Barry Newman's Blog

April 21, 2012

A Table of the Lord (part VI)

“A table of the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 10: 21

In the light of Old Testament and New Testament usages and examples from the Graeco-Roman world, “table” in 1 Corinthians 10: 2, given its context, would seem to be either a reference to primarily a physical table, with some sort of meal being associated with it, or primarily to the meal itself, with the word, “table” being used to convey that sense. Whatever the case, the singular “table” could be a suitable appellation, whether there were many tables involved or not. Different courses involving different tables could be served with the diners reclining on couches.  And various dining arrangements could obtain, involving multiple tables, whatever the nature of the “seating” or how the courses were served. It is also a “table” that somehow “belongs to” someone – “the Lord”.

If one sees in the text a reference to a type of table that was involved in a celebration of the “the Lord’s Supper” or similar, then presumably one understands it as a table upon which was located “elements’ such as bread and wine.  It might have been basically a regular meal but a meal explicitly constructed to enable the celebration of “the Lord’s Supper” or the like.  Alternatively, it might have been only part of a normal meal, formal or otherwise, that was so constructed.  As a third possibility “the Lord’s Supper” or similar might have been an adjunct to a normal meal, formal or otherwise.  Whatever the case, the “table”, either a specially set aside table or the regular table or tables upon which the meal was served, would in the understanding of “table” suggested here, have been the physical object upon which the “elements”, token or otherwise would have been set. And it would have been thought of as “the Lord’s table” because the “elements”, token or otherwise, were somehow related to the death of the Lord with references back to the Last Passover Meal. It was a table from which bread was taken and eaten and from which the wine was served and drunk.

One might also be tempted to see “the Lord’s table” as reflective of “the table of the presence” but in strict opposition to say, any “table of Zeus”.  However in this case one could be looking for some sort of physical sacrifice or offering being made to the Lord by way of at least some elements of the “meal”.  One could appeal to such as “the Lord’s table” – “the table of the presence” mentioned in Malachi 1: 7 and 12 or to the wooden altar of Ezekiel 41: 22 identified as “the table that is before the Lord ” to add support for one’s position. If being involved in some sort of sacrifice is what one thinks happens in, for example, the Eucharist, then one might certainly read that notion back into this text.  I will however not go down that path as I suggest such a position is contrary to the New Testament’s understanding of the once and for all death of Jesus.

The second alternative is to understand by “table” a prime reference to the meal upon the table.

One form of this second alternative would be the view that a celebration of “the Lord’s Supper” or similar was still involved with the meal being token or otherwise with the celebration conforming to one of the various scenarios outlined above.

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