Barry Newman's Blog

April 9, 2012

A Table of the Lord (part I)

A table of the Lord

By way of introduction

1 Corinthians 10: 21 is commonly translated, something like, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.  You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.”

In a previous blog series I illustrated that in the Graeco – Roman literature a reference to “drinking a cup of …” is a reference to toasting someone – normally one of the gods. (The genitive case is commonly involved but where for various reasons, the accusative or dative case is used, the reference to a toast, one way or another, still applies.)  On this basis I argued that the most reasonable understanding of the first part of 1 Corinthians 10: 21 is that it refers to toasting (drinking in honour of) the Lord and not toasting any of the gods. “A cup of the Lord” is a reference to a toast to (drinking in honour of) the Lord but not necessarily to a special cup, as though there were a particular cup, set aside for toasting the Lord.

It should be noted that in both sections of the text, there are no definite articles.  Furthermore, there appears to be little if any evidence that there ever was a specific table or cup devoted to a group of gods.  That is, it appears to be a little strange to have a translation that refers to “the cup of demons” or “the table of demons”. Presumably translators insert the definite article for reasons of consistency.  Having inserted it before “table of the Lord” and before “cup of the Lord”, they insert it before “table of demons” and “cup of demons” as well.  (Of course, no one objects to inserting the definite article before a proper noun, such as “Lord”, even though the article does not appear in the Greek.  Proper nouns may or may not be accompanied by a definite article in the Greek, but in English we normally insert it where appropriate in a translation.)

A more cautious translation and one which does not suggest a probable false understanding of tables and cups associated with the gods would be as follows:

“You cannot drink a cup of the Lord and a cup of demons.  You cannot partake of a table of the Lord and a table of demons.”

As an alternative, it could be that we are meant to translate the text as:

“You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and a cup of demons.  You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and a table of demons”, but we should not do so automatically.

Reference to “the cup of the Lord” would then probably be a reference to a special toast to the Lord or even a special cup that was used to make that special toast to the Lord.  A brief suggestion on how we might understand “the table of the Lord” rather than “a table of the Lord”, while not denying the main thesis of this blog series, will be made later.

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: