Barry Newman's Blog

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”.


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