Barry Newman's Blog

June 28, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part IXX)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 11:08 pm

An Aside – Proclaiming the Lord’s Death and the Drinking of a Cup

In v. 26, in moving from recalling the words of Jesus at the Last Passover meal in vv. 24, 25 to statements about the Corinthians’ meal, Paul remarks, “For as you eat this bread and drink the cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” In this statement he has used the subjunctive mood in a present tense form with respect to “eating” and “drinking”. Clearly from the context, “proclaim” is to be understood as being in the indicative mood.  It also has a present tense form. The verse could then be read as, “For as you would eat this bread and as you would drink the cup, you are proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes.”  The concluding part of this statement, “You are proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes.” could be understood to convey the idea that, “In your meals, you proclaim the Lord’s death because that is the only reason that has brought you together to take part in a meal in the first place.”

However as an alternative the Corinthians could have adopted, with modification, something akin to the custom, referred to above, where for some in the pagan world, after the main course, a cup having been passed from person to person, each, upon taking a sip, cried out, “To Zeus Saviour”.  Athenaeus, who referred to this custom, also mentioned that “when the unmixed wine is poured during the dinner, the Greeks call upon the name of the Good Divinity, doing honour to the divinity who discovered the wine; he was Dionysus”[1]. Referring to different circumstances he also reported, “After that discussion ended, most of the guests called for a cup in honour of the Good Daemon, some, in honour of Zeus Saviour, others in honour of Hygieia, one naming one divinity, another, another.”[2] In their case, the Corinthian believers might well have cried out, in stark contrast to and in contradiction of anything the pagan world did, “To Jesus, the Saviour”.  If something like this did in fact happen, and it is not improbable, then Paul’s comment, “For as you … drink the cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” makes eminent sense as a direct reference to what occurred during their meal and regularly at such meals. (Although the proclaiming is associated with both eating “this bread” and drinking “the cup”, the words, “the cup” being in greater proximity to the word “proclaim” may be the main trigger for Paul making the statement that he did.)


[1] Athenaeus, xv, 675 b in Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists, ibid. pp. 114, 115

[2] Athenaeus, xv 692 f, in Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists, ibid., pp. 208-211

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June 27, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part XVIII)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 4:34 am

Understanding “Poieite” as “You are doing” as suited to Paul’s treatment of the Corinthians’ meal as though it were the Last Passover meal – 1 Corinthians 11: 26 (continued)

“The cup” could represent the second part of these meals[1]. At the beginning of the drinking session, the wine that might have been supplied earlier was now diluted with water in a bowl, from which each individual was given a portion.  At some point, either during the meal proper or during the drinking session, each guest might drink from the same cup[2], [3], [4]. There was one custom where, upon mixing the wine with water, it was then poured into one cup, described as “the first cup”, and this was then passed from person to person.  Each person would take a sip and cry out, “To Zeus, Saviour” (Dios Soteros) [5].  The Greek expression is in the genitive case.

With respect to the word, “this” in connection with the word, “bread”, its use relates the bread of the Corinthians to the bread of the Passover meal with perhaps the main emphasis being on the bread of their meal.  (But see below where the use of the word “this” is again discussed.)

Understanding “poieite” to be either a command or a statement does not affect the basic position adopted here, that Paul treats the Corinthians’ meal in some way as though it were the Last Passover meal.  However, it would appear to better suit his purpose if “poieite” in vv. 24b and 25b is understood as being in the indicative mood rather than the imperative mood.  The imperative mood points to potential future fulfilments of a command or request. The indicative mood with the present tense form can be understood to relate to current activity.  The reality is that Paul is very much concerned with the current behaviour of the Corinthians at their meals.  He wishes to confront them with what they are in fact doing.  There is a more intimate connection between what they are “doing” and what Jesus said if what Jesus said related to “doing” rather than to “do”. 


[1] But see below where an alternative understanding of what the cup might have referred to is given.

[2] See Smith, D.E., ibid., pp. 29-32.  The texts appealed to indicate that different customs held at different times.  For example, Athenaeus himself reported, “The Chian and the Thesian drink a health out of large cups from left to right, the Athenians from small cups from left to right, while the Thessalian pledges in large cups to whomsoever he wishes.  But the Lacedaemonians drink each his own cup separately.” – Athenaeus, xi, 463, f, in Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists, V, LOEB Classical Library, (trans. Gulick, C.A.), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1980, pp. 22, 23.

[3] For example, Athenaeus mentions the meagreness of the drinking parties of Menedemus referring to, “the cup that was passed around, (holding) less than a ladleful” in Athenaeus, x, 420 a, in Athenaeus, The Learned Banqueters, op. cit., pp. 470, 471.

[4] It is not always clear what might be meant by “the cup”.  It may be that in some instances the reference is to a single cup but in other instances the reference could be to a round of drinking, involving individual cups from which wine was drunk but for the same purpose.

