July 18, 2010
July 16, 2010
I have previously argued that what is claimed as evidence in the New Testament for a rite or custom resembling what is sometimes referred to as the Lord’s Supper has been misunderstood and that in reality there is no such clear evidence. I am now suggesting that there may never have been a command of Jesus upon which it is claimed that the rite or custom is based, in the first place. If one were to convincingly establish that there had been such a command how would one go about it?
Looking for an imperative? The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, is the slain lamb, the one who by his blood ransomed men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, the one worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing (Revelation 5: 5 – 14). All who come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, remember him and his death, always.
July 15, 2010
Concluding Remarks (continued)
Consider the following scenario: There is a Jew living in the early part of the first century. He has been attending Passover festivities ever since he can remember. About three years ago he gave up his profession and became one of the disciples of Jesus. And now, he is experiencing the most extraordinary Passover meal in which he has ever participated. At the beginning of the meal Jesus told his disciples how he has had this meal in mind for some time and more than once he made it clear that there would be no such future meals for him until God’s kingdom would come. And now this disciple tells us first hand some of the astonishing things Jesus said at that meal and his reactions to what Jesus said.
(And now consider two possibilities.)
- “At the beginning of the main course Jesus gave thanks, broke the unleavened bread and gave it to us all, saying, ‘This is my body given for you. Do this whenever you eat it in remembrance of me’ and at the end of the meal, having given thanks he passed the cup around and said to us all, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this whenever you drink it in remembrance of me.’ It appears that he has a couple of passages from the prophets in mind and it looks like he is talking about his death. He seems to be saying that he is going to die – something to do with the forgiveness of sins. May God never allow his death! Not right now. In this meal we remember God’s great deliverance from slavery to the Egyptians and from the judgement they suffered. He is now asking us to remember him! Is he telling us that he is going to die soon and that we should not forget him? Is he saying that whenever we celebrate Passover in the future we should remember him as we eat this bread and drink from this cup? But how could we ever forget him! It does not make sense. Remembering him just at Passover time would be like remembering anyone only on their birthday. How could we ever forget him no matter what happens in the future!”
- “At the beginning of the main course Jesus gave thanks, broke the unleavened bread and gave it to us all, saying, ‘This is my body given for you. You are doing this whenever you eat it in remembrance of me’ and at the end of the meal, having given thanks he passed the cup around and said to us all, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. You are doing this whenever you drink it in remembrance of me.’ It appears that he has a couple of passages from the prophets in mind and it looks like he is talking about his death. He seems to be saying that he is going to die – something to do with the forgiveness of sins. May God never allow his death! Not right now. But what does he mean that as we are eating this bread and drinking from this cup we are remembering him? How can we ever forget him! In this meal we remember God’s great deliverance from slavery to the Egyptians and from the judgement they suffered. How is it that we are remembering him? How is he connected to what happened in Egypt? Is he talking about future Passover meals as well as this one? Does he have in mind even Passover meals that belong to the past?”
Which possibility makes the more intimate connection between the death of Jesus and the Exodus event? Which possibility seems the more likely to have occurred?
July 13, 2010
It is unhelpful to go to the writings of the Early Fathers in order to decide how to understand the words of Jesus uttered at the Last Passover meal.
That “poieite” as it appears in Luke 22: 19 and 1 Cor. 11: 24, 25 should be understood to be in the indicative mood, rather than in the imperative mood, is perfectly legitimate. There is nothing inherently far-fetched or odd about such a position. Indeed I suggest that it is the preferred position to be adopted. The theology involved in such a position, rather than the traditional view is certainly not diminished. Rather it appears to be enhanced. Jesus can be understood to be explaining, “As you partake of this meal, you are remembering me. The Exodus event points to me.” Additionally he would appear to be saying, “Whenever you partake of this meal, you will be remembering me.” Furthermore, he might also be indicating, “Indeed, I have always been remembered whenever this meal has been partaken of. Israel has always been remembering me. The Exodus event has always pointed to me.”
