Barry Newman's Blog

May 31, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part VII)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 11:06 pm

Poieite – Present Tense Form, Indicative Mood?

Let us however consider the possibility that “poieite” has a present tense form that is to be understood as being in the indicative mood.  A translation of Luke 22: 19 might then read, ‘And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you.  You are doing this in remembrance of me.”’  (Let us leave consideration of 1 Cor. 11: 24, 25 until later.) 

Present tense forms are not inappropriate for discourse and within the words of Jesus we have, the present tense form for the verb, “to be”, the verb, “to do” and the participle, “given”[1]. Likewise, in the following verse, where Jesus refers to the cup, we find the present tense form for the participle, “poured out”.  With respect to both present tense forms and the indicative mood, in the text, the verb “to be” is clearly in the indicative mood and has a present tense form.  The verb, “to do” in close proximity to and within the same discourse as the verb, “to be, and likewise having a present tense form might also be considered to be in the indicative mood.   Such a suggestion cannot be considered far-fetched. It is simply that people have not considered the possibility. 

An oddity which might spring to mind is that Jesus has only just given them the bread and they haven’t yet eaten it, so how could he say, “You are doing this …”?  This scenario may or may not be true.  It could be that they receive the bread, they begin to eat it and as they are eating it Jesus says, “You are doing this in remembrance of me.” Either way, one should not see any difficulty in the temporal ordering of events.  Whether an indicative or imperative mood is involved, Jesus is referring to his death which has not yet occurred.  Suffice it to say, that at this point in the argument, there is no good reason within the text itself as to why Jesus could not have said, “You are doing this in remembrance of me.”

[1] In discourse we are “drawn into” the subject matter and our viewpoint is more intimate than might otherwise be.  From a verbal aspect point of view, present tense forms have as part of their character such an aspect, described as imperfective aspect that is also proximate rather than remote. That we should find present tense forms in discourse is not unexpected.  See, Campbell, C.R., Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI., 2008, pp. 40-43.


May 30, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part VI)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 3:33 am

The Grammatical Mood of “Poieite” (Do?)

A friend of mine, George May, recently raised with me the possibility that Luke 22: 19 could be understood in a slightly but significantly different way to how it is commonly understood.  He asked if I had considered the idea that the central sentence under discussion might be in the indicative mood rather than the imperative mood.  Was it a command or a simple statement?  I was a little stunned.  I realised that the Greek, “poieite” could be understood either as “you plural, present tense indicative” or “you plural, present tense imperative”.  In either case, the same Greek form is used.  However, I along with everyone else I had ever come across had simply assumed that a command was involved – “poieite” had to be understood as being in the imperative mood.  I had never thought otherwise. From early times Christians referring to the Last Passover meal in one way or another and for whatever reasons saw it as a command and those who came afterwards simply considered this understanding to be correct seemingly without question.  I have previously argued that sinful humanity would rather live under rules, regulations and ceremonies than live under grace and the work of the Spirit. I suspect this provides part of the explanation as to why the understanding that a command was involved was adopted.  However, I am not hereby arguing that this understanding was in fact incorrect.  I am merely suggesting how such an understanding might have become entrenched, whether correct or incorrect.

May 26, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part V)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 10:59 pm

Do this in remembrance of me – Luke 22: 19


In the previous blog series, “Christ Centred Communion” I maintained that Passover meals were essentially remembrance events and that Jesus in saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.” was indicating that in the Last Passover meal the remembrance event was to be understood in a new way.  In past Passover meals, Jews remembered God’s deliverance from slavery and the judgement meted out to the Egyptians who had enslaved them.  Now, the disciples of Jesus were to understand that by his death, they were to be delivered from the judgement of God upon them.  I also suggested that the description of the Last Passover meal pointed to the death of Jesus in a number of ways. I will elaborate upon these here. He referred to his body given “for you” and his blood poured out “for you”, as an indication of whom his death would benefit.  The separation of the references to his body and blood by the main course, reflective of body and blood separation at death, was suggestive of his death.  Finally, the main course, consisting of the Passover lamb sacrificed earlier in the day, bracketed by his two interpretative statements, could also be understood as a pointer to his death and the purpose of that death.  I also argued that the words of Jesus should be understood as a heart-felt request rather than as a severe command.  Furthermore I claimed that in all future Passover meal celebrations, the disciples could do nothing other than see in such meals remembrance events that focussed on the death of Jesus rather than on the Exodus event.  Of course, these Passover meals were once a year events.  I also maintained that as with circumcision, food laws and the observance of special days, there was no compulsion for either Jews or even Gentiles to participate in future Passover meals though they could if they wished to.

