his Last Supper. It's leavened bread. 


Ramona's picture

Definitely need to leave out white flour.  Sometimes in the scriptures, barley bread was used to represent tough and courageous events, like with Elijah and Gideon.  I wouldn't be surprised if the last supper bread had barley flour, after all, Jesus was about to allow himself to be tortured and murdered.  Spelt flour was also used in biblical times. 

andrew_l's picture

Kamut and emmer were used in ancient Egyptian baking so it would be a fair bet that they also were used in Israel - especially after  Moses. According to Wikepedia, wild emmer has been found at archeological sites in Israel dating back to 17,000 BC and domesticated emmer dating back to 7700 BC. Spelt may also have been used - so one of these would be hard to disprove as having some authenticity!
There is a wealth of material about the history of Jewish cooking so it should be possible to find out quite a bit about it.

guerrillafood's picture

Is Matzo supposed to be soft and moist like pita (but without the leavened hole(s) in the crumb? Or is it crisp like a cracker? Forgive me my ignorance. I was raised in south Georgia, my aunt was the only jewish person I ever met until I was 25 years old. And she made the best ham and cheese sahdwiches ever, if you catch my drift.



Paddyscake's picture

is like a cracker, pretty dry..umm..more like a table water cracker than a Ritz type cracker

guerrillafood's picture

Maybe that is why in the Bible Mark 14:22 says: "While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said..."

I looked at 13 different English translations of the original text, and every one of them uses the verb "break" when refering to the bread. So, I guess I am pretty sure that the bread was crisp, as Matzo would be.

My last issue is more to do with the grain used. According to jewish dietary traditions of today, Matzo has to be made from one of the following grains: barley, oats, rye, spelt, or wheat. Now, it is my understanding that wheat was not discovered/domesticated until after Jesus' demise. (Fact check anyone???). I think Durum Wheat may have been around during this time? Arghhhhh!!! My brain is melting!

If anyone can find what the historical/scientific community agrees to be the style of and grain used to make the bread that Jesus had, I'd be very thankful.


MangoChutney's picture

I can't say what might have been meant by that passage, but "broken meats" were just bits carved from a whole roasted joint or whatever.  The servants traditionally got to eat the broken meats after the lord of the manor and his guests were done eating what they wanted.  "Breaking bread" might just mean tearing a whole loaf into pieces.

Ramona's picture

I was trying the whole time, when I made my last reply to think of Kamut.  I agree with Andrew, I have read many times that Kamut was a grain going back to bibilical times in Egypt.  But I also am convinced that there is barley involved too.  And they did use spelt also, ever hear of Ezekiel 4:9 bread?

If you want I also have access to some really good information that talks about what "breaking of bread" meant in the past, with different scriptural examples, as well as, what it means in some parts of the world today.  It's only a page long.  You could read it to those people the night that you present your bread.  Just a thought. 

naschol's picture

This is an intersting read -


It says that kamut is thought to be the ancient form of today's durum and also has origins of other grains.



Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

There is a WONDERFUL web site everyone seems to have missed. It is and has information about when different foods became available.

Bread is thought to be date to around 10,000 BCE, and there is some debate as to whether a taste for bread or ale caused people to give up their nomadic ways and begin an agricultural life style.

Wheat was bred into forms we'd recognize today (according to Wikipedia) around 5,000 years ago, and was widespread at that time. The Biblical references to separatating the wheat from the chaff suggests that modern wheat was not only known, but common by that time. Earlier wheats could not be separated so easily.

Leavened bread is thought to date back to around 4,000 to 3,500 BCE, with pita and focaccia style breads being the ones thought to be among the first raised breads.

Challah, in recognizeable form, is said to date to around 70 AD.

Dr. Ed Wood in his "World Sourdoughs From Antiquity" book recounts the project he worked on with National Geographic to reproduce the bread making technology in use in the time when the pyramids were being built. They used drawings on the walls of the pyramids which showed bread making in some detail as their guide. In the end, they produced breads that would be recognized today as leavened, sourdough breads.

The separation of bran from the flour is also not a new thing, but it wasn't until around 1700 AD that the introduction of fine Chinese silks allowed for the economical separation of the bran and the production of white flour, according to British Federation of Bakers (

So... what sort of bread to make? You have lots of choices. The term "breaking bread" can refer to any bread. You don't have to hear it crack to break it. When you render a soft loaf into pieces, you have broken the bread.

Any flat bread is a likely candidate - matzo, pita or focaccia,

As are risen breads, such as Challah.