Understanding “poieite” to be in the indicative mood in the Luke and Corinthian passages also suggests possible solutions to, sheds some light on or adds texture to certain textual matters: Of the four Gospels, it is Luke that records Jesus making the most pointed and explicit references to the scriptures in terms of his suffering and it is Luke that records him uttering the words of remembrance. Of the four Gospels, it is in Luke alone that these words of remembrance are recorded. A ceremonial command relating to the last Passover meal is not mentioned anywhere in the Epistles. Luke records the words of remembrance only in connection with the bread. Jesus refers to “remembrance” though he has not yet died. The pastoral oddity of attaching “remembrance” to a command, as though it is predominantly by responding to a command that one remembers the death of Jesus, disappears. Furthermore, the indicative mood for “poieite” is well suited to Paul’s treatment of the Last Passover meal as though it were the Corinthians’ meal – a strategy further assisted by his use of the words, “whenever” and “this”. Finally, that “touto” (this) occurs before “poieite” in both Luke and 1 Corinthians could be considered to focus on what the “this” signified rather than on “the doing”. If a command were involved, one might expect “poieite” to occur before “touto”.
In an aside, a case was made for considering the phrases involving the word, “cup” in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11 to be reflective of but distinctly different to Greek customs associated with honouring the gods and others.
July 11, 2010
Understanding “Poieite” as “You are doing” and the word, “this” – 1 Corinthians 11: 24, 25 and Luke 22: 19 (continued)
Of the 38 instances assessed to be in the indicative mood, 19 were in the form of questions. Of the total of 42 instances, 21 involved “tauta” rather than “touto”.
To begin with, considering only those instances external to the New Testament, if the statement is in the imperative mood “poieite” or “poieis” immediately precedes “touto” or “tauta” in 3 out of the 4 instances. If the statement or question is in the indicative mood “touto” or “tauta” immediately precedes “poieite” or “poieis” in 29 out of the 31 instances.
The exceptions may be instructive. In the two instances where “poieite” or “poieis” immediately precedes “touto” or “tauta” but the indicative mood is involved, the emphasis appears to be on the “doing”. The translation of one, which involves “poieis touto”, reads, “Is it not iniquitous and outrageous to stigmatise today measures which at the time you were unable to amend?” The translation of the other, involving “poieis tauta” reads, “Father, why do this?” The latter is part of a play where an ongoing dialogue revolves around the action taken. In the single instance where “touto” or “tauta” immediately precedes “poieite” or “poieis” (actually it is “tauta” preceding “poieis”) but the clause is in the imperative mood, the emphasis appears to be on what is signified by the “this”. The translation reads, “That is what you have to attend to.” The requirement concerns a set of instructions that should be given to soldiers coping with fear, lined up ready for battle.
Mention has already been made of the single instance in the New Testament – Mark 11: 3 where “poieite” immediately precedes “touto”. It should be noted that there are no instances in the New Testament (unless it be the three exempted from the analysis) where the imperative mood appears to be involved. Furthermore 6 of the 7 of these instances have “touto” or “tauta” (actually it is “tauta” in all cases) immediately preceding “poieite” or “poieis”.
Overall, the high proportion of instances where “touto” or “tauta” immediately precedes “poieite” or “poieis” is noteworthy. Indeed there are at least another 24 instances in the New Testament where either “tauta” or “touto” is alongside of a grammatical form related to “poieite” and “poieis” though not a form involving the imperative mood, and in each case, either “tauta” or “touto” precedes that grammatical form. This general phenomenon is perhaps not an unexpected one. When any “this” is related to any “do” the emphasis is more likely than not to be placed upon the “this” rather than the “do”. An examination of the 36 instances where “touto” or “tauta” precedes “poieite” or “poieis” confirms this understanding.
The significance of word order is always open to dispute. Yet, as it stands, the analysis is more suggestive of the words, “touto poieite” in Luke 22: 19 and 1 Corinthians 11: 24, 25 being understood as a statement rather than a command.
However, if it is maintained that the passages are concerned with a command involving “remembrance of me” the emphasis would appear none the less to be on what the “this” signifies rather than on the command, as suggested earlier. Yet this would appear to be a little odd. The “this” is a reference to something that is done at every Passover meal. There is nothing unusual or detailed about it. One might think that the command involving “remembrance of me” would be of greater import than the “this’ and take priority. If however, no command is involved, perhaps understandably the “this” would take pride of place with the important notion of “remembrance of me” being attached to both what the “this” signifies and the “doing”.
 Demosthenes, De Corona, Sect. 273, l. 7 in LOEB Classical Library, Demosthenes II, De Corona De Falsa Legatione XVIII and XIX, (trans. Vince, C.A. and J.H.), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1971, pp. 198, 199.
 Menander, Samia, l. 452 in LOEB Classical Library, Menander III, (ed. and trans. Arnott, W.G.), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2000, p. 110-111.
