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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