In all cases, make the breads with whole grain flour. Wheat, rye, barley, spelt, oats or a mix of the them could be used.

Since Jesus was Jewish, during passover he would have eaten unleavened bread. The Kosher rules for the making of unleavened bread during passover are quite strict - no more than 18 minutes may elapse from the time the flour is moistened until the dough is in the oven. This serves to insure no accidental fermentation or rising will occur.  The care of the grain before grinding is also regulated to insure the grain does not come in contact with water, which could start fermentation.

A search of the net was frustrating. Most matzo recipes were recipes that used matzo in them, such as matzo balls, matzo ball soup, matzo-rella lasagna, and on and on. And many of the recipes that purported to make matzo bread used matzo meal or matzo flour which are ground up matzo bread (or crackers).  This seemed to be a modern affectation that really wouldn't do for an authentic recreation.

I finally found a recipe that looks good at


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup wholewheat flour
spring water


Preheat oven to 450 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix two flours together and add water until you have a soft, kneadable dough. Knead about five minutes. Let dough rest a couple of minutes.

Break off egg-sized portions of dough. Stretch as thinly as you can before rolling into thin, oval slabs that are as thin as possible.

Prick each slab with a fork or pastry docker. Place on baking sheet and as soon as sheet is filled with matzohs, place in oven, and bake until crisp and buckled, about 3 minutes. Cool and eat.

Depending on how authentic you want to be, you could use all wholewheat flour, and you could get a mill and grind your own wholewheat flour from wheat kernels.

If you want to be authentic, keep things moving fast, you have 18 minutes from the time the water and flour mix until it has to be in the oven.  You might also use baking stones rather than the parchment paper.  The matzo's I've seen all look like they were baked on a hearth.

For times of the year other than Passover, Challah, Focaccia, or a leavened flatbread - all made with whole wheat flour and raised with sourdough, would be good choices.

Hope that helps,



hardrockbaker's picture

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The people in that area new about wild yeast. That spells sourdough.

There is no big difference between Christian, Jewish or Moslem's bread. Its all made from water, flour, salt and the famous sourdough.

Durum flour I think was not around by then. Maybe spelt or something like that.

For Christians it is important to break their bread. Therefor it was probably leavened.

Flat bread was usually made when on the move or chased by enemies. No time to let the dough rise in war times. Flat bread also needed less space.


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And: who in his right mind eats a flat bread, when he could have a nice crispy one.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I was under the impression that frozen bread makes more crumbs on the alter than fresh bread.  (pk)

I would have to be of the group that supports sourdough leavened bread for both historical reasons and having a healthier choice.  I also think it should be lean and contain no fat or sugars.   It could be a sourdough pizza crust.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

for less crumbs.

uncle goosehead's picture
uncle goosehead

if you're having communion, any strong flavour hints would seem to me to be distracting.  The priest who posted Rev'd Tay: I wonder if the recipe is available?  I would expect that it contains oil, probably olive.  I know from making pitas and focaccia that the right amount to oil and not excessive gluten development creates a semi-firm bread from which pieces can be pulled away cleanly, leaves no crumb and is not chewy.  This would seem to me to be the right thing when the cup is coming right after.  The bread should be a symbolic definite presence, but not distracting in anyway itself.  Just my 2¢.  (new user, first post outside of introductions)

michaeltop's picture

there is a old world bread ,torte al testo, unleaven and baked on a stone or in a cast iron pan.  The bread is broken into pieces to serve.

ph_kosel's picture

I bake sourdough and have discovered the Presbyterian pastor at my wife's church likes the stuff and writes great thank you notes.  They use bread in Sunday services year round, typically batard loaves procured by some church commitee which they tear up and pass out with a bit of grapejuice.  I was a bit apalled the one and only time I stood in line for such a snack - yeasted whole wheat with a side of warm Welch's grapejuice is not my preference.

Because that pastor is so appreciative when I give him some decent sourdouh I thought it would be fun to try to reproduce the stuff Jesus actually ate from day to day, not just for Passover.  Passover is only once a year, after all.

From what I can tell from a bit of google research, the every-day bread they ate in those days and that neighborhood would have the following characteristics.  (1) It would be a sourdough of some sort because they didn't have commercial yeast.  (2) It would be a whole grain bread because milling technology of the day dictated that.  (3) It would,  likely as not, usually be a flatbread (although other shapes were made too) cooked on a stone or possibly in something similar to an Indian "tandoor", usually made with a "lean" dough although seeds,  fruit, and such were sometimes added.  (4) It would typically be made from one or more of several grains reportedly extant in Israel in that general time period: (a) einkorn wheat(Triticum monococcum); (b) emmer wheat(Triticum dicoccon), also known as "farro"; (c) durum wheat (Triticum durum); (d) bread wheat (Triticum aestivum); (e) six row barley (Hordeum vulgare) and/or two row barley.