[5] Smith, D.E., ibid, p. 29, where his reference is to Diodorus Siculus 4.3. The same material can be found in Athenaeus, xv, 675 c in Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists, VII, LOEB Classical Library, op. cit., 1971, pp. 114, 115, with the translation, “But with the first cup of mixed wine given after the dinner they call upon Zeus the Saviour”.

June 24, 2010

Christ Cented Communion – Further Thoughts (part XVII)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 11:08 pm

Understanding “Poieite” as “You are doing” as suited to Paul’s treatment of the  Corinthians’ meal as though it were the Last Passover meal – 1 Corinthians 11: 26

Traditionally, 11: 26 is regarded as the principal verse (along with v. 21, for protestants, where translations generally refer to “the Lord’s Supper”) to which appeal is made in arguing that a Eucharistic type celebration formed part of or was attached to the Corinthians’ meal.  Once it is assumed that v. 26 contains a reference to a rite or custom of some kind, what immediately follows that verse is also understood as a reference to that rite or custom.  

However in “Christ Centred Communion” it was argued that v. 26 is actually a transitional text between Paul’s reference to the Last Passover meal and his reference to the Corinthians’ meal.  In v. 26 Paul may be alluding to what Jesus said at the Passover meal at the same time as offering a comment on their meal.  The reference to “this bread” and “the cup” could be reminiscent of the Last Passover meal, and meant to be so, because Paul wants to put the Corinthians’ meal up against the Last Passover meal and so shock them into taking serious stock of what they are doing.  However references to “this bread” and “the cup” can also be considered as references, by way of summary, to their meal.

A formal meal in the Graeco- Roman world consisted of two main components – the meal itself and the wine drinking session that followed.  “Bread” could represent the first component of such a meal.  Bread was part of the staple diet and many varieties might be available at a formal meal[1] of which it could constitute a significant part[2]


[1] See Smith, D.E., From Symposium to Eucharist – the Banquet in the Early Christian World, Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, MN, 2003, p. 3.

[2] Athenaeus refers to Arcesilaus who having some people to dinner and being informed by a slave that the bread had run out, “burst into laughter, clapped his hands, and said, ‘What a party we are having, my friends – we forgot to buy enough bread! Run slave!’ ” in Athenaeus, x, 420 c, in Athenaeus, The Learned Banqueters,  IV, LOEB Classical Library, (trans. Olson, S.D.), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2008, pp. 472,473.

June 23, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part XVI)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 4:59 am

The words of Jesus quoted by Paul and those quoted by Luke

In the Revised Standard Version, the words of Jesus as quoted by Paul are, “This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.” and “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor. 11: 24b, 25b)  They are similar to those words quoted by Luke but there are some differences.  Textual variations aside, one striking difference is the use of the word “given” in connection with the word, “body”, present in Luke but omitted in 1 Corinthians.  Another relates to what is reported that Jesus said in connection with his blood.  Luke reports Jesus as saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Paul omits the reference to “which is poured out for you”.  In turn, in the Corinthian letter, reference is made to Jesus saying, “Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.” a statement omitted by Luke.  Paul also introduces the verb “to be” in connection with the cup, which in Luke is understood.

Understanding “Poieite” as “You are doing” – 1 Corinthians 11: 24, 25

Almost all of what was said earlier in terms of the possibility of “poieite” in Luke 22: 19 having a present tense form in the indicative mood is applicable to “poieite” in 1 Corinthians 11: 24b 25b.  In what follows, however, attention will be given to “poieite” as it appears in 1 Corinthians 11, in terms of what is considered additional to what was formerly stated in connection with “poieite” as it appears in Luke 22.  Some consideration will also be given to the part played by the words, “this” and “as often as” in their association with “poieite” in 1 Corinthians 11: 24, 25 and in their appearance in v. 26.  

In the Corinthian text “poieite” is in close proximity to the verb “to be” in connection with the body but additionally a second “poieite” appears in connection with the cup and in that reference there is a second verb “to be”.  In each case, the verb “to be” is clearly present indicative in form.  There is also the verb “to drink” appearing as a present subjunctive in form.  Consequently, it would seem quite legitimate to translate 1 Cor. 11: 23-25 as follows. “The Lord Jesus … took bread and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body which is for you.  You are doing this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  You are doing this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ ”

June 20, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part XV)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 10:09 pm

Do this in remembrance of me – 1 Corinthians 11: 24, 25

Recapping

In the previous blog series, “Christ Centred Communion” I argued that in 1 Corinthians 11, “The Lord’s Supper” was not a title to a ceremony, that Paul did not refer to any ceremony that the Corinthians conducted and that his main concern was with the behaviour of the Corinthian believers when they came together to participate in a meal.  Specifically I argued that Paul appealed to the Last Passover meal in order to demonstrate the inconsistency between their behaviour in not sharing their food with one another and the ramifications of what Jesus said about himself and his disciples at that Last Passover meal.   He did this in an unusual way but not without some type of precedent, by treating their meal as though it were the Last Passover meal.  I understood Paul’s reference to “as often as” in 1 Cor. 11: 25 as signifying that at the time of the Last Passover meal Jesus was indicating that not only at that meal but at all future Passover meals, held once a year, his followers would have to see Passover meals in this new way – still remembrance events – but remembrances of his death.