May 24, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part IV)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 11:43 pm

References in the first few centuries to a Christian rite associated with the elements of a meal and references to meals that Christians shared with each other (continued)

The general picture that emerges for the early centuries is as follows.

From early times, the words of Jesus concerning his flesh and blood seem to have been understood in some sense literally with the reception of wine and bread perceived as other than ordinary wine and bread. These elements were also understood to convey nourishment beyond what mere wine and bread could provide.   This type of understanding of the bread and wine and what they provided seems to have developed and to have become an established point of view over time.   In some instances it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that there was a belief that the actual body and blood of Jesus, in some sense, were being consumed.

The term “Eucharist” is sometimes understood as a reference to the “consecrated” bread and wine, that is, the elements themselves, and sometime as a reference to the rite. That the term conveys the concept of “thanks” is understandable, both with respect to the elements and the rite, given the part played by the giving of thanks for the elements and what they symbolised in the rite.  However sometimes such thanks, while presumably associated with the death of Jesus, seem to have had as a primary focus the elements themselves as gifts from God and necessary for life, whatever else they signified.  Generally the giving of thanks for the death of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins is not all that explicit.  While one would assume that his death was of importance in the Eucharist, it is not clear that the redemption for sinners gained through the death of Jesus often had the prominence in the Eucharist that it had at the last Passover meal.  

Though the rite was almost certainly different and conducted differently in different places and at different times, it seems to have been fairly formal in character. “Presiding” over the Eucharist was generally limited to those in leadership roles

From early times a distinctively Christian meal may have been a regular feature of Christian life but held as a separate meeting from that of a Christian “service”.  Later, these meals, often referred to as agape meals, may have been associated with a Eucharistic service.  Still later, agape meals, if they ever were part of Eucharistic services, became quite separate.  In fact, they may never have been closely associated with a rite. In reality, the actual relationship between agape meals and a Eucharistic rite may have varied from place to place and from time to time.  Agape meals were sometimes spoken of in a disparaging manner because of what became their inappropriate nature and the improper behaviour of their participants.  In time, the holding of an agape meal in a “sacred” church building was forbidden in some quarters because of such features. 

It is disturbing that meals shared by Christians degenerated over time.  It is also of concern that Christian services began to become highly formal and regulatory in nature.  However, what is surely most disturbing is that increasingly, the bread and wine in the Eucharistic rite were in some sense considered to be the actual body and blood of Jesus and that sometimes the giving of thanks to God seemed to be more for the elements themselves and their life giving properties than for his Son who died for our sins. 

We do well to avoid developing or supporting our theology by appeal to such writings.

May 23, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part III)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 12:51 am

References in the first few centuries to a Christian rite associated with the elements of a meal and references to meals that Christians shared with each other (continued)

Justin of Caesarea (ca 155 A.D.)- The Eucharist

Justin wrote, “There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe … and gives thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at his hands.”[1]  “This food is called among us “Eucharist” … For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the word of prayer transmitted from Him, and by which our body and our flesh by assimilation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.  For the apostles … have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them: that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, This do [poieite]in remembrance of me, this is my body[2]; and that after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, This is my blood; and gave it to them alone.”[3]  The first reference highlights the importance of the giving of thanks while the second seems to have an understanding that the bread and wine become in some sense, the actual body and blood of Jesus.  There is also an emphasis on the nourishment obtained by the assimilation of this bread and wine rather than the necessity of sinners to appeal to the death of Jesus for their salvation.  In his appeal to the apostles Justin sees the “doing in remembrance” as a command. The absence of any explicit reference to the death of Jesus apart from what the “flesh and blood” of Jesus might imply is notable, though in another work he refers explicitly to the suffering of Jesus in connection with references to the Eucharist[4]


Further references could be made to Irenaeus of Lyons (ca 180 A.D.), The Didache (1st, 2nd or 3rd century A.D.), Tertullian of Carthage (ca 200 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria (ca 200 A.D.), again Hippolytus of Rome (215 A.D.), Origen of Alexandria (1st half of 3rd century A.D.), Cyprian of Carthage (ca 250 A.D.) Minucius Felix (160-300 A.D.?), Augustine of Hippo (392-398 A.D.), various councils beginning with the Council of Gangra (between 325 and 381 A.D.) and so on. 

