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Paul and The Lord’s Supper

30 Aug
This was posted by “spin” over at FRDB in regards to the Eucharist ceremony that Paul describes in 1 Cor 11:17-34. It really goes to show how one needs to learn Greek in order to see past all of the Christian interpretation of translations:

Paul felt it was necessary to reprimand his Corinthians over their behavior when they partook in the group’s communal meal, which Paul calls “the lordly supper” — kuriakos deipnos. This is usually translated as “the lord’s supper” (which would be deipnos tou kuriou), but kuriakos is an adjective (used only twice in the christian scripture), hence “lordly” for want of better representation. This will help to avoid the perhaps undue influence that the phrase “lord’s supper” would bring to the text.

Here is the reconstructed text (arrived at through reduction of the current text):

Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear which of you have approval. When you come together, it is not the lordly supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not! A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.

Is it that I have so mangled the text that I have lost sight of its significance or is this a communal meal of the sort that people adhering to Jewish customs partook in? We find such a communal meal mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls and believers who had become recognized members of the community could partake in the meal, though they could be excluded from it.

Paul’s complaint, so far, seems to have nothing to do with the Jesus inaugurated ritual meal, but with how members of Paul’s Corinthian community treated each other by not partaking as good responsible members should. It was not an ordinary meal where one could gluttonize or get drunk, but a meal in which all members should be able to partake and not miss out because of the gluttony of some. If one needed to think of one’s body one should do that at home.

If this analysis is correct, let’s look at the text as it has become:

17 Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear which of you have approval. 20 When you come together, it is not the lordly supper you eat, 21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not! 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. 33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.

The phrase in red is not well supported by the manuscript evidence, so it can be reduced to a footnote as is done in the NRSV. It seems to be a late erroneous attempt at clarifying the significance of “body”, shifting from the body of the individual to that of Jesus. It’s not the lord’s body that the member doesn’t discern but his/her own, such that s/he comes to the meal with the wrong attitude and gluttonizes.

The green section is mainly the Lucan presentation of the last supper. Its presence draws attention onto itself and away from Paul’s complaint about the poor attitude of his Corinthians when they come to the communal meal.

Interestingly enough, “spin” is right; the only other instance of “Lordly” or “lord-like” (κυριακον) is in Revelation 1:10. Some scholars have posited that John’s Revelation was originally a Jewish apocalypse that was reappropriated by Christians and thus Christianized by interpolating a bunch of “Jesuses” and “Christs” into the text. The Didache, the “Ascension of Isaiah”, also suffer a similar fate – originally Jewish works that were later Christianized. What if Paul’s letters were the same? What if Paul’s letters were originally part of the Dead Sea Scrolls community and were reappropriated by Christians? I think another person, DC Hindley, has a similar conclusion. But not necessarily related to the Dead Sea Scrolls community (usually referred to as the Essenes), but some other Jewish interaction with the ger toshavim.

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Posted by on August 30, 2009 in eucharist, interpolation, lord's supper, paul

 

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