Barry Newman's Blog

May 13, 2012

A Table of the Lord (part XII)

                       1 Corinthians 11: 17 – 34

I should now mention that in a previous blog series I argued that though there is a reference to the Last Passover Meal in Chapter 11 it is not because Paul sees that there was some aspect of their meal that was especially undertaken to reflect aspects of the Last Passover meal.  Nor indeed that he was somehow or another writing about three “meals” in this passage – their meal, a special meal “the Lord’s Supper” and the Last Passover Meal. In fact there are only two meals clearly referred to – their meal and the Last Passover Meal. The passage is fundamentally about what they do when they come together to eat – that is, their meal. It occupies central stage. Additionally he clearly refers to the Last Passover Meal.  But he does this by shifting from their meal to the last Passover meal and then back to their meal as though it were the Last Passover Meal.  In this striking fashion he contrasts the Last Passover Meal and its significance, with their regular meal and its significance, to shame the Corinthians.

Often the host of a formal Greek meal would supply the basic wine and bread.  Under those circumstances the invited guests would then bring the main elements of the first course and then eat what they themselves had brought. This might not matter too greatly if the difference between the background and means of the guests were not too great, as would have normally been the case.

It would appear that the Corinthian believers were now operating the same way. But in their case, because they came together as believers, their backgrounds differed enormously. The result was that those who were poor brought little and ate little while those who well off brought rich fare and ate well. The consequence was that a great inequity was created between the haves and the have nots, though all were believers in the one Lord.  It was not the difference in what they ate that was really important. It was how they were treated differently. All should have been treated as of equal worth. The inequity which should not at all have existed among the people of God for whom the Lord died was considered by Paul to be an offence against the death of Christ itself and deserving of strong language and strong condemnation.   The Lord’s death was not proclaimed by their actions.  The solution he offered to their problem was that when they came together to eat they should share (rather than they should “wait for each other”, as some translations render that part of the text)!!  The passage has Paul dealing with how they conducted their meal – an ordinary though formal meal (they had come together in a formal way, “as church”), how disgraceful that was, and how it had to change.

Furthermore I argued that grammatically, “the Lord’s Supper” (there is actually no definite article) is not a reference to any type of ceremony.  The statement in verse 20 is, “When you come together to eat it is not a Lordly meal”.  That is, Paul is claiming that their meals would not be owned by the Lord (the adjective “kuriakos” is used, not the noun, “kurios”).  The Lord could not associate himself with them.

It should also be noted that there is no immediate connection between chapter 10 and verses 17 – 34 of chapter 11.  The subject matter of 11: 1 – 16 sets a clear divide between the two.

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