Barry Newman's Blog

May 8, 2012

A Table of the Lord (part X)

                      1 Corinthians 10: 21

The surround verses for verse 21 have as their main concern that the believers should not in any way being caught up in idolatry.  One should expect this to be the main concern in verse 21.

Whatever one makes of 1 Corinthians 11: 20 and its usual reference by exegetes to “the Lord’s Supper” or similar, there is no mention whatsoever of “the Lord’s Supper” or similar here.  Again, similar to verses 16 and 17, the reference to “cup” comes before the reference to  “table”.  This not what one would expect if Paul is making a comment with the “the Lord’s Supper” or the like in mind.  It is however not a surprise when one considers the dominance of wine in the normal formal meals in the Graeco-Roman world.

Furthermore, it is possible that by his reference to “a cup” and then “a table” he is referring to “drink” and then “food”, or even “drink” and then the first part of a formal meal, consisting mainly of food rather than drink. If that is the case, it becomes difficult to see, in Paul’s usage here, “table” as a reference to a meal as a whole or as a reference to a table or tables on which both the food and the wine were placed. In discussion above and below, I have chosen to use the word, “meal” as though it covered both “drink” and “food” but that may be misleading in so far as my comments relate to verse 21.

Additionally, we need to note again that there are no definite articles in v. 21.  The phrase, “a table of the Lord” and “a table of demons” does not automatically suggest that some specific table, one dedicated, in some sense or other, to the Lord, is in mind.

Earlier I suggested that we may choose between the word “table” being a prime reference to the object, a table, or to what is associated with the table – a meal. Taking this latter view, “partaking of a table” would imply, in normal circumstances, “partaking of the meal that is on that table” or more generally “partaking the meal that has been supplied”.  As has already been stated, Paul’s overall concern in chapters 8 to 10 has been that the believers should not knowingly have any pagan element in what they eat and drink – the drink is never to be used as a toast to one or more of the gods, and the meal is never to consist of food that has knowingly been offered to idols. Hence his statement in verse 21 should come as no surprise – “Drinking a cup of the Lord alongside of drinking any cup of any demon is not on.  Participating in a table (meal) of the Lord and at the same time any table (meal) of any demon is not on.”

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