However, understanding Jesus to be making a statement rather than issuing a command forces us to make some changes to understanding the text, though not the main thrust of the text, nor Paul’s basic argument or overall strategy.

June 18, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part XIV)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 9:11 pm

Understanding “Poieite” as “You are Doing” and the so-called Oddity of Jesus not having yet Died

Whether Jesus uttered a command or a statement, his words, “This is my body which is given for you. ‘Poieite’ this in remembrance of me.” is a reference to his death that has not yet occurred.  Thus there might appear to be two oddities. His body has not yet been given and furthermore, as a consequence, the remembrance is associated with the future rather than the past.  Traditionally, we recognise that Jesus is stating something in a startling fashion and we do not baulk at the idea that he can speak of his “body given for you” though it has not yet been given.  Traditionally we also consider that Jesus is issuing a command or making a request to call to mind, to remember, what he is about to accomplish.  However I have argued that Passover meals were in themselves remembrance events and that Jesus is saying that his disciples must look on this last Passover meal itself, as well as any future Passover meals that they celebrate, in a new way, seeing in what they do a new remembrance event in which he and his death are central.

Now, if we understand that Jesus is making a statement rather than a command, the remembrance he refers to is less of an oddity.  He is indeed referring to his death in terms of his body which has not yet been given but the remembrance is in terms of what they are in fact currently doing.  As suggested earlier, he is saying, that though they don’t know it they are involved in a remembrance event that has his redemptive death as its focus. God’s great act of deliverance in the past could not but point forward to his greatest of all great acts of deliverance, an act of salvation about to take place. Additionally, perhaps he is saying that this has always been the case whenever the Passover has been celebrated. He has been the focus of the remembrance event without anyone realising it.  This idea is taken up again when considering 1 Corinthians 11: 24-26.

                                                                     ———————————————————

Concluding the argument at this stage, I think the suggestion that Jesus is making a statement rather than a command has greater explanatory power from a number of points of view.  Even if this is not admitted, one is not entitled to categorically state that “poieite” has to be understood as a command on the basis of the text of Luke alone.  That it could be understood as a statement is at least equally justifiable.  In fact in my judgement the evidence favours the idea that Jesus is making the statement, “You are doing this.”

June 16, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part XIII)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 8:31 am

Understanding “Poieite” as “You are Doing” and Luke’s Restricted Reference to it concerning the Bread

Luke 22: 20 reads, “And likewise the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’ ” There is no explicit reference to “remembrance”.  However, in answer to the question, “Why does Luke only mention the words of remembrance in connection with the bread but not in association with the wine?”[1] appeal may be made to the word, translated, “likewise”.  It may be argued that “likewise” indicates that what Jesus said earlier in reference to the bread, “Do this in remembrance of me.” applies to the wine as well. This is by no means certain.  The “likewise” may be understood as simply indicating that as Jesus referred to the bread in connection with his death for them, so too he referred to the cup in connection with his death for them.  If this is the case, the question of why there is no reference to “remembrance” in connection with the wine remains unanswered.  Consequently, if a command is entailed with respect to the bread, there is no clear indication that a command is entailed with respect to the cup or the wine.

If “poieite” is understood as “You are doing” I think that extra weight can be given to a different attempt to answer the question of Luke seemingly restricting “remembrance” to the bread.  However one understands, “poieite”, it is not unreasonable to claim that the reference to remembrance being made only in connection with the bread is sufficient for seeing the notion of remembrance attached to the whole meal and not just also the wine.  Bread was an essential feature of the Passover meal, indeed almost any meal, including formal meals, and was probably available at the early stages of the Passover meal.  Perhaps more to the point, in the Passover meals celebrated at the time of Jesus it appears that unleavened bread, over which thanks was given, introduced the main course.  Making a reference to “remembrance” in association with the bread that introduces the main course could be considered to be making a reference to the course as a whole, concluding as it does with thanks said over, what is commonly termed, the third cup.  However, for me, this line of argument is a little stronger if Jesus is understood to be saying, “You are doing this in remembrance of me” rather than “Do this in remembrance of me.”  A wider coverage is given to the notion of remembrance if it is associated with a statement rather than a command. A command, because of its very nature, focuses on that to which it is attached.  If the situation is that Jesus breaks bread and then says, “This is my body which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me” primary attention is directed towards the bread with a “spill over” effect to other aspects of the meal.  Alternatively, if Jesus breaks bread and then says, “This is my body which is given for you.  You are doing this in remembrance of me”, while attention is still primarily directed towards the bread, that an activity is involved, rather than a command, is more likely to create a greater “spill over” effect to other aspects of the meal.