[1] Justin, Apology I, 65 in A New Eusebius, op. cit., p. 66

[2] Justin of Caesarea is the first writer outside of the New Testament of which we have record to quote the remembrance words of Jesus, though his quote is not an exact quote. It is not until later in the 4th century that we have records of Eusebius of Caesarea, Epiphanius of Salamis, Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil of Caesarea and John Chrysostom again quoting the words of remembrance.

[3] Justin Apology, I, 66 in A New Eusebius, op.cit., p. 67

[4] See Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho, 41, 70 and probably 117 in Falls, T.B., Writings of Saint Justin Martyr, Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 1948, pp. 209, 210, 261, 262, 328, 329

May 20, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part II)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 10:24 pm

References in the first few centuries to a Christian rite associated with the elements of a meal and references to meals that Christians shared with each other (c0ntinued)

Clement of Rome (ca 80 A.D.) – The Ordering of Offerings or Sacrifices

Clement  wrote of “Jesus Christ, the high priest of our offerings [prosphoron]”  and “the Master” who “ordered sacrifices [prosphoras] to be performed … at the times and seasons he fixed” and  that “where he wants them performed and by whom, he himself fixed by his supreme will.”[1]  It could be that in his reference to “sacrifices” or “offerings” he is making a comment about a ceremony or ritual and that he has the words of Jesus, “Do this in remembrance of me” in mind when referring to “the Master” who ordered them to be performed.  However this is by no means certain and his use of the plural “sacrifices” or “offerings” might suggest otherwise.  Of note is the regulatory nature of when and by whom these “sacrifices” or “offerings” are to be performed.

Ignatius of Antioch (ca 110 A.D.)- The Eucharist and the Love Feast

Perhaps the first clear evidence of the performance of a ceremony or rite that some might regard as of the same mould as “the Lord’s Supper” comes from the writings of Ignatius of Antioch.  He wrote, “They remain aloof from Eucharist … because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our saviour Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins.”[2]  “Let that be regarded as a valid eucharist which is held under the bishop or to whomever he entrusts it.  … It is not permissible apart from the bishop either to baptize or celebrate [poiein] the love feast [agapen].”[3] “I want the bread of God which is the flesh of Jesus Christ … and for drink I want his blood.”[4] “Be eager, then to celebrate one eucharist; for one is the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one the cup of union through his blood, one the altar just as one the bishop along with the presbytery and deacons.”[5]  It could be that in his writings, eucharistia represents both a ceremony and the bread and wine.  Furthermore, his reference to the agapen could have been a reference to the Eucharist – he asserts that the love feast together with baptism are to be under the control of the bishop and that the Eucharist is to be under the control of the bishop.  The first and fourth quotes could be understood as referring to a belief that in some sense, in the Eucharist, the actual flesh and blood of Christ is present.

[1] Clement of Rome, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 36.1; 40.1 – 40.5,  in Early Christian Fathers, Richardson, C.C. (ed.), Library of Christian Classics, I, SCM, London, 1953, pp. 60, 62

[2] Ignatius, To the Smyrnians, 7.1 in Ignatius of Antioch: A commentary on the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, Schoedel, W.R. (ed.), Hermeneia – a critical and historical commentary on the Bible, Fortress, Philadelphia, PA, 1985, p. 238

[3] Ignatius, To the Smyrnians, 8.1.2, idem

[4] Ignatius, To the Romans, 7.3 in Ignatius of Antioch: A commentary on the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, op. cit., p. 81

[5] Ignatius, To the Philadelphians, 4.1 in Ignatius of Antioch: A commentary on the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, op. cit., p. 197

May 19, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part I)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 11:03 pm

References in the first few centuries to a Christian rite associated with the elements of a meal and references to meals that Christians shared with each other

Hippolytus of Rome – The Lord’s Supper

In the earlier series I noted that except for one document of uncertain date, there is no evidence that anyone referred to “what some might claim was akin to the Lord’s Supper, by the title ‘The Lord’s Supper’”.  The text of that particular document, purportedly written by Hippolytus of Rome, with a possible date of ca. 215 A.D. has been difficult to reconstruct and the authorship and date are disputed.  The relevant sentence has been translated, “The catechumen may not take part in the Lord’s Supper.”[1]  Previously I argued that 1 Corinthians 11: 20 should be translated something like, “When you come together[2] it is not to eat a meal with which the Lord is associated.”  Furthermore I made the claim that the words, “the Lord’s Supper” or similar that appear in our translations are in fact not a title to anything, let alone a ritual or ceremony.  There is no definite article in the Greek and the adjective “Lordly”, conveying the idea of ownership, is used rather than the noun “Lord”.  As part of a negative statement, Paul is claiming that their meals, being disgraceful in the way they are conducted, are not owned by the Lord. 

