Barry Newman's Blog

October 12, 2009

Christ Centred Communion (part XIV)

The Christian Corinthian Community Meals: 1 Corinthians 11: 17-34 (continued)

In reporting on what Jesus said at the Last Passover Meal (vv. 23-25) Paul is careful to include the word, “whenever” and he pointedly uses the word, “this” four times – “this is my body”, “do this in remembrance of me”, “this cup is the new covenant” and “do this whenever you drink it in remembrance of me”.  Having quoted the words of Jesus, he immediately says, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink the cup …”. (A second “this” does not appear in the Greek.  While the word “bread” can be used to refer to a meal as a whole, the word “cup” cannot be used to do the same thing.)   That is, he writes the “this” of the Last Passover Meal into the “this” of their meal, by referring to “this bread” and adds “the cup”, referring to the wine of their meal.  Both “bread” and “cup” are meant to be reflective of the Last Passover Meal.  It is his way of shocking them into realising how abominable their behaviour is. They were to understand the words of Jesus, “Do this in remembrance of me” and “Do this whenever you drink it in remembrance of me”    (vv. 24, 25) as indicating that the death of Jesus and its significance was never to be forgotten.  Its relevance was to permeate the way they lived including how they conducted themselves on those occasions when, because of their relationship with him, they met together to participate in a meal. 

On this basis, verses 26 – 29 could be understood as follows:  “So you see, whenever you eat this bread, your meal, (I am reflecting on the bread of the Last Passover Meal) and whenever you drink the cup, your wine, (I am reflecting on the cup of the Last Passover Meal), at your Christian community meals, the death of the Lord is, or should always be, proclaimed, until he comes again, by the way you behave at those meals.  So, whoever eats the bread, your meal, and drinks the cup, your wine, at your Christian community meals, (meals that you participate in because of the relationship you have with each other through the death of the Lord), in an unworthy manner, is guilty of the death of the Lord. (I refer to his body and blood.)  (He is guilty of the Lord’s death because he has treated the death of the Lord with disdain.) A man, anyone, (but perhaps particularly the host, as the person responsible for the conduct of the meal) should reflect on what his perceptions are, before he eats the bread, his meal, and before he drinks the cup, his wine.  Because, anyone who eats and drinks without perceiving the true nature of the body of the Lord (his people) eats and drinks in such a manner as to bring God’s judgement upon himself.” Of course, the actual straightforward statement made by Paul is not at all stilted in style like the above rendition!

That is, in 1 Corinthians 11: 17 – 34 there does not appear to be a reference to a Christian ceremony, let alone a rite, with elements reminiscent of the Last Passover Meal.  However there is a reference to a meal and the behaviour of the Corinthians at that meal.  It is their behaviour at that meal which is meant to demonstrate the significance of the death of the Lord Jesus – that death so poignantly referred to, by him, during the last Passover Meal.

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