The biggest uncertainty I have is the type of grain used to make the bread Jesus would usually have eaten.  My tentative guess is that the dominant grain might have been emmer wheat (farro) since that was reportedly a standard ration of Roman troops, has been found growing wild in Israel, and is believed to be a precurser to more modern wheats.  My second guess would be common bread flour (whole wheat, of course), and after that durum.  A bit of malted barley could perhaps also have been thrown in as it is in modern bread flours.

Does anybody more knowledgable than myself have an opinion on what grain(s) went into the bread(s) Jesus usually ate?

ph_kosel's picture

The pastor I previously mentioned recently sent me a copy of an article on biblical-era bread.  It says less-well-to-do folks made bread out of barley rather than wheat.  I think sourdough can be made from barley more or less the same as from wheat.

nhtom's picture

The host is SYMBOLIC.  It symbolizes His body.

To make it "authentic" it would have to be His body - or at least meat.

Chocolate chip cookies or even Triscuits would "work."

If your doctor friends can't figure that out you need to send them back to Sunday school.

In other words, don't sweat it.  "You can't please everyone so you've got to please yourself."

Whatever you make, make it with love.  That's all.

Bee18's picture

in 1990 I was invited with my family to share the Passover diner by a kurdistan jewish family. They were living in Israel since they arrived in the 1950'ies  straight from Irak.

I was surprised to see the meals of their diner in comparison with our european jewish culture, and back then I thought that they were closer to the history than we were. The " matza" was especially at the center of my attention and of my kids interest. It was looking like a Pita of about 1/2 centimeter thickness and the color was grey/brown. it was not crispy at all like the modern european matza and when "broken up" - which is the right term to use for bread and it is the right translation of the hebrew term - it was somewhat moist inside. I was told that they used Wholewheat flour especially milled for the Passover time, and mixed it with water nothing else. from the minute they had mixed the ingredients and the time past to bake it on a big metal disc with a firewood lighted underneath only 18 minutes had past. The flavor was not very appealing to our palate... Since this people transmitted the tradition of cooking from mother to daughter for centuries and they never saw a modern loaf of bread until 1950, I would believe that it was the bread that Jesus may have broke up (shared) between him and his companions. The other meal that was unusual for us was the meat : mutton head. which also seemed very genuine. until now in the middle eastern countries non jewish populations are traditionally eating only flat bread (pitas from all sort of flours, forms and sizes) and the mutton (lamb) is their first choice before chicken or beef. In the time of Jesus and before it was easier to have a herd of lamb than cows and until today the beduins in Israel have this kind of herds. The last thing that was also very much different was their " harosset" which is a mixture made of fruit and nuts and it is to remind us the mortar used to build the cities of Pharoes during the 400 years captivity of the Israeli People in Egypt.The european ways is to use apples mixed with wallnuts ginger powder and some red sweet wine ( in some families horseraddish is added to the mixture) The Jewish families who came from Irak, or other arabs countries to Israel do not use apples but Dates - in a form of thick syrup named Silan - with nuts and it's rather liquid than thick, and there is a logic to that because the way of eating in these countries was and still is to use a piece of bread-pita to pick up - or dip - the food presented on the table, also Dates were one of the main fruits in these hot countries where apples were unsual.

Back at the time of Jesus I would say that they could have use kamut or spelt but surely not the kind of wheat we use today.

I suppose that my reply in 2011 will not help guerillafood who wrote is question in 2007... but it's my small contribution to the community of TFL who keep an interest to multiple subjects that had been raised in the past.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and thought it inspiring both for artistic and historical value.  Always wondered seeing "stamps" as "gifts" from foreign visitors in Asian museums and wondered if they were not given to stamp bread (a totally foreign food product) and failed to meet their intended use.  

new update of link     Very good videos both easy to understand and enjoyable.  You will see when comparing to older 2000 year old bread, some things have not changed over time...  I'm going over to the British museum Post and adding a link...  :)


tananaBrian's picture

I wonder how hard it would be to design, carve, then cast your own stamp(s)?  People use stamps like these for cheese too (although you better sterilize it first ...yeast is the last thing you want in your homemade cheese as it ages).



Silverhorse192's picture

Go to the British museum . they have a 2000 year bread recipe.