Pliny’s Letter to Trajan (ca 112 A.D.) – The Meetings of Early Christians

Outside of the New Testament, one of the earliest references to followers of Christ coming together to share a meal, is found in a letter by Pliny the Younger, reporting to the Emperor Trajan.  He wrote, “It was their habit on a fixed day to assemble before daylight and recite by turns a form of words to Christ as god; and that they bound themselves with an oath [sacramentum], not for any crime, but not to commit theft or robbery or adultery, not to break their word and not to deny a deposit when demanded.  After this was done, their custom was to depart, and to meet again to take food, but ordinary and harmless food; and even this (they said) they had given up doing after the issue of my edict by which in accordance with your commands I had forbidden the existence of clubs.”[3]  If Pliny understood matters correctly, it seems that the followers of Christ he referred to met before daybreak but not for a meal.  They had a meal together but that was in the evening.  The meal may have been somewhat more formal than a normal family meal but it was certainly a meal.

[1] Hippolytus, The Treatise on the Apostolic Tradition, 27: 1,2, see http:\\

[2] The RSV begins its translation with the words, “When you meet together”.  Presumably this is its way of incorporating into “When you come together” the Greek, “epi to auto” perhaps understood to mean something like, “in the same place”.  In fact, Paul might be using irony here. He might be referring to their coming together because they have something in common, when in reality, when they come together they eat as though they do not have much in common.

[3] Pliny, Epistolae, X. 96,7 in A New Eusebius, Stevenson, J. (ed.) S.P.C.K., London, 1965, p. 14

May 17, 2010

Christ Centred Comunion – Further Thoughts (introduction)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 11:59 pm

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts

During September and October of last year I posted a series of blogs on the subject, “Christ Centred Communion”.  Since that time I have had a few interesting conversations with various people and would like to elaborate further on some of the material presented there.  In particular I will review a few of the early writings pertinent to the issue and then explore some features of, “Do this in remembrance of me.” not previously considered.  Some other relevant matters including the notion, “cup of the Lord” will also be discussed.

May 10, 2010

The Heart in the New Testament (Full Series PDF)

Filed under: dianoia,kardia,nous,phroneo,The Heart — barrynewman @ 10:33 pm

Here is the full series

May 9, 2010

“The Heart” in the New Testament (part IX)

Filed under: The Heart — barrynewman @ 2:36 am

Concluding Remarks

Kardia in the New Testament is the main word that performs the same or similar role that lev/levav does in the Old Testament.  Other words, particularly dianoia, and nous generally serve a similar function but their frequency of occurrence is relatively low.

But in referring to the first and great commandment, why would the Septuagint use “dianoia” rather than “kardia” for heart (Deuteronomy 6: 5) and why in the New Testament are the references to “kardia” and “dianoia” (Matthew 22: 37; Mark 12: 30; Luke 10: 27)?  Furthermore, why does Matthew omit a reference to “strength” (“dunamis” in the Septuagint but “ischus” in Mark and Luke)?  (All three gospels along with the Septuagint refer to “psuche” (soul) and the Masoretic text refers to, “heart” and “soul” and strength”.)  One can only speculate about the differences.  However it could be that the gospels being dependent on a Greek text for the Old Testament used the word, “dianoia” occurring there but added kardia either for clarity or perhaps more likely because that was a Jewish way of referring to “heart”.  With respect to strength, perhaps for Matthew’s account, if one is to love God with all one’s heart and with all one’s soul and with all one’s mind, then it has to be with all one’s strength.

Whatever our thoughts on these issues, the commandment to love God with all one’s heart, and with all one’s soul and with all one’s mind and with all one’s strength” condemns us in our sinfulness, makes abundantly clear how we are to live and drives us to the grace of God in Christ, the only one who ever obeyed such a demand.

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