[1] A consideration of 1 Corinthians 11: 24, 25 where reference is made to remembrance in connection with both bread and wine will be given later.

June 10, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part XII)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 10:20 pm

Understanding “Poieite” as “You are Doing” and the Lack of Reference to a Ceremony in the Epistles

The death of Jesus in one way or another underlies and comes to the surface of the N.T. epistles.  Yet a ceremonial command relating to the death of Jesus does not clearly feature at all in the Epistles unless it is to be found in 1 Corinthians 11.  In “Christ Centred Communion” I argued that such a ceremony is not even to found there.  Even if an alternative view is taken, it is clear that Paul did not introduce discussion on the so-called “Lord’s Supper” because he wanted them to remember to celebrate it.  He is concerned with how the Corinthians conducted their meals. It is interesting that he provides the solution to their problem in terms of, “So then my brethren, when you come together to eat, share.” (1 Corinthians 11: 33).  In fact in “Christ Centred Communion” it was argued that no such ceremonial command is referred to in any of the epistles and that is the position maintained here. The absence of a reference to a remembrance ceremony in the epistles is explicable if Jesus never issued a command for such a ceremony to be performed in the first place.

June 9, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part XI)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 3:38 am

Understanding “Poieite” as “You are Doing” and a Pastoral Problem

Understanding the words of Jesus as a statement also deals with what may be considered a pastoral and practical problem if a command is involved.  Why would it be sufficient for us to simply have a special remembrance of his death once a year?  Passover is once a year.  Why shouldn’t a remembrance of the death of Jesus feature often and regularly in our daily lives?  For Paul, the death of Jesus was a paramount feature of his gospel proclamation no matter how often he preached – “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1: 23) and “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2: 2). It was the death of Christ that in fact should have affected the way the Corinthians conducted their meals – probably weekly events – when they came together as a “church”.  No wonder, given their disgraceful behaviour, that Paul said they could be found guilty of the body and blood of the Lord (1 Corinthians 11: 27).  If Christians have been considering that a ceremony was basically the way to remember the death of Jesus one can understand why customarily they have wanted to have such a remembrance event more regularly than once a year.  Let it be four times a year, once a month, once a fortnight, once a week, even once a day.  However let us not forget that the setting for the words of Jesus under consideration is that of the Passover. If the words of Jesus are considered a command then they relate to a command to be obeyed once a year. But what if Jesus is not issuing a command concerning how his disciples should understand Passover meals as meals that are meant to trigger the memory of his death?  What if he is making a statement that highlights the redemptive purposes and actions of God, culminating in his death?  Could it be that genuinely understanding the death of Jesus for what it is really, is likely to affect our thinking and our doing more fundamentally and pervasively than remembrances brought about by ceremonies no matter how often conducted?  This is not an argument against remembrance ceremonies. The suggestion is however that Jesus might never have commanded such a ceremony.  It is being further suggested that the remembrance of the death of Jesus and its significance should form part of our “heart and soul” and so be more effective in its outworking than any ceremony, no matter how often conducted.

June 6, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part X)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 11:00 pm

Understanding “Poieite” as “You are Doing” and an apparent Textual Oddity

Understanding Jesus’ words of remembrance this way, delivers us from a significant problem that generally is dismissed too readily.  If Jesus were commanding that a ceremony had to be performed in the future by his people in memory of his death, why was such an important command not referred to in each of the other Gospels?  A traditional answer has been, “That it is mentioned in only one Gospel is sufficient.”  In response one could reply, “The death of Jesus is mentioned in all four Gospels, why not the ceremony that has to be conducted in memory of his death?”  If however Jesus is not issuing a command but giving some understanding of his death in the light of and as a fulfilment of the Exodus event, Luke, in mentioning these words of Jesus is simply giving a particular perspective on his death as do each of the Gospels.  Matthew, Mark and Luke each refer to the Last Passover meal, but Luke has a point to make about the death of Jesus that is not made in Matthew and Mark.  Matthew and Mark refer to the anointing of Jesus “in preparation for his burial” but Luke does not.  Only Matthew records Pilate’s wife referring to Jesus as “that righteous man”.  John does not mention the last Passover meal but alone records the significance that not a bone of his was broken.  Even though there are many perspectives on the death of Jesus that are common to all Gospels, one might rightly expect some differences. However, that only one refers to a ceremonial commandment to be observed by all disciples throughout time strikes me as rather odd.

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