Barry Newman's Blog

October 18, 2012

The Sacraments (part VIII)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 9:33 pm

Remembrance – You are Doing This

There is a complicating matter.  The Greek “poieite” translated “do” (imperative mood) can be translated, “You are doing” (the indicative mood).  This possibility was brought to my attention by G.L. May. Regardless of how it later came to be understood, it is distinctly possible that we should translate the text in this latter way.  It is not an easy matter to decide between the two possibilities.  One way is to examine the order in which the words, “poieite” or “poieis” (the singular form – the same situation applying) and “touto” (this) or “tauta” (the plural form) occur.  As a general rule, but depending on the content of the text and its general context, one might expect “poieite” or “poieis” to occur before “touto” or “tauta” when the imperative is in mind but the other way around when the indicative is to be understood.  This is borne out in an examination of all known instances (42) of the pairing of these words in any combination in the Greek literature external to the New Testament up until about the beginning of the 2nd century AD.  In Luke and1 Corinthians, the order is, “touto” followed by “poieite”!  The evidence is at least suggestive if not strongly suggestive that the words of Jesus should be understood as, “You are doing this”.  How would this change our understanding of things, particularly if we keep in mind that at least with respect to the cup he said, “whenever …”?  It would mean that the disciples were to see whenever they had celebrated Passover (and presumably whenever it had been celebrated in the past by anyone) it had always been about him!  They would not have known it but now they were to recognise that the great saving event of the past had the death of Jesus, the great saving act of the almost present, written into it.  The past pointed to him and the Passover meal had always pointed to him.  Of course, understanding “touto poieite” as “You are doing this,” means that there never was an imperative, interpreted as a demand or as an instruction from our Lord.  It is to be understood as Jesus throwing enormous light on God’s redemptive acts!

Whether or not “poieite” is understood to be in the imperative or indicative mood, while the Last Passover meal is clearly the event on which the ceremony, “the Lord’s Supper” or similar is based, it is not clear from the New Testament texts pertaining to that meal that Jesus ever commanded that taking part in a later but different ceremony, “the Lord’s Supper” or similar was obligatory.

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