 Xenophon, Cyropaedia, Book 6, ch. 3, sect 28, l. 1 in LOEB Classical Library, Xenophon VI, Cyropaedia II, (trans. Miller, W.), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1914, pp. 186, 187.
July 9, 2010
Understanding “Poieite” as “You are doing” and the word, “this” – 1 Corinthians 11: 24, 25 and Luke 22: 19
The words, “touto” (“this” as object) and “poieite” appear alongside of each other in the same clause three times in the New Testament – Luke 22: 19 and 1 Corinthians 11: 24 and 25 – the texts relevant to the discussion. If “poieite” is to be understood as a command, being in the imperative mood, then one might expect the order in which these words occur to be, “poieite” followed by “touto” – the emphasis being on the command. The words, “poieite touto” occurring together are found once in the New Testament in that order, in Mark 11: 3, within the question, “Why are you doing this (untying the colt)?” If there is a particular emphasis here, though that is questionable, it could be on “the doing”, though in this case the verb is clearly in the indicative mood. However in Luke 22: 19 and 1 Corinthians 11: 24 and 25 the word order is reversed – “touto” is followed by “poieite”. This might indicate that the emphasis is to be placed upon what the “this” signified with “poieite” being understood to be in the indicative mood, that is, not a command. Of course it is possible to argue that in these passages there is some emphasis on the “this” and at the same time maintain that they are concerned with a command involving “remembrance of me”. If this position is adopted it would add weight to the claim that it is the Passover meal, celebrated once a year, that is involved and not some abstraction from that meal, held more regularly.
An examination was made of all known instances dated between the 6th century BC and a little beyond the 2nd century AD, where in the same clause “poieite” or “poieis” ( “you do” -singular) immediately precedes “touto” or “tauta” (“this” plural as object) and vice versa. The three New Testament texts under discussion and any instance where these texts were quoted by an external source were excluded from the analysis. A distinction was made between an instance occurring in the New Testament and an instance occurring in sources external to the New Testament. All instances were examined in terms of whether the phrase appeared to be in the indicative or the imperative mood. In determining this, reliance was placed in almost all cases upon translations made by others. However the context in almost all instances made it clear whether the imperative or indicative mood was involved. The results of the analysis appear in Table 1 below.
|Do “This” (“poieite” or “poieis” preceding “touto” or “tauta”)||“This” Do (“touto” or “tauta” preceding “poieite” or “poieis”)|
|Indicative Mood||Imperative Mood||Indicative Mood||Imperative Mood|
|Outside of the New Testament||2||3||29||1|
July 7, 2010
“As often as” and “this” – 1 Corinthians 11: 24-26
But why does Paul introduce the “as often as” when Luke chooses not to and why is it in fact attached only to the cup and not to the bread in v. 25? My suggestion is, as I have argued above and in a previous blog series, that at this point in his argument, he wants to refer to the Last Passover meal in such a way that he can link it to the Corinthians’ meal. In fact he makes this link immediately upon quoting the words of Jesus at the Last Passover meal by saying, in v. 26, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” – a reference at least to their meal. My argument previously has been that his use of the word, “this” five times in vv. 24-26 is one way that he attaches the last Passover meal to their meal, as though it were their meal. A further way in which he brings about this attachment is his repeated use of the word translated, “as often as”. He first uses it as one of the words of Jesus in connection with the drinking of the cup in v. 25. Six words later he uses it in connection with the eating of the bread and the drinking of the cup in v. 26.
I take it that in appealing to the words of Jesus Paul relates “as often as” to the drinking of the cup because he wishes to make the connection between the Last Passover meal and the Corinthians’ meal as obvious as possible. The drinking of the cup in remembrance of Jesus is his last reference to the words of Jesus uttered at the Last Passover meal. His first reference to the Corinthians’ meal, as I understand it, which immediately follows his citing of the words of Jesus, begins with, “For as often as”. He has made the connection he desired.
Along with “poieite” Paul’s use of “this” and “as often as” enables him to firmly attach the Last Passover meal to the Corinthians’ meal and so strikingly confront them with their appalling behaviour.
