chapter
CONCLUSION
Pages 6

The present work has surveyed attitudes to food expressed in early Christian literature and attempted to assess the various cultural and social influences that affected their formation and development. As we have seen, the texts reveal a variety of views concerning life’s sustenance. The sharing of bread and wine was seen as an essential aspect of the life of the Christian community from the earliest texts. It became formalized as the celebration of the Eucharist central to Catholic dogma, thereby adding sublime meaning to food as sustenance of both body and soul. The realization then comes upon the reader of these texts as an unexpected surprise, that food, life’s basic requirement, and the source of the most simple, direct, biologically determined pleasure in life, was never in itself valued positively in this literature. At best, food and eating were tolerated as necessary for life, and as potentially valuable as symbolic gestures of fellowship and confirmation of mutual social support, that helped to cement communities; at worst, they were seen as the devil’s snare, leading to greed, social division and disruption and, most dangerously, to sexual temptation. Present to some extent even in Paul, we have seen that the danger of pleasure in eating is increasingly emphasized by third and fourth century writers.