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.



  1. A very interesting idea. I think that the key to understanding that text (Luke 22:19) is not so much in dermining the nuance of POIEITE, but in the referent of TOUTO. If TOUTO is referring to the bread, then why is it neuter, and not masculine (as is ARTON – “bread”). If “this” is referring to the bread, or the eating of it, why is there no agreement between the demonstrative and its antecedent?
    I believe that “this” refers to the action of breaking, which in the immediate context is what has just happened. In breaking the bread, Jesus says “this” (i.e. the breaking) is my body. I don’t know enough about Greek to confirm this, but it is true it might have implications for the aspectual interpretation of POIEITE that you have outlined above.

    Matt Viney

    Comment by Matt Viney — June 4, 2010 @ 11:49 am | Reply

  2. Matt,

    Thanks for the comment. I am sure you are right – that the second “this” in Luke 22: 19 is a reference to the action. However I don’t think the action being referred to is “the breaking”. Jesus has done that and he is distributing it. I suspect it is with reference to “the eating”, which is what they are about to do. None the less, I realise that you might have in mind that Jesus breaks a loaf and distributes, say two halves which the disciples then take in turns to break even further. If the reference is to “the breaking” then the symbolism becomes one of their breaking the body but that symbolism worries me.

    Of course, the other three usages of “touto” in Luke 22: 17 – 20 are all with respect to neuter nouns.

    In 1 Cor 11: 25, the same type of symbolism with reference to the cup is presumably a reference to “the drinking” and not the pouring of the wine into a cup (of which there is no mention). That is, the use of “this” twice in 1 Cor 11 when it is with reference to the bread and the cup I take to be references to “eating” the bread and “drinking” from the cup.

    In Mark 11: 3 “touto” in “poieite touto” performs the same function – the reference being to an action – the unting of a colt, although the construction here is the form of a question.

    I think for Paul in 1 Corinthians 11: , “this” becomes very significant, both with reference to the neuter nouns and the actions involved. Down the track I hope to make some mention of this (no pun intended).



    Comment by barrynewman — June 5, 2010 @ 12:05 am | Reply

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