July 4, 2010
Understanding “Poieite” as “You are doing” and the words, “as often as” – 1 Corinthians 11: 24 -26
What are we to make of Paul quoting Jesus as saying “as often as” in relation to the drinking of the wine in v. 25 and Paul’s own use of that notion in v. 26 remembering that Luke makes no mention of Jesus saying, “as often as”? It may be that Jesus never actually used a word that could be translated, “as often as”. However, it is inconceivable that in any future Passover meal celebrations the disciples would not see the meal as a remembrance event that focussed on the death of Jesus. Consequently even if Jesus did not explicitly refer to the notion, “as often as” it would certainly be implicit. However, let us assume that Jesus made an explicit reference to, “as often as” which Luke himself did not explicitly refer to. Let us also make the reasonable assumption that Paul’s “as often as” in the discourse of Jesus is just as applicable to the eating of the bread (v. 24) as it is to the drinking of the wine (v. 25)
Let us also consider the possibility that “poieite” should be understood as a statement and not a command. Then we seem to have Jesus, as Paul reports him, in effect saying, with respect to both the bread and the wine, ‘You are doing “this” in remembrance of me, whenever you celebrate Passover.’ That Passover would have been in mind is assumed because the setting for these statements made by Jesus is the Passover meal and the bread and wine referred to are bread and wine of that meal.
Of course, the theology of 1 Corinthian 11: 24-26 is at least as rich as that which was unpacked in our discussion of Luke 22: 19. Repeating, with a few additional words, what was said earlier, Jesus is saying, “You have not realised it, you don’t even realise it now, but the truth is, as you eat this Passover bread and as you drink this Passover wine, you are dealing with an event, though occurring long ago that has its fulfilment in me. My imminent death is for that salvation that the Exodus event only points to. You are at the peak of history. You are doing this not ultimately in remembrance of an event past but in remembrance of the event about to take place – my death that inaugurates the new covenant.” Furthermore, if what was argued above is correct, the Corinthian text makes explicit what was implicit in Luke -“whenever you participate in Passover meals you will be remembering me”.
Additionally however, what is implicit in Luke, and explicit in 1 Corinthians, could be considered to have another aspect. Jesus could be saying, “And this has always been the case. The redemption of the Israelites was always a reflection of, always a pointer to, the greatest redemption event – my death.” That is, Jesus could be understood to be claiming overall that, “Though not known, though not understood, the celebration of Passover in the past has always been a remembrance event of me and the redemption I accomplish. Though you do not know, though you do not understand, the celebration of Passover on this occasion is a remembrance event of me and the redemption I accomplish. Furthermore, whenever in the future you celebrate Passover, you will be doing so in remembrance of me and the redemption I accomplish.”
Jesus spoke of the Scriptures bearing witness to him (John 5: 39) and that in particular Moses wrote of him (John 5: 46). And as mentioned earlier, Luke’s fulfilment texts, specifically refer to the suffering Christ (Luke 24: 25-27, 44-46). Do we not have rich evidence of the scriptures bearing witness to the Christ who was to suffer in the Last Passover meal and all the richer if “poieite” is understood as a statement rather than a command?
 The additional words are “and as you drink this Passover wine”.
July 2, 2010
An Aside – Proclaiming the Lord’s Death and the Drinking of a Cup (continued)
Furthermore, in the following two verses, the phrases “Whoever … drinks the cup of the Lord” and “Let a man examine himself, and so … drink of the cup” could be references to the same practice. (It should be noted that it is never “the bread of the Lord”, only “the cup of the Lord”.) The same might also be true of the phrases, “the cup of blessing” and “a cup of the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 10: 16 and 21. Indeed, the phrases “the cup of the Lord” (to poterion tou kuriou) and “a cup of the Lord” (poterion kuriou) could be translated, “the cup, ‘To the Lord’ ” and “a cup, ‘To the Lord’ ” respectively. Certainly the phrases would appear to carry overtones of something like “in honour of the Lord” with possibly a special cup being assigned for the purpose of giving him praise. A cry similar to, “To Jesus the Saviour” or “To the Lord” in association with the drinking from a common cup may have become an established custom.
Similarly, with respect to Passover meals, the drinking from the various cups in each case would most likely have been associated with some note of praise or thanks to God. Concerning the Last Passover meal, Jesus gave thanks in association with a cup over which he uttered the words of remembrance (Matthew 26: 27 and Mark 14: 23) and gave thanks in association with an earlier cup taken before the breaking of bread (Luke 22: 17).
 See for example, Athenaeus, xi, 461 b in Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists, V, LOEB Classical Library, op. cit., 1980, pp. 8-11, where reference is made to a large cup assigned to the Heroes in their honour, and xi, 781 c in the same work, pp. 34, 35, where it is said, “Achilles … kept his cup as a special treasure, ‘and neither did any other man drink of it, nor did he pour libation from it to any god excepting Zeus’ ”.