Thayer’s Lexicon defines artos (the Greek word translated bread or loaf in the Lord’s Supper passages) as: “food composed of flour mixed with water and baked; the Israelites made it in the form of an oblong or round cake, as thick as one’s thumb, and as large as a plate or platter…” (p. 75). This description has led some to conclude that flour and water are the only ingredients permitted in unleavened bread, such as should be used in the Lord’s Supper – no oil, no salt, etc.
Thayer’s comments receive strong support from Jewish tradition. In the JPS Torah Commentary on Exodus, Rabbi Dr. Nahum Sarna says this about the preparation of matsot (the unleavened bread used in the Passover): “Extraordinarily stringent regulations govern the manufacture of matsot. Their sole ingredients are flour and water. The flour may be made only from grains that are susceptible to fermentation. These are listed in Mishnah Pesaḥim 2:5 as wheat, barley, emmer, rye, and oats, although in practice only wheat is used. The water to be mixed with the flour is first left standing overnight. Matsah shemurah, “carefully guarded matsah” which many Jews use to fulfill the obligation to eat matsah on the first night of Passover, is made from flour milled from wheat that has been scrupulously supervised from the time of the harvesting on. Regular matsah is baked from wheat flour that has been specially milled for the purpose and has been carefully supervised from the time of milling through the baking. The entire manufacturing process from the kneading to completion must take no more than eighteen minutes, during which period the dough is continuously manipulated in order to retard fermentation. As a further precaution, perforation is applied to allow any bubbles of air to escape” (p. 57-58).
One may notice an absence of scripture in the explanation of these rules. The aforementioned recipe and preparation process is based solely on Jewish tradition and is not found in the Law of Moses. In fact, the idea that matsot or artos must consist of only flour and water is not supported by the scripture. In Exodus 29.2, God instructs how Aaron and his sons were to be consecrated as priests. The common English version says: “And this is what you shall do to them to hallow them for ministering to Me as priests: Take one young bull and two rams without blemish, and unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil (you shall make them of wheat flour).” This punctuation indicates that there are three kinds of bread: unleavened bread (matsot), unleavened cakes with oil mixed into the dough, and unleavened wafers with oil poured on them after being baked. Many commentators follow this reading. However, the Septuagint (the Old Testament in Greek) lists only two varieties of unleavened bread – matsot and wafers – and clearly shows that oil was mixed into the matsot (at least on this occasion). “And unleavened bread, kneaded with olive oil, and unleavened cakes, basted with olive oil, you will prepare them from pure wheat made of fine wheat flour” (Exodus 29.2, Lexham English Septuagint). Furthermore, the Greek word used by the Alexandrian scholars to describe this unleavened bread made with oil was artos, the same word used in the New Testament to identify the loaf used by Christ in the institution of the Lord’s Supper.
Based on this evidence, it is impossible to sustain that oil is scripturally forbidden as an ingredient of unleavened bread. From the perspective of this writer, the scripture does not give an absolute recipe for the loaf (other than the prohibition against leaven). It is likely that salt was usually included in loaves baked for religious purposes (Leviticus 2.13). Oil may or may not have been used. Therefore, the inclusion or exclusion of oil is a matter of liberty, left up to the preference of the individual preparing the loaf.